Friday, February 8, 2019

Korea: Revisiting Namsan Seoul Tower

If you're looking for some of the most expansive and stunning views throughout Seoul, a romantic destination to take a dearly beloved one and add to the locks of love, or simply want to get some distance between you and the sea, Namsan Seoul Tower is an excellent destination to choose.  I'd actually visited the tower once before on a prior trip to Seoul, but this time I visited with my friend Carmen and added a lock representing Antho and I to the incredibly crowded walls and barricades that have come to house an insane amount of locks. A lot of love to go around! Supposedly, affixing your padlock to one of the surfaces is meant to "lock-down" your love, and give it a similar sort of longevity and durability going forward. While there are plenty of Youtube videos demonstrating how to break a lock, I can't help but feel a little cheesy at the romanticism of the idea and wanted to contribute my own small gesture towards it. Even if you have visited the tower before yourself, it's always worth taking another trek up the very-steep mountain to see it once more. 

During my previous visit, my digital camera was very very new to me, and I had a difficult time figuring out how to capture the views at night- but this time through, I'm a bit more familiar with how to operate my camera and I'm a lot happier with the results, though I'm rapidly nearing the time when I'll have to bite the bullet and invest in a newer model. Totally worth taking that ridiculously, absurdly steep hike up from the last bus stop to snap these, though, and I'll gladly do it again. Why do they drop you off so much further down the mountain? I certainly don't know, though maybe it has something to do with the deep love for hiking and mountain climbing many of the Korean natives seem to have, or simply a practical measure to keep the busses from going beyond their means...whatever the case, strap on a good pair of walking shoes and get out to the tower! There's so much to see, and it's always evolving in some new, exciting way. Any visitor to Seoul should be remiss to miss out on the stunning sights offered by Namsan tower! Even if you decide not to opt to pay for the additional elevator ride up the tower, you can take in some seriously breath-taking views of South Korea's world-famous city of Seoul. #WORTHIT

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Birthday Boy Ollie's day in the sun

If you've never been fortunate enough to meet or cohabitate with a pet Norwegian fancy rat, you might be under the mistaken impression that they're gross, smelly, or otherwise unpleasant little creatures, and that would be a real shame. Rats make exceptionally sweet, docile pets and in our experience raising quite a few of them they have blown us away with their unique, lovable personalities and awesomely patient and gentle temperaments. While they might eagerly grab your finger assuming it's a snack, they rarely ever bite hard enough to hurt, and the only time we've ever had a bite break the skin was when they were in a pure flight or fight panic. As of today, our sweet little boy Ollie is three whole years old, which is pretty outstanding for a rodent! We've had him, quite literally, from the very day he was born, and have showered him with love, cuddles, and snacks ever since. He's managed to outlive all of his brothers and sisters, and to celebrate his third birthday I'm sharing these photos we took while enjoying a particularly warm and sunny day, which seems like eons ago now that we're deep into #Snowageddon here in Seattle currently. We already celebrated with the old man proper, then tucked him in for a nap (he gets tuckered out more easily these days). You can reminisce on how cute (or creepy) he and his kin were when they were just wee little newborns, or fast-forward a smidgeon to when they started to open their eyes, a stage in their development when they start to really look like little baby squeakers. It's been a lot of fun getting to know each of them along the way, and I'm very proud of my little old man for braving the trek up north and hanging strong into his third revolution around the sun. If you've found yourself here out of a curiosity about pet rat parentage, I encourage you to do your research and consider adopting some of your own! While Ollie is now by his lonesome, he's adapted to it and gets lots of attention, but for any young rats you look to adopt it's almost always better to adopt them in pairs so that they have a friend to keep them company. Most people aren't going to be able to spend four hours a day, every day, with their furry buddy, so having another rat living with them (of the same sex, or spayed/neutered) is very important to their overall happiness and well-being. No one likes to be alone all the time, right?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Korea: Nostalgic Views in Hwajeong

One of the best parts of living in the little make-shift office turned bedroom I had in Korea was the largely unobscured view offered by the large windows within, offering me a glimpse out onto the city of Hwajeong as the sun rose or faded into the horizon and all the various shades in between. Hwajeong, while not really Seoul proper, is still quite a bustling little suburb and full of life, so I'd often overhear whooping shouts and excited calls from people celebrating below, at all hours of the night. It was fascinating, and often quite beautiful. The trade-off was that occasionally I'd be awoken early on my day off and told that the office was needed for the home owner's work purposes and to, more or less, make myself scarce. These things. In theory, I could have found a small apartment somewhere in Seoul and rented it for cheaper than what I paid for my sometimes less-than-private space, as many of my friends and their cohorts in a different field emphasized, but my living arrangement was already predetermined in a contract that outlined my work requirements and obligations prior to my even arriving to Korea. I'm not bitter about it, though there were times during my stay where I'd get frustrated by feeling trapped in a situation that wasn't always to my benefit. The other rooms in the apartment were rented out on AirBnB for a higher rate than what I was paying, so I was getting a deal, but there were often strangers coming and going outside my bedroom, or an awkward wait for the shared restroom in the morning when several of us had obligations to tend to. Some of the AirBnB guests stayed on for a longer term, and we got to know eachother a little better in the brief encounters in the kitchen or hallways, but some nights I'd find myself answering the door to an exhausted stranger I hadn't been told to expect, a potentially spooky situation depending on the circumstances. I digress. In the end, I'm immensely grateful for having had the opportunity to live and work in such an incredible place as South Korea, and while I certainly wish I'd had more information going in, I'm still very much glad I went. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Seattle: Partial Burke-Gilman Trail Bikeride

The Burke-Gilman trail is a 27-mile long recreational trail through the heart of urban Seattle, offering the cyclist, jogger, walker, or other recreation-enjoying-outdoors-person, a unique route through some of the city's most beautiful, or odd, sights to take in. The trail loops past several vantage points on different bodies of water, offering views of the Ballard, Wallingford, Fremont and University District neighborhoods along with several others. Given that it's such a long trail, and we'd already been out and about for quite a significant chunk of the day, we weren't up for doing the entire route on this ride- especially given that we'd have to turn around and head back towards our vehicle, eventually, potentially doubling our journey. While our LimeBikes were equipped with an electric assist, that was still an intimidating task, so we satisfied ourselves with only taking a portion of the overall trail for the day. While that might sound a bit disappointing to some, we'd already seen Gasworks park, the Lenin Statue, Fremont Bridge Troll, and the Ballard Locks, so we'd had a pretty productive day of it thus far. Coincidentally, the Burke-Gilman trail connects several of these landmarks, so it's an excellent option for an energetic sightseer! If you follow it long enough, you'll encounter all sorts of mysterious and unexpected things, from street art to architectural feats, dinosaur shaped topiaries to a monk statue asking for peace and your own small contribution towards it. 

Luckily for us, at the time of our outing it was an outstandingly beautimous day in the city of Seattle (quite a stark contrast to the dump of snow we've been enduring lately) so we had bright bursts of sun to warm our bones and, quite literally, light our way. Renting bicycles was an excellent choice, and we were thoroughly enjoying stretching our legs while playing tourists in our new home. While I've visited the city in the past, it's changed a lot in the intervening years, and there are few better ways to get to know a new city than by using your legs to walk or cycle through it! Or, I guess, skateboard, rollerblade, or scooter, if those are more your bipedally-powered modes of transportation of choice. To each their own! 

We had a fabulous time, and we hope you enjoy the photos!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Seattle: Gasworks Park Bikeride

Gasworks Park, nestled against the north shore of Lake Union, is a 19.1 acre public park accessible to the citizens of, and visitors to, the region and a unique landmark of Seattle itself. Being right up on the waterfront, as it is, there are ample water-based activities available, from kayaking to paddleboarding, though on this particular visit we were on rental bicycles made available through LimeBike, the brightly colored bikes visible on many corners and curbs of Seattle. Since the day was unusually bright, sunny and sublime on the specific fall day on which we visited, there were quite a few people out making use of the optimal weather, enjoying a picnic or simply lazing about on the grassy hills. While remnants of an industrial past linger, looming over the scenery, the actual gasification plant has long since shuttered it's doors, closing up for good back in 1956. As of January 2nd, 2013 the park joined the ranks of other historical points of significance and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places, a long-awaited designation. For fans of cheesy movies, there are lots of houseboats dotting the periphery, which may have served as the location, or at least inspiration for, some of your favorite films located in Seattle. As someone who's never really cared for rom-coms, I'm more keen on the fact that Bill Nye the Science Guy was originally based out of Seattle. Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!

Accessing Gasworks Park is easy enough, with a parking lot as well as the fact the park abutts against the Burke-Gilman Interurban trail, making it exceptionally easy to get to via bicycle or foot. This is one of those places any first-time visitor to Seattle must check out because it's so iconic and historic! It's close to several other landmarks, like the Lenin Statue and Fremont Troll, along with many other options for the curious adventurer. On a bright and sunny day like this, I'd recommend grabbing a packed lunch somewhere nearby and settling in for a nice, relaxing afternoon enjoying the sun, but to each their own! Whether you walk, bike, paddle, drive, or even fly, there's something for everyone at Gasworks park.