Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy New Years (long post)

I know it's a little late but Happy New Years to all of you my devout and loyal readership. For those of you who are still reading this blog, and I can't really understand why you would be here are some highlights of the past year for me.

1. D.C. Trip: It's sad I know that chaperoning a group of 40 eight grade students across the country to D.C., Philly, and N.Y.C. would seem like a highlight. Well, actually it was absolutely a great time. For the history goober in me I was allowed to see several things that I thought I might not be able too. It was also a great way to realize that I was very appreciated for the hard work and time I spent at my Middle School.

2. Korea: Honestly I cannot say enough about the experience this has been so far. I've received several compliments from my time here in Korea, but by far I think the best one has been that I am a lot of peoples favorite foreigner. It's weird to think that I'm actually somewhat popular out here, and far weirder then that I'm popular with the ladies too. I guess delusion does have some positives after all.

3. My friends: Honestly I miss all you. Then again, I do have some great friends here in Korea. I even managed to drag a few with me from San Diego. My friends here in Korea, and my friends at home it has honestly been a highlight this year. Who will ever forget Jordan's epic vitriol at my going away party.

4. Teaching: I have to say I absolutely love my job. Be it teaching English, or teaching History. I truly have found my passion in teaching.

5. Getting paid to travel: Now everyone knows my absolute love of traveling. Let me tell you it's even better when you're getting paid to do it. I think that when my time is done here in Korea that I will have had an experience that will last me my entire life.

Ok, now that I'm done with my musings on the past year, let's get down to the real reason you all are here. I have to say that the past two weeks have been pretty awesome. I have been on Vacation since Christmas, and also basically found out that besides the English camps, I'm basically on vacation till March. I have a couple of weeks of work in this time, but nothing major. Now anyone who has ever worked in Education knows that the first week of any vacation is basically rest time. I don't know what it is about kids but after working with them for six months you need a week of sleeping and resting to be able to enjoy your vacation. Well, that's how my vacation started.

It was followed by a weekend trip down to Busan. Busan is the second largest city in South Korea. It's also the second most important because of the port. Busan's port is the 5th busiest container port in the world. Busan has several things to do, and to see. By far the biggest two tourist attractions are Bemosa Temple, and the U.N. Cemetery. Bemosa is an absolutely beautiful temple. It is nestled in the hills above the outskirts of Busan, and is a place of serenity and beauty. As we wandered about the buildings and prayer halls of the temple, I found my self thinking again that I wish I understood more about Buddhism so I could understand the temple's images and icons better.

We followed up Bemosa Temple by another place of serenity and beauty. However, it is only serene and beautiful in the way that a military cemetery can be. The U.N. Cemetery was truly a moving experience. Most Americans understand nothing about Korea. They don't know why there was a war, and even if they know why, most do not understand the sheer brutality of it. Americans see Korea as just another intervention. Most think it was no bigger the Grenada or Panama. The simple truth that is America sent 1.6 million soldiers to Korea, and we lost over 36,000 of them in that country. That doesn't even include the wounded. America's contribution is more then every other UN nation combined, except for Korea. South Korea had 250,000 soldiers killed, and lord knows how many civilians. The Korean War is the seminal piece of modern Korean history. Yet nobody knows about it.

I apologise for the diatribe. As Brenden, Carissa, and I walked into the cemetery, we were immediately asked by the South Korean Military Guard where we were from. After responding that we were American the guard quickly snapped off a salute and thanked us. This was not the only time this happened. I think the most moving, was the old groundskeeper who asked us the same question. The man spoke no English, but in Korean I told him that we were American's. The old man, who was probably a veteran from Korea saluted us, and then offered a prayer of thanks. It's weird being thanked for something that you had nothing to do with. Honestly it is also very moving. The starkest part of the Cemetery was The Wall of Rememberance. This was is engraved with the name of every foreign soldier who died in Korea. No Koreans are on this wall, only foreigners, of which, the majority are American.

Side note, the bathroom at the Cemetery is the best bathroom I've seen in Korea, and honestly one of the best bathrooms I've ever been in abroad. After the very moving, but heavy experience of the Cemetery the three of us descended upon Lotte Department store for Lunch. That was an experience let me tell you. The department store, or a better word for it would be massive mall, had a replica fountain of Trevii outside it. When I say replica, I mean it was a full size replica. I laughed a little, I cried a little, I may have even peed a little. Here is the wonderful piece of Italian Art and History, in Busan Korea, with a shoe stand in front of it. It was tragic, if it wasn't so funny. The department store however was impressive. Inside this store were all the super expensive brand names. Koreans love their fashion, and spend the money for it too. They think that I am lucky because I spend twenty bucks on a pair of pants. The would willingly spend 100 dollars on the same pair.

The morning we left Busan we headed over to Haeundae Beach first. This beach is the most famous beach in Korea. Being from San Diego I have an appreciation for nice beaches, and this was one of them. I won't go into the misleading information in my guide book that said something about Bacon and Eggs being served at a bakery there, but the beach was awesome. What was not as awesome was the KTX adventure getting home. Well first let me say the KTX is a high speed rail that makes traveling from Seoul to Busan a three hour Journey. On our way down to Busan, Brenden, Carissa, and I happened to get on the wrong KTX train. Our train was three minutes after this train. Luckilly both went to Busan, so at the next stop we got off and boarded our train. On the way back the KTX was sold out, so we bought standing room only tickets.

Needless to say this post has been really long. Hopefully it has been fun, but it has been really long. A Happy New Years to you all.

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