Friday, December 21, 2007

The after-report: Tourism Day Two

This whole writeup is late, as I was too busy having a blast in while I was in Seoul to actually post all this here. So this is actually the account of my second full day in Seoul.

I started out the day with a trip to the University of Seoul, where I often went on this trip. Three different times we stopped at this art exhibit, which is fine with me, because there were quite a few welded projects which were neat to look at. For instance, this sculpture made of #41 chain is neat, although they managed to hide the welds really well- I think they're all on the inside.

UBF won a contest for decorating their room well, which is good for taking pictures. This is me and with a guy that I actually didn't spend a lot a time with, so I don't remember his name. (Sorry!)

In Korea, the cell phone companies have supplemental cell antennae everywhere. Here are a couple in an insignificant, easily ignored back alley. The contrast to the US is obvious- the subway in Boston is just now entering an experimental project which will provide coverage in five of the subway stations in the system. Compare that to Korea, where it's hard to find any square meter of the country where there isn't coverage from every one of the major carriers, including subways, back alleys, and the never-crowded basement gym I went to at Handong.

Later this day I went to the Korean War Memorial. As we were nearing it, I was a bit surprised to see this sign. I suppose there's a little remnant of a US military base here.

The light was fading as we approached the museum. This statue is of a soldier helping a Korean child.

Outside of the memorial there were some large war machines. Most of the heavy war equipment was either US or USSR manufactured, depending on whether it came from South or North.

Entering the Memorial, these plaques are filled with the names of the soldiers who died. Shinsheel and Sarung are walking ahead of me.

The memorial covered all Korean military history, not just the most recent war. This ship, called the 'Turtle Ship' was an innovation during its age and with it, one Korean general pulled off a ridiculously unlikely victory over the Japanese, whose ninjas feet were fouled on the hundreds of iron spikes on the roof.

Korea was a leader in giant bottle rockets.

And if you're going to have 12 foot long bottle rockets, you need to have giant drums to go along with them.

I've lost count of how many times I or someone else has surreptitiously taken pictures where they are prohibited. This model is one example.

Looks like Korea figured caltrops out fairly early. Nasty things.

This cannon is actually Japanese, and it looks like they were on the verge of getting rifling figured out. Meanwhile, museum attendees have the practice of stuffing pamphlets into dark holes figured out. Not a bad casting.

I don't remember exactly what this thing was- I think a javelin with not-so-wise attachments for spin. I do know, though, that if I saw an angry man running at me with it, I would make haste to run the other way.

We're working our way to the more modern end of the museum, as is evidenced by this helicopter. Around here there was also a display of the evolution of battlefield digital communication equipment, which didn't draw even my interest. (Remarkable) I wouldn't normally think of 80's era encryption equipment as being museum material, but hey- I'm not in charge.

The Korean war was one of the first conflicts to see the usage of jet aircraft. I think these models are more modern than what were used, and depict the current Korean armaments rather than those used in the 1950 war.

For some reason, the museum(and a lot of museums, I suppose) was kept rather dark, which made photography difficult. Taking a picture of this neato jet engine cutaway forced me to use the flash (which I generally despise), but it actually came out fairly well. I'm not sure if Samsung was actually involved in the production of this engine in any way, or if they just slapped their name on it like most things.

I call this one "Business End".

The complete lack of good lighting is readily apparent in this picture. If the lighting were better of if I were willing to use the flash, you'd see a heavily armored 2.5 ton truck. If you could see the heavy steel plates mostly covering the radiator, I'd make a quip about its cooling efficiency.

It's a bit weird seeing Hangul(Korean writing) stenciled on what I know to be 100% American equipment, which I previously only have seen in an American context. Allies share equipment all the time, though, and I suppose I'm just used to seeing what the US puts out in native use.

I guess the designer of this Soviet tank didn't care too much about those fuel drums up front, as they're completely unarmored. I suppose they're a 'If they make it, great' add-on. I can just see one light-caliber round draining those onto the tank, soaking it in nice flammable fuel... I'm not sure if tanks were more commonly gasoline or diesel in this era. I'll have to look that up.
... Wikipedia shows me that during this era, there was a mix, but the trend was for newer equipment to use diesel.

I just wasted too much time looking up the development of tanks in WWII. Here are some aircraft, seen out the window.

...and just below is laser-guided democracy.

Hooray mortars!


Here's another model. I wonder who puts these things together, and what they do when the museum has all the dioramas/models that they need. I mean, the demands for these things can only be so much.

I think these show all the different ranks in the Korean military.

You saw this same statue earlier when we entered, here it is in near darkness.

On the way back, I took this picture of the subway name so that if I ever needed to find my way back to my temporary home, I'd know where to go. I never did need to use this knowledge, though.

Finally, Shinsheel, Sarung, and I all went and had dinner together in a small restaurant near the University of Seoul.

And to finish up, a picture of me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Five airports in one day- I'm finally back in the US

I'm posting from the Franks' house in Austin, TX- My journey went from Incheon(Korea) to Tokyo to Houston to Dallas to Austin. A very long trip. Anyway, I am safe and you can expect all the details of Seoul to be filled in a few days from now after I get to Boston.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Seoul is neat (Tourism day one)

I've had a great time so far in Seoul. I am staying with a nice couple here who are affiliated with a church here that my parents attend a branch of in the US. My parents' pastor reccomended some people to stay with here in Seoul, and now I am here with Jae-sung(Faithfulness) and Sarung(Love). I have wanted to stay in a Korean home, and now I am. They just moved into this apartment two weeks ago, and I have the honor of being their first guest in their new home. For having moved in two weeks ago, they are very well organized; I suppose that the small living spaces in Korea lend themselves to quick and easy moving.

I've spent three days here now, and it has been exciting. I've been taking many pictures- I trust that they will help me to remember where I've been, because I can't remember names in Korean. Today I went to the Korean National Museum and In Sa Dong, a popular outdoor mall. I think all the malls here are outdoor, though. I won't go through the whole thing backwards, though- lets start from the beginning.

Tuesday night I arrived in Seoul by bus- it's actually fairly cheap to take the bus here, and practical, unlike Greyhound. There is a direct bus between Pohang and Seoul, and it takes about 4.5 hours. I spent this time watching Korean drama, a show about Korean farming(apparently a popular show, I've seen it before- a girl goes and spends a day with the old Korean ladies who do all the farming and 'live the life' with them for a day), and playing Sudoku. Note to self: don't forget to print a bunch of Sudoku for the plane) Once I arrived, I had to get to a certain subway station, so I played the game 'look as confused as possible until a friendly, english-speaking Korean offers to help'. I had the slight handicap of 60kg of luggage. After an hour and three friendly Korean strangers, I finally met Boaz and Dongyu in Oksu station(Line 4, orange). We made our way to my host's home via city bus, where I recieved a joyous and enthusiastic reception:

After some socializing over tangerines(quul), Korean pear(peh), and water, I went to bed, thankful for a successful voyage. I'm so glad to be with such a nice host couple- they are very kind to me, and always go out of their way to make sure I'm happy.

My first day in Seoul started by going to University of Seoul, where the group that I'm staying with does their ministry of one-on-one Bible teaching. There was an outdoor art exhibit:

People often asked what my major is, so everyone knew that I liked welding(aka yong-jop). A lot of the outdoor sculptures were welded, like this rose:

Next, we went to the old palace/seat of government- I'm not sure about the name in Korean. The modern seat of government is here too, that is, their presidential living quarters (aka the 'Blue House'). We took the subway to get there, and it (in certain places) is well ornamented:

Here I am right outside the palace. The guards looked very serious, but something about their blades looked a bit funny to me.

Here's a view of a Chinese tour group taking a group photo. This is inside the first wall.

The outer eaves of each building, and at the top of many inside walls, are decorated with a very ornate woodcarving/painting combo. Lots and lots of work went into these! This photo is taken inside the King's chamber.

Here's the throne. (Sorry about the blurry picture)

We also went to the Korean National Folk Museum, outside of which was this neat arrangement of statues. Each statue is an animal(well, animal-headed man) which represents one of the years in the 12-year cycle. Ever heard of 'year of the tiger', 'year of the dragon', or read the placemat at a chinese restauant? That's what these are. I'm year of the rabbit. (1987)

The Folk Museum had lots of neat exhibits, but because I'm Ned, I'm going to show you a picture of the lady who was zooming around on a broom-equipped scooter:

Dongyu was my guide for the day. Here we are after seeing the palace and museum.

This is as close as we could get to the Blue House(equivalent to American White House) . It was right outside the palace grounds. Neat mountain in the background.

Next we took a cable car up to the Seoul Tower, which takes advantage of its position on a mountain(well, more like a big hill) to broadcast maximum cell coverage. As you can see, it was fairly foggy, so we opted out of buying the tickets up the the observatory.

It's pretty tall.
I've heard about this tradition/practice in other places. Couples will get a padlock(or two) and lock it on a fence or any other convenient structure located at some memorable destination. I wonder how many keys were thrown away over this fence. I also wonder how much money was wasted by guys buying the biggest lock(s) available to symbolize how much they love their girlfriend, only to break up later.

Ice cream cone sculpture.

There were several chromed steel spheres outside near the base of the tower. They all were covered in mathemagical formulae and (less so) flower designs which had actually been cut into the (hollow) spheres with a plasma cutter. I don't really know what the significance of these are, but nonetheless- neat.

In Korea, many it is common to use kerosene for heat. Again, I don't know why- I suppose it may be a holdover from older times that the US didn't experience. Anyway, everywhere you go, there are many of the same 20 liter kerosene containers. These little trucks run around the city and sell kerosene. Tiny little trucks, they are. I wish they'd sell efficient and well-engineered trucks like this in the US. Probably not the safest vehicles, though.

Some of you may know about my aspirations to live in an ISO container/dry van trailer. It looks like the company selling real estate in the city elected to use them for portable offices. The top ones are strange, though, as they are not standard width. I can imagine that making things more than a little difficult in nearly every area of dealing with these, as it throws the whole standardization thing out the window. Oh well, they seemed happy enough with them.

In the US we have street food, and the city/state/somebody inspects and licenses them. In Korea, though, street food is much more common and is actually illegal(or so I've heard a few times). That doesn't stop it from being delicious, though. Mmm, street meat.

The particular area that we were visiting was known for its fashion, and one of the companies/organizations hawking their wares to the public erected this giant glowing pyramid over a subway(or underground shopping center) entrance. I wonder how many watts this thing is sucking down.

I think they got a little carried away with this sign. I think that fashion, in principle alone, is complete bullcrap. Not just because I don't want to bother keeping up with it(not that I really have to, as a male), but because it's perhaps one of the most wasteful and useless things ever to exist. The fact that most people aren't offended by 'fashion' offends me. I wonder how many bags of rice the cost of this neon display could have sent to Africa.

And on that note, this day's worth of pictures is over. At the time of this writing, it's actually over a week since these pictures were taken, so I'm relying on the pictures to be my notes. At some point in the evening, Dongyu and I ate Jajangmyeon, which is a black noodle dish with lots of onions. It's a pretty special dish, we had to search for a Chinese-Korean restaurant that served it and wait for a table. Everyone there was eating it, which shows that it's a bit of a specialty dish. I liked it.