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Odong Island

I walked to Odongdo Island (do, pronounced dough, = island) last week, a round trip journey of about 9 miles or so. Including walking around on the small island itself and afterwards exploring Yeosu’s good-sized market area, I probably put in around 11 miles, all told, and my feet were feeling it. I had planned on taking a bus or taxi back to the university, but I decided that since I didn’t jog that morning, the extended walk would be good exercise. There is such a thing as overdoing it, though, so I didn’t jog the next morning. Good excuse, eh? 😉

The day was overcast, hazy and gray, which led to some rather flat, dull photos. The one below is representative of the batch that I took. This Saturday’s forecast is calling for sunny skies and warm temperatures, so I think I’ll return to the island for a reshoot. I’ll post some of the good (hopefully) shots here later.

Odongdo1

The new semester is in full swing. I’ve got some decent classes, and the kids seem very polite and eager to learn (most of them, anyway). The classes here are sorted according to what major the students are working toward, and I somehow got stuck teaching mostly engineering students, the vast majority of whom are 19-20 year-old guys. Out of around 100 students, only 5 are young ladies. Quite a disparity.

The Korean won continues its catastrophic plunge in relation to the dollar. I’m almost afraid to check out the daily exchange rates. Enough said about that for now. More later.

Goings On

The Korean won is tanking again. It had strengthened to around 1300 to the dollar, but now it has dropped back to the 1500 level and doesn’t show any signs of stopping there. Very bad situation–again.

We’ve had rainy weather lately, but the wind and cold have been holding off. I was hoping to get a glimpse of Comet Lulin through my binoculars this morning, but, unfortunately, it’s raining right now. I was also hoping to walk to Odongdo Island today (it’s connected to the mainland by a causeway), but I may have to put that off.

My jogging has fallen off this week for one reason or another. For one, the gym where I run on the treadmill in cold weather was closed recently for a few days in order to accommodate freshman orientation. Yup, we have a new crop of kids coming in at the start of the Spring semester on March 2nd. Nicely enough, though, we’re off this week until next Monday. I might take the bus over to one of Korea’s largest cities, Gwangju, which is only a few hours away.

I’ve finally–FINALLY–posted photos of Glacier National Park in Montana that I took last July when we had a small family reunion. You can view some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere by clicking here for the Glacier album or you can just browse around the Photo Gallery until you find the Montana section. I didn’t post any photos of my family. I’m not sure how shy they are about having their pictures pasted on the internet, so I won’t put any up unless I get an OK from them. Besides, I sent them the family portion of the photos back in July.

As a teaser, here’s one of St. Mary Lake. Glacier Park is an area where it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo.

GNP15

Ahhhhhh, then there’s the upcoming baseball season, which is right around the corner. Despite all the controversy surrounding A-Rod, I think the Yanks are still looking mighty fine to make the playoffs and the World Series this year. I’m also looking forward to the newest version of one of my favorite computer games, Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP). It’s a text-based simulation (no animated graphics) of the National Pasttime where you can be the manager, general manager and/or owner of a team, and, in a limited way, the Commissioner of Baseball. It’s an amazingly in-depth game. Check it out if it interests you. The new version, 10 or X, is due out “sometime this spring.” I’ve spent many hours absorbed in this award-winning game. More later.

Golfing in Yeosu

golf_guppy

Work continues on the new golf course across the valley from the campus. Right now it’s a real eyesore and from what I hear, many people in Yeosu, including a large percentage of golfers, opposed its creation. As you can see below, half a mountainside is being altered, for good or bad, to make way for the links. I hope it’s worth it.

Here is the main site, but there is a smaller section off to the right.

Yeosu_Golf_Course2

And here’s a closer shot.

Yeosu_Golf_Course3

The course is supposed to be open by the 2012 Expo being held here, and it would be interesting to see what it looks like. However, I doubt I’ll be here to see it. Due to the still-rotten currency exchange rate for the Korean won, I’m starting to look for greener pastures, where the currency is more stable, perhaps somewhere in the mid-East. I’d love to stay here, but under the current financial condition, that’s more or less impossible.

We’re finally going to get some decent weather, with the forecast calling for mostly sunny skies and temperatures hovering near the mid-50s this week. While that’s nice, I’d still like to see about 25 degrees more. 😎

It’s Super Bowl day in the U.S., but to tell the truth I didn’t even know where it was being played or who was playing until just a few days ago. American football’s not my cup of tea; never has been. I’ve been thinking more of the fact that the baseball camps in the Dominican Republic probably opened this past weekend–sunny skies, warm weather, beautiful beaches, the crack of bat against ball . . . ahhhhhh. As frequent reader and Red Sox fan OGM is sure to remind me, Spring Training begins soon. More later.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family in and from the U.S. Unfortunately, I won’t be among you this year, but I hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday.

It’s not so enjoyable for people living in various locations around the world. I’m sitting here watching CNN International’s non-stop coverage of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. There are some spectacular shots of the fire at the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel, and the scene looks quite catastrophic.

I’m also keeping a close eye on the current unrest in Bangkok, Thailand, where protesters have shut down Suvarnabhumi Airport. I plan on taking a short vacation in December to that part of the world, but it looks like not everyone is happy in the Land of Smiles.

In other depressing news, the Korean won resumed its precipitous decline, breaking through the 1500 won/dollar psychological barrier a few days back. It has since strengthened a bit to 1470, but that is still a backbreaking rate. If it stays like this far into next year, I’ll be leaving the “Land of the Morning Calm” and heading for greener pastures. I’m already looking into positions in the Middle East, where the currency seems to be more stable.

I’ve just posted a bunch of Yeosu photos to the Photo Gallery, some of which I have posted on the blog and some of which are new. You can take a gander here.

Gotta go take my morning jog, but more later.

Over the Edge of the Cliff

Oops, it’s been another long break between posts, so there are lots of events I could comment on. However, I’ll try to keep from going overboard with the length of this post.

First of all, bye-bye Boston. To paraphrase OGM’s latest comment, “Bring on golf.” (Yeah, yeah, I know–at least you were in the playoffs. Wait ’til next year!) Congrats, though, to the Tampa Bay Rays for a highly improbable season. Naturally, I’ll be rooting for them in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, since I can’t stand the National League.

The precipitous decline of the won vs. the U.S. dollar seems to reflect the current economic situation in the financial markets. When I signed my contract to work here, the value was about 1030 won to the dollar. Now, it’s plummeted to 1322. (Several days ago it was 1450.) That drop has effectively cut my wages by close to $500 per month. Not good, obviously. I can only hope the bottom of the cliff off which the won has fallen is getting closer. I’ll have to keep my eye on the currency market, because it is very volatile, so that if the won strengthens all of a sudden, I’ll transfer some money back to my stateside account.

In addition, a couple of Nai’s family members have been in the hospital recently. His mother had been ill for a couple of weeks and his sister’s year-old daughter was suffering from chronic diarrhea. I sent him some extra money to help out, but it really cut into my cash reserves. Oh, well, there’s not much I can do about that–I’m certainly not going to let them wither away without trying to help.

The first 7-week session of the semester has seemed to fly by. We’re off until the 27th, so I hope to do some more hiking, and I want to (finally) visit a few of the beaches. Fall is kicking in and the weather is becoming crisp, with most of the trees beginning to show off their fall colors. It’s not as spectacular as New England, for example, but the change is eye-catching nonetheless. Below are some photos I took on a recent hike to one of the higher mountains. The trail-builders didn’t seem to know about switch backs because there were ropes strung up the side of the very steep trail to help folks get to the top. Quite a hike, but worth it.

It was a hazy day, but I did manage to get a few decent shots. Here’s one of nearby mountains from the summit.

Yeosu_Mountain1

Here’s another shot from the summit, looking down toward the university. The brown buildings in the center are some of the university buildings, and the white buildings at the right hand side are the dormitories, one of which I live in.

Yeosu_Skyline11

There are many traditional burial mounds up in the hills, but here is a type I hadn’t seen before–a mausoleum of sorts. It was about 30 minutes into the hike when I spotted it.

Mausoleum1

Hemorrhage

Geez, it feels like I’m bleeding money lately. First, yesteday I got home from school about noon and my electricity was off. I figured it was the whole apartment building since the hallway lights didn’t seem to be working either. I waited about an hour, then I went to ask Brahim, the building concierge, if he had power. He did, and I also noticed that the hall lights were working, too. He came to my apartment to check the power box, as I had already done, and came to the conclusion that I needed an electrician. So, he called one and the guy came in short order. Apparently, some of the insulation in the wires behind the box had corroded. He had to pull the old box out and install a new one, but he had to chisel out quite a bit of the wall to get the job done. He finished up earlier this afternoon and the bill came to $160! Sheesh. Hopefully, I can get the landlady, who lives in the Netherlands, to pay this. I’ll check into it.

Then, I’ve been waiting for my Korean National Pension refund. And waiting. I finally emailed the admin guy at Andong National U., who said he was going to turn in my paperwork and take care of everything for me at the time that I left Korea. Either he didn’t get the paperwork in on time, which he seemed to indicate in his return email, or the Korean Pension Office messed up. The pension officer in Korea gave him the number of the International Affairs Division of the Social Security Administration in the U.S. for me to call, saying that they were the only ones who could help me. Of course I’ll phone them, but I don’t see how they’re going to be able to help me, and dealing with any government bureaucracy from overseas will probably be a nightmare. I have a dreadful feeling that I’ve been screwed out of approximately $4,000.

Of course, both these incidents come shortly after I bought my new bike, so perhaps that’s my money-loss trifecta for the year. The upshot is that I have to go on an Austerity Campaign to really limit the amount of money that I spend. More veggies, less meat; more freeware, less shareware/commercial software, etc. I really gotta tighten the purse strings. Uhhhmmm, just as soon as I visit the local patisserie. More later (Hopefully, not more of this type of crap.)