Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 128 : As the summer winds down, we thought we'd put together a collection of some of the cool places we've been and amazing animals we've seen over the past little while. As you all know we work pretty long days so we really try to maximize our weekends. These first few shots are from our trip to Everland, which is the Korean equivalent of Disneyland. Our friend Patrick called us at midnight the night before and we went on a whim. It was awesome, the place has all the rides of a sweet amusement park, plus the animals of a kickass zoo. This is us in front of the main garden area, trying not to get wet from the water fountain.
We came across these apes early in the day, and it was good we did because their playful and sometimes hilarious nature really set the tone for a fun day.

This chimp was lost deep in thought, pondering all of life's big questions and probably some we've never thought of.
This golden blue faced monkey didn't even look real. Brandon bought some monkey feed and was able to get them to catch the treats mid air. Our friend Patrick even got to pet one while we were off checking out the orangutans.
This is what the polar bear thought of us, apparently he had enough of us taking his pictures of him. After checking out an animal safari, I (Brandon) went on the worlds biggest wooden roller coaster which was awesome, and we also checked out the bumper cars, and tons of other fun rides. It was a great day!
These pictures are from the zoo in Seoul Grand Park, when we went there with our friends JD and Jamie. We had great weather, and it seemed like we had better timing than the first time as we got to watch a lot of the animals during thier feedings while they were nice and active. The lions were particularly intense, fighting each other for territory and leaping high in the air and devouring raw chicken in one bite. We'll try and post the videos of that later.

Here's we are at T.G.I.F.'s near Bucheon station, celebrating our "1 year till the wedding" anniversary. This is from last weekend when we ventured into Seoul to go to Coex mall. It is a great place to go to spend a rainy afternoon and it even has a huge indoor aquarium. We were really impressed with the huge shark tank that housed some rather large and deadly sharks, and especially impressed with the guy swimming in the tank with them!!
They had some cool lighting in the jely fish tank which made for some cool shots ...

There was a conveniently placed photo opportunity, with a Korean village theme in the middle of the aquarium which we couldn't resist.

This turtle was massive, probably one of the biggest I've ever seen, hanging out in a tank with about a million sardines.It took a couple passes but we finally got a shot that would do him justice.
Besides all that, the second semester of school started today, so things have been pretty hectic. We both have gotten some new kids in our classes and once we get settled we'll make a new post with some more photos of them. Hope you all enjoy what's left of the summer.

With love from South Korea,
Brandon & Shayna

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 109: As promised, here is part two of our vacation photos. All of these photos are from the second last day of our trip when we went to Seorak Mountain which is one of the 5 national parks in Korea. Luckily for us, the weather was gorgeous that day which made the hiking much more enjoyable. The park was beautiful as you can see from even just the entrance pictured below...
We had gotten there early (8:15 am) to avoid crowds and the first thing we did was take the cable car to the top of one of the peaks. It was a good thing we did that, because when we got back down, the line up was probably 2 hours long! Once we got to the top of the mountain, the views were breath taking as neither of us have ever experienced anything like that before. It was pretty cool being eye level with the clouds looking out at all the mountain had to offer.We got a nice couple to snap this photo for us, as this was a pretty prime backdrop (they was actually a stand taking the exact same angled shots for $20 just out of view). This was about as far as Shayna wanted to get to the edge as the drop was rather large and the safety precautions rather small. It actually surprised us how carefree these Koreans were about any of the dangers that existed at these types of heights. Kids were running around unattended, some women were in sandals, and most people generally had a non chalant attitude about the whole thing. We almost began adopting this attitude, that is until we say a young woman trip as she was walking down and do two full head over heel somersaults down the mountain and by some unforeseen grace hit a rock and stopped. We decided that it was as good a time as any to make our way back down the mountain.

After taking the lift down, we headed to a new area and came across this absolutely massive Buddha statue. Our fellow teacher Greg, tells us this huge black Buddha statue is down right scary in the night time as flames are lit all around him, we'll have to come back and see for ourselves.We followed the path some more until we came to crossroads sign. One way went to a stream, one way went to a cave. We decided to take the road less travelled on go to the cave which was stated to be 0.6 km away, no big deal....or so we thought. This simple turn in the road, turned out to be one of the most physically and mentally gruelling hikes we have ever been on. The incline was intense the whole way through and when we got to the half an hour mark we imagined we must be getting close. As the sweat poured off us, we realized that from a food perspective we were dangerously under prepared for this type of undertaking, as we had not eaten all day. We were too far up to turn back and both of our stubborn natures would not allow it. Yet as we continued, there seem to be no end to this crazy climb. We met a family of fellow climbers who assured us the cave was just ahead, but every time we looked up to see if they had reached it, they just kept on climbing. Finally we reached a small resting place where others were eating (grrr..)thinking we had arrived, only to be told by some French guy that we were about 2/3 the way there. We took in some much needed water and began what turned out to be the most dangerous portion of the hike. Just before the entrance of the cave, there was an insanely steep steel staircase that was a huge pain in the ass to climb. We finally made it and what was supposed to be a cave, turned out to be more like a nook close to the top of the mountain. We were greeted by a monk handing out fresh water directly from a stream that flowed through the cave. By that point Shay was underwhelmed, unimpressed, and down right angry. I believe he exact quote was " Why aren't people more angry than this, this is not a real cave". Brandon made a prayer at the shrine for our safe journey down the mountain and bought a cool bracelet from the monk as a keepsake. As you can see though the views were truly amazing, even if it we had to work for it.
As you can see from the picture, there was little exaggeration on how steep the staircase down actually was. Two hands were required and as much concentration that was humanly possible on an empty stomach was needed. At this point the beautiful weather became bittersweet as sweated our way back down the mountain.
By the time we made it down, we were lucky enough to come across a guy who saw how hungry we looked and gave us an apple to split, as well as some chocolate and other snacks. Despite the intense journey, the feeling of accomplishment was unmistakable, as witnessed in picture below.

We explored the area a little longer, coming across a beautiful stream, but by the point we had almost run out of steam and decided to make our way back to the front to grab some food and head home as it had been a full day.
Hope everyone is enjoying the summer back home, as we're trying to make the most of ours. As always we love and miss you and hope you're doing well.

With love from South Korea,
Shayna & Brandon xo

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day 105: We know it's been a while since we've updated you guys, but we're back from summer vacation and we have lots of new photos and stories. We had a ten day vacation about two weeks ago- which we spent in the East coast of South Korea called Gang-wan-do. We had plans to leave the country to somewhere more exotic but our school put restrictions on travelling outside of Korea because of the Swine Flu :(
Anyways, we made the best of it and found a gorgeous hotel right on the beach for 5 days. This area is well known for its beauty. Our hotel was on a hill overlooking Naksan Beach and right beside Naksan temple which was by far the nicest temple we've been to so far.
Here's a shot of our hotel, and of the view from the top of the hill looking down on the beach. We had a couple overcast days- but we still got alot of sunshine, so no complaints!

At the end of the beach was a fishing port, where many people were buying and selling fresh fish.They must not get a lot of foreigners because we got some interesting looks as we walked threw the area.
We had decided to wake up each morning to watch the sunrise, since the view from the temple was said to be amazing. So on our first morning, we were a little disappointed when it was very dark and grey- but eventually the sun came out and we we able to explore the area.
On our way back to the hotel, we met a monk who was making his way up to the temple. he was extremely friendly once he found out that Brandon was not in the army (as he was wearing his army shorts and had a shaved head) **We should probably mention that Brandon decided to get his hair cut two days before we went on vacation. When he told the hairdresser he wanted a number 3 buzz, she gave him just that. Too bad Brandon meant 3 inches and she thought he meant millimeters, lol. The next day when we got to school, all you could hear in the hallways was kids laughing and repeating, "Brandon teacher has no hair!". **
We also came across this rabbit on our way back to get some breakfast. He was having his own breakfast on the side of the path. He was very content eating his grass, and didn't seem the least bit bothered by us getting nice and close for photos. We nicknamed him the Buddha Bunny.
As you can see from these shots, there were some amazing trees all around the area, it reminded us of the bonzai tree paintings you see. The sunrise on the third morning made up for the previous two days. The sky was already awesome colors when we woke up, so we knew it was going to be epic.

We watched the sunrise and met a really nice Korean couple who offered to take some photos of us (because the guy claimed to be an artist...) Unfortunately, none of the photos he took turned out. They were an interesting couple who spoke fluent English who were missionaries and had traveled all around the United States and Canada. They actually had just been to Hamilton for a Faith convention, small world huh? They were so nice that they had offered to drive us to a really nice beach about a hour away, but we declined since we had not spent a day on our own beach yet.

Here's a photo of the huge Kuan Yin statue at the top of the hill (same statue as in the previous photo). This statue was overlooking the sea, and had beautiful mountains in the background, and was a place we enjoyed coming to every morning for sunrise.
These statues seem to have a calming effect on the visitors, and there was lots of people coming here to pray early in the morning as I guess it is well known among Korean Buddhists. The early morning chants by the monks made for an interesting experience as well.This is a shot of us walking down to the end of the peer where the Harbor was. There was lots of people trying their luck at fishing as this spot is well known for its sea food. The food was one of the trickier parts of the trip, as Shayna is a bigger fan of the Korean BBQ then she is of strange fish soups and octopus and squid dinners.We opted for chicken wings, sub-par hotel hamburgers, and vendor potatoes as there was a carnival type set up by the beach. The carnival provided us some entertainment in the evenings, and Shayna turned out to be quite the dart thrower and rifle shooter and won us a stuff penguin who we named " Maxim " from Naksan.

The beach was awesome, and Brandon picked himself up a boogie board so he could ride the waves. There's something about riding waves that makes you feel like a kid again, and Shayna had no shortage of interesting people to take photos of. We also learned a lesson in Korean beach culture. Everyone on the beach swims and enjoys the beach fully clothed. We practically felt like nudists going into the water in our bathing suits. Funny enough Brandon got a slight sunburn on his stomach, and wore a white shirt swimming which helped him blend right in.
Because of the amount of photos we took, we'll be breaking the vacation blog into two parts, as Seorak Mountain was so beautiful it deserves it's own post. Hope you enjoyed the photos, and stayed tune for part 2 of our summer vacation series.

With Love from South Korea
Brandon and Shayna xo