Channel 48

My favourite Korean television show with one of the world's best footballers. Priceless.

The fact Thierry Henry appeared on the show tells you how popular it is, and watching the clip will show you why. Mindless, confusing, brilliant humour. This episode is actually a 15 part series on YouTube and I recommend watching the entire thing, particularly parts four and seven.

So, I can't like, move

On Thursday I woke up with a bit of stiffness in my neck. I thought it was just the result of sleeping on our stone mattress, which has been the case a few times in the last few months. As the day wore on the stiffness and pain got progressively worse, until I could barely turn my head. The pain had moved into my upper back and I realized this was a recurring injury; the result of an accident I had more than three years ago.

I suffered through the evening, deciding not to go see a doctor because such an event is a major ordeal for obvious reasons. Last night I slept for less than two hours, unable to move and forced to lay flat on my back with my hands on my chest, quickly waking up from sharp pain when I was lucky enough to doze off. Seeing as I couldn't move, I definitely couldn't deal with Cate, which meant Carmen had to take the day off of work. I phoned the international clinic at Kiemyang University Hospital, which we knew is somewhere in the Seomun Market area, and described my condition. The receptionist made an appointment for me with a physical therapy specialist for three hours later. They don't mess around with general practitioners here, especially when the problem is obvious. Easy enough.

So we all jumped in a taxi and went to Seomun. The heat was bad but the humidity was deadly. Not something you want when you're walking through the largest and most crowded outdoor market in Daegu. As the taxi approached, the traffic was mad, so we jumped out and decided to find the hospital on foot. What d'ya know, it was right around the corner. The receptionist immediately brought me down to the doctor's office. He examined my goods and prescribed me four different pills, a massage gel, a set of heat patches for my softball-sized kinks and told me to get a few massages before I visit him again in two weeks.

So far the medication is slightly decreasing the pain and stiffness but the extreme discomfort is still there, along with a throbbing headache. Hopefully by Monday I'll be fully functional, or at least at a point where I can pick up Cate. If things improve, you'll be the first to know.


Decisions, decisions

Our visitors are gone and we've been enjoying having some space (and a bed) again. Cate's going through a growth spurt and is devouring everything we can find in the fridge, which means almost daily trips to the markets, which are flooded with people lately from morning to night. It's actually a nice way to cool off in the evening.

One thing I've found difficult about being here is keeping up with what's making news back home. We've always taken most of our news from the web, but at home we'd usually flip on the late night news with Lloyd or Peter, and throw in a little local for good measure. But it's nice to find out that we're never too far away when we have the trusty internets. Apparently GlobalTV Lethbridge had its local expatriates in mind, and realized sometimes reading the big local stories just isn't good enough. Ah, it's good to see a familiar face, Ian.

Speaking of being online and computers, Carmen and I have been faced with a dilemma recently. We were given a nice-sized TV when we arrived in Korea, but no DVD player. You'd think since we're in the most technologically advanced country in the world, we'd be able to find some fairly good deals and just buy one. But that's not the case. The cheapest machine we've found is about CDN $100. Is that really worth buying for eight months? A simple solution would be to just use our laptop as an entertainment centre, which is what we've been doing. It's not a huge screen but it's good enough for us. The problem is, we don't have a wireless router which means to continue "renting" movies from the online "store" we need to be connected most of the time, so it becomes a pain to move it into the bedroom/living room. So we just put up with it and get a bit uncomfortable while we watch. But, I'm running out of space for all the movies and TV shows we "rent" on the hard drive, because we've taken literally thousands of pictures since coming here, and the computer is also our music "store". So we need to get an external hard drive to keep up. So, in the interest of saving money, the question is: do we buy a DVD player and burn CDs (which we'll have to buy as well), and then give the DVD player up when we leave? Or, do we but an external hard drive and a wireless router, both of which can be packed up when we go home? I'm so stressed.


What sport is this again?

The Ginthers can return home on Friday knowing they've experienced more of Daegu than most residents of the city do in a lifetime.

On Sunday we went to a professional baseball game - the Samsung Lions v the Hyundai Unicorns. It was a battle of powerful mammals and, as expected, the savage Lions destroyed the mystical, non-existent Unicorns. 7 - 0. Koreans definitely know how to support their team. It felt more like a European football game with songs and chants. A baseball fan I am not but I had a lot of fun, as did everyone else.

As we were watching the game, I noticed a young couple waving at Cate from a few rows in front of us. I encouraged Cate to wave back and of course they loved it. A short while later the woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hello, where are you from?" While she made short conversation in what little English she knew, she handed each of a fresh ice coffee and a big box of chocolates, all of which she had just purchased just for us. It was incredibly generous of her, but after being here for almost four months, I wasn't terribly surprised. People are just nice.

After the game we stopped at Duryu Park and took an elevator 77 storeys up to the top of Woobang Tower. I hadn't realized just how huge and congested this city is. It was a beautiful site - such a massive, chaotic place surrounded by lush green mountains. The photo below shows the Northeast of Daegu.


Dating etc. etc.

As much as we love spending time with Carmen's parents, we could not pass up the opportunity to take advantage of their babysitting skills and spend a couple of nights out on the town. I've fully accepted the responsibility that comes with being a parent and the lack of a social life therein, but I still feel the need to get out and have a little couple time with my gorgeous wife.

On Thursday we hit up Lotte Cinema. What better time to make your first trip to the theatre in four months than on the release date of Ocean's 13. I'm a sucker for cool, and what's cooler than two of the coolest guys in film basically just being cool . . . and stealing money. Okay, Brad and George have probably taken this series a bit far, but it still made us laugh. And the Samsung references in the film had the entire theatre gasping (it's a Korean thing).

Friday was even better with a little shopping trip downtown, where Carmen made a significant dent in the Daegu fashion market, followed by dinner at a very cool place - so cool, we don't even know what it's called. After a midnight stroll amidst the neon lights and belligerent locals, we capped off the evening at Forest with wine and animal crackers.

The Deep South

On Saturday we went to Busan, the 'San Francisco' of South Korea. The perfect weather and the 300 km/hr KTX made it a fairly easy day trip even with Cate.

I'm still deciding, but at this point I'd have to say it's one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. The ride in on the train gives you an idea of how big it is, as a quarter of the trip is spent within the city. The lush mountains blend together with a sea of grey apartment complexes and colorful Korean villas. It's hard to believe we were only a few miles from the Sea of Japan. As soon as we arrived at Busan Station it was apparent the city is far more chaotic than Daegu. It seems absurd that a city of 2.5 million people can seem small, but Daegu's reputation of being conservative and calm finally made sense.
Our first move was to jump on the subway and head for Haeundai Beach, and I was shocked by the appearance and efficiency of the Busan metro. I felt like I had gone back in time 30 years, but apparently we've just been spoiled with the design and modernity of the Deagu subway. After one transfer and 21 stops, we arrived at the beach to spend the afternoon. After spending so much time in Yongsan Dong, the novelty of Asia had begun to wear off, but being at the beach and seeing the sea and the massive, modern buildings reminded us how far we are from home and how amazing this place is. It was especially nice to be able to do that with family.
Speaking of Carmen's parents, I think they've been enjoying themselves. We've most certainly enjoyed having them. Not only has it been a pleasure to show them around, but it's been nice to just visit and finally have them here to share what our life has been like. It's going to be awfully hard to see them go in four days, especially for Cate. But it emphasizes the importance of family and makes us realize, just in case we forget, how important that is to us.



We met Carmen's mom and dad at Daegu Station on Thursday afternoon and, after a trekking across the city with plenty of luggage, we squeezed into our quaint cramped little villa and tried to get over the fact we were all in the same place . . . on the other side of the world.

We didn't waste much time before introducing them to Korean cuisine, hitting up our favourite little gimbap place down the street. There's always a bit of a learning curve with chopsticks and sticky rice, but nothing can take away from the edible dream that is bi bimbap.

Yesterday we took our first day trip - Donghwassa Temple. The trip there was our first experience on a city bus in Daegu and it was a nice way to see the entire city. Cate seems to have gotten over her car sickness and having Nana and Papa Ginther around makes trips like that a lot easier on Carmen and me. The weather was perfect and the scenery was lush and beautiful. Koreans built their temples in the mountains because they would be closer to the gods. Donghwassa is home of the largest Buddha statue in the world. After walking up a large set of concrete steps, it's a breathtaking sight when you turn the corner and see the massive monument surrounded by green mountains.


Visitors and Candy

As I post these words on the internets, Carmen's parents are on a flight from Saskatoon to Calgary. From there they'll fly to Tokyo, via Vancouver, where they'll spend six hours learning Japanese (or just sleeping in the airport) before they jet over to Seoul, spend the night at a guesthouse and take the KTX south to Daegu. We can hardly contain our excitement.

They'll spend two weeks with us in our villa, AKA a kitchen with two small bedrooms. It'll be tight but the thought of having family with us for a short time makes me want to break into song. Think Fraulein Maria meets Neil Young. Our adventures will be well-documented, I assure you.

Life is good here. It's become less of a string of bizarre experiences and more like a normal life in a place that's continuously becoming more familiar. The heat is beginning to take it's toll, even though we haven't yet hit "the hot season". It's very humid. I'm constantly sweating. I pick up Cate after her nap (she's a deep sleeper and gets very hot) and our skin nearly melts together. Luckily Carmen's school recently paid to have air conditioning installed, so the torture is bearable.

To be honest though, the heat will only be an afterthought come Thursday when I'm feasting on Kraft Dinner and Sour Kids. Sugar withdrawal is a very real side effect of eating healthy (Korean) all the time. We realize the main reason Carmen's mom and dad are coming is to see their grandchild, so we asked for a few comforts from home as payment.

Tentative itinerary: day-trip to Busan and a visit to Donghwasa Temple.