'I've lived a life thats full.
I've traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,

I did it my way.'

Ah, Sinatra's famous words. I can't imagine truer words sung about our choice to move to Asia. And never have they sounded better than when I joined my taxi driver in a passionate duet of the classic tune on my way downtown . . .


Time flies an' all that

April 26. This weekend it'll be two months since we left home. I'd love to be dramatic and say if feels like yesterday or like a year ago, but it feels like about two months.

We've been here long enough that we've memorized all of the channels on the TV. We've seen it enough times to realize the creepy old people sitting on the shed outside our window aren't really creepy, it's just a nice spot to have a smoke. We've learned that the market has the cheapest produce, Home Plus has the cheapest rice but Blue Mart has the cheapest dried squid (and the best). We know that rice is called 'bap', unless it has curry on it, in which case it's called 'rice'. We've learned 2 am is not late, it just means it's darker in our hallway and will only cause our neighbor to be louder as he fumbles for his keys, fidgets with his lock and slams his door as hard as humanly possible. Also, just because the six year-old girls upstairs were up until midnight doesn't mean they won't running be down the stairs yelling at 6:00 the next morning. We know now that socks are a great deal from street vendors at only a dollar a pair, but if we go on friday, there'll be a lady selling them for half that price. And on Wednesday Carmen can get capris on the street for $3, but that doesn't always include the front button. The cheapest food is kimbap. The most expensive food is duck. Kalbi is great but only the place next to the hair salon has it for $5. Sweet corn on pizza is normal. Sweet corn on pasta is also normal, but kind of gross. Old men in suits holding hands suggests nothing about their sexual preference, and teenage boys holding hands with their moms doesn't make them any less cool. Green does not always mean go, and red means you should have already stopped. If you're in a hurry, do not hand your baby to the lady behind the cash register when you're buying milk because you'll have to stay at least until she starts crying. When going downtown bring a language dictionary because you will get lost. And always bring an umbrella.

It's been an educational eight weeks.

Last week Carmen spent two days on a (mandatory) retreat for English teachers. She spent a bit of time on the coast and also spent a day in Gyeong-Ju, where she visited the National Museum.
Carmen's birthday is next Wednesday, May 2. You're all invited to the party here in Daegu. If it's too far to travel just for the day it'd probably be okay if you sent her an email or left her a friendly note on her blog.

Also, if you enjoy reading this blog regularly, consider voting for it in the Blogger's Choice Awards. The link is up on the right and it just takes a minute to register.



The Daegu hipster scene.

Thanks for the t-shirt guys. It fits like a dream.


Watch your back

Groceries in Korea are cheap. Restaurants are even cheaper. Everyone delivers. And everyone orders in. This demand for fast, direct service has created a master race of delivery scooters.
Laws do not apply to these two-wheeled speed demons. If a traffic light is red, they'll (maybe) yield and fly right through. If traffic is crazy, and it usually is during dinner hours, they pull up onto the sidewalk at mach speed. Mothers and fathers with strollers are no match for these psychos; it's a game of chicken and they always win. They're quite stealthy too. You won't notice them creeping up on you until they speed by, leaving you with nothing but a face full of exhaust and a heart attack.
They come in all different styles and models. This one, for instance, is a moped style bike with the classic milk crates for cargo space. The more successful establishments sport modern 'crotch rocket' style vehicles, with sealable cartons on the back to keep that live squid hot during transport.


'In yer face! . . . thanks.'

One of the great things about playing a little streetball with the locals is you get a chance to let out a little aggression, throw around the elbows, step on some toes and, most of all, pick up on some local slang. The problem is when a foreigner wants to play everyone hits the English switch. And then you realize no one is as hardcore as you and they're all getting along great, and the only slang you hear is "You are suck" (don't worry - I cleared that one up).


Why are we here?

I haven't given much explanation to readers of this blog, or anyone for that matter, as to why we chose to come to South Korea. So in case you're interested, here it is.

Carmen and I have always had a desire to travel, but more than that we've wanted to experience another culture as more than just tourists. Our original plan was to live in England for a year and experience the UK and Europe, but our Visa troubles threw a wrench in that. I know a lot of people wondered why we spent so much time just waiting and didn't just decide to do something else right away. But the fact is we'd put a lot into moving abroad and simply brushing it all aside and starting fresh at home would have been even more difficult.
As time went on we realized a move to England was getting less likely and, more importantly, we needed to move on with our lives and think about ourselves as a young, growing family. As we started to look at other options, Asia was an obvious one because it offered easy employment for Carmen and was very attractive financially. And while the UK would have been a new cultural experience in its own right, Asia offered a drastic change from the lifestyle we're used to. It wasn't an easy decision and took a lot of research, but we decided on South Korea for a few reasons, but primarily the financial benefits it offered compared to places like Japan, China or Taiwan.

Amidst all the planning and decision making, it was important that we kept Cate's interest the main factor when deciding. We wanted to be fair to her and not feel as though we were giving her less opportunities than she might have otherwise. But Carmen and I believe our children should have the opportunity to learn from different cultures and people, and experience ideals and ways of life that are unlike our own in the Western world. Cate's young and she may not remember much of this experience as she gets older, but our hope is that what we learn as a family, and as individuals, will have a positive effect on her life and the way she views people and the world around her.

Personally I think that with globalization comes a disregard for the traditions and history of others, as everything is brought to us in a familiar package. We don't really have a use for the ideals of other cultures, and the media doesn't exactly encourage it. It's only by seeking out alternative sources or by going out and experiencing it first-hand that we can learn from others. Essentially that's what this year is about for us.

So after all that here we are in Daegu, already nearly a month and a half into our stay. And that's my attempt at making a short story long and giving you more information on my life than I normally would, but I've been running low on material this week. Just for good measure I thought I'd throw in this little gem of Carmen - it's one of my favorites of her, ever.



On Saturday we went to Gyeong-Ju, which is the old capital of Korea. It's known as a tourist city now because of its many temples, tombs and scenic attractions. This weekend was the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

Visiting temples and cultural sites hasn't been easy because they're all outside of the city and in the mountains, so we have to make a day out of it. After sleeping in and missing the 9:20 train, we took an hour long bus ride north and spent the day wandering.

Personally I was very excited to see the architecture of the ancient temples and buildings. Most of them were originally built around the 5th or 6th centuries and have been restored or rebuilt after the Japanese invasions.

These dudes may just look like museum pieces now, but they're still very important. Several Koreans bowed to them as they passed through the corridor in which they stood.



On the weekend we went to Seomon Market in Daegu. It was an orgy of contamination. It was also quite fascinating, and probably a little more safe than it appeared to us uncultured foreigners.

We bought some fruit and vegetables, but we didn't buy any pig heads, dead birds or bloody octopuses.



The sky is yellow.

Apparently every spring heavy dust storms kick up in the deserts of Mongolia and fine, yellow sand slowly makes it's way east, covering the skies of South Korea. This year seems to be exceptionally bad. The dust even made its way into the subway system, resulting in an unusually large amount of paranoid Koreans sporting surgeon's masks.