Lemonade Day – or, Hike the mountain you’re with

The Saturday before Sanba, the 3rd tropical storm/typhoon of the season, we went out with the intent to hike mount Wolchul. Wolchulsan is a national park just south of Yeongam. It’s tall and rugged, beautiful and extremely popular in the busy season. We’ve heard stories that describe peak season as you going up nose to butt in a line of thousands of other hikers. Well, six hours of standing behind someone’s butt didn’t sound too great, but we figured it was 1) kind of off-season and 2) it was cool and threatening rain, what with a typhoon on the way. So off we went!

Che and Remi – Road Trip!

We went with our friends Amanda and Darryl, two nice folk from Wisconsin, which I (Mike) don’t mind because they don’t really talk football. We also brought the dogs, of course. We brought Remi, our trusty Springer Spaniel, and Amanda and Darryl brought along Che, a 2 year old Shetland Sheepdog. He’s smart, cute, well-trained, and almost as energetic as Remi. We arrived at the national park around 10:00 or so after getting a bit lost (a specialty of Mike’s) and started gearing up.

That was when an ajjashi (older gentleman) who was sweeping the park with one of those stick brooms approached, waving and talking energetically and pointing at the dogs. No dogs allowed, was the point. We were confused, then angry. Akasha pleaded our case. They’re nice dogs! She said. They don’t bite, and they’re on leashes! He didn’t speak any English, so Akasha called tourist information for help, and some nice bi-lingual Koreans came from the next car over to help, but there was nothing for it. No dogs allowed.

Signpost – which way to go?

Well, we were crushed. All dressed up, a pack full of sandwiches in the bag, and no mountain to climb. We felt like we’d packed all these plans and when we got there, all we had was lemons. We stewed it over for a while, got back in the car, and left, not even asking for our 2,000 won ($1.80) entry fee back.

We drove around, out towards Jangheung. Finally, Akasha, always the optimist, asked How can we make lemonade out of this? We didn’t know, but thought about it for a while. We drove around, looking at the brown signs for inspiration. (The brown signs, in Korea, have all the points of interest on them.) There were Cypress gardens, scenic drives, and mountains, mountains mountains.

Finally, we picked a mountain. On Daum maps Akasha figured out we were near Jaemsan National Recreation Area, so that’s where we went. We followed the signs up a lonely road till we came to a small, mostly empty parking lot with a pile of hay in the middle and a lonely SUV parked in one side. Off in the far corner a lonesome road, maybe a trailhead, went off into the distance.

Lifting the sign to look for directions.

We got out, geared up, watered the hounds, and stretched a bit. Soon a church van showed up and eight or ten Koreans piled out in their hiking gear, so we knew we were in the right place, or a right place anyway. Up the trailhead we went, and we were pretty happy. It was a beautiful trail. Like all trails we’ve been on, it was perfectly maintained. It had a babbling brook, and purple flowers were in bloom on the forest floor. We stopped in the saddle of a ridge that led off to peaks in either direction and had lunch on map of the region that had blown down during the last typhoon. When we were done eating, we lifted the map up to see where we were, and kept going.

Resting at the top

One of the best things was, we seemed to have the mountain to ourselves. No nose-to-butt hiking, or urgency to keep any pace but our own. When we hit the peak, a beautiful view of the valleys lay on either side. We took some pictures and rested. There was a festival on the valley floor, and we could hear the chorus of a Korean traditional “trot” song coming up to meet us. As I looked down I saw a single red firework blossom over the tents, then watched the smoke drift away. We waited for more fireworks, but they didn’t come.

We walked back down the way we’d come, the dogs eager and bounding. It was, all in all, some of the finest lemonade we’ve made out of one of the few disappointments we’ve gotten from Korea. And I’d like to thank Akasha for making it all happen, from the sandwiches, to advocating our dog’s right to hike Korean parks, to finding the recreation area, and for being generally the best ray of sunshine there ever was, she’s the best co-hiker a guy could ask for.  Smooch, baby!

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A vacation home

Wow, that was a whirlwind trip.  I can’t even think of everything that happend.  It was a Fantastic F bomb of Friends, Food, and Family. We had wretched jetlag in Minnesota, and our friends who’ve done it agree: the jetlag is 750% worse going to the US than in coming to Korea.

The riverboat

First of all, we have a great visit with the family. We had plenty of time with Mike’s family, going to a Twins game (They lost), and on a riverboat cruise (it didn’t sink!) on the St. Croix to celebrate the publication of Mom’s book, which has been the results of years of hard work with her father’s memoirs. Congrats one more time, mom.

Just like old times

We also went out to the lake house for a fantastic barbecue. Mike got a long-awaited session behind the grill, flipping burgers and brats, and almost felt fully American for a while. Then, we sat back and drank a few beers while the boats raced on the lake. What a great relaxing day it was.

Cotton Candy attack

We also got to spend a bit of time with the Sweetpotato and my Corazone.  They are growing up so fast, it’s impossible.  The last time we saw Sweetpotato she was talking a bit but you really had to know what she was saying to understand her.  Now she is an eloquent and articulate 4 year old getting ready for pre-school.  Corazone was 6 months old when we left, but now she has a clear personality.  She loves animals, books, running, and is begining to talk.  Her first word was DOG!  She’s so classy.

Our friend Jenni was the hostess with the mostess.  We were so comfortable in her home. There’s no way we can thank her enough. She provided us with a bed so comfy, I kept looking for the pea. Her apartment was laced with MN products and WI beer to make us feel at home.  What a babe.

Speaking of FOOD, we had the best quick-tour of Minnesota quisine in our ten-day visit. Here’s a quick shout-out of the stops: Matt’s Bar, for Jucy Lucys. Kramarczyk’s Deli, both at Target Field and at their NE Minneapolis location. Drinks at Kieran’s Irish Pub and the 331. The NE Social, for a million bites. Victor’s 1959 Cafe for bistec cubano y cordaditos. And we couldn’t get by without a visit to the best Thai in Minneapolis, Sen Yai Sen Lek! Hey guys, thanks for the Mango and sticky rice, it’s unbelievable! I’m probably forgetting something, but there you go. Sea Salt at Minnehaha Falls! Wendys! Um, okay. I got a bit carried away…

Then, there was a whirlwind day at the State Fair! Thanks to Jenni, Buzzo, and Carson for their company. Also a big shout-out for Erik, Ari, Corazone and the Sweetpotato for coming out and showing us how modern kids still love the big giant slide! It was some mighty fine screaming! (Mike, you forgot how visiting I Like You at the fair made us feel like we’d never left.)

Corn feed!

And, later, Katie and David came for a corn feed and walk through the Eco building. In all we spent 12 hours poking around, eating pronto pups, meals on a stick, milkshakes, watching butter-head sculptures, and pretty much everything else you can cram into a 12 hour day at the fair.

Thanks to everyone who came out to visit us. We’ve settled back into Mokpo, where we just sat through Typhoon Bolaven, then tropical storm Tembin. You can watch footage of Mike walking to school through the storm on YouTube.

It was 24 hours of wind, rain, noise, and canceled school. Welcome back!

On a side note.  We were sad to leave MN, but happy to return to our neighborhood, Yeonsan Ju Gog.  Everywhere we went people asked us “Where has Remi been for the last 2 weeks?”  Man, that is one heck of a popular puppy.

We began and ended the trip up in Seoul/ Incheon so there are a couple of pictures from our trip to a 1,000 year old Buddhist temple, an junk art camp ground, and our first meal back in  Korea, seafood soup.

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Minnesota, we miss you so…

… we are coming home for 10 days.  We will probably be groggy and jet-lagged for a few of those days, but that won’t stop us from seeing you.

We’ll be coming home on the 13th and leaving on the 24th, it is not a lot of time to see everyone and everything, so please be kind and patient.

Mmmm…. Jucy Lucy, we miss you.

What do we want to do on our vacation you ask? Well, we miss our burgers and parks, so we’re kicking off our return with jucy lucy’s at Matt’s bar at 5 (please be prompt if you’re coming- they don’t do reservations there.) Then, we’re off to movies and music in the park at the Walker till we pass out from hugs and jetlag.

We’re gonna get in some baseball, family time including a boat ride to celebrate Patsy’s new book, hang out with the the nieces and nephews, and all that. Oh, and of course we are going to the 1st day of the Great MN get together!

Princess Kay of the milky way

We’re staying with the hostess with the mostess, Jenni Hibberd.  Her place is o the light-rail, hwy 55, which can get us across a chunk of the city pretty darn quick.  We’d love to plan our meet ups to be near the line so we spend our time with you and

The hostess with the mostest

Other than that we’d love to:go tubing on the cannon river, picnic at the Minnehaha Falls, canoe/kayak the chain of lakes,

Just chillin

sit in your backyard and watch the fire pit, run through sprinklers, go to the MIA or history museum, have a drink at a local watering hole, picnic at the lakes/river, and a million other things we can’t think of, but you can.

Relaxin

More PhotoBooth fun

PhotoBooth SuperFriends

August is peak travel season for the US and Korea as both are on summer vacation.  The tickets home were a lot more than we expected.  So, whenever possible, we’d love to go low budget.  Parks, your back yard, n.e. patio bars are all within our budget.

Is there anything you want us to bring home?  Korea really doesn’t know what a souvenir is.  Good luck finding a postcard, snow globe, key ring, or other tchochkies.  But we could bring you green tea,  ramien in strange flavors, Korean candy, berry wine, semi-obscene socks, or K-pop cute stuff .

The zoo animals will be staying with some kind friends who will hug them, squeeze them, and call them George.

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The Monsoons

It’s officially monsoon season here in Jeolla. When we got here we thought a monsoon was a big storm.  Turns out, we were wrong.  A monsoon is a season with a fairly specific, Wiki-accessible definition. Sometimes there are amazing storms (Typhoons) with 90mph winds and torrential downpours that knock out our neighbors windows and push me down.  Some times there are bright, hot, clear, sunny days where there is no escape from the sun.  Many days there is a constant foggy drizzle that saturates everything, bloats your books and frizzes your hair.  It is 100% humid all the time.

100% humidity, isn’t that rain? you ask.  Or fog? Not necessarily.  100% humidity is washing the dishes at night, sleeping 8 hours, and waking up to wet dishes.  100% humidity is having the dog nap on your bed while you’re at work and drool on your bedding.

2 Day old doggie drool

Then, the drool spot is still there when you get home, still there when you go to bed, still there when you go to work the next day (I’m calling Guiness soon.)  100% humidity means never straightening your hair, cause it will be a spring factory an hour later.

Generally speaking, Monsoon season is a soggy mess of heat and wet. The air stays misty and damp, the mist slowly getting heavier until you’re walking through huge mist droplets that begin slowly settling to the ground, then growing bigger until you realize they’re raindrops, which continue to get bigger, and heavier, until you’re trapped in a steady rain that will last all day. Or it will build into a huge gully-washer with thunder that makes the kids (and some teachers) scream in the halls of school.

It also has interesting side effects re: sweating. I (Mike) wore a nice orange shirt in to work the other day. By some miscommunication, my co-teacher had to leave a class unattended, and I was forced to fill in. This nervousness, combined with the humidity, left me with definite sweat-rings about the size of dinner plates under both arms. I was doing pretty well until I had to raise my arms to point at things, and noticed the kids were pointing at their armpits and laughing. They were also pointing at me. And laughing.

Here’s one lesson to take from this: if you ever want to amuse a room full of Korean third graders, try some sweaty armpits. Endlessly entertaining. It made discipline a challenge, though. I had to turn mean for a minute, giving them the meanest face I have, and when they’d settled down and when I resumed teaching I had to do it T-Rex style, elbows pinned to my waist. And nothing’s cooler, or classier, than that. And no, there are no photos.

Short haircut Remi

How does Remi like the monsoon season?  Well, last year we learned the hard way that heavy fur six inches long can carry an extra five pounds of monsoon water after a decent walk in the rain.  So this year, we’ve shaved him nearly bald.  He HATES gettting shaved, in fact when we approach the groomers he tries hard to go the other way. But he’s much more comfortable now, though he looks a bit like a pointer/dalmation.

When the monsoons end we will be enjoy the ripe juicy figs, pods bursting with sesame seeds, persimmons, pumpkins, rice, and gourds galore, and it will be good.

sesame plants growing crazy in the rain

There will be cool breezes and drier air, though we know the ‘death heat’ is also just around the corner.  But until then, bring on the moisture.

We don’t have air-conditioning, just 3 fans that push the air around and two awesome doors to create a pretty decent cross breeze.  Sometimes we go hide in air–conditioned restaurants, but mostly we just suck it up.  Put on a pair of galoshes, grab an umbrella, and go for a hike.

A bamboo grove on a stormy day
(between storms)

There is are two  summer foods that we just LOVE to beat the humidity.  Mul Neng Mien (ice water soup) and Pat Bing Su.  Mul Neneg Mien is the best cold soup ever! It is made

Mul Neng Mien (with green tea noodles and ham)

with soba noodles, juilianed cucumbers, Asian pears, and white radish.  The broth is made of kimchi juice.  It is frozen and half defrosted, then  the boiling hot soba noodles are tossed in, leaving little chopped icebergs floating.  It is served with half a hard boiled egg, mustard, and rice vinegar.  It is crisp, tart, filling, and refreshing.  Oh, and it is served in a metal bowl, so it cools your hands too.!  My other big favorite is Pat Bing Su.

Traditional Pat Bing Su is a big bowl filled with shaved ice, sweet red beans, little rice cakes, gummy candies, and a scoop of ice cream. Umm, yeah.  I’m not a big fan of the original.  But there are a million varieties. Choco banana Pat Bing Su has chocolate shaved ice, banana slices, chocolate ice cream and syrup, oreos, and fancy rolly cookies.

Chocobanana patbingsu

Most of your fruits have a Pat Bing Su. Blueberry Pat Bing Su, Mango Pat Bing Su and the mother of all Pat Bing Su: Mixed fruit Pat Bing Su has juice shaved ice, a medley of fresh and canned fruits, gummies, sweet rice cakes, berry syrup, and berry ice cream.  So good.  It’s like diabetes in a bowl!  If that doesn’t beat the heat it is time to move home.

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Holy Moly!

We joined Jo’s cool Neighborhood tour project because we thought it was awesome and as an ESL teacher I’m always looking for authentic materials to show my students how life around the world is similar/ different but this is awesome.

We’ve now blog to make it easier to keep up with  friends and family in MN, and until now our site stats have reflected that.  But this week has been fabulous.  We’ve been viewed by people from countires we really want to visit soon.

our views in the last week!

Again, Thanks for stopping by. I hope it makes you want to visit/live in Jeolla.

Maybe some of you can contribute to TMBGs new Alphabet of Nations.

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A bit of our neighborhood

Welcome to our neighborhood!  Mike and I have been living here for a little over a year. Back home we were a systems administrator and an ESL teacher.  Here we are both elementary EFL teachers.  We live in Mokpo, a small port city in South-Western Korea.
Remi, our 12 year old English Springer Spaniel would love to show you around the town. See if you can spot him in each photo.

 1. a post box
Not much more to say.

A postal box

2. a local store/corner shop
(its name in Korean is “Neighborhood Mart.”)  It is where we buy almost everything.  We love these guys.

The neighborhood mart

3. a manhole cover 
If you look in the middle you’ll see our city’s emblem, 1 blue and 2 green boats.

A manhole cover

 —–
4. a park/play area
A mixture of modern and postmodern.  That is actually a wedge of cement kids climb up/ scramble down. Dangerous by US standards/ Fun by Korean standards.

A playground

 5. a view of a typical street
Most people live in apartment buildings, many of them 15 story ones like ours.
(There are 4 buildings in this picture)

Cherry blossoms in our neighborhood

 —
6. local form of transport (ferry terminal) There are 1,004 islands off the coast of Mokpo.  They have beautiful beaches and many farms. We live by the small ferry terminal used mainly by farmers to transport crops.  There are two big ferry terminals down the road, but we live by the cute North Ferry Terminal.  The terminal itself is a cute booth. We’ve only seen 5 boats at a time at here.  We’ve taken the boats here and they seem to be used mainly by island farmers. We prefer our small terminal to the big one in downtown.

The small ferry terminal

7. Mike’s school
It is a pretty average elementary school.  They have a nice turf yard.  My school covets their turf.  We have a dirt yard.

Mike’s elementary school with soccer field and track

8. fish restaurants at the port
Hungry?  Let’s stop in for the catch of the day.  Abalone, octopus, and skate are very popular in Mokpo.  Octopus is often eaten alive, or raw.  I’ve tried the raw, still moving, octopus.  Surprisingly, it is really tasty.

A fresh fish restaurant

9. a jumpy gym
These are also all over our neighborhood.  They are often with Tae-kwon-do schools.  They cost 50 cents (US) a visit and are awesome.  I really wish I could go jump too.

A bounce gym- 50 cents!

 
10. the beach
Remi loves to go to the beach.  We cheated, this beach is actually a little drive away.  Mokpo is a port town, there is no beach.  But the beaches in neighboring Muan are fabulous. You can see some of the Shinan islands in the distance.

Remi at the beach

11. exercise everywhere. 
This is an awesome phenomena.  Every set of apartment buildings and  every park have these great exercise machines.  They are used by people of all ages and abilities.

exercise machines in the park


12. agriculture everywhere.
This is pretty cool too.  Every open piece of land no matter how small gets turned into a garden.  Some people grow a bit for themselves, but usually they grow quick crops like lettuce and sell it on the street. It is awesome.

Urban agriculture

Thanks for stopping by.  We’ve been enjoying seeing other people’s neighborhoods as well.  We’ve done a few introductions to our new life back home.  Feel free to tour our home, or visit Mike and Akasha’s classrooms, read about school festivals, or see how school is different here.
Oh, and a big thanks to Jo for making it all happen!
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Here are the other participants, and their post date:
June 25 — Japan – www.jojoebi-designs.com
26 – California, USA http://akatsukira.com/
28 –  Canary islands, jeveuxunetitesoeurfille.over-blog.com
29 – East Devon, UK, www.knittylorn.blogspot.co.uk
30 – Michigan,  U.S.A. www.godwhohasnohands.blogspot.com
July 1 – Mokpo, S0uth Korea, https://jeollanamdosalad.wordpress.com/
3 – Falkirk in Scotland,  www.kidscraftandchaos.com
4 – Washington,  U.S.A. – http://www.zonnah.com
6 – South Africa – http://www.se7en.org.za/
7 – New York City, USA – http://taliastravelblog.wordpress.com/
9 – Wellington, NZ –  http://thepukekopatch.com/
10 – Berlin, Germany – http://camidaily.tumblr.com
11 – UK (cambridge) – http://crazycambridgemum.blogspot.co.uk/
13- Morocco https://moroccoraki.wordpress.com/ A last minute add!
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Cool stuff

So much is happening and it is all so lovely.

Thing 1:

The Rambergs are getting published.  As you all know, Mike is a writer and works diligently at living on his writing.  Back in February he self published a great novella about our stay here in Mokpo.  Just kidding, MZD, a novella of undead horror is a zombie novella that takes place in our host city.

Well, he is at it again.  Friday he was published in Cal Morgan’s Forty Stories, by Harper Perennial.  It is a great short story about  a ball of twine we all know and love, and its untimely demise.  (it’s on pages 17-28.) Love you, Smoochie. For far more information, check out Mike’s writing website: http://www.grebmar.net.

Update: I posted this on Monday, but today (Thursday) Mike was published again! Way to go baby! My man is on a roll. This time a rock n’ roll piece. Read it for free online, or download the kindle edition of Prick of the Spindle for $1.75 at Amazon. I’m so proud of you, honey!

Remi reading “The Farm at Pony Gulch”

His mom, PTZ, has been editing her father’s memoirs for some time.  In April she published them with NDSU.  The Farm at Pony Gulch is a great read about the family’s emigration to North Dakota, her father’s life as a prairie school teacher, and the community of Germans from Russia which makes up the bulk of ND. Since publication she has been giving readings, gone on a book tour, and had a guest appearance on Prairie Public Radio.  Way to go, Patsy!

Thing 2:

Back in February, I found an amazing project to let the survivors of the Fukishma Tsunami/Reactor tragedy know we that are still thinking of them. A blogger in Japan, named Jojoebi,  started the Little Houses Project, which challenged makers around the world to make little houses for those still in temporary housing.  I made a little house as part of my Thing A Day 2012, but kept in contact with Jo after mailing mine in.

Now Jojoebi is at it again.  She has gotten bloggers from around the world to contribute to a blog series and picture book about neighborhoods around the world.  The series goes live today, starting with Jo’s neighborhood in Saitama, Japan.  We’ll be visiting neighborhoods in Korea, Slovenia, the States – oh, everywhere!  Take a look.  Our page will go up on the 1st of July!  Clock the “badge” to see today’s post.

Please take a peek at the other bloggers.

June 25 — Japan – www.jojoebi-designs.com
26 – California, USA http://akatsukira.com/
28 –  Canary islands, jeveuxunetitesoeurfille.over-blog.com
29 – East Devon, UK, www.knittylorn.blogspot.co.uk
30 – Michigan,  U.S.A. www.godwhohasnohands.blogspot.com
July 1 – Mokpo, S0uth Korea, https://jeollanamdosalad.wordpress.com/
3 – Falkirk in Scotland,  www.kidscraftandchaos.com
4 – Washington,  U.S.A. – http://www.zonnah.com
6 – South Africa – http://www.se7en.org.za/
7 – New York City, USA – http://taliastravelblog.wordpress.com/
9 – Wellington, NZ –  http://thepukekopatch.com/
10 – Berlin, Germany – http://camidaily.tumblr.com
11 – UK (cambridge) – http://crazycambridgemum.blogspot.co.uk/
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