Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How I spent 27,500 on lunch without going broke...

I am in Seoul for two more days. This is the land of the red bean and every fish including cod, where the Lees speak only to Kims, and the Kims speak only to God.

My tour to the DMZ tomorrow was shortened because the North and South Koreans will be there having negotiations so I have put it off until Thursday.

Today I climbed Namsam to the N Seoul Tower. Lunch was amazing and I know that lots of you wanted me to take lots of food pictures. It does really make you wonder why Chinese and Japanese food have caught on, but Korean food is still a rarity in the States.

27,500 Wan ($24.96) was a small fortune for a meal. Most meals have cost around 7,000 Wan.

After a very long lunch looking out across Seoul and the Han River, I decided not to hoof it any more and spent an hour trying to get to the Korea War Memorial by bus and subway, which is really not far from the bottom of the hill.

The very first thing I did at the Korea War Memorial was find my uncle's name. It was easy, because the thousands of names are listed alphabetically by last name and further divided by nation and state/province.

Here is a picture of First Lieutenant George Cabot Lee Jr.'s name and the Massachusetts men who gave their lives more than fifty-nine years ago.

This is really one of the most amazing museums to which I have ever been. It is exciting with great artifacts and great architecture. It is designed well and full of great videos (which you can watch in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English or (of course) Korean.

Let's pray for all the cherished memories of the souls of all the defenders of the Republic of Korea.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Yum So Yum: Second to One

Aside from the fact that the old Bill Clinton--the one who loved to come to New Hampshire so he could eat at Dunkin' Donuts not the one who is a virtual vegetarian--would be entirely pleased to find either a DD or Mister Donut on every block, the food here is fantastic.

I had four meals today. If I was not so relatively tall and my hair did not stop so abruptly above my ankles, I could be a hobbit, enjoying breakfast, lunch, tea, supper, and late night snack.

Isaiah cooked potatoes, bacon, and scrambled eggs for me and the other two CouchSurfers, Mathieu and Felix. Mathieu is a Frenchman (boy?) employed in Beijing and Felix is a German, seeking employment in Beijing. They both are here during the Lunar New Year. Isaiah grew up in the tough part of town in Bakersfield, California--also one of the most polluted cities in America. He has hosted about fifty people through and is a true believer in its mission. He works at a Christian church across the street from his palatial flat. We have had some interesting discussions about the death penalty. He likes to debate.

Felix stayed behind, but Mathieu and I hit the road at about 10 AM. We walked to the subway through the Nambu Market and went to Gyeonbokgung Palace. Gyeongbokgung is a royal palace located in northern Seoul. First constructed in 1394 and rebuilt in 1867, it was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name means "Palace of Shining Happiness." It was impressive for its size and for the backdrop of mountains. The changing of the guard was fun, too.

Here are my pictures of the pomp and circumstance.
The Day Shift includes a wide array of traditional soldiers, drummers, and even a time messenger.

Fourteen flags total during both the day and night shifts.

Member of the royal military band or Chwitagun.

Two regular guards or Gapsa.

After this, Mathieu and I walked South for a while and had wonderful soup and kimchi for lunch with "cider," which was a Sprite-like beverage definitely not derived from apples. We climbed a steep foothill of the big mountain that has the Namsan Tower, where I will go when the sun comes out. We wanted to find the big Catholic Cathedral, but found various other landmarks instead, including Seoul Station.

The old Seoul Station (Hangul: 구서울역사; Hanja: 舊서울驛舍), originally named Keijo (Gyeongseong) Station and designed by Tsukamoto Yasushi of Tokyo Imperial University, was finished on November, 1925. This red brick building, designed in an eclectic style, features a Byzantine-style central dome and a centralized and symmetrical layout. The station was renamed "Seoul Station" in 1947.
I boarded the incredibly efficient subway (line 3 of 6) and headed to Anguk Station. From there I walked to the Second Best Place in Seoul to meet Sonna Moon, an Exeter classmate of mine who grew up here and knew just what to order. I had their specialty soup and some medicinal tea:

At Seoureseo Duljjaero Jalhaneunjip 서울서둘째로잘하는집 – translated “The Second Best in Seoul” – they feature a dessert called 단팥죽 or Danpatjuk, or sweet red bean porridge (단팥죽). This is basically a sweet and hot pudding. The with a consistency of a thick soup. There’s large chunks of soft chestnuts to compliment the heavy taste of the red bean pastey gruel. It is sweet and dark red in color-- a great afternoon tea treat. (Source: The Thirsty Pig)

After this late afternoon snack, I proceeded to dinner with Paul Lim and his son. Paul took us by car to his son's favorite Korean restaurant south of the city. It was delicious--two kinds of fish. The food just kept coming. It was mostly side dishes of egg white and egg yolk, bean sprouts that would make an artist's palette salivate, and a meat substance that was nearly identical to pemmican.
Alexander Lee and Paul Lim, who sells clothespins. In the background, that is the frozen issue of a spring in the garden of the suburban restaurant where we ate.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Escapee Visits Alcatraz

The flora of Alcatraz was spectacular. No wonder the American Indian Movement wanted to reclaim it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Jakob is a student at Berkeley, who is taking classes with George Lakoff and reading Cialdini. I joined him and his friend visiting from Denmark, their native land, for the guided tour of America's most infamous prison. Historically, it was unusual to wear earphones in solitary confinement at Alcatraz!

Members of the National Park Service were preparing the sail on this junk to welcome the Year of the Rabbit.
My moment in solitary confinement was a lot more fun for me than it sounds like Bradley Manning's stay has been.

Two ordinary cells at Alcatraz.

Hyde Street Pier

The control room at Alcatraz to which all staff reported if there was a suspected escapee.

My favorite window at Alcatraz.

Play time. This is the yard behind me where inmates would play and gamble and devise their plans to hide spoons in cans of cement paint.
The junk had a large seal swimming about behind it, not visible in this picture.

A picture is worth 1,000 words.

I am a proud Charter Member of the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian). It was wonderful to visit this important spot and you could feel the energy of the Oakes and Banks families much more than the energy of the Al Capones, who also "lived" here for a period.

Is there a city with more breathtaking skylines and bridges? No, New York, you hold no candle.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I am sofa king wee todd did

I forked out $549 for Rosetta Stone Chinese 1, 2 & 3, after buying  a pirated copy on eBay for $29 (fortunately, the dude refunded me). I am working on the core lesson and just got an 80% on the first try. I want to thank Cathy Silber again for her diligent help with my pronunciation of syllables. As you can tell from the politically incorrect and tasteless title of my blog post, I do not feel confident that I have a grasp of this di-syllabic, tonal language.

I look forward to seeing the sorts of mistakes that young Chinese middle school students will make as I correct papers and prepare them for their TOEFL writing exams. There is no question that their facility with English will exceed mine with Mandarin for quite some time; that should be quite humbling. I am in the middle of Rod Ellis' The Study of Second Language Acquisition. It is a fascinating, 824-page tome on the way that learners acquire speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills.

Yesterday, I said good-bye to New Hampshire. I am a parochial New Englander, having spent only a semester of my life in Montana and a few months in Canada on canoe expeditions. My friend and I went snow-shoeing near Wonalancet. Everything was beautiful. We went to dinner at the Woodshed, which is my family's favorite restaurant. It was such a fun way to say good-bye to a region, a place and a person that I love.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Meeting a Changchunian & Seeing New York City's Public Library

Yesterday morning, I met my friend Jonah's mother and her "daughter"--a motivated Barnard College sophomore who grew up in Changchun. We met at the restaurant that my friend's mother and her husband own, called Nusbaum and Wu. It is on the Upper West Side and was delicious.

Advice: bring toilet paper with you everywhere and bring lots of long underwear. To check the weather in Changchun, visit The Weather Underground. It is -33F right now with the wind chill.

After dropping off my paperwork and passport to complete the visa process, my friend and I went to the New York City Public Library System's main branch. Not quite on the scale of the Library of Congress, it is nonetheless a beautiful building that I highly recommend. There was a great display called "Three Faiths" with early copies of the Torah, Koran, and Bible. Get down there before the end of February!

I know this is a not a China-related post, but here are some photos from my new Cannon Power Shot A3100 IS: