Tuesday, March 16, 2010

School Field Trip

At the end of last semester my head teacher and I took our 25 best students on a trip to the local bowling alley and then to an early dinner. Most of the kids had never bowled before, or been on a field trip with two Americans (neither of whom can bowl particularly well). It was a pretty hilarious afternoon. Cheers and cell phone pictures after one of our better students avoided the gutters.

Getting the 6th grade girls excited about bowling wasn't impossible. Getting most of them to play with the boys was.

Becky offering guidance of a sort.

Eventually we lost the girls' attention to their cell phones, most of which get live TV.

A big BBQ dinner afterward. It was a lot of fun to let these young kids work the grills, jobs we were sure their parents usually handled (not unjustifiably).

Mt. Dobong

Mt. Dobong is one of Korea's largest and most visited mountains. It sits just north of Seoul within the suburban Gyeonggi-do provence. Its an odd mix of rugged beauty and suburban convenience. The Seoul Metro brings you near several trail heads, around which have sprouted dozens of outdoor gear stores, and enough restaurants to feed hikers coming and going. This beautiful Buddhist temple was an hours hike from the mountain's base. It was a serene and inspiring place.

Rows of Buddhas in place at the entrance to the temple's grounds.

A smiley dog that lives at the temple. After the fashion-accessory dogs of Seoul it was heartwarming to scratch this smelly bundle of fur.

A cluster of fermenting pots, most likely holding aging bean curd, or maybe spicy cabbage. Kimchi, the Korean national dish, is made from a fermented mix of the latter.

The intricately painted eaves of the main temple building. Hard to see here but a beautiful fish wind chime hangs at the building's corner.

A snowy view of the surrounding mountains.

Admiring our footwork at hike's end. Also debating exactly where we got lost.

A big lunch of smoked duck and various Korean side dishes (ponchon) was our first stop after hiking. The next was the largest indoor sauna in Seoul, where we soaked, steamed, and rested the remainder of the day away.

Seoul Lantern Festival

The Seoul Lantern Festival is a stunning event held along the Cheonggyecheon stream that flows through Seoul (one of my favorite spots in the city - lots of pictures of it posted last year). The glowing lanterns, which are more like floats, dot the stream for at least a mile. The first one is an inexact reproduction of one of the gates of ancient Seoul.

All the bridges that cross the stream were used to display signs or lanterns like this one.

A line of lanterns depicting great structures of the world, with Big Ben, the leaning tower of Pisa, and a Giza pyramid pictured in the foreground.

A beautiful latticework covered with lanterns in every color. We gave up waiting for a picture inside and settled for this one. Koreans' ubiquitous camera phones makes competition for photo ops anywhere in the city stiff.

Some fashion show running in conjunction with the lantern festival had these poor models walking around in leather bodysuits. It was at least 8 PM when I took this shot, and near freezing. They were making a valiant effort to look cool.


An incredibly old tree. I want to say 5,000 years but it was near the end of a very long and chilly tour.

A "secret" royal garden in the middle of the palace. There are three large palace compounds right in the center of Seoul. This one (Changdeokgung) has the most open space. The pond pictured here is located in a small dell which totally isolates you from the city. A quarter mile away bustles a city of 25 million.

Some beautiful fall foliage.

I took A LOT of leave shots. Not as many trees in Seoul as I'm used to.

What I've come to know as a typical throne hall. It appears to be a two story structure from the outside but its actually a single, tall-ceilinged room. The small stones sunk into the paving (the ones casting shadows left to right) are markers that showed everyone where they were supposed to stand during various ceremonies, in case you temporarily forgot your worth in the feudal hierarchy.