Tuesday, February 22, 2011

guess what...

I ate chicken butt.

I wish that was a joke, guys... for serious.

In my defense, I had no idea that it was chicken butt.

This still sounds like a joke.

Here's where I'm going to warn you that this post is going to be really long, because it's about how I ate chicken butt and went to North Korea. Oh, and there will be a lot of pictures, too. Fair warning!

Friday was my last day of school, and, it was only a half day! Bittersweet.

We had graduation in the morning, and I had to use all of my willpower to stop myself from crying. My sweet little sixth graders are all grown up : ( I had to say goodbye to all of my cuties. It was really sad. I'm going to miss all of them so much.

Right after graduation, I had to attend a retirement ceremony for one of the teachers at the school, after which, he requested our attendance at a school lunch. So, we all piled into various vehicles and drove out to the boonies to a chicken restaurant.

You can see where I'm going with this.

A plate was placed in front of me that looked like it had pork on it. My co-teacher asked me if I knew what it was.

I told her that I thought it was pork.

She kind of smiled and nodded her head and then told me to try it.

So, I did.

Here's the thing, people... don't travel to Asia and just assume that something is one thing, because it's usually another.

I put it in my mouth and chewed it.

Looked like pork, was rubbery like live sea cucumber (you guys remember when I ate the live sea cucumber, right?), and it tasted like chicken. Kinda.

I want to imagine that it at least TASTED like chicken.  I was too afraid to really taste it.

They asked me what I thought of it after I ate it. I told them it was okay, but, the texture was a little weird.

Then I made the mistake of asking what it was.

My one co-teacher kind of laughed, and then my other co-teacher decided to try and explain it.... by pointing at his butt.

Uh? Chicken butt? Was it chicken butt?

Kind of.

It was at this point that he thought of the perfect word to describe what it was.

He got all excited and yelled out: "ASSHOLE!"




Seriously, guys.

I decided to call it quits after one piece. One piece more than I would have liked to consume.

The next plate placed in front of me looked like sashimi.


It was raw chicken. Sliced up raw chicken.

I had to draw the line. Eating raw chicken goes against 23 years of better judgement, and having people tell me NOT to eat raw chicken.

The rest of the lunch was normal. Kimchi, roast chicken, chicken and rice gruely soup thing. Pretty delicious.

Oh, and the administration officer got me drunk.

Not on purpose... probably.

But, everyone that I work with found out exactly how cheap of a drunk I am... I had two shots of soju and a small glass of beer.

So, of course, I was all red, and smiling like a doofus, and the administration officer thought it was HILARIOUS.  He kept pouring me more drinks and trying to get me to do one shot with him.  Apparently my protests of "I have to take a train to Seoul after lunch!" were not enough to deter him.

Korean peer pressure, for realsies.

Anyway, I had to say goodbye to everyone after lunch, which, of course resulted in me crying AGAIN, because I am RIDICULOUS.

After crying in front of everyone, and hugging everyone, my co-teacher drove me to the train station and helped me buy my ticket.

There was no backing out now.  I had booked my DMZ tour earlier in the week and paid for it, and now, I had a train ticket and was at the station.  So, at 3:35 pm, I hopped the train to Seoul, and got there at 9:30 pm.  Got some really crappy fast food from Lotteria, and then went to my motel, ate, and passed out.

Only to wake up at six the next morning, for my DMZ tour!

The DMZ tour was amazing, guys!  I got to stand in North Korea!

The first place we visited was the Joint Security Area

I took these photos whilst standing in North Korea, the ROK soldiers are in a modified Tae Kwon Do stance in order to be prepared in case shit goes down.  We were told that we could stand by them and take pictures of them, but if we touched them, they would strike us.

Looking in to North Korea, the blue buildings are UN buildings, the big grey building is a NK building:

A NK soldier, watching us with binoculars.  We were told expressly not to point or make any gestures because the NK soldiers were watching our every move:

Looking into NK.  This is a town referred to as Propaganda City.  Basically, it's a largely uninhabited stage city where NK used to blast propaganda for something like 8-10 hours per day.  Note the giant flag pole.  The SK city on the other side of the border, referred to as a Freedom City, erected a large flag pole, and, in true dick measuring fashion, NK erected and even larger flag pole in Propaganda City.  It was kind of foggy out when I went, so, my pictures of NK aren't exactly the clearest:

The Bridge of No Return.  After the end of the Korean War, NK and SK lined up their POWs on either side of this bridge, and every person was given the choice to return home, or to stay in the countries that they were captured in.  For some, it meant choosing between two sides of a family divided by the newly created border.  Once you made up your mind, you were not allowed to cross back over the bridge:

Closer view, we weren't allowed to get off of the tour bus because it was too dangerous:

Our next stop was the Third Tunnel, we weren't allowed to take pictures in the buildings or in the tunnels.  We got to take pictures outside of the buildings, though:

The tunnel was really really narrow and you had to duck down to get through most of it.  It was really hot and claustrophobic down there.  It was interesting, but, at the same time, you got to the end, looked through the first barrier to the second barrier, and then had to turn around and walk 300 meters back up a steep incline.

We went to Dora Observatory next, where we got to look down into NK.  We were able to take pictures from behind this yellow line that pretty much prevented you from taking any decent pictures.  you can actually see the NK flag in Propaganda City unfurled in this picture.  It weighs 600 pounds and takes a really strong gust of wind for it to actually fly:

The next stop was Dorasan Station, the last train station before NK.  It was in operation until something like 2008, and, now, it just sits, entirely maintained, waiting for the reunification of NK and SK:

At the tracks, looking towards NK:

These ROK soldiers showed up at the station and everyone decided that they wanted to take pictures with them, all eighty of us.  I look ridiculous because buddy on the left kept jabbing me with his elbow and giggling under his breath, so, I was trying not to laugh:

We got back into Seoul by 3:30, and then I wandered around Insadong for the rest of the day, shopping.  I bought all of the gifts that I had left to buy.

Oh!  And!  I went and got Subway for dinner (yummm), and the dude who rang up my sammich gave me a free cookie!  Score!  White chocolate macadamia nut... yummmyyyy!

Sunday morning, my first stop was to go to Seodaemun Prison Museum.  It was a prison used during the Japanese occupation of South Korea.  Korean nationals, fighting for independence from Japan were housed, tortured, and killed here.  Obviously, it was an uplifting start to the morning...

Looking out towards the cells, it felt weird to take pictures inside of the building, so I didn't.  It was just really sad, I couldn't bring myself to pull out my camera:

Inside the work hall.  The prisoners in Seodaemun made all of the prison uniforms for the prisons throughout SK:

Looking out on the grounds:

The leper house:

The wailing tree, so named because, behind the concrete wall in the picture is the execution house.  On their way to execution, prisoners would grab onto the tree and scream and cry because they had failed to achieve Korean independence:

The rest of my day was less depressing, I went to two palaces, the first was Gyeongbok Palace.  I managed to catch the changing of the guard, so, the first few pictures are of the changing of the guard and the palace gates, and then the rest are just a few shots of the palace itself:

And. by "just a few," I clearly meant, a lot.  It took like two hours to walk through the palace grounds, I have about a bajillion pictures.

The next palace I visited was Changedeok Palace.  It was one subway stop away from Gyeongbok Palace, and, I think it was way prettier.  I'm 95% sure you're supposed to go around with a tour guide, but, I got there ten minutes after the last English tour was supposed to depart, and I didn't feel like being stuck in a chinese or Korean tour, so I wandered around by myself.  No one really said anything, so, whatevs.  These next pictures are all of the palace:

This palace is the most well preserved of the five grand palaces in Seoul.  Most of the buildings are original, unlike at Gyeongbok, where only 40% of the original buildings stand, most of which have had extensive renovations or have been rebuilt as replicas of the originals.

I had such an amazing time in Seoul, I didn't even get lost once!  Seriously, a city of something like 25 million, and I didn't get lost!  I'm ridiculously proud of myself.

Anywhoodles, I'm sure you guys are all bored of me by now, since this is the longest post ever.

Toodles, loves <3

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