Winter Wonderland in Korea

Trip Start Aug 18, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After about 3 weeks of an amazing autumn filled with an array of lush, colorful and joyous colors and scenery, BAM, we enter the long days of winter, which will last about 4-5 months. We have had some glorious below 20 degree weather followed by light fluffy snow accumulating to about 6 inches in our biggest snowfall so far. Along with winter came our Thanksgiving feast, a weekend late.  This was no easy event.  It took weeks of planning, as our small town doesn't have the essential ingredients and foods to have our traditional thanksgiving dishes.  Therefore we took many trips to Seoul to Costco (yes, Kirkland brand and all, thank you Korea for this wonderful feature!!!!), multiple army bases and the international markets. But, how do we cook the dishes without an oven?  And what about the 22 lb. turkey(who we named Paco)?  Koreans cook a lot of one pot meals, therefore no one has ovens. I am trying to cope with this fact, but having a hard time accepting the lack of casseroles, baked and broiled foods in my life.  So we bought 3 gallons of peanut oil from an army base, in hopes to find a large enough pot to fit Paco in to deep fry.  We don't mess around, Thanksgiving is a serious matter that will not be missed no matter where I am in the world!  After days of searching every store in Cheorwon, nothing.  My adult student, Angela, mentioned she had an oven about 2 days before the big event.  So, I immediately went to her house to measure and then hoped and prayed that Paco would fit.  The big day came and I carried the 22 lb'er 15 minutes through the town to Angela’s house (don’t ask me how), as all the locals gawked and stared at this beast.  Angela and her family had never seen such a thing.  Hun Wa, her daughter screamed "Oh my, a dead ostrich!"  After 3 trips to baste and check on Paco, and 6 hours of roasting, the final product was an absolute perfection.  We took a cab to the pension where the ladies had transported 3 toaster/conventional ovens to make the magic happen slowly but surely.  The menu consisted of Paco, of course, gravy, green bean casserole, cornbread stuffing, cranberry stuffing, Scottish mashed potatoes, South African lentil stew and pumpkin fritters, sweet potato casserole, roasted veggies.  And for desert, MJ prepared 2 apple pies, 2 pumpkin pies, 2 cream tarts, and a chocolate pecan pie.  A huge success and….relief that it was all over!

The next weekend, my friend MJ, and I headed to YongPyong Ski resort.  This resort has apparently built a reputation for excellence among skiers and tourists all over the world, having successfully hosted the World Cup Ski Competition in 1998 and 2000, as well as the Winter Asian Games in 1999.  It leading the way as a close runner up to be in the world's spotlight as the main site for the Winter Olympics in 2010, but trying again for 2018.  We stopped in Gangneug on the way to the resort, as the buses stopped running by the time we arrived on Friday and stayed stayed in a hotel suite with a beach front view and spent the evening lighting fireworks we bought from the corner store.  After a 20 minute commute to the resort, we were greeted by chaos and mass confusion in the lodge, but after a mere 2 hours, we were sorted with rental clothing, skis, boots and lift ticket for 60,000 W=60 bucks.  Not bad!  Everyone looked so stylish, with matching couples gear, to snazzy bright neon jackets logo-ed out with name brands.  But, me, not so much. I was given a bright red jacket with black stripes and  purple flowered pants and a white hat. (I think they got a good laugh out of the foreigner looking ridiculous!)  Now, where to go?  The resort has 31 slopes, but only about 11 were open this early in the season.There are no maps to be found, so we went down the same run about 4 times until one of us accidentally got lost, only to find the right side of the mountain full of black diamonds.  But let me inform you that these would be the equivalent of the easiest blue square at any of the mountains in Colorado!  And, by the way, I can't believe I rocked D's old ski's from the 90's almost 4 years in Colorado...what a difference to wear brand new Solomons!  We stopped for lunch at the Gold Peak lodge, but instead of your typical food court of hamburgers, pizza and fries, there was Chinese, Korean and Japanese choices.  The day ended and we enjoyed an overpriced resort BBQ meal and drank at an overpriced bar at a hotel with a view of the night skiiers.  I look forward to my next ski trip to Pheonix resort!

Christmas in Korea.  The celebration starts on December 23rd, not in November like the states!  Although i couldn't refrain from decorating the classroom and teaching the kids about Christmas traditions starting the first of December!  Around 4:30 on Christmas Eve, my co-teacher, Paul, told us to pack our work up and end school early.  This happens to us a lot.  Last minute plans to go to dinner or go on a field trip or hey, a trip to see North Korea.  Why not?  So, we headed off to see North Korea, passing Korean military standing in the freezing cold armed with machine guns guarding the blockades and tanks driving off road to the next military base.  As we were driving, Paul pointed out the old abandoned Communist labor party building where North Korea ran propaganda out of and held political prisoners of war. We passed "keep off" signs hanging on the barbed wire, which Paul explained were fields of land mines.  Being so close to N. Korea filled me with a lot of emotion, as I have met many people who have such tragic and sad stories of family being separated after the Korean War.  Most recently, I met a Cheorwon native while I was waiting for the local bus one morning.  He is someone whom I will never forget and who touched my heart by our one short conversation he shared with me of his story of being an orphan after he lost his mother and father in the war.  I could see the emotion in his eyes as he was telling me his story that happened right the town we were standing in, the ground underneath our feet.  He reminded me life must go on, and we must enjoy every moment we have here on this earth.  So powerful.  In any event, Paul assured us that we will be okay, as you can see in one of my pictures of his powerpoint presentation to all the EPIK teachers!  We just have to practice our monthly "If North Korea attacks" drill.  Instead of having a fire drill, the children line up outside and are told to RUN if we were to be attacked.  Useful information eh? Anyways after our outing to see our neighboring enemy, Andrew, Claire and I opened presents Christmas Eve sent by our families, which included yoga and mediation Cd's, cooking spices(much needed), candles and a scarf!  Thanks Mom and Dad!  And I also attended some of my students Christmas performance at the local church and joined in singing Christmas carols in English, as they belted out the Korean versions of Silent Night, Away in a manger and Hark the Herald.  I also shared a big buffet style home cooked dinner with them, which consisted of kimchi, rice, bulgolgi, spicy octopus, sesame noodles and tofu soup.  Not your typical prime rib and mashed potatoes, but it was a delicious and filling Christmas Eve meal.  Once again, we also started planning our Christmas feast and celebration like we did for Thanksgiving. The men bought a grill and 10 steaks and brisket.  The menu consisted of roasted garlic potatoes, cooked carrots, sauteed onions, pumpkin, nut loaf and salad with sherry trifle and blueberry and strawberry cobbler.  We had an array of spirits including tequila, soju, mulled wine, white wine, Baily's and Kahlua to accompany the glorious food!  After dinner we did our gift exchange. I got a Korean cookbook from my secret santa, Claire.  As you can tell by the pictures, I was thrilled!  All you need to give me is something to do with cooking or food, and I'm a happy camper!  I was also surprised with a photo collage and apron from Nina, a care pack of face masks from MJ, a stuffed animal from my adult students(so I won't ever be lonely) and a stocking from Jerusha and Claire with homemade cookies and candies! 

Although it was a difficult change to be away during this time of year and I greatly missed my family and friends back home, it turned out to be one of my most memorable and special Christmas's ever, as it included very special people and experiences that I will never forget!   I will be bringing in the new year with a bang, celebrating in Seoul, one of the craziest cities I've ever been to!  And looking forward to my parents visit next week and my 3 1/2 week vacation in the week on Palawan with my family and about 2  weeks with my friends MJ, Nina and Claire.  The joys of being a teacher. Vacation time!!!!  I hope that you all enjoyed the holidays and have a happy and healthy new year. Much love to you all and happy 2011!
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MaMa Wooden on

Great Blog! Great Pics!

janet o'reilly on

Loved your blog! It was fun visualizing you walking down the center of town carrying PACO!! What a feast! Made a copy for Nana. Have a wonderful visit with your parents and on your vacation! Lots of love, Aunt Janet

jojobee6 on

It was so great to talk to you guys on is wonderful! It was so great to see Karsen and Owen too :) Your a lucky grama! Happy New Year! big XO's!

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