Tuesday, April 21, 2009

i can see clearly now

I can't remember if I have commented in the past on the yellow sand during springtime in Korea. Just for your review - it originates in Inner Mongolia and the Gobi Desert and is carried through dust storms to Korea, Japan and China. It is heaviest during the spring months. From what I have read, alot of it is due to the fact that they are clearing too much land and from overgrazing of livestock. Combined with a dry winter, there is an abundance of dust and sand that is carried through the air to other areas. Supposedly Japan, Korea and China have joined forces to replant trees and/or grasslands in the trouble spots.

Not only is it a health and environmental problem, but there is a constant haze to the sky during a beautiful time of the year. This is what stays on our car.

Some days it is really bad. I caught these photos (around mid morning) a couple of weeks ago from our balcony. We had a heavy rain yesterday that cleared things up some. So today I tried to capture the same photos. Note the difference.

All of the hazy days make me really appreciate what I can see on the clear days.

Monday, April 20, 2009

ladies of the street

Okpo is definitely a small town that has a "seedy" side to it. I guess it is to be expected when there is a large population of single (and not so single) men that are away from home. No offense to the male population out there - just stating it as I see it. Even alot of the Korean men that work at the shipyard only live here during their workweek and then return home (to somewhere else in Korea) for the weekend. There are bars and "foreigner's clubs" to be found on every street, with colorful names like
the Singing Chicken,

Elephant House,

and Gangster.

The harbor area is heavily lined with bars and restaurants.....if you eat in that area, you will return to find numerous "business cards" from young ladies in the windshield of your car.

But I am not talking about those ladies.

I am talking about the mostly older Korean ladies that line the shopping street (or tree street or umbrella street - it is called by all of the these names by all the expats - I have no idea what the street name really is) every day to sell their goods. Their goods range from fruits to vegetables to grains to roots and barks. We do have an official market area that is covered and lined with shops and stalls. However, these women line the sidewalk outside the market. They set up shop with their bowls and tubs of goods,

all the while sitting on a stool, squatting or even sitting on the ground. They are there in the cold, in the heat and usually in the rain. I think they even have their "own spot" because I have seen people inquiring about an absent peddler. I love that when I smile at one of them, the smile is usually returned. I have often wondered about them. Is this from one of the many vegetable plots you see wherever there is a spot of dirt or flat land? Or did they work in the larger fields at one time?

Most of their faces are brown and lined,

very unlike most of the Korean women that are constantly covering their faces with masks, large visors and/or sun umbrellas to keep their skin from the sun.

You see them chatting among each other, but their hands are constantly busy. They can be separating garlic cloves.

And even peeling them.

Or peeling radishes

so they are ready to chop up for kimchi,

or maybe it is already grated.

Whatever their styles

or their stories,

these hard working ladies are part of a way of life in Korea.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

cherry blossoms and children

I returned to Jinhae for the third time for the Cherry Blossom Festival on March 29th . Ken had never been and was free to go. However, I think that he was only going because there was a McDonald's in Jinhae.......
if he had known that they deliver, he might have opted out! Just kidding.

The cherry blossoms in Okpo were not at their peak, so I was thinking we were a little early. I was right. They really were not at their prime. It was the first weekend of the festival, so the crowds were not so bad though. I felt like I could see a few things easier without the hordes of people. And we had time to explore some areas of the town that I hadn't been to before. There is an area called Romance Road that is essentially a canal that is lined with cherry blossoms on both sides with numerous bridges crossing over.
Even though the blossoms were not at their best - the area really was beautiful.

Ken and I were able to sit down for a few minutes to watch some children

demonstrate their martial arts expertise.

There also was an area where children,
could do some crafty projects
- like make a key chain with a cherry blossom in it.

Children everywhere are beautiful, but I was really struck that day by the sweet innocence I could see in the Korean children.

The festival market area disappointed me somewhat. A few booths that had been there previously where not there that day..........I missed the singing dolls. However, Ken enjoyed it - he even searched high and low for a perfect hat
and matching mask for me.

I didn't get one (thank goodness - don't tell Ken) but he was pulled in by the man demonstrating a vegetable chopper.

These mannequins spooked me a little bit.

I also didn't get any socks.

And Ken didn't get a new tie.

Thank goodness I didn't need a book to translate Korean into English (look carefully).

The tea looked tempting.......if not to drink, but to look at.

I was really tempted by the George W. Bush matryoshka (Russian stacking) doll......

and the sailors.............

and the cowboys.

But in the end, I caught the ferry home with Ken.

I think I made the right choice.