Smelling the roses

May and June is definitely festival time in Korea, there are festivals for nearly everything and something on most weekends. Last weekend was the huge Sand Festival in Haeundae beach but we wussed out of going there – it just sounded too busy. On a much quieter note Ulsan has just had it’s rose festival, held annually in the Grand Park. Flik Magazine have asked my to write an article (600 words – my first commission) so I dragged a group of friends down to have a look around.

The weather has turned here, from clear piercingly bright blue skies to low-level cloud cover that can’t make up with’s mind if it is going to rain or not. The temperature hasn’t dropped much so the humidity has started to increase. So not the best weather for walking around a garden but it could have been a lot worse.

Most of the festival action takes place in the evening, when the arches were all lit up and there were light shows and performances. However, it was still very nice to look round in the morning, and a lot less crowded so you can have a sense of calm as well.

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Everyone at the festival seemed very happy, and we were greeted with lots of smiles and nods. A very kind gentleman took a group photo of us, and we returned the favour with another group later on – it was very much that sort of event.

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There were large teams of women tending the roses, I like this photo as it look like they are colour coordinated with the flowers.

There were also a few groups of young school kids exploring around and posing for photos.

IMG_1078 IMG_1077There were plenty of places to pose for fun photos – which is very common here and we couldn’t resist doing a few ourselves.

IMG_1080 IMG_1089I guess I should probably included some photos of the actual roses.

 

 

 

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Article in Flik magazine

Yeah, my article about our trip to the science centre has been published in Flik magazine.

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Flik is a magazine produced by HHI (Hyundai Heavy Industries), for the expats here and are based in the Foreigners compound. They are always after articles but it still very nice to see my name in print – I even get a photo! All writing experience is good and I am building up a small portfolio.

IMG_0437For my efforts I get 30,000won (about £17) of Hyundai vouchers to spend at the department store.

 

 

 

Also, I took some photos for a friend Karen’s yoga class – using my new camera. I am still enjoying playing with the settings, the colour selection one (black and white apart from one colour) is very fun and produces some good results.

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The view from Skyrex

We had a few days of milder wet weather  but the cold crisp (way too crisp – I never knew that you get so much static build up with low humidity) weather has returned. Today, the sky is a brilliant blue and you can see the snow topped mountains surrounding Ulsan. So I thought it was a good day to take some photos of the views, we have an open level on floor 30, which gave a good vantage point.

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I just took these photos with my iPhone, my little point and click camera has recently died, I would like to get better at photos and get a better camera but don’t know where to start. Any advice welcome!

The doodah shop

There are stationary shops throughout Ulsan, some little tucked away ones and other’s a lot bigger. Well call them the doodah (autocorrect wants to change this to doodad, but that is something completely different) shops as they don’t really just sell stationary, they sell pretty much everything; toys, pet food, decorations and stationary. We are lucky as the largest one in Ulsan in just round the corner from Skyrex and is called Guam or it’s second name is “the stationary shop next to KFC” as very few people actually use it’s name.

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For some reason, unknown to me, all stationary shops have socks for sale outside, it’s one of the ways to recognise them.

 

 

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Guam is absolute treasure trove of goodies; floor 1 has some touristy stuff, sweets and bizarrely bathroom scales; floor 2 has toys – lots of Lego and Sylvanian families (Katrine’s heaven) plus beads for making your own jewellery; upto floor 3 for the main stationery level, where there are more pens than I ever saw before in one place; and floor 4 has arts and craft materials and model making supplies (Richard’s heaven), plus loads and loads of handmade korean paper. There are even a couple of model boats, to give you inspiration.

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I’m guessing that covering or making your own notes books is popular here as there is a large section with supplies just for that. There is lots of sticky-backed fabric, which we think is perfect for Katrine’s Sylvanian apartment complex as wallpaper and carpet. I need to measure up all the rooms and then bring her along so she can choose for herself.

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I spent a very enjoyable hour browsing around gathering stationary to make up some birthday presents, hope they are as much fun to use as I had picking them.

Being a wuss -finally went to the market

I have been living in Ulsan for three months now and have managed to get a lot done and try new things, but one thing I have been putting off is going to the market. I don’t really know why I have found this so intimidating as  I coped with the markets in Azerbaijan, where the vendors weren’t shy about approaching you, there was still a language barrier as little or no English was spoken. I think the main difference was, at least when I was in Azerbaijan, there wasn’t much of an alternative, you really needed to go to the market to buy fruit and veg.

Also, I always used to go to Chester marker with my mum, when I was growing up. In fact, I could probably still draw a map where all the stall we used to go to wereI loved the haberdashery, with rows of buttons on sale right at the front, right at child height eye-level. Out of curiosity I have just googled Chester Market and the haberdashery is still there, looking just how I remember .

To fully demonstrate how much of a wuss I was being the market is right out side my apartment, you can see it from the bedroom window.

It is a big, bustling place that is nearly always busy. Anyway, last Friday a friend was going so I took the opportunity to tag along and really I had absolutely nothing to worry about. All the produce was clearly marked with prices so no need to worry about haggling or that the price has been vastly inflated as soon as a foreign face is spotted. The market is divided up into difference halls. One for fresh fruit, with the displays almost works of art, with beautifully stacked fruit with contrasting colours,

and another for vegetables, there were stalls and stalls of mushrooms (I shudder at the thought as mushrooms are nearly my worst food ever – only topped my octopus and squid, I am so in wrong country!)

Across the road there is another building for spices and dried food.

 

 

 

 

 

And a completely separate building for fish and seafood, which I think is a very sensible idea, as it keeps all the wet parts of the market together (something that would have been nice in Singapore, especially as you are wearing flip flop all the time there.)

So, now I have taken my first steps and seen that the market is going to be very easy I will definitely be going back, though not to buy the live octopus, I think I will stick to the fruit and veg.

A vampire and a zombie go to school

Sounds like quite a good idea for a children’s book, will have to remember that one.

Yesterday was Halloween and the school had organised a party in the afternoon, and the kids could all go to school in costume. So six thirty in the morning I am applying face paint to my two little monsters to turn them into a vampire and a zombie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a brief moment of panic when we went down to get the bus as the two teenagers were not dressed up but then everyone else arrived in costume. Phew! It was really fun waiting for the bus and we got some really friendly comments from the passing Koreans. Here are a couple of stragglers coming to the bus.

 

They both had a wonderful time at school and I have no idea if the teachers managed to get them to do any work, they must have been so excited. They had and elementary assembly and some of the grade 5 got to pick the best costume from each class – Gregor won for Grade 1 green! Whooo-hooo. What was incredibly sweet is I was told by a few of the other children when they got off the bus, who seemed really pleased that someone from Skyrex won a prize.

Then it was time for trick or treating. Now back home this is really easy, I come from a very small village called Meikle Wartle, and you know everyone by sight and most to say hello to. There is also an unwritten rule that if there is a pumpkin or other Halloween decorations out then you were welcome and if not then you just passed that house by. But how does it work in a block of flats, where the majority of people are Korean, who don’t celebrate Halloween at all? Plus not everyone wants to get involved. So I thought it would be easiest if I asked the families I know if they were happy for us to call. And then a couple of other families joined in and other people wanted us to call on them and it snowballed! In the end we had about 16 children and visited over a dozen apartments.

We arranged to meet at the playpark, on level 5, at 6.30. Here are my two, looking suitably spooky.

 

This is the best picture I have of most of them all together (we couldn’t get all of them together at one time!)

 

We then worked our way up tower 101 first before making a start on tower 102. At one point we knocked on the wrong door, not one previously arranged, and they still had sweets on the off chance that someone would call. We didn’t all fit into one lift, so occasionally we made the older kids run up the stairs (I miscalculated which floor we were on and made them run up 8 flights once, and they still got there before the lift!)

The prize has to go to Natalie for getting into the spirt and decorating her apartment for us and making fantastic Halloween goodie bags.

I am incredible overwhelmed how kind everyone was (big thank you to all the wonderful people in Skyrex), it really made the kids so happy. Trick or treating up and down an apartment block is very different from our sleepy village back home, but just as much fun!

 

A few of my favourite things.

Here are some of the things I really, really like about South Korea. These aren’t big things but they are things that make me smile.

 

Autumn. When we arrived it was way to hot, it was 36degrees on the first day and very humid. Then came the typhoons and the rain. But that has all passed and we now have extremely pleasant weather, it peaks at around 22degrees now with clear blue skies, so you still need to wear sunglasses. There is a bit of chill in the mornings which tells you that winter is coming and I know it will get cold then, so I am going to enjoy this weather while it lasts. Another bonus of autumn is the trees are changing colour, not fully there yet so I’m sure we are going to get a stunning display soon.

 

 

Parking blocks. These are in every car park and I love them. It means you can’t reverse into a wall or another car. Brilliant. They also create a space between the back of the cars so you can get a trolley down to unload your shopping easily.

 

 

Vending machines in parks. If you go out then you can be reasonably sure you will find a vending machine or two and as well as the usual coke and fanta there is usually cold coffee (not tried) and fruit juice.

 

Can size. Since I am talking about vending machines I also love the smaller can size. I know this isn’t just here but I really do like the 250ml cans, I never finish a can and think that wasn’t enough, so why have the larger size. Wish I could always get this size.

 

Park attendants and facilities. I have written a couple of times about the Ulsan Grand Park (here and here)  as it really is a good park, the facilities there are well maintained and there is so much to do. There are always attendants around and ready to help, for example when we were there last week a guy fell of his bike as the front axle sheered, leaving him with a bloody face, within minutes an attendant was there who radioed for help and a golf style buggy came along, picked the guy and bike up and took them off to get help. Love it.

 

My 15kg washing machine. How did I ever cope with a 7kg one and the one in Singapore was only 5kg! It is so much easier to just bung everything it, it can take all the sheets from our beds and means I only do 3 clothes loads a week. I might just have to buy one before we leave and send it home with the shipment.

 

 

Road work mannequin. I haven’t managed to get a picture of these, as I am usually in the car driving, but they are at the start of road works indicating that you need to change lanes. They are very realistic and the first time I saw one I thought it was a person. They have a pink florescent baton, which is moved up and down showing you where to go. I guess people pay more attention to a ‘person’ that they do a sign.

 

Rice. Which is a pretty good thing as rice is such a stable here but I really do like the choice I have. We normally have sticky brown rice but we have started experimenting more with pink rice and with 5 grain rice as well, the later in particular is very tasty and definitely something I will miss when we go home.

 

Wet umbrella bags.  I first saw these in Singapore and they are such a good idea, they are in pretty much every shop/doctors/ theatre etc…, sometimes they even come in two sizes one for full size brollies and one for the folding ones. In case it isn’t clear how they work, you put your umbrella in and then pull it forward and it is now drip free in a long brolly bag.

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