Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Long Overdue Update

It has been a long time since I have updated this blog. I settled down in Seoul for so long that I became less inclined to blog, however, I am planning to leave soon on a new adventure. I like having the blog and pictures to help remind myself of my travel experiences. I'll start out with a travel update from the last few years.


Destinations:

Three years ago I went to Taipei Taiwan for a Magic the Gathering Tournament. I didn't do well in the tournament and didn't do nearly enough tourist stuff. I'd love to go back someday and eat more food and explore the city more.

Two years ago I went to Hanoi Vietnam. Vietnamese food has never been my favorite food, however, Vietnam is now my top spot for food. The flavors blew me away. Each street-food stop we had was better than the previous place. The least amazing meal was the most expensive, at something like $8, and had been written up by many world famous chefs. Not only was the food shockingly good, Hanoi overwhelmed the senses in every way. Another country I'd love to spend more time in.

A little over a year ago I went to Osaka for another tournament.  Osaka was cool.  Again, didn't do well but redeemed myself in Seattle.

More recently, in 2015, I made a long trip from Seoul to Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Portland, Mexico and back to Seoul.

The first stop was Irkutsk Russia. I'm pretty sure I was the only foreigner in the whole city. It was one of the few places alongside Morocco where I felt very out of place walking around. It felt dystopic and everything looked grey. Grey with the random brightly colored wood shutters on the windows of traditional Siberian houses. I met some cool people and had a good time overall. I saw Lake Baikal from the airplane but wasn't able to make it out there during my stay. You can ask me in person why I didn't make it to the only tourist destination in the area.







Next stop was Kiev Ukraine. Ukraine surprised me. It had the beauty of any of the top western European cities and the rugged yet charming characteristics you expect to see in eastern Europe. It also had the cost of living of the most poverty stricken parts of Africa or Asia. I honestly feel like I will move here some day, it was amazing. While in Kiev a took a day trip to the infamous Chernobyl. It is a difficult experience to describe. I actually don't really like the pictures I have of the visit because they create a sense of disaster porn/travel that they are meant to. This doesn't describe how it felt to be there. The noteworthy aspects of the experience can't be seen in pictures. There are people who work there to create a new cover for the power plant. There are fish swimming in the rivers. Everything just looks like an underpopulated countryside till you get to the abandoned buildings and cold-war era propaganda that looks untouched. It was very strange and nothing I say can really describe how it felt.







 







 After Ukraine I went to visit my friend in Hannover. A do-over from 2011 when I was dying of food poising in Jacob's Hannover apartment. This time I didn't get sick. Junie, a friend from Seoul who met me in Ukraine, came to Hannover too. It was a relaxing week in Hannover. Germany looks very German. The weather was nice. The french fries and sausage tasted like french fries and sausage. Maybe next time I'll go to Berlin?

Next stop was Portland. It had been two years since I had been to see my family and friends in Portland. This time I had an extended 6 week visit. 




I took an 8 week detour from Portland to Guadalajara Mexico with another friend, Jared, for Day of the Dead. That was very cool. Mexican food is amazing. Big fan of Mexico. They have great people, really great people, I love the people and food. 








Another big update is... I managed to graduate with an MA in TESOL (Teaching English as a Second or Other Language) from The New School.  I graduated with a 3.91, which a young Eric would never believe.  

I have some big travel plans coming up that I will wait to reveal till they begin. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why Would You Ever Leave Spain: Part 2

Nearly a year after my Dad visited me in Spain and asked me the question "Why would you ever leave Spain?"  he made the trek to Korea to visit me in Seoul.  Because of some unfortunate bad luck I think he still feels that way.

After the long flight from San Francisco he arrived in Seoul late Thursday. We had a good Galbi barbeque dinner near my school before calling it a night. We had tickets reserved for 7 AM the following morning to tour the DMZ and JSA. This was the only day that we were going to be able to make the tour so that is why we went so soon after his arrival.

The DMZ was quite interesting and I think we both enjoyed it quite a lot. There was a lot of waiting on our tour but seeing the North Korean guards facing down the South Korean guards and stepping into a room that is technically in North Korea is an experience worth the wait. The rest of the tour was interesting too but not nearly as much as actually being so close the the North and seeing the guards. The rest of the trip consisted of a huge tunnel that was dug by the North Koreans years ago and a train station that connects the North and South. The entire tour made it very clear just how much posturing and propaganda is going on and how little any real danger anyone is in. One example we were given was that the flag pole that is up on either side of the DMZ caused a lot of trouble and there was an 11 hour meeting about which side was going to have a taller flagpole. Eventually it was agreed that the North Koreans could have the taller flagpole. It is the tallest flagpole in the world and holds up a 600+ pound flag. You can see it through the fog in my pictures below.

The rest of the weekend went very well too. We had a great time in Seoul visiting places like North Seoul Tower and traditional markets. North Seoul tower overlooks the city and really gives you a view of just how massive in size and population the city is. From the top of the mountain you see a never ending sprawl of high-rises.

We had some very good meals including an absurdly expensive Hanjeongsik. Hanjeongsik is a huge traditional Korean meal that came with about 20 courses including meats, fish, seafood, many vegetables and even raw beef and raw crab.

The next morning (Monday) is when things turned for the worse. My dad had been sitting next to someone who was sick on the flight over and by Monday he felt like he had the flu. To make a long story short, he ended up getting very sick with flu, asthma and pneumonia. After many visits the the Korean doctors and hospitals he had to call the visit short and head home.

We had a great time for the first weekend so everyone was disappointed that he got sick but these kinds of things happen when traveling and I am just glad that he is healthy now. Enjoy the pictures and I will try to not wait 6 months before my next update.













Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's About Time You Tell Us Something More About Seoul

I have been in South Korea for three full months now and the time has passed by very fast.  It is hard for me to believe that I have been here for that long.  Everything is going very well and I am really enjoying myself here.
 
My job is great and I am (mostly) enjoying teaching these kids English five days a week.  Everyone I work with is really nice and the kids are (usually) great.   I am the only native speaker at my school other than a Korean American named Cho.  So there is not much English being spoken at my work, which makes me feel like I should learn Korean; I just need to find the time. 
 
Outside of school I have been having a great time and made a bunch of friends.  I've been having too much fun and spending too much money.  Seoul is really an amazing city, its size and endless possibilities makes makes the time fly by, as well as the money. 
 
Some of my favorite parts about living here are the food and eating culture.  There are all kinds of crazy foods, some amazingly delicious and some that the smell alone will blow you away (not in a good way).  When eating with Koreans there is always entirely too much food on the table and half of it is fermented or pickled and the other half is raw or spicy.  Lucky for me I love spicy food because if I didn't would be missing out on some delicious side dishes, like raw peppers dipped in hot chili paste. 
 
Something I have gotten used to and don't particularly like or dislike is the fact that I am a 'waygookin,' a foreigner and a minority.  I have gotten used to kids staring you down as you cross the street or board the subway.  It is pretty funny when some drunk 20-some year old girls cannot stop blushing and calling you handsome and asking you ridiculous questions about things like what kind of dogs do Americans have as pets.  And I love that every time I go to a restaurant I am brought all kinds of special "here foreigner eat this" gifts.  That being said, I have not gotten used to the hostility toward foreigners, that I encounter (or hear about) every once in awhile.
 
Some of the things I like the least but am getting used to are the copious amounts of Soju (rice liquor) that people drink and the difficult to handle smells that I have to endure throughout the day.  As for the Soju I've learned to just not drink it, I can't handle it mostly because of the taste.  As for the smells; in addition to normal stinky city smells, there are these berries that have fallen off all of the trees that stink something awful.  Of course the kids like to step on the berries and bring the smell into the classroom, then complain about the smell. 
 
Anyway here are some pictures I have accumulated over the past few months.  A nice mix of school, food, nighttime and a touristy outing with my friend Briana.  We went to a huge palace and drank some "traditional Korean tea."  It was sweet and thick and had pine nuts and fruit floating around in it.  A bit strange really, but not bad.  I will be posting another blog in the next week or so because I have been invited to a coworkers wedding this Saturday and I have a feeling that it will be worth writing about.














Monday, September 26, 2011

The Smog Sure Looks Beautiful From Hwaseong Fortress

Through the magic that is facebook I was able to meet with Briana, and old friend who I met in a sociology class freshman year at Chapman University.  Neither of us have a phone but somehow we managed to find each other in this city of 10 Million plus people. 

We decided to do something that the Internet had said was beautiful and free, Hwaseong Fortress.  We took the metro in an embarrassingly indirect rout that took us nearly 3 hours.  After spending a good chunk of the day on the metro we were both super hungry so we stopped at a food place that had fake models of the food outside so that we had an idea of what we were getting.  The menu was in Korean so we ordered Bibimbap for safety reasons.  It was delicious and only 4,500 won (about 4 bucks).  After eating we walked about 10 more minutes looking for the fortress before we saw a  huge wall and wandered our way in.  The fortress was built in the late 1700's and it was my first experience seeing an old Korean historical site that wasn't tucked between skyscrapers (although they were still in the background). 

Overall it was a pretty great weekend and it was fun catching up with Briana and talking about our experiences the first few weeks in Seoul.  More adventures to come. 

And as usual some photos for the readers.