Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dramatic Island Adventure, Bumming Around Seoul, and Sad Goodbyes!

Since it has been more than a week (and a PACKED one at that) since I last updated, I've split this week into two entries.  Read about our adventure to Jeollanamdo by scrolling down or clicking here, then pick up back with this entry.

Monday morning I awoke early for work and paused a moment to hate Monica and Carl for getting to sleep in.  They spent the day exploring Namdaemun Market and we met for dinner at Outback in Jamsil.  Holy cheese fries and steak it was delicious.  Tuesday I went to work again and they were off (in the rain and gross weather) to Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine (which is closed on Tuesdays, DAMN YOU VISITKOREA.CO.KR!)  Tuesday night we met up in Itaewon because I had to (that sounds like it was forced, but it was a pleasure) have dinner with the Dasi Hamkke Girls.  All of us went to Pattaya, a fantastic Thai restaurant just off the main road in Itaewon, where Carl and Monica ate separately so the girls could talk business. Erica (one of our translators) went home to America to study for/take the LSATs, so it was a bittersweet meeting where we had to say goodbye to one of us.  After dinner we all went down to Bungalow, a fun bar where Carl and Monica joined us and we had a lively and very interesting discussion/debate about North Korea and the sinking of the Cheonan.  It was a very fun night, and I will never complain about the Korean government buying me dinner and drinks.

Wednesday dawned sunny and beautiful and I happened to have the day off because it was my school's "birthday" (aka, anniversary of being opened).  We decided to take advantage of the day and head out to one of my favorite Seoul escapes: Nami Island.  I've now done Namiseom in all three seasons that I've lived here: autumn (beautiful and cool), winter (icy and deadly), and spring (beautiful and warm).  As per usual we took the bus that leaves from Insadong at 9:30am, so we got there around 11:00am.  As the bus pulled into the parking lot we passed a huge group (I am talking 300+) of high schoolers walking through the parking lot in their uniforms.  In an attempt to not be caught up with all that craziness, we rushed to board the boat and stayed near the front, inside the closed cabin area (even though I am always an out-on-the-deck kind of girl).  About 40 of the high schoolers ended up on our boat, in addition to various families, groups of high schoolers not in uniform who appeared to have the day off, etc.  Now let me clearly state that the entire ride from the "mainland" over to Nami Island is, according to their literature and personal experience, five minutes long.  Ok.  So we were about 3 minutes into the ride when a woman from the back comes up and frantically says something to the Nami Island staff member who is standing right next to us.  It is, of course, in Korean, so we don't know what she said.  We looked toward the back of the boat where she was pointing, but we couldn't really see anything other than kids kind of surging towards the deck, in a way that I thought was indicative of a fight breaking out.  We looked in the water as the boat turned, but we didn't see anything.  We spent the last two minutes of our ride discussing what might have happened and when we got to the pier everyone got off the boat and stood around right on the shore, looking out at the water.  A group of about 6 small speedboats was dispatched and was clearly looking for something in the water.  We stood around debating what was going on for a while and watched a group of distraught non-uniformed high schoolers before Carl finally got out the phrase book and creepered (yup, made it a word) up to this group of high school boys.  In broken Korean, Carl said "" to which a Korean kid responded in perfect English "Yeah, a drowning."  Hahahaha, I love Korea.  We later learned from news stories that a sixteen year old girl had been heading over to the island to have a picnic lunch with her friends.  While on the ferry she either climbed up on or sat on the railing on the back of the boat to take a picture of the other girls she was with.  Something happened and she fell off the railing and into the water where she drowned.  Her body was not found for more than 4 hours.  Now there are a lot of crazy/suspicious/confusing things about this story.  For one, this is not some raging river, it is fairly calm.  Second, no one jumped in and no one threw a life preserver.  Are you kidding? I mean, I know she was mostly surrounded by kids who were probably caught up in the moment, but really, no one threw a LIFE RING?  I have no question in my mind that I would have jumped in after her had we been at the back of the boat.  We also looked in the water minutes if not seconds after she fell in and saw nothing.  She didn't struggle or float at all?  I mean, you'd think we would have at least seen her thrashing around in the water.  That is just survival instinct kicking in, right?  Anyway, it was quite sad.  And I guess the moral of the story is that you're safe travelling WITH me, but not AROUND me.  First a girl falls of a cliff and breaks her back, now a girl falls of a boat and drowns?  I'm bad luck to travelling strangers.

After standing around for a while we decided to head down into the interior of the island.  While walking, we would randomly hear a shriek and suddenly find ourselves face to face with a middle schooler who wanted to take a picture with us.  It was so random.  Throughout the day we were asked to take photos 8 times, on over 12 cameras.  One pair even pulled over their tandem bicycle, jumped off, took a picture with us, and then biked away.  Gotta love being celebrities simply for being WHITE in Korea.  We headed for the tri-way rental area, and picked up three tri-ways for an hour.  I love those things.  We zipped around the island (including through massive mud puddles) for an hour, having a good time.  

Monica looking cute and matching the lanterns.

We are (obviously) too cool for words.

Monica zipping off into the great unknown.

 Memorial on the island.


Scary ostriches that were after Carl.

Pond with rocks and pagoda.  I wonder if this is supposed to look like that place I visited last month.

Jindo dog that lives on the island.  It has grown so much since I was there in January!

Workers planting rice.

Bright green rice waiting to be separated and planted.

A couple enjoying the beautiful day.

Lovely views surrounding the island.

The ferry FINALLY came back for us.

Looking back toward the "mainland".  You can see a few of the rescue boats still out.

Rescue boat with diver.

After our ride was over we got some fantastic grilled chicken at a restaurant I had never been to on the island.  It was delicious.  We had a little longer to kill before we had to ferry back to get on the bus so we walked around for a bit, walking out to the very tip of the island before returning to the ferry.  When we got down to the pier we realized that the ferry schedule was running much slower because they were only running one instead of two (the other was taken out of commission after the girl fell).  We waited a long time and when the next ferry loaded we were   stopped just before boarding because there were too many people.  We waited again and just as we were boarding the next ferry my phone rang and I picked up only to find some guy talking to me in Korean.  Just as I was hanging up, Monica said "maybe it is the guy from the bus" since we were running late.  Oops.  Turned out that it was the guy, and he was just calling to make sure we were still coming.  Oh well.  We got back on the bus and had a super quick ride back to Seoul.  

Since it was such a beautiful day we decided that we might as well take advantage of it so we went up to the Seoul Namsan tower.  We killed a little time walking around looking at the love locks, and then we zipped up to the top observation area.  It was beautiful.  Definitely the clearest day I've been up there.  It is so overwhelming to me, seeing the city all spread out like that.  I live in an utterly gigantic metropolis. We stuck around for over an hour to watch the sunset (so worth it) and then took the cable car down (soooo Boys Over Flowers).  We walked for a bit attempting to find a subway station and ended up in Myeongdong where Monica got couple wear for her and Chris (hilarious) and we got some street food for dinner.  Finally we headed home around 10:00pm (no wonder I'm still sleep schedule got all out of whack for those two) where we grabbed some gimbab for dinner (Carl accidentally got cheejuh/cheese gimbab instead of chamchi/tuna, which was alright, but not nearly as delicious as chamchi) and went to bed.

City spread out around Mt. Namsan.

Love lock.

This city is HUGE!

Skyscrapers as far as you can see.

Love the shadow cast by the tower.

This view is a quick way to make yourself feel small.

Beautiful and overwhelming.

Sunset beginning.

Really beautiful, even though there was a lot more Asian dust in the direction of the sunset.

Sliding out from beneath the clouds.

Settling down into the mountains.

I imagine this is what a volcano looks like.

Goodnight Seoul!  Moon rise on the other side of the tower.

So pretty (taken from the parking lot at the base of the cable car).

Thursday Monica and Carl went hiking at Yongmasan and Achasan (two mountains in Seoul) while I worked, and Friday they were scheduled to go to the War Memorial and to take a taekwondo class at a palace downtown. They went to the War Memorial, but then when they arrived at the palace there was no one there to teach them taekwondo.  They called during the one half hour of the day I wasn't at my desk (I had to run over to the bank) so I had to rush back and call the International Taekwondo Federation and ask what the deal was.  The woman on the phone told me they had "forgotten to check the website" so they didn't know anyone had signed up.  Are you kidding?  Ugh.  Way to run a business.  Moral of the story, they didn't get to do taekwondo, which they had been really excited about, so that sucked.  Friday night we chilled in my apartment and did face masks (well, everyone but Carl), and Saturday I blissfully got to sleep in until 11:00am.  It was awesome.  We bummed around the apartment for a while before checking out a new restaurant that just opened by my apartment called Bunch.  The woman who owns it speaks great English and the interior is all decorated with Boston memorabilia from when she lived there.  It was tasty and cute.  

Classy with face masks.

After lunch we were off to the baseball game between the Doosan Bears (Seoul) and Samsung...Tigers? (Daegu).  It was a decent game, even though we lost, and Carl, Monica, Dana I, Brigid and I drank copious amounts of beer and ate a delicious pizza.  Cindy, my former co-teacher, was supposed to come, but due to a miscommunication we never met up. So that was sad.  After the game we headed down to Sincheon where Carl and Monica got to experience a luxury noraebang.  So fun.  I left with little voice. 

Sick of my sunset pictures yet?  This time at Jamsil Stadium.

Monica and I with our Doosan Bears thunder sticks.

Carl singing Ramstein.  Special.

Hahaha, so into it.

Sunday morning we woke up and headed out to Hongdae for brunch at Ding Dong (it ended up just being the three of us).  This was a fun little travel-themed restaurant that would have been perfect had we not been required to sit on the floor.  After breakfast we went one stop away to the Dog Cafe and had some fun there with the various pups.  When Carl started to get really allergyish we decided it was time to head out and we made our way back to Gildong.

Unassuming little Ding Dong.

Fun little tables with lots of pillows.

The rest of the restaurant/cafe.

Group pic before breakfast arrives.

Amazing french toast that both Monica and I ordered (and enjoyed).

Carl's "Ding Dong Breakfast"...which sounds like the punchline to a really bad knock knock joke.

Monica and a new pug friend.

Irish setters are so beautiful.  I want their hair to be my hair.  Is that weird?

He was like a mini Rover!  But so much fluffier.

When we were in Jeollanamdo I had asked Dana if she would take Monica to a jjimjilbang (Korean sauna) and she said she'd do it after brunch on Sunday.  However since they had gone out the night before and had so much fun none of them even MADE it to brunch, that obviously didn't happen.  I felt bad...but not bad enough to subject myself to the horrors of a that Korean dream went unfulfilled for Monica.  We went back to my apartment and watched Cabin Fever 2 (sooooo gory and no where near as good as the first one, but sequels rarely are) before going out to dinner with my landlord, Liz.  She took us to a restaurant down the street that I had never been to and it was amazing.  We had duck and pork and they were both fantastic.  It was a nice treat.

Carl, Me, Liz and Monica after an awesome meal.

After dinner we went back to my apartment and watched three episodes of the new TV show PastLife while Monica and Carl packed a bit.  I had to do some laundry so my clothes were ready for my open class today, so I did that while they packed and we all went to bed around midnight.  They woke up as I was getting ready Monday morning and we said our final goodbyes.  Then I was off to work and they crashed for another hour or so before fixing my drain (I hope!) and heading off to the airport.  They are both home, safe and sound, by now.  I miss them already!

My apartment seems huge without the luggage and air mattresses hanging around. I was fast asleep by 10pm in anticipation for my open class this morning.  It was the first time I've had to be observed here, and I must say it went swimmingly.  The observers even asked for the materials after class so that they could use them in their schools as well.  That was a nice ego boost.  I scored over 95%, and anything over an 80% means I don't have to re-interview, so that was nice.  I also found out that I have to have another open class next Wednesday (this time for teachers and parents from my school, which is slightly more stressful) but I'm not too worried since this one flew by.  I am also excited to have today off (Korean election day), partially because it has been nice just to relax, and partially because I cannot wait for this damn election to be over so I don't have to run the gauntlet of idiots on my way to work every morning.  They stand there, bowing and singing and cheering and playing music and talking through loudspeakers, and it is driving me CRAZY!  I cannot imagine a better way to convey this point, than with what has fast become one of my favorite Eat Your Kimchi videos:

 (If you can't see the full screen of the video, click here to go to the YouTube site.)

Love it.

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