It has been a bit since the last time I wrote, but for those of you who may give these a read, I promise that this’ll be the general spacing of my posts- one every two weeks arriving on a Wednesday or Thursday. Outside of the website, which I write a thousand plus words a week for, I have another massive writing project I’m working on that I’ll reveal a little more on at a later date if it turns into anything but a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. The jury’s still out yet on that.
It’s kind of crazy to think that it’s been nearly two and a half months since I came here. I’ve gotten fairly comfortable and established a routine, and am weathering the inevitable culture shock cycle as best as I can. It’s easier now after Peru as I know what to look for, and while my mind might be full of uncharitable thoughts at all of the Korean customs and tendencies that are annoying me now, I won’t write about them as I know that in a few months I’ll probably love a few and have come to terms with some of the others.
I’ve also been busy trying to get out of town on the weekends and see a bit more of this country, which has been both harrowing and gratifying at the same time. My last two weekends capture that perfectly.
Two weekends ago I went along with a group of fellow Tongyeong English teachers to the nearest extra-large city, Busan, to check out its International Fireworks Festival. It’s location was beautiful- a public beach facing the largest local bridge- their (albeit much smaller) Golden Gate equivalent.
This was also Halloween, so we made our way down to the beach sporting our “costumes”, which were basically crazy facial hair concoctions (mine was a two foot long fu manchu) meant to imitate the World Beard and Mustache Championships. Even with fake hair and spirit gum, we couldn’t hold a candle to those guys.
Mine wasn’t long for this world, as soon after we had arrived it began to rain, a spirit-gum dissolving drizzle that would keep up for the entire hour-long fireworks show. Thankfully, the fireworks themselves were amazing, and I didn’t realize how soaked I was until well after they were over. Here’s a few pics I stole off the internet (my camera is no good for nighttime photographs):
Last weekend, I decided to hook up with a buddy back from Peace Corps days to check out some fall colors. The best pictures from this section are hers, although I did use her camera to snap the one at the temple.
The destination was the National Park of Naejangsan, the ‘san’ portion of that name tipping you off that it centered on a mountain. I’ll get the harrowing portion of the tale out of the way first. We made sure to get there early, as that weekend was popularly considered ‘the best’ for viewing the leaves, meaning that we would have a lot of Korean company before too long.
We climbed to the peak without incident, only to find that the top was enshrouded in mist, and the view nonexistent. The mist itself was interesting enough, but we found out its downside when we started to descend. It had rained the day before, and the mist kept everything nice and moist, especially the steep rocks we had to clamber down. My boots, ideal for climbing on dry surfaces, took the opportunity to turn into dual slip-‘n-slides, and the run-down, vaguely Soviet looking stairs (loosely named- most of them were as steep as ladders) and rocks became quite a bit more treacherous.
I had just resolved myself to never knowing what a solid surface felt like again when we started to run into the tour bus groups climbing up and choking the narrow route back down. I think one form Hell might take is falling on your ass repeatedly throughout eternity as a line of gaudily-clad old Korean women stream over and past you with disapproving looks permanently etched in their faces.
On the plus side, the fall colors we saw both before and after the hike were vivid and beautiful, and the ever-present Buddhist temple in the park was especially serene and exotic with the autumn colors and descending mist forming its background. Here’s some pictures, and maybe next time I’ll try and write a post a week instead of subjecting you all to such a long one…