Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jeju Island

It really it like the Hawaii of Korea. Well I can’t say from experience because I have never been to Hawaii but white sand, volcano rocks and crystal water sounds same- same to me.
It was only a 55-minute flight to Jeju from Seoul. We arrived early Saturday morning and had a full day packed of activities. First we took a bus to a smaller island named Udo, where we rented bikes and rode around the island. Udo is a small fishing village that is famous for the fishing ajumma. They are a group of elderly (like 60+) women who everyday strap on the wetsuits, rain or shine and collect seaweed and shellfish from the freezing water. Brittany and I enjoyed some of their hard labor at lunch. We had a wonderful fresh raw seafood plate and some nice cold Cass-uh.

After our bike ride we took the ferry back to the mainland and climbed up to the top of a carter. I think it was a couple thousand steps straight up but once we got to the top the view was amazing. We could see the whole island. Next up the dude ranch. I was really looking forward to doing some horseback riding. The experience ended up being pretty funny, mostly because we had to wear red vest and cowboys hats. I believe it is the Korean way to always wear the complete and appropriate outfit for every activity. Horseback riding consisted of going around in a circle with someone leading my horse. I did get to do one lap trotting which was exciting but I think the whole horseback-riding excursion lasted all of 20minutes.

We made our way to the accommodations at the beach just in time to catch a breathtaking sunset. As a group we enjoyed a traditional Korean BBQ style dinner and a classic beach bonfire. I called it an early night and set my alarm for 9am so I could wake up really early and catch as much sun as possible.

It was an unusually perfect day in Korea, not a cloud in sight and the sun was out in full force. I wasn’t expecting Jeju to have such clear green water and soft white sand. Probably one of the top beaches I have ever been to. Our group had a whole day of activities planned beginning at 11am, Chinese acrobats, a sex sculpture park and cave exploring. The weather at the beach was so prefect Brittany and I couldn’t bear to leave. We did the very un-Korean thing and separated from the group, letting them know we would meet up with them later at the airport.
Boy did I get my fill of the sun. We clocked in a total of 6 hours at the beach without any sunscreen. By the time I got to the airport I was feeling the full affects of my day in the sun. When I began to get chills and a fever I was worried it could be sun poisoning. I woke up on Monday with blisters on my chin and forehead. I really don’t know what I was thinking. My skin hasn’t really seen any sun for 4 months and the sun in Jeju was very intense. As if not being able to move or take shower wasn’t bad enough, the looks I got a school were horrifying. My co-teacher had a hard time understanding how I could get so burned. Koreans always wear sunscreen, gloves, arm sleeves, a full face visor and carry an umbrella to protect their skin from any direct sunlight. Which probably explains why there was only a handful of Asians on the beach and a bunch of Westerns. My whole school was pretty mortified by my alarming skin color. I am going to blame it on the fact I haven’t been to the beach in months for my intentional ignorance about skin damage.

Jeju was beautiful. Who would have ever thought you could find such paradise in Korea?

Monday, June 8, 2009

the Sunday wrap up

The weeks just keep flying by. I can’t believe it’s already summertime. School doesn’t get out here until the middle of July so still got seven more weeks of class and then three weeks of summer camp before my vacation. I am just dying to get back Thailand, less then 60 days till departure.
I guess I should mention the craziness that is North Korea, seeing how is only a couple hundred kilometers away. I don’t think my information is any different from what you hear back in the states. The South Koreans don’t seemed phased or concerned by the recent aggressive actions of Kim Jung Ill. They are confident the world is supporting them and I am sure the huge US military presence here is also a confronting factor. They are still hopeful for a united country, just his week my students made some beautiful unification posters. Not sure how that would go down, North and South seem like night and day to me but peace is always the best resolution. Lets hope for change.

On the weekend front I had to make a really tough decision. It was serious agony. Choice 1: Go camping and to the beach on the east coast for the weekend with all my mates.
Choice 2: Stay home all weekend without my besties but go see KASKADE Saturday night.
I’ve never had such an internal battle. I spent all day Friday weighing both options and couldn’t make up my mind. I literally had my bag packed to go camping was getting ready to go out the door but something stopped me. I glanced over at my wall that is scattered with a handful of my pictures from all the Kaskade shows I’ve been to. I mean how could I really pass up an opportunity to see my favorite DJ play an international show and what kind of poser would that make me. So I had to stay true to my passion, choice #2 it was.
I spent Saturday lounging in the park and buying some produce at the market but it felt a little weird not being with my sidekicks. Luckily my good friend Sarah was more then willing to get all dolled up and dance the night away with me.
The night started out a little rocking. As I was standing in the subway my heel unexpectedly broke. I usually never wear heels out and I was now defiantly regretting the decision. As I was hobbling out of the subway on one foot, my lucky stars aligned. A street shoe repairman! This guy was serious and well equipped to handle the job. What he did was nothing short of surgery. There was hot tar, screwdrivers, a torch, screws, nails and glue all involved just to get my heel back in place. After 45 minutes and five dollars he had fixed my shoe. Thank god because only having one pump would have really ruined my outfit.
Kaskade played an amazing show as usual. A three-hour set that got everyone jumping. I was front and center the whole time, taking way too many pictures, which really pissed the bouncer off. Whoops! A magical evening indeed beside the fact I woke up to a broken camera, no clue how I managed to crack the screen but lets just hope the Costco warrantee covers nights at the club.

Sunday was spent in usual recovery mode. The weather was actually quite nice lately this weekend but this week was more like a rollercoaster of weather patterns. Monday was hot and clear, Tuesday was cloudy and warm, Wednesday there was rain, thunder and lightening, Thursday to Sunday was hot and pleasant. This is too confusing for me; I really don’t understand this whole season thing. I mean I am use to San Diego, a mild 70 degrees with scattered clouds, that’s weather no?
Looking forward to this week heading to Jeju island “the Hawaii of Korea.” Brittany and I are going with an online meet up adventure group, so private plane and planned activities all weekend. We are going to be renting bikes and cruising around the island. Means I get to see the ocean, its been way to long and I am in need of an open water swim. Got to get my camera gets fixed in time to capture it all.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Korean Love

So now that I have got a pretty regular schedule everyday; school, swim, dinner, sleep and very fabulous best friends. I am getting very comfortable in my new groove but I am worried that all the strange little things that use to stand out to me when I first got here have now become the norm. Rides on the subway are no longer hour-long people watching sessions but just a mundane activity of a couple hundred Koreans and me.

Let me share my new favorite obsession, Korean couples. They are the best and the most extreme ever! There are certain rules that apply if you want to be in a Korean relationship (see list below)
• Must act like you are in a TV drama all the time. This means the girl is crying, ignoring her boyfriend and only speaking by using different pitches of whining.
• Need to have matching promise rings.
• Text each other at least 100 times a day.
• The man must carry the girl’s purse.
• Walk each other to the subway and hold your hands against the windows until the train takes off acting like you are parting ways for eternity but then immediately texting each other when eye contact is lost.
• The ultimate sign of affection is the matching outfits! I kid you not, this is a phenomena. Korean couples actually wear matching outfits, head to toe out in public. I have seen girls wearing the same shoes, t-shirt and men’s jeans as their boyfriend and men wearing the same shorts and hoodie as their girlfriend. I have heard there are actual stores dedicated to this fashion crime. I don’t know where these couples are going and why it would ever require them to wear identical outfits but it does make my day whenever I spot one. (I secretly cant wait to wear one)

I am “so Korean” lately. I have expanded my vocabulary to three words. I know pretty amazing, it only took 12 weeks but seriously I can actually distinguish words now. I can also adequately get to and from my house via taxi. I have pretty much mastered the subway. I can make Kimbap (Korean sushi) and Korean men love me! I think I am turning Korean

Last Thursday after swim practice a group of Ajeoiss (older men) invited me out for soju (rice alcohol). Seeing how I had stood them up last Friday which made them “very angry at you Mardy, we drink lots Soju so angry you no come.” I felt more then obligated to go, plus I wouldn’t mind actually making some friends at my pool. Since I am convinced that the locker room attendant who follows me around with a mop every time I walk to my locker has gotten all the Ajumma (older women) to hate me. I can’t tell if the guys in my lane think because I am the only one who does flip turns I must be intentional trying to splash water in their face.
Other then that everyone is very friendly, lady that works in to pro shop even ordered me special speed fins. They are all very impressed by my swimming especially since I politely agreed when they asked if I was a professional. But in my defense, I did beat their fastest swimmer in a race by a couple body lengths.
So soju with the Ajeoiss turned out to be very entertaining evening. After 6 or 7 bottles all their English had to deteriorated to inaudible and they began an elaborate game of charades. They were so funny and were very excited to teach me Korean customs. Such as; you must never pour your own shot, always hold your glass with your right hand and left when receiving, how full you pour the shot is how much you like person (they liked to make mine over flowing) and you never split the bill, one person always picks up the whole thing!

The rest of the weekend was pretty typical. Friday night in Bucheon, yummy Indian food and drinking on the streets with a group of Korean guys who tried to teach use Korean. Saturday was a beautiful day. We spent the day lounging in the park then sippin Coronas at a beer garten. We joined some friends for a nice BBQ on a rooftop that had an awesome view of Seoul tower. Saturday night turned into Sunday morning like it always does somehow. Since the weather has been so gorgeous I can’t bear wasting another Sunday sleeping all day. So I trekked it across town to join some friends for a baseball game. The LG Twins played the Kia Lions and the stadium was packed. Couldn’t even find a seat but $5 bucks for a professional game, can’t complain.
Its Monday afternoon and the week is off to a spectacular start. Just booked my 17-day holiday in Thailand! Only 67 days till I am back in paradise. But what makes this the ultimate week is that my number uno DJ and love of my life, KASKADE is coming to Seoul on Saturday. I am one very happy dancing queen : )