Month Four…er…Five

Life in Asia took over so we fell behind again! The last time we wrote an update we had just finished trekking in Nepal and were on our way to South Korea. At the end of May we flew from Kathmandu to Seoul via Hong Kong, where we had our first experience with gruel during our layover. It wasn’t so bad.

[ptcPhoto filename=”Gruel.jpg” title=”Congee” caption=”Okay, it’s called congee” position=”center”]

What Have We Been Up To?

We spent a month in Korea and fell in love with the country’s culture and food. It was a little shocking for us to land down in a place where everything is so tidy and modern – we weren’t sure what to expect and were pleasantly surprised. Sam was a little ambitious with our itinerary there, which had us hopping from city to city at a breakneck pace. Within four weeks we scooted around Jeju island, tried our hand at archery, cheered at a baseball game, saw temples and palaces, strolled through parks, and shopped our way through a lot of markets. So by the end we had seen a lot, but we were a little burnt out from doing so much in such a short period of time.

[ptcPhoto filename=”EricKnight.jpg” title=”Yep” caption=”We still had time to do that” position=”center”]

Last week we made some new friends in Busan when we tried out couch surfing for the first time. They made us feel right at home, and we appreciated having a kitchen (and a dog!) for a couple of days. After Busan we took an overnight ferry from South Korea to Japan. Leaving made us a little sad, so we sought solace in big platters of sushi.

[ptcPhoto filename=”Sushi.jpg” title=”Sushi” caption=”It reminded us that Japan has amazing food too” position=”center”]

Our Japanese tour began in Hiroshima, and now we’re in Osaka for a week. Fourth of July was less than stellar since we couldn’t find an American bar (despite going over to the “America Mura” neighborhood, complete with its own statue of liberty). We did find a British pub and good beer, so it wasn’t a total loss.

[ptcPhoto filename=”4th.jpg” title=”4th of July” caption=”Those might be forced ‘I’m homesick’ smiles” position=”left”]

Over the next few weeks we’re trying to slow it down a little so we can really enjoy each new place. Also, it gives us a chance to actually unpack our bags and do laundry sometimes.

What’s Next?

Our friend Jelmini is visiting! He’ll fly over to meet us in Tokyo at the end of the month, and we plan to hike Mt. Fuji together. He can only visit for a short time and wants to see China as well, so at the beginning of August we’ll already be flying over to Beijing to see the Great Wall. We’re really looking forward to his visit, both because we miss him and also because our togetherness is starting to fester. Just kidding, we’re doing well, but we do spend way more time together than can possibly be healthy. Jelmini, get ready to be the center of attention, and for whirlwind tours of Tokyo and Beijing!

Snapshot Sunday: Origami Cranes at Hiroshima

[ptcPhoto filename=”Cranes.jpg” title=”Origami Cranes” caption=”Origami Cranes – Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Hiroshima, Japan” position=”center”]

An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish or eternal good luck. After being exposed to radiation from the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a girl named Sadako Sasaki developed leukemia and began folding cranes with the wish of survival. Sadako succumbed to her illness at the age of twelve, but her classmates began folding cranes in her honor. The origami crane has now become an international symbol of peace.

Click here to view a larger, detailed image.

7 Differences Between Korean and American Baseball

The national sport of India and Nepal is cricket, a game I couldn’t understand let alone get into. While baseball is not my favorite sport, when we heard that Koreans were crazy about it I couldn’t resist buying some tickets to a game while we were in Seoul. Below are seven of the biggest differences we noticed between Korean and American baseball.

7. I Have to Sit Where?

You’ll see the first of many differences before you even get into the stadium. When purchasing tickets to the game you’re asked who you’re going to root for. That’s because seats on the first base line are designated for the home team fans while seats on the third base line reserved for fans of the visiting team. When we found out the home team in Seoul was the Bears we had no choice but to root for them.

[ptcPhoto filename=”EricBear.jpg” title=”Eric and the Doosan Bear” caption=”Go Bears!” position=”center”]

6. Make Some Noise!!

[ptcPhoto filename=”BaseballNoise.jpg” title=”Korean Baseball Fans” caption=”Not a bad turnout” position=”center”]

Mid-season baseball isn’t exactly heart-pumping excitement, but don’t tell that to fans in Korea! Audience participation is guaranteed with the use of thousands of “thunder sticks” – inflatable plastic tubes that make a ton of noise when rhythmically struck together.

We forgot to pick up a set before going to the game so I made do with a couple of empty 1.5 liter plastic beer bottles we happened to have with us.

[ptcPhoto filename=”EricNoise.jpg” title=”Making some noise” caption=”Makeshift thunder sticks” position=”center”]

5. Cheerleaders for Baseball?!

Every intermission between innings brings the chearleaders out on stage for a dance routine. Costume changes are regular. Dedicated male chearleaders lead the many chants that the entire stadium seems to know.

[ptcPhoto filename=”DoosanCheerleader.jpg” title=”Baseball Cheerleaders” caption=”Baseball Cheerleaders!” position=”center”]

4. Well, at Least They’re Better than Little League

While I couldn’t judge the batting and pitching too much from the stands, there were at least five fielding errors during the game – something that is very uncommon in American baseball. Maybe they were just having an off-day.

[ptcPhoto filename=”BaseballPlayer.jpg” title=”Baseball Player” caption=”He’s going to drop it..just wait” position=”center”]

3. Drinking Games on the Jumbotron

That’s right. There’s no kiss-cam, but instead you get to watch drinking games for prizes among audience members on the jumbotron.

The below drinking game resulted in a tie, followed by a dance-off!

2. Creepy Mascots

The mascot for the Bears was so drunk he had trouble standing up on his own. And I’m not sure what’s going on in this photo.

[ptcPhoto filename=”LecherousBear.jpg” title=”Lecherous Mascot” caption=”Dinger never looks lecherous” position=”center”]

1. I Can Bring WHAT into the Stadium?!

By far the biggest difference from attending a game in the States is that you are allowed to bring your own alcohol into the stadium. Burger King, KFC, and vendors selling Korean snacks such as dried squid and fish are available inside, but most people bring their own beer and anything from chinese food to pizza.

If you forgot to buy beer before the game (or ran out as we did) you can buy a cold one from guys wearing small kegs on their backs. The price for a large beer was a very reasonable $3.

[ptcPhoto filename=”DoosanKeg.jpg” title=”Beer Vendor” caption=”Our POST 7th inning stretch savior.” position=”center”]

We heard that the games in other Korean cities aren’t quite as lively, so if you have a chance we’d definitely recommend seeing a game in Seoul. It was a fun cultural experience that also made us feel right at home. Dare I say American baseball games would be more exciting with some of these Korean additions?

Snapshot Sunday: Ferry Floating by Pebble Beach

[ptcPhoto filename=”PebbleBeach.jpg” title=”Pebble Beach” caption=”Ferry off of Pebble Beach – Busan, South Korea” position=”center”]

Located in Busan’s Taejongdae Park, Pebble Beach offers a rocky shore and fresh local seafood. The pebbles (more like rocks) have been eroded into soft shapes by millions of sea waves, and ferries steer visitors around the rocky cliffs for excellent views of Busan’s Yeongdo-gu Island.

Click here to view a larger, detailed image.