I'm ashamed to admit that we lived in South Korea for two years and never visited Busan. Busan is at the tip of the peninsula and is a huge port. In fact, our ocean shipment came from Busan when we moved to Korea. Busan is Hellena's home town and she wanted us to see her childhood home.
We took the train from Seoul and it was only about 2 1/2 hours. We arrived to a cool, overcast day. The first stop was a galbi restaurant that Hellena had gone to a lot with her family. It was HUGE and reminded me more of a hotel. She says there a lot of restaurants that size in Busan. The photo above is the front of the restaurant.
Here is Busan from the ocean. Hellena says the water is very cold year round.
There were a lot of walking paths and the scenery was beautiful.
It was the tail end of the cherry blossoms.
In one of the pagodas, people wrote their names and the date they were there so we did it too.
The cherry blossom petals reminded me of snow.
Busan is also know for puffer fish which is called bok in Korean. The chef has to been licensed by South Korea to be able prepare this fish. If prepared incorrectly it can be fatal. The week we were there a businessman in China was on life support for eating puffer fish prepared by an untrained chef. It is also very expensive. Hellena has had it before and she says that it doesn't taste good. We passed on this experience.
This didn't look much more appetizing to me.
We met up with Hellena's best girlfriends from childhood for dinner. They took us to a restaurant famous in all of Korea for it's tofu.
So famous that a former President had eaten there.
Hellena took my picture with the wall of fame. The restaurant was packed but being the foreigners we managed to get a room. The tofu was in a stew that was delicious and all the side dishes were very good too.
By then, it was after 10pm and we went to a hotel for the night. The three girls in one room and Curt and I in another. It was fun to see that the hotel souvenir shop had maedeup.
I don't think the girls got much sleep that night but they were so happy to see each other. One just broke up with her fiance because he didn't have any money and he didn't seem to be motivated to earn money. The other friend is married and her husband works for the family business which is the Korean mafia. Fascinating.
Her husband was out to dinner and she didn't tell him she wasn't coming home because she didn't want him to get too drunk. He tends to drink less if she is waiting at home for him.
I am foregoing this week's "Maedeup Monday" for a very good reason. Today is our 30th wedding anniversary. Yep, 30 years ago I married Rocketman.
The story of how I met Rocketman begins the summer of 1979. I had just completed my first year of college and was no closer to choosing a major. My father got me a summer job in the company where he worked and I was not thrilled that I was to start the following Monday after just arriving home from college. But I soon fell in love with my job and also my co-workers. We were a great group and I enjoyed working as an inventory control clerk.
On weekends, my best friend and I would go up to Alpine Valley in East Troy, WI to watch the latest bands. We saw Styx, REOSpeedwagon, Cheap Trick, Super Tramp and Head East to name a few. We would sit on the hill with our blanket also scoping for boys while we watched the show.
I did a lot of dating that summer. I wasn't looking for anything serious and I was very boy crazy. This is when Rocketman entered my life. He also had a summer job at the same company as I did. When he first started, I had been there a few weeks already and was told by the girls of the office that he was off limits. I guess they had him picked for someone. That was no problem for me because I never wanted to date someone I worked with. What do you do when you break up, you still have to work together and I never liked awkwardness?
I worked in inventory control and Rocketman was in the engineering department so I would see him but I never worked with that department. I would notice him at lunch but we never spoke. That all changed the end of July, 1979 when one of Rocketman's co-workers, Mark, came over to me and asked if I wanted to play a joke on Rocketman.
Apparently, as he was coming to our department for something, Rocketman offhandedly told him to send Becky over to him. He was joking of course but Mark thought it would be hilarious to call his bluff. I was a flirty girl that summer so I was up for it especially since I thought he was cute.
So I went over to him and asked him why he wanted to see me. He was sooooembarrassed that he couldn't even look at me. His hand shielded his eyes as they looked at the floor. Oh, this was too good. I asked him again if he wanted something. He sheepishly replied that, "No,no, I don't." I finally let him off the hook by saying, "Well, if you're sure.." and I returned to my desk. It was too cute to see how embarrassed he was to talk to me.
The next day was Saturday and I had to work in the morning. I was sitting at my desk when Rocketman came in with his baseball uniform on (he played a ton of baseball that summer). He formally asked me out on a date and I accepted. He looked so cute in his uniform.
We went out and I knew he was the one. I broke up with my boyfriend at the time and the rest is history. We dated until he left for college in August. He was 3 1/2 hours away at the University of Illinois but we talked just about every day. You should have seen my phone bills. I decided to not return to college and continued working for the same company.
We got engaged in October, 1979 and married the following May. Mark was also in the wedding party. Of course, to this day he still says he was going to ask me out. And here we are today, 30 years later! He's the best thing that ever happened to me!
My friend Hellena is a flight attendant for Quatar Airlines based out of Quatar. She planned her vacation to coincide with our visit to South Korea. She was arriving a few days after us. We talked to her a few times when she arrived in Korea and then nothing. It's like she disappeared and our calls to her cellphone went unanswered.
On the second day of being unable to contact her, I called Hannah to see if she knew what had happened. Hannah said that Hellena's sister said that she had to go to Busan to see her family. I knew Hellena was going to see her family but she had originally planned to go when we had left Korea.
I got the real story from a perturbed Hellena when she returned. It seems her sister told her she had to go to Busan that weekend and she needed Hellena to help with her two babies on the train ride down. This was not unusual for her sister to ask for help but she was upset because her sister knew she was in Seoul to see us and it had been so long so we had seen each other.
So Hellena gets to Busan and is sat down by her parents and told that it's time for her to get married. Hellena is 27 which is 28 in Korea and if she makes it to 30 unmarried she will be firmly on the shelf. It is past time for her to make a good marriage. So her Korean parents do what Korean parents do in this case, they find a groom.
The potential groom came from a very wealthy family. Her family was over the moon. The family business was a prominent shipping company and they owned 20 ships. The groom worked for the family business. Hellena knew she was stuck so she went on the date.
She told me that he was very shy and didn't say much. She has three very important questions that she asked him:
1. Can you speak English? His answer, no.
2. Have you ever lived outside of South Korea? Another no.
3. Would you ever live in the U.S? He said that would be impossible with him working for the family.
These things are very important to her and I'm afraid my American ways influenced her decision. Although, Hellena has lived in Australia and China so she has also been influenced by their cultures. In one way, I feel bad about that but I want the best for her and I would hate to see her in a loveless marriage.
She cut the dinner short and said she had to meet friends. She gave him her phone number and that was it. She raced back to Seoul and didn't even tell her parents and sister what she thought about the match. I'm still wondering how that went but she is safely in Quatar right now. She plans on working there two more years before she decides her future.
Monday was Nan's (my Korean chilbo teacher) exhibition and Hellena knew I wanted to go so she arranged for us the spend the afternoon with Su-Mi, my maedeup teacher and then we would go to the exhibition.
Everything worked out great and it turned out that the exhibition was just a few blocks from The Dormy which is where we had stayed in Suwon. We entered the building and immediately Hellena turned around and said to go. We did come a little early and she noticed that everyone brought gifts like pastries or flowers. So we walked a few blocks and found a bakery to purchase some pastries.
We came back and Nan was soooo excited that we were there. The wood guy was also there wearing his hat and the metal guy who had taken Rocketman and I out to lunch. He was also exhibiting his metalwork.
In the photo above, the Korean on my left is a Korean master of pottery and very famous. He was so nice and his English was great. He really wanted me to come to his studio in Seoul. I didn't get a chance this time but I really want to include that in my next visit. I would love to see him work his magic. We did exchange business cards. The first thing they did when we arrived was give a few speeches and introduced all the participants in the exhibition. I was surprised to hear my name mentioned in the introductions. I knew we would probably draw attention being the only foreigners there but I didn't want to detract from those that were exhibiting.
The pictures on the back wall are the work of the guy that had taken us out to lunch. Rocketman did not take any pictures of his work for some reason.
We had just eaten a huge meal at Su-Mi's but we had to find more room for some kimbap and rice cakes. The wood guy came wearing that hat and I knew I had to give him a hard time like he had given me in class. I didn't need him to point out that I'm not as good as my teacher! It was finally time for pay back. A group gathered around us and I said to him in Korean "Give me your hat." He absolutely refused even though everyone was telling him to do it.
Finally, when the pottery master told him to give it to me, he reluctantly gave it to me. He really didn't have a choice then. So this is when I got the hat. I'm going get him something cool from over here to send to him. But that's what he gets for teasing me so much!
Then I was stuck wearing the blasted thing and looking ridiculous but foreigners can get away with that.
This display was made for Nan by the wood guy. Her chilbo looked amazing.
More of Nan's chilbo. She bought the maedeup that she used in her pieces.
Hellena having a closer look.
These were made by the master. It was a fun time but I had tears in my eyes when I left because I saying goodbye for now.
David Choi is an Korean American who is doing it his way. He writes, plays, arranges and produces his music. He just came out with a video for one of my favorites "That Girl." I discovered him while we were living in South Korea. In fact, he's over there right now for
When I lived in South Korea, my Chilbo classes consisted of my teacher speaking in Korean and me responding in English. It was perfect and we really understood each other. This time she used an online translation program and to say that it had me baffled is an understatement. I wished she just stuck to Korean because I did understand when I wasn't concentrating. It was a weird thing but it worked. This translation program had both of us confused at times.
As I was working on my final projects, the Korean guy that gave me grief on my chilbo skills called Nan, my chilbo teacher, wanting to show me his workroom and I was excited to see what his work area looked like.
The photo is of all of us. I am wearing the blasted hat that he would never take off. I wanted to keep it because of all the grief he gave me as a joke but he was having none of it. He would be sorry for that later.
It was only a few blocks away and Nan left another student to watch the shop while we were gone. This is the inside of the workroom. There was also a gal that did fabric dying using only plants and flowers to create her colors. It was fun to watch her work.
This is part of his work. It you look really closely, well, let's just say that he liked incorporating a male appendage into his woodwork.
We sat and had bowls of tea and then it was back to work.
This is what I made.
Nan had this purse in the window of her shop and I had to take some pictures. She said her daughter did all the artwork.
She's as talented as her mom. I never got a chance to meet her but I hope to in future visits.
This was our last day in Suwon and it was hard to say goodbye to her. She was having an exhibition the following week and I knew we would be returning to Suwon to attend. Saturday morning we took a taxi to Seoul. We had so much luggage we had the hotel order an extra large taxi and it was huge.