Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Touristy Things (Winter Edition)

I started out my winter season with a cautiously optimistic positive attitude. There were only a few inches of snow, everything looked pretty, and if I set out on my daily long walks with the intention of taking pictures and enjoying the brisk Korean winter, it didn't feel all that cold to me.

Mid-way through January, however, I have remembered just why I have always hated winter. Even though I'm accustomed to harsh Ohio winters, Korea is cussing cold!

My long walks discovering new corners of Bucheon have long since ceased, and in their place I have started taking long walks around E-Mart. I've stopped running, and morally opposed to spending money on a gym membership I know that I personally will never use, I have turned to nightly apartment yoga. I've started taking my inner-foodie self more seriously and have given up (for the most part) processed foods and begun making things by scratch on an almost nightly basis. My apartment is the cleanest it has ever been, I have finished more books in the past two weeks than I have since October, and I have gotten to spend lots of quality time with my baby puppy. It's true, these are all good things and probably positive life changes, but being cooped up and spending so much time in my nice warm apartment is slowly eating my soul.

Hence touristy things, winter edition. For the past couple weekends, I have done my darndest to find warm, indoor places to spend hours walking around, surrounded by other people (not puppies), and learn about Korean culture. So far, I have been fairly successful in my attempts, visiting the National Museum of Korea a few weekends ago, going to my first Korean hockey game last weekend, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art this past weekend. Phew!

Let's start with the National Museum of Korea. Located in the middle of Seoul, the National Museum is a history museum focusing on the evolution of Korea from its prehistoric roots to the modern era. It started with a lot of artifacts from thousands of years ago, like the ceramic horned pots used for agricultural purposes...

And eventually got into the infamous Korean celadon pottery... which I think is fantastic! I taught my kids about this exact piece last semester!

They also had some buddhas, pagodas, and other sculptures scattered throughout the museum.

Outside, they had a frozen lake with a little temple and a pagoda garden. It was late by the time I made it out there, and it was starting to get really chilly again!

Really pretty. I'm reading a book right now on exactly what all the paintings on the temples and pagodas mean, so I will update you all later once I get to that.

The next weekend I went to my first international hockey game, South Korea vs. Japan.

The hockey part was definitely cool (even without any fighting, boo!), but our favorite part by far was the Korean cheering section. They were loud, had drums, and danced and yelled in sync for the entire game. It was hilarious.

At one point a foreigner (the guy in the dark blue jersey) joined them. After jumping excitedly for maybe all of a minute, he seemed to get really overwhelmed with being surrounded by so many peppy dancing Koreans, and left.

Though a complete failure on the finding warmth front, it was really fun nonetheless. I had almost forgotten how much I liked hockey!

And then of course we had the MOCA Korea. Located on the South side of Seoul, the museum focused on how Western influence has impacted modern and contemporary art in South Korea. Yes, I'm kind of a nerd, but I thought it was fantastic!

I got off the subway expecting to find myself in Seoul, you know, surrounded by buildings and bustling with people, but instead I found this...

Mountains! Open space! I was in complete disbelief! The museum itself was located about 2 kilometers from the subway entrance, so failing my attempt to spend as much time indoors as possible, i took a short (freezing!) jog up the hill to the museum.

There was no photography allowed in the museum, so I tried instead to capture the outdoor sculptures...

Made in China? I couldn't resist.

Although I cheated and took just a couple pictures inside the museum... I'm a clueless foreigner who can't read the signs, right?

Giant tower of televisions, literally 3 stories tall!

And for those of you who worry about me living in an exotic country barely surviving with none of my Western amenities available, never fear. Living in Korea's not nearly as difficult as it sounds!

In conclusion, I'm still alive, and I wish it were summer. Gah I hate winter!

- Christine -

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