Category Archives: Korea

I Have Scaled These City Walls…

Lifted some stones, saw the skin and bones
Of a city without a soul
I went out walking

The trenches dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
Torn apart.

“You love this town
Even if that doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over

A city lit by fireflies.”

Continue reading

Adventures in Jeju: Don’t Feed the Dragon

The last day found us splitting the party.  I know, it makes things more complicated, but they didn’t feel up to adventuring to Yongduam (용두암 “Dragon Head Rock”) and I wanted to see it.  So my wonderful wife and I took our leave of our companions after breakfast.  I don’t think they traveled very far from where we left them (until it was time to go to the airport).  In contrast, we traipsed along and under streets, through parks, and over streams in the course of our adventuring.

It was quite the walk to Yongduam!  We even passed by part of the airport on our trek.  Eventually we walked along the top of Yongyeon (용연 “Dragon ?”), a narrow gorge.  The stream below was a beautiful teal, but bits of trash drifted down it.  I wish I could be surprised.  Yet my time in Korea (and America) has shown me time and time again that people will litter pretty much anywhere, even in places of beauty, and public places suffer for it (I was writing this in a notebook while waiting for a bus and counted several cigarette butts).  Perhaps something similar to the principles of Leave No Trace needs to be taught in schools starting at an early age as well as encouraging more responsibility.  I’ll stop myself here, as this is a rabbit trail I would run a long ways down.

We followed the gorge to the sea.  The coastal road took us past many seafood restaurants.  It would have been fun to eat at one and sample some of the seafood caught locally but we weren’t hungry at the time.  We knew we had arrived at Yongduam when a viewpoint opened up before us on the seaward side of the road.  Some fishermen were fishing below us.  I know there’s a lot of waiting and downtime involved in fishing, but from where we were standing it definitely looked like one of the fishermen was resting and not paying attention to the poles.

While we could see planes landing at the airport a ways to our left and the massive hotels on the coast far to our right, the view of Yongduam wasn’t the best (it didn’t quite resemble a dragon’s head).  So we hiked down a nearby trail to get a different vantage point.  And then we could see the dragon’s head.  It really does look like a dragon rearing up.  There are several versions of the legend surrounding this unfortunate dragon who was turned to stone.  One has the dragon as an emissary of the dragon king sent to gather the elixir of youth from Hallasan and another has the dragon as grabbing on its flight to heaven the sacred jade belonging to the guardian of Hallasan.  Either way, these versions end with the guardian of Hallasan striking the dragon with an arrow and causing it to become transfixed in the spot where it fell.  Yet another version says that this was a cocky young dragon who longed to live in heaven rather than under the sea (since that is where the dragon king is often said to have his palace).  Despite the dragon king’s warnings against leaving the sea, the young dragon set out to fly to heaven.  But when his head emerged from the sea, his black body turned to stone.

Speaking of black dragons, 2012 was not just the year of the dragon in the Chinese/Korean zodiac.  It was also the year of the water (or black) dragon.  I just recently learned this, but in addition to the twelve zodiac animals (which left out the fox), there are also five elements/colours, making a larger sixty year cycle for each animal and element combination.  So I guess we picked a good year to visit Yongduam.

Besides the trash scattered about the spot where we got the best views of Yongduam, the other disappointing thing was that a Ramada hotel built a fair distance away lined up almost perfectly with the stony dragon.  So several of my pictures have an unsightly monstrosity intruding into them.  After a few shots where the hotel frustrated me with its presence, I decided to frame it in the dragon’s open mouth—they should know better than to feed wild dragons!


After finding an angle to take pictures of Yongduam without the hotel in the background we set out to explore more of Jeju city.  We crossed over Yongyeon on a suspension bridge, passed by a pavilion located on the spot where people in centuries past would come for music and poetry, and wandered through the central waterfront.  We discovered a mural that included a pair of wings for someone to stand between.  So my wife went ahead and did so!  At some point we stopped for lunch, which included mandu.  Mmm… mandu.  Our wanderings then took us along a seawall, though most of it was cordoned off at the time for what looked like repair/touchup work.

One of the places we stopped at was a replica of a Chinese refugee ship.  In short, refugees from China arrived in Jeju after sailing from China and strove to start a new life (I think they were escaping following the communist takeover).  It was a decent exhibit.  I tried to find the bending machine that a sign told me was there.  But apparently it was hidden from vulpine eyes–no bending techniques for me…  And outside of the replica ship were small models of a variety of ship types, which included a Viking ship and the Santa Maria for some reason.

Leaving the ships behind, we wandered up Sanjicheon, where we watched some birds in the stream.  Then came the rather empty covered shopping street.  There were plenty of stores, but there weren’t many people—I don’t blame them, as it wasn’t exactly the warmest of days.  We decided to venture a look down into the underground arcade.  People bustled about the few hundred shops.  At one end we found a small café and ordered honey bread and strawberry smoothies.  They were scrumptious with the honey bread being so soft and sweet and absolutely delectable.  I would have to put that honey bread on the highlights of our trip (it was that good).


The honey bread didn’t last, though we savored every bite.  Once it was fully devoured we set out for the airport.  The bus stop we waited at was near Gwandeokjeong (관덕정), which is supposedly the island’s oldest wooden structure.  Our guidebook says that it was built in 1448 and reconstructed in 1970, so I’m not really sure how old the structure was.  We also could have wandered in the old administrative complex, but as it looked rather similar to the other Joseon-era buildings we’ve seen, we decided to skip it and catch a bus to the airport.  At the airport we met up with our other party members and had a little to eat while waiting for our flight.  Some flights were delayed or cancelled due to the wintry weather, but ours didn’t seem to be affected too much.

The flight back to mainland Korea was pleasant.  When the plane landed it didn’t taxi to the gate because of the snow.  So we waited on the plane for buses to come to take us to the terminal.  It was rather exciting!  After that came the standard baggage claim and then airport limousine to Jukjeon.  I was a little worried that the bus would have trouble getting us home, but it didn’t, though we did have a cold walk at the end of our bus rides.  At least we had some clothes suited for colder weather that we could put to use!

So that was our Jeju trip!  I hope you enjoyed my recounting of our adventures.  Below are some pictures.

Adventures in Jeju: It’s Rainier Underground

Rain poured down on our umbrellas as we went in search of breakfast.  The rain had been expected, so we had already planned to spend the day at a lava tube and then maybe a museum, as that would keep us dry.  But as Robert Burns said, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / gang aft agley.”

Little did we know, as we ate breakfast at Paris Baguette (a Korean bakery chain that doesn’t always have the best-tasting baked goods…), that our plans would prove leaky.  So we ate our bread not worrying about what the day would bring.  (At this point I shall also point out that rainier in the title refers to the adjective and not the mountain in Washington.)

Continue reading

Adventures in Jeju: Magnets

Our fourth day of adventure found us in transit from one hotel to another. Before we left the hotel in Seogwipo City, we video called my wife’s siblings to participate in the treasure hunt they had set up for their parents.  We had one of their clues, so it was sort of important that we did so, though we also managed to eat breakfast at the same time.

The hotel we were going to was in Jeju City.  But rather than going directly to Jeju City, we took the scenic route.  There is a bus that travels along the eastern coast highway and we hopped on it, as we wanted to stop by Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산일출봉 aka Seongsan Sunrise Peak), which is on the southeastern coast.

Continue reading

Adventures in Jeju: Climbing out of this World

This was perhaps my favorite day of our whole trip, for we climbed Hallasan (한라산).  Though it wasn’t quite the departure from civilization as other hikes I’ve gone on, it was enough to feed my soul some of what I had been missing surrounded by the towering buildings of urban and suburban Korea.  And the snow-encrusted trees transported me to the worlds within my imagination.


But before we made it to the mountain, we journeyed in search of a bus in the shadowlands.  And that journey didn’t start until after my wife and I had called our parents on their Christmas.  I enjoyed being able to say hello and recounting some of what we had done so far.  Yet the time soon came for us to say farewell and set off to find a bus.

We wandered toward a traffic rotary in the northern part of Seogwipo, since that is where a bus was supposed to be, though once we found the rotary we had to figure out where the bus actually stopped, as it wasn’t at any of the bus shelters lining the sides of the rotary.  Fortunately there were some Koreans who sort of comprehended our English.  They pointed us a little south of the rotary to a bus “terminal” (it was more of a parking lot with a ticket booth nestled against a building).  We managed to find a bus that would take us to Jungmun, which was in the right direction.

Continue reading

Adventures in Jeju: Chocolate and Seashells

We awoke to a wonderful Christmas morning.  There weren’t many presents, as we were traveling, but it was rather pleasant to have a relaxing morning with my fabulous wife!  One of the presents I will mention is the soundtrack to the recent film of The Hobbit.  I was a happy as a hobbit at an all-you-can-eat buffet.


Once we had our Christmas breakfast (bought the day before from bakeries) and listened to rousing music, we set off on an adventure.  The start of which consisted of asking the hotel receptionist to call a taxi for us so that we could go to the chocolate museum several towns away.  Our party of four assembled, our transit secured, and our weapons, I mean cameras, ready, we embarked to places unknown (to us).

Continue reading

Adventures in Jeju: Arrival

Just sit right back and you’ll smash my tail, as I tell of a Christmas trip.  That started from this freezing place aboard a heated bus.  My mate is a clever vixen and I am rather silly.  Two others joined us that day for a six day tour, a six day tour.  The weather started getting warm, our travel was done.  If not for the space in our bags, we would have sweated.  We would have sweated.  The adventure on the ground of this pleasant Korean isle with Direlda, his mate too, a history teacher and his wife, the video camera, the notebook and many bags here on Jeju Isle.


Continue reading

Brief Vacation and an Anecdote

So I’m going on vacation for a few days and I haven’t quite finished writing about my adventures in Jeju over Christmas (nor have I started on the 2013 Special Olympics Winter Games adventure or a few other adventures between now and then)… ^_^;

Hopefully I’ll have those up sooner rather than later!  And while I will elaborate on my adventures this past Monday, I will tell you an amusing thing that happened to me.

I was wandering around Yeouido park, taking pictures and video, when a Korean woman wearing a bright orange vest ran up to me and asked if I had a mission card. O.O

What I heard at first was ‘admission card,’ since she looked like she might be someone working at the park, so I was a bit nervous, since I hadn’t seen anything indicating that I needed to pay to be in the park.  But as she repeated her query, I realized that she thought I might have some sort of mission for her.  Probably because a foreign fox stands out in Korea when they let their ears and tail be visible in public. :p

More and more Koreans in orange vests started showing up around me and they all wondered the same thing–did I have a mission for them?  After a while someone in their group spoke enough English to understand that I was just in the park for fun and that I didn’t have any mission for them.  While I’m glad I was truthful, a part of me wishes I had thought up something random to tell them to do…

I kept walking and a few minutes later two Korean men in orange vests came running up and asked if I had a mission for them. I told them no, so then one asked if I was a cosplayer, to which I responded, “sort of.”  Then they were off looking for whoever it was that had a mission for them.

Perhaps a minute later I was met by another group of Koreans in orange vests! And again was asked the same question. O.O   I told them no, but then they asked to take a picture with me.  Not sure if they understood or not, I reiterated that I didn’t have a mission for them, but they still wanted a picture with me.  So I agreed.

Two of them created two loops by linking their arms and had me put my legs through the loops.  They then hoisted me up and posed while a random person walking by was asked to take the picture.  They took a few pictures and then left.  At some point during that time I heard or saw mention that it was for the TV show, Running Man ( 런닝맨 ), so I’m fairly certain they were on the show.  I didn’t see any video cameras trailing any of the groups, but perhaps I’ll recognize the people whenever the episode airs.

Reminiscing on 2012

Anno Domini MMXII in caso admodo adveni.

Which translates to about: “In the Year of the Lord two thousand and twelve I went on quite an adventure.”  And indeed I did.

I started off 2012 in Cambodia.  In itself, that represents quite the adventure.  Seeing the ruins of Angkor Wat or mourning the injustices humans do to each other in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum each provide plenty of adventure.  But apparently not enough, for I had to go and get food poisoning not once, but twice! >.>   Yeah… I had a gut retching experience.  But at least I also got to fight off the hordes of mosquitoes with an electric racket before taking shelter in the mosquito netting.  And I got to watch mercury from a broken thermometer get washed down the drain in a bathroom, which was lacking in soap until my wife and her friends went and bought some, in a clinic with the air conditioning turned off for the holidays with no way to turn it back on and a state of cleanliness that left me wondering if I would leave with more problems than I entered with.  I really loved that clinic. :sarcasm:   At least most of the time the IV was putting saline solution into me and not accidentally drawing blood…

The flight from Cambodia to Korea was a tense one.  I didn’t know if I would make it without puking or not!  And I didn’t know if the health people would let me back into Korea.  The bus ride from the airport to the station near our flat was even worse. x.x


My job duties changed significantly, such that I had an entirely new set of things to do at work.  With a last moment notification, of course, that I would be teaching a creative writing class.  I ended up being the school librarian (which included redoing the entire library database due to inconsistencies in the original), the school nurse, the keeper of lost and found, the solver of printer issues, the online course proctor, teacher of creative writing and a quasi-ESL class (added in because apparently I had the time), the only one to do something about the computer lab (creating an admin password and removing games from the computers, including Grand Theft Auto O.o ), and being one of the few substitute teachers.  So while I didn’t have quite the same stressors as I had for the first half of the school year, I definitely was kept busy.

My wife ended up getting typhoid fever, which shut the school down for a week and put her in the hospital and then stuck at home for a while.  That was a bit of excitement.  I had to be tested for typhoid fever, too.  (And it wasn’t easy to swab myself).  But I ended up being clean.

I started taking 검도 (Keomdo, Korean form of Kendo) lessons, which was a lot of fun.  October was the last time I went—despite making it on the rank board and having my own armor, the language barrier proved to be too much as I couldn’t understand the explanations of how to not make the mistakes I was making. T.T  So here’s hoping I find a Kendo or Keomdo dojo in the states and start over.  One of the fun things that resulted from Keomdo was going to a raw seafood place with my instructors and a few classmates and having my Korean classmates shove raw abalone and squid into my mouth.  I tried to explain that I grew up on the coast and could feed myself seafood…  But that failed to keep them from putting raw seafood into my mouth.  I think I may have gotten food poisoning from that outing… >.>

I wrote some poetry during the school year.  School, lesson planning, keomdo, Bible study (both the online one I lead and the one the Bible teacher was doing), church, and other sundry things kept me busy for most of the school year, though, so not too much exciting to tell.  My parents and my wife’s aunt both visited us.  Those visits were fun! :D   One of the places I visited with my parents was Suwon Fortress.  It was fascinating seeing the old wall encircling part of the city.  On our way back from the fortress we watched a parade of people dressed in period costumes.

I suppose we did end up sort of gassing ourselves with chlorine while fighting against mold. ^_^;   Our flat doesn’t have the best ventilation, you see, and well, errm, we were using bleach to kill the mold in a closet and in the bathroom.  Unfortunately the vapors sort of settled in the flat instead of leaving.  So we did all we could to increase ventilation and bought milk because apparently drinking milk helps counteract any fumes you may have inhaled.

Back in the states I enjoyed some of the old LEGO sets I had acquired through BrickLink (a dangerous website for a Lego enthusiast) and the new Lord of the Rings sets.  Well, I had fun with them in between helping clean and visiting friends.  I’m hoping to acquire the sets related to The Hobbit sometime this summer and then figure out what bricks I might need to get to replicate parts of my stories in LEGO bricks.  Because I also discovered the MOCs (stands for My Own Creation) people have done using LEGO bricks and there are some impressive ones, including a gigantic depiction of Amon Hen.  Due to space constraints I had to put my LEGO sets away before I could really start building with them.  Though I did get to have Rebel troopers and Indiana Jones help defend Helms Deep prior to the putting away (I mean, if the Elves got to be at Helms Deep, why not have other people who weren’t there come with them).

We also spent some time helping my wife’s parents clean.  They were kind enough to let us stay there and have been storing our wedding gifts and such, so it was the least we could do.  We didn’t get around to really doing much work on installing floor, which is sad, since I really enjoyed doing that a few summers ago.  I’ll probably get a chance in the future, so I should probably be careful of what I wish for! :p

My wife and I then took a road trip down to visit my parents! :D   My brother was also there, so it was good to see all three of them.  And then we took a road trip to go see my maternal grandmother via Crater Lake, California and the Grand Canyon.  It was my second time to see Crater Lake (the first time being with the Boy Scouts) and I definitely took more pictures this time around.  Perhaps next time I’ll go on the boat ride they offer.  We stopped in California to spend time with an aunt and uncle (it was the first time my wife got to meet them, so I was glad she had that opportunity).  While there we got to see my dad’s old home in the Bay Area, Muir woods (what a relaxing hike that was), a college friend of my wife and I (I stayed with her family when I went to FurtherConfusion in 2010) whose TV we were returning, the park under the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge (I could look it up, but I’d rather keep writing), and my uncle took me and my dad to an observatory that was hosting an event for members of my uncle’s work.

We met another uncle near the California-Arizona border, as he had been working in mines in Nevada, and had dinner with him.  I enjoyed that as well.  And then came my second visit to the Grand Canyon (the first being when my dad and I had been driving a moving truck with furniture for a relative in Albuquerque many years ago).  My dad and brother hiked a lot farther than my mother, wife, and I did.  I could have gone as far, but I wanted to stay with my wife.  So we got to see more views of the canyon, while my dad and brother got to brag about how far they went.  All-in-all it was wonderful, though I want to return and, LORD willing, backpack from Rim to Rim.

As we were leaving the Grand Canyon that evening, we got a phone call from one of my aunts who was with my grandmother at the nursing home.  And it was that grandmother’s condition had worsened.  It was a rough night.  The next morning we got in the car and blitzed toward southern New Mexico.  I had been hoping to see the VLA (Very Large Array–a radio telescope) on our way down, but seeing that will have to wait.  And I had been hoping to show my wife more of New Mexico, but the weather and events conspired against that.

We did manage to make it to grandmother in time to say goodbye, though she wasn’t as responsive as she had been a few days prior.  And she didn’t pass from this world until all of her children had arrived.  But she is gone, which I still find hard to believe, and I miss her. T.T

So the rest of the time in New Mexico was spent preparing for the funeral and going through grandmother’s stuff.  My brother flew back to university during that process.  My wife got to meet other relatives of mine, though I wish it could have been in happier circumstances.  Then my parents, wife, and I drove back to my parents’ house via Utah.  We rented a moving truck to help take with us some of grandma’s stuff, so we had two vehicles returning.

I got to see Arches for the first time and that made me happy.  And I found another vulpine friend!  :D   My wife named him Archie, since we found him in the Arches NP gift shop.  We helped my parents a little with the stuff we had brought back, though we soon left back for my wife’s parents’ house.

During our summer in the States, we also visited with friends.  It was good to visit with the members of the Commonwealth of 212 and 216, though not all of them were around.  And we got to have lunch with a fellow wordweaver and dear friend who likes to call me Kitsune. :D   And I spent time with one of the best DMs I have campaigned under who is also a dear friend of mine.  There were people I didn’t get to see and I didn’t really get to go to any furmeets, but it was good to see those friends I did.

The return to Korea brought a return to humidity and I found myself firmly unemployed.  I spent a little time trying to find work, but then settled on writing my novels and comic/webcomic/graphic novel (not sure which it will be) scripts.  So while I haven’t been paid for my work, I have been working.

I have now been through several typhoons.  You probably read my earlier ramblings about Typhoon Bolaven, so I don’t need to go into detail about that, but it was another part of the adventure I had in 2012.

I also did a lot more adventuring around Korea in 2012.  I think I have mentioned my trips to various parks and historic sites.  And at least some of the videos I have taken are on my YouTube channel.  If you pester me enough, I might remember to upload all the ones I have in queue.  My adventuring benefited from not having a set work schedule, as I could visit places while they were open and avoid the weekend crowds.

So some of you may be familiar with NaNoWriMo.  For those of you who aren’t, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place in November (perhaps that’s why it’s no-shave November–everyone is too busy trying to keep their wordcount up to bother with shaving…).  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of November.  Well, because I was going to a friend’s wedding in November, my wife had the grand idea of having me choose a thirty day period in October to set aside for writing the first draft of my second novel.  So I did NaNoWriMo this past year, but it was in October.

For November found me in Oregon.  I helped my parents with cataloging the massive stamp collection my grandmother had left behind.  Thousands upon thousands of stamps in boxes beyond boxes.  Most of them weren’t worth that much, since grandmother liked buying sheets of stamps.  And most of them were American stamps, so there wasn’t as much mystery as there would have been had we had to decipher where the stamps were from.  But it was still exciting and gave me something to do while my parents were off at work.

My friend’s wedding went well!  I had fun being one of the groomsmen and enjoyed the trip to the Oregon coast.  I hadn’t realized how much I missed the Oregon coast, until I was standing on its shores under the overcast sky.  Yeah… that reminds me of a home I once knew, back when I was but a kit.  And the wedding allowed me to catch up with the Brotherhood Five, which had been sorely needed.  May we meet again soon, my dear friends! :D

And I had an early Thanksgiving with my parents and one of the Brotherhood Five (you know, I really should find out how they want me to refer to them individually here in my ramblings–since I am trying to obfuscate names and places to some extent…).  It was delicious!  And it was good to spend time with this dear friend of mine (he had been my best man, after all!).  I also stayed at his flat for a night.  Oh!  And I ate with him at a Korean restaurant in one town and at another Korean restaurant in my parents’ town with my former youth pastor.  So my craving for kimchi while in the States was satisfied!

And the end of 2012 saw me visiting Jeju island.  That was quite the fun adventure and deserves at least one rambling of its own!  Especially since I have rambled on rather long right now…  Yeah, I better let you go soon…

The adventure that continued into this year was trying to write on adaptations.  Never again will I tie a deviantArt submission of that magnitude to ramblings here and announce it before hand.  Because then I feel like I can’t ramble here because it would mess up what I had planned…   So I have learned my lesson (for now), and you should be hearing more from me on a more regular basis.

So my plans and goals for 2013 are as follows:

  • Stay alive.  As much as North Korea is probably just sabre rattling and not really intending to follow through with their threats, I would like to see my friends and family in the States again and get around to the rest of my list.  So I’ll do what I can to avoid the sort of adventure that would come from hostilities starting up again and pray that things don’t come to that.
  • Continue exploring Korea.
  • Get my first novel ready to send out to publishers by summer.
  • Visit Japan.
  • Attend the wedding of the person who was my best man and perhaps another friend’s wedding.
  • Learn more Korean and brush up on my Japanese and Russian.
  • Ramble more often!!!

Blessings and peace!

Park Romp

Yesterday I told you about the adventures I had in Seoul on Friday up through lunch.  Today I will finish recounting what happened to me that day.

Following lunch, I walked south towards the 한 (Han) river in search of a museum for martyrs.  I had memorized a map the night before, so I didn’t have much trouble at all.  Down one big street and then follow the subway tracks as they ascend out of the earth to make the river crossing.  I didn’t spend much time here because I saw a sign that seemed to say shorts are not allowed (at least that’s what the picture seemed to say, but I couldn’t understand the Korean).  Since I was wearing shorts, I didn’t feel like pressing my luck.  However, I did learn that 절두산 (Jeoldusan, literally “beheading mountain”) was where Korean Catholics were executed in 1866. :(

Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine

The path leading up the Jeoldusan Martyrs’ Shrine.

Continue reading