Saturday, September 27, 2014

Kinball - Teacher Bonding

It's exam time at the moment so all classes are cancelled while students sit exams. This left the teachers with some extra time up their sleeves in the afternoon, so on Thursday they organized a teacher bonding game in the gymnasium. The name of the game was Kinball and is an easy to learn game for the athletically challenged. Spending a decent chunk of my youth playing sport along with my superior genetics (extra long arms and legs) helped me earn the title MVP (most valuable player). 

Sitting and listening as the rules are explained to us. Demonstrated below is the technique for serving the ball. All but 1 team member has to hold the ball up above their heads. The other team member then runs in circles around the ball, shouts out the name of one of the other teams before hitting the ball, and that team has to catch the ball before it touches the ground. 

4 teams are on the playing field. One team (yellow) is about to serve, and the other 3 teams (blue, green and orange) position themselves strategically around the ball. 

It's blue teams turn to serve. 

Blue team hit the ball. Green team needs to catch the ball. 

It was an easy game, but fun. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fishing with the father-in-law

The weather of late in Korea has been great. The sky has been blue, the mornings are nice and cool, and the light breeze has blown a lot of the pollution away. This weekend my father-in-law invited me to go fishing with him on a lake in Chungju, about an hour north of Daejeon. Jihyeon and I got up early and set off on or adventure. 

We caught the local bus to the inter-city bus terminal.

This is one thing I really like about the buses in Korea (take note Australia). In the major cities, every bus stop has a display showing where exactly the bus is and how long you have to wait for it. There are also large maps stuck on the wall of the bus shelter showing where the bus goes. 

At the intercity bus terminal, we made a quick stop...

To buy some fresh donuts^^. nom nom nom.

On the bus.

Because of noisy neighbours at home I took some sleeping tablets the night before. Initially I felt OK, but soon I was fast asleep on the bus. It took all Jihyeon's willpower not to giggle while taking this photo.

We eventually arrived in Chungju where we met up with the in-laws and went to lunch.

The chef here used to work at the the Blue House, which is the residence of the Korean President (like the White House is the residence of the American President). 

I forgot to take a photo of the food when it was first brought out. I think it is safe to say the food was good given the empty plates at the end of the meal. 

A short drive out of Chungju was Chungju Dam. The dam serves three purposes. Flood control, water supply and hydroelectric power (400MW) and holds back 2700 million cubic meters of water. 

We wanted to ride the ferry up the lake to check it out. Unfortunately ferry number 1 was out of order, so we had to settle for ferry number 2 which followed a much shorter rout. 

There were a few people camped out and fishing on the bank of the dam.

Unlike in Gapyeong (where we went a few weeks ago) the water way was almost deserted. This was the only other boat we saw on the lake.

We sat on the top deck of the ferry to get a good view. 

In the distance is the tallest mountain in Korea.


My father-in-law. Happy as always. 

We then jumped back in the car and headed to where we would be fishing. We would be staying on a small pontoon overnight while fishing. 

I was the only person on the boat that could swim. Luckily, the water wasn't very deep. 

This was the first pontoon we were on. They were all pretty much identical, but my father-in-law decided he didn't like this location and asked to move to a different pontoon. 

Each pontoon was equipped with all the comforts of home. Small pillows that like bricks, some questionable bedding hung over a rope, a window that didn't open...

State of the art under floor heating, battery powered LED lighting system...

And a thunderbox that I was happy I wouldn't need to use while we were there. 

My father-in-law setting up the fishing line.

And showing me how to put the bait on the hooks.

This was the bait. I'm not sure exactly what it was made from. I had to break pieces of it off and...

make a small ball of it around the hooks. I was skeptical about how well it would work, but decided to give it a go anyway. In the end, the bait would disintegrate in the water (maybe I was doing something wrong) and I would have to put fresh bait on the hook every 5 or 10 minutes. Kind of annoying. 



It was a nice place to sit back and spend an afternoon. Nice and quiet. No noisy neighbours. 

Dinner time. Kimbap, pork cutlet, rice, apple and instant noodles. 

By about 9pm, it was getting cold and I was sick of the bait falling off the hook, so I retreated into the hut to play go-stop (a Korean card game) with the women folk. 

My father-in-law soon joined us. I didn't feel like getting my ass handed to me in go-stop, so I decided to watch and maybe learn something. 

The next morning I was up early to enjoy the crisp morning air. 

How many fish did we catch? I caught none, my father-in-law caught one small fish late at night after the rest of us went to bed. 

All up it was a good weekend. I've never been fresh water fishing before, but next time I'll be bringing my own bait.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chuseok 2014 (Korean Thanksgiving)

This year I spend Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) in Suwon at my in-laws house. We didn't visit the graves of their ancestors like last year (you can read about it here) because it was too far away and traffic was so horrible. It would have taken at least 4 hours to drive there, then another 4 hours to drive home... if we were lucky. 

So, what is Chuseok? Here is a quick re-cap. 

Chuseok (추석) is a major harvest festival and 3 day holiday in Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Up until only a few decades ago Korea was still a heavily agrarian society so celebrating a good harvest is still an central part of Korean culture. During chuseok Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and share a feast of Korean traditional foods.  

There are a couple of theories on how and when chuseok originated, but the most popular theory is that it started 2000 years ago as a weaving competition when two teams would go head to head in a month long weaving competition. The team that had woven the most cloth was declared the victor and was treated to a feast by the losing team. 

In modern South Korea, on Chuseok there is a mass exodus of Koreans as they return to their hometowns to pay respects to the spirits of their ancestors (I joined my in-laws for this last year). Early in the morning (before breakfast) people perform ancestral worship rituals and then later in the day visit the tombs of their immediate ancestors to trim the grass and clean the area around the tomb. They also take some food and drink to offer to their ancestors to show their thanks to their ancestors for blessing their harvest. 

This year because my in-laws had moved to Suwon (last year they were in Iksan) so Jihyeon and I caught the train north to Suwon. 

To save some money we caught the Mugunghwa, which is one of the original passenger trains in Korea. The carriages are really old and rattly, but it is about half the price of a KTX (the high speed modern train that does 300km/h). 

The country side still looks quite green and the rice fields are almost ready for harvesting. 

Even though population growth in Korea is slowing, there are still a lot of apartment buildings getting built. 

Once we arrived at the in-laws, we were put to work helping prepare the food.  

Handmade Mandu (Korean dumplings). 

Later, we took the dog for a walk around the park. 


Lots of people stopped us and wanted to pat Haru. 

The next morning we were put to work again preparing food. 

Later that night I went back to Hwaseong fortress again (for my 4th time) to walk around the last part of the wall I had not seen and take some night time photos. You can find photos from my first three visits here, here and here

In ancient times the Hwaseong Fortress wall surrounded the town center of Suwon (Suwon city is about 30km south of Seoul) and was built in 1794 by King Jeongjo to house and honor the remains of his father Prince Sado, who had been murdered by being locked alive inside a rice chest by his own father King Yeongjo after failing to obey the command to commit suicide. 

We started at the southern gate of the fortress wall which sits in the middle of a chaotic roundabout.  

We then started walking around the section of the wall we were yet to explore. 

A watch tower. 

We then crossed to the inside of the wall. In the distance you can see the huge church that sits in the middle of Suwon. The church is ginormous and is easily the biggest building in the center of the city. 

View from another watch tower. 

This is the outside of the eastern gate. 

And the inside of the eastern gate. 

This is the command post for all the important people. It has a good view of inside the wall. 

Another watch tower.

Another watch tower.

I wanted to keep going but they turned all the bloody lights off at 10PM. 

The next day was Chuseok. We got up early and set the table for the offering. 

Haru looked on in envy at the food. 

and then did what she does best once the food was put away. 

Later in the afternoon we went for a bike ride around the huge park and lake near by. Suwon (at least this part of Suwon) is really well designed. You don't see it from the road or the train, but all the apartment complexes are joined by a huge network of parks, bike-ways and footpaths. It's really great having such a large green space close by. 

We then packed up and headed back to Daejeon.