Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blog 41:The beach at Easter

Easter Sunday we celebrated with a trip to the beach at Anmyong-Do, three hour's south west of Seoul. Yes, it may seem hard to believe but there are beautiful white sandy beaches and yes, this one was almost deserted.

Even though it is springtime, the temperatures have been low teens - this day it was 13 degrees so taking off our shoes was as much as we could do!

Our Italian friends Luigi and Giuseppe, had brought a fresh pannetone from Italy, accompanied by grappa, kimchi and Korean lunch was an ideal mix.

The Anmyong-Do Aboretum was also amazing with spring time flowers and few people. Even the air was fresher and the sounds of birds, a rare treat. It probably sounds like we are becoming totally boring, however after people everywhere in the city, the countryside is a welcome change.

The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard looks as happy as we were to be up at 5.00am for a 6.00am Dawn Service at the Korean War Memorial to commemorate Anzac Day.

Following the ceremony we were invited by the Australian Embassy (along with 200 others) to share breakfast with Julia. Many veterans had come to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Gapyeong. More than 17,000 Australians served in Korea, where 340 Australians died, more than 1200 were wounded and 30 became prisoners of war. I was chatting with one man and asking what he noticed most in the changes since 1953. I thought he would say the roads, skyscrapers and development, however to my surprise he said, the trees. There were no trees before and now there are trees! If you are interested in hearing more, the link to the PM's address is:

Following book group today, my friend Sung In Sook (can you see her in the mirror?) drove us along the blossom lined streets of Gwacheon to lunch in the garden of a gallery owned by a sculptor, and previous Head of Ewha Women's University. We have just finished Hillary Clinton's memoir 'Living History'. She was given $8million as an advance and used three ghostwriters over 2 years to complete it. In my opinion the 500 pages was not really worth the effort. My turn to be the leader so I had to at least give it my best shot!

The garden surprised us with the amount of flowers and sculptures - this one about freedom fighters for independence from the Japanese.

On the way home my friend Hyeh-Won took me to a herb garden that her Italian cooking teacher had introduced to her. Hyeh-Won was a journalist for the Korean Herald specialising in North Korean relations prior to transtioning to translating and freelance writing. This amount of basil in one place is amazing for Korea. This farm supplies all the hotels of Seoul.

We carefefully selcted lettuce, a huge range of herbs, capsicums and leafy greens - this may sound mundane to those from other places however, these foods are so expensive and dificult to locate here.

We each bought a huge bag full for 10,000won (AU$10). Feeling very pleased with our negotiations and purchases, you can imagine how shocked we were on returning to the car to find a parking ticket - my first in Korea. So much for cheap vegetables!! The next problem will be how to find this place again by myself - as you can see it is not exactly in downtown!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blog 40 - 17th April

The past few weeks has witnessed an amazing and speedy transformation from winter snow to spring time and cherry blossom. These first photos were taken 2 weeks ago when we climbed Taewhasan, with the Faculty Alpine Walking Club. This land and mountain are owned by the College of Agriculture and Life Science at Seoul National University. It was remote and wild and we spent 5 hours tramping through ice and beautiful snow.

Damien was so intent on not slipping he hit his head. It was literally two steps forward and one step back as we slipped and slid down hillsides with no paths in many places. Felt like King Wenceslaus as we followed in each other's footsteps. Luckily one of our party was a doctor and even though he has a 3 month waiting list, Damien got to see him immediately and was declared fit with no brain damage!

Hooray! At least the women made it to the summit!

Our friends Seungh Hee and Seun Bin, seen here eating lunch at the top, invited us to accompany them on this casual country stroll!

No Korean climb is without obligatory feast including soju and a full bottle of whiskey that was quickly consumed. In this case it was Ballantyne 21.

And now spring is here! We drove 2 hours to see a beautiful botanic gardens today a gorgeous mild and sunny day. Here is the link.

The Australian garden displayed a boab tree and grass trees.

Here we are with our dear friends Esther and Mark having the obligatory coffee - in real cups too!

This post is subtitled to announce that I have just had the worst week of my time in Korea as computer, visa and assorted ailments have aligned with the stars, the moon and sun to conspire to challenge my life. Hopefully Skpye, email and English will soon be restored to my computer. So far four different technical people have visited to no avail. Fingers crossed that this week will be better! At least the weather is wonderful and warm.