I haven’t had a great deal of experience with rain; heavy, unrelenting rain that is. I found myself in some torrential downpours during my time in Central America, but in those cases I was usually near or on the beach, wearing a swimsuit. That rain was not a problem.

Things are different in Korea. I find myself at the tail end of the monsoon season with an extra piece of rain gear, one that I am not accustomed to carrying. Yup, an umbrella. Now, most of you probably don’t know this, but until recently I had a strict “no umbrella” policy (all be it a not very public “no umbrella” policy). Living in Korea has forced me to rethink my umbrella hating ways.

I seem to remember using these rain protection devices as a boy growing up in Poland, but that was many years ago. My life in Colorado had taught me that being rained on was not so bad, and if you really couldn’t handle it, put on a rain jacket. The umbrella was never part of the equation. Which brings me to present day.

I attempted for a while to bring my Colorado non-umbrella ways to Korea. Things started out fine, sure I’d get misted on now and then, but it wasn’t anything this Colorado boy couldn’t handle. Danielle had acquired a rather inexpensive umbrella at a convenience store in preparation for the rainy season. I did not. Soon, it became apparent that a raincoat was not the ideal rain protection for the hot muggy summer rains of Korea. Sans raincoat, I found myself migrating under the cover of Danielle’s umbrella.

The evolution continued, and more often than not I found myself sharing an umbrella meant for one, with Danielle. The inconvenience which accompanied, only reaffirmed my hatred for the round, wiry torture devices. Half the time one of us was getting rained on, and I simply hadn’t acquired any sort of umbrella skills. I just didn’t know what I was doing.

Maybe I saw the writing on the wall, but as time went by I sensed myself warming up to the idea of wielding an umbrella, if only as a necessary evil, a bi-product of my too-hot-for-Korea raincoat.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. Danielle and I had gone away for the weekend to celebrate her birthday and enjoy some hiking in Soraksan National Park. As luck would have it we were greeted there by some of the heaviest rain we had seen to that point in Korea. After a day of rain-soaked hiking, a Korean style buffet, and some Paris Baguette cake, we turned in for the night. The next morning, we awoke to some rather pleasant weather. By the time we made it outside though, things had significantly deteriorated.

It was now pouring and becoming abundantly clear that in order for both of us to navigate the city streets in this rain and remain moderately dry, it would have to be with two umbrellas. I seem to remember an ultimatum given to me by Danielle that day. Something along the lines of “If you don’t get yourself an umbrella, then you can walk by yourself in the rain.” Apparently, she too was tired of sharing one umbrella. A quick trip to a convenience store and there you have it. On a Sunday like any other, I became a first time owner of an umbrella. Danielle’s pleas and “suggestions” had fallen on deaf ears long enough.

Eager (I think) to take my new umbrella for a test drive, I stepped outside in the storm, opened my umbrella, and almost instantly had it turned inside out by a strong gust of wind. Did I really expect any other fate for my new accessory? This unfortunate event had seriously undermined my umbrella’s structural integrity, rendering it susceptible to more such occurrences in the future. Great! And so began the umbrella period of my life, now entering its second month of existence.

I  must say the umbrella kept me reasonably dry that day and has many days since then. The umbrella has become something that I bring with me any day that offers a threat of rain. A necessary evil, I guess. Although I’m not fully “on board” with “the umbrella”, I have changed my umbrella hating ways. I even upgraded my umbrella to a new model, one that opens at the mere press of a button and has blue tooth capabilities. Okay, maybe I made the last part up, but it really does open up with the press of a button.

While I have warmed up to umbrellas, I can’t imagine using them as frequently as many Koreans do. Here, for many, it is a year round accessory. In addition to its traditional purpose, the umbrella is used to fend off sunshine and falling snow. Do I see myself adopting the umbrella as a multi-season weather deflector? In short, no. But I do see its benefits when used on a rainy day in the city.

As a side note: Last night Danielle and I decided to grab dinner in Hongdae, a busy university area not too far from home. It was a rainy evening, so we grabbed our umbrellas and headed out. On any given night the area is packed with people, and can be a challenge to navigate. Add umbrellas to the equation and you’re in for a rather comical experience. You can lift your umbrella to avoid the others, but you leave yourself exposed to the rain. You can leave you umbrella down and hope others lift theirs. If you’re really lucky, you’ll clip another umbrella and be showered with whatever rainwater had accumulated on it. I think you get the picture.




a "matrix like" pose captured at a Korean cultural demonstration


Danielle and I made a return trip to N Seoul Tower over the weekend. We were lucky enough to reach the tower about fifteen minutes before a Korean cultural demonstration was set to begin. Figuring that it would be something cool to see, we found a decent vantage point and waited around for the performance to begin.

What ensued was both entertaining and an opportunity to take some good photos. The demonstration began with some drumming and “hat dancing” (the performers wear hats with long ribbons attached – these ribbons are made to “dance” by careful movements of the head and neck, or at least that’s my amateur assessment). The drummers were followed by sword and spear demonstrations, during which the above photo was taken.

I managed to take this picture just before he kicked the hay off of the bamboo…if only I had pressed the shutter a half-second later.

sunset in the city

the setting sun viewed from the Sky Art observatory inside the 63 building


I’ve been wanting to take a trip inside the 63 building for quite sometime. I guess I sort of have a thing for skyscrapers. More than anything though, I wanted to get a bird’s-eye view of Seoul.  At its completion, the 63 building was the tallest building in Asia. Since then, the skyscraper frenzy on the continent has knocked it way down the list. It isn’t even the tallest building in Korea anymore; however, it’s still an interesting one. The 63 building is home to an aquarium, an IMAX theater, and the highest museum in the world. The tower offers some impressive views and many photo opportunities. Though the dirty windows and the haze of the city can make it difficult to take quality photos.