Thursday, December 30, 2010
These last few days have been spent reflecting on the changes that I need and want to make in the upcoming year. The last two years have been a roller coaster full of up and downs. I have done things in my life that people only dream of doing and I am beyond grateful to have these experiences. Thank you everyone for supporting Dan and I on this journey. Looking forward 2011 and all the possibilities and opportunities on the horizon. God bless and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
at 4:00 AM
Thursday, December 16, 2010
One weekend Latanya and I finally got the courage to visit our good friend Adam. We met Adam in our first GEPIK orientation almost two years ago. We did not see Adam that often since our first meeting. The main reason for that was the fact that he lives so far away. But quite recently we have been making more of an effort to hang out with him.
Anyways since he normally meets us at our place about 2 hours each way, we decided to meet him, in the lovely area of Pocheon. He made sure to let us know before hand that his Dong (Korean for town) is nothing special. He even went as far to say that as soon as we got off the bus we would probably throw up.
We began our journey at midday on a Saturday. We knew it was going to take awhile to get there, at least 2 hours. We took two different trains and one long bus ride. After about 2 hours and fifteen minutes we finally arrived. We got off the bus and we did........not throw up, luckily. But we could see that his Dong was in fact pretty dismal. The perks however I think far exceeded the lack of other amenities though. For instance he had a brand new E-Mart!!! And he had a McDonald's complete with a drive-thru!!! You don't see too many of those in Korea. The rest of the area was very rural.
We walked a little ways from the bus stop and Adam met up with us. He showed us around the main area which took all but 2 minutes. Then he took us to his apartment. He lives on the first floor and outside of his building are some really noisy dogs. He made sure to tell us how they do not stop barking and how he despises them. He was busy cooking when we got settled in. He was cooking up a delicious batch of Étouffée. It was amazing.
After some good conversation and some wine we headed to the new E-Mart and picked up some more drinks and snacks. When we got back we had dinner and watched a little TV and then Adam and I played some Madden. Once the Madden marathon started Latanya decided to fall asleep. Perhaps because we were intensely playing the video game and left her to be the lone spectator. We played 9 games that night and it went to the wee hours. It had been so long since I played. But it sure was fun, even though he out matched me 5 games to 4. I blame the fact that it was a PlayStation and not an XBOX.
Anyways the next morning we all got up and headed to the other main attraction in Pocheon, the McDonald's. We had McDonald's breakfast for the first time in a real long time. It was so good. We just kept talking and before we realized it the lunch menu came around. We must have been sitting in there for at least a couple of hours. After our brunch we went back to Adam's place and chatted some more and then we decided to head back home. It was a great little visit and we sure always have a fun time with him.
at 11:12 PM
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Myung and her family invited Dan and I to Nami Island to get away from the city. Nami Island is a Korean island located about an hour an half from Seoul. A popular island amongst Koreans plays background to many Korean dramas where couples profusely confess their love for each other. We headed over to Myung's house at 11 and waited for her to get the kids dressed. We then packed up the SUV and were on our way. Waiting for the river of vehicles to wind its way ever so slowly onward we stopped at the "piano waterfall". A man made waterfall made famous for an enormous piano bathroom with steps leading up to the second floor bathrooms that played "chopsticks" with every step you took. After stretching our legs for a while we headed back into the sea of cars. We traveled along the country roads passing towns and villages with gorgeous views of rivers, forests, and vast amount of rice paddies fields protected by scarecrows. 3 hours later from our departure Nami island appeared on the horizon. We caught a 5 minute ferry ride to the island surrounded with nature we walked along the main strip of chest-nut, birch, ginko, and maples trees. We found a picnic area Myung prepared snacks for the day and spent the afternoon relaxing, talking, watching the kids play in the grass, and walking around the beautiful scenery. It was a nice little getaway. It was really nice of Myung and her family to take us.
at 3:08 AM
Sunday, December 12, 2010
We checked out of our hostel in Xi'an and then went to the airport bus stop. The hostel staff gave us really easy directions. It was quite easy to find. We passed the bell tower and looked around the surrounding area as we walked to the stop. Xi'an seemed to have a lot to offer in historical sites however because of the horrible weather it was not doable.
We just missed the bus to the airport but did not have to wait long for the next one. We got on and headed to the airport. We got off at the wrong terminal but the other terminal was not too far of a walk away. The plan ride was not to long. We arrived back in Shanghai and made our way back to the first hostel we stayed in when were in Shanghai before.
We walked around the city some more just explore with no real destination. We got many more stares from people as well as some bad smells of the city. Shanghai was our least favorite destination ever. With the exception of the World Expo we would not really recommend it. We eventually made it to the other side of the river and had dinner at the same restaurant we ate at in the mall before. We filled up on some really good Chinese food again. After dinner we went back to our hostel and got our usual happy our beers. The next morning we woke up early and went to the airport to go back to Korea.
The highlights of this trip were by far the Expo and the Terracotta Warriors. All in all the rest of our time was not that pleasant on the streets. On the other hand our accommodations were quite wonderful for the price and we would be happy to recommend them. So for now back to Korea to await our next adventure.
at 2:39 AM
After a good night rest, surprisingly, we arrived in Xi'an. The train station in Xi'an was really overwhelming. There were people everywhere. Once we exited the station we noticed the weather was still crumby and much colder than Shanghai. The area outside of the station was unwelcoming and full of sketchy people. We had printed out directions to the hostel but we were turned around a bit. We walked to the bus stop area but could not find our bus number anywhere. We finally asked someone were our bus was and they pointed us in the right direction around the corner. The bus stop for our bus was so crowded. It was not only congested with people but also lots of traffic. They were doing quite a bit of construction around the train station and thus created a madhouse of people and vehicles. After waiting five to ten minutes our bus arrived. It was really difficult to get on. Imagine a heard of cattle trying to go through a small opening in a fence. On the bright side the bus fare was only 15 cents.
Anyways, we got on and then began to start counting the stops. We only needed to go five stops and then follow the rest of the directions. We got off at our stop and then attempted to make our way to the hostel. We got a little turned around again but eventually found the street we needed to. The area did not seem that nice, and this was in the day time. The reviews we read had warned us about that so we were ready for it anyways. The hostel itself was practically brand new so it made up for the surrounding area.
We checked in and laid our stuff down. The hostel had it's own restaurant so we ordered some breakfast and got acquainted with the city by looking at a local map. After a great breakfast we asked how to get to the Terracotta Army. They gave really easy directions and seeing that we needed to go back the way we just came we knew we could do it easily.
We hoped on the same bus we took to get to the hostel and headed back to the train station. The traffic was really congested at this point, even more so than earlier. We actually got off the bus prior to our stop because we were not going anywhere. We found the bus we needed to take to see the Army. At first we were a little confused because we did not know were to buy the bus ticket. The man on the bus just gestured to hop on and then I made the correct assumption that they would collect once we started our journey. We waited for about ten minutes for the bus to fill up. The bus ride was not bad. It was like a public bus so not that nice. We knew we had to take it to the last stop so no need to count stops this time. After about a little over an hour or so driving in the rain we made it to our destination.
We walked to the ticket both and bought two tickets to see the Terracotta Army. The walk to the entrance was quite long. It felt like we were walking forever. Once we went through the gate we had to walk even more to see the pits. There are three major excavation pits where they excavated several hundred Terracotta Warriors. The warriors were made for the first emperor's tomb to follow him into his afterlife. No two warriors looked alike and were all life size. We headed to the largest pit and I was speechless. I remember in sixth grade first learning about this excavation and was just flabbergasted. I knew I would see them one day, and here we were in the humongous covered pit looking at history straight in the eye. It just does not any better than this. This site blew me away and made the entire trip. We walked around the entire area and read all the plaques of information. After we walked the whole way around and took plenty of pictures we went to the next two pits.
The other pits were smaller but equally interesting. We also went to another building which housed the museum. In one pit we were able to see some warriors that were excavated and put on display for people to see up close. It was just so fascinating to see the warriors. I mean these warriors date back over 2000 years. This was the beginning of a united China. You could just feel the history. I was on a complete high of excitement. Latanya was very happy for me to be able to experience this.
After strolling around a little while longer we headed back out the front gate. We had a little lunch and then got on a bus back to Xi'an. The bus we got on this time was much nicer than the one we took out here. We arrived back in Xi'an and made our way back to the hostel. We had pretty much the same experience getting on the same bus once again. It was still raining and cold. We were not too eager to see much of the rest of the city. We already saw the city wall at the train station. The next day we were going to pass the bell tower.
When we got back to the hostel we showered up and then went down to the lobby. We watched a couple of movies, met some nice people, Latanya made dumplings with the staff and other guests and we had dinner. It was a great evening altogether. The next day we were on our way back to Shanghai, this time we were flying.
at 1:53 AM