Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mega Calligraphy

Located at the beginning of the walking street in the Insa-dong section of Seoul is this giant calligraphy brush sculpture. It even comes with a shiny "ink" blot. It signifies the still-present ancient artform, for which one can buy supplies (horsehair brushes, handmade paper, ink, etc.) in small shops in the area.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Korean Proud

Koreans are a proud nation. Photographed here are two well-known symbols - the Korean flag and postcards of famous movie stars. What symbols of your country would one find in a souvenir stand?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Styrofoam Seafood

At a local market a few bus stops from school, one can find the fresh fish and seafood section. We arrived later in the afternoon, so many of the stalls were already winding down. It was interesting to see their wares displayed in styrofoam-stacked containers. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beyond the Hill

Once down the hill from school, a whole new world awaits. Getting to explore different streets is my reward for braving the hill. Beyond the main streets where stores dominate are the residential ones. I enjoy looking at the gates. Here we have an aesthetic combination of decorative gate, brick wall, modernistic house, and the pink soft blooms.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Our school is up on a hill. At one time, it was a cemetery, but it has since been removed. The site offers great view of the city below, but gives one second thought before schlepping stuff when walking back up. Walk up and down (perhaps a few times) this hill, and you have a nice cardio workout. 
There is a grocery store within walking distance, but many teachers choose items at the store and then take advantage of the free delivery. 

Somehow these photos don't quite capture the steepness of the hill, but hopefully you'll believe me anyway.

Bottom of the hill, right by Chicago Pizza (which I hear doesn't really taste like Chicago-style pizza)

Up the first steep portion, looking down. Can't even see the bottom.

After the middle section which gives a short respite, the second steep portion by the school (see the guard's pagoda and the red-striped school building) is yet to come.

To reach the apartments, there are more inclines to go. My apartment building is on the right, pictured here.

Yongsei University, Seoul

Down the slope of the hill from Seoul Foreign School is Yongsei University. Here we see a brilliant pink flowering tree in front of one of the university's Tudor-style buildings. It's a pleasant walk though well-maintained grounds. I anticipate taking many walks through this campus in different seasons.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ewha Women's University area - shopping for shoes

Like in most countries, Korean women love shopping for clothing and shoes. The area around Ewha Women's University is no exception, boasting of streets lined with clothing, shoes, and accessories particularly geared towards the female gender. With such a large display item and color to match, no doubt the store next to this mega shoe beckons the average female in search of footwear. Too bad they don't carry my size...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lotuses at the Bongwonsa Temple

Adorning the grounds of the temple complex were large pots containing lotuses. These were brought here for a special lotus festival. A very common symbol in both Hinduism and Buddhism, it represents spiritual perfection, mental purity, enlightenment, and wisdom. The beauty of the buds, greens, and blooms definitely enhanced the beauty of the place.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bongwonsa Temple - Destruction and Reconstruction

Although the Bongwonsa temple was founded in 889 AD, wars and fires resulted in the destruction of several subsequent temples. The main Judgement Hall was built in 1994. Inside this building, some of the 50 resident monks were engaged in a ceremony. A smaller building contained white ceramic oil lamps, neatly arranged. Yet another contained statues of several male figures with pointed beards. Photos of people (perhaps deceased) lined the altar. From the ceiling, papers containing what I presumed were written prayers dangled from the ceiling. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bongwonsa Buddhist Temple

Although it was hot and very humid, a group of colleagues from school went for a hike to visit a nearby Buddhist temple. Traversing through the woods in the hilly area quickly made me feel like I wasn’t in the middle of a megacity. 

The Bongwonsa Buddhist temple contained a series of buildings whose style differed quite a bit from the Buddhist structures I had seen in other countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Reminding me of photos I had seen of the Korean palaces, the temple buildings were brightly painted and had roofs that seemed to fan upward. Such beautiful details! I clicked away and captured at least some of the decorations and patterns before the group wanted to move on forward.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Seoul Produce market

After school today, a few teachers and I took the bus a few stops down to go to a local market. It was rather quiet at this time of the day. Only a few fish vendors were still around. Chilis, garlic, and large bags of spices used for kimchi were popular items down this aisle. Fruit tended to be rather expensive, particularly items not locally grown in-season.  Guess I got spoiled by prices in India!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Yoido Full Gospel Church

Early this morning, a number of teachers took the bus in Seoul to the Yoido Full Gospel Church. Located in Daejo-dong on the outskirts of Seoul, this church has grown immensely since its inception in 1958, when it only had five attendees. Today it boasts with a membership of 780,000, making it the world's largest church. We took the elevator to the 4th floor and sat in the foreigner's section. For the 9AM service (one of 5 on Sunday), simultaneous interpretation was offered via headphones in English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, and Indonesian. 
Having arrived early (traffic was quite light this morning), we had time to enjoy the pre-service music. The pews below and in the balconies began filling up; at near capacity, Koreans began filling in any empty seat in the foreigner section as well. The massive (and excellent) choir and orchestra led the music worship, with the lyrics being posted on a large screen in multiple languages. Two other large screens displayed different areas of the church, zooming in on sections and worshippers. Several times our section was featured as well. Talk about having to be on your best behavior!

After the sermon (translated through the headphones), a massive Communion was offered to the entire church. A large assembly of white-robed men passed out the tray duet containing crouton-sized bread pieces and another tray containing individual wine cups. Passed from person to person for several rows, the distribution went rather efficiently. After some more hymns (even some we recognized) and some lively prayers (many worshippers and the head pastor were quite charismatic and displayed Pentecostal-style actions), the service was over and we promptly followed the crowd out of the church and waited for our bus to come.  

The Yoido Full Gospel Church has set up 370 domestic churches, nearly reaching its goal of 500. Additional missions are being undertaken in North Korea. Several prayers were related to the people of North Korea and a sincere desire for reunification.

This massive church service was definitely an experience unlike any I had experienced. Next week I'll try out a Lutheran church.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Hello, Seoul!

Well, after a 9+ hour flight delay in Detroit, I finally made it to Seoul, Korea. So here marks the start of my new adventure, teaching elementary art at Seoul Foreign School. We had some orientation today, along with a walk down to an international hospital for visa medical stuff, a walking tour down to a grocery store (and surrounding area), and then a grill-out in front of one of the school apartment buildings. More to come, when I have the time and am awake!