Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Delicious Indian Curry

After living in Kuwait for a year, I developed quite a taste for delicious Indian food and curry. As almost half the population in Kuwait comes from India and Pakistan, the tiny gulf state managed to acquire more than its fair share of culinary talent from the subcontinent. Thinking back, the Indian food available to me there is one of the things I miss most (the Lebanese food was really good too).

After preparing for this big, "open class" presentation thing again this week, I joined Simon and his friend for curry at the town's only Indian restaurant. The restaurant here in Changwon, called Bombay, serves up especially good mutton. So if you ever get a chance to stop by, do so. You won't regret it. Also, their papadums are absolutely enormous. Bigger than pizzas!

I'm dreaming of someday traveling to India and tasting their authentic food myself. Perhaps during my future RTW trip.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Internet DOWN

Well the internet in my apartment is down. So I'm writing this from a net cafe not too far from my house. I suspect I already know what the problem is. Now, this is just a matter of getting someone on the phone who can converse with SK Broadband to confirm it for me (and then relate it back to me :-P)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Trans-Terra Blog Idea Revisited

I'm revisiting the idea of my new travel and photography blog concept, Trans-Terra. I put out the word on my facebook account to friends so that I could look for great pictures, but there seems to be little interest.

Anyways, here's how it would work: Every day or every few days I would post a different photograph from either myself or a different person with a short very short story to give it some context. Relevant themes can include nature, travel, landscapes, or culture. Something like this:
From Australia

The serene red glow of rocks at dusk in Australia's King's Canyon gave pause. The magnificent glow in the vast emptiness and silence of Australia's abundant wilderness brings fond memories of similarly spectacular and inspiring locales I explored in Arizona and Southern Utah years before.

So every day, I could showcase a different photograph with a different story. I'm going to try a few posts like this here first. If you have any great travel/adventure stories with cool pictures to go along with them, contact me here!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Super Spicy Fish in Masan

Korean food is famous for its spice and super hot flavor. And this latest dish is perhaps the spiciest I've had yet.

Agujim (spelling?) is basically steamed monkfish with bean sprouts and tons of super spicy hot red pepper sauce. The nearby town of Masan touts itself as the pre-eminent specialist for this culinary adventure. And an adventure it is, as Masan's signature dish now officially holds the title for the spiciest food I've ever tasted in my lifetime. The previous title, held by a bowl of green curry I ate in Thailand a few years ago is now a close second. Some Indian curry I once had is now a fairly distant third.
My new friend, Bo Hwe comes from Masan, and wanted to take me to this one restaurant famous throughout Korea for the dish. She can evidently handle the spicier food better than me and managed to eat it with little discomfort. I was determined to eat it though, and managed to masticate a respectable quantity of the imposing cuisine. I sweated and suffered through most of the meal, getting occasional relief from the bowl of white rice. I could still taste the dish and feel it in my stomach hours after ingestion.

Picture note: I had forgotten my camera, so this photo comes from Wikipedia. The food looked something like this, only a whole lot redder.

Slumdog Millionaire at Changwon's Lotte Cinema

Yang Suk Soon was kind enough to invite me to join her Saturday morning to see a movie with her family. So at 9:30, we headed down to Changwon's Lotte Cinema together, the busiest theater in the city.

Slumdog Millionaire proved the biggest draw for the morning, and we filed in to see the celebrated movie from India. They correctly thought I might enjoy the movie, as most of it was in English with Korean subtitles for the local audience. So we filed into the cavernous dark theater and found our assigned seats.

I knew nothing of the film and consequently had no idea what to expect. Most of the Indian films I've seen were Bollywood musicals where Saree-clad beauties performing endless, jaw-droppingly difficult 20 minute song & dance sequences with tall, dark mustachioed dudes in leather pants. Good stuff if you're into dance and musicals, but not my cup of chai. So I didn't expect much. But the movie turned out to be one of the best I'd seen in years, easily rising well above most of the drivel churned out by Hollywood on a weekly basis. Definitely a win!

The story follows a young man from the Slums of Mumbai (the slumdog) who by sheer chance and luck wins a fortune on India's version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? The police arrest him on suspicion of cheating and fraud, and promptly begin a brutal interrogation of the hapless game show contestant. They painstakingly grill him on each and every quiz question he answered in the show while he relates his life story and the smarts it gave him to win.

Through retelling the epic story of his life, he carefully explains how he knew the answers to the TV program's questions and his unusual "education" in India's slums. Through an uncanny combination of enormous luck and irony, his experiences in India's marginalized underworld gave him the answers to the questions.

I don't know how realistic or accurate a portrayal of India's disenfranchised the movie really is, but the film certainly showed one of the wildest tales I've ever seen of human triumph over adversity I'd seen in a long time. I haven't seen a movie this inspiring in years. Seriously, I don't know how this one slipped by my radar screen, but I'm grateful my new friends took me to see it. Definitely going to have to learn more about Indian cinema as well.

The Happiness Project Blog

From Australia
An interesting blog about the author's personal journey towards trying to be a happier person. In her own words, author Gretchen Rubin tries out, "every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah." Quite a variety of sources.

The happiest people I know, however, never really seem to need to advice from blogs, psychology, and self help books to be happy, they just naturally are happy. My friend Richard, for example, went through a lot in his early life. One wouldn't begrudge him at all were he an angry, bitter, dissolusioned, grumpy old curmudgeon. Instead, he's found what he's passionate about, always thinks the best of his situation and other people, and always seems to have a smile on his face and manages to lift the spirits of those around him.

Other people I've met always seem to be miserable, uncomfortable, or otherwise unhappy. I don't think any amount of therapy, medication or research will help most of them.

The blog's author often makes observations about both types of people as well. As for myself, I know I have certain issues regarding happiness, although I'm quite content with my life at the moment, so being happy isn't such a problem at the moment. There were times in my life though, recently even, that being happy proved quite difficult and challenging, so perhaps this blog could be helpful to someone else, or help me if I find myself in such circumstances again. There's certainly a lot of good advice in it!

The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin.

Rubin's Ten Myths About Happiness

Picture unrelated: My photograph of King's Canyon in Australia.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Running Beneath the Cherry Blossoms

From Korean Lint
I'd put off running for some time since I arrived here in Korea. Running in the cold is never much fun, and I really don't care at all for the treadmills at my gym, so I've been using the stairmaster more often these days.

As spring makes its presense known and the weather warms again, I've been doing more frequent runs in my new city. I've found a nice loop from my apartment that goes through 3-4 city parks filled with Cherry blossom trees. The loop also has one long stretch down a wide avenue that has row upon row of Cherry Blossoms.

At the moment, they are all blooming, giving me the illusion of getting my cardio exersize beneath a forest of popcorn in the blue sky. Changwon really is a nice city to live in and one can easily tell as several of the paths through the parks seem positively teeming with people.

Of course I'm not quite the runner I was back in November or December, when a disciplined daily workout regimen put me in some of the best shape of my life. We'll see if I can get back to that soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

World Baseball Classic Final Match

Yesterday was the final day in the World Baseball Classic's series between Korea and Japan. For obvious reasons a big rivalry exists between the two countries and this game proved no exception. During lunch (and well into the following class), both students and teachers were glued to the TV screens in the classrooms cheering their countrymen on.

The series took on double importance as it was the final championship match in the World Baseball Classic, which pits National teams assembled from the planet's baseball loving nations.

For someone who often regards baseball as boring and slow paced, this game proved anything but. The energy and tension in the entire school was contagious, esp. as Korea was down two points at the bottom of the 9th inning. But then the Koreans scored two runs and tied the game up Every classroom in the school promptly roared in applause.

Unfortunately for my new Korean friends, victory proved elusive that day, as Japanese star Ichiro hit two in at the top of the 10th inning, clinching the win. Still, the Koreans played a great series, performing marvelously well against some formidable Japanese talent. A fantastic game by any standard.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

REI Dividends, Sleeping Bags & Ponchos

As a longtime, loyal REI member having attempted a thru-hike for the first time, it should come as no surprise that this year's dividend from the Co-op is my biggest yet. To my delight I have about 200 USD to blow on toys for my second attempt on the Colorado Trail. But two big obstacles stand in my way.

First, I have to spend or cash my dividend check by the end of the year, whereas I won't be back in the States for any length of time for at least 2-3 years. I could just sign the check and have it cashed, but this seems inconvenient, given my current location. Second, while its a very nice dividend check, 200 dollars just isn't quite large enough to get any of the three pieces of gear I'm contemplating buying: A lighter shelter, A lighter pack, or a lighter sleeping bag. I'm afraid I'll wind up just stocking up on incidentals like socks, freeze dried meals, or custom fitting shoe insoles. That's no fun either.

Anyways, I just wanted to comment on my ideas for my second attempt on the Colorado Trail. I'm debating changing out my trusty Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 bag for something with a little less warmth, but more importantly, a little less weight. This might be difficult though as the Phantom 15 seems to be one of the lightest, warmest things REI carries. I've got my eyes on something like the REI Halo 25 bag pictured, or this other 20 degree bag from Golite (weight not listed). No real weight savings with either of these bags (as far as I can tell) so I'm not sure how they both won awards while my Phantom 15 clocks in warmer and didn't win anything :(. Somebody explain this please.

Still, I'm convinced that with the right sleeping bag, I can get away with a sleeping bag in the 25 degree range (Farenheit) and still be comfortable. If I find the right one, this should allow me to shave an extra few ounces there for my second CT attempt. Doesn't look as though REI carries anything that fits the bill though.

What I'm also considering getting though, is this Sea to Summit Ultra Sil-Tarp Poncho. The concept I'm thinking is to use this poncho to double as both a rain-fly, rain-wear, and ground cloth for sleeping. From the looks of it though, it lacks long sleeves, a must during windy rainstorms, snow, or a downpour. Why wouldn't they put a few more inches on the sleeves?

I could wear a more traditional waterproof/breathable rain jacket underneath during the worst rainstorms, and from the picture that seems to be what he's doing. Also, I sometimes liked using my rain jacket as an extra layer during colder nights, something I couldn't necessarily do if I'm using it as a ground cloth. Unfortunately, some of the weight savings disappear if I do this.

Still, if I'm going to carry a groundcover and a rain fly, I might as well have one piece of fabric that does both. Or I could modify my current rain jacket (cut off excess fabric) and shave a few more ounces that way, making the rain jacket/poncho combination a little less redundant. I certainly wouldn't be needing two hoods. Perhaps these ideas aren't completely ultralight, but they are certainly options.

Do I want to spend 79 of my dividend dollars and see if that's what I want to do with it though?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Rest For the Weak Throated

After more than a dozen episodes of reverse paristalsis, (Not the title of a sitcom I'm developing, although I can think of a couple that deserve such a title) I returned to work to find my throat raw and sore, not a great situation for a teacher who needs his voice. But of course I didn't get a chance to get some extra rest, as there was more work to do after work!

I mentioned before that my co-workers roped me into doing some sort of "model lesson" where I'll be presenting an ESL class for dozens of colleages in the area. Well today, I met with some new people about the event and met a counterpart who will be presenting a different lesson for an elementary school level ESL class.

I won't bore you with the details, but it was strange for me to meet Simon for the first time. I couldn't figure out why speaking to him was so strange until I realized Simon is the first Westerner I've really spoken to since December.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sick in Bed

I called in sick this morning and stayed home.

Some stomach troubles kept me up all night before the throne. I'm not sure what it was, but it seems I succeeded in regurgitating it. I can now eat something and keep it down for over an hour!

Hopefully I'll be well enough to return to work tomorrow.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why AIG People Think They Deserve Bonuses

Observations from a guy living in a neighborhood where the AIG bonuses go. What a surprise that they think they actually deserve them. The article is an interesting look into places the author describes as clubs instead of communities.

Bonuses Make the Busted Go Boom: Tales From the Suburbs where Bankers Do Think They Deserve the Bonuses. by Marion Maneker.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Asian Dust & Air Quality in Korea

I got this link from a friend on my Facebook about the "Asian Dust" phenomenon. Microscopic particles blow out into the Pacific from the deserts in China and Mongolia. Climate change and the resulting desertification however, continue to exacerbate and worsen the problem. More dust is carried more often, with fewer forests to block or alleviate it. The drying and disappearance of the Aral Sea due to Soviet agricultural projects also contributed greatly to the problem.

Not only climate change, China's increasing industrialization and deforestation are bringing in dangerous metals and pollutants As more Middle Kingdom factories spew forth toxic goodies like sulfur, mercury, zinc, and arsenic Asian dust becomes even more of a concern. Mmmm, delicious.

The governments of Korea and Japan, affected the most by the phenomenon, try to assist and put some gentle pressure on the Chinese government to try and do something about the problem. Korea donated hundreds of thousands of trees for reforestation efforts in China while Japan has donated equipment and expertise for sulfur filters on Chinese power plants. Unfortunately these efforts have been too little. Despite the Chinese government's efforts at reforestation, the problem remains and appears to be worsening.

While I've never seen a proper Asian dust storm, there were a couple of days I've seen a general haziness and wondered if this was at least partly the cause, in addition to the smog and ozone problems usually associated with a big city.

But Asian dust doesn't appear nearly so terrible or nearly so often as dust storms in the Arab world, which are a nearly weekly appearance. No poor air quality I've seen compares to the weekly "dust storms" I used to witness in Kuwait. Even indoors during a Kuwaiti dust storm, one could taste the dust in hallways at my school. I remember every week or so walking outside for 5 minutes and walking back in, my clothes all smelling like I'd dropped them in dirt. I'd brush my teeth and wash my face and hair to get the grit out. I'm certainly happy I don't have to deal with that on a weekly basis anymore.

However, despite this particular problem's occasional appearance on the peninsula, I'm actually surprised at the visibility and the apparent air quality here in Changwon and Korea in general. Given the population density of Changwon and the city's row upon row of Samsung and Doosan plants churning out the latest semiconductors and enormous diesel engines for commercial shipping, one wonders how I see the skies at all. Still, I don't know what the air quality index in Changwon is on a normal day, so I can't comment on anything other than the outdoor air visibility I see with my own two eyes, which by global standards probably isn't that bad.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dinner at the Park's New Apartment

I visited with my friends' the Parks again tonight. Recently they moved into a swanky new apartment in Changwon's celebrated new residential development known as City-7. The apartment complex consists of four main towers with apartments, a large retail mall, and even commercial office space. Here's a picture of the place. It's quite nice.

I had a good time at their house and always appreciate their hospitality.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trans-Terra: New Blog Idea

I've been toying with the idea of starting a separate blog devoted exclusively to travel. In this blog I would talk about the planning stages of my eventual 'Round the World' trip, inspire myself and others to take such a journey, as well as share travel and adventure stories and photographs from friends and relatives.

There's a lot of work to be done preparing for a RTW trip, and I find the blog format helpful for thinking, reflecting, and expressing goals. The idea of feedback from others is also appealing to me.

I would call the blog Trans Terra, inspired by a world music radio show I used to hear in Memphis on 89.9 WEVL. If Trans-Terra ever became popular, I could even let other random readers from around the world contribute to this blog as well.

The blog would also give me the chance to play around with the html of bloggers without doing too much damage to Daily Belly Button Lint.

Here's the basic premise: Every week I would share 1 or 2 photographs or essays about travel or adventure from ANYWHERE on Earth where someone has a story to tell. Themes I'm interested include: travel, adventure, landscapes, nature, or the outdoors. If you're interested in sharing, post a comment with contact information on my blog here.

If there is interest in this I'll run with it, otherwise I'll just do everything here on Daily Belly Button Lint. Pic related: From my trip to Cambodia in January of 2005.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

K-Pop Song Won't Go Away

Talking with middle school kids all day, I'm slowly starting to learn the names of all the pop singers, actors and actresses in Korea. Since the day I arrived I'd been hearing this one particular catchy song all day on the airwaves that never seemed to go away. Without any effort on my part, I've heard it at least twice a day since I arrived. Well, this week I finally connected an artist's name with the song, so I can now share it here with everyone.

For whatever reason people keep listening to it and playing it on the radio. I suspect one day soon people will be so sick of Girl's Generation that they'll never play them again.

But in the meantime, I figure if I have to listen to this every day (in the bank, the supermarket, the gym, ringtones, etc), all my readers should be so lucky as well.
What do my readers think?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lies, Torture, & Another Editorial from Slate

Well, I'm certainly not surprised in the least. Listening to the former president at press conferences emphatically and repeatedly declare that, "America does not torture" never convinced me for a second. Now the truth comes out and we know Bush lied to us about that just like he lied to us about weapons of mass destruction and whatever else. I expected it and I'm not at all surprised.

What really angers me is that (at least from what I can tell of press coverage) nobody is all that upset or angry about it. I'm not in the US right now, so I can't say for certain, but press coverage makes it evident that nobody cares. As far as I can tell Americans are busy watching the market and financial sector news with rapt attention while one of their nation's greatest moral failings in a generation gets less consideration than whatever brand of toilet paper they bought at Sam's Club.

It saddens me that people are more apt to remember Bill Clinton's famous lie, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." One person's sleazy character and the resulting drama it created seems etched into the collective consciousness of every American. Yet lies and secrets about a hideous savagery that destroyed ANY moral high ground the US may have had in the war on terror will probably be forgotten with news of the next, latest bank or auto sector bailout.

Anyways, like the writer of this editorial, I certainly hope whatever figures at the CIA are brought to justice and quickly prosecuted for the crimes they committed. My expectations are quite a bit lower, however.

A "Beacon Light" Into Black Sites: Our answer to secret torture prisons ought to be the rule of law. by Anne Applebaum

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hypocritical Earmark Hogs Article

If I had to choose only one thing that makes me angry, cynical, and disillusioned about politicians, hypocrisy might make the cut.

Seriously, senators work and maneuver to put millions of dollars of earmarks into a spending bill that benefit their state and then shout and moan about "wasteful spending" and vow never to vote for it. Transparent sleaze of the highest order.

6 Of The Top 10 Senate Earmark Hogs Are Republicans from Slate Magazine

Changwon's Take on Parks & Recreation

Had I found this place sooner I might have thought twice about my gym membership! In parks and trail heads all over Changwon one finds children's play-sets, chin up bars and benches for bench presses. Nowhere outdoors in ANY park anywhere, have I ever seen a complete set circuit trainer machines. Until Saturday anyways.

While the equipment was dusty and a bit rusted over, it was definitely useable without much trouble. Some of the equipment was in surpisingly good shape and I may come back here from time to time. The whole set of machines would concievably exersize every single muscle group. The freeweights though didn't come in very many sizes (and left a big red rusty stain on my palm).

While it probably wasn't executed very well, it seems a great way to promote health, fitness, the outdoors, and an interesting idea to incorporate into a park system. I will definitely still be visiting my gym most days, but I think when the weather is warmer I might come down here on a lazy Saturday morning sometime.

Italy Album

Here's an album from my short tour of Italy in the summer of 2006. Italy turned out to be a wonderful trip in many ways and I wouldn't mind returning to several of the areas there, mainly the Alps and the Amalfi Coast. The next time I go though, I think I might want to visit some new places. I've still never seen Venice or Sicily, so I'll definitely have to go there.The mountain pictures of Mont Blanc are from the Italian side. Sometime soon I'm going to compile my posts from that trip together on this page, but I just feel too lazy to bother tonight.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hiking Further South Along the Ridge

I ventured out on another excellent hike yesterday up a very steep slope to the same ridge that runs North and South along the Eastern side of my city. This time instead of connecting to the other trails further North for views of the city, I hiked South, and was rewarded with views of the city that were almost as good as well as views of the Ocean!The best part though is the proximity. The trailhead for this hike requires only a 10 minute walk from my house! The trail also ranks among the steepest and most rugged trails I've been on. And that's saying a lot!This place should be spectacular in the early morning sometime later in the spring after the trees fill with leaves. I might even get shots above the clouds if I wake up early enough and do the hike.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Daebang Table Tennis Coach

Some teachers asked me to join them in a table tennis match after school. I must be worse than I thought because the P.E. teacher spent about 15-20 minutes coaching me before and after we played! Nevertheless, I had a really good time, even though I couldn't play at the level everyone else could.

I remember playing with the kids quite a bit after school sometimes in Japan, but I'd never received any proper coaching or instruction. The guy gave me some great tips and I think I improved more in an hour than I had in months (not that I've played in months).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Snow Festival Album

The Famous Sapporo Yuki Matsuri: the Snow Festival. Its held every year in Sapporo and makes the cut for one of the 200 things you should see before you die, in my humble opinion anyways. I went up and saw it in February of 2007, my last year in Japan. We also managed to see the winter sports museum, a sake factory, and I managed to hit the slopes as well.

You can read more about the Festivals on previous posts. なつかしい!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Volleyball on Wednesdays

Daebang Middle School has a cool thing going. Every Wednesday they send the kids home an hour early and have a volleyball match among the teachers. Its quite fun. The principal leads one team and the vice principal leads the other team.

While the matches are pretty informal and not at all serious, I was shocked at how good some folks were at the game. Then again all the good players are PE teachers, and imposing athletic prowess seems to be a prerequisite for the job.

So despite being embarrassed by my own mediocrity with the sport, I had a lot of fun. I have a pretty decent serve, but I don't think I'll ever be coordinated enough to be good at the game.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More Work

I guess they like me around here because they're giving me more work. They've asked me to do a presentation or some sort of model lesson with presentation for a large group of English teachers in the Changwon/Gyeongsangnamdo area. (details are not yet entirely clear despite a rapidly approaching deadline :0).

Either way, myself and another English teacher are scrambling to put something together by Tuesday. She actually seems a lot more stressed about it then I do (which might be a first).

Monday, March 09, 2009

Philippines Album

An Album from my good times in the Philippines. Does not include the second trip I made to Davao. Mostly includes shots from Sagada, Batad, and Banaue in Mountain Province as well as Coron.

Hiking between Changwon & Gimhae

Well, it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon at 1PM and what was I doing? Sitting inside writing this blog of course! Fortunately my friend Soon Jeong called. Having taken it upon herself to look after me like an older sibling (or even my mother) she insisted that "Spring is here!" and that I should get outside and enjoy the outdoors. So I took her advice and went hiking. I'm glad she saved me from myself, as I found that weather just doesn't come much better than this.

A whole network of trails run between Changwon and a neighboring principality to the West known as Gimhae. Several spurs connect to a trail running along a long hogback ridge that extends North and South along the entire Western side of the city. People take these trails up along towards several peaks and summits or make any number of different loops. Endless possibilities exist. These paths climb up steep hills and connect to the ridge on several saddles.

Below, You can see into Gimhae. Gimhae seems to be a more rural agricultural city.
My beautiful new city. I'll have to take this picture again sometime in the early morning when it isn't backlit.

Graduation Speech on Youtube

Hey! I'm in the Class of '99, so this is a speech for me! Why couldn't my graduation speech have been this cool? I don't even remember the guy who spoke at my high school graduation. And the only reason I remember the guy who spoke at my college graduation is because he's a famous senator who ran for president.

Seriously though, a friend of mine sent this to me on Facebook and I thought I'd share it here. I like it, even all the happy dancing people who look cooler and sexier than me. In fact, I like it so much I'm going to post it again in May around graduation time. I think a new dailybellybuttonlint tradition is born.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Australian Photo Album

This album is from my first trip to Australia. I traveled around Sydney, Newcastle NSW, Cairns, Alice Springs, King's Canyon, Kata Juta, and Ularu. Good times.

I'll be uploading more albums as time goes on. Any requests for the next album?

Round the World Trip: Planning RTW

As I'm still making friends and plugging in to Changwon, I've spent quite a bit of time alone. Consequently, two things are weighing heavily on my mind in my free time: another attempt on the Colorado Trail, and an eventual ultimate, year to Two year-long 'round the world' trip.

So I've been compiling a list of resources to begin planning and developing a round the world trip. Such an epic journey has been a dream of mine for some years now but I've never quite had the courage or means to put it together. No more. After I save enough money here in Korea, I plan on making this journey.

So here are some travel resources I'm compiling for myself to begin the development of a RTW plan. I'll keep all my readers up to date on this.

RTW Travel Agencies & Planners:

1. Bootsnall Travel. A 1 stop shop for planning a RTW trip? Out of all the ones I reviewed, I liked this site the best. It was the most flexible and seemed to set the standard for number of destinations as well. Could be quite useful, especially for developing budget estimates.

I put in a fairly detailed itinerary that included 30+ destinations into their RTW trip planner and found airfare to be 14-18 thousand USD. Not bad considering I was going from Soul, through Russia, Mongolia and China, to India, then Africa, Europe and Iceland and a heap of places in between. I entered "overland" for some of the shorter segments in India, China, Europe and Africa that I thought might be feasible to journey on the ground and it cut my estimate down to 6-9 thousand USD.

The website hinted at more accurate quotes with details like dates, discount status & other info. May be good. But I'm skeptical they could book a trip that sprawls so far for such reasonable sums I'm also not certain I want an all-encompassing comprehensive itinerary. In Italy I found it a bit stifling. Perhaps I can link some of the farther travel segments, leaving long periods of time between and reserve overland segments for spontaneity.

2. STA Travel STA Travels' RTW Trip Planner seems similar, although it only uses flights from Quantas & British Airways? We'll see. They have separate planners for students & youth. They seem to be based in Australia & have another UK site, and after quickly utilizing their planning engine, I don't like it. The interface is a lot slicker, but I don't think their travel options are as broad as Bootsnall. They also limit me to starting in Australia & seem to push me toward London. They seem to have fewer flight options. Its pretty, but not easy to use. Not impressed.

3. One World. This website from the One World Airline Alliance does the task but cumbersomely so. The quotes would probably be super accurate. It also limits me to 16 destinations. With the plans I'm imagining, this proves restrictive to say the least. I anticipate at least 20 different flight connections to cities with several overland sections between.

4. TravelNation. TravelNation seems to be marketing themselves to RTW travelers as well. But like other British and Australian travel agencies I found, they restrict your starting point to the UK. Fine if you're British I suppose, but it doesn't help me.

5. AirBrokers.com
These guys sell specific packages of ticket options for set prices. Buy a ticket package & select from options in that package. They have basic RTW packages to specific regions, such as Europe, the Pacific or South America. Pretty daunting. I'd have to develop a plan first before trying to book through them or see if what they have would work for a plan.

There are other RTW itinerary sites marketed toward global travelers. I may add these as time goes on. I'll be playing around with all of these sites for awhile.
If I want to extend my trip and save money I'll have to scrimp and save any way I can. I've got an enviable network of friends all over the globe so perhaps I can hit them up for a place to stay. Besides all the folks I know on Facebook, there are also these sites:
Couchsurfing.com Already on my link list. I need to review my account status here. Haven't logged in in almost a year now. Staying for free by crashing on someone's couch? This could save a fortune. I've used them before and found it great. This is almost like another SNS site.
Hospitality Club: Already on my link list. I've had some requests from people when I lived in Japan, but nothing since. I need to update this. I signed up for this after Couchsurfing.com and found I never used it so much.

Other Useful Sites
Rough Guide Travel Book Makers.
Lonely Planet More Guide Book Makers.
TripAdvisor.com Online reviews, links, and guides to resorts, hotels, restaurants and whatnot.

Air Couriers? Anyone?
I'll certainly be traveling light enough for carry-on luggage, so I should probably look into air courier service, or basically selling my checked luggage capacity to some courier service. Could save a lot if I'm traveling to 20 places. We'll see. I've heard reports that they aren't always so flexible and can be inconvenient. Something to look into later.
Courier.org You have to sign up though and pay a yearly subscription. Cursory search and examinations show this to be one of the places to go if you want in on this kind of thing. However, an announcement at the bottom of another site: courierlist.com, says they're suspending subscriptions because they "FEEL THAT IT IS NOT PROVIDING SIGNIFICANT VALUE OR AIRFARE DISCOUNTS TO TRAVELERS. COURIER TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SCARCE, BUT HAVE BECOME EVEN MORE LIMITED WITH DECREASED TRADE RESTRICTIONS, INCREASED SECURITY MEASURES, AND INCREASED COMPETITION IN THE INTERNATIONAL FREIGHT INDUSTRY." Too bad I guess. This MSNBC article seems to confirm as much.
Things To Do :)
Badawiya Expedition Travel has 17 day excursions into the remotest corners of Egypt's Western Desert, a landscape I'd like to return to one day.
Alpine Ascents offers mountaineering courses in Patagonia whenever I make it that far South.
Skyline Adventure School does the same thing in the Peruvian Andes. Too many choices, too little time and money! Do a 6 day alpine class in the Andes and then Climb Huascaran? That could be good.
Burning Man
This festiaval has been on my list of things to do and see for awhile now, despite being in the land of my birth it will be on my ticklist at some point for sure.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Eastern Foot Medicine at Changwon's Parks

A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon a park on a cold February afternoon with a friend. My new city, Changwon, boasts several fairly large, and fairly nice parks lining the city and occupying several large, prominent hills throughout, making Changwon a nice place to live and keeping everyone active, happy and healthy. Changwon is known throughout the region for its greenery and most definitely has more park acreage than any city I've visited in Asia.

Going through one of these parks one afternoon with friend and colleague Soon Jeong, we stumbled across a walking course for foot therapy. Paved into a walkway, numerous distinct rocky textures and other textures constructed of concrete forms sprawled out near an outdoor fitness center of sorts. I asked her what the rocks were all about. Soon Jeong had trouble explaining, but said that walking the course is good for your feet and good for your health, pointing to a chart near a box for shoes.

The course consisted of a a patchwork of various textures composed of everything from large rocks, small rocks, and several formed concrete shapes into sections that were about 3-6 meters long and 3 meters across. The walking course then weaved around some trees, flowerbeds, benches and some stainless steel outdoor fitness equipment. A the time, suitable adjectives failed me.

Then, that little lightbulb in my forehead silently blipped on: This might be a great way to train your ankle for the CT! Who knows really? While I often critically scrutinize many of the Korean or Japanese ideas about health, fitness and nutrition I hear in Asia, what could it hurt to visit this place a few times a week?

So I came back today unsure what to think about the whole thing. I have a big chart in Korean with a diagram pointing to all parts of my body. It ostensibly tells me walking on rock and concrete textures and shapes is going to benefit everything from my big toes to my kidneys. Theres a pudgy old guy who's washing his feet, so I guess he just finished up.So I take my shoes and socks off and put them in the big shoe rack under the gazebo, get on the rocks and start walking. The first bit has small rocks and despite some expected discomfort wasn't too bad. I casually go across some larger, smoother rocks that don't hurt much at all. This is silly, I began thinking. Then I get to the shaped concrete bumps. Wow, this is more painful than I thought! I manage to walk the 60-70 meter course three or four times before my feet can't take it any more and I put my shoes back on. Later on while exploring my city with my new bike, I found another course that's even bigger at a different park.

I imagine a lot of the muscles in my feet will be sore tomorrow. If so, I'll come back and walk on the rocks some more.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Quote of the Day

The Quote for the Day comes from Cory (Corndog) Comer, a buddy from my NAU days and my friend's former roomate. I have no idea where he heard it though.

Quote: There are two ways of getting enough; one is to continue to accumulate more of it, the other is to desire less.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


A picture of me taken a couple of days ago. Is it just me, or am I starting to look a little bit too much like Vladimir Putin? I'm not even 30 yet!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


My first crack at poetry in awhile. I have several poems in this blog that I've never published, but the subject matter on this is so trivial I'm not too embarrassed by its mediocrity. And I do believe this is the first poem on Dailybellybuttonlint.blogspot.com. About time I guess. Anyways:


Why? Oh Why?

Won't my clothes dry?

I hung them by the window high,

Yet two days gone,

they're still not dry!

I try and try,

I scream and cry!

Yet humid air

won't let them dry!

Each day I watch the rain defy,

Blue skies and sunshine in the sky.

Oh please help me demystify,

the reasons why my clothes don't dry.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sleepwalking dog

A sleepwalking dog of all things. Probably dreamed he chased a car and ran into the bumper!
Anyways, this makes my day better.

Fellas at the Gym

I wasn't here for more than a couple weeks in Korea before I joined the local health club. After staying for more than a month, I'm starting to make some friends there. Last Friday I was even invited out to eat with them. Of course we went to a great restaurant where they served delicious Samgyupsul? I seriously didn't even realize food could be this good.

There was also a Japanese guy who frequents the club and joined us, so I wasn't completely left out of the conversation. Most of the guys were engineers, and the Japanese guy has a job in town testing motorcycles for a local manufacturer. Being as he gets to ride motorcycles all day for work, the conversation of course centered around motorcycles for most of the night.

I went out later to a billiards club with some of them, where they taught me some Korean billiards game that I'm still scratching my head over.

Red Ginseng Stamina Drinks

Throughout Asia there are all kinds and varieties of different energy drinks and the market for these neat little bottles of stamina is much bigger and more mature than it is in the USA. While usually found in the USA and North America at highway truck stops and the like, in Asia these things are everywhere and endless varieties exist. Some can be found all across Asia and some are pretty local varieties. The Japanese certainly had their own endless array of "genki drinks" as they were described to me.

Needless to say, the Koreans are no exception and have an especially strong taste for their native Korean Red Ginseng. Whole stores are devoted to selling this stuff.

So, when I find it hard to get going in the morning, I sometimes have a bottle myself. They often come in boxes filled with little bottles of about 100 ml. These little bottles can range anywhere from 500 won to 12000 won (about 50 cents to about 10 dollars). Even more expensive varieties can be found, but my teacher's salary restricts me to the 500 won variety. They're good enough for me though! I've even aquired quite a taste for ginseng.

Reader's Request

My student requested that I put her picture again at the top of my blog.
Wasn't it at the top of that post already?

Enjoy it while it lasts, Choe Hye Won, because it won't be at the top for very much longer!

Anyways, readers, keep reading! I've got some great new Sketchup designs coming soon, including a really swanky home office concept going into the home I'm designing.

I'm running into problems though. Doing architecture on the computer is one thing, but doing good architecture is turning out to be quite another!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Ron Paul's Speech: This time more stylishly done

I personally don't care for a lot of Ron Paul's politics. So I'm going to tell you all to ignore the links at the back of the video.

However, I really liked this speech he gave. I think this message transcends so much politics and the narrow, divisive, petty rhetoric that so often poisons Washington.

His final points are especially relevant. What IS the harm in a serious critical re-evaluation of American foreign policy and what do we possibly have to be afraid of in doing just that?

Here it is again in a more stylish rendition than C-SPAN could ever deliver.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Bricks, Mortar and Stone

Lately I've been doing this whole architecture and design thing with Google Sketchup and being human, I can't help but be inspired and influenced by what's around me. I was also quite surprised and impressed, as I've found the Korean homes around me to be more interesting and attractive than the homes around me in Japan or the United States. Perhaps the newness that will wear off soon enough, or perhaps it is just the contrast with the often unimaginative rows of apartments that line the avenues in Changwon, but I really like these houses.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still designing a log home, but I've been blown away by some of the things I see builders doing with granite, bricks and chiseled rocks around here. But while I'm impressed it doesn't surprise me terribly. Korea has always been famous for

Take a look at these homes. There's big granite slabs lining the corners and the sides. And here I'm thinking stone veins and polished granite are just for counter-tops and fireplaces. Silly me! And of course, it wouldn't be Korea (or Asia for that matter) without a roof of curved tiles.

There's another home with a really gnarly brick scheme I forgot to get a picture of. So if you stay posted, you might see that one soon.