Today was a really nice day and there is this cherry blossom festival going on around the city for these next two weeks and we decided to go out on the scooter to check things out. Well over at Eunpa park there weren't many blossom quite yet, but we did come upon this annual Learning Festival and had a pretty good time. It was pretty much just all these different booths set up from business around the city teaching you some things about their trade. This man works in Gunsan city hall and had his own private photographer following him around. He really was really nice to us and had a lot of fun watching Liji try out all of these taekwando moves in the following pictures. Afterwards he wanted to get a picture with us. This was actually the last thing that Liji got to do at this sweet taekwando demonstration booth but the pictures are out of order.
Putting out the flame without touching the candle.
Cutting through a piece of newspaper.
Liji is now about to punch through these "bricks"
Liji taking his shot with the Bow. There were a ton of different booths demonstrating a number of different things. We're not really sure what they were doing the hair and make-up demonstration for. Boiling Ramen nooddles in a cup sitting on a solar panel. We even got to eat a small cup of it.
Previously, (especially during the winter) quite often on a Saturday night Christina and I would find that we had absolutely nothing to do aside from watching a movie on the internet. Since that is not terribly exciting (less so since we decided that we would stop encouraging pirating by boycotting movies until they come out on video) we have tried to find other ways to keep occupied while still enjoying ourselves. We thought we had it fugured out when we discovered a really cool stationary store, but then we realized we do not have the self control to spend time looking at all of the cool stuff without buying it, so since then we have avoided the stationary store because it is too expensive for us. One of the first things that we discovered after coming to Korea is that big stores have samples of everything, you can try out food, toys, sports equipment, hand held massagers (which by the way are very relaxing, we hope the one we bought will work in the US) beds, pens, pencils, the list could go on and on but I think that you get the point. It is actually a great marketing strategy, we never would have bought the hand held massager if we couldn't have experienced the relxed bliss of using it. In the States you have to look at the picture on the box and wonder if the product lives up to the picture and description, but in Korea, you just try out the sample. E-Mart (I guess that would be close to what Wal-Mart is to America) is just across the street from us. We know from experience that the best time for food samples is Saturday afternoon around 4pm. They have so many samples that we go there when we are hungry instead of making dinner! But even when we go there, we still end up with almost a full evening ahead of us. So after we take care of the dinner portion of our date, we still have to find and activity. Recently we have been going farther afield, there is another chain store, Lotte-Mart, it's like E-Mart, only bigger. There are more food samples (last Saturday I ate a slice of raw octopus tentacle, it was suprisingly mild and with a texture kind of like beef, not really chewy like I thought it would be) and other items that are not found at E-Mart. On Saturday we were in the TV/recliner section of the store (just genius putting recliners in front of TV's on which they play the latest movies) and we saw some of those massage chairs, you know the ones that you sit in and they give you a massage. Well we sat down in two of them and pushed buttons until they started. AHHH! What bliss! A free 20 minute massage in front of the TV. Luckily for us we have no idea how to ship a recliner home, otherwise we would be out $1,600. But we do have a free date activity anytime we care to go over there.
A new LDS English Teacher showed up at church about 3 weeks ago and since that time we have been able to go over to his apartment and talk with him a bit about the experience that he is having so far. And I have got to tell you he has got it rough. We have had it so easy with our whole situation compared to what he’s got, and we feel so bad that we have been thinking that we may have gotten it bad by having a boss that is a little hard to deal with at times. Our apartment is about the same size as ours, but his front room has no furniture and he only has a mini fridge/freezer in his kitchen, so pretty much he can’t really do much cooking at home, and you can only barely see out his windows. I’m pretty sure I would have most definitely gone into some sort of deep depression if we had to live somewhere like he has for a year. Our apartment has pretty wallpaper and is just so much brighter and home-ier. He is getting paid less than us and he has been at work for the last few weeks from about 8am-8pm everyday and his first Saturday here because it was parent-teacher conferences; whereas we have our whole morning free and haven’t had to work any Saturdays. He isn’t supposed to start until 11 something but his boss wants him coming in early this first little while so he can observe other teachers. He has to write these long lesson plans for each class and he said his boss has been really getting onto him about making them long enough; he’s had to re-do a lot of them. She wants him to write down every single question that he is going to ask the students during class. We barely write down about 2 sentences for each class in our log book that we have every day. We are pretty worried about him, because he is getting pretty fed up with everything and he is working with about 6 other foreigner teachers who aren’t members of the church and go out to drink a lot. He’s told us how they’re always pressuring him to drink and saying that he’s going to be drinking before he leaves here. We really want to get him heavily involved in doing stuff with the members of the military branch before we leave, so he can have that support and good friends to do things with like we have had. It would be really hard to come over here single. Pretty much we are really grateful for the experience that we have had.
This week our boss officially bought our tickets home and she actually paid for the whole thing. Even our 10 day detour in Honolulu. We thought we would end up paying some sort of difference and that was our original plan to present to her. But my Dad gave us the idea of just showing her the full trip with a stop in Honolulu, which was priced at $981 and then showing her the price of just a straight shot to Salt Lake City, which was $970 and tell her we would rather do the one with the stop in Honolulu because that is where my family will be She said she would pay for the whole thing going through Honolulu!! We were so happy and grateful that she would be so generous to us on our way home. We have had some really tough times trying to communicate effectively with our boss, have felt very uninformed about must everything, and especially tired of the frequent last minute schedule changes to our classes but over the last few weeks we have gained a great appreciation for the many good things that she has done for us. This month we took two trips to Seoul because next month the Temple will be closed for cleaning and that was just about all we could handle of the city for one month. The first Saturday of the month we drove with 2 others from the Branch and the last Saturday of the month we took the city bus there and back. Both trips were a success and far less stressful than last trips but it is just still never very much fun for us to be in that crowded of a place for very long. The traffic is always horrible and we are pretty sure that breathing the air there for one day is the equivalent of smoking four packs of cigarettes. It really is that bad. And you are constantly being pushed and shoved by people going either which way. The second trip when we were on our own we decided to take the subway to a shopping area that we like and had heard had a lot of ties. We did find the ties and Liji was in tie heaven. You would not believe the shopping here. I feel way too overwhelmed with the amount of choices in everything that I just have to give up and not buy anything. Liji isn’t patient enough to wait for me to finally make my choice and I don’t like to buy something without thinking it through for awhile and making sure I have seen all my options and that I am getting the best deal. Well there are at least 6 or 7 blocks in the area we were at that has these stores covering them that each go up at least 6 or 7 stories. Pretty much whatever it is you are looking for, whether it’s shoes, ties, suits, nightgowns, underwear, pants, shirts, dresses, accessories, handbags, hair things, Korean traditional dress, bedding, fabric, buttons, crafts, ect.; you can find a whole floor a block long of just that item. It is insane!
These are all the sweet motorcycle/scooter guys that zoom past everyone else in traffic to the front of the light, and then all zoom off together just before the light turns green. It's so funny to watch. Plus they sure know how to pack their scooters right:)
This next picture is for the benefit of Myriah and Tara and any of the others of you that knew Liji during his short tie/single days.
As you can see Liji is seriously in tie heaven.
Last Friday was a really clear day, which happens very far and in between here in Korea, because of the smog. So because of that I got an early morning wakeup call from Liji asking that I get up so we could drive over to Oh Sung San Mountain and get some clear pictures of the city. Well I got up and I’m really glad we went over because we really did get some great pictures. I didn’t even think that you could even really see the city from where we were because the past times that we have hiked that mountain you couldn’t see the city at all and I thought that it was pretty sunny and clear on those days. I guess that’s how much I’ve adjusted to the smog here and not being able to see more than 20 feet ahead of you. When you can see just 50 feet ahead of you I think it’s a clear day, when it’s really not. Well this was a really good day. This same day our first Elder here in Gunsan; Elder Truehaft was also here in the city with his companion because Elder Jeong had to do a day of his Korean Military service and Elder Brassfield couldn’t find someone available to do splits with him all day. We were really excited to be able to see Elder Truehaft again. In the morning they invited us to go to Wolmyoung Park with them to make some contacts. It happened to be a sunny day and they were able to get a few phone numbers which was good. Lotte Mart had half off at their Food Court so we all stuffed ourselves there. Pretty much everyone ordered 2 different meals because it was so cheap and there were 5 of us so we could barely fit everything on our table, but it was good.
Also this month the members of the Korean Ward decided to start up reading the Book of Mormon in English together every Saturday at 4:00 so we’ve been going there to help out with pronunciation when we have been in the city. It’s great for us because they have a meal together afterwards and their food is always really good. The Korean Ward has been really strengthened in the last year. They haven’t had any baptisms from this particular city, but they have had some strong member families move into the area just recently and there has just been a huge change in the ward since we first got here. Our first Sunday last June there were only about 21 people and just this last Sunday there were 43 people! It’s doubled. The atmosphere of love and friendship is just so strong; it’s awesome. Here's Liji taking two of the kids from the Korean ward home after they showed up on their own(their parents both work Saturdays) for the weekly Saturday English Book of Mormon reading class. But it was cancelled due to all the other members going to a stake activity in Jeonju. We happened to be at the church sitting in a discussion with the Elders so Liji offered to drive them home. I just had to get a picture of all three of them on there. They do this a lot here.
Now that Winter is coming to a close and we have acquired so much stuff while being here we have boxed up our Winter clothes to send home. It is so weird that in just 2 short months this whole Korean experience will be coming to a close. It will probably be the most Bitter/Sweet Moment of my Life. When I think of saying goodbye to the students and our Korean friends I am close to tears, but when I think about being back in the US, and being with family again I’m ready to jump on the next plane out.