Touring the Ramparts– Seoul, Korea

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Since my sister was coming to live with me in Japan I decided to do something nice, such as buying us tickets to Korea for a four-day weekend! I submitted a chit and once that was approved, I bought the tickets and sprung the surprise on her 2 weeks after she had arrived!

Two of my friends were traveling with us and one of them travels to Korea as often as possible, works with a missionary there and is pretty knowledgeable about where to go and what to do. We packed our small bags the night before and the next day as soon as work was over, we were on our way to the airport to catch our 45 minute flight to Pusan.

We flew with Korean air which was an excellent experience (I love all international airlines), we received a full meal during the 45 minute flight and we even got two free Kirin’s (beers) to drink. My sister and I were in the last two seats on the plane. It was great!

That night we took the train from Pusan to Seoul, barely catching the last one there and headed to our hotel which was located in Gangnam Korea, if you know Gangnam Style, then you will know that this suburb of Seoul is very up scale, even though we are not very upscale people. haha.

The next morning we woke up and met with a friend of our friend who would be giving us a walking tour of Korea! He was the nicest man named Tae Wook Kim and he was giving us a trekking tour for free except for our food expenses. What we didn’t realize was that trekking was more like hiking and we were definitely not prepared for that. My only saving grace is that I had decided to wear tenner shoes. Thank God!

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We stopped at the Korean National Theater for a brief on the plan, were given maps, and then we set off on our journey. Boy did we see Seoul in a day! We walked all over the place. Probably around 7 miles. We walked along the ramparts of Korea, which is like a mini great wall of China and we hiked up this huge mountain to see all of Seoul from the top. It was magnificent. We took many pictures and one of the hardest parts was choosing the pictures to show here.

We climbed straight down the mountain on the other side and walked to the Blue House which is equivalent to the White House in America. We went into the information center and took green screen photos with the President Lee Myung-Bak and his wife and we also sat at “his desk” and took photos there.

As the sun was setting we walked through the lover’s area where I learned an interesting fact about South Korea. Normally, men and women in Korea do not marry until they are in there late twenties early thirties, which means they start dating later as well. Which means South Korean’s are very romantic people and they go on my dates to catch up for lost time. It was very cute seeing all of the older couples in this area. We tried all sorts of new foods, our favorite being dough filled with cinnamon and flatted like a pancake on grease. Those were great!

This was the end of our tour.

The next day we went to a Korean Temple and Namdaemun a BIGG outdoor shopping center that sells everything and anything. It was great! I got part of my Halloween costume here (since I was being PSY) and we shopped all morning. We also bought the softest blankets ever.

Ben took us for an authentic Korean meal with Kimchi (picked cabbage) and a few other popular items and then we were flying back so we said our good byes to our friend and I headed to the airport. If given the chance I would definitely go back to Korea. It was a great experience!

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Ekumae Lantern Festival, Japan

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It was Friday morning and time for my driver’s test in Japan (driving on the other side of the road for me is a very bad idea!) when another officer asked me if I wanted to go to Ekumae that evening to a Lantern Festival. I had nothing else going on so of course I said yet. I finished my drivers test (which I passed!) when shopping for a few items then headed back to get ready to go. I brought a back pack of snacks along for the ride and we were headed to the train station in the early afternoon to catch the train to Ekumae. J has more cultural experiences then me, so I decided to let him buy the train tickets and a good thing that was.

As you can see everything is in Japanese and you need to pick which town you are going to from the list. It is very confusing sometimes.

He bought us our tickets and for an hour and a half we steamed along the Japanese countryside past rice paddy fields, thatched-roof houses, and gorgeous mountains. It was a very relaxing ride and one I enjoyed thoroughly. J had bought 6 different pastries at the train station which we each tried pieces of. I can’t get enough of the pastries here. Since Japanese houses don’t have ovens, they buy all of their breads and pastries from the market and they truly have some of the best pastries I have every eaten.

Our train was small and only had 3 cars, there weren’t many people on board and we were 24 stops away. We worried a little bit how we would find the festival once we got to the town but as we slid into the station, there was no more worrying necessary. We could see the HUGE lantern tower from the train windows and knew exactly which direction to go when we debarked.

As we were walking off, we passed a group of school boys who said hi to us in English then they told me how hott I was. I just laughed and waved. O school boys. As we mosey’d up the street we immediately saw little stands selling different things. I bought a tea pot with two cups and I tried Takoyaki for the first time! Takoyaki is little dough balls made with octopus in the center and Japanese mayonnaise ¬†on top.

Takoyaki– (very heavy in the stomach.)

I also tried octopus on a stick. It was very tough and chewy but pretty good.

We indulged in everything that caught our fancy this night. Candied grapes, snow cones, sashimi, all of it. We continued the short trek to the town and did some more searching around, then people started lining the streets just in time for the parade. Two small children saw J and me and ran away from us pointing and shouting. I guess they had never seen white Americans before. I smiled, and finally felt what it was like to be a complete foreigner in a different land. It didn’t bother me much.

A few short minutes later the parade began. It reminded me of the small town parades from back home but the best part was they would march down the street pushing a small stage with music and a guy talking in a microphone. At the end of the street they would wheel the stage around and head back changing the music and the guy in the microphone. They did this about four times until the parade came to an end. I loved it.

Parade Dancers

After the parade ended we climbed the hill to the Buda Temple and then walked over and up farther to the lantern festival pyramid. It was the biggest lantern pyramid I have ever seen!

GINORMOUS!

The festivities carried on into the night and I watched some karaoke, which led into a traditional Japanese dance off. It was awesome. Some of the dancers were really great the traditional dances were mesmerizing. After the dance competition it had grown very dark outside and a fire works display was about to happen. There were only a few more trains scheduled to pass through and J and I didn’t have anywhere to stay so we decided to skip that part of the show because by this times 1,000 of people had arrived at the town for the lanterns and fire works. We ran to the train station and were there just in time because I train was stopping. We jumped on and headed home. I fell asleep almost immediately I was so exhausted.

It was a great night! I made a new friend, I saw the tallest lantern pyramid in Japan, I watched a traditional Japanese dance competition, and I tried 4 new foods I have never had. Amazing!

P.S. I would just like to point out that societies are not very different. Girls on one side, boys on the other, as always. haha.

Pontoon Boats + Family = An Amazing Day!

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I finished the last class required by my orders at the end of July and my report date to my new ship was the last day in August so it was time for some serious Rest and Relaxation. At my last class I learned how to embark and debark marines and we actually planned a fake mission to secure an area of land. It was definitely very cool and new all at the same time. There were even marines in the class so we had to work together which was a totally different aspect then what I am used to.

 

My Seesters and I!

As soon as we received our certificates I was already packed and ready to go so I took one last look at Norfolk and headed for home. My family had already started the drive to Wisconsin where we were all going on vacation to see my Aunt and Uncle and cousins. M was going home for the weekend as well so I was staying with her and then flying out the next evening en route Wisconsin. We talked ALOT. We talk alot in general but we knew it was going to be awhile before we saw each other again so we talked especially long. I talked so much my voice was hoarse the whole next day. We went to Phip’s Conservatory in the morning because I haven’t been there since I was a little kid and then we ate tons of ice cream because that’s something we do very well together, and then she took me to the airport. It was a very sad moment for me. We have been best friends since we met -1 day at WVU (it was the night before the first day of classes when we realized that we had the same first class and decided to walk there together).

I flew into Wisconsin that night and then the fun really began. I family is crazy, in a very good way, and it is always a GREAT time when we all get together. The second day I was there we went out on a Pontoon Boat and sailed all through Milwaukee stopping at The Horny Goat to get mohito’s and Barnacle Buds for some amazing sea food. It was so yummy! We stuffed ourselves to the max and washed it all down with corona’s. It was truly a great day. Throughout the week there were many things planned and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We took long bike rides, we watched a ton of the summer olympics. This is the first time I even began to understand the olympics. It was awesome I was on vacation and was able to watch so much of it. I even saw my new favorite event which is the rhythmic gymnastics. I watched the rowing competitions, archery, gymnastics, swimming, horse back riding, all of it. Here are some pictures from the first few days…

 

 

 

“This is your captain speaking” My favorite quote of the day, and one I used often.