New Years!

We hope you all had a fantastic New Years!

Spent ours in Icheon, a small city with hotsprings. While our vacation (2 nights) was a little bumpy (forgot our swimsuits! no restaurants were open!) we did find a cool place to have dinner one night. Reminded me a little of the cheesiness of a Red Lobster! It was called Rum Boat.

Icheon Rum Boat

Had a small boat right in the middle of the restaurant and everything.

Happy New Year!

Tracy and Sandy Xmas 2012

Gwangju: The Long Version and the Too Long Didn’t Read (TLDR)

In the fall, Sandy and I visited the city of Gwangju. Originally, we had been offered a job to work there but it fell through as some things do. But, I had done a lot of research about the city when we first intended to live there and so had to see it anyways!Gwangju has a powerful history. It is seen by some as the centre of the democratic movement in Korea because of its history but also its continued focus on the rights associated with this form of government.

Thanks to this website, here is the rundown that stays quite true to the history materials that were available in the city. (Scroll down for the TLDR):

Tens of thousands of students and other protestors poured into the streets of Gwangju (Kwangju), a city in southwestern South Korea in the spring of 1980.  They were protesting the state of martial law that had been in force since a coup that previous year, which had brought down the dictator Park Chung-hee and replaced him with military strongman General Chun Doo-hwan.

Outraged by the crackdown [on the rights and movement of students and other activists], about 200 students went to the front gate of Chonnam University in Gyungju [sic] early on the morning of May 18.  There they met thirty paratroopers, who had been sent to keep them off the campus.  The paratroopers charged the students with clubs, and the students responded by throwing rocks.

The students then marched downtown, attracting more supporters as they went.  By early afternoon, local police were overwhelmed by 2,000 protestors.

By the morning of May 20, there were more than 10,000 people protesting downtown.

That day, the army sent in an additional 3,000 paratroopers.  The special forces beat people with clubs, stabbed and mutilated them with bayonets, and threw at least twenty to their deaths from high buildings.  The soldiers used tear gas and live ammunition indiscriminately, shooting in to the crowds.

On May 21, the violence in Gwangju escalated to its height.  As the soldiers fired round after round into the crowds, protestors broke in to police stations and armories, taking rifles, carbines and even two machine guns.  Students mounted one of the machine guns on the roof of the university’s medical school.

By the morning of May 22, the army had pulled out entirely from Gwangju, establishing a cordon around the city.

Meanwhile, inside Gwangju, teams of professionals and students formed committees to provide medical care for the wounded, funerals for the dead, and compensation for the families of victims.  Influenced by Marxist ideals, some of the students arranged to cook communal meals for the people of the city.  For five days, the people ruled Gwangju.

On May 27, at 4:00 in the morning, five divisions of paratroopers moved in to Gwangju’s downtown.  Students and citizens tried to block their way by lying in the streets, while the armed citizen militias prepared for a renewed firefight.  After an hour and a half of desperate fighting, the army seized control of the city once more.

In the aftermath of the horrific Gwangju Massacre, the administration of General Chun lost most of its legitimacy in the eyes of the Korean people.  Pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the 1980s cited the Gwangju Massacre, and demanded that the perpetrators face punishment.

General Chun held on as president until 1988, when under intense pressure, he allowed democratic elections.

TLDR: When the government was seizing too much control and taking away the rights of citizens a pro-democracy uprising occurred in Gwangju. When the protest turned violent the protestors forced the military out and held the city. In the end, the army took back Gwangju. Thousands were either dead, missing, or injured. This incident has been remembered as the turning point in the democratic movement in Korea.

The Meeting for National Democratization

We went to see the memorial and found a somber and beautiful site with the requisite student protester statue and wall of names for the dead.

May 18 Memorial Gwangju

History as a reminder for the future wall piece May 18 Memorial in Gwangjy

It was a nice memorial but nothing spectacular.

Going to the archive of the events leading up to May 18, 1980 and spanning until the adoption of democracy in Korea proved to be much more interesting. There, we were given thorough information for further reading which I devoured in some unknown lust for dull university-esque material.

Gwangju was a really pretty city and all the leaves were changing there and along the way by train which was so nice.

Gwangju, Korea fall 2012

A random note on Gwangju: I felt more aware of my ‘foreign-ness’ in Gwangju. Perhaps living close to Seoul means that people in this area of the country are used to seeing many foreigners and generally you only get the blatant stare of disbelief from babies (so funny! they look at you like you have 6 arms!) or small kids. But, in Gwangju I felt more stares and comments. It didn’t feel all together unfriendly but was something I noticed nonetheless.

A Korean Wedding

A couple of weekends ago we had the chance to see a Korean wedding. It was a great experience and one of those things we can check off our list of things to see and do in Korea.

What it was like:

The ceremony: it was a beautiful room! It was at a Wedding Hall Centre where all they do is weddings. There is an area off the room where the ceremony will be where the bride sits for pictures with the guests before the wedding. They do not do the ‘hide-the-bride-till-the-walking-down-the-isle’ thing. The wedding is very casual. People were not dressed differently than they would normally be dressed and there was quite a lot of socially acceptable talking going on during the ceremony.

The dress: there were 3 or 4 dresses between the photos that were taken weeks before and the dress worn the day of. There was also Korean Hanbok they wore after the wedding. But I think the most important: besides the Hanbok, all the dresses were rental!! Why don’t we do this in Canada!! She was able to have different dresses at a very reasonable price (much, much, much cheaper than buying one dress).

The cake: it was big and white…. but, it was really frickin’ tall!! and they cut the cake from the very top to the very bottom which was cool. There was also a champagne tower which was a nice addition. Something different: both were equiped with fog machines.

Before

After

The food: after the ceremony you take the coupon you were given when you handed in your gift (the gift is normally money and this goes to the Brides Family in order to pay for the wedding, not to the couple) and head to the dinning room where there is a big delicious buffett. There were guests from the other weddings there as its a communal area and you ate before the couple came to the room.

The dancing: there was none. After you ate and the cake was cut (I didn’t see anyone touch the cake or champagne tower), you went home!

A different version of a similar tradition. Works for me!

Job World: The Day in the Life of a Kinder Kid

Last month, on our monthly field trip day, we went to Job World (website is all Korean). Think of a big science centre but instead of seeing cool science experiments, kids can try out a career!

Our group ventured to the kids floor (their is a teen area as well) which was an immense room with a central  area that had a second floor but was otherwise a wide and tall warehouse.  Kids had the opportunity to try out a career at a: supermarket, auto service station, construction site, social welfare centre, restaurant, graffiti studio, hair salon, dressmaker’s shop, recording studio, performing arts school, magician’s school, dinosaur camp, bioengineering research instititue, robotics research institute, animation studio, interior design studio, operating room, nursery, dental clinic, and much, much more!

How it works: kids pick a career they want to try and step into a kids only space with staff who get them dressed up in the applicable costume/uniform and perform the best parts of the different jobs. They spend about 40 min per stop. Sandy and I want to share the experience of one of our students who had a rockin’ day!

1st Career: Firefighter

Job world fire station

They got to ride a tiny firetruck and then ‘put out’ a fire (a poster with lights behind it that they sprayed water at).IMG_20121115_095836

2nd Career: Korea Restaurant

They made some traditional snacks.

(sorry no pic)

3rd Career: Letter Carrier

Job World Post Office

He got to deliver a package to one of the near by ‘restaurants’ (I missed it! and like a parent, I was kicking myself for the rest of the day!)

4th Career: Astronaut

space man Jun

The cutest photo ever!

Do we have a centre like this in Canada? It was amazing!

Hiroshima’s Memorial Park

Our main interest in visiting Hiroshima over any other city in Japan, was of course, its history. We were interested by this city’s historical importance and being so close we had to take up the opportunity. It was well worth it.Thousands of paper cranes can be found in the memorial park

The city has done a wonderful job memorializing the event of August 6, 1945 and all the people who were killed or otherwise affected by the first use of an atomic bomb. They have taken an area of town at the epicentre of the blast and created a park with numerous monuments to specific groups as well as museums and fountains. It was beautiful and moving.

Seeing the images of the city in the days after the bomb were very shocking. Even though I am sure that I had seen these images before in history class or when watching TLC with my family, they had a much more moving impact when you were standing in the city where it all occurred.

On top of that, it was impressive to look around and realise that this gorgeous city is brand new, as everything had to be completely rebuilt in the years following 1945. The ONLY building that remains from before the blast is the famous Atomic Dome (as seen above and below) or Genbaku Dome as it was called prior to the drop of the bomb.

We were both impressed by the entire feeling of the park and its museums. The memorial park and its museums never pushed a feeling of victimhood. Rather, it attempted to present a complete picture of what happened in the time leading up to and following the bombing. There was a lasting message about the importance of remembrance of what happened and what should never happen again in the future.

Relatedly, something that was really important to us since living in Korea was the recognition of those Korean folk who were affected by the blast. Impressively, there was explicit recognition of the Korean people that died that day who were in Hiroshima under coercion because of the colonial rule by Japan.

Hiroshima is now recognized as the “City of Peace” and actively pursues the end to all testing and use of nuclear weapons.

Looking for more info? You can click here or here or check out this very thorough Wikipedia page for more info on the park.

Our trip to 広島市 Hiroshima, Japan

We were lucky to have the chance to check out Japan during our very short, but very needed, summer vacation. We decided to go to Hiroshima.

Before we get to the particulars of how wonderful the city was, I wanted to tell you some of our lasting impressions.

Hiroshima’s air is clean and the sky is blue!

Living so close to Seoul and getting pollution from China means Osan can be a bit grey. Sometimes, a lot grey. But in Hiroshima, with the ocean right there and Tokyo and other large cities far away, the air is so nice and clean! We were delighted to see the blue skies after the vividness stopped burning our corneas.

Hiroshima is soooo clean

Now, Canada is really clean too so I think if you headed straight to Japan from there you would not be as impressed as we were. See, Korea, wonderful as it is, is not very clean. While they have quick garbage pickup, they don’t really store their garbage anywhere but instead just have piles of garbage on the sidewalk. They also don’t have garbage cans on the sidewalk or in parks. Japan is the opposite. Very clean roads and parks, trash cans and recycling everywhere. VERY appreciated.

Things are much smaller

This is our hotel room.

It never felt too small just compact and efficient.  The two of us don’t need much space anyways for such a short trip! .Plus, the bed, oh the bed, was so wonderfully soft and welcoming compared to our hard mattress back in Korea.

Japan is expensive

Some of you may have heard this before, but the rumours are true, Japan is pricey! The pic below helps to explain.

Those are tiny travel sized containers of peanut butter for about $6.30. Peanut butter is expensive here too (about $6 for 500 grams) but this was outrageous!

They really do like their bikes!

Young people, business people and seniors, everyone rides bikes. Though now that I think of it, I don’t think I saw and kids riding bikes….

Thats it for now. More on Hiroshima later!

Canada Day!

Well, this comes a little late doesn’t it? Well, let’s just say I am posting this in light of the patriotism one may feel during the Olympics… yeah…

We headed into Seoul on the Saturday before Canada Day to celebrate with some fellow Canadians. We went to the foreigner district called Itaewon. We wanted to celebrate in true Canadian style: with other Canadians and with some Canadian beverages and food!

We went to Rocky Mountain Tavern, a Canadian themed bar.

It really has the feel of a Canadian pub like Hudsons. It was dimly lit, had a bunch of sports and Canada stuff on the walls, had good beer on tap and familiar food on the menu. To Sandy’s delight, they played TSN on every TV. It was funny, but also very necessary, how explicit they were when it came to the ingredients of their Caesars!

Sandy had to investigate.

They had 4 live bands that night. Two were tribute bands: one for Great Big Sea and the other for The Tragically Hip. It was a blast!

Next we went to Gold Bar. A quirky place nearby. I will leave you with a few pics. (I apologize for the quality of all these photos, my camera does not do well without perfect light!)

Happy (very belated) Canada Day Everyone!

When in Osan Update

We have to apologize for the delays in postings the last few months but as of today we have a slightly altered schedule that will allow for more time for the blog. (Seemingly contradicting facts: as of today we are working more hours AND we will be dedicating more time for blogging. It’s a long story!)

For now, enjoy a picture of my birthday cake!

Tay Tayo! Tay Tayo!