A Virtual Golf Experience

golfing

Golf has never interested me. My family plays while I drive the cart and soak up some rays. That’s how it goes. My only other golf associated memories are from Squaw Valley. I spent many childhood summer days hunting for golf balls in the creek that runs through the golf course in Squaw. My neighbor and I would make loads of lemonade and cookies to sell on the border of the golf course, right where the golfers usually ran out of balls. They couldn’t say no to two little girls selling cheap golf balls and snacks. We raked it in. That’s really the only thing I liked about golf; it made me money.

Dave convinced me to give the sport a try and we finally went this weekend. Where in Seoul did we go golfing, you might ask? In a basement down the road, of course! We went screen-golfing. For 15,000 won per person, you can golf nine holes at many courses form around the world, or at least their digital counterparts. We chose an easy course in South Korea for my first (and most likely last) try. The room is equipped with clubs, gloves, and popcorn. You hit while standing on a platform that tilts based on the slope of the course. Birds chirp in the background, and if you ever make the ball into a hole (which I didn’t) there is applause from the invisible crowd.

my golf swing

I am not a golf convert. I found it a little frustrating and I understand why people throw their clubs. It’s not an easy game, and I’m certainly not cut out for it. That being said, screen golf is a fun rainy day activity and I’m sure it’s great for avid golfers living in the city who can’t make it out to a golf course that often. If you get nauseous easily, I don’t recommend watching the screen as the ball flies and hits the ground. It made me feel a little dizzy, but that could be because I’m not used to video game graphics. Dave won our match since I couldn’t manage to get my ball anywhere near the putting green. Oh well!

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Korean Thanksgiving and Our Second Trip to Sokcho

We are just finishing up our much appreciated five-day weekend for Chuseok aka Korean Thanksgiving. Chuseok is a holiday where families gather together, eat good food, honor their ancestors, and give thanks for the plentiful harvest. Gifts are exchanged on this holiday and the grocery stores are stocked with large gift set boxes of whatever you can imagine. One teacher recieved a gift set of shampoo. Eight bottles of shampoo is more of burden to me than a gift, but I’m guessing the idea is that you can share with friends. A very popular gift set is the spam and oil set. Yum. In case you don’t believe me I have some photographic evidence.

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Green Tea Getaway

Our first hour in Boseong was more than a little confusing. We asked a taxi driver at the bus station to take us to Nok Cha Baht which is what we thought the name of our hotel was. Everything seemed fine until our taxi driver had already dropped us off and left. We walked with our large backpacks along a crowded tree lined path to a front gate where a woman was tearing ticket stubs for what looked to be a park entrance.

When we approached, I made the universal symbol for sleep and she shook her head. I showed her our map and said pension to which she said no and then proceeded to spend what felt like ten minutes looking for a map in English as we stood at the entrance looking like lost fools with our large packs. Not that a map would have helped us that much anyway. We were off the side of a highway in the countryside with heavy-ish backpacks and it was hot. I wasn’t about to walk around looking for our hotel. We walked back to the parking lot to find another cab. Read more

A Five Day Escape from Seoul

Photo taken by David Domagalksi in Boseong

Summer vacation was a mere seven days at the school where we teach. It was supposed to be nine days (a week wedged between two weekends), but our director decided to make it a few weekdays bookending one weekend. We were all already peeved about this fact and had resigned to them not changing it, when they came to us a month before vacation and asked us if they could go back to the original plan. They wanted to do a summer intensive program over vacation, as if the students don’t have enough on their plate already, but could only do it if it was a full week. Half of the foreign staff had already bought plane tickets months prior, so the school not only screwed the teachers and staff out of a nine day vacation, but also screwed themselves out of a potential money maker. Welcome to Korea.

Irritating politics aside, we considered many potential destinations before deciding to stay in Korea. Our first plan was Japan, but as we were thinking about buying plane tickets, the tsunami and earthquake hit and we decided it wasn’t the right time. We knew we needed to buy plane tickets months ahead of time and we weren’t ready to commit to expensive plane tickets to a country that was in the middle of some serious problems. Plus Dave grew up close to Chernobyl and we figured that the last thing he needed was to visit a country emitting serious radiation.

Then we thought about going to Malaysia or Singapore. We decided against traveling to either place for several reasons. I was afraid of going there, meeting other backpackers and coming down with a terrible case of wanderlust. That would make coming back to Korea too difficult. We also thought that it wasn’t worth spending the airfare to go there and back when we’d be in the area in the winter anyways. Why not just wait. Lastly, we realized we hadn’t traveled south at all and weren’t sure when else we’d be able to do it. What a shame it would be to leave a country we’d been living in for a year having not seen much of it at all.

So, we decided on two destinations: Busan and Boseong. Read more

My Musts in Insadong

My amazing friend Zach is visiting Seoul in July for business and as soon as I found out I started making a mental list of all the things we must do while he is here. Among the many things on that list is Insadong. Insadong was originally an area for painters to study and has held true to its roots as it is now a place to find beautiful paintings, ceramics, and other crafts. Here are a few of my favorite things in Insadong. Read more

Something Cultural: Gyeongbokgung Palace

I’m no history buff.  I can really only handle it in small amounts, so here’s my incredibly short run down of the history of Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Gyeongbokgung roughly translates to Palace of Shining Happiness in English. It was built by the Joseon Dynasty in 1395 and then was burned down by the Japanese for the first time in 1592. After being rebuilt in the 1800s, it was destroyed by the Japanese a second time during their occupation of Korea. Only ten structures survived in the compound. It’s kind of understandable why there is an underlying dislike for Japan in Korea. Much of the Gyeongbokgung compound has been restored and it’s quite a pleasant place to walk around.

Hyangwon-jeong aka Pavilion of Far-Reaching Fragrance

Side note: I highly recommend wearing a pair of sunglasses if you go on a sunny day. I know this may seem obvious, but Dave and I thought it would be overcast so we didn’t bring our sunglasses. After emerging from the subway we were happy to find that it was turning into a blue sky day, but quickly realized that the glare from the light gray stones was going to be a problem. We jumped at every opportunity to stand in the shade and give our eyes a break.

My favorite part of the traditional Korean structures are the eaves and beams. They are beautifully painted. I love how much thought was put into a part of the building that we often ignore in western architecture.

Directions:

Take either subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station Exit 5 or take Line 5 to Gwanghwamun Station Exit 2.

A Walk in the Park

Seonyudo Park

I don’t seek out parks back home. Maybe that’s because we lived in Boulder and we had access to stunning mountains within walking distance. For what ever reason though, I’ve discovered and fallen in love with parks this spring.

Seonyudo Park
Even the trash cans look nice.

The first park we went to was Seonyudo Park, to see the cherry blossoms. Seonyudo Park is a small island in the middle of the Han River here in Seoul. The island was formerly home to a sewage treatment plant from 1978-1998 after which it was converted into a stunning park which incorporates the structures left behind from the treatment plant. It’s a peaceful place for a quiet picnic and a lovely walk. Every time I go there I am so inspired by what an amazing job they did turning a place that must have looked so industrial and devoid of nature into a calm and inviting atmosphere for people to escape the city. It’s a place that gives me hope; it’s possible to turn all of this concrete into something beautiful again. Read more

Trick of the Eye

I first discovered the Trick Eye Museum (aka Trompe-l’oeil) online a few months ago. Dave and I have been wanting to go, but it didn’t seem to be a great place for only two people to visit because it is an interactive optical illusion museum. What that means is that you get to pose with the paintings and become part of the art yourself. I imagine it’s quite popular here since everyone seems to have a fancy camera and vanity isn’t exactly frowned upon as much as it is at home.

Dave and I waited until we could round up a few other people to visit the museum to make the experience a little more fun. If it had been just the two of us we wouldn’t have been able to pose in pictures together and it would have been us just alternating who posed and who took the pictures. We finally went this past weekend and it was certainly worth the wait.

Here’s a sample of what the museum has to offer. Read more

The Five Ten Climbing Festival in Chuncheon, Korea

Five Ten Climbing Festival 2011

Kim Yeong ManWe had last Tuesday, May 10th (5/10), off because it was Buddha’s Birthday. A few weeks previously we had signed up to go to Chuncheon with our climbing gym (Summit Sports Climbing Center) for a climbing festival put on by the outdoor gear company Five Ten. Our gym rented a bus and we departed Seoul bright and early at 6:30am. We weren’t sure what to expect. Mr. Chang, the gym owner, had asked Dave weeks before whether he might be interested in competing in the competition portion of the festival, to which he said no. When we arrived though, it quickly became clear that the competition was really the entire festival.There wasn’t much going on for a beginner like myself. I kind of expected there to be a competition section, an area with shwag and booths, and an area to get beginners and onlookers climbing. I guess some one was missing from our gym, because right off the bat Dave was asked if he wanted to climb and they slapped a competitor sticker on his back. He was Kim Yeong Man that day, which nobody questioned until the very end, about 8 hours later. Read more

A Few Pictures from the Lovely 2011 Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival

Yesterday, Dave and I spent the entire day in Insadong. We took a cooking class (more details to come on that), learned how to make lotus lanterns (more to come on that as well), and watched the Lotus Lantern Parade. Because we were there all day, we were able nab front row seats for the festivities. It was the longest parade either of us had ever sat through, but being that it was our first lantern parade we sat through the entire thing and enjoyed every moment. The parade was in honor of Buddha’s birthday and was full of smiling monks and nuns, women in gorgeous hanbok (traditional Korean dresses), and many, many lanterns both big and small. Read more