Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Aqua Planet, Jeju

I've been putting this enormous post off for some time and I finally stopped procrastinating and went through all the pictures and video footage.

For my non readers, this is some of the very cool parts of Aqua Planet, the largest aquarium in Asia (so I read in other sources) located on Jeju Island. I work here, though not with the fish, and these videos are from the first time I toured the aquarium like a tourist :)


Those are all the cool photos. I know, not very many. But below are some fun and fabulous videos! Watch away :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy Notes

There are little victories I've been having and I wish to share some of them with you.

Today I successfully used a Korean search engine to find an address of a Korean business and then input the address in Korean into the Korean equivalent of google maps, find another location to start from in Korean and searched for a walking route. I didn't use a translator or ask a Korean for help. It took me half an hour but I did it all on my own and all in Korean!

I'm making Korean friends here of course and some of the time it's hard getting my point across in English. Recently I had this problem and decided to try to text in Korean. The first text I sent I translated myself with words I know already. The second text was moored complex so I just used google translate. Come to find out, my Korean friend understood my text, but not the google translate text.

Woot! It's the little victories that matter the most sometime.

It's so encouraging to know my Korean studies are improving enough I can now communicate in the smallest way and also successfully use Naver, the Korean google. By no means can I read Korean websites easily and I still spend a lot of time translating websites and sometimes it's impossible, but it's getting better and that makes me happy  :-)

After living here for almost 4 months I've acquired a couple friends in town now. One is a nice lady that owns a bakery and every time I come in she gives me something for free or discounts my purchase. She is so sweet and speaks no English. It's still scary trying to talk in Korean, but I'm starting to repeat prices and quantities back to her and she is always so happy when I speak in her language.

I am making good friends with the girl swimmers. It is so nice. They are always asking me how to say something in English or asking me what a word in English means. I help them every time and laugh with them when they mispronounce words or struggle with certain sounds. They get frustrated, as we all do, when learning a new language, but they are happy to have someone to help them and that makes me happy  :-)

I discovered a new health food (new to me), black rice. It's more nutritious than its cousins and quite tasty and easy to cook, AND they sell it here. I now eat one meal of black rice with a sliced banana and seeds and nuts all mixed together. It may sounds weird, but it's actually really good. AND dare I say healthy? You can read more about black rice and its health benefits here.


The citrus season is almost here. One of the things Jeju is known for is its citrus fruit. And lucky me, I've made a friend at Aqua Planet whose family owns and operates one if these citrus farms and he is going to sell/give me citrus fruit for the winter. Yea! Happy Ronda :-)

I've been practicing nightly at Aqua Planet and recently I heard a buzz. So I went hunting for the source of the buzz and discovered I have two seams open on my violin. Doh. Bad news. This caused me to stop practicing in the super wet environment of course, but also lead me to have absolutely no place to practice. This is when I enlisted the help of a friend at Aqua Planet after realizing I wasn't getting help elsewhere. I begged for help to find a new home to practice any time I wanted (within reason of course) and that was dry or where I could at least buy a humidifier. My friend searched and searched and every affordable place was quiet only or was willing to only have one hour of practice in the morning. Of course that's better than nothing, but I do my best practicing at night when I'm more awake as a musician. I kept pushing and my friend kept looking and we finally found a dry and fully furnished "apartment" where I can practice to my heart's content and that is within walking distance of work since I don't have a car or bicycle. Granted, the price is half my salary, but for my career, it's worth it. My sanity as well, I should point out, will greatly benefit from a place to regularly practice since there are many things in Korea that I struggle with and playing my violin helps to sooth my heart and soul.

One other super happy Ronda face is from the care packages from friends :)  Having no winter clothes or shoes and wishing for some American products, friends have come through and mailed me stuffed boxes full of goodies from home. I now have clothes to wear so I won't freeze and natural products that will keep my skin happy and their owner too!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Geomun Oreum and Jeju Stone Park

Long ago, when I last had a day off from work I spent a beautiful day walking. I walked several oreums, I walked through a stone park, I walked city streets, I walked country streets, I walked through stores, I walked and walked and walked. In all, I calculated that I walked over 10 miles that day. It was one of those nights when putting your feet up in bed is the most pleasurable feeling in the world.

My day started with business, but by late morning I was dropped off by my manager at Geomun Oreum. What is an oreum? It's a volcanic zone, of which there are many (more than 350) on Jeju Island. If you would like to read more about oreums you may do so here at the Jeju Province Website.

According to the tourist brochuress, Geomun Oreum is the best to hike for those not interested in the more challenging Mt. Hallasan. Since I've already hiked Mt. Hallasan, I decided to try some other less difficult trails. Geomun Oreum is definitely not challenging in my books, but there were plenty of people huffing and puffing up and down the many stairs.


You have to make a reservation to hike here and you are then guided through the first two legs of the trails. You may choose to return to the information center after the first leg or continue on through the second. The guide takes you through the end of the second leg and then if you wish to continue you can walk the third leg on your own. The guide stops and various points along the way to tell you about the history of the trail, unique plants in the area, and volcanic structures special to Jeju and/or the Geomun Oreum. There was approximately two dozen people in my group and this seemed to be the approximate size to the other groups I saw around the center. The guides only spoke in Korean, so you may not learn much if you can't understand.


The day was a bit chilly at the beginning, but it started to warm up nicely and was beautiful by the time we wandered into the woods after reaching the first peak. There were so many different types of trees and plants. It was so interesting to see the vast and diverse flora and fauna in such close proximity to each other. I continued onto the third leg after the instructor left us to take the majority of the people back to the center after the second leg. (What did you all expect anyway?) On this leg I got to talk with a few other people and made a couple new friends and really enjoyed the last leg where I got to walk at a slightly quicker pace and chit chat a bit more. The scenery was so beautiful and I really really enjoyed the entire hike.



After walking the trail I wandered through the exhibit in the center. It were actually quite nice with English descriptions everywhere. There was a walk through cave and short movies in fully surrounding rooms, and models of nature highlights around the island. It was a really good exhibit.



After Geomun Oreum I traveled to Jeju Stone Park. I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to see (outside of stones of course), but wow! This park is amazing! I loved it. I walked the first trail twice and really enjoyed my tour through the second and third trails. I took over one hundred pictures at this park. They are all posted on google+. But honestly, I had so much fun wandering through the giant stone structures

I'm in this picture. Can you find me?
and the rather freaky and haunting collections

as well as the educational and more mundane artifacts.

sense of humor just dive bombed


There is also a stone museum which I meandered through for quite some time and it was a good thing I was alone because I am positive I went more slowly through the museum then anyone else I know would have wanted to go. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.


It was getting really cold and windy by the time I walked through the first trail for the second time but I had been hearing live music drifting to my ears from across a large lawn so I headed in the direction my ears told me to and discovered an orchestra rehearsal. What luck! Unfortunately, there wasn't much rehearsing that went on while I was there, but still, I enjoyed the little bit of impromptu concert I was able to witness.


It was well past sunset and dusk was approaching so I headed toward a bus stop 3 kilometers away. I waited about 30 minutes at a stop with no seats or shelter (sometimes it's strange that one direction has a shelter and bench but the other side of the street is just a sign) until the bus came and I thankfully collapsed into a seat where I did my best (and succeeded) to not fall asleep so I could get off at the right stop.

Even though my feet were very tired I got off the bus in town and wandered through the village streets for a while, eventually stopping at the market for a couple groceries and a beverage before heading home.

I got home and promptly collapsed into the nearest chair. Realizing if I didn't move soon to the bed I'd end up frozen in place to the chair and unable to relocate I started making headway to the bedroom when one of the girls in the house asked if I wouldn't please join her and go to dinner with some friends of hers. How could I say no when she was leaving in a week? So I dropped my bag by my bed and headed out the door for more food, fun, friends, and did I mention, fun???

It was quite a day, but it was an amazing day. Recalling that day and writing about it has made me tired though. I hope you enjoyed the entry and if you ever make your way to Jeju I hope you can experience these two wonderful places yourself.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

While on land...

If you ever read my blog you'll be well acquainted with the fact that I love working and living on ships.

But we all know that's not my life 100% of the time.

So, when I'm 'stuck' on land I sleep on friends couches and in my car and travel around. I've thought of possibilities for alternatives to this but since I'm not even in the country for long periods of time it's simply silly to get a place, pay rent, sublease, be unreachable in case of a problem, etc.

Browsing the internet I just came across a company in Portland Oregon that makes exactly what I need. I have a car; a cute little silver coupe with a spoiler on the back. She's ancient now but she still runs well and treats me good when I give her attention (she always holds a grudge initially when I leave for extended periods of time). Knowing she's not going to be around forever I've considered a van or live-in vehicle, but I just don't want to drive something that big around all the time, especially in the big cities.

This company, The American Dream Trailer Company custom makes each of their super tiny, yet very versatile trailers. There's even a boat on the roof!!! So when I want I can go out on the water and enjoy that lovely feeling of being rocked to sleep...for a short nap :)  It also sleeps two!

Sooo, who's up for some time off, maybe a trip through the Rocky Mountains? We can camp for a few days or however long we want at each spot; go hiking, biking, swimming, boating, fishing, you name it. Just enjoy nature and the freedom of life.

I just need to work another year here in Korea and then I can afford it. Although the trailers are really cheap, I'm really poor!

If you have one, know someone who has one, get one yourself, please let me know what you think. I'd love to hear about these nifty looking trailers. And maybe someday, I'll own one myself!

Typhoon Effects

Growing up in the Midwest area of the United States, the primary weather hazard I encountered was tornadoes or lightening in the frequent summer thunderstorms. In the winter time along Lake Michigan the wind chill could get dangerous but school never canceled for the snow. Sometimes you were just late if the snow plow didn't get to your street in time.

I can remember winters where the snow and salt mix turned to slush and you couldn't see the lines on the road. It was just a free for all where to drive because the snow was to slushy to keep good you're tracks from the cars as guidance.

While I worked in cruise ships we once sailed through a hurricane. Well, I think we just tossed around and tried to stay afloat right side up. I don't think we were actually making any progress in a certain direction. That was a memorable 12 hours for sure.

Yesterday was my first encounter with a typhoon, or close proximity to one. All night it rained and the wind howled against the house. Then the next morning it kept raining and the wind grew stronger. By mid morning it was starting to rain sideways and the wind was starting to come in gusts. I went to work and from inside the oceanarium over the EXTREMELY loud music during the show, I could hear the wind pounding against the building and the rain pelting the windows.
Bring my usual crazy and adventurous self I couldn't just stay inside and eat lunch at the aquarium cafe. No, I donned my green waterproof hiking jacket, tying the hood tight around my face, and put on my tights and tennis shoes that I'd worn in to work that morning and outside I went to cross the street to a CVS to purchase a cheap lunch.

First I will say I was successful, but it wasn't easy. The wind was so strong that at times it was all I could do just to stay standing, forget walking anywhere. And the wind was blowing the rain sideways so hard that opening your eyes to lol where you were going was painful. The rain stung your eyes as it hit them straight on even with you head down and the jacket hood pulled away to provide a shield.

Everything I was wearing that wasn't under the jacket was literally dripping wet within mere second of stepping outside. It took me a lot longer to walk to and from the store because I kept having to stop and just stand my ground against the wind.

The weather calmed down around 6 and by 7 that evening I walked home in a very light drizzle. As I walked home I was struck by the similarity of the roads to the snow slush where I grew up. The road I walk to get to and from work is straight down a small peninsula so there are beaches close in either side. The typhoon had washed so much sand onto the road that you couldn't see the asphalt. It wad just a slushy mess if wet sand with tire tracks everywhere.

This morning on the way to work the sand was drier and full of potholes and in the streets crew was shoveling the sand into bags and loading them into a truck. I went from a place that shovels snow to one that shovels sand!

Here are pictures from my walk into work this morning. I would have taken a picture yesterday but my phone nor my camera would have survived the elements so I hope my words are enough to depict a mental image for you.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Work Hazards

It's funny, everyone has some sort of hazard on the job. Though when the phrase 'job hazard' is used we tend to think of jobs like construction workers or firefighters or maybe inner city school teachers, but musicians is probably not on the list, unless you consider personal drug and alcohol abuse a job hazard.

Today, I encountered multiple job hazards and my day is only half over. Most of them are just embarrassing really, but still...

So far I've managed to drop my bow on stage during a performance, not because I was clumsy, but because my hand was damp and therefore slippery. Luckily it didn't break and also luckily it didn't fall completely of the small stage or go flying into the audience. I was able to pick it up, run my hand across the hair to get off excess water and keep going.

Then I was walking backstage on the two foot wide ledge that circumnavigates the dolphin pool when a dolphin decided it would be fun to leap out of the water. This behavior is cute and desirable when one is seated in the audience and merely might get splashed, but I'm waiting for the day when I get knocked down or knocked into the pool. Today I just got scared out of my gourd and soaking wet and waylaid while I waited for the dolphin to go back in the water so I could keep walking.

And apparently where I work, physical violence is also a hazard as I've now been the recipient if this although that was a couple of days ago, not today. Now I'm more watchful and wary at work and exercising my alertness skills.

There are also good tripping hazards I attempt to avoid every show and have done so successfully except once where I caught myself. Definitely not looking forward to the day I trip in the dark on one of the ropes and fall in the water or fall on the rocks, either if which will sufficiently destroy my violin.

As I'm writing this entry during my lunch break I must close and go play the next show. Just wanted to share these thoughts while they were still fresh!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Crushed Again

Some of you may have noticed a line in a recent post that noted I have a crush on someone. And I bet nearly everyone is aware that I'm off the market so to speak, and that I have been for a long time.

Well, I have news...I know...shocking...

Nope, I don't have a new boyfriend, in case that's what you were anticipating.

I have realized with this latest crush that I'm officially open to the market. No, I'm not going shopping, but if someone wanders by I'm not closed for business as it were. Actually, that analogy is insufficient for my case. Most people live somewhere most of the time, they shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants, drive the same routes, etc. so being at the market but not shopping would be an adequate analogy for most, but I'm not like most..hehe..yes,  grimace or chuckle... I don't go to just one market. I drop in and out of different ones constantly. This makes things much more complicated. Even if someone wanders by today, I'm leaving tomorrow. Sorry.

When did I realize this? Good question!

I actually told the crush I have, or had, that I liked him, but per the usual way the world works, he's not interested in me. And in fact, now he has a new girlfriend. It's not easy seeing someone you're highly attracted to everyday and realize you aren't an attractive person to them.

Your mind wants to play games.

Rationalization is a common tug of war game against the heart, but I'm not playing that one. My heart does try to pull me into the clouds but it's, unfortunately or not, tethered to the concrete foundation that is my mind. No rationalization required, although tug of war sounds like so much fun, it's really fun only if you win.

At least I'm open to the possibility though. I just have to think outside the box, or as I say...What box? My heart has healed enough to get broken. I've glued it back together so now it can be crushed again. Is this progress? I guess so. What I do know is that it opens more doors and windows in life's long house. And even when those doors and windows shut on my fingers and toes, the glimpses of what I get to see can be life changing and that makes it all worthwhile.

So onwards I go; learning new lessons about life and about myself. Sometimes revealing how much I have to learn and sometimes surprising myself (in a good way) with the person I've become. And surprisingly, even through the pain, life is good, life is fun and life is still full of useful lessons to be learned.

Besides, don't they say things once broken and then repaired are stronger than before?

If they didn't say it, I'm saying it now!

For Stewart,
It's not technically on a sleeve but I like it's message.