So I survived my school’s overnight trip to Buyeo (did I mention I had to go to that? Can’t remember) and am finally back home. I was dreading it because a) almost none of the younger teachers were going and b) almost none of the English-speaking teachers were going so I thought I’d be sitting in a corner bored out of my mind for most of the time, but it ended up being not too bad! Big, fluffy snowflakes fell all last night and coated the lake and the mountains near our hotel, which made for a gorgeous view this morning, and the samgyeopsal we had for dinner last night was amaaaaaazing. I even had an impromptu snowball fight with some of my feistier coworkers, haha~
Today was a little tiring because we had to do the obligatory cultural stops all the way back to Seoul, but all in all it wasn’t nearly as terrible as I was expecting it to be ^^
Exactly 2 weeks today until I’m on my way to Australia and BT!! I’m getting really excited now and am surprisingly unconcerned about trying to decipher what this trip means for “us.” This laissez-faire relationship thing just might be my new 2015 approach to life!
I’m sitting at the long desk in the front common room, looking out the window and enjoying the breeze, listening to Dutch music, and watching the neighborhood go about its morning routine. The feeling of being exactly where I’m meant to be at this moment is indescribable. Everyone else is still asleep or gone out (but really, I think they’re all asleep. I’ve been up since 6:30am and not a person has stirred here except myself.)
Yesterday was exactly the kind of adventure one hopes for when traveling! The afternoon that we arrived, our host invited us to join the group going out to a town called Buyeo, which is about three hours south of Seoul. It sounded like a great way to get our trip started, even though it would be a long day, so we agreed to go. It’s the kind of thing I love to do when I travel - random invitations and encounters that turn into adventure. Plus, it helped us get to know the other people staying in the hostel with us, all very cool and interesting people with interesting stories. I don’t know any names because I’m sooo bad at names, but I’ll get them eventually. There is a young man from China, 21, and two French boys, younger than me, probably in their late twenties or early thirties, Ruth from Germany, who I mentioned in the last entry and who is full of life and fun to be around, and our host, Seung Hyeok (but on his business card, he styles himself “Singloud”, which is super cute. ^_^)
At 9:30am, we seven piled into Seung Hyeok’s car and headed down to Buyeo. It’s the heart of the Baekje Dynasty, which existed around 18 B.C. and lasted until the 7th century A.D. Seung Hyeok told me that the royal family of Japan had its roots in Buyeo and the Baekje Dynasty. Whether or not that is true, I don’t know, but it certainly is a place of deep, grand, and fascinating history.
I happened to notice that the older of the two French boys had on a SF Giants cap! So I asked him if he was a Giants fan. Sadly, no - he said he follows baseball, but he doesn’t have a favorite team. Oh well - there would be more baseball for me later in the day. ;) We stopped first to meet a friend of Seung Hyeok’s, who was to sort of be our guide around the city. I don’t know his name, but he owns a coffee shop and is restoring a lovely little house to be a guest house much like Urban Art, where we are staying. It seems to be a thing that many young Koreans are doing, opening coffee houses and hostels, super interesting. They took us to a little restaurant that had a set menu - basically, you go in, and you eat whatever they happen to be cooking that day. Let me just say, everything was delicious. It was the kind of place where you sit on a cushion at a low table, as well, so my legs were basically asleep by the time lunch was over.
Another of Seung Hyeok’s friends joined us while we were at lunch, too, a super nice guy who likes baseball, also. We all talked a little bit about sports (who the hell would have thought I’d ever be talking so much about that topic?!), and I also listened to them chatting with each other. They were college friends, and it’s obvious that their friendship is very close.
After lunch, we walked to Seodong Park, where fields and fields of lotuses are grown. They weren’t in flower, but one could imagine what they must look like when all the fields were in bloom! There was a huge swing near one of the ponds that we took turns on. I did, too, but there is no photographic evidence that you will ever see of it. ;) Super fun, though - Seung Hyeok’s friend was determined to push me so high that I almost screamed, but I didn’t. When you get to the top of the arc, it almost seems like you’re hovering out over the pond, even though it’s several feet from you.
Next, we visited the museum, the temple, and the ancient tombs. After we were done seeing the history, the Korean boys took us to the market place, which was AMAZING. Vegetables, fish, eels, spices, street food - all wonderful. SH bought us some tteokbokki - chewy rice cakes in a spicy tomato sauce. Ruth bought a pancake. Korean street food is so yummy.
We had dinner in a fried chicken place that is supposed to be quite famous. Korean fried chicken is done by frying the whole chicken and then putting it on a place for you and your friends to tear apart with chopsticks and your hands (they give you a plastic glove). And, of course, you get lots and lots of side dishes. Two of the boys had chicken soup instead of the fried chicken, and while we were waiting for the fried chicken to come out, they would put pieces of chicken from their soup into our bowls so that we could eat (even though we were eating the side dishes already!!) One of the sides was chicken stomachs, and yes, I ate one, and yes, it was fucking delicious. The fried chicken was also delicious: 맛있어요!!
Lovie nudged me and directed my attention to the tv, where a baseball game was just starting up between the Lions and the Eagles. Seung Hyeok’s friend turned around, too, and we watched the start of the game. He cheers for the Eagles, though I didn’t know that until we were having coffee later; I just randomly picked the Eagles to cheer for while we watched, because I don’t know either of these teams.
After dinner, we all stood outside and horsed around for a little while. Ruth started a conversation comparing men from different countries, which amused the Korean guys and made the French boys edge away from us. :D The Chinese boy was also amused. It was decided that Swedish men are the best, but Korean men get points for being willing to wear “couples outfits” and Chinese men are super nice to women. The French boys settled for being “romantic”. But Ruth declared that Swedish men were far and away the best ones. When they asked me and Lovie about American men, they laughed at us because we did EXACTLY the same thing: pursed our lips and shook our heads and didn’t say anything. It was a hilarious and light-hearted conversation, with SH and his friends being silly with each other the whole time, too. Ruth is so great at getting people to talk to each other, and I adore her. Her cousin is arriving today from Saudi Arabia, and I’m so looking forward to meeting her!
We next went for coffee at the new coffee place owned by SH’s first friend. He made us iced coffee, which was yummy, and he was so pleased to have so many people in his shop! It hasn’t officially opened yet, but it is super cute, and I hope it will be a success for him.
After coffee, a beautiful walk by the Baekma river, and then it was time to get back in the car for Seoul. Ruth insisted everyone take turns keeping SH awake while he drove, which was probably a good idea. We were all so tired! I even almost fell asleep in the car several times, which is usually impossible for me. We made several rest stops, and honestly, I guess the long day wiped everyone out entirely, because I’ve been here typing for an hour, and no one has come through the common room at all.
I’m not sure what is on the agenda for today. I need to go up to Home Plus and get a bar of soap and some other little things, and whatever we do, I’m definitely eating super cheap food (RAMEN) today, because yesterday was fun but expensive. I’m thinking about checking out the coffee shop next door that just opened; maybe sit there for a few hours and write. I want to come home with at least two short stories ready to be revised. :)
Located in the old Baekje royal capital of Buyeo, the Lotte Buyeo Resort Baeksangwon incorporates elements of Baekje architecture into its marvelous design. Kim Seung-hoy, its architect, explains:
Baeksangwon is an effort to present Baekje in the 21st century, not as a kingdom from the 6th and 7th centuries. Although the construction of the condominium structure ― with its two curved surfaces ― is based on modern architectural techniques, the design aims to recreate the subtleties of Baekje architecture. The wall of condominiums, designed with color louvers, becomes the background of a traditional Korean house, working simultaneously as an abstract image. Two corridors were built based on a wooden structure style considered to belong to Baekje. By providing the traditional wooden structure with the practical functions of corridors, the elements become perfectly integrated into the modern architectural design concept of Baeksangwon.
Jeollabukdo’s Provincial Office of Education (POE) is absolutely wonderful. TaLK orientation is four weeks long. The first three weeks of training is with all the new TaLK scholars and gives everyone basic information to teach and live in Korea for however long a person’s contract is. The last week of orientation is in the province a scholar is placed at. Since there are different things to do in each province and the POEs can be vastly different, the last week varies from province to province. I was INCREDIBLY LUCKY to get Jeonbuk. Some other provinces had to do more practicums and intense lectures. Our province treated us really well since the first three weeks were intense enough.
To start off, they gave us a limousine bus for the weekend. The seats reclined! You could lean back AND put your feet up. The first two days of orientation, they let us stay a Lotte Resort in Buyeo. It’s the same place as the field trip photos from the second week. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t resist falling asleep on the way to the resort.
The second picture shows the lobby of the resort. There was a huge chandelier with moving lights. There was also a norebang in the basement, with an ice cream shop, a kiddie center, a PC bang, and a 7-11. We had it made.
I shared a room with my friend Lindsay (Canada) on the seventh floor. We had a great view of the golf course from our balcony - that would be the third picture. Our room was totally decked out. The beds were so comfortable! We had free time when we arrived and I would have taken a nap, but I had to send in a research application for the fall (still waiting to hear back!).
It’s rare to find tubs outside of hotels/motels/resorts in South Korea, so I definitely took advantage of that (scalding bubble baths are the best!). And we had a bidet, also known as a “fancy toilet” (in my opinion). There were several buttons next to it, but I didn’t try to find out what they did. Not knowing Korean has limitations sometimes.
Last weekend the Giant and I took a drive to the next city over in Buyeo (부여, 충청감) to visit the MiAmSa Temple (미암사). It was a small temple compared to others we visited in Korea, but it was amazing none the less. This temple had the largest reclining Buddha in Korea and it as beautiful! :)