Fall in Jeollanam-do

I love fall in Korea. It is warmer, sunnier, and drier than fall in MN. It is also beautiful.  We are also 12° south of MN , and in dry season so, unfortunately, we don’t have all the amazing leaf colors MN does.  But we have lots of other colors. It is beautiful here.  You probably remember my posting about how I (Akasha) walk past a fig orchard on the way to work?  Well, they are beautiful in fall.  Green, purple, brown, they literally burst open on the trees. It is so cool.  I’ve been learning to cook with them, making fig liquor, jam, figs and pork, fig muffins, fig bread…

fig brusting in the sun

There are beautiful flowers late into the fall/ early winter.  Roses and Camillas are still blooming.  There are lots of pretty white, purple, and pink flowers. I really love the orange flowers, they kind of look like California Poppies. Another fruit all over Korea that we don’t see in MN is persimmon.  I don’t think they taste like much, but they are beautiful. We had a few typhoons late in the year and they knocked the fruit off of most of the trees along our coast, but we saw some big trees full of fruit on our road trip.  Many farmers planted them along side the orange flowers.  They are so beautiful.  I wish I could bring this scene back home. If you look carefully at the pic on the left you can see the juice running down underneath the orange persimmon.

persimmon dripping with juice

Persimmons on the river bank

Chestnuts are everywhere too. They are falling off of the trees.  Vendors roast them on the street with what looks like chickory.  It smells great, but I’m not much for the taste.  Maybe if they were salted…

Chestnuts

The markets are full of all sorts of great stuff this time of year. It is a great time to go shopping. Since you cant be here to see it, I thought I’d share some of our pictures.

A few more blogs coming up will talk about our favorite fall foods, weekend road trips, and more school stuff. We miss you guys.  We love it when you comment, it is like keeping in touch and motivates us to write more.

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Dog days

Pets are less common here, they are treated differently, and there are many feral cats and dogs on the streets.  We often ignore things we don’t want to see as a method of coping.  But last night we couldn’t ignore this cute puppy twitching and convulsing on the ground next to our building.  Someone had wrapped him in a blanket and tucked another blanket under his head.  We went home and called the vet to see if he was still open, grabbed a towel and a box and went back for him.  When we got back another neighbor had come by to bring him a bowl of porridge, but he wasn’t responsive.

The puppy, resting

We chatted with her for a second and figured out that neither of us knew where he came from, but that we would take him to the vet.   She escorted us to a taxi and tried to help give directions.  When we got out of the cab the driver looked at the sick puppy and said “I love you!” in English. Dr. Chan stayed open late waiting for us and stayed late taking care of him.
The poor fellow didn’t open his eyes on the ride to the vets or as the vet examined him.   He had a thick full coat, matted and muddy, but healthy.  His gums were a  light white pink, no fever, he had all the signs of a healthy dog.  Sadly, he wasn’t wasn’t waking up, he was twitching and convulsing.  Dr. Chen said he would give him an IV and some antibiotics and we should come back in the morning. He guessed that he was about 4 months old, but couldn’t guess the breed.  He was a very big puppy.

When we returned today he said that he was getting better and had drank, walked, and peed, but would need care.  He tested negative for heartworm and distemper, but was having seizures that were stopping him from swallowing.  Dr. Chen said that he would probably have a seizure a month, but be an otherwise healthy puppy.   We couldn’t take him with our 3 pets and our work schedule, and all of our friends are gone at work 9 hours a day, so the vet called the dog shelter. He said the shelter would take care of him until he found a home.  All told the antibiotics, food, boarding, and tests cost 82,000 won about 72 USD.

Close-up of the little cutie.

For all that we have heard of people mistreating animals here our neighbors really stepped up to bat for this puppy.  I hope he has many wonderful puppy adventures and finds a good home.  I was happy to learn that there is a stray shelter in my town.  Dr. Chen is an awesome vet, his services are limited in contrast to our vet in MN, but he is as caring and kind.

If you are in Mokpo and need a vet I highly recommend Dr. Chen.  He is an advanced  English speaker.  His clinic is very clean and comfortable and he is kind.  He is at Seoul Clinic across from Jin  Mart.  (tell that to the cabbie) his office number is 061-279-1175 he is open Monday to Friday until 7pm, Saturdays until 6pm and he closes for lunch from 12:30- 1:30.

What a dog brings to your Korean experience…

First, a dog brings all sorts of lovin. Remi is always happy to see us. When we get home, he hops right off our bed, which he keeps warm for us, to say hello. When we’re mellow, he sleeps next to us. Because it gets warm in our 9th floor officetel, we often keep the door propped open with a bamboo screen stretched across to keep the animals from escaping. This also lets Remi keep up on the comings and goings of our neighbors, which he does with a friendly bark now and then.

Like back home, Remi brings a sense of adventure to coming home. Every once in a while we forget to put away some food, and he decides to remind us to put everything away by taking the food, eating what he can, and leaving the wrappers all over the house. Good boy! Show us what we forgot to put away! Good boy!

But the best part of having Remi along is that he’s a great ambassador of American friendliness. There are a few people – kids, mostly, and drama queen girls – who see Remi and make a little show of screaming in terror, but they’re mostly in the minority. Far outnumbering them are the Koreans who stop and smile, or wave out of car windows, or who stop us on the street to give him a pet.

Last week we were in the park for our morning walk. We saw a couple of ajjumas (older ladies) sitting under the pagoda. One of them took an immediate shine to Remi and called us over. We went, of course, because it’s just wrong not to keep the ambassador of American cute from his rounds. We got Remi to hop up on the pagoda, and the old lady burst into a huge grin as she petted his back.

We tried to speak with her, but our Korean is limited to the words ‘ipa ge’ (cute dog) ‘chak-an ge’ (kind dog) and ‘haraboji’ (grandfather). She smiled at our attempts. She was maybe seventy, with a deeply lined face and thin, dyed black hair. Both of them looked like this, actually; they could have been sisters. Each had a set of bridges that would make American dentists weep: cold steel wirework holding dingy false teeth, but who could care, with their positive attitudes?

One of them held back, a bit reserved, though she began to warm up as the conversation continued. She pantomined the question of whether Remi was a boy or a girl; we told her he was a boy, then made a scissor motion to indicate that technically, he was a gelding. She giggled at that as well.

After a few minutes she gave us a piece of hard candy for the dog, who chewed it into pieces and swallowed it mostly still whole. Then it was time to go.

And that’s generally what Remi gives us here in Mokpo: a bridge to the locals, meetings we’d never have otherwise, and a whole lot of good mojo.

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Update:  One side note.  Tiny, small, micro dogs are the norm here.  We brought his toys, leashes, and brush.  We haven’t seen any replacements.  Remi hasn’t had a dog bone since he left home.    If you are reading this and packing your dog for  the big move, pack everything.  Especially clippers.   We haven’t found a groomer that has the supplies to groom him.  We bought a clipper for $35 dollars, but it isn’t strong enough or large enough to cut more than his toe hair.  We cut his hair with a mustache scissors now days.

If you are a friend wanting to send a care package, Remi would love a bone to gnaw on.  He never liked the plastic ones, but he loves everything else.  He especially loves Bully sticks.  YUM!

Update #2

Online shopping is a medium sized dog owners dream.  We order Remi’ dog food, the cat’s litter, and Remi’s replacement Kong on Gmarket.co.kr  It always arrives in a day or two and shipping is free to $2.  Oh, and as with most things in Korea, it comes with ‘service.’   Gmarket is a hassle to get started, but then it is a lifesaver.

Yeonsan Jugong – our neighborhood

We live on the outer edges of what’s called “Old Mokpo,” though many of the buildings seem to be less than forty years old, which isn’t very old when you con

View from our Courtyard

sider the age of the city, and of Korea (or Asia) in general. Ours is a modern building, one of fifteen or twenty high-rises set around numerous courtyards that open into each other like a little urban maze. There are lots of kids here. They ride their bikes, in-line skate, or just make mad sweaty dashes from playground to playground, under trellises that are starting to bloom red from roses that climb up and over the walking paths.

The nearest market - Shugong Mart

When you do find your way out of the high-rises, there is a short street with about a dozen storefronts. The first one has fruit out front, a small meat department, vegetables, hardware, cleaning supplies, frozen snacks, ramen, diapers, hygiene products, nail polish, and other things for every room in your house. Every time I go in I’m amazed by the way they’ve maximized floor space to fit all the goods.

Around the corner is a stationery store, where the local school kids can buy paper, pencils, erasers, small toys, and, when the weather’s right, water balloons that they carry around cradled like heavy jewels till the urge to see them spatter on the sidewalk gets too strong. Across the street from that, there’s a bakery called Paris Baguette, which is part of a Korean chain that has outlets in every neighborhood we’ve been to. They bake and sell

Korean interpretations of traditional baked goods, including twisty donuts, bean curd bismarcks, sweet potato strudel, and hot dogs sliced onto buns and baked with tomato paste and imitation cheese. (It tastes a bit like dry spam on stale bread with ketchup. But hey, if that’s Korea’s thing, I don’t judge.) Next to that is another market like the first, only larger, with an open-air kitchen that serves up sweet potato noodles in spice-sauce, busan fish-cakes ribboned up and stabbed with a skewer, and an entire selection of kim-chi in metal bowls for sale by the pound (or kilo, I guess).

Which isn’t even to mention the pretty-much permanent farmer’s markets that line the

Fish for sale

other side of the street. From morning till dusk older ladies line up to sell vegetables, fruits and fish on the narrow sidewalk. In the evening when we walk the dog we take care not to go that side of the street because it’s too narrow for him to through without giving in to temptation and eating whatever’s there. They line up the cardboard boxes with peppers and onions and bok choi while the kids play basketball on the courts behind them and the vendors across the street sell t-shirts with horrendous English. Every night around nine they tear down the shop, and the street sits quietly until morning when they all come by again to re-start the commerce. It’s a cycle that’s been going on forever and like the daily sunrise, it shows no sign of stopping.

In addition to the vegetable market, there’s a

t-shirts for sale!

steady rotation of vendors that divide the week among themselves. One day the guy who sells flowers will be there, the next day it’s a meat rotisserie selling roasted pork, where we once bought 10 dollars worth of pork that made four meals. Or one day the ladies with plastic bins filled with dried beans will be there. And there’s usually a few clothes vendors who set up brightly colored sunshades, under which they hang dozens of ‘designer’ fashions: t-shirts for seven dollars, or sweatpants for fifteen.

Much as we love this cozy neighborhood to the north, it’s fairly secluded and relaxed, even easy-going compared to the area to the south. The other way is a street we call Magic Street, because absolutely everything you want, it’s down there. And I think Magic Street will deserve its own entry.

Next, though, we’ll be profiling the agricultural life of Mokpo, where you don’t have to leave the city limits to see figs, onions, canola, and various other vegetables being grown right before your eyes.

Magic Street at Twilight