Sunday, October 31, 2010

Korea - River Walking - October 22nd

The small television screen in the elevator indicated rain last night, however we had only a few hazy clouds yesterday afternoon and a brilliant blue sky today after the morning clouds burned off. Yesterday I went for a long walk on the river heading south. I like to walk further and further when I have time because it is rather intriguing to see what is just around the bend. There were many dogs out walking as well and that seems to be Ruby’s signal to bark. snarl, viciously bite the rim of her stroller, as we passed these teacup sized dogs. I have tried to condition her to ignore them or when she is walking, to position her so as to block her view from the oncoming dogs. I have succeeded sometimes. I walked further south than I had before. I had taken a break in one of the pagodas above the path, but the buzzing hum of six or seven leaf blowers in unison on the other side of the river, and up the hill made me decide to continue on my walk. As I was leaving that park I noticed a sign which indicated that I was very close to the subway station two stops from my home. We headed back in the warm afternoon after having had our brief respite in the shade. At that time in the afternoon quite a number of senior citizens go for walks. They enjoy chuckling and laughing at Ruby in the pet stroller. They are so sweet and friendly that it makes me laugh or smile too. I love the late afternoon light because it always gives a different look to the world. (When I lived in Saipan my favorite time to go shell hunting was when the afternoon sun was getting low in the sky.) The light on the river was beautiful. The river itself varied in color from olive green shades to a light muddy beige color, but the reflection from the hillside, and especially a rather large willow tree right by the water was unique. I felt as if I was seeing the scene through the sun warped windows that I loved so much in a house that we had rented in Forest Grove some years ago. Somehow, with the slight breeze the reflection looked as if there were tiny areas of color bent at different angles. There was a light clarity about it that was so striking. It reminded me of the many different looks hat a river can have. After the bad storms the water was very high, moving swiftly and having a heavy sheen that gave the water a heavy, oily look. Now the river was at least a foot lower, and seemed docile by comparison. There were a number of egrets along the river banks, each surveying it’s own domain. In one area a female was in the river as well. It was such an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. At almost five in the afternoon it is still 72 degrees. Ruby and I went for a quick walk this morning. After doing some chores, making some calls and watching my brilliant new granddog via Skype I put Ruby in her stroller and we headed out for an afternoon walk by the river. I found another way to get down to the river (there are many) and this walk is very pretty with a canopy of trees overhead. The leaves are falling and they were brittle and crunchy as Ruby and I walked though them. We went north today, watching people play a funny type of golf, and enjoying the river sounds and the lively activity of the magpies and pigeons. Going over the pedestrian bridge I saw one of my co-workers jetting by at top speed on his bike. He waved in recognition. I really am easy to spot with Ruby’s vivid green pet stroller. I walked rather far and having a book with me I decided to stop and read for awhile. My original stopping and reading place unfortunately had a pipe break nearby during the huge flooding storm that we had earlier. Judging by the smell, we still needed to take a break from that spot. We walked further on and there was a little pagoda on the path, but a number of people were in it. I had been to the park behind that area before and headed up there today. Sometimes that area has rather a sad, neglected feeling, but today in the sun it felt perfect. There were a number of people at picnic tables and on park benches. Also there must be a hospital nearby because I often see patients walking around that area or being wheeled around in wheelchairs. Korea seems to be a modest place and dress is conservative. But, hospital patients wear their pajamas when they go out so it is easy to spot them. I found a sunny spot under a tree that also had a bit of shade close-by in case Ruby preferred that. The air smelled warm and dense with the smell of the warmed brown leaves. I leaned up against a tree trunk. The bark was was rough, but it felt good to feel nature all around me. Ruby was restless and so continually pulled the leash that I had placed over my bare foot, having discarded my socks the minute I sat down. Still, despite the tugging I was able to enjoy the beautiful day, the people biking or walking through the park, the sun warmed air with a cool undercurrent to it, and the beautiful blue sky. I read about 20 pages when suddenly Ruby was snarling, lunging and baying! A feral cat had come out of the hedge between us and the river. It was large, with black fun, and white paws. It was at least half again as big as Ruby, but that didn’t deter her in the least. The cat looked uncertainly toward me, and again at Ruby, and then furtively slunk back into the bushes. That only became a more exciting game to Ruby who used that as her cue to throw herself forward on her lead, only to bounce back each time. I think that I have learned from watching the egrets on the water’s edge how to stay present in the moment better. However, despite my encouragement to sit back down Ruby was determined to catch that cat! We packed up, brushing the dry and fragrant leaves from my clothes and her fur, and headed down the ramp to walk south on the river to my home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Korea - Chusok and storms

September 23 - Chusok and storms The day before Chusok I took the subway down to Home Plus to do some shopping. I had just been to EMart the day before and loaded up on supplies, but couldn’t carry everything that I needed, thus the additional shopping trip. I enjoy shopping here, even though it can be confusing, because it is so interesting to see what delicious treats I can find. It is also sometimes a surprise to realize that what I thought I purchased turns out to be something quite different! I got some persimmons, a seasonal specialty, some yellow kiwi fruit among other things, and some delicious jiaozi. Of course I didn’t know how good it was until I came home and prepared them. I am also a big fan of red bean bao which I probably overindulge in. I was curious to see how many people were doing last minute shopping for Chusok, a harvest festival which includes visiting families and honoring ancestors. I was told that it is the biggest holiday in Korea. The morning was quiet, perhaps a bit more so than normal. I was told by a Korean woman that all of the women are busy cooking for a couple of days before the holiday. I did see some women who carried packages wrapped furoshiki style in sheer fabric of pink or yellow. These gifts come in gift boxes and can be any sort of fruit including boxes that contained three large cantaloupe-looking melons. In the stores there were candied persimmons, assorted toiletries, seaweed, tuna and so just about anything that an enterprising company will assemble into large gift boxes. That afternoon Ruby and I took a walk and it was cool and sprinkling outside. A few people were out walking or biking but most noticeable was how quiet it was. But, as time passed more and more older people showed up on the walking paths. This was quite a contrast to Saturday, a few days before, when many school children were visiting the river parks with their classes. The excitement of being free from school and anticipation of the holiday charged the kids with energy. Yesterday was Chusok. Again, it was noticeably quiet. No wonder, since from my apartment I could see the highway and freeway clogged with traffic that was moving at a crawl. Part of the tradition of this holiday is to go home to one’s parents home, which here means the husband’s parents. Nowadays though the young couple will stop by her parents home after having spent the appropriate amount of time at her in-laws. When I went to take Ruby to the river for our walk I realized that it was raining lightly so we returned back to the 23rd floor to retrieve my umbrella. Since the rain was light I chose my small umbrella over the more unwieldily large one. By the time I crossed the street, pushing Ruby in her stroller, the rain had stopped, but on the corner near the river I found myself standing, while waiting for the light to change, in a cloud of golden dragonflies. They were almost swarming around my head, but in graceful lazy arcs. I have often observed them by the river but have never been ‘visited’ by them before. By the time the light changed and I crossed the street the rain was falling steadily. I hated to give up our walk so I forged ahead. I noticed that some ginkgo fruit had fallen on the sidewalk. I like to gather things on my walks to put in my apartment. It is a way of bringing life and nature to my home. There were very few people out, mostly westerners and the rain would come and go in squalls. Eventually the rain really started to fall. I was astonished at how quickly Ruby and I were soaked. Her stroller was wet, and she was wet. Water was trickling down my legs and into my shoes because it was raining hard by then. When I came into my apartment we dried off, laid the clothing on the drying rack to dry, and watched the rain come down. The sky was very grey and the rain was falling harder and harder. Since I had been in a cleaning mood, which has become rather rare for me, I decided to try my luck at the exterior windows, which are dressed in a pretty thick layer of grit and grime. By standing on my couch and reaching out of the high window as far as I could I was able to make a number of great swipes across a rather large part of the window. It a very short time I realized that I ran the risk of the open window that I was leaning out of slamming hard against my arm since the wind was picking up. That’s when the lightning began! I decided that would be a definite signal to close the window and give up the window cleaning. Within moments the lightning was cracking over and over, and seemed to be just overhead. It was so strong that the metal fillings in my teeth started to feel strange! In only moments there was a wall of water falling and the visibility was zero. I couldn’t see past my window because the grayness and rain was so dense. I knew that there was a typhoon again in Taiwan, but didn’t expect to be on the edge of it as we had been a couple of weeks before. I was busy so didn’t worry about the storm, although I was quite happy that I didn’t lose power. This morning Ruby and I headed out for our walk and it wasn’t until I got to the river that I realized that the heavy rains and wind had really caused significant damage to the area. The typhoon a few weeks ago caused a large number of trees to fall down, and a number of signs to fall off of the walls of buildings, but this was different. There were some areas that looked like someone had been digging the sod up in the park next to the river, but I later realized that it was a combination of the water and the force that was behind it that caused the damage. Flooding water had come up the far side of the river and with it came debris, and the tearing of many grasses that were stuck in masses in fences, and the netting around the golf area. The force had even removed metal railings and even asphalt in a number of areas. I remarked how easily the pigeons adjusted to the mashed down grasses on the side of the river. I actually think that it made it easier for them to get the grain that they enjoyed eating. As I was watching them placidly eating I noticed how varied the pigeons are here. Some were grey while other were white, or black. Some had a green iridescent coloring, while some had auburn streaks. The combinations of black and white, and grey markings was really lovely to look at. I tried to see patterns in the coloring among birds, but each looked unique, like fingerprints. The magpies seemed unfazed, and were going about business as usual. The water was too brown and still moving too quickly to see any carp. The absence of the egrets was most evident. I didn’t see one. I must say though that I only saw two ducks and normally there are quite a few. I wonder if they were hiding out until thing calmed down a bit. It was strange to see the debris everywhere, decorated by the effluvia from our daily lives. One area was dotted with chunks of styrofoam, while a sliced pineapple top was resting in the matted grasses. Up on one of the railings that was still standing, packed with broken grasses was a single small glass bottle, resting right on the top. It was so precarious that I thought it was interesting that it stayed thought all of the rain and wind. Behind another clot of grasses I saw a single fish, dead and resting on its side. It was about six inches in length, and I couldn’t identify it. I marveled that there weren’t more fish that had washed up into the park. This is the first time I have ever lived so close to a river, and have enjoyed it everyday. I am astounded in the changes that I have seen there in less than two months. Sometimes the river water is clear, sparkling and one can see the river bed due to its clarity. After the last storm it looked slick and shiny, almost oily due to the strange light. Today it was swift and brown. I have looked forward to my walks on the river. As the days darken earlier and earlier I judge how far and how long I can walk in the darkness, lit by old fashioned looking globes of light. The very grasses have become dear to me. I was sad that the wildflowers seemed to have vanished, but curious about all of the sand that was swept to the shore. The air was cooler today than any day since I arrived, barely two months ago. I had to wear a jacket to stay warm. As I pushed Ruby back to our apartment I smelled a bit of bitterness and decay in the air, that seems to accompany autumn, as I walked under pines and birch trees. At the base of the ginkgo trees were their yellow fruits scattered on the sidewalks. As I walked across the carpet that they provided a lovely crunching sound accompanied my footfalls. This is my new home. It is a place that feels calm, even during the storms. The people who I meet are friendly and curious. For the first time since being here, today when I came in my door it felt like home.

Korea - More Impressions

Korea – More Impressions September 4, 2010

The river, which runs from south to north just across the street from my highrise is an endless source of delight to me. There are two parallel paths, one for bike riders, walkers, roller bladers, joggers, and so on, while the other one is reserved for walkers. It isn’t unusual to see as many as 15 bike riders who seem to belong to a bike group flying by in single file formation. The bike riders, for the most part have fancy, upscale bikes and the riders are dressed in gear that would make Nike proud.

People are friendly and I have had conversations with a number of people, either on the walking paths, or on the grassy areas in-between the paths. It is almost as if one can meet anyone there! I met a young man from Canada who admired Ruby. He told me that he also has a dachshund here with him. We shared a number of stories about the (lack of) adjustment of our dogs. It is always comforting to talk to another dachshund owner, rather than an owner of any other type of dog since dachshunds have their own set of (disconcerting and annoying) traits. It made me feel so much better just to know that I am not the only one going through the steep curve of adjustment that these dogs have. Pee-peeing deliberately in inappropriate spots, barking, baying and howling are a few of the difficulties. I have also lost a nice black top, my favorite raincoat, and two pair of house slippers to the rampages that Ruby has been on. Another man that I met had been admiring Ruby from afar and eventually struck up a conversation with me a few days later. He wanted me to translate Korean recipes for him into English for a cookbook that he is writing. He had lived in Harlem for a number of years while going to graduate school. Of course that would be a violation of my contract, although I’m not sure why, so I was happy that I didn’t run into him again! Most recently I met a man, ostensibly because Ruby is so cute, that was a retired Army officer. He started to walk along with me. His English was somewhat stilted but he was able to converse. As we walked along he told me a number of things about his family. Eventually he told me that his wife played golf everyday, and that he was interested in falling in love”! I told him that Ruby was enough to keep me busy!

A couple of times I saw a woman close-by to my apartment on my walks. Yesterday we smiled and nodded (fake bow) and she said ‘hi’ to me, in a soft shy voice. She’s about my age and it was interesting to see that our acquaintance is growing!

What I must say is that the Korean people that I have met are mostly very nice, thoughtful, helpful and humorous. Speaking of humorous, it reminds me of another incident involving two Korean men. My friend, Bridget, who arrived at almost the same time I did into Seoul, and I were coming back from shopping. We had so many bags that Bridget got stuck in the turnstile in the subway station. Two rather elderly men, one carrying a cane, came to her rescue, took her bags and showed her how to climb under the turnstile since her subway card had already locked her out. Amidst much laughter we finally got through, but the fitter of the two men wanted to help Bridget carry her bags….I must add that Bridget is significantly younger than I am, has a petite figure and is blonde. Being blonde is a real attraction here! So we toddled along after them with the rest of our groceries. We saw an exit sign and pointed to it, but the men were very definite that we should follow them another way. They were chuckling and giggling and as we were following them down the narrow hallway we started to wonder where they were taking us. As we began to be a bit worried we quickly conversed and both of us thought that there was some chance that they were taking us to the toilets, or who knows where. It was either loose the bags and ditch our guides, or take our chances! I guess that was a lesson for us in being overly suspicious…not a good trait. These two sweet old men were leading us to the elevator. They were chuckling with laughter because they were so pleased with themselves for helping us! Amidst much laughter and many thank yous we headed off into different directions towards home.

Another interesting thing about the walking paths is that at one point there is a sort of wading pond. It is very pretty, lined with stones in some places. The design is hard to describe, but perhaps it is like an octopus. It provides narrow, shallow places for the children to play. Curiously it is only filled on some weekends. There are lifeguards that organize the chairs, and generally watch over the area. Many small children bedecked in floats of bright shapes and colors bob around with eager and anxious parents guiding them or encouraging them in the pool. The most interesting part of the whole experience though is that many families come for the day or the afternoon and bring their tents, lawn chairs, coolers, blankets, sun hats and so on with them. For some reason I have noticed that not too many people wear sunglasses here. Anyway, it is so comical to see the tiny swimming area almost swallowed up by the plethora of the many colored tents! I feel a bit envious as I watch the families eating yummy looking treats that mother has prepared.

Another thing that I love about the river is the sound of the outdoors…birds, water splashing and gurgling , the wind rustling through the trees and tall grasses, some kind of cicada while really create a cacophony of vibrating noise. I’ve seen what I believe to be a number of egrets, magpies, sparrows, ducks; and many fish that look like carp while are large and brownish. Today I decided to start photographing the wild flowers that I see at the edge of the walking path. So many! Most of them are tiny blossomed, but range from bright blue to sunset pink, and include yellow and orange flowers as well. Today I saw what resembles a cabbage moth, but in more abundance are a smallish very pretty orange butterfly spotted in dark brown or black dots. There are many of them and it is so pleasant to watch them dancing from flower to flower.

On the other side of the river is a rather large local neighborhood, which is far more interesting than the high rise area that I live in. Cars are parked in a jumble all over the streets and sidewalks, buildings of different shapes and sizes sit side by side, some having a persimmon tree out front. People dress very conservatively. Some of the younger women wear sports clothes, but for the most part the colors are subtle. Jeans aren’t seen very often in this area. One day when I was walking over there with Ruby I noticed that a woman very close in age to me was walking down the street in a very nice floral suit. I was wearing Nike sportswear – walking gear. It was funny in a way because what I thought of was how out of place I looked here, and how out of place she would have looked in the US. A few of the young people dress in an upscale stylish manner, but in this area it is less common. What I like is seeing the local people shopping, eating, visiting, children playing. It is a far better place to shop for local produce than on this side of the river. Produce is very expensive here…think about it! A place where one buys lettuce leaves individually! For the most part, fruits and vegetables are at least double in price. I had a bad cold, a sore throat, and was extremely overheated one day as the humidity has been so high. There was no way that I could resist the cool ripe halves of watermelons displayed at the market. That half melon cost me almost $12.00. I didn’t forget its price but I did enjoy every bit of it in the next few days. A squash similar to a pale zucchini is about $1.50, carrots are about $1 each. Needless to say, I don’t throw out any spoiled produce, like at home. It is purchased and eaten carefully.

There are a number of intriguing local restaurants over on the other side of the river as well. They mostly look like family style places, many of them have the low tables to sit at and some have an elaborate network of pipes from the ceiling to each table, I believe it is to cook some of the food at one’s own table. At the small places there is a curious thing. Little cups, about the size of a small Dixie cup that appear to be stainless steel are stored in sterilizers. One helps oneself to the cup and gets their own cold water from a dispenser next to the cup sterilizer. At each table is a small stainless steel lid that is parallel to the table, and if one lifts the lid you will find that the bottom of the dish is recessed into the table top and that is where one finds the same steel chopsticks and soup type spoons. The paper napkins are tiny, and very thin. When I remove at least three in order to cover my lap, upon reaching down to use one realize that due to their thinness and lightness they have ended up all over the floor. I guess the best solution that I have heard to date is to bring one’s own napkin along.

I have been to the city twice. Without sounding disloyal, there are some attractive spots, but in general Seoul seems to have a large sprawl of undistinguishable apartment buildings and neighborhoods. It is very popular to have large banners or advertising signs plastering the front of building after building. It tends to add rather a junky air to the style. The hillsides and mountains are thick with trees and are quite impressive to look at. I am looking forward to autumn so that I can tell how many of the trees are deciduous, and how many are evergreen.

Some of the food I have eaten in restaurants has been delicious and very cheap. It seems to be an odd contrast with the fact that food in the grocery stores and neighborhood markets is quite expensive. I have only had only one horrid, and overpriced meal, which was in a known tourist area. Still it might vie for being one of the all-time worst meals that I’ve ever had in a restaurant. The sashimi was still frozen (!)…odd for something that should be fresh. The tempura had come from something akin to a COSTCO box, and the rice was $10 a bowl…I guess I should have asked! Well, that is another part of traveling that luckily rarely happens. There is a lot of fresh seafood here, and I am also quite fond of the handmade noodles that I have found only two blocks away.

Another curious thing is the take-out industry. I believe that every restaurant is equipped with elaborate bags and sealing mechanisms for one to take their food home in, as well as a number of large Styrofoam containers meant only for one use – to deliver take-out in. Young men zoom up and down the pedestrian lanes, make u-turns against the lights in the street, and park their motorcycles in the entryway of the apartment buildings as they are delivering food like mad in the evening hours. What most surprised me is that MacDonalds has their own motorcycle delivery men! I have enjoyed the convenience of take-out a number of times, but have yet to figure out phone order/delivery. The language complication makes that far more difficult.

Korea - First Impressions

Korea – First Impressions

Flying into Inchon Airport was really beautiful. I didn’t realize how many little islands surrounded the Korean peninsula until then. There were big textured mounds of green covering hillsides. We landed and went to the gate. I went to baggage claim to find my two suitcases (one overweight) and my two Rubbermaid tubs. My baggage was almost first down the carousel. How often does that happen? I remember far more times when it seemed that my bags came down almost last! I had two carts and was doing my best to load them with my aforementioned items as well as my laptop case and my carry-on luggage. A Korean Airlines employee came over and helped me to load my luggage on one cart and then drove the cart over the area where I was to collect Ruby. She was delivered almost straight away and then I carried her less than ten feet to a desk where a woman examined Ruby’s rabies immunization documentation, her health certificate from her veterinarian and took a look at my passport. That was it! I was free to go. Certainly this was a far different situation than both Lydia and I had experienced in China when we brought Ruby and Eva in.

I headed out of the baggage and customs area and found a sign with my name on it! That was “Shawn” who was there to collect me. We waited for another family who had two cats who were also on the same plane that I had been on from Seattle. Then we went to get another woman who had flown in from Los Angeles. Less than an hour later we were heading to the bus, my luggage going every which way and sliding into the traffic because the bags are so hard-sided. This happened twice but they were none the worse for wear. We took one of the KIS school busses across a beautiful new bridge. The water and islands as well as the peninsula were so fresh and green looking. We drove for about an hour to arrive at our apartments. “Joseph” took Bridget and me in to the ‘Paragon B” while Shawn took the family to their apartment. After having been traveling for about 18 or 10 hours it was difficult to pay attention to all of the details that Joseph had to go over with us. We had to learn how to use the keyless entry into the building, then took the elevator to the 23rd floor where my apartment was located. The entry is also keyless, but is operated by a numeric key pad. The number had to be reset to a number of my choice. Then I had to practice the sequence of keys and the proper direction to pull the handle. I about passed out when I saw the apartment. It was at least twice as small as I had envisioned! The furniture was reminiscent of very inexpensive things that are available if an IKEA isn’t in the area! Ugly and small! It made me feel a bit overwhelmed and sad. My thoughts where of the nature of “Where am I going to put the things that I just brought in with me, and what am I going to do when the rest of the things that I shipped will arrive?! Then Joseph gave me my $1200 settling money which cheered me up a bit. After Joseph left I started to move furniture. Apparently a cat had lived here before and Ruby wanted to tear the place up to find it! I was glad that the school had given us some start up gifts since my bedding was still being shipped, and it was nice to have dishes, glasses, utensils and some food to start out with. I hopped into the shower (in the tiny, but very clean bathroom to rinse off the travel dirt. Then I sat by the window and fixed cushions for Ruby to sit on so that she could see out of the window. Watching cars from that height certainly must lack the excitement that barking at dogs and cats in the Laurelhurst house had for her. Still, I was thrilled that the windows were low enough that she could see out. Our view is of some other high rises, some lower buildings (some of which are reputed to be love hotels) bedecked with bright neon lights, some roof top gardens, the main freeway north and south complete with a toll booth, and not far beyond that two beautiful ridges of hills covered in the same lovely greenery that I saw when I was flying in, with another mountain ridge visible when it is clear.

The next day was a bit fuzzy since I had a sinus headache and jetlag. We went to the school to check our email and then later went on our first shopping trip to EMart. We were pretty surprised at how expensive everything was. One of the teachers compared prices to those in Hawaii. The quality of the bedding wasn’t very good and the prices were exceedingly high. Still, even in the US things can be expensive too, especially if one doesn’t know about Target or Walmart. To obtain a shopping cart one must put a 100 won coin into a little slot that releases the cart from the next one that it is chaned to. The cart that I had was very heavy and listed badly to the left. It seemed that a number of the carts were like that so I did the best that I could by alternately pushing and pulling it and even pushing it from the left side.

That evening after unpacking my purchases I took Ruby for a walk in my neighborhood. It is a very upscale area and there are some expensive restaurants and nice shops in the area. A few people had their dogs out and I spotted a Bichon across the street. I realized that the dog wasn’t on a leash which worried me a bit because of the traffic. When the pedestrian walk light turned to green the young woman who was its owner had the dog stand on its hind legs. Then the dog put a paw in her owner’s hand and they crossed the street together. What a clever trick! It was really just adorable! As Bichons used to be famous as circus dogs in Europe I could see how one might be trained to do this.

Ruby has really enjoyed her walks. Despite the heat and humidity, tongue hanging out a bit, she gets a big smile on her face and forges ahead. When she gets tired she asks me to pick her up and enjoys her walk from that vantage point. A lot of attention is directed towards her, and I suppose most dogs here. Of course crème colored dachshunds are not often seen so her unusual breed also attracts attention. Many people want to pet her, which isn’t something that she likes very well, although she is learning to tolerate a pat or two. Last night when we were walking by the river on the walking path (there is also a biking path, both of which go all the way to Seoul (which is either ½ hour away or 1 ½ hours away by subway depending on whom one talks to) we saw beautiful golden fireflies above the marsh grasses. Later we also saw some that were either a dark navy or black color with some white bands. There are trees such as pine, willow, and something that has a similar leaf structure and shape to a cherry tree, although the cut edges of the leaves are far more frequent and compact than on the cherry trees that I am familiar with. The cicadas make quite a cacophony in the trees, and their song seems to still as I approached the trees that they were resting in.There are other plants and grasses and some day lilies and a small growing yellow gold color that reminds me of a cosmos. and lovely flowers that looked like a cross between a hollyhock and a hibiscus….saw them in China along the highways in a few places.

Walking along the river is pretty, and quite a contrast to the high rise buildings that line the streets on both sides. Many people walk, jog, or ride their bikes. I saw one young woman riding her bicycle with her dog in a front pack like Ruby’s. It gave me an idea! I also saw about eight men running in formation. It seemed like they must be a running team.

One day Ruby and I were walking past a car dealership. It was very early in the morning…around 6 or 7, and I noticed that all of the salesmen, dressed in grey slacks and white dress shirts were in formation in the showroom doing calesthentics. Very impressive. Another day when we walked by, again, earl y in the morning, they were armed with mops and brooms to clean the showroom, again in their dress clothes. As we walked along I noticed that we were shaded by some ginko trees, which made me feel very happy and lucky! They are one of my favorite trees.

Next day back to the school for some general welcoming from the admin staff then a scavenger hunt to learn the buildings…. Got our new laptops, had some complications with my name being misspelled, got my iron that was supposed to me in my flat (possibly a subtle or not so subtle hint about dress code), and then we loaded up to go to COSTCO. What a three ring circus!! Packed with people going up and down isles like there was a fire sale! Home to unpack all of our purchases – the very expensve cherries I purchased were from Wenachee Washingon! No wonder they were so expensive.!

Korea has a very sophisticated recycling program. One must purchase a cherry colored plastic bag which is only a little larger and stronger that a normal grocery store plastic bag for about $1. These bags are for general debris that doesn’t fit one of the many recycling categories. The price is to offset the disposal of unrecycleable materials, I’ve been told. There are about 6-7 stations in the recycling area and one can only guess what is to go where by what is already there since the signs are, of course, in Korean. The most interesting recycling area is that of compostable garbage. There is a small unit in the kitchen sink that looks like a shallow garbage disposal. When one finds the lid it is placed over the hole and turned. This spins whatever solid garbage is in this recess until the water has spun out of it. Then one may put their peels, pits, rice scraps and so on into a small covered container (if one remembered to buy one) which one takes, rather soon, to the garbage bin to dispose of. Yes, it does have a definite smell, but I guess it is the smell of doing one’s’ part in the recycling effort. Until the school sends someone to clean out my tiny storage closet I won’t be able to organize my recycling better. It is a tiny area that one can store things in…such as suitcases, however not my Rubbermaid bins since they are too wide. It will eventually also house my vacuum cleaner, drying rack, mops, cleaning supplies and perhaps even a bicycle if I buy one.

On Friday night we went out with the rest of the new staff to a place that the administration chose. We waited for the bus in our usual spot (here we must walk about a block and a half to catch the school bus because it cannot stop in front of the school. It was humorous to me that we went so far to an American style place that served bad pub food. I was really looking forward to some authentic Korean cuisine. Still it was fun to go out socially with the other new staff members and get to know them better. On the way home one of the young teachers showed us a food stand that had tasty treats (I tried a fish cake strip on a stick server with a little cup of fish broth! Yum! And she also showed us a tiny 24 hour restaurant on the corner that has local food available to eat in or take out. I think that I may get to know that place better as it will be very convenient to stop on the way from work to get a quick supper.

Yesterday, Saturday, Bridget and I took the subway (which has a less user friendly system than the one in Shanghai…still need to work on that) to Lotte Mart and dragged heavy bags home….we also found Zara and Louis Vittion, as well as Burberry and other designer shops. Of course I couldn’t pass up the sale that Zara was having and got a very pretty deep golden colored skirt and two of their very nice tank tops. When we went into Lotte we saw little lockers for storing ones other shopping bags in. I had seem this in China so wasn’t too surprised, although I stuffed my Zara bag into my purse, but what did surprise me were several other lockers that had rather large ventilation holes AND pictures of dogs on them! Apparently one may bring their dog to the store, but the pet must be put into the locker at the entrance!! What a surprise. Ruby would go beserk in an arrangement like that!

Last night we took a new walk across the river and to the south a bit. I had heard that there was a more local village over on that side of the river and wanted to check it out. Yes, it was true. It was enjoyable to walk past low apartment buildings, perhaps three stories high, and see some of the local shops. There was a high proportion of automotive shops and building supply shops in that small area, along with many small restaurants. There was a soccer field an the south end which was being enjoyed by some young men. It was pleasant to get away from the high rise, big city scene and only about 10 minutes away!

I finally got my computer out and started to write despite worries about the converter box… (using my own Dell for personal writings) and still no internet connection!

I also decided to try the espresso maker that Lydia had brought me from Italy about 14 years ago. It is very nice to have it since I don’t plan to buy a coffee/espresso maker like I had at home! No space for it! Though the apartment is tiny tiny tiny I am adjusting to it….so quick to clean. It is curious that in only three and a half days I am adjusting to the space. It is also a good motivator to get out and see the area. In the dead of winter though, I wonder how I will feel. No doubt by that time I will be well adjusted!

The aircon has been on 24/7 due to heat and humidity….no rain yet after three days, but very overcast today. In exploring my building I discovered a very nice patio area on the 4th floor that I could sit in with Ruby and read. There is an oversized washer and dryer on the 4th floor also, but only one for 30 floors of people! …but I still can’t find the drycleaner! Supposedly it is in one of the passageways between buildings.

Today is Sunday. I tried to call home using the phone card that the school gave us, but somehow used up half of the time allotted on the card by apparently using the wrong country code! I would double check on my computer but I don’t have internet access yet! I want to go on a walk with Ruby to look for an EMart that looks like is about ten blocks away! It will be a test on me following the map accurately.