Namhae during Chuseok!

I got a rare 5-day weekend last week due to Chuseok, the Korean equivalent to Thanksgiving but with less racism.  So David and I decided to take another WINK (When in Korea) trip to Namhae Island.  It started out like most WINK trips with a overnight bus ride from Seoul.  I hate these overnight rides but luckily I was able to sleep quite a bit this time around.  Around 5am we arrived at our first stop, a temple on a mountain.  Bleary-eyed and half asleep we climbed to the top and watched the sunrise over a series of small islands that dotted the coast.  It was quite beautiful.

*Please note that the following two pictures were taken by Oisin Feeney of WINK Travels.

Sunrise on Namhae

Sunrise on Namhae

On our walk down to the mountain it started pouring rain.  We got a little nervous because we were supposed to be tent camping on the beach. Luckily, the rain stopped right as we were setting up our tents.  After eating a delicious lunch of chili dogs and hamburgers, we did some kayaking in the bay.  It was lots of fun and only marred by a dead seal found on one of the “secret beaches”.

David and I are in the second yellow kayak from the left.

David and I are in the second yellow kayak from the left.

One of my favorite things that we did on Namhae-do was going to the rice terraces.  It was a beautiful area with amazing views and fun walking trails.

Another amazing thing that happened was getting to witness bioluminescent plankton.  It was pretty hard to take a picture of this awesome experience but hopefully I will remember it forever!  Basically, when you walked into the ocean, the plankton lit up in a neon blue color.  Apparently, the plankton do this as a defense mechanism to scare away predators.

On our last full day, we moved to an area that had a German Village.  It was really random but also fun.  David and I ate some German sausage and I had a beer.  We also got to see some German architecture.  Overall, it was a great trip!

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NSFW Vacation: Jeju Loveland

The most important thing to remember about this post, before you start reading it, is that it is definitely, definitely, not safe for work.  Don’t read it, don’t even glance quickly over it, if you are offended by sexual images or reference.  You will find them here, represented in hilarious statue form.  The content is very light-hearted and fun, and all the real-live humans keep their clothes on.  But if you’d rather just not see a statue’s genitalia (or a statue of genitalia), then you’re reading the wrong post.

Once, again, not safe for work.  N-S-F-W!

If you would like to see these images, continue on!  You’re likely to chuckle.  I’ll put them safely under this handy read more tag.

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Series of Short Post 2: Cherry Blossom Festival Edition

Well the Cherry Blossoms were here… and now they are gone.  Would they be as beautiful if they stayed year round? Philosophical musings aside, David and I went to a Cherry Blossom Festival on April 5th with some friends from Uijeongbu.  It was great fun, except the weather was not as nice as we hoped.  The festival was not quite what I was expecting and I did not want to be one of those people taking hipster pictures of the cherry blossoms.  This meant hardly any pictures of actual flowers but I got the interesting stuff!  I let the pictures do the talking.

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Desk Warming and Photo Dump

February has been a nice break from jam packed January. Last week and this week, David and I have been re-writing the entire program (with the help of Je Jin).  We finished all the lessons plans last week, though, and with our boss on vacation for two weeks, it has been a little hard to stay motivated.  Honestly, we do not really have much else to do.  So we have spent a lot of time surfing the net, sending emails, watching Sailor Moon e.t.c.  I believe this is what I have heard referred to a “desk warming“.  Pretty much every Korean ESL blog I have ever read mentions it but up until now it had been a distant dream.  I actually enjoy a little desk warming except for the guilt I feel about getting paid to do nothing.  As I said above, it has mostly been a really nice break from our crazy January work-a-thon.

This brings us to our other exciting news!  We are planning a vacation to Jeju Island next week.  This island is often called “the Hawaii of Korea” but in reality, at least from what I have researched so far, it is not really like Hawaii at all except that it’s an island and it’s a prime honeymoon spot for Koreans.  That being said, David and I are super excited!  We get 9 paid days off because of all the time we worked in December and January.  So for 5ish days we are headed to Jeju.  Then we are planning to fly to Busan (a beach city at the tip of Korea) and explore there for a couple days, before we make our way back up to Cheonan.  So stay tuned for vacation updates!

I also joined an Ultimate Frisbee team!  We are called the Cheonan Cheonwons, which I have been informed by Je Jin that a Cheonwon is a 1000 won ($1) note.  So our jerseys are going to have the Yi Hwang, the guy printed on the 1000 won bill, in anime form, throwing a frisbee.  TBH, they are pretty awesome jerseys.  We had our first practice on Sunday.  To my extreme delight, I found out that 10 members of the team are new to Ultimate Frisbee as well (this made me happy because I am not the only one who sucks!).  Practice was pretty fun but really long.  We started at 1pm and I played until 3:30 when David and I had to leave to eat dinner and catch a movie we had tickets for.  When we left, the team was STILL playing!  All in all, I am pretty sore today from so much running.  I am really glad I joined though because everyone is really nice and I am excited to have extra reasons to travel and see Korea. *Side note: It was really weird seeing so many “foreigners” in one place.  Since David and I live in the middle of nowhere, we don’t see too many foreigners so it was pretty exciting.  It was also weird when I realized that we all had basically the same job (Native English Teachers).

After practice, I was extremely exhausted but David and I had plans so we went and got some pizza, then headed to the movie theater to see Frozen.  Whenever we buy movie tickets, we don’t really know what we are doing.  Apparently we bought “premium” movie tickets which we found out when we went to what we thought was our theater but they told us we were in the wrong place.  I got really confused because the guy told us to go downstairs but I thought he was telling us to wait next to him until we could go into the theater (this happened when we went to see The Hobbit) So you can imagine his confusion when I nodded in “understanding” and then continued to stand in line right next to him.  Then he tried to explain again and luckily David understood this time (I could hear the ushers laughing as we walked away… silly foreigners).  So what does a “premium” theater look like? Well first you walk in and there is a really classy lobby with chairs, tables, and books to read while you are waiting for your movie to start.  Then, you walk in the theater and all the seats look like this:

Couch seats!

Couch seats!

Every single seat was a two person couch.  They were super comfortable and had a ton of leg room.  And the best part was that it only cost 8000 won per person!  I love how cheap everything is in Korea.

Anyways, as we approach the two-month mark here in Korea, we are both enjoying our time here.  I have been getting homesick fairly often, but that is to be expected.  Remembering that I am only contracted for a year helps, a person can do anything for one year!  Well that’s all I have for now.  Enjoy some random photos that I have collected over the past couple weeks.

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Gakwonsa Temple and Mt. Taejo

It’s not all work work work here in Korea for Tara and me.  Today we had an adventure of another sort, a little old-fashioned sightseeing.  To get a look at Korea’s spiritual heritage, we decided to visit the Gakwonsa Temple, home of a certain spectacular giant statue of the Buddha.

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A small shrine near the temple complex. This is not the giant Buddha.

We took two buses to get there, for a journey that was probably about an hour and a half in duration.  The temple is nestled up against some mountains, in a village area that has the feel of a skiing town.  There didn’t seem to be a huge permanent population, but it was definitely primed for tourists.

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Tourists who clearly know how to have a good time.

Korea is a mostly mountainous country, so it comes as no surprise that most of its holy places are associated with mountains.  It’s a very natural and appealing setting for a sanctuary.  It also entails a great deal of climbing.  We ascended an incredible series of stairs and had to pass a lovely island of trees before we finally caught a glimpse of Gakwonsa’s star attraction.

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Behold the stairway, destroyer of legs.

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This is the giant Buddha.

The giant Buddha of Gakwonsa is about 15 meters tall.  As you can see from this long-distance shot, 15 is quite a lot of meters.  It translates to about 50 feet, if you like your units traditional, and along from being very very big, it’s quite beautiful.  The craftsmanship needed to create a work like this should be applauded forever.

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A closer look at the Buddha, the second largest in South Korea.

To the Buddha’s left lies the temple complex itself, brightly painted  and chiming with bells in the brisk wind.  We came as tourists, but it is a very spiritual place, and we saw many people going about the act of worship.  There were places where one could write prayers (for the price of a donation), either on paper or on larger, shingle-like tiles.  And of course, many people would go inside the various temple buildings for prayer or meditation.

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No large crowds, thankfully.

Tara and I proceeded cautiously, wishing to respect the temple and the people to whom it belongs.  But we did go inside one briefly, to look at the golden statues inside and do a little quiet sitting.  We took no pictures of the interior, of course, but to anyone willing to make the trip, I’d highly recommend a look.  There are wonderful paintings of Buddhist history and myth, and the chamber is very peaceful.

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The swastika seen on the side of the main building here is a very ancient symbol associated with many cultures, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism. It represents eternity, as well as being a traditional sign of good fortune.

There’s a hiking trail behind the temples, which we decided to try out.  Without really meaning to, we found ourselves climbing very near to the summit of Mt. Taejo.  We were pretty high up the mountain to begin with, and our path was only about 800 meters to the rest spot just below the peak.  But it was a steep trail, and somewhat perilous with ice and loose rock.  We each managed to slip and fall once, though I probably had the more hilarious landing.

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Glad we wore some decent shoes.

The path split in three directions, two of which appeared to go in an upwards direction (though we were clearly near the top).  Tired from the rugged climb, we decided to come back another day, perhaps when camp had made us a little fitter, and explore for more shrines or spots of significance.

It was cold and cloudy, but still a beautiful day.  I’m glad we took this opportunity look upon something exceptional, exhausting as it may have been.  We’re both looking forward to coming back, and seeing more such wonderful places.

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Love the Buddha’s dance moves.

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Candles at the site of the Buddha, bearing images and writing in both Hangul and Hanja (Chinese characters).

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I found myself wondering how many of the Koreans who visit these temples are still literate in the Hanja characters that adorn many of the sculptures and buildings here.

On an Airplane (but not to Korea…)

I absolutely love the Portland International Airport (PDX).  I always have and always will.  I think it is one of the nicest and cleanest airports in the U.S. (although I have not been to THAT many).  Plus, whenever I come here it is usually to go somewhere awesome and when I come back after a trip, PDX always feels like home.  It also has free Wifi, unlike many of the other airports I have traveled to in my life.

Lately however, I have been having a lot of mixed feelings about this airport.  When I came here twoish months ago to take my friend from Australia to his flight home, I told myself that the next time I came to the airport, I would be on my way to Korea.  Obviously this is not what happened. Within a week I was back to pick up my boyfriend (a joyous occasion, yes, but still not the two of us leaving for Korea).  Then, a couple weeks later, my friends and I got a hotel in Portland and the best deal we could find was right next to PDX.  So of course, I drove past it multiple times only to be saddened by the fact that I still am not on my way to Korea yet.

Last week, I took my mom the PDX to go to San Francisco for our “girls week” with my two aunts and grandma.  Today I am going to join them, which will be fun and distracting.  However, as I was walking through the airport I got really sad that I still wasn’t here to catch my flight to Incheon International.  I had been expecting to be here weeks ago for that very reason but obviously, it was not to be.  So, that is four times I have been here in the last two months and it will be five when I return on Thursday. Although I am very excited to hang out with my family it is very upsetting that we still have not left.  Who knew that our asap job would turn into over a month of more waiting, checking my email everyday, and having friends and family repeatedly ask me, “Any news?”  It is quite draining.

We did, however, find out that the reason our visa numbers are taking so long is because we are working at a camp.  The immigration office has to go and check it out to make sure everything is running properly before we are allowed to come over.  At least, this is what our recruiter tells us.  While this is a good thing that will hopefully keep us out of trouble in the end, they have a long list of places they have to visit.  Our recruiter keeps telling us that hopefully we will have our VIN by the end of the week.  Well, that was last week.  I think she just tells us that to keep us placated and probably really has no idea.

To end on a happy note, David and I have been doing a lot of fun things in the meantime to try and keep up our morale.  Most importantly we have made it about 1/3 of the way through season 5 of Dr. Who. 🙂  I’m glad I got to introduce David to this show and he absolutely LOVES it.  I am enjoying it even more this time around than the first time I watched it probably because I get to see the glee on David’s face every time something awesome happens (which is pretty much every episode).  I am pretty sure he likes Dr. Who even more than I do.

We also went to Eugene for what we thought would just be one or two nights and ended up staying about four!  We were having so much fun we didn’t want to leave.  Plus, Kelly and I made plans to have a Halloween party and so Kelly drove us back to my house on Tuesday and stayed until Thursday.  It was so great to have her around constantly (this had been my normal state of affairs for the past 3 and 1/2 years).  I miss her so much and wish she was coming with us.  My other “ex-roommates” 😦 and Kelly’s sister, Alli, joined us for our Halloween party where we ate lots of food, talked, and watched The Others and The Ring!

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Me, David, Kelly

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Can you guess who Kelly and I were?

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Hiccup, Toothless, and my sheep!

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Scene from the movie #1 (Kelly really likes to lick things)!

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Scene from the movie 2!

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The whole family (my dad is really good at taking pictures!)

 

We also went to the Haunted Corn Maize on Sauvi Island the night before Halloween, which was a first for David, Joann, and I.  We had so much fun that we went through twice!  It was totally worth the $10.

 

I have also been spending as much time with Minnie as possible.  So to end, here is a video of Minnie “walking” around in her new booties that my dad got for her!  Sorry about the quality.  It was taken on David’s iPhone 4.

P.S.  There is a guy sitting next to me at the airport shaking with laughter.  He is watching something on his phone and trying not to laugh loudly.  In doing so he keeps shaking super intensely and snorting.  It is a little awkward and I am having a hard time not laughing at him!

Newport Day 3: AKA the worst day ever!

Let me begin this with an entertaining little anecdote that took place a few months back.  My BFF Kelly was on the job hunt and I had the day off so I gave her a ride around town to fill out some job applications and turn in some resumes.  We brought my dog for good luck.

Kelly and I at the beach.  This has nothing to do with the anecdote... just thought you might want a visual.

Kelly and I at the beach. This has nothing to do with the anecdote… just thought you might want a visual.

The last place on Kelly’s list was a very ritzy retirement home (where she now works) so I parked the car and she went inside for what I thought would be 5- 10 minutes.  About 45 minutes to an hour later she returns and apologizes saying she had to fill out multiple applications.  Luckily I had brought my Kindle and was engrossed in Game of Thrones so it was hardly an inconvenience.  We then tried to start the car.  It sputtered, almost starting, but does not turn over.  I tried it again and this time it is not even close to starting.  That is when I realized that I had left my headlights on the whole time she was inside.  I tried one more time and this time something does happen… the car alarm goes off.  At this point I am just really confused because a) this is my grandpa’s car and he had the alarm installed on it years ago and b) I NEVER turn on the alarm for just this reason: I hate when it goes off unexpectedly.  I frantically pressed the button on my key ring to get it to shut up and at some point I succeeded.  Of course, my dog hated the noise and was barking in my ear the entire time.

So I got out of the car and called AAA.  They sent over this guy in van that can jump the battery.  Minnie did not like him at all (she has a problem with men) and at one point he yelled at us to get her out of the car.  He attempted to jump the battery but every time he did the car alarm kept blaring.  It was horrible (remember we are at a ritzy retirement home, imagine old ladies staring out the windows).  Finally he gave up and said we had to get it towed.  So I called AAA again and they sent over someone from Ray’s Towing (the BEST towing company in Eugene).  Every time we have used them they are SUPER nice and helpful.  Anyways, he was a miracle worker (with a great attitude) and got the battery started.  He told me I needed a new one but it should be fine for a while.  I thanked him profusely then we went on our way.

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Now, a lot of time passed before we went on our Newport trip.  I thought my dad had replaced to battery and everything was fine.  However, once we got to Newport, every time I went to start the car it would almost not start.  Until finally on this fateful day, it didn’t.  Luckily I had experience and I knew that if I drained all the battery the car alarm would go off.  So I quickly went to find someone to jump it.  Then we on our way, as planned, to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Of course we brought along Minnie because we had no idea how long we would be gone.

We had decided to have lunch a Moe’s, an Oregon coast chain famous for their Clam Chowder.  As we were pulling into Lincoln City, it felt as though we went over a huge bump and the car started pulling to the right.  We pulled into Moe’s and I ran over to the right side of the car.  What did I see?  A smoking, flat tire!  We decided to call AAA after we had lunch.  So the one good thing about this day is that we got some more clam chowder!

Yummmmm!

Yummmmm!

After lunch we called AAA and they told us they would be there in 45 minutes or less.  At this point I had pretty much given up all hope of making it to Tillamook before the factory closed but David is ever the believer.  He was still in high spirits even though I was pissed.  We then proceeded to wait… and wait… and wait some more.  Finally over an hour had passed and we were both getting a little annoyed.  By this point David had flagged down two random trucks to ask if they were AAA and to his embarrassment, they were not.  My mother has pointed out that if one of us just knew how to change a tire we would have been out of there very quickly.  To which I say, “We have AAA!”

When they finally did arrive, grabbed Minnie and headed for the hills while David “helped” them put on a spare. 🙂  Then we were on our way to Les Schwab.  I had called my parents and asked if my dad had actually changed the battery or not.  They said no and so I decided I might as well get a new battery along with the tire.  They took away the car and said we could keep Minnie inside as long as we fed her popcorn and coffee.  She enjoyed the popcorn.

After waiting for quite a while, I started hearing a familiar blaring sound.  Then I remembered the car alarm.  After about 15 minutes of the alarm going off and on, one of the employees came out and asked if I knew how to shut it off.  The battery was hooked to the alarm and every time they tried to put in the new battery, the alarm was triggered.  I explained that this had happened before but I didn’t know what the guy did to fix it.  So he trudged back in.  After a few more alarms going off, they suddenly stopped and we were good to go.

By this time it was way to late to make it to the cheese factory, so we headed home.  On the way we decided to stop in Depoe Bay to make the most of our failed trip.

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Cute house!

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View from the highway!

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David and I being cuties!

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