June 30, 2008


Happy 141st Birthday, CANADA!!

As keeping with tradition, here is a list of the top 5 things we will be most happy to return to:
  1. FAMILY - nieces and nephews, holidays, precious times together.

  2. NATURE - spontaneous trips to the mountains, walking on uninhabited paths along the river, basking in the blue sky, soaking in the stars at night.

  3. DRIVING - no taxi drivers, being in control, convenience, freedom.

  4. SPEAKING - communicating with strangers, understanding the world around us, enjoying community.

  5. FOOD - home-made dinners, veggies from the garden, cheap groceries.
** Honorable Mention - embracing our Canadian heritage.
(ie. not being made fun of for saying, 'eh'.)

Canadian Trivia:
Answer these questions correctly to win our admiration and respect!

1. This animal is Canada's national emblem.
a) Beaver
b) Moose
c) Bear
d) Canadian Goose

2. What is Canada's famous rodeo called?
Calgary Stampede
b) Royal Winter Fair
d) Canadian National Exhibition

3. What is the capital of the Yukon?
a) Moose Jaw
b) Yellowknife
c) Dawson City
d) Whitehorse
e) Red Deer

4. What is Canada's smallest province
a) Vancouver Island
b) Alberta
c) Prince Edward Island
d) Nova Scotia

5. What is the capital city of Canada
a) Toronto
b) Ottawa
c) Montreal
d) Vancouver

Good Luck.

June 28, 2008

Sexual Slavery

-Visiting with two of the remaining 7 harmoni (grandmothers).-

I was introduced to a blood chilling fact about our world the other day. It's not often that my easy life is interrupted in such a manner that makes me sit up and take notice. Let me be clear, this is NOT a blog for young readers!! The following blog is about Comfort Women. In other words, the sexual slavery forced upon thousands of women by the Japanese military beginning in 1932.

As we all know, back in WWII Japan had a huge grip on Asia. In fact at that time they had usurped control of the Korean peninsula and their military was widely spread through the continent. I've always had a vague idea that all wars are bad and that terrible things happen in war, things that are never spoken of and things that men, and nations for that matter, spend their lives trying to cover up. What I am about to relay is just one of those incidents which makes this last realization just a little stronger.

-In English:
We must not forget these things that were forced upon us.-

During WWII, the Japanese soldiers were known for raping and killing mass amounts of women and children in their occupied areas. The mass rapings were becoming so wide spread that the Japanese government had decided something had to be done about the 'situation'. What was their solution? Comfort Stations. A systematic ring of sexual slavery.

Now the Japanese officials claimed that Comfort Stations were places set up where men could go when they needed to be intimate with a woman. They believed that these stations would curb their troops rampages and lighten the rebellions of the locals. Yet, the stations were so much more than a harem and the term comfort is a blatant mockery of what happened there.

-A snapshot retrieved of four comfort women and a grinning soldier. Notice the one is pregnant; babies were aborted, poisoned or killed upon birth.-

According to research between 100,000 - 300,000 women, some as young as 10 years old, were kidnapped from nearly every nation in Asia, the majority of women coming from Korea. There were even 10 Dutch women among the count. It is recorded that some families were persuaded to sell their own daughters to the army for a small fee. The families were told that their girls would be put to work in Japan in a factory or some such arrangement. They believed that they would be better off there being clothed and fed.

According to Unit 731 soldier Yasuji Kaneko, "The women cried out, but it didn't matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor's soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance."(Wikipedia)

These women that were taken were beaten, starved, brainwashed, enslaved, maimed,
many were killed, and all were forced to work in 'Comfort Stations' serving up to 40 men a day. Stabbings and beatings were seen as mercies in comparison to some of the treatment that they received. These stations were set up all over Asia, ranging from Indonesia and Thailand right up through China, Russia and down into Japan.

-A typical room in a Comfort Station.-

When the war ended, these women were dropped in the streets to fend for themselves. Forgotten about and disowned. Many just disappeared. Some not speaking the language, none with family and many so emotionally abused that they had no idea what country they were originally from. I was told that the United Nations picked of the pieces and cared for these women the best that they could but they really had little idea of where to place them and what had become of their families. Many remain in the countries were the Japanese left them.

-Each wooden tag on the wall has a name on it. If the name was showing, the woman was available. If the name was not showing she was busy, in her later stages of pregnancy or had an STD.-

In the recent past some of these women within South Korea have come forth, publicly sharing their experiences. The act of admitting what had been forced upon them was one of enormous proportions. As in many Asian countries family is the most important thing and saving face is crucial. So, according to the strong Asian culture present in Korea, the women who have admitted to being forced into this abuse have often been defaced and publicly humiliated because of the hurt it brings upon their family name. Because of their traditions and the fear of once again losing their families, the few that are still living may very well hold their secrets to the grave and never come forth.

-Every Wednesday at noon, for over 800 Wednesdays, the women who are feeling well enough head into Seoul to demonstrate at the Japanese embassy.-

And, out of a small handful of the women, about 50 altogether, who had admitted this abuse and who had banded together back in the nineties, only 7 are still living. And, it was these 7 women that I had the chance to visit. Upon arriving at their place in the country, The Sharing House, I expected anger and rage from these little old women. Anger about what had been forced upon them and rage at the Japanese government for refusing to admit to the heinous war crimes that they committed against these innocent women. Yet, what I found were not angry little old ladies but active grandmothers, working well into their 80's to bring publicity to the plight of the 'Comfort Women'. Publicity, they say, so that the world will not repeat the same mistake twice.

A list of what the harmoni or grandmothers want:

Seven simple demands
  1. To admit the drafting of Japanese military comfort women!
  2. Apologize officially!
  3. Reveal the truth about the crime!
  4. Erect memorial tablets for the victims!
  5. Pay restitution to the victims or their families!
  6. Teach the truth about this so that you do not commit the same crimes!
  7. Punish the war criminals!
-Thousands upon thousands of paper cranes sent from a Japanese elementary school.-

I was shocked by all of this. I was having a hard time altering my worldview and a hard time making sense of what I was hearing. I was appalled by the injustices of this world, by the brutality and by the inhumanity. But what took my breath away was this: of all the visitors that the old women receive, the majority of them are Japanese. Thousands of school children write every year to apologize for the crimes of their grandfathers and one Japanese man has kindly devoted his life to serving these women, he has forsaken his freedom to lives in the harmoni community and make reparations for his fathers.

-Portraits of the survivors.-

For more information:

June 22, 2008

A Political Move, In My Opinion

What should have been the game of the century ended up being just a little suspicious.

-Traditional guards signaling the beginning of the game. In the background a sea of red supporting the South Korean flag.-

-Sara, Jess, Rach, Trev, Jeff and Jen. A great group of friends!!-

This past weekend, we had the amazing opportunity to watch Korea Republic (South Korea) take on their rivals to the north, Korea DPR. This match up was part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier, but it seemed like something was a little 'off' and I don't mean just the game. The South dominated in possession, foot work and had the hometown advantage. There were many shots on the North Korean goal but all shots were shockingly wide and high. That is all expect for one which was a direct shot into the the goalkeepers chest. The final score, 0-0. Can anyone say, 'political move'?!?

- A goal kick. South in red, North in white.-

-World Cup Stadium, Seoul, South Korea.-

So, why do I think throwing the game was a political move to on the part of South Korea? Because, logically, all evidence shows that there was nothing to lose by tying for either team. Both teams had already qualified for the finals and so there was little to no harm in throwing the game for political advances. Also considering that back in March, when the two teams last met, there was mounting tension as the South Korean Anthem and flag were refused at the game in North Korea's capital city, Pyongyang. So, with a win not necessary and a rocky relationship to patch up, it seems to us that this once excellent team all of the sudden lowered their shooting skills to that of a peewee team to appease their northern brothers.

-Watch out! We're armed and dangerous...just ask Sara.-

June 12, 2008


-The annual Azalea fest was taking place when we arrived in Jeju this year.-

We have climbed our share of mountains in Korea but Hallasan or Halla Mountain has a claim to fame as the tallest peak in South Korea. Standing 1950m, Hallasan towers over the coast line below.

-Our highest ascent. The peak of the ancient volcano, Hallasan.-

When we left our hotel on the tropical coast in the morning, the temperature was around 20 degrees Celsius. And, on the coast the flowers were blooming, the leaves had been out for almost two months and shorts were the dress for the day. But, a few short hours later when we reached the end of our trail at 1750m, despite it being mid-day, we were freezing. The temperature had dropped closer to zero and the winds were whipping around us. We were very thankful for a small cabin near the peak where we were able to buy a steaming bowl of noodles and sit in relative warmth to rest.

-Mom coveting her noodles.-

-Check out the background. Look how far it is down to the coast line.-

As I mentioned earlier Jeju is renown for it's stones, winds and women. Winds, as we experienced up on the volcano, are often strong and can change directions many times during the day. We were happy for our layers.

-A natural.-

-The peak of Hallasan, another 200 m from where we ended our journey.-

The many different faces of this mountain vary from easy, rolling hills to steep, craggy cliffs. We also found that the plant life was equally as diverse.

As we started the climb we could look around to see palms and cacti, yet the farther up we ventured the rockier it got and the more wind battered everything looked. Nearer to the top there were beautiful vast prairies, barren and treeless. A few deer scampered about in the safety of the national park. And, the small forests that had survived the elements looked like time warn dwarfs.

-Jeju's tall rocky peaks so called the 500 Generals.-

June 8, 2008

Almost Jungmun Beach

When we've made our way down to Jeju in the past two years, we've always had one thing on the agenda, beach time. Now, where better to sit on the beach than at a world famous, unusually long (560 m), surfer-loving, tourist infested, fine white sand beach? Jungmun, rated the best beach in Korea, fits this perfect description of a beach. Why wouldn't you want to give it a try?

Trev and I, on the other hand, can give you about five thousand reasons why we would rather not go to Jungmun. However, the best reason of all is that right beside this world famous beach, just around a cliff and little to the east lays a beach that has no name... and, a beach with no name means a beach with no people. On our last two trips to the island, we have spent a considerable amount of time sitting on our wonderfully relaxing, un-named beach.

One thing that we do know about this beach is that it has a peculiar type of sand, Jinmosal or Jin sand. This special sand is neither white nor black but is multicolored. It is technically considered to be black, red, white and grey and is unique in and of itself.

And, while the sand itself is fascinating, the scenery surrounding beach is equally as beautiful. A little farther from the water and a little closer to the cliffs, the upper beach is strewn with Jeju's Hyeonmuam stones, which you can see above, and crazy cylindrical lava-tube rocks, which we posted on last year. See the post, Volcanic Remains.

During the day as we sat, had a picnic and watched the tide go in and out we were amazed to see brightly colored orange balls floating about 200m out from the shore. There were roughly 20 these little spheres bobbing around in the salty water and over a period of three hours we watched as they slowly made their way down the beach. Throughout the afternoon we were speculating as to what they were or what they were doing until we remembered that Jeju is famous for three things: Stones, Winds and Women.

So, to answer the question, the orange balls that we were seeing were empty gourdes, called Taewak. And, why were they floating around in the ocean? These gourdes were supporting one of Jeju's greatest sights, diving women, or Haenyo, to be exact. The older generation of Jeju's women are famous for diving to depths of up to 20m and staying under for over 2 minutes without a breathing apparatus and all to make a living. And, when they finally do come up for air it is the gourdes that support their weight and provide them with a short break from treading. These Haenyo women catch everything from abalone to octopus. Then, after this long day of foraging, they sell their goods along the roadsides. Talk about a long day!

We loved 'our' little secluded beach just as much the second time as we did the first. And, it's almost Jungmun Beach, it's so close, yet it's so much better!

Tea Plantations of Jeju

-O'Sulloc Tea Plantation. Jeju, South Korea.-

One misty morning on the Island we, were fortunate enough to visit one of the most famous tea plantations in Korea, O'Sulloc. Vast rolling hills of green bushes, small wind-rounded mountains just barely mistakable through the fog and mist, a humid early morning was the perfect time to see and smell our first tea plantation. Strolling through the never ending rows of fresh green tea seemed like an experience one might have in the upper mountains of India, not on a small island just off the shore of Korea. Yet, by the end of the morning we were elated to have experienced the fields but we were also happy to be fortunate enough to catch a cab right as the rain settled into the valley.

Unbeknownst to many people the tea bush, or tree in Northern India, is the single plant responsible for all of the major types of tea; white tea, green tea (jasmine tea), oolong tea and black tea.

The creation of different flavours are formulated through a sort of processing spectrum. The first on the spectrum is white tea. It is used as tea even thought it is un-wilted and unoxidized making it the least processed of all the teas. On the complete other end of the spectrum is black tea. It is very different from green tea in that it is wilted, crushed, and fully oxidized, making it the most processed of the common teas. The other two teas, green and oolong, fall somewhere in the middle of these two polar-extreme processing methods. So, from least processed to most processed: white tea, green tea (jasmine tea), oolong tea and black tea.

Another point of interest - To create alternately flavoured teas blending and additives are used. Herbs, flowers, spices, and fruits are blended into any of the four main types of tea to create teas such as, Earl Grey or Orange Pekoe.

June 7, 2008

A Fast Paced World

-This trip to Jeju was a great time to get away and meditate. Meditate on the fact that sometimes the best and most important things in life aren't always the fast and convenient things.-

June 6, 2008

Seogwipo Harbor

Up River

-Just a little guy. Geolmae Ecological Park, Jeju, Korea.-

Our first day in Jeju, a small island 100km off the southern most tip of Korea, was spent exploring the local harbor. With a beautifully sunny day, we walked from mid-morning until early afternoon fascinated by almost everything. From waterfalls to palms, snails to spiders, nothing was left unnoticed. It was such a needed break from the pace of the city and a wonderful time to be outside, away from the throngs of people were now accustomed to.

While exploring the uncharted territories of Seogwipo city, the harbor and the orange groves, the mid-day heat gave us quite a sun-burn. But it was worth the peeling and the pain just to feel fresh and alive again.

-Cheon-ji-yeon Waterfall, Jeju, Korea.-

Cheon-ji-yeon Waterfall, Koreans believe, is the place where the angels would secretly come down to bathe. Now, it doesn't look like much in this shot but it is considered the Natural Monument No. 27. Which, for those of you who don't live in Korea, means that they are ranked the 27th most beautiful Natural Monument in all of South Korea. We have found in our time here that Koreans must put numbers on everything in order to rank all things in relative importance. Because of a strong Confucianism background, everything from national treasures right down to people and relationships are ranked.

-Just down from the Cheon-ji-yeon Waterfall and just before the river meets the harbor. -

The Harbor

-Seogwipo Harbor, Jeju, Korea.-

Seogwipo's quaint little harbor... well, maybe not so little as fishing is their main source of income. We found that both day or night, the harbor was an interesting place to visit. The sights and smells were so foreign to us native prairie folk.

- Seogwipo, Jeju, Korea.-

We spent a good portion of the day shell hunting. One of our favorite past times. In the background you can see Tiger Island, named because it looks like a Tiger about to pounce.

-Seogwipo, Jeju, Korea.-

Dinner! Well, not really... we didn't cook them but the next night we ate their brothers for dinner at the Shilla hotel. Now that was a whole other experience.

-Seogwipo harbor, Jeju, Korea.-

Ma and Pa chillin' on interlocking Tetrapods or, in more simple terms, cement wave breakers which are placed to minimize the erosion of the shore.

-Seogwipo Harbor, Jeju, Korea.-

June 4, 2008

Oh...The IRONY

I find it slightly ironic that I would be the person to hack into Trev and Rachel's blog and make a post all about myself seeing as I have had nothing to do with the previous attacks...
but, whatever.... they've got it coming!

Hello and welcome to the new blog on Trevor and Rachel's sight that's all about HILARY HONTZ!!

Allow me to introduce a little bit more about myself; My name is Hilary Hontz and I am awesome! That's all you need to know. Here are some photos to help you understand my awesomeness and to get to know me a little better!

This is me. I admit, I look a little peeved off in this picture, but I'm normally a very pleasant person!

Fear not; I obviously know Trevor and Rachel... they're sort of cool... I kind of like them...

Here I am... being ornery and silly, as usual.

I've even enjoyed spending time in Canada. I like the Great Lakes!

So, for all of you out there who are fans of Trevor and Rachel... GOOD CHOICE!
It was nice meeting you and thank you for your time!

Hilary Hontz

June 1, 2008

A Day in the Park

- Namsan Traditional Village, Seoul, South Korea.-

Pigeons are like the wild geese of Korea except you can't get gun or a permit to shoot them; except with a camera, that is. I figured I looked like an idiot trying to get these pictures. I was running around after the pigeons bent over with the camera close to the ground while making chicken noises. The strange looks from the Koreans I didn't mind, it was sore back the next day that made these shots questionable.

- Namsan Traditional Village, Seoul, South Korea.-