fifty-two weeks of adventure

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #31: Daegu Tower and the Korean Countryside

This past week has been jam-packed with activities. Not only have we been busy packing, selling furniture, running summer camps, and making arrangements for our move, we’ve also been doing our best to have lots of Korean adventures. Our friends Josh and Laura have a friend of theirs visiting from the US which has given us extra opportunities to do more touristy things, like finally going to the top of the Daegu Tower.

Most of the bigger cities in Korea have a tower with an observatory at the top for seeing the city. Seoul has Namsan Tower and Busan has Busan Tower, etc.. Daegu Tower (technically I think it’s name is the Woobang Tower or 83 Tower) is supposedly the tallest one in Korea structure-wise, but since the one in Seoul is on top of a mountain, it’s much higher elevation-wise. Daegu Tower is located in/behind an amusement park called Eworld. It’s one of the places we’ve always said we should go sometimes and have just never gotten around to, so we were excited to check it off our list.

Picture comparing the size of different towers.  I don't think these are to scale...

Picture comparing the size of different towers. I don’t think these are to scale…

IMG_9046
IMG_9040

It looks so different from above!

IMG_9038
One of our Korean friends who we used to see regularly at our house church recently moved out of Daegu and into a smaller rural town. She invited us to visit her there and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see her one last time and also to enjoy the Korean countryside which is quite beautiful. The drive 1 1/2 hour drive to her town was so beautiful and peaceful –  a completely different side of Korea from the one we experience in every day life.
IMG_9065

As part of our visit, she took us to a national park in which is home to a famous temple. While it’s been unmercifully hot and humid here, we did most of our walking around in the late afternoon and early evening which made the heat a little more bearable and made for some spectacular lighting.

IMG_9068

IMG_9074

This particular temple (Haeinsa Temple) is important because it houses many of the original Korean printing blocks that were made over a thousand years ago. Korea was the first country to use printing presses, hundreds of years before Gutenberg came along. The printing blocks are stored in buildings that use ancient technologies for keeping them dry and protecting from heat and cold.

IMG_9076

Although the traffic jam on the way home made our return bus ride a lot longer than our trip there, it was completely worth it to get to spend some time in the country, to see one last temple, and to say goodbye to our friend.

We are 10 days from our return to America and I don’t think my heart could be any more full of longing – longing for home and at the same time longing for all of this to never end.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about checking out the Daegu Chicken and Beer Festival you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure #30: Daegu Chicken and Beer Festival

This past week was the second annual Chimac festival in Daegu. Chimac is a made-up word jamming together “Chicken” and “Mekju” which is the Korean word for beer. This festival is a marriage of two of Korea’s favorite things, fried chicken and cheap beer.

IMG_8993

The festival was held in Duryu Park, a large park just one subway stop from our place. I went to the festival with some girl friends on Friday night and scoped out the situation. Then Jonathan and I returned on Saturday afternoon and hung out for a few hours. Is there anything more fun than summer festivals? It doesn’t even matter what they’re for, I just enjoy sitting outside, listening to music, and enjoying the festival foods.

IMG_8936

IMG_8960

Potato spiral proved a but tricky to eat without impaling the roof of my mouth.

IMG_8951

As you can see, there were tents for food and drinks EVERYWHERE so there was no shortage of options. We had fried chicken and kebab and a potato spiral. There were also several tents with craft beers from small local breweries. As popular as beer is in Korea (Korea has a VERY strong drinking culture), they primarily drink one of two beers, Cass or Hite, both of which are sort of the equivalent of Bud light or Miller. Very light and very mellow. We tried a Heffeweisen from one of the craft brew tents that wasn’t bad. It reminded me of our life in Raleigh, which feels like a thousand years ago, because  North Carolina is just bursting with little independent breweries.

IMG_8970

Jonathan was getting artsy.

IMG_8980

We watched a couple of performances as it started to get dark, including these girls who were pretty bad at dancing and later a band comprised of what looked like 6th grade girls plus one boy who was the drummer. I was much more impressed by them.

IMG_8985

IMG_8988

How cute are they?

Being at the festival made us very nostalgic about our time in Korea and a little sad about leaving. In particular I think we will miss living in a big city and having unique cultural experiences at our fingertips. We spent a while dreaming about the places we might go in the future. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our whole Korea adventure it’s that you really never know where your life might end up if you stay open to possibilities.

IMG_8996

Of course, no festival is complete without the dancing light-up beer bottle!

View of Daegu Tower at night. Which we are hoping to go up to the top of in the next week!

View of Daegu Tower at night. Which we are hoping to go up to the top of in the next week!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our final trip to Seoul you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 27: Cat Cafe

Before we moved to Korea I remember reading blog posts about how popular pet cafes are here. Pet cafes, like the name implies, are coffee shops where you can enjoy a beverage while being surrounded by puppies and kitties. What could be better than sipping espresso while petting a fluffy kitty of twelve? Since arriving in Korea we’ve visited a few pet cafes and while it isn’t something most people would do every weekend, it is a unique and fun experience. We decided to go to one of our local cat cafes this weekend to get our cat fix and to experience something we won’t be able to do soon one more time.

IMG_8749

When you go into the cat cafe you take off your shoes and go through the gate. You wash your hands and pay the admission fee (8,000 won or about $8 USD) which includes a drink you select from the menu. Then you are free to roam around or settle wherever you’d like. There are special cat treats you can purchase if you want, but you don’t have to.

IMG_8753

The cats are very mellow and wander around as cats do, climbing on the tables and sprawling lazily on top of people’s bags at will. The whole thing is probably pretty unsanitary, but also fun.

IMG_8758

The ones that look really grumpy are kind of my favorites.

IMG_8761

I don’t think its angry, that’s just how its face looks.

IMG_8766

IMG_8772

IMG_8781

This little girl had treats.

IMG_8784

I want a fat orange cat so bad. I think we need another ginger in our family.

Personally, I prefer the cafes that only have cats. I’ve only been to one that had dogs (the cats and dogs were on separate floors) and I didn’t feel good about the dogs being in that environment. While they were undoubtedly well-fed and received more attention than some dogs, there were simply too many of them in too small of a space and I felt like they needed to be free to run around and to have an owner that cared for them and bonded with them. In contrast, I feel like the cats in the cat cafe are better off than a lot of cats in Korea. Cats aren’t nearly as popular of pets in Korea as dogs are and there are street cats EVERYWHERE so the cats in the cafe actually have a really great life compared to most cats in Korea. I actually saw a dead kitten in the road on my way to school last week which made me so sad. I feel that the cats in the cafes are well fed and they have all the fancy cat trees and cubbies and equipment they could want, so they can decide when they want to interact and can easily get away when they need alone time. They all seem to get along with one another really well and get lots of attention and they are all very gentle.

Pet Cafes aren’t exclusive to Korea (in fact, when we were in Japan there was a bunny cafe, but we didn’t go to it), but Korea is the first place that we ever encountered them and so we will always associate them with Korea. We may not be able to go to a cat cafe in America, but we’ll have something much better – we’ll be reunited with our own fur babies, Bart and Ruthie, who have been staying with friends for the past two years. We miss their little personalities and presence in our home and they are just one of the many, many things we are looking forward to about being back in America.

Can you believe that we’re more than halfway through the 52 Weeks of Adventure?! Be sure to check out my most faithful co-adventurers, Pradnya and Jenn who have both come so far on this journey and shared so many beautiful adventures.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our photo shoot with Laura you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure # 26: Working That Camera

One of the best decision we made before coming to Korea was the decision to invest in a decent camera. We purchased a Canon Rebel T3i two years ago and it’s been such a great camera for amateurs wanting some higher quality pictures without the desire, time, or money to buy and learn to use professional grade equipment. One thing that’s been true about having our big camera is that while we get to take lots of great pictures of places we go or even of each other, we rarely get a chance to take good pictures together. For one thing, it isn’t easy to get good selfies with a big heavy camera. And it’s a bit harder to ask a random stranger to take a picture for you when in a foreign country, especially since a lot of people get intimidated by big cameras.

When we were back in the US we were so fortunate to have some good friends who are photographers. In fact, two of my roommates from college are now professional wedding and lifestyle photographers, so we had really talented friends who were able to take our engagement photos, wedding photos, and even an anniversary photo session for our second anniversary. (Check them out here and here!) Jonathan and I really wanted to take some updated photos together for our 5th anniversary and also to have some good photos together in Korea that weren’t just snapshots in front of tourist attractions. Luckily for us, one of our best friends here in Korea is (wait for it…) a photographer!

Our awesome friend Laura agreed to do some couples photos for us this weekend so that we could have some updated family photos that were also of us in Korea which will always be a big part of our lives and our story. We headed over to Laura’s side of Daegu for these pictures (about 50 minutes from us by bus) which we took on the campus of Kyungpook National University. Laura’s husband, Josh, agreed to stay home with their (almost) 11-month-old Genevieve so we could catch the late afternoon light.I’m so excited to share the photos with you, but for now, here are just a few teasers.

11650470_579323405881_1474391091_n

11651326_579323395901_1585695157_n

11650838_579323400891_780502291_n

Sidenote: Isn’t it totally unfair the way guys always look exactly the same no matter what? Like if they are a handsome guy, (like my hubby ;)), they are just handsome all the time. There’s no special preparation necessary, no deliberation over outfits, no fussing over their hair. Whereas I spent a long time picking a dress and fixing my hair and wearing special makeup, hubby got dressed and shaved his neck. His entire regimen took about 10 minutes. Sigh.

Laura also did a few headshots for me which was so great because the two I tend to use are 4-6 years old and, let’s face it, I really don’t look like I’m 21 anymore. 🙂 I’ll be switching out my bio picture on this site soon!

I’m so thankful to have these photos and to capture these memories of this time in our lives. I’ll share more of the photos once Laura’s finished with them.

If you’re interested in checking out some of Laura’s other work, be sure to visit her website. Josh, Laura, and Gen will be moving back to Kansas in August!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about the hilarious Konglish writing we find everywhere you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure #25: Adventures in Konglish

When we first arrived in Korea two years ago we were surprised to discover that there is English everywhere here. We were equally surprised to discover that the vast majority of it is grammatically incorrect, misspelled, or complete nonsense. The majority of store names, advertisements, and words on clothing are all written in English, though it’s clear that no one who actually speaks English was involved in their design or manufacture. To give you an analogy for what this is like, imagine if you went to the US (or England or another English-speaking country) and found that all of their stores had Chinese names and the people mostly wore clothes with Chinese characters on them, even though very few people spoke Chinese.

In our first few months we were constantly amused by this and tried to take pictures of especially funny examples when we found them, but if you live with anything for long enough it will start to seem normal. After a while we got used to all of the strange and bad English surrounding us and stopped noticing it as much.

On Sunday we met our friends downtown for lunch and decided to make a point to try to notice the ridiculous English we passed just on our way to the restaurant. Unfortunately some of the best examples are on people’s clothing and that’s much harder to get pictures of without being really rude, but we still found some gems without going out of our way.

Clothing store with this inspirational quote on it.

Clothing store with this inspirational quote on it.

Cafe Lucid

Contact Lens store

Contact Lens store

On the wall in one of our favorite restaurants.

On the wall in one of our favorite restaurants.

In addition to these signs we spotted on the go, I went back through my phone pictures and pulled out some favorites we have collected along the way.

Student's English notebook.

Student’s English notebook.

On the wall in the  English Village Learning Center

On the wall in the English Village Learning Center

Coffeeing

Best Coffee Cup of Life

Best Coffee Cup of Life

Im bong

Shirt I almost bought for my friend but resisted.

Shirt I almost bought for my friend but resisted.

body breast face

On a plastic surgery office. I’m hoping those “breasts” are the befores and not the afters….

This is on the wall in my English classroom.

This is on the wall in my English classroom.

And my all-time favorite – this tissue box found by a fellow native English teacher.

tissue box

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Adventures in Konglish. We are trying to remember to take more pictures of these things now that our time here is coming to an end. I know the photos will bring back memories and make us laugh for years to come.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our 5th anniversary trip to Busan you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 24: Anniversaries and Love Motels

On Saturday my husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. I’ve been waiting for years to feel like a grown up. I kept thinking I would feel like one when I moved away from home, when I graduated from college, when I got married, when I got my first “real” job, when I moved across the world. But I have to confess that I’m often amazed that other people seem to think of me as an adult. Cause I just don’t see it most of the time. 🙂 I thought that perhaps a five-year wedding anniversary would be the kind of milestone that made me feel grown up. And I admit that this made me feel a little old. But then I ate nachos for dinner. So not really all that grown up.

Speaking of not grown up...these guys were just chilling on their stilts.

Speaking of not grown up…these guys were just chilling on their stilts.

For our anniversary, we spent the night in Busan, our favorite city in Korea. We stayed in a love motel near Haeundae Beach, one of Busan’s most popular areas. “Love motels” are a very common form of accommodation in Korea. As the name suggests, they are motels specifically marketed as places for couples to tryst. In Korea, most people marry in their late twenties to early thirties and people live with their parents until they get married, which means there aren’t a lot of options for couples to spend time together. Additionally, Korean families often sleep together in the same room, so even a married couple with a few young children might utilize a love motel for some alone time. Actually I’ve heard that a few years ago, there was some sort of law that required businesses to close mid-afternoon one day per week so that people would be encouraged to make more babies. There is something of a population crisis in Korea where the average family has only have one child, two maximum, which means they aren’t replacing themselves and the population is in decline. So the government invented a way to encouraged people to spend more “quality time” with their spouses. As far as I know, this is no longer in effect.

Some motels are themed and have interesting decor and others are essentially just like small mid-range hotels that happen to provide you with condoms. It may sound sketchy, but the love motels are often cleaner and nicer than hostels and are much more affordable than fancy hotels. The one we stayed at this time wasn’t themed, but it did have mirrors all over the place, including the ceiling. It also had a lovely bathtub which was easily my favorite part of the room since we don’t have a tub or even a proper shower in our apartment. (Like many Korean apartments, we simply have a “wet room” where our shower head is attached to the sink and you just stand in the middle of the bathroom to shower with no curtains or anything).

IMG_8711

It was pretty overcast the entire time we were in Busan, so while we spent a bit of time walking along the beach, the views weren’t the best we’ve seen. We did have a nice dinner in a restaurant near the beach that’s known for it’s Western menu where we had BBQ chicken sliders and a giant plate of nachos. Nothing gourmet, but certainly some comfort food.

IMG_8704

We tried so hard to selfie, but we weren't very good at it...

We tried so hard to selfie, but we weren’t very good at it…

This guy right here = most wonderful man in the world.

This guy right here = most wonderful man in the world. Also, so handsome!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for five years, but when we reflect on all that we’ve done and seen and the ways that we’ve changed and grown we have been amazed. I am beyond blessed to be married to such a kind, patient man who makes me laugh every day. We are as crazy about each other as we were when we were 19 and I never want to take that for granted. I’ve written a bit about my thoughts on marriage and why I think ours works so beautifully well, but I am still overwhelmed by the gift that it is and I’m pretty much fine with owning the fact that I have the most wonderful husband in the world. I am so humbled that he chose me and that he chooses me still, every single day.

IMG_8718

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about the MERS scare in Korea you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

52 Weeks of Adventure # 23: MERS Scares AKA The Adventure of Korean Healthcare

If you’re up on world news then you probably know that there has been an outbreak of MERS here in South Korea. While the first case arrived in Korea mid-May, it was only this past week that it became common knowledge. So, it’s been a fun week here.

Photo credit: http://depletedcranium.com/  This is for illustration only. I actually think this is a Japanese family. But this is a pretty common sight here in Korea, even when there is no MERS.

Photo credit: http://depletedcranium.com (This is for illustration only. I actually think this is a Japanese family. But this is a pretty common sight here in Korea, even when there is no MERS.)

If you don’t know, MERS stands for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. As the name suggests, it’s a virus that originated in the Middle East (and is found there almost exclusively) that causes respiratory problems. As the American media dramatically announced, “It has no cure and no vaccine!”

While this is true, it’s also not quite the death sentence it sounds like. Like the flu, MERS is the sort of virus that the majority of immune systems can fight off and recover from. In fact, all of the MERS deaths in Korea so far (and most worldwide) have been people who already had a weakened immune system from other serious conditions, usually lung conditions (Tuberculosis is very common here). That’s not to say it’s no big deal or that precautions shouldn’t be taken, but it’s definitely not the bubonic plague the media is making it out to be.

This situation has led Koreans to react in ways that are just, well, so Korean. In other words, they are massively over-reacting in some ways, while not reacting enough in some ways that would actually be helpful. For example:

  • More than 500 schools in the Seoul area were closed to stop the spread of the virus, despite the fact that ALL current cases were contracted by people in the hospital, working in the hospital, or visiting the hospital that held the already diagnosed patients and despite the fact that best research indicates that this virus is not easily transmitted and only appears in people who have had prolonged contact with a MERS patient.
  • Knowing that 100% of the confirmed cases came from people who had been in the same hospital with other patients, the government refused to release the name of the hospital because they were afraid it would incite panic. I’m sorry, but that has to be one of the least logical things I’ve ever heard. If you know where the virus is, tell people not to go there. It’s pretty simple.
  • My school decided to take extra precautions by putting fresh bars of communal soap in our bathrooms. Because it’s impossible for soap to have germs, right? In good news, this is the first new soap we’ve gotten in a year. In bad news, we still have no toilet paper.

    I don't know about you, but this seems super hygenic to me.

    I don’t know about you, but this seems super hygenic to me.

  • My husband’s school has decided that they are now going to start checking the temperature of every person as they enter the school in the morning. Be advised that the closest MERS case to us is in an entirely different province and, once again, the ONLY people who have caught it are people who contracted it from the hospital.
  • I received an emergency alert on my phone (that would have been sent to all the cell phones in the country) instructing me to wash my hands, cough into my elbow, and not let other people cough on me. Duh Doy. However, this may have been news to some. For the two years I’ve lived here, I have constantly been surprised that people who wear face masks frequently (ostensibly to protect themselves or others from germs and environmental pollutants) have little understanding of how germs work. For example:
    • Old people (many of whom have tuberculosis) will wet cough all over you on the bus or subway or street with no apologies.
    • It is common practice for people, from grandfathers to dainty high school girls, to hock massive loogies into the street at your feet constantly. I have also seen some elderly people blow their noses onto the street by plugging one nostril and shooting snot out.
    • People eat and drink after each other constantly, even when someone is sick and wearing a mask. I will frequently see students take off their mask to drink out of their friend’s water bottle. IF YOU ARE SICK ENOUGH TO WEAR A MASK, DO NOT SHARE DRINKS WITH YOUR FRIENDS!
    • Again, there is this seemingly high sensitivity to germs and to social responsibility, given all the mask wearing, yet people never take the precaution of staying home or keeping their children home from school to prevent spreading illnesses. Your kid has pink eye? It’s fine. Just send them to school with an eye patch!

The media keeps saying that South Korea is in a pretty good position to contain and handle MERS since they are so medically advanced. This is certainly true in some ways and they are far more advanced than many other Asian countries. However, having all the fancy equipment doesn’t necessarily mean medical practices are what you might think of as “medically advanced.”

  • Many Koreans still believe in fan death – the belief that if you sleep in a room with a fan on, you will die from breathing the recirculated air. In fact, there must always be fresh air. So even in the winter when it is 20 degrees Fahrenheit, we must open all the windows. We may also run the heater while the windows are open, but the windows must stay open.
  • Most Koreans believe that eating and drinking too many cold foods will make you sick. Even Korean doctors will tell you this. If you are sick, you must avoid cold foods. I assume this comes from the general idea that you want to keep your body temperature from dropping too low, but I can assure you that it is OK for me to drink cold water when I have runny nose. Really, it is.
  • Korean healthcare is excellent in that it is quick and very cheap. Because it is cheap, doctors often like to run tons of unnecessary tests and prescribe lots of unnecessary medication. I once went to the doctor for what I knew was a lingering sinus infection. I told the doctor it was a sinus infection. He did not examine me in any way, but ordered a chest x-ray and prescribed me 5 different medications without even asking if I was allergic to anything (which I am) or taking any other medications. I’m pretty sure one of the meds was just Tylenol, but still. The upside was that the visit cost about $5 USD and the medicine was another $4.
  • Along with that, in America, people tend to want to know more about their health. Patients often do their own research (for better or worse) and ask their doctor about specific medications and things of that nature. It seems that Koreans tend to blindly trust the doctor and take whatever the doctor prescribes for them to take.
  • Many Koreans go to the doctor for EVERYTHING. And the doctor prescribes medication for EVERYTHING. Granted, it’s probably Advil half the time, but still. I once told my Coteacher that my arm was sore because I’d had to stand on the bus the previous day and the bus driver was driving crazily and I had to hold on for dear life. She looked at me with wide eyes and said, “You should go to the doctor!”

Ultimately, I don’t think we have too much to worry about as far as MERS is concerned, but it certainly has made for an interesting week and has given me the change to reflect on the greater adventure that is living abroad in a country that has very different ideas about health and healthcare than what I’m accustomed to.

*Please note that this post uses a lot of generalities based on my experiences. I’m fully aware that my two years of experience here does not make me an expert nor does it mean that every Korean person feels and behaves this way.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about our trip to Tokyo you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 21: Temples and Robots in Tokyo

Usually, Korean holidays don’t coincide with American ones, but this past weekend (Memorial Day in the US) happened to be the holiday celebrating Buddha’s Birthday in Asia. Buddha’s birthday is celebrated according to the Lunar Calendar which means it’s on a different day each year, so it really was a happy coincidence that it fell on a Monday, creating a long weekend for us government employees.

This is our final holiday/day off before the end of our contract in August and was therefore our last opportunity to travel, so even though it was only a few days, we headed to Tokyo to take advantage of them. We’ve been to Osaka and Kyoto in the past, but we’d never been further than the airport in Tokyo. It seemed a shame to live so nearby (less than a 2-hr flight) for two years and never make it to the biggest city in the world.

We arrived in the city around noon on Saturday and immediately set out to see the Sensoji Temple which was within walking distance of our hostel.

A IMG_8478

A IMG_8464

The temple area was packed with people, many lighting incense sticks or tossing coins into a big trough in front of the Buddha statue. Outside of the temple there were long streets of stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs. We wandered around for a while an eventually stopped at a little ramen shop for lunch.

The ramen shop was a super narrow hole-in-the-wall with just one long counter where you sit and eat what these guys cook up for you.

The ramen shop was a super narrow hole-in-the-wall with just one long counter where you sit and eat what these guys cook up for you.

So much deliciousness.

So much deliciousness.

After lunch we had to go back to our hostel to check into our room and put our bags away. From there we took a long subway ride to the Shinjuku district looking for the famed Robot Restaurant. We’d heard about this place from friends who went in the past and we were intrigued. Restaurant is a bit of a misnomer since food isn’t central to the experience. In fact, we didn’t eat anything while we were there. It’s more of a show at which you can have food and drinks if you want. We weren’t exactly sure where it was, so we wandered around for a while before we found it, but the area was interesting so we didn’t mind the stroll. We were intending to buy tickets and come back later that evening for the show, but when we arrived around 3:45 the evening shows were sold out, but there was a show starting in 15 minutes, so we just went for it.

Area near the Robot Restaurant complete with Godzilla head attached to one of the buildings.

Area near the Robot Restaurant complete with Godzilla head attached to one of the buildings.

The tickets were pricey, but this was one of the weirdest and most unique experiences of my life. It was everything you imagine when you hear stories about how strange Japanese culture is. There were robots and dancing girls in weird and revealing costumes and huge radio-controlled animals and lots of drums. It was like a super geeky 13-year-old boy had been given unlimited resources to create the world of his dreams.

A IMG_8594

A IMG_8572

A IMG_8532

A IMG_8565

A IMG_8526

The show itself was incredibly corny. The best (and by best I mean most ridiculous) part was a story where there was a peaceful planet that gets invaded by robots and the forest and sea creatures must band together to fight the robots. The robots literally came out and said things like, “This planet is so peaceful. Let’s trash it!”

The part where Kung Fu Panda came out on a cow to save the forest from the robots.

The part where Kung Fu Panda came out on a cow to save the forest from the robots.

After the show we decided to look for Yoyogi Park which has a shrine in it. Unfortunately, we had some trouble finding the entrance, and as we wandered around looking for a way in, I started to get very tired and very hungry and very cranky. Eventually we abandoned our plan and resolved to come back the next day. Instead we found a tasty dinner of donkatsu and Japanese curry.

Fortified with dinner we went down to Shibuya Station, famous for being the busiest intersection in the world. We walked back and forth across the intersection a few times taking pictures of the crowds and then went up to the second floor of the department store to look out the windows. This was a great place for people-watching.

A IMG_8635

A IMG_8620

By the time we’d finished with all of that it was after 10 pm and we’d been going non-stop since 5:30 that morning. We headed back to our hostel to shower and sleep, but not before picking up a few local snacks to try. One of our favorite things when traveling is to try out all the special varietals of regular snack foods. Japan is especially famous for their green tea (matcha) flavored treats. I happen to like green tea, so I enjoyed a lot of these.

Green tea mini oreo. Loved these.

Green tea mini oreo. Loved these.

Raspberry Kit Kats. These have such a strong fake raspberry flavor and it is so artificial tasting that we weren't big fans.

Raspberry Kit Kats. These have such a strong fake raspberry flavor and it is so artificial tasting that we weren’t big fans.

Green Tea Kit Kat bites stuffed with red bean paste. I really like the regular green tea kit kats, but I'm not that into the red bean paste.

Green Tea Kit Kat bites stuffed with red bean paste. I really like the regular green tea Kit Kats, but I’m not that into the red bean paste.

Check back next week for more Tokyo adventures! If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 20: A Visit to the Madhouse

You may remember that a few months ago we went to see our friend, Josh, and the rest of the Daegu Theatre Troupe perform Almost, Maine in a little theater in downtown Daegu. This past weekend, the same theater group performed an original musical entitled Madhouse. The story and script were written by two of the cast members (with ideas and input from other cast members) but the songs were adapted from other musicals or pop songs.

The set-up was that the audience members were all doctors visiting a psychiatric hospital to witness a clinical trial for a new psychiatric drug created by Dr. Moss.  Each patient had a unique psychiatric condition that ranged from a man who thought he was Jesus to a pathologically mute woman to a nymphomaniac. The drug was administered topically through a spray bottle and seemed to have some effect on each patient, but not always the desired one. The drug also had the curious side effect of making users express themselves in song.

Photo Credit: Laura Rhoades

Photo Credit: Laura Rhoades

Photo Credit: Laura Rhoades

Photo Credit: Laura Rhoades

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from an original amateur musical production, so I admit that my expectations weren’t all that high, but I actually enjoyed myself a lot, even with the raunchy bits. There were some really funny parts and I was impressed with how well they were able to make the music match their story line. I was also really impressed with how good everyone’s singing voices were. There were some genuinely talented singers and that made it even more fun to watch. Also, my friend Josh rapped and wore this great outfit with a giant bedazzled banana on a chain for a necklace.

I would have taken more pictures, but we weren’t really supposed to take any at all, so I just have a few sneaky ones plus the ones that Laura took during rehearsals (credited above).

IMG_8438IMG_8440This weekend we are headed to Tokyo for a quick 2-day trip where we will try to cram in as much as possible. This is our last trip before we head home in August (we don’t have any more vacation time) so it’s a little bittersweet. Check in next week for some pictures and reflections on our whirlwind trip.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 19: Hot Springs and Chicken Feet

Although our Taiwan trip was short, it did technically span two different weeks which let me split it up between two weeks of adventure posts.

Our second day in Taiwan we looked at the forecast and were told there was 100% chance of rain with some severe thunderstorms. We spent a long time debating what we should do. Eventually we decided to head out to see some hot springs that were located near the end of a subway line. We didn’t want to go anywhere too far out in case of storms and we didn’t want to do something like the zoo or the mountain gondalas which would be ruined by a thunderstorm.

As it turned out, the forecast was completely wrong. It sprinkled once or twice, but there was certainly no heavy rain or severe thunderstorms. Thankfully, we enjoyed our trip to the hot springs anyway.

AA IMG_8360AA IMG_8370

AA IMG_8366

AA IMG_8375

After checking out the hot springs we stopped for lunch at a small shop in the area where we had Taiwan’s most famous dish, beef noodle soup. It was delicious.

Beef Noodle Soup

After our scrumptious lunch we headed on to another temple. This one is particularly well-known for being the place to go if you need matchmaking services. When we arrived there were lines of people waiting for their turn to receive some sort of blessing from what appeared to be some sort of lay people who were equipped to do blessings using incense.

AA IMG_8382

AA IMG_8386

AA IMG_8394

After checking out this temple (but trying not to interrupt the locals who were there) we decided to head to Taipei 101, the tallest building in Taipei and  the tallest building in the world until the Burj Khalifa was finished in 2010. It started to rain right as we arrived at the base of the building, but luckily the first few floors are a fancy shopping mall, so we popped inside and took a short break at the food court.

AA IMG_8397

A lot of other people seemed to have the same idea because the food court was very crowded. We eventually found a table, but soon after we sat down an elderly Chinese couple came up and asked if we could share the table with them. (At least, I assume that’s what they asked. I only speak two words of Mandarin). Of course we said yes and then proceeded to have the most awkward snack of all time when the elderly couple pulled out a giant bag of chicken feet and started digging in. I hardcore stared at my seaweed chips to avoid looking.

Seaweed chips

Went back to our hostel a bit later to regroup before heading out to another, different night market. This night market had a really cool temple at the front of it that was all lit up for the evening and lots of fascinating foods inside of it.

AA IMG_8409

AA IMG_8412

AA IMG_8415

Hey, more chicken feet! Just raw this time!

Hey, more chicken feet! Just raw this time!

We also inadvertently stumbled upon something called the Rainbow Bridge which was kind of nice in the dark, though it’s possible that the water is all brown and murky in daylight.

AA IMG_8420

Day Two in Taiwan concluded with another food success, the discovery of these Coconut Oreos at the local 7/11. If you like coconut, these are simply phenomenal. I can’t believe we don’t have these in America. Oh the things you learn by traveling!

Coconut Oreos

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.