April 21, 2011

spring forward...


Spring is my favourite season in Seoul. More or less the reason is because I've actually been able to experience spring. In Canada the weather usually sprints from winter into summer, without pausing to wait for the pleasures of spring. 

The temperatures in Seoul this time of year are also the best. It starts to get warm, and we can actually get to enjoy the sun's rays. The humidity that plagues the summer months has yet to arrive, along with the rain. 

  Within a week of warmer weather the trees spring to life. It's insane how quickly a bare tree can sprout to life. The first trees to flower are the magnolias (a purple one pictured left). The first weekend the temperature reached the double digits these trees erupted with life. 

The most common type of magnolia in Seoul is the white magnolia (pictured below). These flowers are by far my favourite to both look at and photograph. They look like stylized radar dishes, or a venomous animal.

  The size and shape of the magnolias are what makes them my favourite to photograph. I've found that my camera, although great, isn't the greatest at taking macro shots of small clustered items. These large flowers are spaced out with more tree branches showing. That allows me to take photos like the ones above (and right), where I get underneath and above the flowers. With the sunlight they glisten beautifully. I can get great contrasting images with the branches, and other items (the sky/ground).

   Cherry Blossoms

This weekend marked the start of the Cherry Blossom Festival. We have had gorgeous spring weather for the past couple weeks, and the trees have been taken over by the small white flowers. (shown below)

Individually the flowers are tiny, no larger than a loonie (pictured left, and below left). They group together in tight bunches, and these bunches appear to take over small branches. It's amazing that each tiny branch can support so many tiny flowers.

The first trees that I saw were stunning, yet still not fully covered in flowers. Two trees in particular blew me away. The trees (pictured below, and below left) were two trees that I snapped countless photos of. The sunlight and backgrounds were amazing. yet these trees were nothing compared to what I'd see next.

A few hundred yards down the road I came across the trees near the river. They created  an archway of solid white (pictured right, below, and from across the streed below right). If you had any allergies these would create a tube of death. I don't have allergies but I could feel how thick the air was with pollen. I also actually feel that these pictures do not do the scene justice. It was breathtaking, it was something out of a fairytale.


The whole day was amazing, the weather was gorgeous, and I've never truly seen anything like these flowers. For those few hours I really felt like I was in a strange world. The buildings and construction in the background of the photo (right) were reminders that I was in the middle of a sprawling metropolis. 

Please check out these photos & more on my Flickr page (link along the right side of my blog). Comment if you really like them. 

April 13, 2011

same same.. just korea (pt. viii)


Turnover is a trend that exists in all industries, and all facets of life. The lifecycle can even be viewed as turnover, it's a very generic term. However I'm going to apply it in two ways that directly relate to my experience in Korea.

I have played part in a major event in hagwons, The turnover of staff. February is the single largest time for staff turnover in the country, more teaching positions open up in February than any other month (next is September, and there are other random times peppered throughout the year). The biggest reason is because the school year starts in February in Korea, and it is the easiest time for there to be a switch in schools. Many teachers leave positions to find new jobs, (I'd be included here) or leave the country and start another adventure. I find it sad to have to say goodbye to those I've actually gotten along with, mostly aware that we probably won't cross paths again. Yet, that is Korea, it's like a wild washing machine, we are all thrown in, spun for a cycle (a job as an english teacher can be as strange, if not stranger than most) and then discarded at random times, to random places around the world.
One of my co-workers told me that working in Korea is like triple time. Because there are no lines between work and play. Being a friend with a person in Korea for even one year, is like being friends with them for three years in the real world. I would have to agree with that statement, I feel it holds a lot of truth. Korea isn't the real world in many ways (read just about any of my posts), and the staff turnover just accentuates my washing machine philosophy that as people are flung back into reality.

The second type of prevalent turnover is in business. Restaurants and clothing stores seems to change on whims. On the block I used to reside near, two restaurants disappeared over night to later reopen as a corner store and a coffee shop. Another went from being a restaurant to a hair supply shop, to clothing store, and back to a restaurant (all within 6 months). The transitions are violent as the entire spaces are gutted and the new tenant remodels the entire blank canvas. I've asked some of my former Korean co-workers about this phenomenon and they simply stated it was the way it was. Restaurants rarely make it past a year, and the same applies to just over every other type of establishment.

For example! two weeks ago I joined a local gym. I only signed on for one month because I wasn't sure if I would like the place enough to commit to a 6 month contract. I worked out regularly and everything was fine last Friday when I left. I didn't go Monday because it was my birthday, and Tuesday because I had physio in Itaewon for my knee. When I went to go this morning to the gym, I found all the gym lockers on the cement in front of the gym, along with all the drywall, mirrors, desks and carpeting. I was speechless, I couldn't believe they turned the gym into an empty whole in less than a week. Everything was stripped out, the yoga room, the golf simulators, even the change rooms were now stacked into untidy piles of drywall.

With a month's gym membership down the drain I walked away thinking it wouldn't happen in any other country than Korea. Okay that is most probably a lie, but my reality has become so warped in the year and change that I've been here. It's bizarre the fact that such turnover occurs with such regularity, Korea appears to have a one year shelf life, be it teachers, restaurants, or gyms. It makes me look forward to, and fear the end of my current spin cycle.

April 05, 2011

seoul auto superpost...

This past weekend was the first weekend of the Seoul Motor Show 2011, and as the poster proclaimed, "It's not a show, it's a revolution". That led me to question why they called it the Seoul Motor Show, why couldn't they skip with that and just call it the Seoul Motor Revolution? I realize there is always a need for a tagline, but I've yet to come across one as counterproductive.   

I've decided to split this superpost into sections, for easier reading. First up, some of the companies that showed up! Then a post within a post I've called 'Model of Consistancy'. Finally I posted pictures from the show, starting with the concept cars, and then the production models. These aren't all the cars, simply my favourite pictures

Most of the major Auto manufacturers came out, complete with impressive booths, and good representations of their products. There were a couple suprises though. First, the lack of the supercar, there were no Lamborghini's, Ferrari's or Mazerati's. Second, I couldn't believe how much these companies probably spent setting up their shit! Mini had a DJ in a Mini, and Chey a DJ in an Aveo.


Model of Consistancy... 

 I remember reading an advert for the Seoul Motor Show, and one of the highest selling features was the pressence of car show girls. Y'know the bikini clad models who strut their stuff alongside the car. Well the Seoul Auto Show was boasting, and well they kind of delivered. Most of the girls that were in attendance were not bikini clad. In fact I only noticed two that were, and they were covered from head to toe in body paint (They are pictured left). Interestingly enough, they were also the only white car models in the entire show.

I can't say that the car models were a large reason as to why I came out. In fact, they were barely a reason at all for me to show up. I was there to witness  the splendor that was the cars! In the end I really felt bad for the models. I don't have a problem objectifying cars, they are hunks of metal. They don't care if I strip them down, or take pictures under their hood. While the women they had standing beside these beautiful machines would mind very much to both previous actions.

At first I was taken back by them, as the afternoon wore on I started to feel sorry for them. I am sure that they are paid decently, and their ego's boosted. But, these women were being photographed from every which angle, front, behind, side, up and down. Especially the girls on rotating platforms, they would have to move every 30 seconds in order to prevent facing the wrong direction. 

There were many men just snapping photos of their asses and cleavage. The picture (right) is a perfect case and point. Korean women love to wear short skirts, they are to Korea what tiny tanktops are to North America. The two are practically interchangable, and the carshow brought out the tiniest skirts. This model was trying to use her hand to cover her cooch, it didn't matter much because the photographers just got lower in an attempt to sneak a peak. I at least took pictures of the cars, and ooed and awed over them instead of the girls posing beside them.

 Some of the girls complimented the cars, their outfits and look actually fit with the cars. The  two pictures (above, and right) are perfect examples of this. The girl posing with the Audi R8, had an outfit that matched the car, while the girl posing with the Kia Naimo Concept had matching color patterns. While I sound like a diva making fashion comments, I thought the effort worked, and the girls suited the cars. Instead of the girl in an evening dress posed with the Civic (pictured below right), I didn't really feel that she fit, especally with her obviously fake boobs. Since when will a Civic ever attract that kind of attention?

In the end I wished that many of the girls weren't around. I didn't catch yellow fever upon my arrival to Korea. I caught Texan fever, and I feel that that contributed my general uninterest in many of the girls strutting their stuff all over expensive machines. I felt some of the girls didn't fit at all, and took away from the car. The girl posed with the F1 is a perfect example. The car is gorgeous, and her outfit looks like a stripper special. I mean seriously, I could have got some great photos of the car without her there.

Most of the pictures below, actually pretty much all of them, were taken without models present. I was able to get great angles on some sexy machines, without feeling like a perve trying to get an upskirt.

Concept Cars...


 The concept cars were some of the coolest looking cars. The two small pictures (above left, below right) are both Hyundai single passenger concepts. These were not full sized displays, and just models. The interior (above right) is from the Kia Naimo Concept, this concept is an ultra modern electric car. The key to the car is an Ipad looking device that runs the cars computer. The care with double gull wing doors is  a Subaru Touring Concept, I thought the doors were cool, but would become cumbersome because of their size.

Finally there is the Chevy Mi Ray (below), this Korean designed sports concept was unveiled at this show. At first I thought this was the new concept for the Chevy Corvette, in which case I hated it. After finding out it wasn't, I still didn't overly like it. It had way too much going on, but then again it is a concept car, and not an actual production model. Although it was one of the few cars that looked like supercars. 

Production Cars...

Mercedes had two great cars, their 2012 SlS AMG Roadster (above). I can't figure out what this other new Mercedes is (right), but I love it's front end. Below is the Volvo C30, a pretty awesome hatchback from Volvo. 

BMW had their new M3 Coupe (above right) on display with it's new matte paintjob. I love the paint, I think it's amasing. The white BMW (above left) is the new BMW one series, well it's headlight. I really like the 1 series, and would seriously love to be able to afford one, one day.

Porsche also had some amazing cars out, the Cayman R (left) and the Carrera GTS (above). I couldn't get over the Top Gear episode where one loses a race to a Beetle (watch!).

I love this half Nissan GT-R (right). I thought it was super cool to look at.. and I'm sure it was probably a lot of fun for them to make as well. There were a couple other 'half'' cars at the show but none of the others were half as cool.

The Corvette (left) isn't production anymore, but it was at the show. The Mustang (above) is for my mother, and the Viper (below) was my favourite car at the show. Even though it wasn't in the show, it appeared outside as I left. My god the matte black paintjob is sexy as hell.

April 02, 2011

streetfood... a very fried sequel

Not all streetfood is healthy, actually I`m not really sure if any streetfood is really healthy. However, in Seoul you can easily find a whole whack of deep fried foods, which are the best enjoyed with alchohol, or the following morning.

I put my favourite fried food first up, fried mandu! (pictured right) Mandu is a very basic dumpling, it can have a variety of fillings, but usually meat with sprouts or rice noodles. This simple dish is then wrapped in dough, and fried. These are cooked right in front of you, and their popularity ensures that you will be eating fresh. 

Freshness is actually a concern when it comes to fried streetfood, as you will see with several of the pictures below. A lot of the food is sitting in pyramids already fried (above & below).

While I brought up freshness as an issue, it is not like the food was cooked elsewhere and sold in the street. It is true streetfood, it is cooked on the street, and they are constantly cooking some type of food. The most common sight is deep fried vegetables (left). While some people might be wary of cold deep fried vegetables, worry not! Although they will no doubt be cold when you order them, the cooks throw them back into the bubbling oil to give them a quick reheat

My favourite part of the calgary stampede are the corndogs. I don't know why, but deepfried hotdogs and batter create an irresistable combination. You can also find a variation of corndogs in Korea (left), except their batter has an extra feature, french fries. Right before the battered dogs hit the fryer they are rolled in crinkle cut french fries. Personally I think they took a great thing, and made it better.

In the red cups (below) there are paper thin slices of fried potato. I'd call these french fries, but they are more like potato sticks. They are brittle because they are so thin and thoroughly fried. Beside the red buckets are layers and layers of dried squid. This is a chewy snack comparable to jerky. Koreans love the taste, and I can't complain about it either. I think it's become an aquired taste.

Brian (left) is eating some of the sausages I mentioned in the last streetfood post. I also grabbed some and tried them out, they are pretty decent, although I wasn't a fan of the sausage filled with rice cake, but the yellow one was a pretty decent curry sausage. 

Finally, chestnuts (left), a non fried streetfood alternative! You can find roasted chestnets rather easily any time of the year in Seoul. I rarely eat these, not because they aren't good, but because they just make me think of Christmas. In Korea as I've mentioned before there is little connected with Christmas, so to Koreans these are just roasted nuts. 

What I love about streetfood in Seoul is it's availability. It seems where there are large crowds of people, there is streetfood. Luckily I live in a city with 27million people, so crowds aren't hard to come by!