1 week, 4 countries

9 03 2010

You know, when you travel it’s hard to keep things like blogs updated. However all the walking and doing stuff tends to lead to exhaustion and demotivation with blogs.

So, where are we and what are we doing? Let’s work backwards from now covering the past week.

2 hours ago we arrived in Veliko Tarnovo by train. Where? Basically it’s central Bulgaria. We took the overnight train from istanbul which leads up into Bucharest, but decided to head on to Bucharest in a few days time. The trip itself was a bit odd. Getting woken at 3 am to jump off the train for immigration was odd. The fresh snow on the ground was nice but sooooo cold at 3am. A bit of time getting a passport stamp leaving turkey then onto the duty free store to buy the conductor 2 cartons of cigarettes. He isn’t. Allowed to buy them himself but since he was nice and helpful and I was not exactly awake I agreed.

Next was the Bulgarian immigration. At least this time they did this on the train. Still it was an hour or so after the Turkish version. All finished at about 4.30am. About the time the train heaters stopped working. It was snowing out and felt cold enough in for the same.

Awaking about 10am from a fitfull sleep I was given a large brandy by the guy in the cabin next to us, and a horrendous instant coffee by the conductor. Arriving in Veliko Tarnovo our promised lift didn’t materialize, but a quick call to the hostel and we were in a cab.

Before Veliko Tarnovo we spent 3 nights in Istanbul. Wonderful city. Possibly my favourite out of all those I’ve visited. Nowhere else is there that much mindblowingly cool stuff to see and do. The blue mosque, the hagia sofya, hippodrome, bosporus etc. Added to that, we caught up with ex-taebaekian Rebecca who is living and working in Istanbul. It was so nice to just relax for a few days and not have to do all of the touristy stuff as we did most things while we were here last time around. That’s not to say we sat in the hotel and watched tv. Anything but. Rebecca took us out to a few places that were much more local. Local to the point of getting stuck in hours of traffic. Of well, it was great fun.

Before Istanbul we spent a few days in Frankfurt. Why did we fly all the way to frankfurt and then back to Istanbul? Simple. We used frequent flyer points for the tickets and Asiana don’t fly to Istanbul.

Frankfurt was a bit odd. It felt like quite a large city except seemed to be lacking big city people numbers. It was a fun place but isn’t a massive tourist city.

Hopefully soon I’ll have a bit of time to go thru the pics so far and post a few of them up.

Advertisements




The end is nigh

20 02 2010

It’s Sunday. In Seoul. Long weekend. Unemployed as of today. FREEDOM!!!!

What a week. I had thought that packing up our lives in Sydney was one of the hardest things to do. Yes it was hard but nothing like packing our Korean lives up. That was physically and emotionally draining on all levels.

When we left Sydney we thought we were only leaving for one year. We would be back soon and would see all our family and friends again relatively soon. One year turned into over three but we have returned to Sydney multiple times, seen the people and places. Packing up and leaving Korea feels so much more permanent. We won’t come back in a few months to settle back in. We might not see any o our friends , Korean and foreign, again. We won’t be able to visit Seoul for the weekend again. It’s much more permanent a move his time around. And that makes it so much harder to do.

The past week has been a blur of packing and sending some things home. Sending much more to the bin. Selling some things online and some to friends in town. Every night was a farewell dinner of some kind. Teachers dinners, dinners with Korean friends and their families, dinners with the foreigners, generally saying goodbye to everyone. Much more difficult than leaving Sydney ever was. I guess as foreigners finding our place in a small country town we have put down deeper roots than most. Still, I wouldn’t change any of it. Comingto Korea was the best decision we ever made.

Next. Mmmmm. Next. First is frankfurt for a few days. Then on to Istanbul for a few more and then we head west. Wear until west is finished. And then, who knows.





Jeombagee and his photo collection

5 02 2010

Jeombagee. You know Jeombagee right?

No? Thats terrible.

This is Jeombagee

Snow Leopard

He is our little Leopard / Cheetah that we travel with. Our students have got attached to him, so we travel with him, take photo’s and use them in class as part of activities.

He was so popular we ended up having to acquire extra backup Jeombagee’s.

What does the name Jeombagee mean? Its a Korean word, meaning “spot”, as in spots on an animal. He was thusly named by a group of elementary students at a camp we taught at, and has been famous in schools in Taebaek ever since.

I’ve got a few pics queued up for posting on flickr from all over the place. He’s visited Korea, China, Japan, Fiji, Hong Kong, Australia, India, Turkey, Taiwan and probably a few others I can’t think of right now.

Check my flickr page out for more pics. I’ll try to post a new one every day or so.

Hungry Jeombagee
Jeombagee and the Kangaroo Pizza
Inflight Jeombagee
Jeombagee in the sun
Kitty Kong and Jeombagee

He is starting to show his age. Not bad for a BOGOF (Buy one get one free) special at our local Home Plus supermarket.





Peculiar Places of Korea: Penis Park

4 12 2009

Thirty(ish) minutes South of the port town of Samcheok, you can discover one of the strangest places in Korea. Haesindang, or Penis Park. Why is it called “Penis Park” you might ask? Easy. Its full of statues of Penises.

Penis Park, Samcheok

We are not talking one or two of them, but hundreds, some highly elaborately carved out of huge tree’s.

Penis Park, Samcheok

Penis Park, Samcheok

Why does this place even exist? Being Korea, there’s a legend behind it. Instead of trying to paraphrase, I’ll just copy and paste from the Korean Tourism Page on the subject.

Legend of Aebawi and Haesindang – There once lived a young maid who was engaged. One day, the maid took her husband’s boat out to sea to harvest seaweed. Her husband dropped her off at a rock that was at a distance from the beach. After promising to pick her up later, he returned to the beach to do his work. Later, the weather changed, and brought with it strong winds and pummeling waves. The man couldn’t rescue his wife and she ultimately drowned. Since then, the village people caught no fish and some said that it was because of the dead maid. To soothe the spirit of the dead maid, the village people made several wooden carvings and held religious ceremonies on her behalf. After a while, the fish slowly returned and the villagers were able to live comfortably again. The place where the maid died was named Aebawi Rock and the building where the religious ceremony is held twice a year was named Haesindang. The ceremony is still honored today as a traditional folk event.

Since then, its turned into a kind of outdoor art sculpture garden dedicated to the, well, penis.

Penis Park, Samcheok

Penis Park, Samcheok

Penis Park, Samcheok

Thats not all. Everything is penis themed. We even have a water fountain style thing that moves up and down by the power of water.

Penis Park, Samcheok

Strange?

More odd are the museum style outdoor exhibits, showing how Koreans used to live and work. Similar to many folk village exhibits except for one small (large?) detail. Guess.

Penis Park, Samcheok

We also have the 12 signs of the zodiac done as penises. Each granite statue is carved with the relevant animal and exhibited in a circle looking out over the water. (This pic is actually a huge mega panorama. 15 shots stitched together, so click it and have a look. Beware if your computer is slow or your have a slow internet connection, it might take a while.)

Twelve Penises of the Zodiac

If you come to Korea, I’d recommend this place. Its one of the nicest parks, in a stunning part of the country. Yes its a good long way from Seoul, but worth it.





Jojawar, small but fabulous. Day 7.

1 12 2009

Between Udaipur and Pushkar we stopped for a night in the small village of Jojawar. By far the smallest place on our itinerary, it has maybe 8000 residents. Its nice, small and flat, easy to walk.

Road to Jojawar

On arrival into our hotel, we checked into the old place. It feels like 100 years ago it was a luxury palace hotel for the British, probably hunting. Now? Its feeling a bit run down but full of character. Rather nice place actually. Seems to be about the only place in town, probably as its a good stopping point on the way from A to B.

This girl met us out the front of the place and was more than willing to chat. Everytime we asked, she came out with a different name, seemingly enjoying verbally sparring with the tourists.

Girl of many names.

The town, small, cute and rural. Cows and animals have right of way.

Holy Cow! It's Sacred

Life in Jojawar

Streets of Jojawar

Restaurants of Jojawar

Some of my favourite Indian pics came from the town, it was just so nice with friendly people.

Mother and Baby

Mother and Daughter

The kids especially were fun. Not demanding money or things like kids in bigger cities, just much more fun and cheeky.

Toy Wheel.

Kids and their toys.

Kids, Kids, Kids

Can I have some please?

More interesting was the “shopping”. Being a small local village, there are no supermarkets, shopping centers or the like. Most produce seemed to be sold on street carts, with most of it looking extremely fresh and delicious. The fish however……Nowhere near the ocean and we didn’t see any big rivers.

Local Supermarket Owner

Local Supermarket

Tomato?

Would you buy this fish?

Would you buy this fish?

The night? Well, the restaurant “buffet” wasn’t the best, but sitting in the courtyard, playing cards, drinking beverages looking at this sunset? Amazing.

Jojawar Sunset





Monday monday monday I hate mondays

30 11 2009

Yurgh, Monday. Worst possible combination of things. The end of the weekend, the start of the work week and worse, 2nd grade students.

Making things worse, we didn’t really have a weekend. We worked a camp for 2 days. About 30 students, 1st and 2nd grade, boys and girls, too much candy and coffee. Fun fun fun. Actually it was fun, mostly.

The obvious problem when you take 30ish kids is that they separate into 4 distinct groups. 1st grade boys, 1st grade girls, 2nd grade boys and 2nd grade girls. Usually its an absolute struggle to get them to combine at all into any form of team. This camp was better than usual for that. All sorts of fun activities, games, movies etc were planned. We almost managed to stick to the plan too, however the study time for the kids really didn’t work out too well.

We’ve both worked many camps. We’ve learnt from past mistakes. We know not to even bother attempting to sleep at the same place as the kids as sleep is not what the kids want. Usually Sunday morning arrives, we roll up about 9am, the kids look like zombies. A few hours sleep if they were lucky. Ha ha ha. No sympathy here.

For me, the saturday was a struggle. I was off sick for most of Friday with a stomach bug (mental note, don’t drink blue powerade when you can’t keep anything down). Saturday I was completely drained, but the kids were fun and I struggled through. Sunday was shorter and better.

Today, Monday? The worst. I got about 4 hours sleep last night for no apparent reason. 2nd grade are the worst classes I have to teach. They are at that middle stage; the’ve been in the school long enough to think they know everything, they are not the youngest, but neither must they work hard to get into a good highschool. So they just drive me crazy. Evil munchkins, most of them at least. I can’t believe that my best students and my worst are all bundled together into 2nd grade.

Today also marks the start of the next course of my online uni stuff. This time round its “Managing the Transition to eBusiness”, which promises to be interesting but kinda awkward as I’m probably the only one participating who isn’t involved in any kind of online venture at all at the moment. Teaching kids is decidedly not eBusiness, about as far as I get towards eBusiness at the moment is internet shopping, something Korea leads the world in.

I also finally managed to get the “avante of power”, the car, in for its snow tyres. Probably should have done it a few weeks back but we’ve had no snow in a month and its been a busy busy month and I only just got round to it. Lets see what that costs this time around.





Udaipur, city of lakes and palaces. Days 5 & 6

8 11 2009

Continuing on from Kumbalgarh, it was about 80km into the town of Udaipur. Udaipur, the royal city of lakes and palaces is justifiably famous. Why?

Udaipur's City Palace

The city is built on and around Lake Pichola and contains a vast number of royal palaces. If you can remember the James Bond movie, Octopussy, you will remember part of this city. Much of it was filmed in the Lake Palace (now a hotel) and in the Monsoon Palace. While we didn’t get time to visit the Monsoon Palace, we could see it on top of a mountain just out of town.

Lake Palace and Monsoon Palace

When we arrived into Udaipur it was a challenge to get to our hotel. We were stuck in traffic for quite a while and only once we got close to our hotel did we find out that a large tree had fallen, taken out a wall and brought the power lines down, right out the front of our hotel. This also meant no electricity for a few hours. It’s India, no big deal.

We initially went out to see some traditional Rajasthani dances. A short(ish) performance showcasing a range of different dances. Quite interesting.

Rajasthani Folk Dance

Rajasthani Folk Dance

The next morning we headed over to quite possibly one of the most amazing palaces in India, the City Palace of Udaipur. This is the largest royal palace in Rajashtan and stunningly beautiful.

City Palace of Udaipur

Entering through the gateway in the street we came into a large courtyard, still with parking spots for elephants, now used by cars.

Udiapur Palace Gateway

Udaipur City Palace

Golden Face

Like most such places it has been partly turned into a museum. The guard was rather proud of his moustache and happily posed for photos.

Mr Moustache

More pics from within the City Palace

Indian God's

Screened Tower

Need a Hand?

The next day we ventured out onto the lake for a cruise. The centrepiece of Udaipur, it gives great views of all the famous sights as well as superb photo-ops.

Lake Pichola Panorama

Gnats on Lake Pichola

Udaipur City Reflections

Our boat dropped us at one of the floating hotels, so we could wander, take pics and pay exorbitant prices for drinks. The option was there for dinner but not at those prices.

Smoking Elephant

Cats Royal Box

Reflections of a Lake Palace

Sunset came quickly with us still on the lake.

Lake Palace Sunset

Sunset over Lake Pichola