Archive for the 'Fun and Games' Category

Time capsule village and assorted other stuff

Monday, August 16th, 2010

First one of the “other stuff”
Some people I’ve been in contact with know that I’ve been bitching a lot about the lack of air conditioning in this house. This has been rectified.

We have A/C. Glorious A/C!
I can work in our office with a shirt on (to much relief of our neighbours I should think) and can now wake up/go to sleep dry. Going outside daily still means I go through 2 shirts a day, but inside our house is now as much a haven as the subway, 7/11 or any number of random other places here.

The reason I like the A/C isn’t the temperature difference. Really, between on and off is 3-4 degrees difference. No, what makes the difference is the humidity decrease.
Now, when I lived in the Netherlands I always assumed we had humid summers. I survived a 2 month assignment on a Queensland farm after all and working in 45 degrees (in the non-existent shade) was no exception. Make sure you cover up your fragile skin as much as possible, lather up on the exposed bits and hydrate. Don’t get me wrong, it was hot. But, as I hear my friend from New Mexico echoing in my mind now “It’s a DRY heat”. The Netherlands may, at one point in the last century, actually have gotten above 40 degrees. Perhaps even twice. Mostly though we have mid 30s in our summers. But it’s a lot harder being productive in that heat than it ever was in Oz. It was the humidity.

Then I came to Korea, installed A/C and after 4 hours of running the damn thing this was what our condensation run-off looked like:

That’s a 18.9 liter container. 4 hours of running it and it took that much water out of our air. I still have to empty the thing every 2-3 days now.
Usually people have the run-off outside, but the positioning didn’t allow for that, so we have this. My initial idea was to put a plant under it. I don’t think waterlilies could withstand that much water.

Another notable difference in the weather here and back home is that the heart of summer will sometimes last as long as 3 weeks there. Then the weather gets crappy again. It’s been 3 months here, and we’ve only just reached the worst part of the summer I’ve been told. Oh man.

Next on the list: The time capsule village.

It was a hot and lazy Sunday afternoon when I concluded I hadn’t really done anything touristy in a month. There wasn’t enough time left in the day to go to the area with the palaces, but on the other side of the mountain/park we live on is the Namsangol Hanok Village, featuring “Timecapsule square” which I’m sure gives you more of an idea what the village is about.

Let me first point out the deep, deep sense of authenticity they strive for:

popcorn â‚©1,000. Hell yeah

The park was pretty good. It reminded me of a park we visited in Tokyo, it was with the vulcanus crew, before we took the boat to Asakusa, maybe someone remembers and has pictures of it online. Despite that I draw your attention to it, I don’t actually have any pictures to substantiate this claim. It is surrounded by city, but obviously distant, and that makes for a nice sanctuary feeling

Nice relaxing greeneries if you don’t look beyond the treeline though

And the village itself offered workshops in straw braiding

fan decoration

and many other things.

A different aspect of Korean culture, and one anyone that has ever experienced will agree with, is that rules in Korea are guidelines. Traffic lights are suggestions, striping and lanes are hardly adhered to, and signs are . . . . well, pretty.

The rest of the pictures can be found here.

The last major subject of interest is Orion.

There’s not a lot of good pictures of him yet, but we proudly present the newest addition to our family:

Orion is a Shetland Sheepdog/Sheltie of about 1 year old. We’ve had him for a week now and as an anniversary present we took him back to the vet to have his nuts removed. Lucky dog, getting adopted by us. But it’s the reason for the cone around his head. He’s not allowed to lick/chew/scratch/mouth his stitches.

He’s a sweet dog, obviously been trained before as you can see by the following exchange:

Wally: Sit
Wally: Sit
Wally: Sit!
Wally: SIT!
Wally: Ancheyou
*Orion sits*

Because why would a Korean dog be trained in English. Duh. He is a smart dog and has started adapting to English commands. He still has some weird shit left over from living in a cage for 1-2 months being walked once a week, but he’s getting along. He’s obviously a smart dog, knows when you want something, though he’s not always sure what you mean(Seriously, our Korean sucks). Wouldn’t leave the room when we got him, which I think was trained in his last life and: Poops against trees. In a country where you have to pick up after your dog if they poop on the street that’s not a minor thing. Also, I never removed any of his surgery gauze, but he got his cone of when we were out for a bit and did it himself. Gotta keep an eye on him till those stitches are removed it seems.

Pretty much all things have been positive except the early morning walks in the rain; the so called Dark side of dog ownership, the pooping in the room during his post-anesthesia recovery and the baby talk Raphaelle uses to addresses him.

We’ll get more pictures of him over time, some in more natural environments and hopefully soon enough pictures of him without a cone around his neck as well. In some future blogpost I’ll post more pictures and explain why we got this one in more detail.

And I’ll end this blogpost with a picture of one of the other animals Orion shares this house with. Bugs are kinda numerous here I’m afraid.

And in an unrelated matter. If you were to look at the picture numbering in the folders you’ll see it’s gone from 99XX to 00XX. This is the 2nd time it’s done that. 20.000 pictures taken :D. The camera still performs well, with the exception that it now chugs batteries.


Quote of the day:

My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am

– Anonymous

Japanese holiday

Monday, July 19th, 2010

So, the Koreans won’t tolerate me for more than 3 months. We therefor headed to our old flame: Japan. We would land at Kansai airport, and Koya-san, an old destination of ours, is just a couple 10s of km east of there.
Unfortunately, there’s also some mountain stuff in between there, so we had to go to Osaka before we could go down to there. Which made our very efficient flight/travel plan somewhat less efficient.

We flew from Inchon airport with an overbooked plane. This cause many many problems and resulted in us getting businessclass seats.
Karmarific. Lotsa legroom, good service. I can get used to that.
Then there was the trainride. Nice view, good on time and it was just past nightfall when we were dropped off by our accommodation by the free bus. The free bus was free because we only had big bills and the bus didn’t accept those.
Youth Hostels are the same the world over . . . . or are they

Real rice paper walls though, which meant that we could hear the neighbour snore as well as in any dormroom the world over 😛

Last time I went to Koya san it was packed with tourists, but last time had been a weekend. Turns out that even in summer Koya san is all but deserted by tourists during weekdays. If you ever visit this place, go on a weekday. Serene mountain monasteries come off better without crowds of tourists.

The first day we went for a hike in the peaks surrounding the temples. As women weren’t allowed in this very sacred site this was as close as female pilgrims could come to this place fro centuries. The hike started pleasantly

But it’s important to remember karma can be a bitch.
First there was a bit of this:

And then there was going down the mountain as fast as we could hoping lightning wouldn’t strike us or too near us (It didn’t oblige on the last bit) and definitely not getting the camera out for it would drown. While initially pausing for the storm to pass on the very top of the mountain, I said it would likely stop the moment we got down.

This . . . is my sock

We took off the sock, the moment we got back to civilization.
As you can tell, the rain had stopped.
2 minutes before
This is a book we borrowed for the trip

One which we will certainly replace for the owner btw.
There were 3 books in the bag at the top of the mountain.

Next time we go hiking, we’re checking weather reports.
And so, the next day, with reports indicating mostly clear skies, we set of on Saturday to hike from Koya-san to kudoyama.

A very pleasant hiking experience at times

with many bits of wildlife on the way down

And at least 3 snakes and many many spiders which didn’t make it to film.

The trail we walked has been hiked for many many many years. Centuries even, which makes the path somewhat . . . .well trodden and slightly eroded at times

It was usually well cared for

Though not always kept to its original purpose

Usually dangerous to get off the path

and many many other things. I’ll leave you with a link to the album.

We arrived after 9 hours of hiking at the bottom of the hill with just enough cash left to buy tickets to Osaka.
Last time we were in Japan we had bank cards and mobile phones which all worked there.

This time we spent 1 hour walking around after bank closing times looking for an ATM to accept our damn foreign cards already. Citibank Japan didn’t accept citibank Korea, and from there on it was an uphill struggle getting anything to accept our Dutch/French cards.

We eventually got cash, a place to sleep and the first restaurant we walked into was a damn Korean restaurant. 3rd one did the trick though and we fell in to an exhausted slumber.

The next day was spent in Osaka, lounging and getting back to the airport. Where we were told there were no seating arrangements, but there were problems with me entering Korea. Eventually they did let us on the plane, but we were removed from our bulkhead seats because we had seat 20. Karma was back with a vengeance.

We arrived just fine and I’ll leave you with a picture of one of the things that makes Japan great:

A wasabi kitkat.

And just in case Sarah reads this blog:


Quote of the day:

What in the world was running through that warped, evil scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements.

– Yossarian

How Korea impacts our lives #2

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

After our first installment the impact didn’t just stop.

#1, Sitting.

Sitting is hard. Most of us have been spoiled with chairs growing up and even those of us that have know of the uncomfortable chair and all the different forms and guises it comes in.

In Korea, luckily, we’ve not had any run-ins with these uncomfortable chairs. One comes to our place and will notice we have no chairs. No furniture of any kind actually*.
This is what makes sitting hard. We have no chairs, so we sit on the ground. But we work/play/lounge/watch with laptops. which we precariously balance on different parts of our anatomy.
There’s the knee-hop, which is comfortable, but not very stable
There’s the doggy style, which is very stable but results in significantly less screen time for the “dog”
There’s one leg out stretch, which isn’t stable but can easily be held in place with one hand and has a low maintenance threshold.
There’s . . . well, you get the pictures, a hundred different ways in which laptop operating can be accomplished.

When sitting in unusual positions it has happened to all of us that blood flow gets cut off. We’ve all stood up to the feeling of millions of little pins and needles shooting through our veins. If we were lucky we’ve never had to get up to a completely non-responsive leg followed swiftly by an amusing (hopefully) and not too painful (again, hopefully) crash to the ground.

So why do I mention this . . .  well, it seems knee-hop is very comfortable . . .
But only until you try to get up.
You’ve had sleeping legs from sitting incorrectly?
You’ve had sleeping arms from your partner lying on your arm while hugging them?
Execute the knee-hop incorrectly and have a sleeping penis!**

Also, turns out that the knee-hop puts my belly in contact with the audio plug opening bits, putting me under constant low-voltage

#2, Jaded

We’re it.
I see people’s reaction to stuff here and it’s 7 kinds of awesome.

Look, look, look. They make plastic versions of their food so you can see what you get!!!!!!
Japan had that.

DAYUM, would you look at the way that girl is dressed??????
tbh, it’s just short. It’s not even any kind of crazy.

OHmahgad, the subway is so clean and it runs on TIME!!!!!
OK, admittedly, that is kinda nice. But they don’t run as often as the Tokyo network. And not as on time as the Swiss.

Fashion victim hikers
I’d be shocked, but only mild amusement fills me as Europe/America has its share of couples with matching bikes and *shiver* anoraks.

The food, it is so exotic
Really? I mean, we’ve lived in other places in SE asia, it’s just rice, little vegetables, meat/fish and hotsauce. Lotsa hotsauce.

None of the women here EVER go out in public without make-up
Yeah, but at least some of em don’t wear heels. You’d never see a Japanese woman without foundation either. In Korean faces it’s just easier to see as the heads don’t wobble so much.

Men here wear shiny suits
A friend of mine got married in one of those.

#3, The bread.

Korea, Korea. You’ve come from pretty basically a 3rd world country, earning less than €1,- per capita on average, to what you are now in only half a century. On your road here you’ve had help, you’ve had examples, you’ve had role-models.
You’ve learned so much from the Americans . . .
Including those thing you really should have asked to the French or the Dutch.
I have it on some good authority your cheeses are bad duplicates of American cheese . . .  BAD duplicates of what are already considered bad cheeses.
And the bread . . . your staple for that is based on wonderbread . . . really?

What we won’t suffer for our lifestyle. Wonderbread . . . .

#4, We’re getting fit.

Well . . . fitter. I haven’t gotten all my sport moments planned in yet, but I went from living in Holland, with a verticle gradiant of some  0.004, to living some 100 metres vertical above our metro/bus station. We travel back and forth to this bus/subway station once a day, sometimes twice.
Raphaëlle also experiences this, but she refuses to write funny blogposts about it. Though she uses a few choice words with me to describe it.

#5, Our English, it is improving.

Which might be considered odd. In Japan we were surrounded by the Japanese and the Japanese fiercely adhere to Engrish.
The Koreans aren’t any better or worse than the Japanese in this, or at least, not that we can tell. Slightly different accent, maybe a bit better/worse at the language itself.  The T-shirts are about as funny/comprehensible. Yet, here . . . our English improves.

You see, most of our friends are waeguks.
And it seems 80% of waeguks here are either GI or English teacher. For some reason we have yet to fraternize with any American General Infantry types (Though we met an Army wife) which makes ALL our friends English teachers.
They use big words too.
And can explain their proper usage.
Leery, wary with a negative connotation. New word learned.

Now, if we could only get around to doing that with Korean.




* Written on the day we’re having a closet and a bookcase delivered
** Being of male gender helps with this fascinating new experience.


Quote of the Day:

I am like a taxidermist, I’ll mount anything.

– T-shirt of woman on my commuter train in Japan

11th Korean Queer Culture Festival

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

And Korea’s first World Cup football game. But we’ll get to that later.

As a member of the press, well, at some point I had been, it was of course my duty to report on this event.

To be honest it started out on a low note. A low note for the festival, but a high note for us. It has been 30+ degrees in Seoul for a while now and it’s annoying the crap out of me. I am having problems sleeping, concentrating and moving for periods of time longer than 2 minutes (I have a LOT of sweatglands it turns out). The morning of the Festival was marked by rain. Lots of rain. The temperature in our bedroom went from 31 degrees the night before to having to find a blanket at 06:00, evening out at 22 degrees. Heaven-sent. Though it would prove to be annoying later on.

Rain ruins a gay festival as fast as tears ruin a drag-queen’s makeup, as a friend said. And indeed the turnout had been a lot smaller than the organizers had imagined.

There were some snags getting you these pictures as I was filling out the details on my press pass. If EUROAVIA gets any gay propaganda btw . . .  sorry. Korea isn’t a place where you can freely step forward as gay. And a lot of people don’t take kindly to having their pictures put on the internet in relation to homosexuality as it may impact their lives (Getting fired for this is still commonplace apparently). There’s someone who wrote a little something about the ethics of blogging a while ago, and this may be a good point to refer to that post. Blatantly posting the pictures I took could harm these people’s lives, even if we think the reasons for that are silly/outdated/whatever.  If you are currently blogging from some place where freedom of expression isn’t guaranteed and you post pictures of someone painting an anti-government banner a lot worse can happen to them than getting fired.

Before you take pictures, please ask if it is OK for the people on the pictures.
Blur out people’s faces if you do post them.
You are not free to sell your pictures to other media (newspapers etc)

The blurring out does not apply to those stars that are known to be gay. Though I only thought to look up who these people were after I’d pixelated Seok-Cheon Hong’s face already.

The opening wasn’t terribly exiting though we got to see the afore mentioned Seok-Cheon Hong dancing without his shirt in the rain. I’ve seen far, far less attractive men dance :D. In the mirror, for instance.
It was hard to see though, through the umbrellas.

I won’t post any pictures of the floats and the parade as there’s too much blurring to be done and you end up with a picture-soup. Some debate regarding the feminist implications of the two (supposed) lesbian dancers. Though it might just have been a ploy to lure in straight men. We’ll need to look into the porn culture here (Hoozah, cultural relevance to porn found!!!!) before we can judge on that.

After the parade we ended up back at the stage and we thought we’d seen pretty much all there was to see. We were about to leave to have dinner when these guys took the stage.

We thought they were just the cutest thing we’d ever seen. Hopping about and doing little cat/rabbit paw things on the rhythm of some K-pop.

Little did we know they were about to be followed by these adorable little guys grooving away to Oh Mickey – Toni Basil and Girls Generation

I’m sure there are heaps and heaps of things to say on why this is . . . homosexually immature. Compared to the Netherlands where the vast majority of homosexuals hold 9-5 jobs and watch Lingo at the end of the evening it was terribly interesting to see this kind of energy released at showing you’re gay. Good for you.

But all good things come to an end. Especially when your stomach is growling and food will be served at your local watering hole showing Korea’s first World Cup game vs Greece.

I won’t tell you who won. These are the photos from the bar:

Really, do I even have to tell you?
Poor Greeks, after that economic disaster they’re going through to be thrashed like this.

Had it not rained I’d’ve taken in the game at City Hall which looks something like this in good weather with a match on. Maybe thursday.


As the more perceptive amongst you may have noticed there’s been an addition to my pages. That’s at the top right corner, if you’re wondering. Next to the photo archive, which will continue to show the pictures of my life until Seoul, there is now also “Pictures of Now” which will be showing the pictures I put online now.
I split the photo pages for 2 reasons:

  1. The size of the photo archive has surpassed several hundred megabytes (The actual pictures of Japan alone need 2 DVDs, and my camera is only a 3.2 megapixel one) and the program I use needs to ascertain if things have changed since the last upload. This is good, as it fixes errors automatically and allows for easy changes to be made. However, it is currently spending some 20 minutes scanning for these changes before uploading the new content, which was getting annoying.
  2. I lost some of the original photos. I made 2 backups. 1 on a mobile HD and 1 on DVDs and I was sloppy in doing the latter. The mobile HD didn’t survive the trip here (though I’m taking it to a store to see what can be salvaged) so I’m short 3 trips worth of original photos. As I no longer have them, the program doesn’t recognize the need for them to be online anymore. Had I added Seoul to the old archive it would have removed those trips.

Next to the photos of this last weekend some of the pictures of earlier weekends and random forays, including the very visual but completely not blogged about Buddha’s Birthday parade. As I likely won’t blog about it either I’ll give you this little description of it and then you’ll have to decide for yourselves if you want to click that link. It took 2.5 hours from the first people in the parade to the last to pass our vantage point. 2.5 hours of parade in that folder. Well . . . 2.5 hours and 4 sturdy AA batteries worth of parade at least.

This is Wally, signing off, leaving you with a picture of the moon that shone down on us that day

The right side of the street

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

What side of the street do you walk on?

For most of us, that’s answered by a full mouthed ‘Right’. For the right is the only right side of the street.
Or is it? The side of the street on which you walk is a matter of place and time.

When I was a kid I learned basic road safety in the Netherlands. Meaning, you walk on the right side of the road, cars move on the right side of the road and bicycles move on the right side of the road. From the outside in: Pedestrians, Bicyclists, Motorists.
It was on a bike I first broke this rule. I was fast and sleek, neigh unstoppable was I, on my bike, and the traffic rules certainly didn’t apply to I.
I don’t specifically recall whether I got an earful for that behaviour, but I suppose I should have. And it’s strange therefor that the likely culprit of that earful was the man who introduced me to walking on the left side of the road.

You see, when everyone transports themselves on the same side of the road, the slowest transporter (the walker) will have everything coming from behind him at, in some cases, frightening speeds quite close to oneself. At that time (6-9 years old) I wasn’t well known for walking in a straight line, or keeping my attention focused on relevant things (like speeding cars) and would often, unexpectedly, move sideways into the path of an oncoming bike/car. I have never been like this, but there’s a few instances of word-use not fit for my virginal ears done by heavily swerving bicyclists that stand out in my memory.
If, on the other hand, as a pedestrian you walk on the left side of the street you are still in a spot reserved for pedestrians (the side of the road) and you can see things hurtling towards you prompting you to pay attention, where, had they come from behind, they might’ve caused me a nasty little surprise.

In England and Japan (India, South Africa, Indonesia etc), walking on the left hand side of the street, or, as we call it, the wrong side of the street, is normal. The rule even. Well, mostly. I think I’ve mentioned once or twice in conversation (looking back through my posts I see I haven’t really blogged about it.) You see, in Japan you walk on the left side of the street. Cars go on the left side of the street. Bicyclists go . . .  well, there’s not really a set place for them.
Osaka is the big exception. In Osaka they walk on the right side of the street, cars still go on the left hand side of the street though. Can you imagine what that would be like, changing sides halfway through a country? I think there’s a half-British Island which does this somewhere. This causes a bit of a problem, because Osaka isn’t a really clearly defined concept. It just sorta edges out, like so many other metropoli/metropolae/metropoliseses? I lived about an hour outside of what can regularly be considered Osaka, but most of the people I lived with did work in Osaka. Meaning that half the people would walk on the right (those that visited Osaka regularly) and half would walk on the left (regular Japanese). It also meant that when I was hurtling down the hill I would never be sure what instinct would be most prominent in my dodgee. Would it move to the right or left. All in all, people just sorta walked . . . wherever.

Korea now, Korea is an interesting case. Korea drives on the right hand side of the road. But trains drive on the left, as this system was built when the Japanese ruled here. The metro system though, was built with French help, so that’s on the right hand side. Except on those stations where they connect to the railway where it’s left again. So . . . . that’s kinda confusing. The walking though. Walking is done wherever and that struck me as kind of strange. The only place you’ll see indicators which side to walk on is in the subway and it’s on the right. There’s actually a campaign about it now

You see, the Koreans used to walk on the left in the subway and on the street. But then a few years ago the government said that right was the way they’d now walk. So right is the side people now walk on. Except the ajoshi and ajoma (Old man, Old woman) who will damn well walk where they’ve always walked, even if that way was initially beat into them by the Japanese oppressors.
This means though, that as a weiguk (foreigner) you will now, no matter what side of the street you walk on, be walking on the wrong side of the street for someone.


Quote of the Day:

Work is the refuge of those that don’t have anything better to do

– Oscar Wilde

Raphaëlle and the Kitties

Monday, May 17th, 2010

It was a warm Saturday when Raphaëlle went to explore Seoul with her friend Wally.

It was a particularly nice day so the walk took them all the way to Hongdae. Which is a very long way indeed.

It was in Hongdae that they found many happy people, for Hongdae is a place where many happy people go

And it wasn’t long ’till Raphaëlle found out why people were so happy.


It was the Hello Kitty Café. And it made Raphaëlle very happy too. Hello Kitty Café was home to many kittys, proud kitties.


Sleepy Kitties


Active Kitties


And then there were the kitties Raphaëlle played with. But these kitties didn’t seem very interested


Poor Raphaëlle


Wherever she went the kitties just didn’t want to play with so many other people to play with


Other people went to great length to play with the kitties. Perhaps if Raphaëlle did the same?




And there was much cuddling and playing to be had by all.


Hongdae sure is a swell place. At the end of the night Raphaëlle went to sleep happy with kitty dreams waiting for her.

















Before getting home we had some nice flaming drinks


And saw what happens with people who can’t hold their flaming drinks and the effect that has on busy trains


P.P.S. a different perspective of Hongdae is given here


Life is hard, then you nap.

Cat law #6