Life has been hectic lately. Not only have I been hit by another strong bout of sickness, but I have also had an open class with one of my elementary classes to look forward to. Fortunately, I think my body is starting to heal itself, and my open class is in the past, as of a few hours ago. The weather has been gorgeous lately, making it very difficult for me to stay inside and update my blog rather than making the most of this newfound warmth.
Therefore, I have pictures from G’s and my (brief) trip to Sokcho (on the east coast of Korea), Buddha’s Birthday celebration in Seoul, and hiking this past Sunday. I dislike posts that have no unifying thread, but at the risk of appearing to have vomited randomness, here are several windows into my life over the past two weeks.
G and I planned on spending three of our four days off during the first weekend of May in Sokcho. We departed Seoul on Wednesday night after work on a three-hour-long bus ride, hoping to relax on the beach and go hiking in famed Seuraksan National Park. The weather forecast appeared promising before we left, however, once we arrived, it played a cruel joke on us: nearly freezing temperatures and rain were to be expected. We decided to take in the sights on Thursday, exploring Sokcho’s impressive live fish market and Abai Village, an offshoot of the city where many North Korean descendants make their homes. After trying the regional specialty, a squid sundae (essentially a seafood mixture stuffed into a squid and cut into thin, sushi-like pieces), we decided to catch a late bus home. Cutting our trip short turned out to have been the best idea we had all weekend; not only was the weather wonderful, but there were also many events taking place in honor of Buddha’s Birthday.
That Sunday was Buddha’s Birthday Festival in downtown Seoul, which is a massive festival sponsored by the city. Countless tents are set up, providing the opportunity to learn more about Buddhism and make traditional Korean / Buddhist crafts. I found it difficult to pick and choose which activities to take part in, so we ended up staying at the festival for about 6 hours (whoops): I ended up with a hand-folded lotus flower, Buddhist prayer beads, a large lotus lantern (which G and I labored over arduously for an hour, handcrafting each petal out of delicate paper), and a print of Buddhist text. Afterwards, Garret and I wandered along the Cheonggyecheon (a manmade river that flows through downtown Seoul), where various installations were being displayed.
This past Sunday, I got the itch to conquer Mt. Dobongsan, a famous mountain relatively close to my apartment. In the past, G and I have hiked to Mangwolsa Temple, which is part of the grand Dobongsan circuit, but we have never dared to embark on the full hike. After packing a lunch of anchovy and tuna kimbab and two water bottles (this turned out to be the mistake of the day), we began our grand adventure, which took us past Mangwolsa Temple, to the ridgeline, which we followed to Dobonsan’s peak. Unfortunately, everyone in Uijeongbu also had the same idea we did, so we had to wait in line patiently for the opportunity to rappel up the side of a mountain. Once we finally made it to the top, there were too many people there for us to really enjoy the fruits of our labor, so we headed back down, having made the realization that the journey had been a reward in itself. It is ironic that even at the tip of a secluded mountain, in Korea, it is nearly impossible to escape the masses. Five and a half hours after we began hiking, we reached my apartment… and collapsed. Three days later, I am still sore.
And so, my life in Korea goes on. Tomorrow is our monthly field trip; this time we are going strawberry picking and will make rice cake at a farm. I am fairly sure that I am more excited about this then my students are. Get ready for some adorable pictures of my ten babies!