Bauhaus HartAmy and I had heard about the Bauhaus Dog Cafe in Hongdae (홍대) quite a long time ago, but had never actually gotten around to going until this weekend. We wandered in to what would be a fairly typical Seoul cafe (chairs, tables and hot and cold drinks) if not for the presence of fifteen dogs and one cat (who had made herself scarce). Dog owners were free to bring their pets along for some socialising with other animals, and I estimated that there were three staff on drinks-serving duty compared to four on accident-cleaning and hair-sweeping details.

Bauhaus Bau, Rano and HakiAll the animals had the run of the cafe, which meant that they were perpetually underfoot, overhead (on the broad windowsills), on the seats or just scampering from person to person in search of treats. It is an immensely fun concept that we doubt would work in the hygiene-regulated Western world.

Bauhaus HakiBauhaus Ssoong

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Drawing Show (3)One fine and relaxing weekend, Amy and I finally made the effort to go out to the Drawing Show, a non-verbal live art theatre show out in Seoul’s theatre district at Hyehwa. We weren’t quite sure what to expect (I was leaning towards a kind of live storyboarding), and were marvellously entertained when it turned out to be a series of sketches (both arty and comedic) and highly kid-inclusive. Photography was not allowed (presumably so as not to spoil the surprises), and I only got a few shots of the artists right at the end. Definitely go and see it.

Drawing Show (1)Drawing Show (2)

Asan EomeoniThe same weekend, I went out to Asan (아산) with Animal Rescue Korea to see how the dogs and cats were getting along. The shelter is in a constant state of construction, with new buildings and areas sprouting up at a fantastic rate, and we were constantly stepping around diggers and piles of materials. The dogs were as energetic and attention-hungry as ever, but the cats were quite subdued after a serious outbreak of panleukopenia a few weeks ago.

Sorae MalamuteNamsan glider

Asan toadstoolThe following weekend, my parents and brother came over for a visit – I’d spent most of the week frantically reserving hotels and trains, and was relieved to have things start to go exactly as planned. We hit a few of the major tourist areas of Seoul before temporarily parting ways – me to go to work, they to more sights in Jeonju and Gyeongju. We’ll rendezvous in Gangneung this weekend, and I’m quietly confident they’ll be able to navigate the Korean bus and rail systems unaccompanied.

The only full day we had together was Saturday, and we packed enough in to make it count. Our first stop was Gyeongbokgung (경복궁/景福宮; lit. scenery happiness palace), with its innumerable royal buildings and various museums (Royal, Folk and Children’s). We wandered around, wilting a little in the heat, and escaped to nearby Insadong (인사동) for some traditional item window shopping in the shade. After recharging in a coffee shop, we relocated south to Namsan (남산) as the evening approached to see the city at night. Finally, not wasting the hotel’s excellent location, we made a brief foray into Namdaemun Market (남대문 시장) for fruit and oddball clothing.

Gyeongbokgung (1)Hyangwonjeong (1)

Hyangwonjeong (2)Royal soy sauceN Seoul Tower

North of AnsanLast Saturday was KMPL‘s regular monthly mountain clean-up operation in Bukhansan (북한산) National Park. We started off on one of the relatively newly-opened trails in the west of the park, joining the usual throngs of hikers enjoying the warm weather. We weren’t expecting to find a lot of litter, and so were dismayed when we reached our carrying capacity of around 80 litres (mostly broken glass bottles) less than a kilometre along our route. We did, however, get the chance to enjoy the serene surroundings of the riverside trail and encountered plenty of wildlife (a black squirrel, and many frogs and butterflies).

On our way back to the main road, we came across a very malnourished and dehydrated white cat. We’d passed it on the way up, but had assumed it was almost dead – now, it was making some noise and paying more attention to its surroundings. I scooped it up, and one of the Korean volunteers got on the phone to find the nearest animal hospital. We had expected to take a taxi, but the hospital said that they would send a vehicle to pick us up. We waited for about ten minutes, the cat wheezing and struggling occasionally, and watched in disbelief as a fire engine pulled up. Apparently the Korean emergency services also deal with animal rescues, and so we clambered in and held on as the driver pulled a quick u-turn with the siren going. We drove to the hospital at a fairly sedate pace, explained as much as we knew to the vet, thanked the firemen profusely and then headed back into the city, hoping for good news. Sadly, the cat’s condition was very poor and it died a few days later.

Bukhansan catKorean fire engine

East of AnsanTowards Sinchon

Bears vs LionsA quick shower and long subway ride later, we met some friends from Yongin for a baseball game way down in Jamsil (잠실). The Doosan Bears were playing the Samsung Lions, and we sat up in the high seats right behind the shortstop for hours while balls where whacked seemingly everywhere except in play. The Bears got the upper hand in the sixth or seventh inning; the Lions’ imminent defeat written in the suddenly empty seats of their supporters’ section.

Yonsei Radio Observatory (2)Yonsei Radio Observatory (1)

RMT audienceLast weekend was largely taken over by various Animal Rescue Korea-based activities. On Saturday evening, there was a joint fundraising event with Nabiya cat shelter at the Rocky Mountain Tavern, a Canadian bar in Itaewon. The function room was absolutely packed, resulting in many spilled drinks and trodden-on feet, and the festival-appropriate music volume meant that conversation was only possible inbetween songs. I won two free chickens in the raffle (the irony not lost on the shelter volunteers, I hope), which were subsequently given away, and was not alone in voicing my opposition to the raffle co-ordinator constantly drawing tickets, looking at the name, screwing them up, dropping them on the floor and then drawing other ones. A lot of money was raised for the dogs and cats, which is the important thing, but next time I’ll probably just give them a donation and go do something less stressful.

Woo's BluesAsan deck cat

Asan CCTV catThe shelter trip was shifted to Sunday to allow time to set up for the fundraiser, and significantly reduced numbers of volunteers braved the heat to see what was going on at Asan. We arrived to find the place in a but more of a state than usual – lots of places hadn’t been cleaned out, and there wasn’t much food or water available. We set to putting things to rights, and discovered later that the inept full-time staff had finally been fired but that their replacements wouldn’t be starting immediately. I had to tackle two dogs who managed to escape (getting a little nibbled in the process, and once again reckoning my gloves to be the best W2000 ever spent), and also helped to capture thirteen kittens (some of them feral) who we were taking to Seoul for medical treatment (due to a particularly nasty outbreak of feline herpesvirus 1). Hopefully things will be a little more clean, organised and healthy by the time I get back there.

Junghwajeon

Yi Sun-SinThe overcast skies finally cleared a little towards the end of the week, sending thousands of fair-weather photographers out in search of subjects. I decided to take a walk round Deoksugung (덕수궁/德壽宮; lit. moral life palace), a small palace complex right in the middle of the city. Originally a mere royal residence, it was built in the late 15th century, destroyed and rebuilt several times and finally designated a main palace in 1897 before being downgraded again a mere ten years later. It’s unusual in that it contains both traditional wooden Korean palace buildings, stone Western-style buildings (built in 1910 during a modernisation push) and some “fusion” structures. This amalgamation of ancient and modern proved quite interesting – there were squeaky-clean modern art installations next to faded wooden pavilions and skyscapers looming over the whole site.

King Sejong the GreatCat (2)

Deoksugung (1)Deoksugung (2)

Deoksugung sundialCat (1)Deoksugung water clock

Deoksugung (3)The area around Deoksugung is also quite interesting – the British Embassy is right around the corner (charmingly signposted as the Embassy of Her Britannic Majesty), the strikingly Romanesque Anglican Cathedral actually overlooks the site (though I couldn’t climb the bell tower), the colonial-style City Hall was just over the road until they knocked it down and replaced it with a big steel jelly mould, there are a few excellent museums and the other palaces are a short walk away.

Euljiro towerSeoul Anglican Cathedral

Dr. Pet PersianSaturday’s regular Animal Rescue Korea trip out to the dog shelter at Asan (아산) had been cancelled again, but we didn’t know that and went out there to find a suspicious lack of people waiting for us at the train station. As it turned out, the shelter was in the middle of some road building (at least, that’s what it looked like) and we were able to walk dogs if we stayed out of the way of the excavator. There were the usual nips and temporary escapes, and a moment of mild panic when we thought that a newly-constructed extension to the cat area had walled some other cats in.

We took an excellent haul of three dogs and two cats over to the Dr. Pet Animal Medical Center in Seoul for adoption, and spent some time scrubbing the shelter muck off them and meeting the other residents. There were the usual small dogs getting underfoot, a huge and friendly Rottweiler upstairs, a rabbit, cats and kittens and – still – Casper, a dog who Amy and I walked months ago when Amy fostered Cobe. However, he’s been adopted and will be flying out to Finland in a few weeks.

Dr. Pet adoptable dogDr. Pet schnauzer mix

CasperDr. Pet cat

Dr. Pet rabbitDr. Pet kitten

I staggered out of bed at about 6:30 this morning as usual, ready for the 7:00 Aikido class at the dojo over the road from my apartment. When I got there, however, I found Sensei and a couple of other people standing around outside near the alley that runs behind the building. They quickly filled me in on the details – the fire department had been called around 4:00 am to put out a car on fire, the back entrance (not actually an entrance or exit, as Sensei stacked all his martial arts books there) had been gutted and the dojo (in the basement) had an inch of water in it. Classes would be cancelled until Monday, so I raced back to my apartment to grab my camera – what better opportunity to get some real-world experience for the short course in forensic science I’m teaching next semester? Now pay attention.

Aikido arson (1)The establishing shot – the fire department moved the car away (I’m not sure where to, and I couldn’t find it nearby). We can see pretty much the total extent of the fire damage (the bags in front are from the just-started clean-up operation), and (unprofessionally) the photographer reflected in the back window. From two major clues, we can immediately see that the seat (origin) of the fire was more or less at ground level in the centre or on the left of the doorway (the door was also removed, and I couldn’t find it either). Firstly, the scorch mark on the drainpipe (and melting at the bottom) indicates that the fire was hot near the base of the pipe and cooler higher up (soot sticks to cooler surfaces). Secondly, the glass in the panel on the right is broken on the left-hand side, indicating that this side was hotter – there is also soot here, suggesting that the fire was left of centre.

Aikido arson (2)This is a briefcase that you can see on the lower left in the picture above. The pattern of melting indicates that the fire was hotter in front of it (note especially the bubbling on the handle), and we can also see that the glass panels are broken here. This area is where I believe the fire started.

Aikido arson (3)These tyre tracks were left when the fire department moved the car out of the way, and there is a similar mark where the car was parked in the alley. One of the car’s tyres was on fire, but was not completely burnt when the fire was extinguished. When the car was then moved, only one section of the tyre would leave a significant sooty mark. This to me was a little odd. If a car is sets alight accidentally, it (presumably) starts in the engine (through a battery short) or the fuel tank, leading to a huge fire. If a car is deliberately torched by setting one of the tyres alight, the temperature would not be high enough to do all the damage we can see. Perhaps the fire simply spread to one of the tyres, though without the car it’s impossible to say. There was quite a bit of safety glass strewn around the area (so something was hot enough to break the car windows), but no large soot marks on the surrounding walls indicating a major fire.

Aikido arson (4)A close-up of some of the books on the stairs behind the doorway. Note the patten of charring, especially the bubbling on the picture frame and the pristine nature of the rolled poster. There was another stack of books closer to the fire than this one (you can see them in the other photos), so only those directly exposed were charred.

Aikido arson (5)A close-up of the concrete sill just underneath the briefcase. This break is new, and may have occurred when the fire was put out – but the concrete would probably have cracked with the heat from the fire. Note also the soot collecting under the sill and on the left corner, and the hole in the front veneer. This may indicate that the sea of the fire was pretty much there, though without the car it’s difficult to say for sure.

Aikido arson (6)Finally, an angle standing on the right-hand side of the doorway. From here, we can see the books, briefcase and concrete sill break, and also a metal gate. This was once mounted just in front of the briefcase, and the fire department moved it over during the fire-fighting activities. Note the scorch marks on the near side of the gate, indicating that the fire was hottest in that direction (i.e. right on the left-hand side of the door frame). There is also a blob of melted roof plastic on the top of the gate that’s a little hard to see in this shot. Note especially the completely undamaged plastic chairs on the left and lack of soot on the walls, indicating ether a very small and hot fire or some object inbetween the fire and the chairs (i.e. the car).

Those are my limited and inexperienced observations. Any further theories? Note: I do not think that North Korea was involved.