Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day 6.021: Farewell to January, snow

The top picture is from ten days ago - Exile #4 made this ring of snow blocks and later put a small snow fairy in the middle.  She was sad to see it all completely gone this morning.  The last of the snow piles had just about held on through the temperatures in the high 50's and then through heavy rain and stormy winds of the night.  Mostly, she was upset that I failed to take a photo of her construction at its height.

This evening, we have a covering of snow again and the temperatures have dropped back safely below freezing - just in time for the start of February.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day 6.020: Doctor Who in LEGO

Exile #3 further established her Doctor Who fan status by doing this:

It's three incarnations of the Doctor with their various associates all made from a very limited selection of mini-figure pieces.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Day 6.019: A load of crab

I have quite a lot of food-related stuff to write about Korea but I am still tired in the evenings and there's a lot going on.

Here is a quick picture story from one of our meals - a feast of crab eaten in an unimposing restaurant in a market area of Busan.

In sequence:
  1. Choosing and weighing the crabs outside before we went in.
  2. The cooked and divided crab (you can also see the head containing the tomalley - they came and fetched this back to the kitchen at some point).
  3. The rice made with the tomalley and served with some spicy soup to end the meal.

This was something rather special - and something we would never have found and navigated without a local to guide us.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 6.018: Remarkable signs

Here I am, remarking on them (clockwise from top left):
  1. The stark warning not to lean on the elevator (lift) doors.
  2. The hand towel dispenser (nothing unusual there, but next to it...)
  3. The gargle dispenser!
  4. Bad luck to any adults who wanted the Hello Kitty plates at the breakfast buffet.
  5. Those two really should have looked for the toilet before they got to that stage.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day 6.017: Seoul survivors

Today was a bit like yesterday - a lot of rushing about and a bit of Doctor Who.

Meanwhile here is another (probably the last) installment from Day 5.361, maybe by now it's feeling as endless for you as it did for me at the time!

We walked along most of the length of Cheonggyecheon - it's basically an urban park in the form of a beautified stream running through the city.  Korea was in the throes of a cold-snap while we were there - so things were rather icy.  The water features were impressively coated, but apparently ice was less welcome on the stepping stones - workers were removing it diligently with pointy-sticks.

We noticed some strange doors in the wall.  Fortunately there was a picture nearby explaining them - apparently this is an important storm drain from time to time:

We also discovered that an elevated highway was removed as part of the project to open this park.  You can just about imagine it in this picture looking along the path from the end:

To have made this park is impressive, but removing a highway like that is a huge transformation. Maybe there is hope for Albany's waterfront after-all?

Here's one of the art installations along the stream - a huge tile mural depicting a parade with piped sound-effects:

At the end of the stream, we turned towards the palace.  We didn't visit inside this time, but enjoyed the sights up the boulevard and the open courtyard and Seoul's answer to the Queen's Guard:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Day 6.016: National Museum of Korea

In the real world, we spent the day rushing the kids from place to place and then finally settling down to watch the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas Special and the first episode of the subsequent series.

Back in Korea, still on the long day of trying to stay awake, we visited the National Museum of Korea - just across the river from Gangnam (of style fame).

The museum is in a hugely imposing (and also huge) building.

It's also huge on the inside!

Here are a few of my favourite exhibits.

I'm pretty sure these are coffins (they are about three to four feet tall):

There was lots of cool art.  I loved this pheasant

and this tiger

and there were a load of these beautiful bamboo paintings!

This guy is totally rocking this hair-style:

Quack, quack!

Finally - sadly I suspect that, contrary to appearances, this is not an exhibit about the invention of the golf ball:

We spent about an hour and a half there - just about time to whizz around most of the galleries.  I could have spent longer there, but that would require a day when my will and my body were not in open conflict about what time of the day or night it was.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Day 6.015: Namsan

I have a vague plan to write a few more blog posts about my Korean adventure, but for now, here are some pictures from our early morning hike up Namsan in Seoul when we first arrived.

It was the first episode in our long day of staying awake after we'd landed shortly before dawn.

It was quite cold, and we might have been tempted by a warm visit to the observation tower at the top, but it was too early for it to be open. We enjoyed the rather nice views from the ground-level areas and then walked back down again.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day 6.014: Frozen, pizza!

After a disastrous night's sleep I took the day off work today. Amongst other things, this meant I was home to deal with our first ever frozen pipe. I guess it must be the coldest spell of weather we've experienced since we moved here.

Here's the answer to Day 5.365's little quiz.  This:

was the bag that someone in the party took the last piece of leftover pizza home in.  Not your average doggy bag - and no - I have no explanation for the "Love for Women" slogan which was also on the menu!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day 6.013: My recipe for orange Gatorade slushy

On a hot day, a Gatorade slushy could be perfect...
  1. Mix 2 oz of orange Gatorade (refrigerated) and 2 oz of tap water.
  2. Place in a 6 oz (or larger) plastic bottle with a lid.
  3. Agitate constantly at an ambient temperature of 15°F or less for 40 minutes or more.
  4. Enjoy! 

Admittedly, if the weather is cold enough for your Gatorade to freeze in the bottle on your hydration belt while you're taking a run, it might be too cold for you to appreciate the slushy you made.

This was at the weekend.  I ran this morning (without carrying any liquid) when the temperature was right around 0°F.  They don't allow the kids to go outside at recess at these temperatures, but with my extra layer of fleece (trousers/pants, top and gloves) on top of my normal winter running gear, I actually was a bit warmer than I needed to be.  The only issue I had was when my head and therefore my hat got a bit sweaty, I ended up with a block of ice pressed against my ear!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 6.012: Colder and colderer

We had a quick trip to Five Rivers on Monday (the kids were off school in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I was catching up from my 31 hour day of travel). Exile #4 had somewhere else to be, but the rest of us braved the cold.

Since then it's got even colder.  This morning, we woke to the windows looking like this:

This afternoon, we got a sudden burst of very dry polystyrene-style snow and then this (from the National Weather Service):



No need for me to convert those temperatures to Celsius for the European reader.  40 below zero is the same on both scales!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 6.011: While I was away...

...all kinds of awesomeness happened.

I can tell you that the Lego model is Exile #4's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (after they watched the film together) and I already knew about E5N1 chosing "Kindle" as one of his "things that begin with the /k/ sound", I know that E5N1 told Exile #2 last Sunday that he wanted "to wear a necktie" and went on to visit church and Exile #4's skating lesson dressed like that, but as for any stories behind the other two pictures...I'm as in the dark as you are.

Of course this is all in addition to the TARDIS - which is still going strong.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day 6.010: It was my birthday again!

I'm sure pretty much every British child had a moment growing-up when they discovered that the monarch has two birthdays (an official one and an actual one) and wondered if there was some way to secure an extra one for themselves (with presents obviously rather than a fancy display of horsemanship).

Anyway, today was birthday number three for me this month, but the first that involved either cake or the opening of presents. Both featured today, but very nice though those things were, nothing matched up to just being home with the family!

How come I look the most awake in this photo?!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Day 6.009: Home!

It was a very VERY long day. It started around 31 hours ago with a last Korean run just after dawn and is about to end in my own bed!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 6.008: A visit to the pleasure palace

After lunch on the last work-day, we managed a brief visit to an imposing ancient building on a curve in the river. It was built in the 8th century, but added to and renamed in the late 14th century.

Our local guides described it as a "party place" but I think pleasure palace captures the spirit!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day 6.007: At the song trading place

Yes - there was singing this evening. The Korean term for the sort of private-room karaoke that is popular in this part of the world loosely translates as the title of this post.

Everybody sang, even though half the room claimed they would not at the start of our session, but the highlight of the evening was, without a doubt, the rendition by the four South Korean members of the party of Gangnam Style - we couldn't really avoid it could we?

They all launched into it with customary enthusiasm!

One more twenty-four hour day, before the long, long day of travelling begins!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Day 6.006: Comfort food

I skipped breakfast, but made it to work. At lunchtime, feeling OK but not yet really hungry we called for a sandwich. That took us to Paris Baguette (it's pronounced Paree in the Korean transliteration). I was amused to see their sign with the tagline "We're bake". Not quite sure where they were going there.

As we were leaving, our hosts informed us that after an illness such as ours they would usually have soup and rice, so for dinner we went back to one of last week's lunch locations: 서올 삼계탕 (Seoul Chicken Ginseng Soup).

This is a great experience. They only serve this dish (along with their own selection of side dishes and condiments). It comes as an individual serving in a very hot bowl - a small whole chicken in still boiling broth. The first job is to break up the carcass with a large spoon revealing that it is stuffed with rice, ginseng root, plums and water chestnuts, which then spill out making an excellent soup with the chicken meat. Eating it is a gradual process of ladling out into a cooling bowl, picking bones out, scooping broth, rice and chicken and occasionally picking out a tasty morsels with chopsticks.

I don't know that it helped our recovery, but it certainly didn't hurt!

Day 6.005: Bedridden!

I was woken by my body at 5am. I won't go into details but two of the six of us who had dinner together missed a day of work. It was a pretty miserable day.

Early in the afternoon, the phone rang in my hotel room, they wanted to clean it, so I pulled some clothes on over my pyjamas and went downstairs. As the doors opene at the bottom I was surprised to see one of our hosts - coming to see how the two of us were doing. After some discussion he persuaded me to let him go to the pharmacy for some medicine for - checks translator on phone - looseness.

This is it. Each dose was a sachet containing two normal-looking tablets and a sachet containing lots of small brown balls. Couldn't help thinking the latter was some form of wishful thinking.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Day 6.004: Driving to the beach

Our journeys on Friday evening and Monday morning through the city of Busan were definitely challenging. In the end I was not in the frame to drive because the rental company would only register two drivers and I was number three. So I was a participant but a less active one in the adventures.

The rules of the road are flouted everywhere. Although less so in the Monday rush hour when there are many police at the intersections. Other times, driving though red lights, turning right from left lanes and vice versa.  In extreme situations, it seems that putting the hazard warning lights on excuses any behaviour.

Here are a couple of views out of my hotel window.  It seemed to be busy at all hours!

We did fine, but I'm not sure that any of us would choose to do it again!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 6.003: Running with polar bears

There are two kinds of days that make it hard to write this blog - days when nothing happens and days when lots of things happen. This was one of the latter, so, I'll just tell you about the hour from 6.30am and 7.30am and save the rest for one of the former kind of days!

I went for a run along behind the beach. It was dark when I set off, but there is street-lighting and it's a pedestrians-only pathway so that was fine.

When I arrived at the far end of the beach and discovered the walking/running track (1 km around a small park), the sun was just starting to rise behind our hotel at the other end of the beach.

After a couple more laps of the track I set off back along the beach. There were many more people around by this point, but still manageable for running (unlike the daylight hours). The beach was also filling up - with small groups of men and women in wetsuits. Each group was doing some kind of activity: running, doing jumping jacks, shouting. Then, when each was ready they were getting into the water. With more shouting.

Whether this is a regular Sunday activity, or preparation for the Polar Bear Swimming event next weekend I'm not sure but it was an entertaining way for me to finish my run!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day 6.002: Feed the birds

I had a very lazy day today, but I did manage a walk along Haeundae beach.  The buildings around it are quite imposing.

Periodically, a large flock of seagulls swooped in on groups of people.

They were getting very close - causing people to duck for fear of being hit by them.

It didn't take too long to find out that their presence near the people wasn't a coincidence.