Saturday, April 16, 2011

The time has come.

You may have noticed that I used to blog a lot more than I do nowadays. My posts were once much heavier on the writing, with a few photos thrown in here and there to show what I was talking about. However, I’m sure you’ve noticed that as time has gone by, I’ve gotten more into photography and less into writing. Nowadays, my blog posts tend to consist of a sentence or two followed by a bunch of photographs. Additionally, the blog used to be the place where I posted links and discussed them, or announced personal updates to my friends – but nowadays I do those things on facebook. The daily blah has long since become redundant; it’s time to close it down.

My photographs will still be posted online regularly on flickr, and (and on facebook for my friends), and I’ll still be part of the blogging and photography team at

Desolation Travel

desolation travel blog

More Springtime Shots

This weekend was the big Korean bullfighting festival in Cheongdo (bull-vs-bull, not matador), as well as prime flower-viewing season in Gyeong-ju... but I just couldn't bring myself to face the crowds at either location. Instead I took a pleasant walk around my neighborhood, photographing the spring flowers. I also discovered another photogenic and yet less pleasant side-effect of spring: a pregnant feral cat who has made my rooftop her home.






new resident of my rooftop

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jane-Teacher and Travel Cat Go!

jane teacher and travel cat go...

The above picture was drawn by Melissa, one of my students, and I've posted it in honor of the fact that the first part of up next trip has finally come together! In August, Charlie and I will travel to Kiev, Ukraine. I finalized apartment arrangements a few weeks ago, and today I finally got confirmation from the airlines that she is approved to fly with me :-)


(The cat in this absurd animation can be seen here, drawn by Emma, another of my students.)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Spring has sprung!

Today was the first Saturday in a while with good weather here in Daegu. I'd really been looking forward to getting outside and taking some photographs, and I was thrilled to wake up and discover warm, dry, sunny weather.

Of course, first things first: Charlie had her second vet appointment today. She is still terrified when we go, but I think she was calmer this time than last time, and she was so good. Didn't bite or scratch or even growl. My former feral wildcat has come a long way!


After dropping Charlie off at home (and rewarding her with some tuna), I set off for one of my favorite parts of Daegu, the stretch of parks along the Geumho river between the Ayanggyo subway station and Mangudang Park, to take some springtime flower pictures. Here are a few of my favorites, although the full set of 56 photos is worth checking out. It can be seen by clicking here. Enjoy!






Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Radioactive Rumor Mill - UPDATED

UPDATE: It started raining Wednesday night and rained all day Thursday, and it's raining as I type... Schools closed around the country today, out of fear that the students might get irradiated walking to school. (My school stayed open, and none of my students were absent...) It's still nothing but irrational panic. Here are some more articles on the topic.

Japan's neighbors alarmed over risk of radiation threat

Radiation fear closes schools in South Korea

Schools Close in South Korea Amid Fears of Radioactive Rain

Radioactive rain fear overblown

ORIGINAL POST: Quite a few of my students were all flustered today, worried about the radioactive rain that's supposed to fall tomorrow. The cashier at my local convenience store warned me of something that sounded a lot like 내일 비가 방사능 (tomorrow rain radioactive). I smiled and nodded and told her that I knew, wishing I could tell her that it would be a good preparation for my upcoming vacation to Chernobyl, but my Korean skills aren't so skill-like.

Now, it *is* supposed to rain both tomorrow and Friday, but I don't for a minute believe in this nonsense about radioactive rain from Fukushima, although plenty of Koreans are taking it seriously. Here are some articles...

Citizens concerned over 'radioactive rain' Thursday

Radioactive materials unlikely to reach Korea this week

No possibility of radioactive rain: officials

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why do you smile in photos?

Seriously, why *do* you smile in photos? If somebody asked you that, what would you say? Well, you'd say it's just what you do when someone points a camera at you. People ask me why Koreans are so fond of making the v/peace sign in photos... the thing is, it's just what they do. It's as natural a thing in photos here as smiling in photos is in the USA.

The other day, one of my students whipped out her cellphone near the end of class and asked if she could take my picture. I obligingly smiled and waited for her to snap the picture. She hesitated, then sighed exasperatedly and said, "Teacher! Do this!" And she made the v/peace sign. I asked her why. Her answer? "Because it's a photo!"

Anyway, here are some photographs I shot during the speech contest we held at the school a few weeks ago. I was trying to get candid shots, but take a guess at what happened just about every time I pointed a camera at someone:






Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Keeping up with the Kims, part 2

For those of you who might remember my post about keeping up with the Kims from back in November (concerning my views that the South Korean economy is following the same path as that of the US economy leading up to 2008), you might be interested in this update on that theme from over at The Marmot's Hole.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring is coming!!

Spring is finally beginning to roll into Daegu, with flowers beginning to blossom. There are nowhere near as many as there will be in about a month, but I was quite excited to be able to go for a stroll in the sunshine and shoot some flower photos. Enjoy!





Friday, March 25, 2011

Do you want to live and work in South Korea?

The school in Daegu, South Korea (where I am currently working) is looking to hire two English teachers to start at the end of July 2011 (when my cousin and I leave at the end of our contracts).

The school offers roundtrip airfare, a free apartment (all to yourself, not shared), a salary of two million Korean won per month, and a two million won bonus upon completion of your contract. Workdays are Monday-Friday, 2pm-10pm. You teach roughly 6 classes a day, ranging in length from 25 to 40 to 50 minutes, and students range from first through ninth grade. (Most of my students are in the 5th-7th grade age.)

A potential teacher must be a native English speaker from one of the following countries: US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand. You must have a Bachelor's degree from a four year university (any subject), and be able to pass a FBI (or your country's equivalent) background check, as well as a drug test and an AIDS test. Teaching experience and international experience are preferred, but not required.

Interested? Please email me at!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Busan: Aquarium and Haedong Yonggungsa

I’ve been quite fond of Busan ever since my first trip there way back in 2001. Previously, I’d always had a good time on my trips to Busan. I went to Busan this past Sunday… and unfortunately, I didn’t have that great of a time. Let’s just say my trip was frazzling. Nonetheless, despite a stressful day of oversized crowds, obscured photographs, and motion sickness, I did get some decent shots.

My first stop was the Busan Aquarium at Haeundae Beach. I’d been to the aquarium twice before (
read about my 2007 trip here), and thoroughly enjoyed myself both times. Of course, one of those trips was on a weekday, and the other was on a Saturday. As many Korean schools (both public and private) hold classes on Saturday, Sunday is the day for families to do things together. This should have occurred to me before I set off for such a family oriented destination as the aquarium. Ooops. The place was packed with parents and small children, all pushing and shoving and jostling to get closer to the various tanks and exhibits. Meanwhile, I was frustrating myself by trying to figure out the best ISO and other settings for shooting fast moving fish in the extreme low-light of the aquarium… and of course I was inevitably bumped from behind or cut off in front almost every time I depressed the shutter. I swear I got better pictures in there four years and two cameras ago, which is incredibly frustrating. I left after about half an hour.

Busan Aquarium

Busan Aquarium

Busan Aquarium

I’d heard several people talk about the Haedong Yonggung temple – located on the rocky coastline not far from Haeundae Beach – describing it as beautiful, stunning, picturesque. When I’d left Daegu on Sunday morning, I’d thought I might go to Haedong Yonggungsa in the afternoon if I had enough time. After leaving the aquarium feeling thoroughly stressed, I figured what I needed was a peaceful afternoon at a Buddhist temple.

Getting from Haeundae to Haedong Yonggungsa was a little complicated, as it involved two different buses. While the bus systems in Korean cities are generally efficient, they’re definitely a challenge to those of us with limited knowledge of Korean. Still, I successfully made it to Haedong Yonggungsa. Unfortunately, so did at least a thousand other people.

I don’t know if Sundays are generally popular days for visiting Haedong Yonggungsa, or if March 13th was a special day for Buddhism in general or Haedong Yonggungsa in particular… but ohmygod. At one point, there was literally a human traffic jam:

Haedong Yonggungsa, Busan

In addition to being overrun with people, the temple was in the midst of either putting up or taking down lanterns. The entire temple was overstrung with ropes upon which lanterns had either recently hung or would soon be hanging. As such, many potentially great angles for photos were blocked by ropes and the poles from which the ropes were strung. I got some decent photographs, but nothing like what I was hoping for. And the crowds! Ugh.

Haedong Yonggungsa, Busan

Haedong Yonggungsa, Busan

Haedong Yonggungsa, Busan
See what I mean about poles and ropes?

The final nail in the day’s coffin came as I left Haedong Yonggungsa. The second of the two buses that I’d taken out there had been full, but it was nothing compared to the bus I left in. It was crammed beyond capacity, filled with so many people that I literally could not move. It was hot. And there was no ventilation. And five minutes into the ride brought us into stop-and-go traffic. As you might expect, I began to feel motion sick. I actually had to force my way off the bus a stop too soon just to keep from puking all over my fellow passengers. I’m sure that at the time they thought I was an incredibly rude foreigner, but they really should thank me for my efforts. Sigh.

I like Busan, really, I do… but the overwhelming crowds of Sunday just made me feel so relieved to get back to my quiet corner of the outskirts of Daegu – and reinforced my desire to move to the Timbuktu of the former Soviet Union. Anyway, despite my bitching, I did get some decent photographs.
You can see the whole set by clicking here.