November 24, 2006

Dawson Andrus

Announcing a new family...
On November the 11th (my Grandfathers 80th birthday) at 4:04 pm, Dawson Andrus arrived. He was two weeks early, yet managed to hold down a healthy weight of 7lbs. and 2 oz. It was, from what we heard, a very quick birth. We were obviously not present but we have been sent so many pictures that it does not feel like we are half a world away. I can't tell who he looks more like at this point, all I know is that those two make cute kids. Congratulations, Dave and Karalee!!

November 23, 2006


On the bright and cheerful day of November 18th, Les, Justin, Sara, Rachel and I went down to the quaint city of Suwon to visit Hwaseong ("Brilliant Fortress"). The trip was long and grueling but for a measly 1,500 Won ($1.50) it was well worth the congested hour and a half on the stuffy Korean subway. Upon arrival in the city we wound our way around the cramped and bustling streets of this small town (population 1 million). It was fantastic to escape the busy city life and relax in a more cleanly and brisk environment (I can hear you all snickering back home).
The wall and palace themselves, making up the entirety of the fortress were built from 1794 to 1796. King Jeongjo (who is featured as the sculpted bronze man to the right) constructed the fortress complex to honor and house the remains of his father. Visiting ones father after they have deceased was and still remains an important tradition in Korean culture. The wall that encloses the fortress is 5.74 kilometers in length and four to six meters high. Although we did not manage to walk to entire way around we did get the just of it on our self-guided, what-do-you-think-that-thing-is tour. Our day away included learning to master archery, Korean traditional style, a ride on a fierce dragon train, a sour pomegranate and a bean paste fish, and male dancers performing under the straining weight of a pound of make-up. (Don't worry Dave if you come we won't make you try on the men's winter line of cosmetics). Just as a point of interest the fortress is the main attraction for the city so it is very well kept up and was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1997.
Rachel actually paid money to strike this bell below... and she wonders why the Korean people love her!

November 19, 2006

A Day On Bukhansan

Last week Mike (left), Les (right), Rachel and I went out to a national park call Bukhansan on a beautiful fall day. We decided to take the less direct way to the top which involved a lot of scrambling and steep slab walking. As we made our way to the main peak (Insabong), we saw the rock cover speckled with literally dozens of rock climbers ascending a multi-pitch climb to the top. We soon found out that the only way to the top was with an extensive amount of climbing gear which we had only a little of. But we were content to sit back and watch.

If you look closely, you might be able to pick out some of the myriads of climbers on the rock face. (They look like ants from this distance.) After our long day of hiking, we were invited to join some local climbers (The Alpinist Club of Corea) at a restaurant where they feed and entertained us with a Korean pizza, kimchi (not the dog) and dong-dong-ju (rice wine). They were all celebrating the wedding of one of their colleagues and in true Korean style the bill was all his.

November 17, 2006

Tiananmen Square

This was yet another one of those cultural experiences that I think everyone should experience at some point in their life. The Tiananmen Square had such a different feel to it than any other place that I have ever visited. Just looking around at the hoards of Chinese citizens paying their homage to their country on what would be equivalent to their Thanksgiving gave me a sense of the power that this massive country holds. Not only over their peoples actions but also over their every thought and spoken word. If there is anywhere in Asia that feels foreboding it is here. Standing in the middle looking at the literally hundreds of communist flags and the many tributes to Mao was a new and ethno-centrically unbalancing experience. Here I was surrounded by ideals so different from the ones that I had always embodied as a Canadian and I could not help but be reminded of the hundreds of people who had risked and lost their lives to try to pronounce just a shred of what I stand for. While at the square, or better yet, while in China it is greatly frowned upon to speak of the two massacres that had happened here.

Above is a picture of the main government building which essentially controls the dealings and forward movements of the Chinese Government. It was in front of this building in 1989 that thousands of peaceful protesters questioned the governments actions regarding the Chinese economic reform. It was also in front of this building that close to 4,000 students, intellectuals, soldiers, and Red Cross workers died as well as where 30,000 more were injured. This event in history is widely rejected by the current Chinese Government and banned from the memories of the citizens. The Tiananmen Square massacre is something that we all learn of in the pursuit to further democracy but actually being there and understanding the power of this government to overthrow actions and thoughts that they do not support was mind boggling.

November 5, 2006

Fall is Still Going On

On November 5th, Rachel, myself and Les (from Rachel's school) went on a hike to find some rock climbing on Bulam Mt. Les and I went one direction while Rachel and Kimchi took the camera and went off in another. The colors of the fall leaves are beautiful as the pictures show. We find that there are a lot more reds in amongst the seasons colors.

November 4, 2006


The Forbidden City (紫禁城), which is located at the exact center of the Imperial City, was the main residency of the royal ancestry and ultimately the noble Emperors of China. The Forbidden City is surrounded by a 6 meter deep moat and a 10 meter high wall.
It is divided into two parts, the Outer Court and Inner Court. The Outer Court was mainly used for ceremonies, weddings and investitures. This area had no trees for two reasons; first, so no one could hide in them to try and assassinate the Emperor and second, so that an arsonous act could not be committed which would threaten to burn down the adjacent buildings. Another notable fact is that the paving stones are 1 meter deep to ensure that no one could tunnel under the city. The Inner Court included living quarters and a garden where the Emperor worked and lived with his family, eunuchs and maid-servants.
This picture was taken in the Inner Court, more specifically in the Emperors gardens. This tree was thought to be over 400 years old and is not unique in its age as it is surrounded by many trees and buildings of the same stature.