Monday, February 21, 2011

The Korean Royals Take a Stroll

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Here come the Royals!  Here come the Royals!
I was treated to a surprise bit of Korean culture this Saturday while waiting for my plane at the Incheon Airport. As I was strolling through the duty free shops, I suddenly became aware of a parade of sorts taking place in the large walkway between the rows of shops.  The parade included twenty or so individuals in historical costumes, some carrying large canopy umbrellas and others armed with deadly oriental swords.  I learned later from a lady at the Korean Cultural Center that the event was the royal family out for a stroll.  She was quick to add in broken English that it was not the "real royal family!"  Attached are some shots of the royals hoofing it across the Incheon terminal.
From the back of the Royal procession

Thursday, February 17, 2011

All Along the Insadong

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

American street singer doing Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man
Candy makers chatting up Korean girls
Trash sorters
I arrived in Seoul for a week of training on Monday, and today was the first time that I found myself with enough energy after class let out to go exploring.  I grabbed a taxi and headed to the Insadong, a very old shopping district in Seoul.  One of the locals told me the last time that I was here than Insadong Street itself is over 600 years old.  Here are some photos from that brief outing.
Brass wares

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grounds Around the Churaumi Aquarium

Mr. Pineapple

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

After leaving the 69 Beach Club on Saturday, we drove to the large park surrounding the Churaumi Aquarium and the Arboretum.  Our primary purpose was to visit the last day of the International Orchid Show at the Arboretum, but before getting over to that building we spent some time roaming through the park and taking pictures of the many displays there - most of which were floral in nature. 
Floral Lobster

Once again, enjoy the photos!

Floral Octopus
Floral Staircase heading down toward the sea.
View below a waterfall


Monday, February 14, 2011

The 69 Beach Club

Choose your bar food carefully!
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Saturday after my friends and I visited the Cherry Blossom Festival at Mt. Yae, we headed out for lunch at the 69 Beach Club, a very remote and very unique eating establishment that Ron had somehow run across during his treks up and down the island.  The Club is nowhere near a beach, although it does offer a distant view of the East China Sea from it's hilltop location.

69 Beach Club restrooms - with showers!
My buddy - weeds in one end, nannie berries out
the other!
A treehouse - for your dining pleasure!
The 69 Beach Club is, in fact, really out in the boonies on an unpaved road that could be more accurately described as a trail.  It is a complex of odd little buildings, tree houses, and tents.  The main dining area is in a tent and frame structure where most of the food is actually prepared.  There are also some areas to eat outside, including two nice tree houses.  Other amenities include a riding stable with horses, some little goats, and a few chickens.

It made me very homesick for Rock's Roost back in the Ozarks!

Enjoy the photos!

(l to r)  Daniel, Kelly, Ron, and Valerie waiting for the grub!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Cherry Blossom Festival

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

My ex-pat friends and I spent yesterday exploring some very interesting parts of Okinawa.  We began with a tour of the famous Japanese cherry blossoms atop Mt. Yae.  Although the day was cold and somewhat dreary, the cherry blossoms hung on an extra week or so just so we could enjoy their beauty.  While we were at Mt. Yae, we also played in the park, watched elderly people play some unusual type of golf of sort of a mini-golf course, and walked a nature trail down deep into a valley and back up again.  (I was huffing and puffing by the time we finished that - you betcha I was!)

Our next official stop was at the 69 Beach Club, an exotic hideaway out in the woods that is no where near a beach.  I will have plenty of pictures of that because it was my favorite part of the day.   While there we ate lunch is a large tent.  We could have opted to dine in one of their tree houses, but it was a bit too chilly.  Maybe next time!

Valerie going down a roller slide
at Mt. Yae Park
We spent some time on the grounds outside of the Churaumi Aquarium (the largest aquarium in Japan), and concluded with a long walking tour of the International Orchid Festival that was being held at the Arboretum - which is next door to the Aquarium.  It was the last day of the Orchid Festival, and we were very fortunate to get to see it.

The friends who were with me on this outing were all my work buddies.  They included Daniel Murphy, a psychologist, and three social workers:  Kelly Vought, Valerie Seitz, and Ron Gibb.

Today's pictures are of the Cherry Blossom festival and some of the things that we saw there.  Pictures from the other places will appear in this space over the next few days.

Tomorrow I head out for Seoul, Korea, for a week of training courtesy of the U.S. Army.  It won't be too unfamiliar because the training is being held in the same hotel that Daniel and Kelly and I stayed at over Thanksgiving.

Ron Gibb (l) and Daniel Murphy (r)
Tree with gnarly roots along the
nature trail at Mt. Yae
Ubiquitous Elephant Ears along the nature trail
A view from atop Mt. Ya

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Weekend at the Hospital

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

My good friend and co-worker, Daniel Murphy, was taken to the hospital by ambulance Friday afternoon from work after becoming suddenly ill.  Our friend Kelly and I showed up at the emergency room and were eventually let in to see Murphy after doctors finished running tests on him.  His exact malady is still unknown, but the encounter proved to be non-life-threatening and he was released this afternoon.

Kelly and I spent most of the weekend sitting in Murphy's room at Lester Naval Hospital and watching him sleep.    It was the most time that I had spent there since my oldest son, Nick, was born in that same building more than thirty-seven years ago.  It was called Camp Kue Army Hospital then.

Murphy is on the mend, but the old hospital unfortunately is not.  A new one is being built at the Camp Foster, a marine base, and Lester Naval Hospital will be vacated.  One of the corpsmen there today said that it will probably be turned over to the Okinawans who may bulldoze the entire complex to make way for new buildings.

Progress, I guess.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Return to Torii Beach

The tide was out - revealing lots of sea greenery and
tidal pools
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

This was my Friday off, and after dealing with some drudge stuff, I drove back to Torii Beach to again stroll along the ocean picking up sea glass.   I stopped at the Torii Base Shopette where I bought a sandwich and soft drink for an impromptu picnic on the beach.  I was sitting in my car at the beach and had just unwrapped the sandwich (a Subway Club) when the white cat from last week suddenly appeared and proceeded to beg shamelessly.  He shared  my sandwich and then went back to fishing.

An intact clam shell that I found last week
I had the beach to myself to begin with, but was later joined by three other beachcombers.  There was plenty of sea glass and shells for all!