Monday, August 27, 2012

New Neighborhood: Jeongneung-dong (정릉)

One thing I love about Seoul is the never-ending sense of discovery. It is hard to say you really know this city when there are so many neighborhoods and districts. Many of these areas aren't even connected to the incredibly expansive Seoul metro system. My new school is in Jeongneung, and even though it is somewhat far from my home, I think I'll love wandering around this neighborhood everyday after school.
The above-pictured park leads up to my school. As you can see, there are huge mountains in the background. From my office window, I have a great view of nature. It feels like I'm out in the countryside, but I'm still in central Seoul (well, northern Central Seoul).

Wandering around Jeongneung, you definitely see Seoul's ubiquitous high rises that make a neighborhood kind of 'meh'. In a city that is still as rapidly developing as Seoul, they are kind of unavoidable. I hope, however, that citizens start appreciating architecture and design before everything just becomes row after row of convenience and efficiency.

Efficient? Yes. Beautiful? Sometimes
Jeongneung still has a lot of Seongbuk charm, however. The area is quite hilly, and there are a lot of cute staircases, hidden restaurants, and markets. Jeongneung market, while not by any stretch of the imagination jaw-dropping, has a cute character that is complimented with the stream running by.

Entrance to Jeongneung Market
Jeongneung's Stream
Older people were bathing in the stream, drinking soju, and just enjoying the slightly cooler temperature near the water.

But what I like most about this neighborhood is something you can't really find in southern Seoul. Old rickety houses with personality. Like this two floor house connected by a rickety staircase:
Maybe the heating isn't the greatest, but it certainly has character
Of course, Jeongneung has all the amenties you'd expect from Seoul. Lots of coffee shops, pizza chains, Daisos and officetels. But it also has unique antique shops, hidden restaurants for Korean food junkies, and stairwells that lead to new areas waiting to be discovered. It also is home to the Josun-era Jeongneung tomb as well as a couple of temples. I have yet to visit these historical site, but I'm sure I will within the coming months.

To get to Jeongneung, take line 4 to Gireum station (길음). Outside of exit 2 to the right you will see various buses. Many of them go into Jeongneung, including 143 and 1114. Hop off when something looks interesting and wander around. I think you'll enjoy what you find. I'm sure I have a lot more to see.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

First Day of Work

It is my first day working at my new job. I've moved from a middle school to an elementary school and I have been a bit nervous about teaching. I mean, these kids are tiny. I have had a warm reception at my school, but otherwise a very boring work day. No classes, VERY bad lunch, and sitting at my desk until 4:30... One thing that lightened up my day was a present from my old school.
With tears, we give you Mark. -Beondong Middle School
Tomorrow is apparently going to be the same thing at the new school; because of the incoming typhoon we will have to be at school, just not teaching. Maybe they'll let us out early? I just want to observe some of the classes and figure out how I'm supposed to teach at an elementary school. Wednesday we have orientation, but I doubt it is going to help too much with the actual classroom. I'm ready to jump right in.

On a less blah note, C and I moved into a new apartment. It is a handsome place, and I think it will persuade me to lounge around at home more often. That is probably a good thing, since I couldn't recall the last time I stayed at home on a Saturday night. This past Saturday, however, we had a small get together at our place. It is nice to have a living room big enough for people to actually live in. For your viewing pleasure, here is C's tour of the place:

 

Decently big, huh? Our apartment is in the Haebangchon (해방촌) neighborhood in Yongsan Gu. This area is pretty close to the foreign district of Itaewon which had once been quite grimy but is now turning into a really interesting part of Seoul. HBC is one of the few neighborhoods where you can get a household at an affordable price, and it is also in the CENTER of Seoul.  Ten minute bus ride brings you to Jongno, Fifteen minute subway ride to Hongdae, Twenty minute bus ride to Gangnam. In addition, C's twin sister lives on the Yongsan military base, so we have access to American grocery stores and other amenities. Apparently, fruit is cheaper over on the base. Love it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Enjoying Andong

The last leg of our trip started out with just Kaleigh and me, but we met up with some Korean friends in the city. We took a beautiful train ride from Donghae to Andong (about three and a half hours) and spent the evening getting our bearings in the new city. Andong has some very traditional Korean sites, but they are all outside of the city; this is great, because the countryside surrounding Andong is beautiful.
Some memorable moments:
-Train ride into Andong with all the glorious rivers and mountains of Gangwon-Do and Gyeongbuk-Do
-Trying Andong Soju (which is more like vodka than soju)
-Meeting up with Ron, and realizing we probs should be great friends
-Eating 재사밥 (ancestral rites meal)
-Hitchhiking from Hahoe village back to Andong
-Getting a free meal from the guy that picked us up
-This meal being jjim dalk (braised chicken), which is definitely better in Andong
-Meeting some new friends (and getting to practice a lot of Korean)
-Sitting under a pagoda under a bridge when a quick, but violent, storm passed
-Enjoying all the green space
-Seeing my first Confucian Academy
-Driving around in cars

Valley
I want to be as cute as Totoro

So cute!
Hahoe Folk Village
More of the village

The river that passes by Hahoe village

Giving a wish to the 600 year old tree



Hitchhiking champions

YUM!

Oh, this was pretty good too. 

At the Confucian Academy


Roof detail

I could live here ^^

HAHAHAHA

A storm was coming


Ancestral Rites Rice

Right before the storm

Around Samcheok

We randomly ran into a Deaf guy while on the beach. Half of our group was Deaf as well, so we of course said hi. The man and his wife owned a snack truck on the beach, and were very helpful with deciding what sites to see; he even drove us around a bit on Sunday (which was a little scary since we were in the back of the food truck).
video
The East Coast near Samcheok has some beautiful sites. It also has some weird things. I LOVED Jangho (장호) beach. The water was great, the rock formations were beautiful, and there were a bunch of delicious looking 회 restaurants.

I want to swim here! We didn't have time...
I also thoroughly enjoyed our dinner that we got later at the Imwon Fish Center. We order flat fish, 우럭 (whatever that is) and raw squid. It was served with onions, red pepper paste, and lettuce. 맛있어요!

임원회 센터

Delicioussssssssssss
There were also some not so beautiful things. Like Haeshindang Park (해신당 공원). Located south of the city proper, this park is one of Korea's surprisingly numerous parks devoted to sex. Haeshindang is particularly all about the penis. ㅋ ㅋ ㅋ

The expo town in Samcheok was also really unimpressive. It was built back in 2002, and the cave exhibit was quite laughable. If I was a kid, I would have probably found it enjoyable. I definitely do not recommend the expo...
Scary cave monster
I'd imagine seeing all of these things would have been quite difficult without a car, but I do want to go back. Anyone want to stay on Jangho beach for a weekend with me next summer? 

Camping on the beach in Samcheok

Apparently, you can camp almost anywhere in Korea for free (except national parks which may charge a nominal fee). I went camping with some friends in Samcheok (삼척) and had a pretty great vacation. I was a little jealous that a lot of my friends in Korea are either traveling abroad or visiting their homes, but it is always fun (and cheaper) to travel in Korea. Plus, I had a lot of opportunities to work on my Korean.
Setting up the tent

Sunset on the beach

Random Block B Concert

Making sesame leaf and tuna fried rice. 

A view of the beach
We were told that a couple of beaches further south were full of younger people and more of a destination. You also had to pay for camping, though, and no alcohol was permitted on the beach. Who wants that? Samcheok's main beach was pretty relaxing, and relatively clean. I need to camp on the beach more often... 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mudfish Soup for 말복

As I mentioned earlier, we are in the midst of a very hot summer in Seoul. Korean gastronomical tradition recommends eating hot foods in the summer; it is good for your health since it will balance your internal and external temperature. I thought I'd try it out this year, so I had 보신탕 for 초복, 삼계탕 for 중복, and left 추어탕 (mudfish soup) for the last hot day of summer, 말복. Of the three, I was surprised to discover that I think I like 추어탕 the best. I like it so much, I'm thinking of having it again for lunch today.

Mudfish (or loach) soup is served with greens and hot peppers which you can add to the soup. You also sprinkle it with a mixture of black peper and prickly ash seed powder to get rid of the smell. I truthfully didn't notice any sort of strong smell, but maybe I was just at a good restaurant.
Andrew Zimmerman of bizarre foods covered this dish in one of his episodes. His mudfish were brought to the table live.
I think that was just for the shock value. The mudfish, similar to a freshwater eel, were barely recognizable in my soup. It had just a touch of a fish taste. If anything, it tasted similar to 감자탕 or a beef stew at home. Mmm, this is making me hungry again. It also is healthy, with a lot of protein, iron, calcium and vitamins. New favorite!
I'm incredibly impressed with the restuarant I visited, so if you are in Suyu, you can check out this 추어탕 restaurant:
From Suyu Station, walk down the street between McDonalds and Lotteria. You can take your second right (at a hair studio across from Tous Les Jours). You will see 남원 추어탕 on your left.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Food from July!

Since I eat too many of the same things during the week (like crazy delicious mul naengmyeon) I decided to just have a once a month look at what I've been eating. Fun, right?
Gal-maegi-sal (갈매기살) at Seo-rae Restaurant for Khalid's birthday

On the way to the mud festival... quick meal at a rest-stop


Awesome chicken and ddeok with mustard and salad


Very American style meal I made (beef and noodles with carrots)

Rose pasta in Hongdae

Refreshing pat-bing-su

Crazy chip-based kimbap my students made

This one was really gross

Great way to cool off! Watermelon fruit salad (수박화채)

Grilled chicken and cold noodles in Myeong-Dong

More iced noodles...

Kimchi jjigae, rice, and water raddish

Fried oyster pancakes

Goya eating kimchi jeon