Thursday, December 31, 2015

Out and About

Well, maybe that headline isn't completely true. We had a quiet day on Tuesday. We went into Itaewon by foot for lunch at a ramen place. It was good to have our regular ID cards so we could walk just a few minutes and be out on the street (instead of driving all the way across the base to Gate No. 1 and taking a subway back to the area we want to get to).

The place was very small and when we arrived, there were no seats available. We waited (outside in the cold) and ended up at the counter right in front of the cook. The glass makes it a bit cloudy, but it was fun to watch him cooking and straining the noodles.

We got the basic pork and noodle ramen (Dan got the slightly more spicy one). It was beautifully presented and tasted delicious.

We also shared some fried dumplings/spring rolls (gyoza).

Wednesday morning we took the subway to Seoul Station, the main terminus for the airport train and transfers for several of the subway lines. There is a check-in area for Korean Air where we can get our boarding passes and turn in our bags. Then we'll take the high-speed train directly to the airport. It will be much better than fighting the traffic by car, and probably much quicker. It was good to do some exploring ahead of time and find out where everything is for when we leave Friday.

In the afternoon we headed off for the last of our Christmas gift experiences. We attended a musical show, "The Orchestra Pit." We took a taxi there. The traffic was heavy, as usual. The picture below doesn't look nearly as crowded as the streets actually were!

The lobby of the LG Arts Center had a coffee shop and a colorful sitting area.

The large poster was a favorite place for the Koreans to pose for a picture. We found out later that the lead character is one of the most well-known actors.

The stage set was very well done. There were 13 actors/singers--one conductor and 12 instrumentalists. It was all in Korean and of course we missed a lot of the jokes. But the overall story of the orchestra members and their interactions were familiar to all of us. The actors were all amazing singers and the music was very approachable. The real orchestra was behind and above the stage. At the beginning and end we could see them. Interestingly, their conductor was a young woman.

When we came out, it was raining, and we couldn't find a taxi stand. We decided to take the subway, which was a bit of an adventure. Anjali had a great phone app that showed which lines to take and when/where to transfer. We ended up back in Itaewon and had supper at The Food Trucks, a hot dog place with seating for about 12 people. This photo shows my New York dog (with crushed cheese Doritos on top!) and Dan's Cuban panini. The fries were called Quebec fries and had maple syrup on them. They were surprisingly good.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Monday Outing

The first thing we did on Monday was head for Camp Kim, where we could get our passes for going on and off the base. Because we arrived here the evening before the 4-day Christmas holiday, we had to always enter by the main gate, turn in our driver's licenses and get a temporary pass. The temporary pass is only good for 24 hours, so we had to be sure to leave the base and come back in every day. We went out a lot, so it wasn't a problem, but we couldn't go in or out the gate that is only a 5-minute walk from the house. It was a quick and easy process, as Anjali had already filled out the paperwork and had copies of our passports. All we had to do was sit for a photo and have our index fingers scanned for prints.

After I posted my DMZ blog, I remembered to consult the notes I took (blame jet lag!) and there were a few very interesting things that I forgot to note. First, as we traveled out of the city, I saw acres and acres of greenhouses (or perhaps cold frames, they seemed a little less substantial than true greenhouses). Since the city has 10,000,000 residents, the vegetables have to come from somewhere! Another thing was the wildlife. Since the DMZ has been there for over 50 years now, wildlife has flourished. As we drove along, I saw many groups of birds, especially water birds. Once I saw a flock of cranes. We went by too quickly to determine if they were Siberian cranes or a more common type (my mother would have known!). And as we drove home, we were on the side of the bus that faced the DMZ itself. It was a bit chilling to see the frequent guard posts and floodlights that were attached to the razor-wire fence. The guard posts were mostly unmanned and most faced the wide river.

Back to Monday! After we got our passes, we were able to head out for some city touring. We walked the five minutes to the nearest subway station and took the train with one transfer to the Insadong area. It is known especially for arts and crafts, as well as antiques. We browsed around and stopped at a mall for lunch. This was our first traditional Korean meal and was very enjoyable. We started with a mug of warm, light green tea that was automatically delivered. We ordered bibimbop, a common dish. It means mix-mix-bowl and was first a creative way to use leftovers. The accompaniments arrived first: salad, kimchi (upper right), onions and mushrooms, and two things on the left. The lower one was cabbage, but we never figured out what the upper left one was!

The bibimbop arrived in a very hot pottery bowl on a plate. It was quite beautiful. The rice is in the bottom and various things are on top (this dish is different almost anywhere you find it). A raw egg is in the center. Immediately you stir it around thoroughly to combine the ingredients and cook the egg.

Courtesy Anjali Lind
After stirring it looks like this:

At the end of the meal, we were brought some cold plum juice, delicious! After lunch, I took the opportunity to use the restroom. I found the instructions inside the stall enlightening. Most places here do not want you to put toilet paper in the toilet, as the plumbing systems don't handle it very well. And I do not stand on the toilet!

We walked around the outdoor mall, which was cleverly designed with a sloping floor so moving from one level to the next wasn't even noticeable. The shops had a wide variety of items, mostly things you would use as gifts. Each shop was very small. 

The weather was very cold and we did a lot of walking. We stopped by by a coffee shop where they grind the beans for each cup. It was fun watching the barista. She had a tall thermometer and poured the hot water between two pitchers until it was the exact temperature. It was a slow drip and the coffee drinkers said it was excellent.

As usual, I had tea; this time chamomile-mint blend in a beautiful cup.

We took the subway back to Itaewon, the area closest to where we were staying. We stopped by Anjali and Domingos' favorite snack place, a waffle shop. They had many varieties, some filled with ice cream. The top two are Nutella and Oreas, the bottom two are Nutella and bananas. All delicious and filling!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

DMZ Tour

Today we took a guided tour of the DMZ, the 2.5-mile wide zone that separates North and South Korea. It was extremely interesting and I learned a lot (previously most of what I knew about the Korean War was from watching M*A*S*H).

Our USO-sponsored bus tour left Seoul and we drove an hour north to the DMZ.  (By the way, if you are interested in the subject, the Wikipedia article has quite a good summary.)

Our first stop was the major visitor center, which had a museum display, a film, and the entrance to the third tunnel.

In 1974, the South Koreans discovered an invasion tunnel under the DMZ that the North Koreans built. Between then and 1990, three more tunnels were discovered. We went into the third tunnel, but we were not allowed to take photographs. The entrance was a gently sloping tunnel of 350 meters. At the bottom you could see the end of the invasion tunnel.

Museum diorama of building the tunnel
Sculpture showing the attempt to put the two halves of the country back together
Our next stop was an observation site where we could look over the border into North Korea. Unfortunately, there was a good bit of air pollution, so our view wasn't that great.

We visited the Gyeongui railway station where it is possible to take the train from South to North. The roofline symbolizes the joining of the two countries.

There were several art displays inside. It is a large hall and many peace conferences have been held there. One of the items on display was this piano strung with barbed wire.

There was a large park we visited next. But it was a very cold day and we didn't have much time to tour around. I'm sure it would be interesting to see more if the weather was cooperative. This memorial is a shrine where South Koreans can come and pray for their relatives in the North.

As we drove out of the DMZ, we could see this bridge that connects the two countries. I'm not sure there is any traffic allowed on it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Korea for Christmas

We left home on Monday evening, spending the night in a motel in Michigan City. We caught the 6:20 bus for O'Hare. Everything went smoothly on our flight, which crossed the International Date Line. We left O'Hare at 11:30 AM Tuesday, Dec. 22, and arrived at Incheon at 4:30 PM Wednesday, Dec. 23, after a 14-hour flight. We'll get our day back when we return in March.

It was wonderful to come out of immigration, baggage, and customs to see Anjali and Domingos there waiting for us. It was their first time driving off the base and it took us more than two hours to get to their home; the traffic was very heavy and making left turns here is very convoluted. Their townhouse is in one of the many neighborhoods on the army base. The main door is at the top of the stairs in the photo and they have two floors. Our bedroom is the top window right above the steps.

For Christmas Eve dinner, we had reservations at a Thai restaurant (a little ironic, as we are heading to Thailand soon, but we love Thai food any time!). We ordered two set menus for two, which included a total of eight main dishes, two different soups, three kinds of satay, and bananas in coconut milk for dessert.

Four of the eight main dishes -- all small, but enough for a taste of each.

Pot of green tea at the end.
Christmas day we spent quietly at home. We (but mostly Dan and Anjali) put together a jigsaw puzzle of Raphael's "School of Athens" painting. We had seen the puzzles in Rome but both bought one later.

On Boxing Day (today) we went to a large mall. The shopping was interesting and there were good sales on many clothing items, especially warm things for winter. We enjoyed looking around. We had lunch at a Vietnamese Pho restaurant, delicious.

The main event of the day was a 12:45 showing of Star Wars. As a Christmas gift, they had purchased "Gold Class" cinema tickets, which included a drink and the seating showed below. Full recliners! We decided this was definitely the way to see a movie!

Tomorrow we are touring the DMZ, so I hope to have some interesting photos.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

On Our Way

We left Woodstock at 3:00 on Wednesday. The taxi was there waiting when we arrived at the school gate with our luggage. We went straight to the train station, arriving in plenty of time. The train was waiting and we were able to get right on. We had our least favorite seats -- the cars are designed so that all of the seats face the center of the car, with a table between the center ones. There is more leg room and more privacy in the other seats, but we were at the table. There was a group of four young men traveling together who were laughing and talking much of the time. They weren't too obnoxious, it was just a bit annoying.

We are well fed on the train, with a large tea served right after leaving, soup and bread after another stop, and a full dinner after Saharanpur. Then ice cream in a paper cup.

Tea, sandwich, samosa, nuts, sweet

Tomato soup and bread stick

Brij was waiting at the station when we arrived in Meerut. The car attendants were helpful in getting our luggage down. It is a three-minute stop, so you need to be ready to get off fairly quickly. It was good to see our Meerut family again.

Brij is tutoring several students in English conversation. This young man is one of them. He was quite excited to talk with us -- he had seen some foreigners in Delhi but never talked to one!

Here we are with Brij and Viola. Viola is recovering from a stroke and doing much better than last year.

Saturday afternoon we took the Metro to Janpath and the Tibetan Market. I did pick up a couple of things on Janpath, the first time in several years. It used to be a major shopping area for us. Doma was happy to see us, as usual, and ordered tea for us. While we were there, a young man from Moradabad came in with a bag of sample wares he wanted her to buy. It was really interesting watching their interaction. She thought his things were overpriced and not what she wanted, so she didn't order anything from him. The man in the red shirt is her driver, who brings her from her apartment every day about 1:00 and takes her back around 7:00.

Dan wanted to get some more pocket worry stones, as he loses them (they could be in some of his pockets at home...). They had a good time discussing which ones he should get. She is looking good for her age, over 90 now.

From the Tibetan Market, we went to Mayur Vihar to see Anju and Sandeep. I went in the ladies' car as it was very crowded at 6:00. Dan was in the next one. When I phoned Sandeep to tell him we were on the way, he told us to get off at a different stop than we had before. I worked my way over to where Dan was to tell him, then remembered I had a phone. It was easier just to phone him and tell him! There are seats in every car that are marked for senior and handicapped seats. Someone was always nice to me to offer a seat. One time I was more in the middle of the car where there are no such markings. In a row of young men, only the young woman stood up to offer me a seat. The men never even looked up from their phones.

Sandeep made sure he had some Old Monk rum, Dan's favorite. It wasn't available in Mussoorie this year. I think there's some issue with the distribution in Uttarakhand.

We went to a restaurant named CODE in a nearby mall. We started with a large plate of kabobs -- fish, chicken, sausage, mutton. This picture was taken after we'd already eaten a good amount. It was on a sizzler platter on a bed of cabbage leaves. After we finished the meat, Anju and I both ate the cabbage, which was infused with the flavor of the drippings, delicious!

Today is Sunday and we are hanging around until our plane goes out late tonight. We keep our hotel room for the night so we don't have to wait somewhere else and we can shower and change just before our taxi comes at midnight. We'll be home late Monday afternoon!

Thanks for following. Check back here about Christmas time for our next trip -- Korea and Thailand.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Farewell the Winterline the title of the memoir of Stan Brush, Woodstock Class of 1942. I like the sentiment, as the winterline is always out when we are leaving at this time of year.

This morning (Wednesday) we packed up our trunks that stay here in the attic (Indian clothing, some kitchen things we have accumulated) and our two suitcases that go home with us. I brought quite a few clothing and food items into the office to give away at coffee break time. And they are all gone!

I have finished up the work I've been doing. I've done a lot of research for the next volume of the Woodstock School history. I've been working with Dana Crider, a long-time staff member who is at home on disability; it's been very helpful to talk back and forth with him about what I'm doing. He is ready to carry on some of the work that still remains to be done. And a writer needs to be found!

Our taxi will come at 3:00 to load up and take us to the Dehra Dun railway station. We take the Shatabdi train toward Delhi and get off in Meerut to spend a couple of days with the Lals. Then on to Delhi and our flight very late Sunday night (actually early Monday morning). We should be home by late afternoon on Monday -- a very long day with a stopover in Frankfurt.

Thanks for reading. The blog will pick up again around Christmas time, when we will be visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Korea, then going back to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dan's Motorcycle Trip

I thought you might be interested in more information about Dan's motorcyle trip last week. Here is a link to the YouTube video that Tashi took, if it doesn't work right as embedded below.

Also, here is a map of the route. If you have any familiarity with this area, you will find it interesting, I think. Click the map to embiggerize it (as one of my favorite cartoonists, Dan Piraro, likes to say).

Day 1 Mussoorie to Rishikesh
Day 2 Rishikesh to Rudraprayag 
Day 3 Rudraprayag — Deoria Tal — Rudraprayag
Day 4 Rudraprayag to Uttarkashi
Day 5 Uttarkashi to Gangotri
Day 6 Gangotri to Uttarkashi
Day 7 Uttarkashi to Mussoorie 

Correction and Birthday

If you follow the news, by now you know that the epicenter of the earthquake we felt yesterday was actually in Afghanistan, not Pakistan. It appears to be quite devastating. It is in a remote area, so help will be difficult to send in.

Monday afternoon a special tea was held for Eric Roberts' 60th birthday. Staff gathered in the Tea Garden to celebrate. Monica has not been well, but she was able to come. We've known Eric's sister Nima since 1968, and Monica has worked here since 1979, when we were still on staff. Eric runs the school travel office and is amazing at getting things done. Monica is Alumni Secretary, and I've been working with her ever since we started coming back to Woodstock.

Lots of good food -- cake, chicken or veg patties, Indian sweets, etc.

Me posing with Eric and Monica.

Note -- I mostly wear Indian clothes when I am here, but my last things are at the dhabi so they can be packed away clean. I'm only wearing things that go home with me or don't need laundering.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Monday afternoon about 2:45 Margo and I were working in our office. Margo suddenly felt a bit queasy and I realized that the building was shaking slightly. It continued for what seemed quite a long time (over a minute). We all left the office and went down into the Quad. The siren went off and we all traipsed down onto Tehri Road. I think the rule was to dive for cover under the desk, but it felt better to be outside. Of course, if there is a big one here, there would be no safe place. The mountain is very steep and everything would slide down. The last one we felt was back around 1970 when we lived in Woodstock Villa. We woke in the middle of the night with the bed shaking. I don't remember evacuating; we just waited until it stopped and went back to sleep!

It turns out there has been a major (7.7) earthquake in northern Pakistan in the Hindu Kush Mountains. It was felt as far away as Delhi. It will be a while until we find out more. I'm sure there are many lives lost, but at least it is a relatively low-population area.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mountain Festival Saturday

Saturday morning I headed out to the gate to run registration again. But I ran into Steve in the Quad and he told me not to go, just let the regular security guard hand out programs. So I got to go to the presentations in Parker Hall after all.

The morning opened with three readings. The first was Amrita Tripathi, who read from her novel The Sibius Knot. It is about five friends from boarding school into their late 20s. Each chapter is from a different point of view. Although it is dark, with many sad happenings, it sounded like a good read.

Next up was Martushka Fromeast, a Polish photographer. She also had a photo exhibit in the Quad about the Nanda Devi Yatri (pilgrimage). She was a little difficult to understand, but she had wonderful photos from a Nepal village. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the earthquake earlier this year.

Paro Anand read again, from a book of short stories, Like Smoke. The one she read was wonderful, about a teenage girl who goes from hating Muslims to learning to know and like one, very timely and appropriate.

Mandip Singh Soin is a mountaineer, who talked about Indians going to the Alps, rather than the opposite. He also showed pictures and told about the Indo-Pak Peace Trek to the Sianchen Glacier.

John White, from the Isle of Skye off Scotland, talked about a variety of adventures there: biking, caving, kayaking, hiking.

Mandip SIngh Soin
I left the session to grab a bite of lunch and headed out to the Hanifl Centre for the Mela (about a kilometer walk). This time I worked for two hours in the booth. My partner was a 10th grader, Suyanch. He is from Kanpur and wants to be a businessman. He was moving constantly and already is a great salesperson!

For the first half-hour or so, we didn't have our cash box, so we had the money tucked under a jam jar. Marta came with the box soon after that. It was stuffed with bills from yesterday. We weren't too busy, so I had time to sort the cash and put like bills together. I think there was at least 30,000 rupees. We sold almost all the hats, but had many small and medium T-shirts left. 

The performance area was right behind us and lots of people were hanging around. A musical group made up of school staff played and sang. Then we had a Garhwali folk performance, a reenactment of the story of a woman who marries Shiva. They were very good, and a translator took part, which helped. I wanted to hear another program but this one went long past its scheduled time and I was pretty tired, so I headed back to our apartment.

Women in the play

Part of a procession in the play
Yesterday I mentioned we had dinner at Sanjay's house, which was magnificent. He had a nice place before, but this one is on the top of the ridge and has views both of the mountains and the valley. The facade/entrance is quite impressive!

We went inside, down and out to the back where there were two firepits going. Waiters were serving drinks and snacks. It was crisp and cool outside.

When it was time for dinner, we went inside. back up to the main floor. There were many places to sit. The house is absolutely beautiful inside, full of the tasteful details that Sanjay is known for.

Ceiling in entrance hall

Fountain at base of central stairway