Saturday, September 25, 2010


Two weeks before I left Korea, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Shina returned to Korea! I had previously met my aunt's family at the Chuseok holiday in October when they made us unlimited amounts of traditional Korean food for the "Thanksgiving" celebration. Then, my aunt's family showed us around the city of Gwangju and brought us to the side of a mountain to enjoy rice wine while we watched the sun set. That time, I had brought Britney and Shauna along to share this authentic Korean experience with me. This time, a bit selfishly, I went alone to enjoy my last weekend with my relatives before returning home.
I took the high speed KTX train after work on Friday and arrived in Gwangju around 12:30am. Thankfully Shina's brother was willing to pick me up. I stayed up late catching up with my aunt and uncle about their last visits in the United States, the moving process, and their much anticipated arrival back to Korea. This time around, their length of stay is indefinite. That just means I'll have to go back and visit! My uncle will continue teaching English as a professor while my aunt enjoys living near her family again.
Saturday we did a walking tour of my uncle's new campus where they live, enjoyed some local Korean food, and then headed to a baseball game. Outside the stadium is where you get your "goods" for the game. The most popular ones include: fried chicken and beer, pizza, and the normal assortment of dried seafood snacks. Take your pick from one of many vendors selling the same things. No such thing as dome dogs at this stadium! It was packed with fans from both teams with all sorts of noise making souvenirs. The game was a blast with fan cams, lots of fun Korean chants, icecream, and the eventual stadium lights after sunset. It was so fun that sadly, I can't even remember if they won or lost! Shows my interest in baseball and how much I was actually paying attention to the game, huh? I was just enjoying the time with my aunt and her family! After the game, we enjoyed a delicious samgyupsal (like thin strips of bacon on the table grills) meal. Not surprisingly, I fell in love with the my aunt's sister's children who I played with during the game and dinner, although we couldn't say a word to each other.
On Sunday, we met up with Shina's family again who drove us back up the same mountain we had gone for the sunset. This time we went much further until we reached restaurants running alongside a serene waterfall. There were people everywhere playing in the water, having picnics, and eating at the outdoor restaurants. We had a delicious spicy chicken meal with rice wine and the whole variety of delicious sides. Then, we joined everyone else splashing around in the water. I could have stayed there forever with my family. Once again, though we couldn't speak to each other as much as we would have liked, the smiles, hugs, and kisses were enough to express the love that everyone was feeling that day. I could tell how happy Shina's family was to have her and Bob back and to spend those last moments of my year in Korea with me.
We returned to the apartment, grabbed my things, and headed to the train station just in time for me to catch the KTX. Because we were so rushed, I didn't get to say a proper good bye to everyone who had come to send me off but were still out parking cars. This of course, was the beginning of my real farewells in Korea. I got closer to my dad's brother and his wife than I ever imagined in that year seeing them more often than I ever got to in the United States. Shina's family took me in as if they had known me forever. Just before I walked away, I lost it (the same way I am loosing it right now, writing this) as I hugged Shina's mother and nephew, who also began to cry. Saying good bye to Bob and Shina was hard, but not as hard as saying good bye to her family. I took some comfort in knowing I would see my aunt and uncle again next summer when they return for their son's wedding. But, not knowing when I would see her family again made it extremely hard to walk away this last time. Looking back, I have pictures and more pleasant memories with them than I ever dreamed I would have going to Korea. Still, I have peace in knowing that although it may be a long time before I see them again, I know it will not be the last.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Better Late Than Never...Vietnam!

Better late than never is really true about Vietnam. This is a trip I want to share with everyone as well as remember it for myself. It's been over two months since I last posted. After my half-marathon, it was hard to find a spare moment to write as I was busy enjoying every moment of my last two months as well as working furiously to get lots of psychological testing for seminary done. Apparently, they want to make sure you're aren't crazy if you're going to be a pastor. I hope they still allow me to become one! ;) Back to the subject I want to write about, Vietnam.

On July 24th, Britney, Shauna, and I took our final vacation during our time in Korea together. Here's what we did!
*Saturday, July 24th: We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam and Gecko Hostel around midnight. We read in the Lonely Planet book that most Vietnamese people go to bed around 11:00pm because they wake up so early (5:00am or earlier) to begin their day's work. That was absolutely true as we felt like we were driving through a deserted town with old buildings and no lights. We arrived by taxi and were led down a pitch black ally to our hostel. I'm sure you can imagine what was going through three white American girls' heads at this point...scary! It ended up being a wonderful, clean, and hospitable place to stay.
*Sunday, July 25th: We spent the morning with our kind hostel worker who helped us plan our entire week's travels. She set up every detail from transportation, meals, and lodging! That afternoon, we roamed our area of town with thousands of motor bikes zipping around freely. Getting the courage to cross roads took considerable time! There were markets and shops of every sort imaginable. It was a great place to see the work and lifestyle of the people. That night for dinner, we had the famous Pho soup off the street for a whopping $1, and it was delicious! Then, we headed off on an over night sleeper train (what a fun experience) to the mountains of Sapa.
*Monday, July 26th: We were picked up from the train, drove an hour up, up, up into the beautiful mountains of Sapa, checked into our hotel room, and had our delicious buffet breakfast. I still can't get over how absolutely breathtaking the view from our hotel room balcony was over looking the city of Sapa and the mountains. By 8:30am, we were walking with our private tour guide, Viet, to see some of the traditional tribal villages in the area.
Viet had quite the story. He was an original member of a tribe about 20kilometers from Sapa. When he was seven years old, he got lost in the mountains and couldn't find his way back. He walked for 10 days along a river surviving off of plants he knew about until he eventually found a different tribe. They didn't speak the same language, but the tribe understood he was lost and cared for him until they turned him over to the government. Eventually a French (who were some of the first people to discover Sapa) family took him in and began teaching him both French and English while he worked for them. As tourism started to grow in Sapa, he began working as a waiter in the hotel restaurants. By age 14, he begged the government to let him go back to his village. It took them 10 days to find it, and when he returned, his tribe tried to kill him as they thought he was an enemy! From what he remembered of his language, he began to speak with them until they realized who he was. Now, he is allowed to visit once or twice a year, BUT must come alone by foot (a 2-3 day walk) wearing only the traditional clothing...a leaf over his "you know what." Now, he's 29 years old and has been working in Sapa ever since as a wonderful tour guide!

Tuesday, July 27th: We woke up for a longer day of hiking to two more tribal communities. You can't go anywhere with out the tribal villagers begging you to buy their hand crafted goods. We were told that they hardly came into the city of Sapa until about two years ago. They never even used money until tourists slowly started buying things from them. Now, many women and children come to town and will even walk with you, all the way to the surrounding villages! They befriend you, practice their English (amazing what they learn from tourists!), hold your hand over the terrain, and give you flowers along the way with an end goal of trying to get you to buy (the cheapest things) from them. We were told not to talk to them, especially if you didn't want to buy anything. But, we couldn't resist. Both days, two absolutely adorable little girls followed us the entire way! The second day, two older girls walked and talked with us as well. Britney's purse broke along the way when she jumped down a hill, and the girls sewed her purse on the spot! They were absolutely sweet and kind, so of course we ended up getting pictures and buying things from them in the end!
These two days were by far the most beautiful and memorable of the trip. I felt like I was in a different world in the mountains that are more lush and green than I ever knew existed. Inside those mountains are beautiful rice terraces and hundreds of different existing tribes. It was another reminder of God's amazing work...I had trouble believing that what I was seeing was actually real! That evening we took another night train back into Hanoi.
Wednesday, July 28th: We arrived in Hanoi around 5am, showered at our hostel, and took off again for our next tour in Halong Bay. Our tour guide said you haven't been to Vietnam unless you've been to Halong Bay. In my opinion, you haven't been to Vietnam until you've been to Sapa. Halong Bay was certainly beautiful with thousands of cliff islands in the water, but for me, it didn't compare to the mountains. It was however a very fun and relaxing trip. We had a three night, three day boat tour. We spent the first day in the sun on the boat, touring a cave, kayaking, jumping off the boat and swimming. We had delicious meals on the boat, which I was proud of myself for eating, since they were mostly seafood! We slept on the boat and switched to a smalled boat the next day.

Thursday, July 29th: We took the small boat to an island where we were going to see a village. Shauna suggested we try the scooters since there was no traffic on the island. Although we were all a little hesitant, we decided it would be a blast. And a blast it was until the very end when Shauna wiped out around the last corner. Her big toe went from round to triangular very quickly. Thankfully, she only paid $30 for the broken motorbike, and other than her toe, she was just fine. On board our boat was a student in his first year of med school who was so excited to put his education into action! Shauna experienced quite a bit of pain over the next few days, but it didn't stop her from enjoying the trip. That evening, we landed on Catba Island and stayed in a hotel. We met some nice people our age and had a few drinks before heading to bed.
Friday, July 30th: After checking out the crowded beaches the day before, we opted for a day pass at a resort pool overlooking the ocean-perfect! Other than a few come and goers, we were the only people at the pool the entire day until we left at 5:00pm when lots of people began to appear. After much confusion as to why no one (literally!) was out enjoying the ocean and pool during the day while we were, we quickly figured it out that night after seeing our sun burns, despite the several applications of sunscreen we had put on the day! No one goes in the water during the day because of the intensity of the sun...duh! We spent the night at the hotel ready head back to Hanoi in the morning.
Saturday, July 31st: In the morning, we headed back on the small boat, rejoined our original tour boat, The Amigo, and headed towards shore. We had about three hours to relax and have lunch before our van ride back to the city. I'm sure our burns didn't help, but it was by far the most intense heat and humidity I have ever experienced! We arrived back in Hanoi that afternoon, did some souvenir shopping, and got packed to head home early in the morning.
On Sunday, August 1st, we were on our way back to Korea with a six hour lay over in China. This day wouldn't be worth mentioning, except that I did get detained in the airport for a while! I think I was experiencing some sort of heat stroke because I was freezing on the plane, so I had asked for a blanket, but woke up in a deep sweat. I should have taken off my sweater, but as we went through the heat sensors, I immediately knew I was going to get flagged. I saw a worker point to me, and before I knew it was getting snatched away from Britney and Shauna! They were already on the other side of the sensors when they turned back and saw me getting taken into a back room. My temperature was taken, and sure enough I had a high fever, so they slapped a mask on my face and told me I had to be taken to the hospital for tests! Eventually, I assured them that I was NOT staying in China, and was only on a layover back to Korea. So, once they realized I wasn't staying to infect their country, they sent me away making sure my mask did not come off! It was quite an adventure to say the least, but it turned out humorously in the end. I clearly wasn't feeling well as I slept through our entire lay over on the airport floor.
We made it home safely, reflected on our absolutely incredible vacation, and had to get ready to begin my last month of work the next day. The week before we arrived, a typhoon was moving through, but we were absolutely blessed with sunny weather the entire week! I had never imagined going to Vietnam, but it was by far a trip of a lifetime. We stayed in the North all week, but I would love to go back and work my way south some day. However, there are also numerous other places I want to see in the world now, too. See...aren't you glad I wrote about this trip? Better late than never, right?!

Monday, July 5, 2010

4th of July!

I woke up at 5:30am, jumped in a cab, and made it to Ansan by 7am. What was I doing up so early on the 4th of July? I registered for a half-marathon that had free registration for foreigners! I have wanted to do one since I got here, so this was the perfect chance. I decided to keep the tradition by doing a run on the 4th like I usually do in Hancock back home. This year I just upped the miles by ten! I was most definitely the first white face in the stadium where the race started. By 7:45am, there were more foreign faces from the Seoul Flyers group, which I signed up through. It seemed cool enough when the race started with a few sprinkles, but quickly turned into some pretty intense heat with the humidity. I felt great until I hit about mile 10 when the heat really started to affect me. I had done two half-marathons before, one in the fall and one in the spring. I had never run in this kind of heat as I had been doing late night runs here when it was plenty cool. The run was a complete blast, but painfully hot! I was really disappointed when my legs decided they just wouldn't run anymore. I was so close to the finish when I ended up doing a walk/run for about the last mile and half. Needless to say, it was the worst time of my three runs, but worth it none-the-less to say I have run a half-marathon in another country.
One highlight is as I came running into the stadium near the finish, a Korean woman crossed right over the race path. I tried to warn her with a shout, but I ended up plowing into her at full speed....oooops! Serves you right for walking through the race route lady. I sort of felt like that was all the pushes I've gotten from Koreans over the year all put into one back at her...hehe! Anyway, the most special part was that I came running into the stadium through the finish line all by myself. Shauna was right there watching her first half-marathon, capturing pictures of me while cheering me through the finish! It was so awesome to see her face as the race ended. I didn't think I would care if anyone came as I was just doing it for fun, but it was more than awesome to have her there with me! She took a two hour trek on the subway to stand waiting with her eyes glued to the finish line for over an hour waiting for me. Thanks Shauna! I was absolutely soaked in sweat by the end and have never drank so much water so fast in my life. In fast, I was so thirsty that I immediately chugged the rice wine the Koreans were excitedly handing me at the end of the race. They drink that at the end of any intensive physical activity. Not the greatest thirst quencher, I'll tell you that! Anyway, the race started at 9am, too late in the morning if you ask me, and we were on our way back to Suji by 12pm. I showered and we headed into Seoul by 2pm. Sadly, we had to take care of some business at the electronics market from the day before, but we both ended up with nice new cameras for our big Vietnam trip coming up in just three weeks. We ended our day of USA celebration, at I hate to say, our favorite CANADIAN bar with our favorite plate of nachos! Guilt free after my long run, I topped those off with Cold Stone. We headed back shortly after and I went to bed earlier than I can remember since I was in elementary school. I was in bed read that right mom! I have to admit it was nice to be around home (Suji) this weekend for the first time in over a month. With nothing planned over the next two weekends, my next stop is VIETNAM! I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July!

The Big Hike!

I have to admit I was more than nervous after I signed up for a 9-14 hour hike! Seoraksan National Park has the third highest peak, but the most beautiful views in all of Korea. The site had warned that this was not for first time hikers. Well, I've hiked before, but I wouldn't call myself a hiking pro by any means. I certainly had never done a 9-14 hour hike before! I consider myself to be in decent shape as I work out quite often. But, in my opinion, hiking is on a completely different fitness level! Britney and I spent the week prior preparing by purchasing hiking shoes, socks, energy filled snacks, and our head lamps to begin the hike before sunrise!
We headed into Seoul on Friday night after work for one of our favorite meals of chicken galbi. Then, we headed to the bus stop, met up with my friend Melissa who I had met on my biking trip, and hit the road with the DiscoverKorea group (run by an awesome Korean!) at 11:30pm. I didn't sleep more than an hour, so I continued to get nervous as I realized I'd be doing this hike off of a full work week and virtually no sleep. I would be pulling an all-nighter for one BIG hike! We arrived early and began our hike at 2:30am (as opposed to the 3:30am scheduled time). The weather was bitterly cold at that time, something I had not prepared for as it was very warm in Suji. Thankfully we warmed up right away as the hike began. The first two hours of the hike were told to be the hardest, which we found true, but definitely not unbearable. After the first hour, we were feeling confident that we could definitely make the full 14 hour hike to the beautiful view. This was my first hike starting in the dark, but it was by far the most exciting part of the hike for me! My head lamp worked wonders, and it was a blast following the trail with a single light in front of you. As time went on, the group spread out, but we stuck around about ten others.
By 5am, we had light with mountains surrounding us on every side. There were points where it literally felt like we were on the floating Hallelujah Mountains in the Avatar film, of which I am a BIG fan! It was mysterious with the fog and jagged mountains all around. I went from hot to cold at several different points until we reached the first shelter by 6:30am. We rested a while as we were ahead of schedule, and just as we were about to start out again, the clouds opened and the rains began to pour. Again, I was unprepared for this, with the exception of an umbrella which would have been really hard to hike with! Thankfully we were able to buy HUGE ponchos that covered all the gear on our backs. We headed out for a one hour down hill hike to the next shelter where we had to decide if we were going to do the full 14 hour hike. Let me tell you...going down is much less fun than going up. My knees were in pain by the time we reached the second shelter. Sadly, at this point we had to make the decision not to complete the full hike. It was a major disappointment as I knew this was my once chance to hike Seoraksan before I left. We had heard that no matter how far you hike, it's possible to get to a certain point where the park rangers will have you turn around and hike back the same way you came because it can be too slippery from rain. That would be a LONG way back! We also knew that it wasn't going to be worth it even if we could make it to the top as the fog had become so dense that there would be no view at all. With regret we chose to start the three hour decent.
Hiking down was 100% beautiful, but just as painful as the first down hill hour. The rain had not stopped since it started at 7am. I got to a point were I was just too hot with my poncho trapping in the heat that I decided to take it off, wrap it around my backpack, and take the rain for the rest of the hike. Health-wise, it probably wasn't the best choice, but I was far more comfortable with the cool rain. We hiked down the mountains for three hours into an absolutely incredible valley! If you looked up, it was almost as if you couldn't see the tops of the mountains on either side of you. Below and besides us were streams, waterfalls, and pools of crystal clear water where you could see every stone at the bottom. If the weather had been nice and hot, they would have been a blast to take a swim in. Despite the fact that we were unable to complete the full 14 hour hike, we still saw some absolutely breath-taking views during our decent. I kept reminding myself that something that beautiful could only have been created by God. We made it to the final rest stop of many at 1pm. Our hike ended four hours early due to the rain. However, we still hiked for 10.5 hours with the exception of a few relaxing stops as we knew we were no longer on a time schedule once we made the choice to hike down. At the last rest point, there was a restaurant where many people enjoyed hot food and Korean rice wine, a tradition on and after long hikes. From there, we had one more hour of flat hiking until the true bottom where there was a beautiful Buddhist temple and some traditional Korean restaurants. There is also were you can take the cable cars to the top, if you're not up for the big hike. At this point we caught the bus back to town.
We made it back into the town we were staying at around 5pm and headed to a jimjilbang (jin-ji-bong), a Korean sauna. It usually costs no more than 7,000 won ($7) where you can shower, sit in hot tubs, and even spend the night...which many foreigners do after a night of drinking if they don't want to pay for a cab home. They are everywhere! It's usually a family event...a very strange one if you ask me. It was my first and probably last experience, but I had to try it once while I was here. This is how it went. You pay, get a towel, and drop your shoes off right away. Then, you get a locker, drop your clothes and head into the bath rooms. Here you sit on little stools to wash your hair and body before you get in the tubs. After that, you have the choice of three different temperature hot tubs, one cold bath, and two saunas. You can also get a massage. All of this is a communal event....done naked...completely. Even the person giving the massage is naked. EEEK! Let me just tell you that I never showered publicly (not even on teams in high school) until I came to Korea. Then, I realized the showers at my gym were luxury compared to my all-inclusive toilet, sink, and shower bathroom in my apartment. I also figured I could save on my hot water bill if I showered at the gym every day! fear of being naked ended here. I started showering at the gym surrounded by Koreans every day. Now, I was sitting in hot tubs with them too. Oh the stares you get as a white girl with no hair, a belly button ring, and a tattoo! But, it would even be more awkward if you tried to wear a swimming suit at the jimjilbang as being naked is really what it's all about there! When you're finished with all the tubs, you can shower once more before getting dressed and leaving. It was quite the experience, but I think I'll stick to only being clothless in the gym more jimjilbangs for me!
That night we had a group dinner of cheeseburgers that that were made on mini-grills in one of our pension rooms. Until the 11pm Korea soccer game came on, a group of girls headed to grab icecream and walk along the beach. When we failed to get our sparklers lit, a Korean (slightly under the influence) came and tried to help us. Without success, he marched right back to the convenience store we purchased them at, let the workers "have it," and marched right back with new ones that he helped us light. He was SO excited to be helping the foreign girls. Before we knew it, we were sitting right by the water with him and his wife while they practically force fed us one chewy meat, which we think may have been some sort of foot, and Soju. His wife was absolutely adorable as she laughed and pounded her feet on the sand at the minimal conversation we could make with her husband. At one point we were even doing yoga with her as she walked around our circle pushing us down to be more flexible. What a hoot!
We finally made it back to our pension around 10:45pm. At the point, I was less than interested in a soccer game. I got ready for bed at crashed on the floor mats in our room of eight girls. This means I also missed the 3:30am USA game, which some people really did stay up for! I slept until 11:30am the next day, packed my bags and headed to the beach for a long morning nap, while the majority of the group went to a lavender festival about an hour from the town we were in. It sprinkled a little, but I slept the majority of the day on the beach until we departed at 4pm. It was a beautiful ride home through more mountains. I had a great weekend, was so happy to spend it with my friend Melissa on her last weekend in Korea, and saw some incredible views despite the rain! I have to admit, I spent all last week a little under the weather from hiking wet so long, but it was well worth it. While we didn't make it to the peak, I am so happy to have made it to Seoraksan during my time here. If I ever make it back to Korea, which is a definite possibility with my aunt and uncle moving back for 10 years, Seoraksan National Park will be on the top of my list to see again!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Powerful Pohang!

Finally! I have been telling London (a co-worker) all year that I wanted to go to Pohang with her, to see the city and visit her boyfriend Fred. We finally made it happen last weekend. Two train rides and a bus later, we made it to Pohang shortly after 12:30am on Friday evening. We checked into our love motel and headed out for a night stroll along the beach, which is literally a five minute walk from Fred's house. Although it was a bit misty, we walked along the sidewalk and stopped for some stuffed squid street food. I was proud of myself for trying a bite, but definitely don't need to eat it ever again. We headed to bed hoping for sun, despite the rainy forecast.

Wrong again! Just like the weekend of my bike trip, the forecast couldn't have been more inaccurate. We started the day well with a new meal (10 months in!) of Bibim-Mandu. Then, we spent the entire afternoon laying on the beach just minutes from Fred's apartment. We talked, read books, napped, got smoothies and pretzels at Tom & Tom's Coffee across the road, and watched the Koreans playing on the beach and their jet skis. Every one of us (except 55 SPF sunscreen Britney) came back a little more pink than had hoped for. That evening, I went out for a solo dinner of Bibimbop while Fred, London, Britney, and Shauna went for an all out clam dinner at a restaurant right across from the ocean. Since their dinner took much longer than mine, I joined them for drinks and conversation with a beautiful view of the water and night sky. Once again, I tried a bite, but just can't find myself taking pleasure in seafood like many people do, despite how truly delicious it looked! The highlight of the evening for me was lighting fireworks off on the beach. You can buy hand held fireworks from a women on the beach and light them off right there. It was my first time with fireworks, and it was such a blast on a clear, warm night. We ended the evening out on the town visiting Fred's favorite bars and meeting many of his friends.
We woke up Sunday to more sunshine, started the day with more cheap Korean food, and headed back to the beach. Unfortunately, London and Fred couldn't join us due to the sun burns they had from the day before. Again, we relaxed with books and shut eye, but were less comfortable from the even hotter weather. We kept joking (well...sort of) that one of the Korean guys on jet skis would invite us out for a ride. Before we knew, it Britney and I were accepting the offer to hop on! All we understood was, "You. Together. Jet ski." "OK!" We couldn't even see the guys face as even the people on the water are covered literally from head to toe in shoes, pants, long sleeve shirts, masks, and sunglasses! With Korea being an exception to all safety rules, we hopped on without hesitation (yes with life-jackets mom)! The rides were short but sweet and a much needed break to cool off from the heat of the sun. The Koreans were very kind and happy to have given the cute white girls in bikinis a ride on their water toys. We ended the afternoon with one more stop at Tom & Tom's Coffee and headed back on our four hour bus ride around 5pm. Although, I would love to go back to Pohang with London again, I'm sad to say that it won't happen since London is heading back home in July before I have another open weekend to travel. Her and Fred are taking a month off to visit home before coming back to teach together for one more year in Suji. I'm so glad that I was able to go even once. We were absolutely blessed with the perfect weather making our weekend an absolute success. Next stop...hiking at Seoraksan National Park!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup!

My weekend trips are continuing to brings loads of fun in different places around Korea! This weekend, Shauna and I went to visit a Gustie friend, Aaron Mayo in Daegu. We woke up Saturday morning, headed to the train station, and crashed in our luxury seats (more like recliners, foot rests and all) until we arrived three hours later. We freshened up at Aaron's apartment and headed downtown to get a short city tour and begin the weekend's World Cup festivities! Due to a size mistake, I had to buy a second World Cup shirt off the streets to make sure I would fit in with all the red supporters running around.
We met lots of Aaron's friends around 6:00pm and hung out at no other than a 7 Eleven convenience store to enjoy a few drinks pre-game drinks and the prime people watching. Of course, I met more people from MN who knew friends of mine from home. I swear half the state of MN works in Korea! Around 8:00pm, we headed to Du-Ryu Park where thousands of people we packed into every inch to watch the Korea vs Greece game on a big screen T.V. (which really wasn't that big). It was incredible to hear the chants and cheers among the red shirts and light up devil horns. It ended up that we couldn't get a get view of the screen without being told to sit down, so we picked a nice spot to enjoy the perfect evening weather and friend's company. We "watched" the game, judging when Korea had scored or made a mistake, according to the screams and excitement of the crowd. When we knew Korea was going to win, we headed back downtown around 10:30pm.
At this point, we had five hours until the start of the US vs. England game, which we were definitely sticking around for! We re-visited our 7 Eleven and met lots more of Aaron's friends as we wandered the area. We even met a fellow Gustie (graduate of '98) who had been teaching in Korea for the past three years. Around 1:00am, to pass the time, we headed to a restaurant to enjoy some food and get rest. I have to note a funny event that happened to Shauna and I. At this point, we were painfully tired, not knowing if we were going to make it to the USA game. We hardly said a word as everyone around us who was still enjoying lots of conversation and drinks. Out of nowhere, a girl we had met that evening suddenly questioned, "I just have to ask...are you two 'together'?" Our response, "Ahhhh......I mean yes, we came to Daegu together, but......" We were literally speechless! We didn't know how to respond, so before we could even process, she restated the question, "So you're friends?" Ha..."YES!" After thinking about the conversation later, we still don't know if she thinks we're a couple or just friends. Either way, it was so random and more than funny! We have no idea what we were doing that night that gave her any indication we were "together!?"
Time passed, and by 3:00am, we were heading to a bar to watch the US vs. England game. Did you think we weren't going to make it? For a few hours, time passed slower than I have ever experienced, but it was all worth it for our game! We met the funniest British guy who entertained us with his accent and his new Korean "friend" who he had also just met that evening. We spent hours watching the game and making conversation with both, hearing the same story over and over from the Korean guy. Approximately every 20 minutes, Ju-Min continued to tell us that his brother is from our area, he thinks Suji is boring, and named half of the subway stops on the yellow line that we live on (thanks...we know). This may not sound funny to you, but imagine hearing that repeated to you from 4:00-5:00 in the morning while you are more than sleep deprived. The giggles just happen to set in! By 6:00am, we walked outside to find the bright morning sun above our heads. We made it back to Aaron's, changed in to glasses and sweat pants, and headed directly to the train station. Shauna and I feel asleep the second (literally) we sat down on the subway, and went two stops past the train station. So we had to turn around and head back in the opposite direction before making it there around 8:00am. It was perfect timing to catch an 8:30am train. Again, we crashed the entire way home, setting an alarm to wake us before our stop, or we surely wouldn't have gotten off! Shauna and I were home by 12pm this Sunday afternoon. We both went home, directly to sleep from about 1:00-6:00pm this evening! Needless to say, it will be an early evening for me tonight. We left at 10:00am Saturday morning and were home by noon today. It was a short but completely worth while trip to visit Aaron and start off the World Cup celebrations! If case you're wondering, my heart (and body) are in Korea for the year, so not to betray my home country, but I'm rooting for Korea this year! Dae-Han-Min-Guk! Next stop...Pohang!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Island Get Away!

I have to admit, after the rain in Busan last weekend, I was more than disappointed when I saw another weekend of rain in the forecast. Thank goodness it was 100% wrong! I couldn't convince Britney and/or Shauna to sign up with me, so I registered myself for an Adventure Korea (a group that organizes travels around Korea) trip on my own. I spent the weekend biking around the Seonydo/Gogunsan Islands with clear a blue sky and sunshine. They are so small that they are connected by bridges with no roads and hardly any motorized vehicles. Most of the 200 people that live there ride bikes or drive golf carts. Lots of older tourists get chauffeured around the islands in these as well. There are just a few seafood restaurants, a church, hotel, and a few small houses, with lots of fisherman working along the shores.
Sadly, I had to dip out of our staff party early on Friday night due to my early morning departure. We had a delicious galbi dinner to say good bye to our Korean supervisor, Rebecca who will be greatly missed at LCI. It was also to celebrate to completion of all our Open Class days. I went home around 10:30pm and missed out on the night of Noraebong (not too worried- many more to come). I left my apartment at 5:45am, took the subway into Seoul, and jumped on the bus. I was obviously a little nervous going into this myself and know it was a "God thing" when I sat down right next to a girl who had also signed up alone. We immediately hit it off and ended up spending the weekend with the two girls in the seat in front of us. I slept the entire bus ride to the ferry and then some until we arrived on the islands around 12:30pm. We were on our bikes by 1:00pm stopping every five minutes to appreciate and capture the beauty of the islands. We biked up until we had to return them at 6:00pm, watched a beautiful sunset, and had a clam soup and seasoned pork dinner. The bright sun and fresh air must have worn me right down, because I was sleeping by 9:45pm. That might be the earliest I've gone to bed since I was in 5th grade!
I was glad I went to bed when I did because my group of girls woke up at 4:50am to catch the 5:30am sunrise. Sunsets/rises are always gorgeous, but watching the sun go down and come up over mountains and still ocean water is really something else. Again, I was humbled by the absolute sublime in nature that can only be credited to our creator. While it was completely worth the early wake up, I was ready for bed again by 5:45am. We slept until breakfast time and spent the morning walking along the shore learning how to catch shell fish (putting salt in the holes of the sand make them pop up to grab) and experiences what is called Moses Miracle. When the tide is low, roads to the small islands off the shore appear making it look as if the water has parted for you to walk on. It was pretty spectacular! I spent my last hour getting my first crisp color of the season and a good nap on the beach of a beautiful island. Our ferry back to the mainland left at 2:30, and I arrived home in Suji around 8:00pm on Sunday evening. I am proud of myself for signing up to do this trip that I was so interested in after it was suggested by a co-worker. My nerves proved to be meaningless as I met a wonderful group of girls (Del from Toronto, Melissa from Seattle, Becky from Ireland, and Susan (about the age of my mother) from Canada) who I spent the weekend with! I hope to meet up with them again soon. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend!