Archive for April, 2007

Korea: Part I

April 22, 2007

I’ve resolved to be better about getting to bed at a reasonable hour, but that’s not helping me write blog entries. Oh well. I’ll have to talk about my trip to Korea in parts.


My first stop in Korea was the city of Gyeongju. Gyeongju was the capital of the kingdom of Silla, which formed in the late 1st Century BC, unified most the Korean peninsula in the mid-7th Century, and lasted until 938. Today, Gyeongju is a mostly boring, large town/small city that retains only traces of its illustrious past. It feels like a cross between Spokane and Ellensburg, but just happens to be 2,000 years-old, has some significant temples in the hills, and is dotted with ancient burial mounds.

Gyeongju’s biggest draw is probably Bulguksa, a Buddhist temple founded in 751. The original wooden buildings were all burned down during the Japanese invasion of the 1590s, but they’ve been faithfully reconstructed. When I was there, the place was filled with hundreds of school kids on a field trip, which is a sure way of removing any solemnity from a historic site, but at least they were well behaved, aside from being really noisy.

Anyway, this is the entrance to the compound.


From what I saw throughout my trip, old-style tiled roofs in Korea are always bowed like this. Japanese tiled roofs, on the other hand, have much straighter “spines,” although the eaves are often curved. There are some other architectural differences, too, as well as more use of stone. Korean temples are also more colorfully painted than their Japanese counterparts.

Bulguksa Closeup

In particular, the predominance of blue and green is not something I’ve seen in Japanese temples.

A nifty drum.

Bulguksa Drum

I think this is a bell striker, now decommissioned. [edit: this itself is a bell, like a musical wood block]

Bulguksa Fish


About an hour’s hike from Bulguksa, up into the low-lying mountains, is Seokguram Grotto. Built in the mid 8th Century, Seokguram Grotto is Gyeongju’s other major attraction.

This is the grotto from the outside.


And this is the inside.

Seokguram Buddha

Photography isn’t allowed in the grotto, so I got this picture from Wikipedia.


And here’s another picture that I didn’t take myself.

Gyeongju Tumuli

These are some of the burial mounds that are scattered throughout Gyeongju. I accidentally left my camera in a coin locker when I went to look at them. Wikipedia to the rescue, once again.


More later.



April 8, 2007

Or, “Even if I Have a Strong Liver, My Other Organs Don’t Appreciate All That Drinking.”

On Friday night, I had a farewell party with the teachers from my old school. In grand Japanese tradition, this involved drinking like fish. Now I’m rather proud of the fact that I’ve never once drunk to the point of throwing up, but while that record still holds, this time I apparently drank so much that I gave myself gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). I felt lousy on Saturday morning, but ate breakfast with no problem. However, I grew increasingly nauseous and wasn’t able to eat lunch. Around 1pm, I threw up some bile (my stomach was empty), and at 4 I wasn’t getting any better, so I walked to the hospital. They gave me a prescription (three actually), for a couple days worth of meds and I’m feeling much better now, but I didn’t get a darn thing done yesterday. At least I learned some new Japanese: gastritis = 胃炎 (“ien”). Anyhow, I’ll have to be more restrained at my new school’s welcome party on next Friday.

Speaking of my new school, I went there on Friday afternoon and met a few teachers. According to the head of English, the school has had 90% of its staff change in the last three years. The current crew should be much tougher, though, which was the point of all the transfers.


I was going to talk about Korea, but then I realized that I have pictures of my old school that I’ve been meaning to share, so I’ll do that first.

This is the teachers’ room. Well, half of it.

Sumiyoshi Teachers’ Room

“Congratulations on Graduating”

Gosotsugyou Omedetou

Alas, I forgot my camera on graduation day, but I brought it for the last couple days of class. That means that I don’t have any pictures of third-years though, since their last day (graduation) is a week before the end of the term.

A first-year English class.

Sumiyoshi 1st Grade English

Posing for a shot with some first-year students . . .

Sumiyoshi 1st-Years

. . . and with some 2nd-years.

Sumiyoshi 2nd-Years

After school, the students have to clean.

Sumiyoshi Cleaning

Then club activities last until 5 or 6.

Here, softball practice is starting, with tennis in the upper right.

Sumiyoshi Softball

Not pictured, but also using the same field: track, baseball, soccer, and volleyball.

Brass band members always warm up outside or in the halls.

Sumiyoshi Band

The school has a small martial arts hall, used by the kendo club and the table tennis club.

Sumiyoshi Budoujo

Sumiyoshi Kendo

Basketball and badminton have the gym and the swim team does dry-land practice during the off season. There’s also a science club, a broadcasting club, and the student council.


Next time: Korea.

I Didn’t Get Kidnapped by North Korea

April 5, 2007

Nor was the ferry harassed by Chinese warships. So my trip was a success!

I have lots of pictures to sort through, but that and the related travel report will have to wait until the weekend. Tomorrow, all of the Kobe JETs will meet with their new schools at the Board of Education. After that, we’ll probably adjourn to be shown our respective campuses. And then in the evening, my old school has a dinner party to bid farewell to teachers who are leaving and to welcome the new arrivals.

In other school-related news, I’ve been assigned the position of ward team leader for my new ward, so I’ll be a point of contact between the Board of Education and the JETs in my ward, and I’ll be in charge organizing quarterly-ish ward team meetings. Crap. Responsibilities.