The Beav according to Beav

Still crazy after all these years.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sherpa, Part 2

When we left our hero, he had failed on Tuesday...

The very next Monday, we set out again. Amanda was too tired to join us, but JoAnnie grabbed her spot on the roster. Again, I asked lots of people, but we hit the by now obligatory 3-person set: Dana, JoAnnie, and me. We hit the subway and ride it up to Seoul and to the Namsan Traditional Village. We wander around looking at all the traditional stuff, try out traditional outfits, cut-out-head style. We see some lucky posts and a princess's palanquin (really small...imagine "the box" in a rural prison on sticks so two people can carry you around in it). We marvel at the swing - not because it swings, but because it was used so that girls could see outside the village every now and then. JoAnnie manages to make the Traditional Korean top (or dredel) spin with its little launcher thing.

We make our way over to the National Palace. Not surprisingly, it is several times bigger than the village. But it is laid out in a similar fashion. Sprawled out over the countryside - building in courtyard which abuts another courtyard that holds another building. Each building holds one to three rooms, usually. That construction style intrigues me. Why so spread out? I mean, yeah, it's grand and impressive, but you can't go from room to room without going outside. If it's cold and rainy, do you just stay in your bedroom? I loved this pagoda (or whatever they call it here) out in the middle of the pond. It looks so peaceful, I just want to go out there and meditate for a while. Unfortunately, we are not allowed out there. I also enjoyed the juxtaposition of this shot of the ancient gate (from inside) placed next to the modern city outside. Ancient, colorful wood and new, grey cement and steel.

After our visit to the palace, we are getting hungry, so we head out the gate, turn left, and wander. This takes us into a neighborhood I can only describe as Korean Soho. All the storefronts are arty, trendy, kitschy, and expensive. We eventually decide on a place (mostly on the basis of "I'm not walking anymore.") We get a very traditional-style dinner, and JoAnnie enjoys much more of it than Dana does. After dinner, we go two doors down to a coffee/dessert shop, they get some of the most scrumptious desserts I've ever seen, and I get a 5500 Won can of Coke (yeah, that's like $4.50 - like I said: Soho). After we finish there, we find our way back to the subway and back to Songtan. We get out of the station about 25-30 minutes before curfew and there are NO cabs. Uh-oh. Dana lives right around the corner, so she meanders in that direction. JoAnnie and I strap the backpacks on properly and proceed to run about 1/2 the way, where we find a cab to take us to the gate.

All in all, a fine day.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Where's my Sherpa?

This is the story of two Seoul trips. One of them on a Tuesday, filled with disbelief and mocking laughter; the other on a Monday with redemption and still a little mocking laughter. Both of them full of fun.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of a conversation, one of my friends remarked that she had not yet been to Namsan Tower (or Seoul Tower to the tourists). I decreed that this would not stand, and thus was born Seoul Expedition. In the ensuing days until break, I invited half my flight and some people from elsewhere to join us. Tuesday rolled around; I arrived at the prescribed time at the prescribed place. There were two entire people there to meet me. Ok...we roll on to the train station. Our plan is to check out the Namsan Traditional Village and then cruise on over to Namsan Tower to catch it at or after sunset (they light it up and it looks gorgeous). We arrive at the appropriate stop and spin around a couple times to find the traditional village...closed. Closed on Tuesdays. What? [take picture of sign]

's not late enough to run to the tower...[consult subway map for info]...hey, a National Palace is a few stops up and a few stops over. Cool. Let's roll. We arrive, walk out of the subway right at the gate...which is closed. Every Tuesday. Dude. You've got to be kidding! [take another picture of sign] Well, this National Palace Museum right next to us appears to be open. We can run a trip through there. Rock.We enjoy the museum and laugh uproariously at me for picking "Fail Tuesday" for our excursion. The sun begins to sink; we've seen what there is to see at the museum. We stroll out of the museum, down into the subway, and a few stops up and over. We climb to the surface and find a cab to Namsan Tower. There, we ride the cable car to the top of the hill. After climbing even more stairs, we arrive at the base of the tower, where there is a Teddy Bear Museum, a few little shops, a restaurant, an outlook, and thousands of padlocks on the chain link fence.

There is a tradition of sorts there at Namsan Tower. You bring a padlock with your names/initials/whatever inscribed thereon, then you lock it to the fence and throw away the key. The lock represents your relationship, and by throwing the key away, you've rendered it immutable. The Korean are a very romantic people. I dig that. I prepared my locks the night before, so I lock my Sweetie-n-Me lock with its flanking/connected young'un locks on the fence. [take a few pics] We head to the observation deck. From up at the top, you can see the entire city. It's beautiful. Printed on the windows around the tower are some major world cities and their distance from that point. It's somewhat sobering to note that Pyongyang, N Korea is closer than Busan, S Korea.

We enjoyed our time, beat feet for Osan, and laughed about the fun time we had in spite of our misplanning. Thank goodness I didn't get 15-20 people...there might have been a riot. Thank you, Dana and Amanda. I salute your Buddha nature, which is everything good and permanent.

I believe Seoul Expedition, Mark 2 will wait for another post.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

TSgt = (M)Sgt

In case you couldn't tell from my status on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Yahoo, and Skype (not to mention the title of this post), I was recently informed that I've been selected for promotion to Master Sergeant. (That's CPO for my poor, poor Navy friends. Hee hee.)

As can be expected, I was (and am) excited, to say the least. I was at a going-away dinner for my flight commander. After all the food had been eaten, all the gifts had been given, all the words had been spoken, the squadron commander handed her a small slip of paper and asked her to read the two numbers inscribed thereupon. "2713 and 3710." I thought, "lovely numbers...what do they have to do with anything?" Just as those words formulated in my brain, the commander informs the assembled gathering that those numbers were the promotion line numbers for me and one of my coworkers who was also there. I almost lost it right then and there. I swear, for some reason I felt like I was going up there to get the bouquet, sash, and tiara. "You love me! You really love me!" I'm pretty sure that part didn't happen, but I'm too embarassed to ask.

I got many congratulations on Facebook following my subtle (or not-so) announcement. Wayne gets an extra 250 XP for commenting that I had levelled up. When I got into work last night and checked my e-mail, I had a dozen or so congratulatory e-mails waiting for me from people who had scanned the list, saw my name, and felt compelled to find my address in the global and let me know they were proud of me -- some of them I would never have thought would even give it a second glance. I think the outpouring of good thoughts and feelings are more awesome than the upcoming promotion. (But I'm keeping the pay raise.)

Thanks, everyone. I love you all.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009


According to Webster's Online Dictionary, serendipity is finding something unexpected and useful while searching for something else entirely.

Let me tell you a story of my serendipitous meal a couple weeks ago.

My buddy, Chance, and I (yes, that's his real name) went to Seoul. We caught one of the National Palaces and the National Folk Museum. Very nice places. Very cool. Spending most of the day walking around Seoul, we got a little hungry and started looking around for a place to eat. I love hanging out in Korea with Chance. Apart from being a good kid, firmly planted in his twenties with that natural exuberance, he is a pretty good Korean linguist. He has learned to slur and "aaaa" the way the locals actually speak rather than in the more crisp, enunciated way he was taught. So, when we grab a place to eat, it's usually a local joint, rather than some "Americanized" establishment. This time was no different.

We grabbed a small table and received a menu for English speakers. This menu had their foods listed down the page in Korean, and some of them had translations in a right-hand column. I really like to try out new foods, so I scrolled quickly down the menu and found "rice dish in pot." This was like a perfect entry for me: vague enough that I would be surprised by it, but specific enough that I was pretty sure I'd like it.

A few minutes later, the waiter brings my food, and Chance says "Bi bim bap? I didn't order that. Did you?" Of course, I have no idea what I ordered, but I've been meaning to try bi bim bap for pretty much the entire time I've been here. (My Sweetie's a huge fan.) Regardless, I'm willing to eat it. Chance, of course, wants to make sure we're getting the right stuff, so the guy brings the menu back around, and sure enough "rice dish in pot" is bi bim bap. That's the actual translation.

Serendipity: Accidentally ordering a dish you've been meaning to order for the past 10 months...

And it's yummy.