Thursday, 30 April 2009

Paper clothes

The Koreans have been making paper for thousands of years and one of the most popular ingredients for paper making is the mulberry - they use the bark from the timber, and one often sees trucks passing through Jeonju loaded with timber from the mulberry farms going to paper factories.

I've never seen paper shops like there are here around Jeonju - huge departments with sheets of paper as well as items made from paper - lamp shades, books, and clothes.

I understand the clothes (jackets, trousers, shoes) are part of traditional Korean national dress - and I have had an opportunitie to have a close look at these items. I'm so impressed with the workmanship including embroidery on the items.

I must find a translator to take me to a paper shop - I need to know what all the paper is for. I'm sure some of it is for craft work to make things like the dolls, or lamp shades, and other smight be used for wrapping paper or to cover timber frames.

Wine and Paper

Making slabs of paper from the paper slurry

The fabric artists shop

The beautiful house behind the wall.

In the Wine Museum

Paper Doll people in the Wine Museum

In the Wine museum

The Wine Museum

Behind the Core Riviera Hotel is the Wine Museum - which was quite fascinating but had not a word of English anywhere, so I had to look and "guess" the detail of the wonderful exhibits.
There were not many people there - so it was pleasant to wander around and see. I think there was some wine tasting as there was a pavilion with quite a few people in it, but I chose to walk on by.

Behind the Wine Museum was a lovely house behind high wall. I could see the "manicured" trees and through small holes in the wall I could see that it was wonderful behind the wall, so I held my camera up high over the fence and took the photo. I was thrilled to find a wonderful house and colourful garden of azaleas. What do you think?

I found the Paper Museum too - but just before I entered it, I walked into another small shop. There was a lovely young lady artist there who dies fabric with natural dyes. She spoke a few words of English and was keen to talk with me. She found a seat for me and tried to explain her artworks. She made some amazing wall hangings, some died with onion skins, and she sewed amazing patterns on the fabric. Some of the fabric was silk, some linen, and a dressmaker friend made some of them into clothes. (All too small for me sadly.) She was wonderful and invited me to an exhibition next week of Women Artists at a huge gallery near here. I hope I can go there.

The Paper Museum was very old and again no English, but I had visited a Paper Museum in Fuyang China, so could understand what was going on. I must say the Chinese paper making was a much cleaner and sophisticated process, but I would guess that this place in Korea has been making paper like this for thousands of years.

Back to the Hanok Village

I set off again today to visit the Hanok Village. It is such a huge place that it will take more visits to see it all. The old village is being renovated to attract tourists - some of it has been updated, but much of it is still in ruins. The Village though is a hive of activity with construction going on everywhere.

I was given a map of the village - so got into a taxi near where I live, and using the map, showed the taxi driver where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to one particular entrance and he turned the wrong way, but I caled him to stop, paid him and walked up the hill to the entrance. There is apparently some building there that is worth seeing, but I could not find it.

My first though in the village was a Wine shop - and I bought a small bottle of wine - the first that I have really purchawsed here. It was a small bottle of Raspberry Wine. I had a taste and quite liked it - so I bought the tiny bottle - which cost me about $A1. I noticed afterwards that there is quite an array of wines in the shop including Mulberry Wine, and Traditional Korean Wine. Maybe next time I will try one of those.

The Village has many tiny alleyways - and in these there are many small shops. I visited many. Many of the larger shops are called "Museums" - "Paper Fan Museum" etc but I found that they were shops that featured paper fan. No my understanding of what a museum could be, but they were all very interesting. In many of the small shops or museums one gets to meet the artist and I met quite a few very interesting people who were keen to discuss their art.

In one place I bought a couple of small items to take home from the potter whose work filled the gallery. Pots, plates, vases, and lots more in a wonderful gallery with great timber features on the outside of the building. It is always tempting to buy things, but I am always mindful that sending them/taking them back to Australia is very costly.

I had had a snack before I left my apartment, so wasn't hungry, but I was looking for somewhere to sit down and I found the Core Riviera Hotel which is supposed to be "the" hotel of Jeon Ju. I went in and was soon approached by their English speaking waitress. It is always funny as you can see the actions of the staff as they work out that I might be an English speaker and they jostle and push forward the English speaker. She was a lovely lass and answered my quetions. I wanted coffee and apple pie that I had seen in the showcase, so she took me to the Lobby Bar, an soon presented me with both my coffee and apple pie.

It was well presented, tasty and I had a surprise. The sugar coffee was interesting - larger chunks of sugar and different. It tasted OK - in fact it was a pleasant sojourn - even though it was a bit expensive.

Banners everywhere

Koreans love their signs. Everywhere there are banners - hanging off tall buildings, across the front of a shop, and here by the river, a dozen signs hang at an interesection to promote a business or an event.

They love neon signs too and the night sky glows with them.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


There's often a joke in class about giving teacher a gift in return for high marks. I've had gifts food, but last night's gift was interesting.

One of the students is the sister of an athlete who has just been to Australia for training. She's a pole jumper, who is sadly in a "slump" and considering here future. But she has been in Brisbane and brought back for her family a bag of small portions of VEGEMITE.

The Asians do not generally like it - so I'm likely to get more. Not that I can use it much. I'd love to have toast and Vegemite but in my scantly resourced kitchen I have no toaster.

I'm going to take some dry biscuits tonight to let the students taste Vegemite. I like it - but it is not a big enough bribe to make me give high marks! :)

ps - Vegemite has a few new fans. I took some to class and some of the students gave it the thumbs up.


I am almost at the end of a busy week - I had outings on my two days off last week - and shall avoid that again. It can be too much. I'm not a night time person, and working from 6 pm to 10 pm does make me a little tired.

Dealing with the challenges of teaching this course also tires me, and I am doing some study too. Actually I have plenty of free time, and probably should have an afternoon snooze, but I have not done that.

Two things that are important in teaching is "flexibility" and "thinking on one's feet" - and feel like a piece of rubber, and I am forever having to think on my feet.

Tuesdays are not good training days. We start at 6 pm on Tuesdays and go to 10 pm - but it is one day that not all students turn up. Perhaps it is because for some reason it is hard to find a park on Tuesdays near the Woosuk building, and with two of the teachers breastfeeding new babies I know they have challenges getting to class on time.

But when you have only two students in the class at the start of the evening, it is a bit of a challenge? Do you continue the planned tasks that will not work as there are not enough students? What activity will have value for only two students?

My "bag of spare tricks" comes into play and we did role play. This style of activity is always good in an English class, as it gets students talking. The situation they had to "role play" was that of a person returning to their car, to discover a parking inspector writing out a ticket for them as they had been one minute too long and the parking meter had expired.

Another two students appeared - and they were set up to do the role play. Then a couple more arrived so I pulled out of my bag more role plays - they are always a lot of fun.

I am here to teach these people to "teach English" but their English is not good - so I spend time teaching English and making them speak. We have a "student handbook" and I get them to read the pages. They are supposed to have read them first, but when I get them to "read aloud" it is clear they do not know the pronunciation of the meaning of some words.

It takes up valuable time - things I plan to do are swept aside to concentrate on English pronunciation, word meaning etc.

Asian people have a lot of difficulty with some words - saying "r" and "w" words are a challenge too, and some was to put "ee" on the end of some words. They are learning "langidgeee" (language) so there is much work to do.

Anyway, one night to go and I am off for two nights - then a busy weekend (as always) but as there is a public holiday for Children's Day on Tuesday, I am off on Monday and Tuesday and then work - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in a row.

I think I'll have a few afternoon naps then.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Some things I like and some I don't.

Rubbish piles between shops in the main street.

Last night I went to a wonderful restaurant in the Hanok Village - the old part of town which is a fascinating tourist site. There were three car loads of us that went after class - and I was shocked to discover that this was to my first time in a traditional Korean restaurant where we sat on the floor.

For a start, I'm always a bit concerned about my shoes - what if someone takes one (or both) as a souvenir? It will be impossibly for me to buy a replacement pair here as Koreans have tiny feet. Anyway, I was glad to find them waiting for me as we left, so that was not an issue last night.

sitting on the floor is not easy for me. So I did my best to look comfortable with my long legs stretched out under the table. The food was great - so much of it - and the last dish was a chicken soup with a whole chicken in it - and we all got one. I thought I was going to burst! But it was tasty with mushrooms and ginseng in it. The other dishes were great too - but always, always, too much. And we never ever eat it all. I am surprised at the amount of food wasted.

By the time I was eating my chicken my bum was sore and stiff from sitting on the floor - I long to get up and walk around and give it a massage, but it was impossible. No, I don't like sitting on the floor and will continue to avoid these restaurants. Actually most restaurants have an option - you can choose floor seating or at "normal" tables. This one offered no alternative. The food was excellent though.

One thing I love is the
double glazing on the windows of my apartment. I do leave the window open a little for fresh air, but it surprises me how quiet it is in the apartment, despite the fact that the window juts out over the roadway. Cars park under the overhang - but I seldom hear a car. Occasionally a food deliverer on a bike will toot (or "horn" as they say here), but otherwise it is amazing to see the foot and motor traffic that passes so close without making a sound.

I love the
underfloor heating. There are pipes of hot water under the floor - and one can adjust the temperature, but they keep the apartment cosy. At least the main room (bedroom/sitting) warm. It can be freezing outside, and warm inside.

I am surprised about the traffic - it too is quiet on the main roads, but the chaos is fascinating. It appears that
taxis and food deliverers on motor bikes do not have to take notice of stop signs or pedestrian lights. So one really has to look in all directions when crossing a road - even if you have the green light. And no one seems to mind. There is no "tooting" or "horning" as near misses occur.

"Near enough is good enough" - I think would be a good motto for workmen who make concrete paths, or put down
pavers. They really are a joke, as the pavement, or any surface is so uneven. I know pavers can move - but there are gaping holes in pavement so you have to look forward to find out where you are going and down to make sure you don't trip in a nasty hole or uneven section of the paving. It's everywhere.

The governments, so it reads in my "manual" is so meticulous when it comes to rubbish removal. There are "strict" rules about how to dispose of your rubbish, and high fines for those caught breaking any rule. The reality is that there is
rubbish everywhere and there seems to be indifference about it. Some of my Korean friends have even proudly told me how well Korea does about removing rubbish, and they like to think they are cleaner than China, but I think there is a huge opportunity for improvement. What I see sometimes is disgusting.

What is
incredibly clean is most restaurants. And corner shops. We in Australia could learn a lot from this! They are meticulous.

big supermarkets are amazingly clean and tidy. Again I think better than in Australia.

Kindness and gentleness of the people. I don't read the newspapers, but I do get some Korean news and the impression I get is that they are a much gentler people here. The police do not carry guns, and they don't have to face the violence that we see in Australia so much. Everyone has been extra ordinarily kind to me.

Workplace health and safety. Not! It is not anything that is considered here. I see somethings that would fairly freak me out and I would report if I was in Australia, but there seems to be little concern about things. Like the uneven pavements, and the curious things sticking up in the paths where one walks, and the lack of fire safety things. No smoke alarms. No fire extinguishers. Surprising. Even at the university when I was talking about O H & S, and I sent students to look for the First Aid Kit in the 15 story building, there was none.

Addresses - it is curious as you
cannot work out an address. I don't know how the postman works in out! Street names are not easy to follow and the numbers in the street are not sequential. So house number 12, will be next to house number 453, as houses are given numbers according to when they were built. Imagine being a taxi driver!!! Which is why I have to get the taxi to the hospital, as the taxi driver knows where that is!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Cheese Factory

Tourist carriage?

The Cheese Maker

On the way to Namwon there was a sign - directing people to the Cheese Village. On the return trip we called in to see this little village, nestled amongst the hills and mountains.

I had not known that Koreans liked cheese, but had found some Australian cheese in the supermarket. They like the rather bland processed cheese - and have not yet gained the taste for tasty cheese or the more exciting natural cheeses.

We learned that this place is more active at weekends, when tourists visit, but there were two busloads of school children.

We had a look in the little shops, and then drove up the hills along narrow cement roadways that had enough room for just one vehicle with rather sudden drops on either side of the road (hoping your driver is accurate!

We came to an area where the students were running around with calves, turkeys, ducks, and geese, but we went on to the cheese factory. A man came out to greet us, speaking English. It turns out he was the owner of the company, and he had learned his cheese making skills on the North Island of New Zealand.

There are apparently five cheese factories in Korea, and they all make processed cheese. He showed us around the factory and excitedly showed us the new camembert cheeses that he is releasing to public on May 1st.

I bought some Gauda (he confessed he'd made a mistake - it should be Gouda, and the next print run should be right!)

The area is being developed as a tourist spot - with new roadways, new pavilion etc.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The mobile butcher.

At Namwon, just near the little shops, as we were leaving the mobile butcher had turned up for business. I just had to take a photo. My student/guide was surprised that I was surprised by this. Here it is in a city - that the meat seller appears with refrigerated vehicle, drops down the
steps to enter and exit, and the customers go and view the meat in refrigerated cabinets.

More photos of the park at Namwon

The shops outside the park.

A group of ladies having a picnic lunch.


The house in the compound. The roof is thatched with rice stalks.

The vegetable garden in surrounded by a fence of sticks - to keep the animals out.

The barrels would have contained kimchi, and wine, some of which would be buried underground.

These stones are a kind of alter - for praying.

An old Korean kitchen

The high swing.

My tour guide.

Yesterday I was taken on a wonderful drive south of Jeonju to a city called Namwon - which is known as the City of Love - because of a famous love story that is supposed to have happened at Namwon.

The story is that Ch'unhyang was a beautiful maiden, and was seen by a nobleman, the son of the magistrate, and he fell in love with her. The magistrate was transferred to Seoul, and the son went too as he was to study. While they were gone from Namwon, another man became magistrate, but he spent a lot of time in brothels and in time came to see the beautiful Ch'unhyang and wanted her for himself.

She remained faithful to the son of the magistrate, and despite being tortured she refused to marry the wicked magistrate, who was about to have her executed when the young man returned to Namwon and heard the story of his beautiful Ch'unhyang. He disguised himself as a beggar and intervened to save his beautiful maiden. She married him and they lived happily every after.

Namwon celebrates this story with an annual festival - where the girls dress in traditional Korean costume and parade through the streets.

Meanwhile anyone can visit the park where the story is celebrated. After a fee of 2,000 Won. I asked about Seniors discount, which they don't have - but I told the man "I am very old" and he gave me a free ticket. I paid for my student friend!

Inside the park were huge swings - similar to the one that Ch'unhyang is supposed ot have been swinging on when the young man first saw her.

There is a re creation of a house and compound similar to what the girl would have lived in - many years earlier.

My student/tour guide thought it would be a quiet day in the park - after all it was a Friday, but there were bus loads of students there.

We walked around and viewed the many things in the park, before leaving through the myriad of little shops near the exit. We had lunch there - a spicy dish of acorn paste, spring onion, cabbage, and sesame seeds.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Sleepy Boy and Korean age

I learned a lot again today. Another Korean word. "Bora" means the colour purple. And I also learned that Korean ages are different to ours. Korean children become one year of age at birth.

No matter what their actual date of birth is, they become two at the next lunar new year. So if you were born in October, you would be 2 by the end of Jan/Feb (depending on the date of the lunar new year).

During the day at the "fishing village" the children ran around like crazy. They had hula hoops, kites and played games. It was all too much for one little fellow - who is the youngest at the school, and he was soon holding his thumb in his mouth and when a teacher picked him up he fell asleep.

As I was only observing, and played little part in the day's activities - though plenty of high fives and a little girl (named Nicole, who was also very tired) sat on my lap for a long time and spoke to me in English, I offered to nurse the heavy little boy.

He was out to it - and was still asleep when I last saw him after sleeping on my lap for over an hour, and someone elses when I was offered a short reprieve, and all the way home in the bus. I managed to squeeze my hand past him and take a photo of him as he slept in my arms.

He's a biggish boy - but they say he is only 2 years old. (Korean or the English age - I have no idea!)

A visit to a fishing vllage.

The Kids Club children were having an outing. To a fishing village I was told when I was invited to go. "Do you like fish?" I was asked. Sure.

My mouth was watering at the thought of getting some fresh fish! (Mind you I have had some great fresh fish here.) So I arrived at Kids Club just prior to deaprture time (10 am) and off we set.

I was a little curious as we are some distance from the sea, but it could be a river. The two buses of children and teachers, and the Aussie shiela, headed out into the country side, and soon arrived at the fishing village.

Not exactly what I had expected. It was a complex of ornamental fish! Anyway the excited children and wary teachers alighted and we had quite a fun time. There was the introductory talk (in Korean and no translations) and off we went - each of the children with a paper cup of fish food.

It was quite interesting really - as there wer emany pens of fish - from tiny ones to large ones, and through an indoor exhibition room a whole range of fish in tanks including one supposedly a pirhana.

The kids squealed with delight as the fish gathered to catch the fish food. I've never seen so many fish - ranging from babies up to huge fish about two feet long.

We walked along rather fragile feeling suspended walkways over the many ponds, scattering the food to the hungry mouths below.

It is true about squatting?

OK, let me explain from the start. I was amazed to see adults in China squatting on the road, footpath or just whereever they happened to be - with feet flat on the ground, they can squat for hours on end.

I know young children learn to squat - have you every watched them at play? But because we Westerners don't squat much as we get older, we loose the flexibility of some leg muscles. We lost the ability to squat with feet firmly planted on the ground. We can squat for shorter periods, but generally our heels are a couple of cms off the ground.

Why is this so?

I reason that in many Asian countries, people going to the toilet (or bathroom if you like) generally squat to "go". They have learned to squat over the low flat squat toilets that are common in Asia.

For women it can be good for the pelvic floor muscles - a problem that many western women have when those muscles become weaker as we age. There are a few health problems that women can have in later years as a result of these weakened pelvic floor muscles.

But my observation is not about those issues. One thing that I have noticed in Asia is the number of older people - men and women with bow legs. I didn't make the connection before, but a Korean man, pointing out an elderly Korean with bow legs in the street at Jeunju stated it was because he squatted a lot. In fact he added that the squatting has caused this problem with a lot of Asians. Could this be the cause of the bow legs?

I will try and do some research on it - but it sounds reasonable. Maybe there is some truth in it.

Out of the mouths of babes

Korean people are very shy - especially when it comes to talking English. Many students learn English, but even as adults find it hard to find the courage to speak with a foreigner. I know that some of the people I have met in my travels here do know a few words in English but are not keen to try their knowledge.

I have found help though in surprising places. The two banks I went to initially to get funds from my Australian account via their ATMs. One was a young gun toting security guard who spoke in excellent English and was most helpful (though not able to help me get my money), and later another "concierge" in a bank spoke well enough to be very helpful.

In the Tourist Office in the Hanok village - again I was surprised to find an English speaking official.

But the day I was in the Hanok village was the day many school children and others spoke with me. Simple greetings to be sure - but at least they did try. There were a group that were exiting the Catholic church as I was going in, and many of them said "Hello. How are you?" and we exchanged greetings. Some asked me which country I was from. I must say it was refreshing to hear English.

Later in the park I met a guy from Canada - he was actually born in Korea - but had lived for over 15 years in Canada - and we had quite a chat. He introduced me to his mother and sister, who live here in Korea and whose English was minimal.

At the Kids Club, the littlies will chat with me happily in English. Maybe when I go to Seoul I will find more English speakers there.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Politicking Korean Style

Apparently there are some local elections coming up - I don't know what is meant by "local" here, but in any case it has made for some amusement on my behalf. I don't know how many candidates there are - maybe 8 or so, as they seem to have numbers attached to them.

I first saw a group of them "performing" on Saturday - as I was in a car we passed this group of people dressed in yellow shirts, with the candidate and his wife on platforms "performing" to the passing traffic. Yesterday when I was in town I managed to see more of this extra ordinary (for me) spectacle.

It appeared that someone other than the candidate (his wife perhaps?) was the speaker from the back of the vehicle which had a huge screen on one side - perhaps extolling the virtues of the candidate. There were folk in pink shirts handing out literature, and one old man, whom I suspect was the candidate's father collared me, and tried to explain that the candidate was his son. (I think that is what he was saying.)

As I passed the spot again a short time later I heard the speaker shouting - so passionate - loudly that it could be heard right throughout the park.

Later as I was walking "downtown" I saw two more groups. One group had set up at a busy intersection, with the truck with screen showing footage of something I did not understand - and a group of supporters dancing with white gloves on, in front of the truck. They saw me taking the film and waved to me. You might notice the crazy traffic at this intersection. (It is hard to make sense of the traffic lights - especially when many drivers, particularly taxi drivers, ignore all lights anyway, and pedestrians take their chances instead of waiting for the green walk sign.)

A knife and a glass!

When I arrived in Jeonju I found my apartment clean, and with scant supplies. There were two bottles of water - no food. A big pack of 16 toilet rolls - and despite the fact I use them in the classroom and instead of paper towels, I am sure most will survive my ten weeks here. I had two small bowls, two small plates, four larger plates, and an assortment of large bowls that as yet I haven't used.

There was a frying pan, and a saucepan, and a bigger pan with a lid (for me to make soup?), two spoons, a large sharp knife, a large flipper (to turn my bacon in the frying pan), a pair of scissors and one cup.

I managed to get some food - and as I am only staying for ten weeks don't wish to spend a lot of money on things, but there are some that I really needed. I had a pack of paper cups - that was what I used for cold water, soft drink and the small bottle of awful "red Korean wine." I longed to drink out of a glass - the only time in three weeks that I have used a glass was with my glass of chardonnay at the Italian restaurant. (It is metal cups, plates, etc here in Korea!)

I have a pound of butter - which I use on my bread, and dry biscuits, but I have had to use the huge sharp knife that really is most unsuitable.

Yesterday I found "the dollar shop" where everything is 1,000 Won. (1000 Won = $Au1) and so it was that after much hunting I found a knife that is more suitable to buttering bread, and a glass!

Funny how some strange things can excite one!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Gyeonggijeon

The King's Well

The stables

The King and below is his path.


You will be able to read a little of this historic place from one of the photos, but it significant in the history of the Joseon dynasty. As it turned out I discovered the Tourist Information Centre right near the entrance, and was able to find out more information from the booklets and brochures they gave me.

However, it was pleasing to see many signs with English, so I could understand more clearly the significance of this particular area. It was all very well laid out and every building had an explanation. This is where the important people worked - preparing things for celebration, this is where the king's food was created, and the well which provided water only for the king and his cooking.

There was an area for the stables for the horses, and a building where his cakes and pastries were cooked. Also there was an area where all the archives were kept.

Everything was as neat as a pin. It was here that I met a guy from Canada - he was actually visiting the site with his mother and sister, who live in Korea. He has lived in Canada for many years and we chatted as we bumped into each other at various points throughout our respective wanderings in the walled compound.

More progress today

Today was quiet a big day for me. Usually I work on Tuesday nights - but this week did not have to, so I planned to go to Jeonju Hanok Village - an old historical area that is being lovingly restored as a tourist site.

I had been before - at least briefly to a restaurant there. But I'd not had a chance to look around, and I know that I will have to do it again. There really is so much to see.

I planned to go alone - I am happiest wandering at my own pace, choosing to go and look at things. And so it was that I was taken right to the centre of the Hanok by my "host" in Korea, and I set off on my own. He was worried for me - but I assured him I'd phone if I had any concerns.

And off I set.

I visited little shops, made a few purchases, and a few decisions to return with more money at some stage - and an interpreter to help me with purchases - and generally wandered around. Surprisingly there was quite a bit of English - so it made it easier to comprehend the history of this place.

One extra ordinary place is the huge Catholic Cathedral. Hard to believe that this is here in downtown Jeonju. It has an interesting history too.

The top photo gives the story of the history of the area. It is called the Church of the Martyrs, because on September 17th, 1801, the founder of the Catholic Church in the area, and other leaders were executed there.

It is quite extra ordinary to see this traditional Catholic Church in the midst of traditional Korean architecture.

The picture at the bottom is from a doll shop - all the dolls are fashioned iwht paper made from mulberry wood. I watched in awe as an artists created incredible detail on the face of one of her dolls.