Family

Taejongdae

Taejongdae is another beautiful sight in Busan.  It's on the southernmost tip of Yeongdo, or Yeong Island.  Some westerners say "Yeongdo Island."  This is incorrect because "do" means "island."  You don't want to say "Yeong Island Island."  That would just be goofy goofy.

The place is named after King Taejong who used to frequent the island.  He ruled during the Silla kingdom.  I'm guessing he would've been a fan of Green Arrow and Robin Hood since he spent time practicing archery while on the island.

There's an amusement park nearby where you can amuse yourself.  The "John Wayne" restaurant is nearby too.  It's a really good Korean barbecue restaurant that we take our Navy Reserves to sometimes.  They'll even drive a bus out and pick up your group.  The view from the restaurant is really nice during the day.  At night, you're just staring at a bunch of lights.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Korea's Lunar New Year holiday ('설날') occurred over the weekend. It's a time of year that involves families gathering together, and all the inevitable responsibilities that go along with this, both subtle and overt. This year it clashed with Valentine's Day, leaving people with a choice of which to celebrate. With family being so important the New Year invariably won, although once again, ever-evasive Korean Brother managed to avoid any such obligations. As the eldest in her family, and with both parents having passed away many years ago, it is Korean Mother's responsibility to host to her young siblings for New Year's meals, and it's not an event without its tensions; with a sister who works as a Buddhist psychic and a brother who works as a Christian pastor, they are a microcosm of the religious differences which can sometimes bubble away uneasily in Korean society.

[Nine] Happy Lunar New Year :)

Hello everyone,

This might be one day late for everyone in Asia, but I hope you are enjoying/enjoyed a wonderful Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day!

In Korea, Seollal 설날 (the Korean name for Lunar New Year) is one of the biggest celebrations in the year. It's a day to spend quality time with family and enjoy great food. In that respect, it's really fitting that this year, Seollal falls on Valentine's Day and that it's one day before Family Day.

Nine Months

My wife and I have been trying for a baby for a year, and were beginning to face up to the possibility that we needed to get ourselves checked to find out if there was a problem. I was facing up to the question of what life would be like if that problem was with me - it would have been bad enough in my own country, but to live in Korea and be the one responsible for a childless marriage was a burden I didn't know how to bear; my paranoia focused on all those deeply held suspicions that a certain section of society here wants to believe about foreigners. My state of mind not helped by the revelation that our newly-wed friend had become pregnant on their first attempt.

Wedding Crashers

Sunday was the day of our friends' wedding, and it would be the first ceremony I'd attended in Korea where I was merely a spectator, rather than a participant. Surely being on the other side of the fence would be less stressful? Maybe not so much.

Suiting Up

The Couch

Our search for a couch had ground to a halt. The prices on Furniture Mountain had generally started at 800,000 won (£421/$688) for anything comfortable, and this seemed high compared to some of the local stores we'd visited, so we resolved to try again later.

Unfortunately the first opportunity which really arose was the one Sunday in three when a lot of stores seem to be closed, which meant our browsing choices were limited, and when we arrived at the store where we'd bought our desks, the owner was nowhere to be found even though it was open. I tried out the couches and the office chairs, waited, went outside, stared up and down the street, and marvelled at the evident lack of crime - or fear of it- which allowed a business owner to desert his premises on a regular basis. I suspected he was out delivering to a customer.

Shi gan

My wife planned to buy her best friend a relatively expensive watch for her upcoming wedding as a special gift, but somewhere along the way it was decided that while the budget might remain the same, it would be better if 'couples' watches were purchased. I had a feeling that someone got the casting vote in that decision amongst the electorate of two.

Koreans readily embrace the 'couples' concept - which can mean having the same style of watches, wearing exactly the same style of clothes, phones and anything else which occurs as a possibility. It is some disturbingly outward sign of their homogeneity in an already dangerously homogeneous society.

Sicko

Thus far, my reintroduction to Korean society has been unexpectedly bumpy at best for various reasons, but there are some aspects of life in Korea which would have to go a long way downhill before they become negative parts of the equation. One of these is the Korean health system with its immediate treatment, availability of hospitals with their second and third opinions if you want them, all at a price which show up the National Health Service back home for what it is - a self-absorbed and expensive bureaucracy which two years ago Wikipedia alarmingly cited as the fourth biggest employer in the world. By comparison, the privately-based Korean system seems much more certain to actually treat illness effectively. However, there is a catch - which is the money.

Roman Candles

I left the apartment early this morning to find a cake for my wife's birthday before she woke up, and discovered that my favourite local bakery didn't open until 9am. I'm used to Koreans working very long hours, and since many British bakeries are open much earlier in the day, I'd assumed the same would be true here, but it isn't.

Avoiding the Paris Baguette chain as being too manufactured and clichéd, I located an alternative that was open, and for once was rather glad to have a staff member hover over me while I made a selection from a large array of choices. My new best friend ventured to tell me the ingredients which met with my approval, and after telling her "I'd like to buy this one", we proceeded to the checkout.

Event Horizon

"Chuseok is one of Korea’s most largely celebrated holidays. It is a time when families and friends gather to share food and enjoy their time together, giving thanks to their ancestors for the year's bountiful harvests." - Korea Tourism OrganizationBut there was no bountiful harvest for me on Saturday - except of misfortune; Chuseok will now also be known as the day I caused the Great Internet

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