Archive | March, 2012

Yes they really did that – quirky Korean habits (draft)

22 Mar

1. They spit everywhere – they conquer up the phlem, they congregate it in their throat then they fling it out their mouth with their tongue – onto the ground just meters infront of you. Yes, they really do it.

2. They only cross when it’s green – the pedestarian crossing is red, it’s a Sunday morning, they are the only person on the street, there is no car to be seen anywhere – but the robot is red and so they wait for the whole 5 minutes even though they haven’t seen one car, until the green crossing man appears. Yes, they really do it.

3. They put up cute, friendly cartoon pictures of piggies and calves and chicks  outside their butcheries and meat restaurants: A smiling chicken with a beer in his hands inviting and welcoming you in to eat him – unlikely. Yes, they really do it.

4. They add “ee” to every English word – bus-ee, orange-ee, hi-ee, bye-ee, toothbrush-ee. They also understand you better when you add “ee” so it’s best to ask for the “bus-ee”. Yes, I really do it.

5. Things change very quickly and without any warning. Lessons change as the class arrives, weekend presentations are cancelled last minute, work dinners are planned on the day and you are told about them just before leaving for home. Yes, they really do it.

6. They wear high heels to the beach…in the sand. Yes, they really do it.

7. They talk to you in Korean even though they know you don’t speak it. Even though I haven’t understood the last 5 sentences, the lady selling the socks is still trying to speak to be in Korean. And then when I walk away she smiles happily and goes inside. Yes, they really do that.

Part 1: more to come

Hiking in Yeongju, Sobaeksan National Park

13 Mar

Who would have thought that the small city of Yeongju, South Korea, would have TWO intercity bus terminals? Well, it does!

Early on Sunday morning, we woke up to snow that had lightly fallen from the sky, dotting cars and rubbish bins with speckles of white. The cold air hit our faces like a bee string when we opened our window that morning and with that cold breeze came excitement for our adventure to the mountains! 

With a big tubberware of left-over dinner, snacks, fruit and many layers of clothes, we set off to arrive at the bus terminal 15 minutes before bus 26 was due to leave. Not quite sure how to ask the taxi driver for the bus station, we took a photo of a bus and asked him to take us to the bus stop. We were due to meet other foreign English teachers so when we arrived and could not find anyone, we began to worry. We then searched the completely Korean bus timetable for some clue and the best we could work out was that no bus was due to leave at 8.25 as we had planned. Fortunately, my husband has a degree in acting and it was his very good impersonation of “walking up the mountain” that made the taxi driver suggest (in Korean) that there was another bus station and he would take us there. By which time the bus and our friends were gone! 

We were dressed for the mountains so to the mountains we would go! The next bus was scheduled to leave at 9.30 so a quick visit to the 7-11 armed us with a cup of hot chocolate and coffee. With no idea where we were going or when we should get off, we got onto bus 26. To our delight, we picked up two beaned, big booted, walking stick carriers who were sure to be heading for the mountains. Game plan: Follow the old man. We can keep up. 

A 30 minute bus ride took us to the base of a beautiful mountain that was covered in snow. This was our stop. The English speaking man at the Information Hut directed us up the mountain, saying it would take 3 hours to summit and 2 hours to descend. We decided to give it a try and perhaps meet the other foreign teachers on the way.

The wind was so icy cold that my legs felt like heavy water jugs! Within minutes, our noses were running and the wind was burning our checks. Baden conducted the Sunday church service with songs, bible verses and discussion “with our friend” (aka each other). And then we had to sing some more. We were breathless very soon!

Within 30 minutes we’d reached a bathroom break and we stopped for some water and a photo. That was when the people we were meant to be hiking with came down the mountain. They said the snow was so thick and the ice was too heavy to continue up without spikes – which none of us had. They were heading down. Disappointed we turned down and went back to the bus stop.

The others decided they would go home but Baden and I had come to the mountain so we were going to stay on the mountain! We were told by the English speaking Informationist that we could only go up one route because fire warnings were out in the other paths but we decided to take a detour and walked left, passing signs in Korean which probably read GO NO FURTHER. DANGER! TURN BACK NOW!

But we walked…

We walked into rural Korea: past small shacks with roosters and chickens, the smell of cooking fires dancing in the air, small rivers that were snowed up, icy-curls hanging off rocks, winter-dry grassy fields. And a dog…A dog the size of a lion! A brown and black dog so huge, with a mane all around its body and a chain locking it from savagely devouring us! Danger! Go no further.

On we went…

Eventually we reached a part of the road where the snow was so heavy that we couldn’t see the ground and the ice clinging to the road made the path too slippery to continue. . That is where we had lunch – beside the frozen river. Cold noodles with cold vegetable stew! Peanuts! Oranges! Biscuits! What we would have given for a cup of tea then. 

Most Koreans have spikes on their shoes which make snow tracking somewhat easier. We met a Korean couple who had summitted the mountain and they showed us their beautiful impressive pictures of mountain tops covered in snow. I showed them our rather unimpressive photo of Baden in the road – the end of our journey.

Sobaeksan National Park is a very famous hiking area in South Korea. It is 30 minutes from Yeongju and 15 minutes from Punggi.

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