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Japan Mailbag – Part 1 January 31, 2010

Posted by jorkat in Hiroshima, Kyoto, Tokyo.

Since announcing that we would be spending a week in Japan during the Christmas Holidays (Dec. 26th – Jan. 1st), we’ve been bombarded with questions about our trip. I’ve responded to some of those questions directly, but I figured I would share some of them here, along with my answers. Everything you’re about to read came from actual e-mails sent in by our readers.

1) What cities did you visit and which one was your favourite? – Mark from Toronto

We flew into Tokyo on December 26th and spent our first night there. There was an affordable sushi restaurant right near the famous fish market where staggering amounts of fresh seafood are delivered each and every day. Unfortunately we couldn’t find it and have a feeling its closed since the publication of our travel guide which recommended it. After wandering several blocks in every direction trying to find a restaurant that was open and/or had an English menu, we gave up. Our first meal in Japan was McDonald’s. D’Oh! After overcoming the guilt from eating McDonald’s we ventured to the famous Shibuya Crossing. Regarded as one of the world’s most visually stimulating four-way intersections where the green light given to pedestrians releases a timed surge of humanity.

Here’s a pic from overhead courtesy of Google Images.

The following morning we boarded a high speed train bound for Hiroshima which was our furthest target from Tokyo. We spent one night there and then started heading back towards Tokyo in time for New Year’s Eve. We made stops in Osaka, 3 nights in Kyoto, a day trip to Nara and dinner in Kobe. More on that later though…

As for our favourite city, it was Kyoto by far.

I think I can sum up our 3 days in Kyoto with three simple words.

Temple. Temple. Shrine.

I don’t remember the exact numbers but we saw a staggering number of temples and shrines. Having spent almost a year in Asia, I’ve seen enough temples to last me a lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, they are spectacular structures and I appreciate the history and culture attached to them. In Kyoto though, it seems like there’s one on every corner. So after a day spent walking covering most of the major cultural landmarks, it was going to take something special to get my attention.

Cue the Golden Pavillion.

*Courtesy of Katie Images.

Known as the Kinkakuji Temple, it’s a zen buddhist temple built in 1397. Since then its been burned down a few times by a bunch of crazies. Rebuilt, and received a fresh coat of authentic gold-leaf back in 1987.

Not to downplay its cultural and historical significance but it was the structure itself and the surrounding area that were so breathtaking. Everything was in its rightful place. The layout and landscaping were sublime. Even the gift shop was perfectly placed at the exit. It was the Disney World and Augusta National of buddhist temples.

Another thing that we admired about Kyoto and appreciate about ancient cities in general, is their ability to integrate modern architecture and infrastructure into cultural landmarks without sacrificing sight lines or access. Kyoto encompasses this ideal to perfection.

Despite not being overly modern from a visual standpoint, Kyoto has a full subway system, a central train station that’s larger and more modern than Union Station (Toronto) and services a network of local trains, high-speed rail and the subway. Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan and is still considered by most as the cultural capital thanks to its rich history and impressive cultural landmarks. We were shocked to learn that the city has a population of only 1.5 million people. I guess it’s sort of like Ottawa, minus the culture and modern infrastructure. Add Via Rail to the list of things that will make us angry when we get home.

2) What was the climate like and how did your packing go? – Chelsea from Montreal

Excellent question. The climate was a welcome change from the colder temperatures in Seoul. On average, it was between 5 and 12 degress celsius which was ideal for the clothing we had brought and the amount of time we spent walking outdoors.

As for my packing, I’m pleased to report that I ended up wearing every single item of clothing that I packed with the exception of one t-shirt. The only bad decision I made was opting against bringing my running shoes in favour of wearing my North Face shoes for the entire trip. This is very unlike me as I like to always have alternative footwear options but we were trying to travel as light as possible. It’s not that my North Face shoes weren’t comfortable, they’re the best and have served me well for almost 4 years now. Unfortunately, for some reason they developed an annoying squeaking sound on both soles with every step I took.

Katie and pretty much anyone walking within earshot wanted to kill me. It was like hearing a duck quack every time I took a step. Imagine walking through some of the most beautiful temples you’ve ever seen, or the A-Bomb museum with everyone in complete silence, deep in thought and prayer, when in comes Mr. Duck Feet. “Quack, quack, quack, quack…”

I kind of got used to it but I would always get a bit angry every morning when we first set out as soon as the quacking began. It got the point where I was trying to walk on heels and avoiding hard flat surfaces. Gravel quickly became my best friend as the quacking would always subside.

I didn’t learn much Japanese during our trip but I’m pretty sure I know how to say “who’s that asshole with the squeaky shoes?”.

Here’s some video of me walking along a cool little alley full of restaurants in the Ponto-Cho district of Kyoto.

3) What are the toilets like in Japan? – Josh in London

Pretty much the same as everywhere else in Asia, although many of the nicer ones were equipped with built-in badai’s. They had the typical squatters in some public bathrooms but overall most of the facilities we encountered were western style.

While we’re on the subject of bathrooms though, there’s something I’ve been meaning address and now seems like a good time.

My biggest complaint about the bathrooms in Asia is the urinals. Back home, most newer urinals have remote sensors that automatically flush after you walk away. Well, they have that same feature on some of the urinals over here, but most of them flush automatically at the beginning.

Therefore, if you choose one with a slightly overzealous flushing mechanism, you’re likely in store for an unexpected crotch shower. There’s one in particular on the third floor of our school that gets me almost every day. I have to stand 3 feet clear of every urinal in the place just to be safe, but then I have a crowd of 5-year olds staring at me like they’re using those large binoculars on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building. I guess I’ll stick with the crotch showers for now. On the bright side, at least you don’t have to wash your hands afterwards.

4) What was the energy drink situation like in Japan? – Sean in Seoul

They had Red Bulls for under $2 in almost every 7-11. It was paradise. I crushed a few Vodka-Red Bulls on New Year’s too, although those ones were about $15.

On the downside, there was no Gatorade. None. Zero. I’m still angry about this.

5) How was the flight and which airline did you fly with? – David in New Brunswick

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. If there’s one thing I’ll always remember from our experience over here, it’s how awesome Asian airlines and public transportation are and how shitty they are in North America. Our travel agent found us a cheap flight with United Airlines and it was exactly what you would have expected. Crappy plane. Crappy food. Crappy service. This was also the day after the Christmas Day bombing attempt in Detroit so they were checking carry-on baggage again before boarding in the skywalk.

We also both ended up with seats on the opposite sides of the aisle so we weren’t right next to each other. I was sitting next to what I thought was a young Asian teenager until she tried to order wine. She of course got carded as I honestly would have guessed she was no more than 15. I told her wine was a good idea and got some myself which prompted her to ask me where I was going. We exchanged pleasantries and she told me she was going to Orlando. Under normal circumstances, the conversation would have ended right around point and I would have gone back to my book or my iPod, but I was somewhat intrigued and asked her why?

“I’m a professional golfer. I play on the Futures Tour and the LPGA.”

Let’s just say that I had a few questions for her and Katie was left to read her book in complete silence for the duration of the flight.

6) What was Hiroshima like? – Jenny in Peterborough

On Monday, August 6, 1945, at 8:15 AM, the nuclear bomb ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on Hiroshima by an American B-29 bomber, directly killing an estimated 80,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought total casualties to 90,000-140,000. Approximately 69% of the city’s buildings were completely destroyed, and about 7% severely damaged.

Research about the effects of the attack was restricted during the occupation of Japan, and information censored until the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, restoring control to the Japanese.

Since that time, a great deal of information has been shared by the Americans which enabled the Japanese to erect the Peace Museum. It’s very well laid out and gives a balanced account of the events leading up and after the disaster.

Perhaps the starkest reminder of the destruction leveled against Hiroshima is the A-Bomb Dome. Built by a Czech architect in 1915 and pictured below, the building was located at the epicenter of the blast and was one of the very few still left standing. Despite local opposition, a decision was made after the war to preserve the remaining structure as a memorial and a grim symbol of the city’s tragic past.

Here’s what it looks like today…

When the US unleashed Heavy bombing in most major cities across Japan as a response to Pearl Harbor, nothing was directed at Hiroshima which seemed odd given the number of military installations and personnel stationed there at the time. The reason for this was that the Americans wanted to clear picture of exactly how much damage would be done by the bomb and didn’t want their results skewed by damage from previous attacks.

With so much talk of nuclear bombs and terrorist groups and states trying to acquire nuclear materials, I think most people don’t realize the devastation and destruction that one of these weapons can achieve. Walking through this museum and seeing the scope of lives that were impacted by this terrible disaster gives you an even greater appreciation for just how serious a threat these weapons pose in anyone’s possession.

The irony is it doesn’t feel like a new city built from scratch even though every building in the downtown core has been constructed in the past 60 years. Even more impressive is the mindset of the people as a result. They have built this museum and the surronding park in hopes of inspiring peace with the ultimate goal of dismantling the world’s entire nuclear arsenal.

7) Did you take any good pictures? – Amanda in Toronto

At this time, I’d like to observe a moment of silence to acknowledge how grateful I am that we live in the digital age.

Pause for silence...Thank you.

I’ve already discussed the benefits of Skype, Slingbox, etc. but if we didn’t have a digital camera, we would have been bankrupt by the cost of processing all the rolls of film Katie would be devouring. Here are a few more pictures for your pleasure…

Stay tuned for Part 2 coming later this week.

Shanghai January 8, 2010

Posted by jorkat in Shanghai.

Happy New Year! This is the final post from our trip to Shanghai back in early-November. We just returned from a week-long trip to Japan which I’ll be writing about shortly.

After safely arriving in Shanghai after our debacle at the airport which you can read about here, we found our hostel and got settled. It was about 4pm so we still had some time to explore our surroundings and find a nice place for dinner.

There’s nothing quite like going into a completely foreign place and figuring stuff out. It can be frustrating at times, but with patience and the right attitude, it can be very satisfying once you acclimatize yourself to the unfamiliar surroundings.

We had done a little bit of research on Shanghai prior to our arrival, and when I say we, I mean Katie. As with previous trips, I made all of the travel arrangements, figured out accommodations and most importantly in this case, got our tickets for golf on Saturday. That was an experience in itself, but I won’t bore you with the details. Just imagine calling Ticketmaster in China and trying to convey that you live in Korea and want to buy golf tickets for an event 6 months from now – with someone who can’t speak English. Somehow we managed to figure it out and secure our tickets.

Shanghai is the largest city in China, and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, with over 20 million people. Located on China’s central eastern coast just at the mouth of the Yangtze River, the city was originally a fishing and textiles town. The opening sentence of the Shanghai section of our Lonely Planet travel guide describes Shanghai as the “Whore of the Orient”. This may explain why Tiger has flown halfway around the world to play here 3 out of the past 4 years. Zing!

Shanghai grew in importance in the 19th century due to its favorable port location. The city flourished as a center of commerce between east and west, and became a multinational hub of finance and business by the 1930’s. However, Shanghai’s precipitous rise was interrupted with the Communist takeover in 1949 and the subsequent cessation of foreign investment. In 1990, new economic reforms resulted in intense re-development, culminating in Shanghai becoming the world’s largest cargo port in 2005.

The city has evolved into a tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks and its modern and ever-expanding skyline including the Oriental Pearl Tower. Shanghai has established a reputation as a cosmopolitan center of culture and design and is now the largest center of commerce and finance in mainland China. With such a diverse mix of cultural history and modern development, Shanghai has been described as the “showpiece” of the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

Our first destination was the popular French Concession. This is one of the more popular tourist spots for foreign tourists and we could immediately understand why. It was an eclectic neighborhood with a nice mix of trendy retail and restaurants along with your typical old-school Mom & Pop establishments. Both sides of the streets were lined with beautiful trees which gave it a nice cozy feeling as you took in the unique sights and sounds around every corner.

We eventually settled at a nice Irish Pub with a street-front patio and a large group of men huddled around a game of checkers. We kicked back and relaxed with a beer while we reflected on a crazy day that almost didn’t materialize. We then took out our maps and planned our course of action over the next 48 hours.

After some more wandering we came across a crowded Mexican restaurant with a cool outdoor patio that practically spilled on to the street. After a brief pause to acknowledge the guilt of being in China and craving Mexican, we succumbed to our hunger. This now brings the grand total of Mexican restaurants we’ve eaten at in different Asian cities to 3 (Beijing, Seoul & Shanghai). I guess I’m still a little scarred from our first authentic Chinese food experience back in Beijing, and didn’t want any similar occurrences (read: bowel movements) while walking on a golf course for most of Saturday.

After a long day of unexpected twists, we headed back to our hostel to get some much needed sleep. Much to our delight, there was a 24-hour massage parlor located immediately next door. We popped in for a dirt-cheap couples foot massage in order to physically and mentally prepare for another grueling day of walking. For those of you who missed it, you can read more about our day with Tiger here.

Upon our arrival back in downtown Shanghai after an incredible time following Tiger, we went for dinner at a place called Simply Thai. I had beef with chili peppers and coriander which I think is arguably one of the most polarizing spices out there. Often referred to as cilantro, most people either love it, or claim that it smells like a dirty J-cloth. I’m in the former group. I can’t wait to take full advantage of the cheap thai food as soon as we arrive in Thailand. Although with our track record, we’ll probably end up eating mostly Chinese food.

On Sunday we tried to cram as much as possible into one day as our flight left was leaving at 9pm that evening. Katie was intent on visiting the famous Yuyuan Garden & Garden and sample an authentic tea house. Seeing as we had spent the previous day on a golf course, I was more than willing to oblige. We arrived at the closest intersection to the garden and did our best to look like tourists with our hands full of maps and lost looks on our faces. This strategy paid off as an old man approached us and asked us what we were looking for.

When traveling in foreign countries, I’ve noticed that we become much more skeptical of strangers and their advances. I don’t blame anyone for keeping their guard up as tourists are typically prime targets for would-be scam artists or locals just trying to make a quick buck. But so far we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the kindness of strangers and their willingness to assist and show outsiders what their culture/country is all about. They are proud people who aren’t out to make any money and simply want to provide you with an authentic experience. This older gentleman was one of those people.  His name was Kahn and he was a retired English teacher. He ended up giving us a guided tour through the entire garden and described details that no travel book or tour guide would provide.

He steered us away from the obvious tourist traps and took us to an even better tea house than the one our travel guide recommended.

Outside of Nestea I’m not a huge tea enthusiast, but this stuff was incredible. We sampled over ten different varieties and each one was better than any tea I’ve ever experienced.

It was now nearing lunch time so we headed for the trendy Xiantiandi district to grab a bite and wander around the area. We had a cool lunch at a place called Kabb’s which featured make your own Bloody Mary’s. They provide 3 shots of vodka, tomato juice and all the fixins (Worcestershire, Horseradish, Salt & Pepper) and you get to put it together as you please. No rimmer, so Katie was a little disappointed, still delicious though.

Afterwards we found a nice patio and had a few beers while doing some people watching before starting our trek home. As you’ll see from the pics below, this area has a new distinctly European feel to it. So much so that we had to constantly remind ourselves that we were still in the heart of Communist China.  As the afternoon slowly faded to evening, I went inside to use the bathroom and watched Phil sink his putt to win the HSBC Champions event we had attended the day before. Even though Tiger didn’t win, it was a fitting end to a memorable weekend.

Finally, one last thing I wanted to share with everyone. I don’t know when it happened. Maybe it’s been going on for awhile and I just never noticed. Regardless of when this affliction materialized, I think everyone will agree that it’s a little disturbing. It seems as though my wife has a fascination with laundry. She stops to take pictures so often that sometimes I don’t really pay attention to the object of her desire. But when I was going through all of our pics from Shanghai, I came across a disturbing trend of pictures featuring wet clothes. Have a look for yourself. Viewer discretion is advised.


Stay tuned for our upcoming Japan mailbag. I’ll be answering questions from readers about our recent week-long trip to Japan. Feel free to submit your questions in the comments section of this post.

Merry Christmas December 26, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.

Well, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m sitting at a Starbucks in Seoul, Korea. If you had told me five years ago that this is where I’d be, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. It’s a balmy 10 degrees out and we’ve had two minor snowfalls in the past few weeks which amounted to zero accumulation on the ground. Any snow back in Eastern Canada/US?

Today also marks our 10- month anniversary here in Korea so I decided to sit back and reflect on where we are, where we’ve come from and where we’ll be going. I guess the ultimate compliment I can pay Korea is that this feels like home. Maybe it’s because I know there’s an end to our time here that has always been in sight. Maybe it’s a tribute to our ability to adapt to new surroundings, but I often forget that I’m on the other side of the world until I walk outside and everyone is Asian. Even then, I’m completely comfortable and capable of going about my day without any stress or frustration. It’s a nice feeling.

It also feels more like Christmas than expected. Christianity is the religion of choice for most Koreans so it’s hard not to notice all the Christmas holiday sales and décor on display. Especially the area we live in, which is as commercialized and superficial as it gets in Korea.

We actually had our last day of classes yesterday in which most of it was consumed by a Christmas talent show performed by all of our Kindergarten classes. Each class, with ages ranging from 4-7 years old were responsible for putting together a 5-minute performance with a Christmas theme. We’d been practicing with our respective classes for weeks so it was pretty entertaining to see the finished product from the 10 respective classes.

This is the video from Katie’s class (taken during practice the day before)

This is the video from my class (also taken during rehearsal)

My class starts off with a skit in which the infamous Jack is the teacher and is leading the class through the opening routine that we do each morning. The idea for this skit was borne out of Jack’s impression of me that he would do every Friday. I would walk into class where they’d all be seated and Jack would be sitting in my chair. I played along and went and sat in his chair. He proceeded to start the class and lead them through my opening monologue. It was hysterical. This kid couldn’t speak a word of English 10 months ago and now he was doing an impression of his teacher in front of the whole class. I wish I had taken video of it, as he became extremely shy in front of a larger audience and didn’t perform with the same charisma that we all came to expect. Not bad for a 5-year old though.

Speaking of 5-year olds, today marks the fifth birthday of my dear little Adela. She is the youngest and by far the cutest little girl in my class. We had her party on the 22nd as the school was closed on the 24th. Christmas now has new meaning for me and I’ll always remember that Jesus was born on the 25th and Adela on the 24th. Here are some pictures.

Way back in late-Spring, one of my students named Nathan brought a hat to wear on a field trip we were going on. He never actually wore it but I found it when I was putting books into his bag. I spent the next few months pleading with him occasionally to wear it again so we could take a picture of us wearing our hats together. After months of persistence, he finally wore it and I brought mine to school the next day for a photo opportunity.  He hasn’t taken it off since. We also both liked the John Lackey signing and agree that we need another big bat in the lineup, preferably Adrian Gonzalez or Miguel Cabrera.

We recently completed a social studies unit in which I taught them all about different sports from around the world. I brought in different jerseys from various sports and found videos of these sports to show them on our laptop. I’m pleased to report that hockey was by far their favourite to watch as they are still asking me to bring in my laptop again so they can watch some more. They especially like the hockey fights and I even did a live demonstration with Jack and Nathan to show how to jersey someone in a fight. Jack tries to fight me almost every day despite the fact that I’m still undefeated and I’ve stretched 3 or 4 of his shirts beyond repair. (Editor’s note: These kids are 5-years old).

I also combined my explanation of North American sports with Geography (which we studied a couple months before) and showed them on a map where all the cities for these sports teams were located. I then took it to another level and combined the unit we did on animals and taught them about team names and mascots. Throughout this entire process, I was careful to remain objective and never demonstrate an obvious bias towards a certain sport or team. I wanted to expose them to everything that I was capable of explaining to them and allow them to judge for themselves which team was worthy of their support.

So you can imagine my surprise when one day out of nowhere, this chant started out of nowhere and shook the entire school to its foundation. Fortunately I had my camera in hand by sheer coincidence.

It’s common at this time of year to look back at the year that was and acknowledge what you’re thankful for. The following are a series of pictures and videos from the past 10 months which we’ve wanted to share with everyone but haven’t had the chance until now.

We’re thankful for our favourite restaurant. We don’t even know what it’s called but we call it 2am because the first time we ate there was at 2am after a few beverages. Katie and I eat here on a weekly basis and the total bill comes to less than $25 total. This place probably deserves an entire post on its own, but here’s a sneak peak at a typical Korean galbi experience. Note how many side dishes are on the table. These are delivered within 10 seconds of sitting down, with your drinks and main order arriving a few minutes later.

We’re thankful for new friends – Darren Grimes, Kirsten Binstock, Brielle Morgan, Stephen Fulton, Nazli Prisk, Clay Condon, Cody Stone, Jared Teitel, Naomi Santiago, Eunjin and Hooyoung. When we started discussing moving to Korea I remember acknowledging to Katie that we would likely end up making new friendships that would last a lifetime. This statement could not have been more prophetic as we’re blessed with an incredible group of new friends from all corners of North America. Even though Darren insists that a BBQ is a sauce and that the actual device is referred to as a grill, we still love him dearly. This is a picture from my birthday where the only thing I asked everyone to do was wear one of my jerseys for the entire night, regardless of where we ended up. Everyone was happy to oblige and we even did a draft to decide who got to wear which jersey. It was awesome.

We’re thankful for old friends who have become even closer. Sean and Erin, commonly referred to as the Mulloskey’s. They were the couple that inspired us to move to Korea after following their experience via their blog. They decided to come back and we’ve spent the past 4 months together and will be waking up on Christmas morning in each other’s company. We are blessed to have them in our lives and I will cherish our time together abroad for the rest of my life.

We’re thankful for Norabang’s, commonly known as Karaoke Rooms. I’ll let these pictures and video do the talking.

This is our favourite Korean song. I think Darren kinda likes it too.

Mullin really enjoys the Norabang.

We’re thankful for wonderful family and friends back home that give us something to look forward to when this adventure ends. My only regret from this entire experience was missing the weddings of very close friends – Matt & Michelle, Laura & Matt, Mike & Heather, Mark & Vanessa, Dave & Suzanne, Szabolcs (this isn’t a typo) & Julia. Thanks to the power of the internet we haven’t felt that out of touch but we will be sure to make up for lost time upon our return.

I’m thankful for Katie’s incredible fashion sense. This is an inside joke for everyone on the Algate/Clapperton/Harnden side of the family. We brought this shirt to the other side of the world for one picture and this is it.

We’re thankful for the opportunity to see parts of the world that we never imagined possible. So far we’ve visited Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai in China, Taipei and various cities in Korea including the 3 coasts and North Korea. We leave for a 7-day trip to Japan tomorrow where we’ll be visiting Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto and spending New Year’s in Tokyo. And we just booked our flight to leave Korea in March and start our real traveling in Thailand. We’ll have two months to cover, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

I’m thankful for a select group of friends and family that are lugging my golf clubs across the globe to meet me in London in May 2010 so I can play St-Andrews. The clubs started their journey at my parents place in Montreal and departed for Toronto on Nov. 25th. They were then passed off to my in-laws (Ron & Brenda) who held on to them until my brother-in-law (Jamie) came for Christmas brunch on Dec. 20th. Jamie is currently in possession of the clubs and responsible for meeting up with Josh (my best man) who currently resides in London, England but is back in Toronto for the holidays until Jan. 4th. Josh will then lug them across the Atlantic and keep them at his place until we arrive in early May. It’s a thing of beauty, and the best part is that I organized this entire effort from the comfort of our couch in Seoul. I fully recognize that the entire process is completely irrational, but I haven’t played golf on an actual course since October 16th, 2008 so forgive me for wanting to play my next round with my own clubs at the birthplace of golf. It’s also Tiger’s favorite course and anything he does, I have to do likewise. Well, almost anything.

We’re thankful for Slingbox, and modern technology in general. Keeping in touch with loved ones and the rest of the world is so much easier than it was even 3-5 years ago. We can see and talk with anyone on Skype, or record and watch live TV with Slingbox whenever we want. It’s a nice luxury that has made this transition much easier.

I’m thankful for my wife and traveling companion, Katie. This picture was taken at one of the many media poles which you can read about on the Mulloskey blog here that are located in our neighbourhood. Once your eyes recover from the paleness of our faces which feels like staring at the sun, check out the onlookers in the background. This picture perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be a foreigner in Korea. Even though we’re doing the same things as any other average Korean, they can’t help but watch in amazement and either loath our existence, or chuckle as we attempt to integrate into Korean culture.

In lieu of sending everyone Christmas gifts (read: fancy chopsticks), we decided to sit this year out of both the giving and receiving side (at least with friends and family back home). Best rest assured that a donation has been made in all of your names to the JorKat Southeast Asia Travel Fund. This is a worthwhile cause that will allow us to spend a couple months lying on a beach in Thailand while you all slave away at your 9-to-5 jobs. A charitable receipt will not be issued.

Finally, Team Canada’s Olympic Hockey Team will be named on December 30th while we’re in Kyoto, so here’s my prediction for how the squad will look:


Nash – Crosby – Iginla

Perry – Getzlaf – Heatley

Lecavalier – Thornton – St.Louis

Doan – M. Richards – Sharp


***St.Louis and Heatley are interchangeable on their respective lines and Lecavalier is a natural centre but someone is going to have to move to wing as they have too much depth up the middle.

Notable omissions: B. Richards, Tavares, Stamkos, E. Staal, Marleau, Carter, Fisher and Gagne


Niedermayer – Keith

Boyle – Pronger

Green – Phaneuf


***This is where the hardest decisions are going to come. Seabrook, Weber and Doughty are all worthy of being on this team, but it’s hard to take them over any of the seven listed above.


Brodeur – Luongo – Fleury

***Brodeur starts the first game and alternates with Luongo. Whichever goalie plays better in the round robin will emerge as the starter for the elimination round although I still think Brodeur has a slight edge based on past experience.

Happy Holidays. See you in 2010.

Tiger in Shanghai December 8, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Shanghai.

As outlined in my previous post, we arrived in Shanghai mid-afternoon on Friday with the intent of following Tiger during his third round of the HSBC Champions event on Saturday. I had been planning this trip since Tiger announced his participation over 6 months ago. So needless to say, I was looking forward to this day quite a bit. 

Tiger has competed in this event every year since 2006 with the exception of last year as he was recovering from knee surgery, but has never actually won it. After solid opening rounds of 67 on Thursday and Friday, Tiger had a share of the lead and was playing in the final group. Phil was just a few strokes back and playing in the second to last group right in front of Tiger. This was better than having them play together because it dispersed the crowd somewhat between the two groups and allowed us to watch both players throughout the day. 

Tiger actually received a $3M appearance fee just for showing up. He also played the following weekend in Australia and collected another $3M for that as well on top of the prize money he earned for winning the Australian tournament. Therefore, he collected in excess of $7M for playing in two tournaments. He then boarded his private jet after two weeks abroad and went back to his perfect life with his loving wife and children. 

Back when I wrote about Tiger and my top 3 man crushes, I discussed how much I missed having Tiger and Tom Brady in my life while they were recuperating from respective knee injuries last year. I missed watching their clutch performances on sports’ grandest stages, even if it was almost always from a far. Sure, I had seen Tiger  live at Augusta, but those crowds were overwhelming. I got even closer at the Presidents Cup in Montreal, but I had never met any of my top 3 in person…until Shanghai. 

I had no idea what to expect in terms of crowds, but we had every intention of following Tiger as closely as possible. An article on ESPN on Friday mentioned how the crowds following him were extremely large and that security was having problems with people using cameras and cell phones. In most PGA tournaments in North America, cameras and cell phones are strictly prohibited. If you get caught using either, you can get kicked off the property. At the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, they have metal detectors and pat down every patron. The security is tighter than an airport. This wasn’t the case in Shanghai. There were signs posted all over the course banning the use of cameras and cell phones, but that didn’t stop anyone. Golf has a very small following in China, but it’s growing quickly, so I think they implemented the no cameras/cell phones policy to appease the players, but turned a blind eye to it to encourage more people to come and get pictures of the world’s best golfers. I obviously took full advantage of the situation, but was much more discreet than most. 

 It wasn’t much of an issue with any of the other players, but Tiger and Phil had very large followings and more than half the people had some sort of electronic device. They didn’t mind if you took pictures in between shots, but as soon as the player was about to address his ball, security would go around to everyone in the crowd and try to get them to put away all cameras and cell phones. Not a fun job. Every threesome has two security people assigned – Tiger and Phil had six each. Luckily I was able to get some footage of him on the practice green and sneak of few action shots throughout his round without being noticed by security. 

Check out this lag putt that he hits from over 40 feet away. And yes, I’m likely responsible for the majority of the 100-plus views of this video on YouTube so far. 

The best part of watching a golf event live in China is that if you’re over 5’10”, you never have to deal with obstructed views. No matter how large the gallery is, finding an open sight line isn’t a problem. I estimated that between 5-10% of the crowd was visible minorities, meaning that we stuck out rather easily. Tiger may not have known who I was before the round, but he surely did once it was over, as me and Stevie (his caddy) were almost always the only white dudes within 20 feet of him. 

 In fact, we were able to get so close that Tiger and I had a nice chat after he finished up on the practice green en route to the first tee. I don’t remember the exact wording of the conversation, but I’m sure if you ask him he would remember it word for word. It went something like this… 

Me: Good luck Tiger. 

Tiger: Thanks. 

After I regained consciousness surrounded by Chinese paramedics, I reflected on the depth of our exchange and the undeniable bond of our burgeoning friendship. Here’s a picture of where the exchange took place. 

Taken shortly before “The Conversation”.

As Tiger readied himself on the first tee, Katie and I immediately started down the left side of the fairway. I explained to her along the way that Tiger has a tendency to be a little wild off the first tee and that if he hit an errant shot, that he would likely push it left. We walked to about the 300 yard mark and I looked back towards the tee waiting for Tiger’s ball to receive clearance for take-off. Sure enough, as soon as he completed his swing, he immediately pointed left with his driver indicating to the crowd and tournament officials that he had indeed pushed it left. Since most of the patrons had never attended a live golf tournament before, no one even knew the ball was in the air. I did my best to warn everyone but I didn’t know how to say “Head’s Up!” in Mandarin. No one budged until the ball came screaming into the crowd like a scud missile about 10 feet from where we were standing. I watched it the whole way and we immediately positioned ourselves to be right next to it for his approach shot. This was the first of many close encounters with Tiger and Stevie throughout the day. 

 From this position, he ripped a wedge through the deep grass and put his ball safely on the green for an opening par. 

Golf is a made-for-TV sport but watching them live gives you an even greater appreciation for how good these guys really are. I love hearing the conversations between player and caddy as they discuss club selection, weather conditions, and targets. It’s also amazing how much control of the ball they have. One of my favourite shots of the day was Tiger’s famous 2-iron stinger. He uses it whenever he needs to put the ball safely in the middle of the fairway and doesn’t want to risk hitting a driver or fairway wood. He can hit this shot in his sleep and rarely makes a mistake. As soon as I saw him take out the 2-iron from his bag, I knew it was coming. He uses a ¾ follow-through and keeps the ball real low so it stays under the wind and he gets maximum roll. It’s like watching an airplane taking off. It goes dead straight and slowly rises off in the distance, over 250 yards straight down the middle of the fairway. He doesn’t even watch to see where it will end up. He already knows. 

The more time we spent following Tiger, the more I realized how much we have in common. We both love golf. I bought a white Nike Golf hat at the airport. He wore a white Nike Golf hat on Saturday. He ate banana bread on the 6th hole. I had banana bread while the players made the turn after the 9th. The only real thing that separates us is the fact that Tiger gets paid $3M just to show up and I had to pay approximately $120 for 2 tickets. That, and he sleeps with whores. Aside from that we’re virtually twins. 

 Tiger isn’t very accommodating when it comes to signing autographs or posing for pictures, especially while he’s playing. Fortunately, he was nice enough to make an exception and pose with Katie for a picture on the 12th tee box. He even agreed to make it an action shot. He was a little unsure of which club to use, so I recommended a 7-iron and moving the ball back in his stance to keep the ball flight low as the wind had picked up slightly. Here’s the famous picture – Katie and Tiger have never looked better. Look at that incredible form. Tiger looks good too. 

 Where’s Katie you ask? That’s her ear on the left. Check out his mammoth security guard in the background too. This picture will soon adorn our mantle right next to our wedding picture. 

Tiger and Phil battled for the lead back and forth for most of the day with both players making some nice birdies. Phil ended up with the lead going into the final round on Sunday and eventually won the tournament. He also won a waffle eating contest in the clubhouse the following morning. Tiger settled for 6th and was a non-factor on Sunday. I didn’t actually see any of his final round but from what I heard from those he did watch, he didn’t play well at all. Maybe he had something else on his mind. 

All in all, the entire experience was exactly what I was hoping for. When we started planning to live and teach overseas, I never imagined getting to see Tiger play live and get as close as we did. Getting to speak with him and becoming friends was an added bonus, although he still hasn’t added me on Facebook yet. 

Here are some more pictures from our day with Tiger…and Phil in China. 

 Stay tuned for another post about the rest of our weekend in Shanghai.

Getting to Shanghai… November 19, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Shanghai.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m organized almost to a fault. Whether I’m packing for a one-year teaching contract in Asia or just a weekend trip, I never leave anything to chance. I always make lists of everything to bring and double-check to ensure that everything is packed.

So you can imagine our frustration when after having woken up at 5:30am, and arriving at the airport at 7am that the first question the check-in girl asked us was…

“When did you make this reservation?”

Oh no. Not a great feeling. We had presented her with all the proper documentation – the e-tickets from our travel agent and our passports. There was only one small problem – the airline had no record of our reservation ever existing, and it was completely sold out.

We had been planning this 3-day weekend trip to Shanghai to explore the city and see Tiger Woods play in a World Golf Championship event, since he announced his participation over 6 months ago. As I alluded to in this post about Tiger, there was never any doubt in my mind that we would be attending. Until we got to the airport.

I started to think that this would be the only "Tiger" I would be seeing in Asia.

Under the circumstances, I was surprised by how calm we were. I think part of that had to do with the fact that this wasn’t the first time this travel agent had made this kind of mistake. The Mulloskey’s went through a much worse experience when he neglected to book their flights out of Vietnam and they were forced to sleep on the floor of an airport…which they broke into…because it was closed. Did I mention they were in Vietnam?

Anyway, we were well aware of this travel agent’s track record when we started dealing with him. The reason we (and lots of other foreigners) kept using him is that he almost always has the best prices and he speaks very good English. I was always diligent in following-up with him to ensure that he had received our payments and sent us the e-tickets for our flights. We had used him for several other trips with no complaints whatsoever, until now.

Here’s the issue. Apparently travel agents can make flight reservations with certain airlines without making an immediate payment. So what I think this guy does is he quotes you a price, and then based on his experience will either pay the airline immediately if he thinks the price is going to go up. Or he gambles and waits until the last possible moment hoping that the price will go down, and he gets to pocket the difference. I’m not sure of the legality of such a scheme but if you play the game right, he probably makes a nice chunk of change on top of his commission.

There’s only one MAJOR PROBLEM with this so-called scheme. It doesn’t quite work out when you forget to pay the airline entirely and the reservation gets cancelled altogether. This is what happened to us. He quoted us a great price. We agreed to the price and transferred him the money. He took our money and sent us the e-ticket reservations. This was back in July. In our minds we were all set, until we arrived at the check-in and heard those dreaded words – “When did you make this reservation?”

No time to panic. It was 7am so we still had the whole day to figure out how to get to Shanghai. We had already made hotel reservations and our golf tickets were paid for, so we were going to get there regardless. We found the nearest internet cafe in our terminal and I checked to see if I had our travel agents cell phone number in my contacts. Unfortunately, I only had his office number which obviously wasn’t open yet.

We then started pricing flights online with various travel websites and it wasn’t pretty. We had paid less than $500 for 2 round-trip tickets to Shanghai and now we couldn’t find anything online for less than $500 each. Not to mention that we weren’t sure if we were going to get our initial payment back either. The flights being quoted online also weren’t ideal because some of them had connections or were leaving too late on Friday and/or coming back too early on Sunday. This was already a short trip to begin with, and most of our day on Saturday would be spent following Tiger.  We wanted to make the most of Friday and Sunday in the city.

After sending the travel agent a tersely written email asking him to call our cell immediately, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat and strategize. I wasn’t hungry as it slowly started to dawn on me that this trip might not happen. We decided over an Egg McMuffin and hashbrown to go to certain airline counters directly and ask them if they had any flights while we waited for the travel agent to call us back. If we didn’t hear from him by 10am, we would book one of the early afternoon flights from the internet and get to Shanghai ASAP.

Quick tangent. Every time we visit the airport I always look forward to the concept car they have on display called the KIA VG. It stops me in my tracks every time I see it. We had some time to kill in the airport and this post is a little short on pictures so here you go. I never thought I would see the day when I would take a liking to KIA’s. Don’t be surprised if you see me driving one of these when we get back to Canada.

As you’ve probably guessed based on the title of this post, we did end up making it to Shanghai and things couldn’t have worked out better.

We visited the counter for Korean Air and were quoted similar prices to what we found online. We explained our situation to the lady assisting and she recommended that we visit some of the travel agencies located on the basement level. I didn’t think they would be open this early, but much to our surprise they all were. The first one we walked into was called Hanatour where we met a nice young lady named Ji-Eun. She did a quick search for us and found a flight leaving at noon on Friday and coming back at 9pm on Sunday night. It was only $150 more than we had initially paid and the best part was that we weren’t losing anytime. Our departure flight was 3 hours later than our initial flight, as was the return.

The only decision left to make was, do we wait for our travel agent to call and hope that he agrees to pay for his mistake, or do we take our chances and book it right away?  Ji-Eun made the reservation for us and said we could wait about an hour to see if he called. Shortly after 9am, we decided to book the flight and take our chances with our travel agent upon our return. Lone and behold, minutes after we made the booking we received a call. It was him. I calmly explained what had happened and he agreed to fully reimburse us for the flights we had just paid for, which he did. Disaster averted.

It was quite an ordeal but we boarded our flights a couple hours later without a care in the world. We hadn’t lost any time and we now had most of Friday and a full day on Sunday to enjoy as much of Shanghai as possible.

The best part of the day was that Tiger and Phil were actually at the airport in Shanghai to greet us upon arrival.

I swear this was Katie’s idea.

We were relieved to finally be in Shanghai, and that Tiger had opted for his black hat that day. I had just purchased his white Nike Golf hat at the Duty Free shop in Korea a few hours earlier. Now that would have been embarassing.

Stay tuned for our next Shanghai post and an unforgettable day with Tiger, Phil and lots of Chinese people.

Taiwan – Part 2 November 12, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Taipei.

We received so much positive feedback from our 4-part, 10,000 word marathon Beijing conversation that we’ve decided to never do it again and go back to my long-winded essays with way more detail than necessary. Get comfortable in case you doze off.

Click here if you missed Part 1.

Highlight #8 – The World’s Fastest Elevator

The weather was less than ideal for our first trip to Taipei 101, so we decided to return on Day 3 and hope for a clearer view. The skies were still somewhat overcast, but I was determined to visit the 89th floor observatory aboard the world’s fastest elevator. I tried to convince the ladies to join me, but Mullin was the only one willing to come along for the ride.

The 1667-ft., 101-story building has 67 elevator units, including two that service the 89th-floor observation deck and qualify as the world’s fastest. These units rocket skyward at a peak speed of 3314 ft. per minute (fpm), more than 800 fpm faster than the previous record holder in Japan’s Yokohama Landmark Tower. By comparison, an airline pilot normally maintains a climb, or descent rate, of no more than 1000 fpm.

The airliner analogy is sound as you get a similar sensation aboard the elevator as you do during take-off, especially the way your ears pop from the rapid changes in altitude.

The view from the observation deck wasn’t spectacular, but the ride aboard the elevator made the trip well worth it. And yes, I suspect this is the first and last time I’ll ever write about an elevator ride, and acknowledge it as “worthwhile”.



This picture was taken from…


…the intersection at the bottom of this picture. This one was taken from the 89th floor.

Highlight #9 – Snake Alley

When we first started discussing some of the attractions that we wanted to visit in Taiwan, Snake Alley was one of the first ones that was suggested.

According to our Lonely Planet guide, the snakes used to be antagonized and killed in front of the customers as some sort of ritual ceremony before feasting on their blood and remains. For some reason, this practice has come under scrutiny and is not openly demonstrated to the public, at least no where that we could find. Stupid PETA.

After asking several locals for directions, we managed to find the infamous Snake Alley. As you’ll see from the pictures below, there are plenty of large snakes on display in front of most of the restaurants that serve various snake by-products. Mullin was feeling somewhat adventurous, and after promising Erin not to drink the snake poison, he basically ordered everything on the menu.

The various drinks placed before him consisted of snake blood, snake poison, snake penis (?), snake bile, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I’ll let the videos below do the rest of the talking.



Highlight #10 – International Symbol for Underground Mall



We got a good laugh from this one every time we entered the mall connected to the train station. Apparently this is the international sign for Underground Shopping Mall. Look how happy she is!! Unfortunately, we were unable to find any shoppers displaying the same raw emotion.

Highlight #11 – Shida District

This University district consisted a wide variety of funky bars and restaurants. We wandered around for a while, stopped for a few martini’s, and then ventured out again to find a nice dinner spot. We ended up settling on a very cool pizza place with a patio and a very entertaining menu.

The restaurant was called Maryjane Pizza so it didn’t take Mullin and I much convincing to give it a shot. Turns out that it’s owned by an American couple and the wife was responsible for writing the menu in its entirety.

Aside from the menu description pictured below, some of my other favourites included:

The Meatza – “Looking for a balanced diet? Go away. This baby’s got loads of bacon and it’s sprinkled with our specially spiced blend of pork and beef. The green peppers and onions are just for show.”

Quattro Formaggi – “Parmesan, blue cheese, ricotta and mozzarella. How cheesy? David Hasselhoff doing Michael Bolton covers. With Menudo. In Wisconsin.

The pizza was just as tasty as the menu was funny. A memorable dining experience.



The side streets were packed with students of all ages.


As with almost everywhere in Taipei, you can’t go more than a few blocks without finding a 7-11. No exaggeration.

Highlight #12 – Shindiaoling Waterfall Trail

This was the highlight of the trip by far.

As was the case for most of the trip, the forecast was less than favourable and called for rain throughout the day. Despite the poor weather conditions, we were determined to hike the trail to these spectacular waterfalls.

After a short train ride to the outskirts of Taipei, we exited the train at a desolate station that looked like it was straight out of the 60’s. There wasn’t a soul to be seen with the exception of the lone station employee. We followed our directions along the tracks until we came upon an even more desolate small town. And when I say town, I mean small assemblage of battered shacks. Once again, not a single person in sight. We entered the forest/jungle thanks to some lackluster signage and started our trek.

5 hours later we returned completely drenched from one of the most incredible nature experiences any of us have ever had.

We spent close to 2 hours following a somewhat obscure trail through the woods. We had to cross streams of varying depth and length, manoeuver through treacherous rock formations, and climb some fairly steep embankments to remain on course. All this while the rain continued to fall and compromise our footing and permeate our clothing. We came upon some rather large leaves which you’ll see pictured below, and I devised a makeshift umbrella which we eventually attached to Katie’s backpack to keep it’s contents dry.

As our hands started to prune and not a single item of clothing was dry, we heard a low rumbling in the distance that could only be one thing. The trek through the forest/jungle was a highlight in itself and we weren’t sure what to expect from these waterfalls, but as you can see from the pictures/videos, we were all pleasantly surprised and completely in awe.





This is the first waterfall we saw along the trail. Not bad…


Our makeshift umbrella. I should have been a cast member on Lost.


These pictures don’t do it justice. The size and scope of this waterfall was breathtaking.






The best part about the entire day was that aside from the train station employee, we did not see a single other person for the entire adventure. It was just the four of us and nature.

Highlight #13 – Beitou Hot Springs

This was the last stop on our trip.

Traditional public hot spring etiquette requires that bathers thoroughly wash and rinse off their bodies before entering the bath, do not wear clothing (including swim wear) in the bath and tie up their hair so that it does not touch the water. Most of the public outdoor hot springs in the Beitou area are modeled more after European spa centers and require swimsuits since you will be bathing in mixed company as was the case with this one.

Once again, it was raining but we called ahead to ensure that the outdoor hot spring was open as our flight was leaving in the early afternoon. Seeing as it was Monday morning at 10:30am, the death squad was out in full effect as we were by far the youngest bathers. I’d say the average age of all the other patrons was somewhere between coma and carcass.

Once we acclimatized ourselves to all the stares and various water temperatures, we sat back and relaxed while the rain fell gently and steam rose all around us. It was a perfect way to end a trip we will never forget. It was also nice having a bathing suit and not be faced with the prospect of Mullin’s junk in my face every 10 minutes. But that’s another story.

(We weren’t allowed to take pictures here, but Mullin snuck a couple as we were leaving.)



While relaxing all together one last time before starting our trip home, we all marveled at how much we had accomplished in just 5 short days. At the same time, none of us ever felt rushed or stressed, it was the ideal mix of relaxation and sightseeing with two perfect travel companions.

We vowed that wherever our lives took us, that we would find a way to experience a trip like this together again one day. We can’t wait.

Stay tuned for our next post about our trip to Shanghai this past weekend.

Taiwan – Part 1 November 1, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Taipei.

We received so much positive feedback from our 4-part, 10,000 word marathon Beijing conversation that we’ve decided to never do it again and go back to my long-winded essays with way more detail than necessary. Get comfortable in case you doze off.

Whatever you were doing about a month ago (the weekend before Canadian Thanksgiving), no matter how much fun you were having – I can assure you that our weekend was better. Period.

Despite not seeing the sun once for 5 days, a minor earthquake while we slept one night, and the threat of a super-typhoon looming over the entire trip, it was one of the most memorable holidays we’ve ever had.

Before arriving in Asia, I had no interest in ever travelling to Taiwan. I knew very little about it other than it doesn’t get along with China and it produced most of the toys that I played with throughout my childhood. But after speaking with some of the other teachers that had lived and worked in Seoul, they convinced us that Taiwan was a must see.

When we started discussing this trip with the Mulloskey’s over 6 months ago, we identified a variety of different potential venues for this 5-day holiday which is known as Chuseok or the Korean Thanksgiving. Shanghai was under consideration but was voted down because Katie and I will be going there next week to see Tiger. Guam and Philipines were both strong contenders but a bit far and pricey during this holiday. Both got levelled by Typhoons so we made the right choice in retrospect. Taiwan was right in the crosshairs of the said Typhoon but veered off course the day before our departure. It was actually bittersweet for Mullin and I as we were both secretly hoping that it would hit so we could experience a Typhoon. Erin and Katie did not share our same passion for extreme weather conditions.

Upon arrival in Taipei, we immediately headed for our hostel which was conveniently located in the heart of Taipei right next the main Subway/Train Station. We could not have picked a more ideal location and I must credit Erin and Katie for their research and preparation. I contributed very little to the decision-making on this trip and was very lucky to have such good travel companions that provided such wonderful, hassle-free options. Mullin was there too.

After dropping off our bags and marvelling at the room that the Mulloskey’s snagged (we were on the 22nd floor), we headed off to our first sight-seeing destination – Taipei 101.


TAIPEI 101 is currently the tallest building in the world, at least until the Burj Dubai is completed later this year. Completed in 2004, TAIPEI 101 rises in 8 canted sections, a design based on the Chinese lucky number “8”. It is a homonym for prosperity in Chinese, and the 8 sections of the structure are designed to create rhythm in symmetry, introducing a new style for skyscrapers. The building is also designed to resemble a growing bamboo, a symbol of everlasting strength in Chinese culture.



When it first came into view upon exiting the subway station, my immediate thought was that it didn’t seem as big as I expected. As we slowly approached on foot, it occurred to me why this may be the case. It’s the only skyscraper in the vicinity. We’re used to large elaborate skylines with numerous skyscrapers that provide a scale for just how large the world’s largest structures actually are. This one was all by itself with nothing of consequence nearby. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely impressive, but it must get lonely without any other friends around to show off to.

Taipei 101 was the first of many highlights throughout our 5-day journey. Rather then bore you with the excruciating minutiae of every last detail, I’m going to focus on my personal highlights in a photo essay style format (in no particular order).

Highlight #1 – Beef Noodles


Two of my favourite words (beef & noodle) are joined together to form my favourite meal(s) from our trip. Taiwan doesn’t have a defined specialty cuisine, they simply steal from everyone else. We enjoyed foods from all over – Indian, Malaysian, Middle Eastern, Thai and American (McDonald’s). These beef noodles came from a nice food court that had the widest variety of cuisines we’ve ever seen. I actually ate two plates in one sitting and then came back for lunch again the next day to enjoy them one last time. Let’s just say that me and the lady behind the counter would have been on a first name basis, if she could speak English.

Highlight #2 – Top Gun Huanlien

On day 2 we took a train a few hours outside of Taipei to a more remote area. While looking for accommodations we were pleasantly surprised by the occasional fly by of Taiwanese jet fighters. Most of them were just landing at a nearby air strip but Mullin and I still did our best to break the record for most Top Gun references between two human beings. We also completely abandoned our search for a hotel and left that up to the girls while we wandered around the small town trying to get footage of one of the Migs. Success!!

Highlight #3 – Massages


These pictures speaks for themselves. I can’t remember the exact cost of a foot massage but it was somewhere between free and the cost of a happy meal. Throw a TV showing baseball into the mix and I probably would have paid for 100 happy meals to enjoy such an incredible sensation. The only downside was that Taiwanese people must have rock-hard feet because they absolutely rubbed the shit of ours, to the point where it was painful. I gave my guy the universal sign for take it down a notch fella, but it didn’t matter. Fortunately the Yankees were getting trounced by the Rays so that helped dull the pain.

Highlight #4 – Taiwan Beer


It’s cheap. It has a cool can. And it’s delicious. Kudos to Mrs. Algate for this artistic shot, worthy of their next ad campaign.

Highlight #5 – The Toilet Restaurant


We passed this restaurant and had to take a picture. All the seats inside were toilets. Check out the tasty sample dish on display in the front window. We actually thought about going inside as the menu looked pretty decent, but we were worried that the food would end up being kinda shitty. Badoom ching.

Highlight #6 – Sean Mullin


If you know him, you’ll understand everything I’m about to say. If you don’t I think his personality and positive outlook on life can be summed up in my favourite quote of his from the trip.

“It smells good. I feel good. I’m happy.”

Another famous quote of his which wasn’t actually first said on the trip, but perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be Sean Mullin:

“Enjoying life as much as I do is absolutely fucking exhausting.”

The other great thing about Mullin is that he’s so busy enjoying life that he frequently likes to leave things behind. Here’s my Top 3 list of things Mullin forgot and had to run back for while we were travelling.

1) Passports in an open locker at the spa (realized they were gone 20 minutes before boarding a train)

2) Umbrella on the subway. It was pouring and fortunately, Erin was nice enough to share hers. I don’t think this is the first time this had happened.

3) His jacket on the plane. This happened at the very end. We were exhausted after a long day of sightseeing and travelling. As we were about to say our goodbye’s, Mullin realized that he left his jacket on the plane and spent the next 2 hours trying to get it back. Katie and I were home in bed within the hour. Mullin never saw the jacket again.

Highlight #7 – Taroko Gorge

This is my new favourite picture and one of hundreds that we took this day.


Would you believe that we got it on the first take? Good, because we didn’t.

Taroko Gorge is an impressive 19-km-long canyon, situated near Taiwan’s east coast. The area of the gorge is also identified as Taroko Gorge National Park.  The most phenomenal aspect of the park is the amazing scenery. In a single afternoon you can travel from rugged coastal cliffs through a maze of subtropical forested canyons to high elevation subalpine coniferous forests. In about 20 kilometers the landscape rises from sea level to some of the tallest peaks in Taiwan at over 3800 meters.

We hired a private driver and visited three distinct parts of the National Park. The pictures below are divided into the three respective areas that we visited.

Shakadang Trail

Shakadang Trail is also known as “Mysterious Valley Trail”, which is named because more than 40 years ago a group of young folks entered the river valley and found it very secretive. This place has attracted more and more travelers, and thus everyone is used to calling it “Mysterious Valley”. It was officially renamed to “Shakadang Trail” in 2001 again in reference to the name of the river. This trail is built along the river cliff so travelers can easily observe both the folded rocks and ecosystem beside the river shore.


Eternal Springs Shrine


Swallow Grotto Gorge


For an entertaining and much more detailed account of our trip, check out the Mulloskey blog right here.

Stay tuned for Taiwan – Part 2, coming on Tuesday.

Beijing – Part 4 October 8, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Beijing.

Instead of writing a 5,000 word essay covering all of our adventures in Beijing, Katie and I decided to sit down and conduct a more formal interview. Katie prepared a series of questions which I did my best to answer. Here is a transcript of the interview.

Click here if you missed Part 1.

Click here if you missed Part 2.

Click here if you missed Part 3.

Katie: Welcome back to the final installment of this painfully long conversation between Jordan and I. When we left off, Jordan was describing in excruciating detail our longest day in Beijing. After finishing up at the market, where did we go next?

Jordan: As you may recall, our day started off with me on the toilet as a result of our first chinese food experience the previous evening, so we were a little gun-shy to get back on the horse. We had worked up quite an appetite and wanted something safe that wouldn’t require a translator or copious amounts of toilet paper.

Fortunately our Lonely Planet guide described a nearby bar within walking distance of our current location that had a pool table, round-the-clock drinks, and excellent bar food, especially the Tex-Mex stuff like Burritos and Quesadillas. They had me at pool table.

It ended up being less than a block away and appeared before us like an oasis. It was called “Rickshaw” which according to Webster’s dictionnary means “greatest restaurant in the universe”.

Katie: I think it’s actually a form of human-powered transport involving a runner pulling a two-wheeled cart.

Jordan: OK, maybe that’s the primary definition but I’m not exactly sure. All I know is that if you’re ever looking for an authentic Tex-Mex experience outside of North America, I highly recommend Beijing. The food and atmospere completely exceeded our expectations.

It was relatively early in the evening on a weeknight so the bar was almost empty with the exception of a few other groups of foreigners enjoying a meal. We both ordered our own burrito and a guacamole appetizer which they prepare from scratch right at your table. It was glorious. I’m pleased to formally announce that guacamole is now my official favourite…topping?…condiment? Whatever it is, I could eat it everyday. If I’m ever at a restaurant and can’t decide what to order, I usually end up choosing whatever has more guacamole in it.

Anyway, the meal was great and the drinks were going down smoothly when all of a sudden I heard a soft voice calling my name. I looked around the bar unable to discern where this heavenly voice was coming from until it came into view. It was the pool table.

There still weren’t many people around and I couldn’t convince Katie to play so I simply walked around the table hitting random shots hoping someone would feel sorry for me and ask me to play.

Katie: It was pathetic.

Jordan: It was. But it worked. A young Chinese girl asked if I wanted to play and it was on. She ended up being one of the owners of the bar and was quite good…so I promptly destroyed her. We must have played 6 or 7 games and I put on a display of precision shot-making that had the bar buzzing for seconds, if not minutes. I wish I could take credit, but I’m pretty sure it was the guacamole.

Fortunately for me, the bar was also equipped with Wi-Fi, so Katie was able to check her email on our iPod Touch for the first time since we checked it at Starbucks a few hours before. Our good friends Matty and Chrissy had finally just got engaged so she was in full blown “I hope I’m a bridesmaid so I can go psycho about this wedding” mode. She had her face glued to that iPod looking at pictures and sending out emails as if I didn’t even exist. Which was fine by me, ’cause I was in the zone.

Katie: I was doing my impression of you every time you’re in the midst of a stupid Fantasy Hockey/Football trade, only multiply that by a thousand.

Jordan: Touche. Eventually my opponent had to go back to work and Katie managed to pry herself away from the iPod long enough to play a couple games with me. Luckily I was able to get some pictures as evidence of this historic occasion.

billiards_sexyOK, I can’t find the pictures, but this is close to what she looked like.

Katie: Moving on. Anything else about Rickshaw you’d like to mention?

Jordan: Did I mention they have satellite TV and were showing NBA Summer League games on multiple flat-screen TV’s throughout the bar? Seriously, if I could get that guy who gave me the foot massage to work at this place, I would never have to leave. Guacamole, Beer, Pool, Wi-Fi and of course, my beautiful wife – this place had everything.

Katie: Nice try. You’re in the doghouse for the wedding psycho comment.

Jordan: Yeah, I thought so.

Katie: Aside from me not knowing who Albert Pujols was, what the the second biggest disappointment of the trip?

Jordan: We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time at the Forbidden City and Tianamen Square. We spent a couple hours wandering the Forbidden City and got some good pictures but it was extremely crowded and started raining, so we only got to see Tianamen Square across the street from a distance.

Here is the lone picture of Tianamen that we got from a cab as we drove by:


We were lucky enough that the rain held off long enough for us to explore the Forbidden City, but certainly not as long as we would have liked. It’s massive. Lying at the center of Beijing, the Forbidden City was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Now known as the Palace Museum, it is to the north of Tiananmen Square. Rectangular in shape, it is the world’s largest palace complex and covers 74 hectares. Surrounded by a six meter deep moat and a ten meter high wall are 9,999 rooms.

Basically, it’s where the Emperor went to work.

For those of you keeping score at home, so far we’ve visited the Emperor’s Church (Temple of Heaven), his cottage (Summer Palace), and now his office (Forbidden City). The only place we didn’t go was his grave (Ming’s Tombs), but judging by the size of his other dwellings I suspect some considerable acreage is involved. I think they may have been overcompensating for something.

Here are some pictures:

IMG_6317IMG_6341IMG_6345IMG_6347IMG_6361Until 1924 when the last emperor of China was driven from the Inner Court, fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty and ten emperors of the Qing dynasty had reigned here. Having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, it houses numerous rare treasures and curiosities. Listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987, the Palace Museum is now one of the most popular tourist attractions worldwide.

Construction of the palace complex began in 1407 and was completed fourteen years later in 1420. It was said that a million workers including one hundred thousand artisans were driven into the long-term hard labor. Totally worth it.

Katie: I couldn’t agree more. Who cares about human rights when you can have such a finely appointed work space.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but last question.

Jordan: Make it a good one.

Katie: What was your favourite outfit that you saw during our entire trip?

Jordan: Hmmm, I wouldn’t call it my favourite outfit as I’m not privy to any Chinese child pornography laws, so I will simply call it the most terrifying outfit we saw.

I won’t attempt to describe it either and will let the picture do the talking. Brace yourselves.

IMG_6259Yikes. It’s even scarier in person. Especially if you happen to see the front by accident, which is designed EXACTLY like the back.

Apparently it’s something that young children who are too old for diapers, but not yet fully toilet-trained can wear without having to worry about soiling their undergarments. They simply let ‘er rip whenever and wherever they want. We didn’t stick around for a demonstration though.

The obvious question that comes to mind is do they offer a similar garment for the elderly. Think about that for a second.

Katie: On that note, we should probably wrap it up.

Jordan: Good idea. I’d like to thank our readers for their support, my lovely wife for her patience, and Wikipedia for 90% of the content.

Katie: We’d also like to point out that our great friends Sean and Erin are back in Korea and have their blog up and running again. They were the ones who inspired us to go on this adventure in the first place, so check it out when you have a chance. It’s a much shorter and enjoyable read than Jordan’s lengthy diatribes.

MediaPole_photo_pole13_20090926154456.jpgJordan: We just got back from an incredible 5-day trip in Taiwan with them that we’ll be writing about soon. Stay tuned and keep the comments coming…

Beijing – Part 3 September 24, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Beijing.

Instead of writing a 5,000 word essay covering all of our adventures in Beijing, Katie and I decided to sit down and conduct a more formal interview. Katie prepared a series of questions which I did my best to answer. Here is a transcript of the interview.

Click here if you missed Part 1.

Click here if you missed Part 2.

Katie: I have a challenge for you. See if you can make it through this entire post without mentioning sports.

Jordan: No problem. I wouldn’t want to talk about sports either if I didn’t know who Albert Pujols was. I’d like to thank everyone who wrote in and supported my outrage at your ignorance. We’ll all get through this together. Let’s move on.

Katie: Good idea. Why don’t we get things started by having you briefly describe our longest day.

Jordan: Well I’ve already made reference to several aspects of this one particular day in previous posts. It started off with me on the toilet around 6am minutes before our driver showed up for the 1 hour drive to the Great Wall.

We were lucky to have our own private driver who could have pulled over at a rest stop if neccessary, but his English was very very limited, so that would have been an interesting conversation involving some comical hand gestures. Just imagine me pointing at my butt and then mimicking an explosion with my hands and you get the idea.

Katie: That last sentence wasn’t necessary.

Jordan: I know, but I’m a little concerned about the content of this post so I may have to use some extreme measures.

Anyway, we never had to ask our driver (his name was Li) to pull over and we made up to the Great Wall and back in good time. We had also negotiated with him to include a visit to the Summer Palace on our way back so this was our second destination that day.

Here are some pictures:


The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill (60 meters high) and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is water. The central Kunming Lake covering 2.2 square kilometers was entirely man made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill. In the Summer Palace, one finds a variety of palaces, gardens, and other classical-style architectural structures.


The Summer Palace started out life as the Garden of Clear Ripples in 1750 with artisans reproducing the garden architecture styles of various palaces in China. The palace complex suffered two major attacks, the first during the Anglo-French allied invasion of 1860, and during the Boxer Rebellion, in an attack by the eight allied powers in 1900. The garden survived and was rebuilt in 1886 and 1902. It served as a summer resort for Empress Dowager Cixi, who diverted 30 million taels of silver, said to be originally designated for the Chinese navy, into the reconstruction and enlargement of the Summer Palace.

Katie: What’s a tael of silver?

Jordan: No idea. Ask Wikipedia.

So basically this place was the Emperor’s cottage that his enemies liked to attack. Eventually some lady came in and took over the joint, and spent 30 million taels (?) for renovations and expansion instead of spending it on defense. Typical.

All jokes aside it truly is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.


The natural landscape of hills and open water combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. Overall, not a bad place to spend a long weekend with family and friends. I didn’t see any beer fridges or driving range though.

Katie: You’ve reached the 600 word mark and it’s not even lunch time yet. Pick up the pace. I don’t think I can handle doing a part 4.

Jordan: Don’t blame me. Tell Wikipedia to tighten up their descriptions of historical landmarks. All this copy/pasting takes time.

After the Summer Garden, our driver was supposed to be done for the day, but since we had taken much less time at both destinations, I think he felt like he should take us somewhere else. We were extremely hungry, but wanted to take advantage of his generosity and visit one more tourist attraction.

For the sake of time (and my stomach), we opted for a fast and safe choice that goes beyond any language barrier. McDonald’s. He took us to the closest one and we ate it in the car en route to our last destination of the tour – Olympic Park.

Not much else to say here except that both the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest are much more impressive in person.


I guess our only regret would be that we didn’t come and see them at night when they’re lit up. Luckily, our buddy Zeff was visiting China during this same vacation only in reverse order (he went to Beijing first, then HK) and took some night pics which I’ve stolen from his Facebook profile.

Jeff_bird's nestwater cube_nightPretty cool. I wonder if these architectural marvels will survive the test of time. It was cool to compare the main stadiums from the past two Summer Olympics held in Asia exactly 20 years apart.

This is the Water Cube and Main Stadium (Bird’s Nest) from the 2008 Games in Beijing…


…and this is the main stadium from the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.

IMG_5890Now this picture doesn’t do it justice, but in person it already looks extremely dated and worn.

Katie: Riveting. Not only are you talking about sports, but you’re now comparing stadiums from the world’s largest global sporting event!?

Jordan: Technically, this is more of a architectural discussion but I apologize nonetheless. Let’s not kid ourselves, we all knew I wouldn’t make it.

Speaking of architecture, one of the kids in the classroom next to me decided to give himself a new name and it’s pretty damn funny. Little Alex has decided to rename himself – Architecture. He goes by Archie for short, but I always call him by his full name. I love this place.

Katie: Don’t forget the 7-year old girl who fell down a flight of stairs and was taken for an MRI by her crazy mother. She also blamed the school and withdrew her daughter even though she was wearing high heels and was running. Yup, a 7-year old in high heels.

Jordan: Speaking of high heels, have you seen the “Single Ladies” music video? I guarantee Beyonce wouldn’t fall downstairs in heels. I’ve heard that song a bazillion times but I’d never seen the video. Kanye was right, that video is insanely good. What were we talking about before?

Katie: You were in the process of answering my first question from 1100 words ago.

Jordan: Oh yeah, so after Olympic Park our driver dropped us off at our hotel. We rested for a few minutes and then headed right back out to one of the famous markets known for counterfeit goods.

We had already visited one the previous day so we had an idea what to expect, but if you don’t like being bothered by sales people when you’re shopping, this isn’t the place for you.

I personally hate being badgered when I’m shopping. If I can’t find something or I need help finding a size, I’ll ask someone for assistance. All I ask is that they politely acknowledge my presence and let me do my thing.

Well, these markets do the exact opposite. They are shameless. They will hound you and wear you down so that it’s impossible to say no and you’ll buy something just so they’ll leave you alone. At first I tried to avoid eye contact with the people at each booth, but that doesn’t stop them. Most of them are all selling the exact same things and will see you rejecting or ignoring all the booths before them, but does that deter them? No chance. Some of them will even physically grab you and drag you into their booth.

As soon as you express the slightest, and I mean the slightest interest in any item, they’re in your face and the negotiations have begun. Once I got used to it, it actually became somewhat enjoyable. They always quote you a ridiculous price at first hoping that you’ll accept. And when I say ridiculous, I mean like $30 for fake Ralph Lauren Polo shirt which is the same quality as any shirt from the GAP. So really it’s not a bad deal to start. As soon as they would quote the price, I would put the item down and walk away. They would then grab you. Literally grab you, (Katie had a bruise on her arm the next day from one lady – no joke) and ask you what your price is and  hoping it would be reasonable. Regardless of what you said, they would act surprised and insulted, and quote a price somewhere in between. This is when I’d walk away again and they would either let me go, or in most cases grab me again and give in.

We also played a little game of good cop, bad cop where I would hold all the money and Katie would start the negotiations for an item she was interested in while I casually looked around. Once she got the price down to a certain level, she would ask me for money and I would look at the item and ask how much. Regardless of the item or the price, I would scoff and walk away disgusted. This game was lots of fun for me, but not as much for Katie as she would be left awkwardly with the salesperson and would have to chase me down for money to pay for an item that she actually wanted. We saved a bit of money with this strategy but it definetly wasn’t Katie’s favourite.

I ended up finding an area devoted to golf and spent some time going from booth to booth carefully inspecting certain items. The first booth quoted me $20 for a fake Titleist hat. I walked away. The next booth quoted me $7 for the exact same hat. The next booth quoted me $4. I went for the jugular and countered with $1. She then informed that she had watched me go from booth to booth looking at the same hat and knew that I wanted it. I was running out of golf booths, so after haggling over $0.50 for a few minutes, we settled at $3.

IMG_7090IMG_7091Fully-embroidered and virtually identical to a real Titleist hat. Not bad for $3. I might actually wear it.

Katie: No chance.

Jordan: Yeah, you’re probably right. I’m more of a Taylor Made guy anyway.

After my success with the Titleist hat I decided to see if I could work my magic elsewhere. I ended up finding a Billabong hat that I was mildly interested in and commenced negotiations with a young lady while her boss or mother (or both) monitored the situation. I explained that I had just paid $3 for a golf hat and wouldn’t pay more than that. She acted pissed off and tried to keep the price up. About midway through her broken English rant, I decided that I flat out didn’t want the hat anymore. It could have been free and I might not have taken it. I tried to politely explain this but it didn’t go over very well. The boss/mother intervened and tried to resolve the situation. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t want the hat anymore even though I had gotten my price. They were perplexed and insulted. I didn’t feel like carrying around some crappy hat that I would never wear. Eventually I just had to walk away. She’s probably writing about me on some blog about how cheap Canadians are.

That’s another thing we quickly learned. They always asked where you’re from. We just assumed it was small talk and a way of trying to engage the customer, but apparently they would quote the initial price of an item based on the perceived wealth of the country you’re from. I don’t know where Canada was ranked but we made out all right in the end.

Aside from the physical and mental abuse that we endured, the market experience was definetly worthwhile and something we’ll never forget. It also helped me gain some perspective which will hopefully allow me to be more understanding next time I have a slightly overzealous salesperson back in Canada.

Katie: Isn’t it nice to know we’re all better people.

Jordan: I couldn’t agree more. Let’s do this again and I’ll finish our story about the longest day ever with the dinner we had at our (my) new favourite restaurant.

Katie: Ok, but this is the last one. Stay tuned for Part 4…

Beijing – Part 2 September 16, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Beijing.

Instead of writing a 5,000 word essay covering all of our adventures in Beijing, Katie and I decided to sit down and conduct a more formal interview. Katie prepared a series of questions which I did my best to answer. Here is a transcript of the interview.

Click here if you missed Part 1.

Katie: What was the first tourist attraction we visited?

Jordan: The Temple of Heaven. Or in layman’s terms, the Emperor’s church. The Temple of Heaven is a complex of Taoist buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest.


The Temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century.


The Temple grounds covers 2.73 km² of parkland, and comprises three main groups of constructions, all built according to strict philosophical requirements.

Katie: Wow. I can’t believe that you can remember all that information off the top of your head. Sometimes I forget how brilliant you are.

Jordan: I’m just getting started. Fasten your seat belts. For more information on this impressive architectural masterpiece, click play on the video below:

Katie: Next question. What would you have done if Federer and Brady both lost on the same day?

Jordan: Excellent question. This past Monday was almost a complete disaster. Fortunately, the Pats made a miraculous 4th quarter comeback that made me feel slightly less guilty for taking these pictures and preparing to do a post about Tiger, Brady and Federer all winning on the same weekend. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, but Federer’s loss was the most unexpected and crushing.

IMG_7042IMG_7031Jordan: So good to have the Golden Boy back in my life on a weekly basis. My students had no idea what American Football was, but they do now.

Katie: You’re a loser. What would say was the most relaxing part of our time in Beijing?

Jordan: That’s easy. The $5 foot massage. We found this place by accident in one of the markets we were visiting after a very long day of touring which included our trek to the Great Wall. We were navigating our way through the market trying to avoid making eye contact with shopkeepers who would do anything short of waterboarding you into buying a fake $10 Polo shirt. We were getting tired when we found a nail salon that offered a variety of services including 1/2 hour foot massages for $5. Sold!

It was one of the best half hour experiences I’ve ever had and my feet have never felt better. Although I will concede that the first few minutes were a bit awkward as I came to grips with the fact that my masseuse wasn’t female. Fortunately, it never moved (Seinfeld reference) and we never made eye contact. In my mind, he looked exactly like Carmen Electra. Katie managed to get some video of the incident but I burned the memory card once we got back to Seoul.

Katie: You burned the wrong memory card.

Jordan: This interview is over. I promised Lee (fake name I just made up) I would never post that on the internet as long as he used extra oil.

Katie: Quit being a baby. You loved every second of it. We even went back the next day and you were disappointed when you didn’t have Lee.

Jordan: It’s all true. I also made the mistake of accepting the new girl’s offer to have my feet exfoliated. I didn’t even know what this meant but it was only an extra $5 and it seems like such a nice word that you hear in face wash commercials all the time. Guys – if you’re ever in China and asked if you want your feet exfoliated for $5 – say no. This poor girl took a chisel to my feet for over 30 minutes and carved off enough skin to feed a cannibal convention. Sure my feet has never been smoother but she’s going to be having nightmares for the rest of her life. At least she made a cool $5.

Katie: My pedicure was fantastic. Thank you for pretending that we didn’t know each other after the exfoliation incident. That entire salon was traumatized. Was this the most painful experience of our trip?

Jordan: No. That would have been the frequent (at least 4) trips I took to the bathroom between 6am and 6:45am on the first morning in our hotel. Our driver for the Great Wall tour was arriving at the hotel at 7am and there were a few moment when I didn’t think I was going to make it. We had only eaten two meals in Beijing since our arrival the previous day and they were both in hotel restaurants. Needless to say, we ate out for the rest of our stay. It’s weird because I usually love the MSG in Toronto.

Katie: Dead skin from your feet and now MSG diarrhea. Stop it, you’re making me hot. Can you answer a question without potentially inducing vomit from our readers?

Jordan: I’ll do my best. One more question for this post.

Katie: What was the biggest disappointment of the trip?

Jordan: Are you sure you want to bring this up again?…I can’t remember how the conversation started, probably because I’ve tried to suppress the entire ordeal into the far reaches of my subconscious, but I started talking about baseball. We were sitting in a western-style restaurant called Grandma’s Kitchen that was recommended in our Lonely Planet tourist guide. I had just ordered a BLT and fries, while Katie had ordered a club sandwich and a milkshake. The restaurant had Wi-Fi so we were both checking the internet while we had the opportunity. I stumbled upon an article about Albert Pujols’ pursuit of the triple crown and asked her if she knew what this meant. Not only did she not know what the triple crown is, she hadn’t even heard of Albert Pujols.

Katie: I’m going to read. Take out the garbage before you come to bed.

Jordan: Maybe it’s because he plays in a small market in St. Louis. Maybe it’s because we’re bombarded on TV by the media’s east coast bias which focuses so much on Red Sox vs Yankees. Maybe I’m just a bad husband who never took the time to expose her to his greatness. Regardless of the excuses, I was shocked and appalled at her for not knowing who he was, and at myself for allowing this to happen.  Let’s just say that few words were exchanged for the rest of the meal.

I won’t make the same mistake twice.

PujolsAlbert Pujols is a professional baseball player who has played his entire career in Major League Baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. Currently a first baseman, Pujols is well-known for his ability to hit for both average and power. His consistency over his nine years in the Major Leagues has earned him the reputation as one of the best players in the game today and the most feared hitter in baseball, according to a poll of all 30 MLB managers in 2008. Since debuting in MLB in 2001, Pujols has been selected as an All-Star eight times, has won the National League Most Valuable Player Award twice, and won a World Series title in 2006.

Check out his career starts here.

Here’s his most famous home run from the 2005 NLCS. Sorry for the crappy background music, it’s the only clip I could find.

Jordan: Stay tuned for Part 3. Hopefully I can convince Katie to join us…