Big News. May 27, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
One of the things I was looking forward to most about moving to Korea, was being given the opportunity to give Korean children an English name. So you can imagine my disappointment when I was informed shortly after arriving that all my children already had an English name, and that my services would not be required. As I had written in a previous post, I had so many different ideas for names that I was hoping to implement and now they were all going to waste, or so I thought.
Yesterday I was approached by the Director of my school and informed that one of my students, the infamous Bob, (yes that Bob) wants to change his name. His reason being that he thinks that Bob sounds too close to the word “bap” which is “rice” in Korean. Keep in mind that Koreans pronounce the letter “A” more like an “O”, so rice is really pronounced like “Bop”. Therefore his rationale is somewhat sound. I immediately volunteered my services to find him a new name and was awarded the position.
Despite my initial excitement at being entrusted with this task, I am now somewhat overwhelmed with the responsibility that has been bestowed on me. Before coming to Korea, I had so many ideas pent up inside that I now I can’t decide which direction to go in. The other thing is, in my mind he’s the perfect Bob. It seemed like an unusual name for a 4-5 year old at first but now I’m having trouble envisioning him under any other name.
I need your help.
After anguishing over this all day, I’ve narrowed it down to four options. I’ve set up a voting system for our readers to cast their vote, and need as many votes as possible before making my final decision on Friday morning. His parents will obviously have the ability to veto the winning name, but I’m pretty sure I can convince them to go with any of these finalists.
Here are the finalists in alphabetical order along with some more video of Bob breaking it down. He’s the best. You can see the first video I posted of him, right here.
His fate is in your hands.
Randomness May 25, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
We’ve received plenty of positive feedback thus far in regard to the content of the blog. We’ve also received some negative commentary as well, particularly when it comes to the frequency of the posts we’re making. As a result, I’ve decided to pull up my socks and set up shop at the nicest Starbucks I’ve ever set foot in to bang out a new post.
It’s been brought to my attention that FLAP has yet to be featured on our blog even though he made regular appearances on the Mulloskey blog. For those of you who don’t know what FLAP is, it’s an acronym of the caption on a t-shirt that was created by our group of friends to make fun of Josh for no reason whatsoever. These kinds of shirts are common for male bonding events like stags or a boys’ weekends, but we decided to make one for Josh on a cottage weekend in July with no theme of any sort. Let’s make Josh feel stupid was our goal, and this t-shirt (nicknamed FLAP because of the caption) has been a staple in our wardrobes ever since. It’s also made more appearances around the globe during its 3 year tenure than most people make in a lifetime. Check out FLAP’s travels here.
Therefore I decided to finally unveil FLAP for his long overdue appearance on the jorkat.com blog. If you want more information on FLAP, feel free to email Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would be happy to answer any questions you may have. This picture is of me in front of our new favourite store. UNI QLO is chain that started in Japan and has over 700 stores across Asia. It’s similar so your standard GAP or Banana Republic in terms of style and quality, but has H&M prices. I didn’t expect to be buying many clothes here but this store is hard to resist. Check out their website at www.uniqlo.com. They have one North American location in New York.While we’re on fashion for a moment, I thought I would take this opportunity to report that my shoes are doing just fine. As I’m sure everyone recalls from one of my initial posts about packing, I experienced many sleepless nights trying to decide which footwear to bring with us overseas. I agonized for countless hours and even sought counsel from my father and brother-in-laws. Ultimately I took Ronny’s (father-in law) advice and went with the black dress shoes, my brown Ecco’s, the brown Lacoste’s, my Asics, Crocs sandals and North Face all-terrain’s. Thus far all shoes have been worked into the rotation on a regular basis, and I haven’t once yearned for any that I left behind. Thanks to Ronny and everyone else for their input and support.
This is a picture of our shoes that Katie took while we were eating duck on a mountain.My mom sent us a care package on March 27th which finally arrived today almost two months to the day after being sent. The package contained amongst other things, feminin hygiene products which rhyme with dampons, toothpaste (the here toothpaste is weird), hair product for yours truly and a set of sheets. We had originally intended to buy sheets upon arrival but were shocked to learn that a full set of quality sheets can cost up to $200. As a result we made due with the one mattress cover we had thinking that the sheets would arrive in a couple weeks. Not only did we not have adequate sheets but there wasn’t any curtains or drapes so we woke every morning like we were sleeping on the sun and had trouble sleeping in a weekends despite going to bed just before sunrise on several occasions. Fortunately the MacGyver (or should I say MacGruber) in me came up with an ingenious idea to make our own curtains. I “borrowed” some velcro and a large portion of felt which we use to decorate the classrooms at school and made our own makeshift curtains which we can put up or remove with ease. I’m not sure what’s more pathetic – how proud I am of these curtains, or the fact that I’m writing about them on the blog. I’ll let the readers to decide, but please keep in mind that when you’re living in a slum like we are, you truly learn to appreciate the finer things in life. Like clean sheets and curtains.Speaking of the finer things in life, Katie and I have been talking about what we truly miss since we’ve been gone for just over three months now. Aside from the obvious/mandatory answers like friends and family, the only things that jump to mind are golf, golf and golf. Food wise we have it pretty good here but we’ve already been discussing what we want our first big meal of consequence to be upon our return and we both agree that Filet Mignon wrapped in bacon with sweet potatoes and a vegetable of some sort prepared on a BBQ is the current frontrunner. Here’s a picture of our typical weekend breakfast which we make every couple weeks (God Bless Costco). And yes, that’s maple bacon and it’s as good or better than any bacon I’ve had back home (with the exception of Mullin’s maple syrup/brown sugar masterpiece).In sports, I have some very exciting news which I’ve been dying to share with everyone. As some of you may know, I’m a pretty diehard Red Sox fan and still follow the team on a daily basis. Just last weekend, we were at a bar in Itaewon when I was introduced through a friend of a friend named Brendan who shared my same passion for sports and we immediately hit it off. This guy knew hockey, baseball, basketball, football as well as anyone so it was pretty much love at first sight. I became so entrenched in the conversation that I didn’t even notice that the song “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra was being played as Katie glared at me from across the table. Just as our bro-mance was entering unchartered territory, I notice a guy across the bar who looks familiar. I turn to Brendan and say “doesn’t that guy look like Kevin Youkilis?” He agreed and we debated what the odds were that it actually his brother or his cousin or something. For the uninformed, Kevin Youkilis is the All-Star first baseman for the Red Sox and was featured in Michael Lewis’ critically acclaimed book – Moneyball. The book is all about baseball statistics and a new way of interpreting them and is being made into a movie starring Brad Pitt. I’m not kidding. Back to the story. After a couple more drinks and some encouragement from Brendan, I approached the Youkilis-lookalike and had the following exchange:
Me: Umm, do you like baseball?
Me: Umm, do you know who Kevin Youkilis is?
Me: Umm, has anyone ever told you that you look like him?
Me: Wow! Cool…
Me: My name’s Jordan, what’s yours?
Him: Steve Youkilis.
I don’t remember what happened at this point as apparently I fainted and an ambulance had to be called. But once I regained consciousness, Steve was kind enough to pose for this picture with me as long as I promised to not follow him around and try to be friends with him.
Here’s Kevin, minus his trademark goatee.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post about our new favourite store, my shoes, food and the Youkilis brothers. Before you decide to comment with something derogatory about how dull our lives are, or how we’re running out of material, keep in mind that you were obviously bored enough to read it. Stay tuned for our next post about drinking beer outside of convenience stores and eating intestines. I’m not kidding.
Busan May 19, 2009Posted by jorkat in Busan.
Two weekends ago, we had our first days off since our arrival and were finally blessed with a 4-day long weekend. After debating for weeks where to go, we finally settled on Busan.
Busan is the second largest city in Korean with approximately 3.6 million residents and is located on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula. As you’ll see from our pictures, Busan is a perfect example of harmony between mountains, rivers and sea. Its geography includes a coastline with superb beaches and scenic cliffs, mountains which provide excellent hiking and extraordinary views. Its deep harbour and gentle tides have allowed it to grow into the largest container handling port in the country and the fifth largest in the world. In the coming years, capacity is set to grow further with the opening of the New Port. The city’s natural endowments and rich history have resulted in Busan’s increasing reputation as a world class city of tourism and culture. While doing research for this post, I found out that Busan is actually sister cities with Montreal. This special connection simply means that Busan maintains special cultural, industrial and trade ties with Montreal and various other major cities around the globe.
Another aspect of this trip that we were looking forward to was our first experience aboard the KTX. The KTX is a high-speed train that travels in excess of 300 km/h and connects Seoul with various other larger cities around Korea. After 12 years of construction and approximately $18 billion in costs, service on the Gyeongbu Line (connecting Seoul to Busan via Daejeon and Daegu) opened on March 31, 2004. Presently using high-speed track for only part of the distance (from Seoul to Daegu), the new service cuts travel time between Seoul and Busanfrom the standard 4 hours and 10 minutes by regular train, to 2 hours and 40 minutes. Imagine being able to take a train from Toronto to Montreal in just over 2.5 hours that was smoother, quieter and cheaper (less than $40 CAD) than Via Rail. I didn’t think I could hate Via anymore than I already did, but after our KTX experience, I do. The KTX is one bad-ass mofo. I should also point out that Katie’s nickname with most of her students is KTX. She didn’t understand it at first, but has now embraced it to the point that the kids call her “KTX Teacher” as if it’s her actual name and she frequently enters the classroom running slightly slower than 300 km/h.
Many of our readers have been asking for more pictures so for the sake of this post, I’m going to post of series of pictures from our trip and include of brief description of each photo. Let’s get started.
How great was this series? We were fortunate enough to be able to see Game 2 and Game 5 in their entirety and neither disappointed (Game 2 was the hat trick’s game). We’re in good hands with these two (and Malkin) leading the way for the next 10 years or so. What’s that Katie?…I can only post pics from the trip to Busan?…Fine.
After arriving in Busan around noon on Saturday we made our way to Haeundae Beach and started to search for accommodations. With the long weekend and Buddha’s Birthday taking place that weekend, many of the hotels were booked but after searching for less than an hour we found a reasonably priced hotel for less than $60 per night. This hotel was situated between the W and the Wynn and had two double beds and several of the amenities that were provided to us during our first hotel stay upon arriving in Korea. Since we were travelling with our friends Darren and Kirsten and knew we would be spending very little time in the room, we decided to split the room four ways which meant we were paying less than $15 per person. Oh, and I wasn’t kidding about this hotel being between the W and the Wynn, but something tells me that these names are being used without Mr. Wynn’s consent and that not too many A-List celebs frequent these establishments.
After setting in we headed for the beach.
Since the summer is still about a month away, the beach was nowhere near as busy as this picture which I plucked from the web. But this does you give you an idea of how busy it can get and how much Koreans love their umbrella’s/hate the sun. Because of its easy access from downtown Busan and the famous beautiful beach atmosphere, the beach is busy year round with several kinds of beach festivals and visitors from in and out from the country. The beach is regarded as one of the finest beaches in the world with its great night view, beautiful coast line, white sand, green pine trees, hot spring, and five star hotels.
Since the beach was relatively empty, we came upon a beach soccer game and immediately noticed one of the players who stood out from the others for some reason. Katie and Kirsten couldn’t help but stare and the gentleman was kind enough to pose for some pictures.
Katie made this next one the background on our desktop.
Keep in mind that when we first saw him, he was running on the beach playing soccer. I didn’t get much sleep that night.
After exploring the beach and surrounding area we retreated to our room to freshen up before heading out to dinner. We had dinner at a Japanese place which wasn’t anything spectacular and headed to a bar called U2. The bar was crammed with annoying foreigners and the band was terrible so as we finished our drinks and started discussing our next destination, Katie noticed a familiar face across the bar. For those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning, you may recall the story of our flight here and our travelling buddy Zeff who we met in line at Pearson International Airport. We spent the entire 22 hour trip with Zeff and exchanged contact info upon arriving in Seoul vowing that we would keep in touch and get together eventually. Unfortunately we both became busy with our own new respective groups of friends and could never find a convenient time to meet up in Seoul. So imagine our surprise when Katie pointed out that the tall blond guy on the other side of the bar looked exactly like Zeff. And sure enough it was him. We couldn’t find an opportunity to meet in Seoul but by chance we randomly run into him in a bar 5 hours south of Seoul. It was like running into an old friend who we hadn’t seen in years, meanwhile we had only know him for less than a day and hadn’t seen him since. We chatted for a few minutes before leaving with our friends to head to the beach for some drinks and then to another bar where Zeff just happened to show up at later as well. We spent most of the night with him and a couple of his friends and shared stories of our first couple months in Korea. Unfortunately we didn’t take any pictures and never got a picture of him on the trip here so I nabbed this pic from his Facebook profile. The Legend of Zeff continues.
Well we’ve reached the 1200 word mark so those of you who’s legs are numb and need to stretch, or go to the bathroom, now’s your chance.
And welcome back!
Here’s a picture of the condom vending machine from our hotel room. I’m still trying to figure out what flavour an AIDS lollipop would be. I’ve narrowed it down to lemon or acid reflux.
On Sunday morning would awoke bright an early (read: almost noon) and headed for the cable car. This popular tourist destination would take us to the top of one of the highest peaks over the city. Little did we know that we were in store for much more than just some nice views.
Here is one of these views on our way up. Keep in mind that this was a relatively clear day.
For this leg of our journey we were fortunate to have our own personal tour guide. Our friend Darren had befriended and few locals back in Seoul and one of them offered to tour us around Busan as this is where she’s originally from. I don’t know what we would have done without her.
This is Katie, Eun-Jin (pretend you’re saying En-gine but then replace the “E” with a “U”. It’s still not right, but it’s close enough) and Kirsten.
The forest as the top was as close to clean fresh air as we’ve experienced since our arrival in Asia and had wonderful little walking paths carved throughout the woods. Every once in awhile you’d come upon a little hut where little old ladies (Ajumas) are preparing authentic Korean cuisine. Under normal circumstances, we probably wouldn’t have tried one of these places due to the language barrier as they didn’t provide menus, but with a Korean at our disposal it was impossible to resist.
Despite there being several tables at our disposal, we opted for the much more primitive traditional option of sitting on the ground. And as expected, the girls loved it and the guys complained and couldn’t get comfortable. Leg cramps aside, it was one of the most enjoyable (and open-minded) eating experiences we’ve ever had.
Even though we had initially requested chicken, we somehow ended up with a duck. And not just any duck, but a fresh duck which had been roaming free only hours before our arrival, and killed in the name of providing us with nourishment. Now don’t get me wrong, I love eating animals but there was something oddly satisfying and disturbing about learning of this duck’s fate. As if somehow having it frozen beforehand makes it any less cruel. Despite the moral dilemna, we decided that we would remember this duck fondly and that his family should be proud of his noble sacrifice. Our memories of this meal will be his legacy and he will be reknowned far more than if he had died of natural causes. Would you rather die early and be appreciated for your contribution to society or live a little longer and never have left your mark? The bottom line is – he was delicious.
Here is Darren being fed by the Ajuma.
After we finished our meal, we boarded the cable car and descended the mountain en route to our next destination. The Beomeosasa Temple.
With May 1st being the Buddha’s 2553rd birthday, the temple was adorned with hundreds of traditional buddhist lanterns, or as I call them – fire hazards.
Situated in the eastern part of Mt. Geumjeong in north Busan, Beomeosasa Temple was founded by venerable Buddhist priest Eusang of the Silla dynasty in 678 and largely rebuilt in the period of King Heungdeok. But I’m sure most of you already knew this.
After exploring the temple and witnessing a very cool drum ceremony performed by some Monks, we realized that the duck was starting to wear off and we went in search of our next prey meal.
We enjoyed another wonderful meal with Eun-Jin and a couple of her friends before retiring back to Haeundae Beach for a few drinks along the boardwalk and then off to bed.
On Monday we hit up the Jagalchi Market, largest fish market in Korea. The life of Busan citizens can truly be felt here. Jagalchi is famous throughout the country for the peculiar local accent of Jagalchi women, fresh fish, and noisy dealing. The fresh fish from the sea are sold via brokers to retailers at the wharf, while street stalls abound with all kinds of sea products. It’s quite a scene, and an even more powerful smell.
With the fish market being our final destination (and this post exceeding the 2000 word mark) we headed for the train station and prepared for our high-speed trip back to Seoul. We were in Busan for less than 54 hours and saw everything from Korean soccer players in thongs to Zeff to AIDS lollipops. It was a memorable adventure which we won’t soon forget.
Oh, and Darren got serenaded on the subway. Enjoy.
Baseball May 11, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
For those of you wondering when I was finally going to write about sports again, well that day is finally here.
This post is long overdue as we actually experienced our first Korean baseball game almost a month ago. It was a day I won’t soon forget.
The Korean Baseball Organization or KBO was started back in 1982 and currently consists of 8 teams which all play each other 18 times per season for a total of 126 games. The teams are geographically based in different parts of Korea and are owned and named after large companies and conglomerates.
When I started researching the KBO way back when we confirmed that we were coming to Korea, I decided to pledge allegiance to one of the two teams based in Seoul and follow the team throughout the season the only way I know how – obsessively. I ended up choosing the LG Twins for the simple reason that I had heard of the company LG and was familiar with the team name Twins from Minnesota. I knew very little about the team as most of the content on the web was in Korean. All I did know was that they hadn’t won a championship since 1994 and lost 80 games last year, so they weren’t exactly the most appealing option, but I was undeterred.
Upon arriving in Seoul, I quickly found out that most of the people I met were actually fans of the other team based in Seoul, the Doosan Bears. This team had made it all the way to the finals last year before losing to the SK Wolverines and had a number of players on the World Baseball Classic roster in which Korea finished 2nd to Japan back in March. One of the other teachers at our school, Darren, is also a passionate sports fan and decided to support the Bears so we could enjoy a friendly rivalry and root against each other, even though we didn’t know any of the players names…yet.
Sunday, April 12th, 2009; 5:00pm – Jamsil Stadium, Seoul
We took the subway four stops to get to the stadium and started to navigate through the crowd to find tickets. We had no idea what we were doing and weren’t even sure if any would be available as this was the first time LG and Doosan were playing against each other this season. They share a stadium which has a capacity of approximately 30,000 seats, so we got there a bit early to figure things out.
Sure enough they had scalpers, but not the typical assholes who make you feel like you need a shower after dealing with them and will hose you for every last penny. All of the scalpers were little old ladies who you would have a hard time saying no to regardless of the language barrier. Fortunately, we did not have to go this route as we arrived early enough to get general admission tickets. The stadium has reserved seating in the lower level where you can pay around $12 for seats along the 1st and 3rd base lines or you can pay a whopping $20 to sit right behind the plate. We opted for the even cheaper option of $6 to sit in the unreserved seats in the second level and had arrived early enough to get this view directly behind home plate.
It’s actually a lot closer than it looks from this picture and was a great vantage point to watch the action from. These seats in any major league ballpark in North America would go for at least $80 a pop. At the end of the game I tallied up how much Katie and I spent on 2 tickets, 3 beers each and a whopper and fries from Burger King. The grand total was less than $40.
The other great thing about this league which Katie particularly enjoyed is the fans and the atmosphere. Regardless of the score of the contest, the fans are cheering almost non-stop. Each teams fans sit on opposite sides of the field and have cheerleaders that lead the respective fan-bases in a never ending slew of catchy cheers that usually involve the thunder sticks that almost every fan has. Thunder sticks are inflatable plastic sticks and make an effective noise when banged together in unison by thousands of people. They became popular in Anaheim back when the Angels won the World Series in 2002, but they haven’t caught on anywhere else. In Korea, they are a staple at every Korean baseball game. I’ve never been to a European football (soccer) game before but I imagine that the atmosphere is similar with the constant chanting and rabid fan bases, but minus the hooligans and violence. Here’s some video from just prior to the opening pitch.
At the time, the season was just over a week old and the Twins had the same record as my beloved Red Sox at 6-6. They also had something else in common. Each team in the KBO is allowed to have two foreign players on their roster, and it just so happens that one of the two foreigners on the LG Twins is none other than the immortal Roberto Petagine.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr. Petagine (which is probably everyone reading this), he’s a Venezuelan who has bounced around professional baseball all over the world and even had a cup of coffee with the Red Sox in 2005. I actually attended a game at Fenway in 2005, watched Roberto hit a home run against the Yankees and probably hadn’t thought about him since then, as he was a bench player and was released by the Sox after that season. I had no idea that he was on the LG Twins roster as almost everything on their website is written in Korean, so needless to say, I got pretty excited when he stepped to the plate as the Twins clean-up hitter in the bottom of the first. The scoreboards at the stadium are also written almost entirely in Korean too, but I was able to figure out that only a week into the season, Petagine was batting almost .500 with 4 home runs and 12 RBI’s (update: We’re well over a month into the season and he continues to tear it up with a .429 batting average, 12 home runs and 29 RBI’s). I immediately turned to my fellow teacher and Doosan fan, Darren and coolly exclaimed “he’s going yard.” (This is baseball slang for he’s going to hit a home run). Sure enough, 3 pitches later and the ball was in the right field stands for a 2-0 first inning lead. I was ecstatic.
How many people in this world can say that they’ve seen Roberto Petagine hit a home run at Fenway Park in Boston AND on the other side of the world at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, Korea? How many people even know that he’s played in both of these places? How many people even care? Well I do. If he doesn’t have a Facebook fan group yet, he will soon. Oh, and if you don’t think I’m buying his jersey, then you clearly don’t know me very well.
Despite the Twins’ center fielder dropping a routine fly ball in the top of the 8th which opened the door for a 2-run Doosan rally which ultimately won the game, it was a perfect evening for my introduction to the KBO.
We’ve already gone back for a few games since then and after starting out with a rather unimpressive 10-13 record, the Twins just rolled off 8 straight victories, including a sweep of their in-town rival Doosan Bears to take over sole possession of 2nd place. This week they face the first place and defending KBO champions, SK Wolverines and you can bet that Katie and I will be there rooting for our new favourite team. Katie with her new thundersticks and me with my new Petagine jersey. I may have to update my Man-Crush List sooner than expected.