Monday, October 30, 2006

Things you don't see in America

A guy painting his car on the side of the road. Okay, maybe you'll see that in America.

But you'll never see this. A farmer drying his rice in the park

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Day at the Market

Although they have plenty of super markets and department stores, there are still traditional markets in Korea. They remind me a little of the bazaars in Uzbekistan. But in Uzbekistan, the bazaar is pretty much the only place to buy groceries, so they're a lot more bustling. Still, the basics hold true. Every vendor has their own table with their specific products. So every item on your shopping list requires visiting a separate vendor. Here are some pictures of the traditional market down the street from my apartment. It's a small market, especially compared to some of the markets in Seoul. But it's also a lot less crowded.

The market is actually just a covered street

A fruit stand

Rice, beans, and other dried stuff

Green veggies


Smoked pig parts, or more specifically ham hocks and pig's feet. The bacon and pork is sold by a separate vendor

Korean salads. Uzbekistan has a large Korean exile population (thanks to the Soviets), so they always had a Korean salads section there too.

Dried fish, squid, and other sea creatures.

The ubiquitous red peppers.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Discoveries

Not much to post about lately. I was going to write something about the North Korean nuclear test, but nobody e-mailed me with with their concerns for my safety, so I let it slide.

The one major addition to my life is my bike. I've been able to get my mileage (or rather kilometerage) up over the last few weeks. There is a so-so biking friendliness here. The new developments they're building usually have nice cushy material bike paths. The older areas of town usually have wide brick sidewalks with "bike paths" marked. Of course, you'll find more cars parked on the paths than people biking on them. Not to mention the pedestrians wondering to and fro on the bike path instead of in their appointed "lane". Paths also tend to have a lack of consistent curb access, and a lot of blind intersections (due to buildings or cars parked right up to the intersection). Biking on the street is okay, as the lanes are usually pretty wide and drivers are used to old men puttering down the street on their bikes. Of course, every time you get to a stop light everyone is so excited to make their right turns you're pretty much forced off the street. So you're stuck on the crummy sidewalks until you have the opportunity to reestablish a position. The older, more heavily populated areas of the city are frustrating to bike through due to crowded sidewalks, crowded streets, and lots of stoplight intersections. The intersections are made worse because they often don't allow two-way traffic going through them. Each directions takes their turn, so if you miss your chance to go through, you have to wait for all three other directions of traffic to cycle through. Although, I am getting better at blowing stop lights when there's no traffic. Fortunately, I'm on the south end of the busy part of Incheon. Unfortunately, if I want to take the ferry to the islands, I have to bike through a lot of this mess.

As of this week, I started riding to work. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I go to work in the morning and bike straight home at night. It's just after sunset, so it's a tad dark. I'm actually more concerned about hitting a pedestrian than getting hit by a car. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have time to do a little more biking. I have a couple of nice uninterrupted (relatively) routes that I've found. One goes through an area which they are reclaiming from the sea. As of right now, it's just a 5 or 6 mile causeway out to this little island that is home to a few factories, a nice park, and a health club. There are fishermen up and down the causeway, and not much traffic on the road.

The second route I like takes me out of town, through a massive new development project - at least 20-30 large apartment buildings going up - past a little fishing port (with lots and lots of seafood restaurants), over the river, and down a very nice bike path for several miles. Once I reach the end of the path, I'm back on a busy street for a mile or so. I then divert off the busy road and pass through another port town, again with lots of seafood restaurants. Just past this port town is the farthest I've gone on this route. I've got two choices from there. A straight road along the coast that doesn't have any four way intersections, or a bridge / causeway that goes for about 12 miles out to an island. The bridge / causeway looks to have both a wide shoulder and separate sidewalk / bike path. So I'll probably explore that more on the weekend.

So this is a great way to see areas I wouldn't otherwise have gone to. For example, today I found a fish market at one of the port towns I biked through. I was checking out the area when I saw a large crowd going into a building. I went up to the door and saw that they had a trading floor, just like at the Merc. On a much smaller scale of course, but it was undeniably recognizable. A man in the middle of the "pit" had a box of fish spread out on the concrete floor. Around the pit, men and women crowded around shouting out bids. When the bidding ended, they scooped up the fish, put them back in the box, and gave them to the new owner. As I continued over the bridge, I saw an ever larger crowd on the river side of the building. Boats were being unloaded, and large crowds of people were buying and selling fish. The first picture above is of the market area from the bridge across the river. The second picture shows fishermen unloading their catches. I plan to head back next week with my good camera and get some more pictures of the trading pits and market.

One late edition - a Google Earth picture of the places I talk about. I think the labels should be self explanatory.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Korean Names 101

Korean names differ from what most people are used to. Instead of using given name and then family name, Koreans express their names as family name and then given name. Why, I'm not exactly sure. I believe it has something to do with the Confucius ethos. The family is more important than the individual. Just as addresses are written from general to specific, i.e. Starting with province, then city, urban area, neighborhood, building, and finally apartment.

Most Koreans outside of Korea adapt their name to the western convention, but a few keep the Korean style. One example would be Kim Jong-Il. He's not Mr. Il, but rather Mr. Kim. His given name is Jong-Il. For the soccer fans out there, you may know Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung. He's not Mr. Sung, but Mr. Park.

Korean names usually have a specific format. But first, a brief explanation of Korean. Korean letters are arranged into patterns that resemble characters. In fact, these characters are composed of a quite limited set of letters. Each "character" represents one syllable. And that brings us back to Korean names. Family names are almost always one character. Kim, Lee, and Park being the most popular. In fact these three last names represent almost half of all Koreans. Within each family name, there are various clans. So people with the same name are only considered related if they are from the same clan. In fact, it was considered taboo to marry anyone within your own clan, no matter how distantly related. Although I've heard that restriction is being lessened. Everyone from the clan (or maybe it's just males) is entered into their family registry. Thus researching your ancestory is quite easy. Many of the clans can trace their ancestors back to the 1300s or earlier.

Next we have the given names. The given names are usually two characters or syllables, although I do have one student with just a one syllable given name. Some families still use a generational name, which is one syllable used with all children of that generation. For example, I have a brother and sister named Jin-Young and Ha-Young. But based upon my limited experience with my students, that isn't very frequent.

The greatest complication is the preponderance of similar names. The Kim, Lee, and Park problem is just the beginning. For some reason, almost everyone has one 'S' or 'J' syllable in their given name. Among 30 or so students and staff at my school, I can only count a handful without a 'S' or 'J' syllable. Permutations of 'S' syllables include Soo, So, Seo, Seh, Seul, Sun, Sung, Seung, and Sang. Among the 'J's, we have Jun, Joon, Jin, Ji, Jung, and Jae. Unfortunately, we don't give our kids Western names, so I'm constantly calling them by the wrong name or spelling their name wrong. And of course, they get upset when I misspell Seo as So.

One final point is the romanization of Korean names. Since Korean sounds don't exactly match English sounds, there is some debate as to how to romanize Korean. For example, the letter ㄱ (I'm not sure if Korean characters will show up on your computer or not) is pronounced somewhere between a hard 'g' and 'k'. In part, depending on where in the word it lies. So the name 김, which is almost always written as Kim, is closer to Gim. The name 박, or Park, should be written as Bak. And finally, 이, or Lee, is actually just a long e sound. So people with the same Korean name can romanize their names differently.

Sunday, October 8, 2006


My favorite recipes. As opposed to having scraps of paper floating around my kitchen, I thought I'd put them here. Sources of recipes are available in the links.


I use a half recipe.

* 1 cup flour
* 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/2 egg, slightly beaten
* 3/4 cup milk
* 1 Tbsp melted butter

Combine dry ingredients, then add milk, egg, and butter. Mix and cook.

French Toast

I use a quarter of the given recipe.

* 1 egg
* 1/4 tsp sugar
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/4 c milk
* 3 slices of bread

Mix ingredients in a shallow pan. Coat bread with mixture. Cook.

Ice Cream

I simplify this recipe a bit and don't use eggs.

* 1 1/2 c cream
* 1 1/2 c milk (I like to use the flavored milk they sell here)
* 3/4 c sugar

Mix ingredients and put them in a container. Put in freezer. Stir every hour for several hours.


Ok, so I haven't made any plov (aka osh, the National Food of Uzbekistan) yet. But soon. I went to an Uzbek cafe in Seoul a few weeks ago with one of my Peace Corps alums. And the plov was a delightful alternative to the daily white rice staple they serve here.

Friday, October 6, 2006

The Search is Over

After a two week intensive search, I've finally found a stick of deodorant. At the grocery store three blocks from my house. While searching in Seoul a couple of weeks ago, I found a few places that carried deodorant. But the sticks were all quite small and ran $5 or $6. I finally resigned myself to paying this price but couldn't find any deodorant today when I went to Seoul. But there I was in the grocery store by my house when I finally spotted some deodorant and broke down and bought it. Same size and same price, but at least there's a nearby supply.

More importantly, I got a bike that actually fits. I bought a bike a few weeks ago which was a bit too small. I planned on getting the seat post modified to fit me better. But two days later it was swiped from the garage downstairs. I went back out bike shopping last week, but the biggest bikes I could find were still too small for me. After resigning myself to a bike free fall and winter, I found a bike listed for sale on one of the teacher's forums and I was able to snag it. It may be a couple of inches to small for me, but it's close enough.

My other major find today was a Sbarro's. The mall I went to had a Pizzeria Uno as well, but they wanted $15 for an individual pizza. Instead, I was able to get two good size slices of pizza from the Sbarro's for just over $7. Pepperoni and stuffed supreme. Very good. There are actually a lot of pizza places around me. Some have cheap $5-7 basic pizzas. They're not too bad, and I usually get one for for Friday dinner / Saturday breakfast. There are also the more expensive pizza joints (such as Domino's and Pizza Hut) which charge $20+ for a pizza. I've never tried them though. So to actually get western style pizza (i.e. no corn, lots of pepperoni) was a treat.