Week 8, 9, 10: New Project Starts, DMZ, Other Randomness: 7/14-8/4
So we're becoming regulars at the local e-Mart down the road. People still stare like we're aliens, which we kind of are - especially out here in rural Korea; I'm use to it at this point. Speaking of aliens, we did some shopping for groceries and I took a few pictures of the trip along with some of the "alien foods" that are intriguing...didn't get buy anything interesting on this particular trip but rest assured, I will. The e-Mart also has a pet store (?) so, essentially you can get all of your grocery, clothing, and pet buying done all in one stop! Those of you who know me, probably know that I was drawn to this area but I had to reserve myself from purchasing anything. On the other hand, I refuse to be pet-less even in a foreign country. I now have two praying mantises sitting in our living room in frog cages. Originally I had three, but one ate the other one - oops.
A handful of alien foods from the fishy area: (From Left to Right, Top first) 1. Rows of fresh fish whole and cut, 2. Mixture of clams, shrimps, vegetables??, 3. Whole squids or cuttlefish, 4. Large whole shrimps, 5. Cut up fish including head (best part?), 6. Tons of whole packaged fish (Mackeral?), 7. More fish, 8. An arrangement of octopus tentacles!
I clumped these 3 weeks together because of a few reasons: 1. I started getting sick which made blogging seem like death, 2. I have a new research project that I just started that has kept me occupied, and 3. lack of motivation...but mostly the first two! Anyways a couple weekends ago we all were going to head to this large festival called the Mud Festival, and I started getting sick so I stayed back - just really crappy feeling sore-throat cold that sort of fun stuff... I had to skip while the others went and from what I heard it was pretty fun? Basically they bring in a boatload of mud to this beach front and everyone has at it. There are activities like tug-o-war and slides and stuff like that, pretty cool if you're into getting dirty. I guess the origin of the festival has to do with the discovery of the beneficial cosmetic properties of the mud, which has now turned into a festival and various sellers of skin products setup shop to entice you to buy during the event.
Alright so up to about two weeks ago, all of us had been working on a single project called the Grand Movement. This was a project intended to monitor the whereabouts of treefrogs in a small area of Paju where we live, and we've been helping them do this since we arrived in June. However as of the first week of August I was given a new research topic on a common toad here in Korea, the Fire-Bellied Toad. Since this counts as a course at St. Thomas we have to also present our findings and experiences next semester when we return home. Our Korean professor mentoring us here, Dr. Jang, had us team up with a Korean student to put together a presentation on this research. Our professor Dr. Lim returned from the states with his family and he sat in to see our projects progress so far as we presented to a group of mostly students.
The research I'm doing for the rest of my time here in Korea is fairly simple helping another professor, Dr. Kang, with his research on the fire-bellied toad. It's well known that many types of frogs can adjust their color to blend into the environment, but it's not known if this specific toad has those capabilities. Essentially my project is to figure out A. if the toad can adjust it's coloration and B. if so what environmental cues trigger the change. To do this, we went out into the field and collected 40 of these toads and setup an experiment in my house in Paju. I'll try to state this as simply as possible: There are 8 terrariums total for the toads. 4 terrariums are in bright light and 4 are dimly lit, all of them are either entirely brown (dead leaves/twigs) or entirely green (moss). I monitor color change by photographing the toads multiple times a day and comparing the pictures. The experiment is complete as of right now and I'm in the process of comparing the pictures. Fairly basic experiment that is intended to be doable in a few weeks time before I leave.
In other news what else have I done in these past weeks...oh yeah we decided to go out for some drinks at a place known for its rowdiness and partying. To make a long story short, we all started out drinking Soju before heading out to a place called Hongdae and then....the night gets a little blurry. We all became separated and wandered aimlessly through the streets while slightly intoxicated until the wee hours of the morning. I probably walked myself a good 10 miles that night, and I found myself napping on various street corners and parks waiting for the subway station to open back up so I could find my way home the next day. We'll leave the story at that for now, some details are better left unblogged haha, but it was a lot of fun.
What else did we do...oh yeah! We went to the DMZ (demilitarized zone). For those of you who know nothing of this "DMZ" it's kind of a big deal. North Korea and South Korea are divided by a long wall essentially, even though it's made mostly of barbed wire and fencing. The two are technically still at war and threats are thrown regularly but most South Koreans don't seem to phased, probably because this has been going on for years. Anyways, there are a few tourist spots where you can check out what it's all about up close. Where we live is actually only a few miles away from the DMZ so our trek there was short. The tour is very interesting and military heavy as you could guess. One of the locations allowed us to "peer into the country" of North Korea using telescopes. A common theme throughout the tour was the insistent motto that one day the two will again be united but I find that difficult to believe without first a casualty heavy war...sadly. Another interesting spot were tunnels that were dug underneath the DMZ by the North that the South found. These tunnels are crazy, deep in the ground and carved out of solid rock. The North had intentions of invading through these tunnels but never got the chance. Not all of the tunnels are believed to have been found either. Souvenir shops are everywhere and it's apparently a novelty to buy products made in North Korea (guilty of purchasing a few things...).
Other than that the weather has been ridiculously humid and it drains the energy right out of you, the cooler night temperatures are welcomed. One of my roomates and I decided to take a little trek to an island on the west coast, that was a peculiar endeavor. We eventually made it there after some chaos with figuring out the buses, haha nothing new there, with quite a bit of extra walking. Initially we were going to climb a mountain range on the island but as the adventure took us on a different path, we decided maybe going to the beach would be better. The beach was not a beach, actually - there was no water. There were many people at the "beach" but they weren't swimming, they were frolicking in thick mud. It appears that many of the "beaches" on the west coast are actually muddy flats instead! We decided to drink our sorrows away and make our way home :). I'll throw in a bunch of pictures of random stuff too that I am too exhausted to talk about, below: