Red Clay Trail

I’m well aware that I’m a terrible blogger. No posts for nearly two months?! What is this business…Yes, I’ve been busy with work (I just picked up another class and we had student reports due), but I’ve also been busy living life in Korea. Sometimes it gets a little wild.

Almost a month ago now (!) I went on a nice hike (organized, once again, by my favorite Korean tour guide). Again, we went with the KJ touring company, but our destination was a different trail that I’ve wanted to do for some time now: Gyejoksan. Gyejoksan is a special mountain that is home to the red-clay trail. A local soju distillery has an eco-partnership with the community. What this means is that they spend time and money to maintain the mountain as a way to offset some of their less environmentally-friendly activities. In 2006, they installed a clay-trail that leads up the mountain and turned it into an eco-park. The park is only maintained for a few months out of the year, so I’m glad I got a chance to hike it.

This sign highlights the "benefits" of walking the trail.

This sign highlights the “benefits” of walking the trail.

The trail is described as “soft clay,” and I think I was expecting dry clay, not wet clay. They come by and hose the trail down every few hours or so to keep it mucky. If you’ve ever touched clay before, you know it can get pretty slick, and there were times when I was really afraid that I would just bite it (we saw a few kids wipe out pretty hard…).

Red clay trail on the right.

Red clay trail on the right.

I love the clay trail :)

I love the clay trail ūüôā

All our gross, clay-covered feet.

All our gross, clay-covered feet.

The trail was pretty tame, as far as Korean hiking trails go. No super steep inclines, very well maintained, and, despite the fact that it was the weekend, pretty empty (by Korean standards). That all changed when our guide said “Let’s go see the top!” I’m pretty sure that we could’ve stayed on the same trail for another few miles and reached the top, but he decided we needed to take the shortcut in order to get back to the bus on time. His job keeps him very in shape and he was more or less running up one of the steepest, rockiest, most difficult inclines I’ve ever done in my life. I managed to make it to the top and there, at the top of a 4th century fortress, we found a beautiful view of Daejeon.

The view from the top

The view from the top

I'm pretty excited about having reached the top

I’m pretty excited about having reached the top. Maybe this will be my new header?

Victory makgeolli! All the Koreans drink this or soju while hiking. (L-r, Christine, me, Angelica)

Victory makgeolli! All the Koreans drink this or soju while hiking. (L-r, Christine, me, Angelica)

After taking a bit of a break, we headed back down (this time with our shoes ON; the clay was quite a workout and it was very hard to stay standing) and soaked our feet for a bit while listening to a live opera being performed. It was a little odd to hear Puccini in the woods, sung (poorly) by Koreans, but it was a very neat experience.

Cooling and rinsing our feet in the little foot pool. You can't really see here, but the water was a gross red/brown color.

Cooling and rinsing our feet in the little foot pool. You can’t really see here, but the water was a gross red/brown color.

As we headed out of the forest, we saw a few more beautiful sights and reflected on how much fun our day had been. It was certainly one of those “only in Korea!” sort of things, and I’m once again so thankful for having had the opportunity to join in on these adventures.

The raised trail on the way down.

The raised trail on the way down.

A very pretty scene between the trees on our way out

A very pretty scene between the trees on our way out.

No promises on when I will write next, but I will keep having my adventures. Maybe there is even a knitting update in the¬†near future….

I am the Yeongdeok Crab Queen

This is part two of a two-part post. You can read part one here.

After a beautiful morning of cherry blossoms, we headed further east and ended up in Yeongdeok for their annual Snow Crab Festival. We were hoping for a day of crab, entertainment, and adventure, and we got all three in spades. (The last post was picture-heavy, this one is wordy…)

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Upon arriving, we stopped at the very first location, which happened to be the “catch your own crab” spot. A little investigation revealed that it was 20,000 won/pole to catch crabs (don’t worry, we made all the appropriate jokes, and even some inappropriate ones). We decided to pass on the event and just watch. As we headed over to a little viewing area, a man shoved a fishing pole into my hand and then pushed and prodded me over to the fishing area. I’m not sure my friends even realized where I had gone to, since it happened so quickly (luckily I’m easy to spot in a crowd of Koreans- LOOK FOR THE RED HAIR!). The fishing pond was more or less a cement tub, a little larger than a swimming pool, covered in a blue tarp. There was a raised platform extending over the pool and an MC was standing up there getting the crowd excited for the upcoming event. I was placed, very intentionally, right next to the platform. After a bit of shouting and heckling from the crowd, three or four men in waders climbed into the pool with big crates in their arms. After a “hana, dul, set!” (one, two, three) from the MC, they opened the crates and started throwing the crabs towards the edges of the pool for people to “catch.”
I know this might come as a bit of a surprise, but I’m horrible at fishing (side story: there was once a picture of my dad and me in the local paper, fishing pole in hand, and the caption said “I don’t like touching the worms, so I make my dad do it”). One of the volunteers ended up taking the pole from my hand, did some swirly arm maneuvers, and basically trapped a crab for me with the fishing line. He handed the pole back to me, but I was so overwhelmed with what was happening that I didn’t pull it back quickly enough for his liking and he ended up grabbing the pole again and lifted the crab out of the water. It swung back at me and I FREAKED out. I don’t know if I just wasn’t expecting it to head straight for me like that, if I was afraid it would fall off and pinch me, or what, but I took a step backwards, tried to grab the railing of the platform next to me, missed, and ended up falling over a stair, knocking over a very large box of apples, rice, and eggs next to me. The very friendly (and probably amused) volunteers helped me up while I hurriedly tried to help put everything back in the box. They handed me an apple and I thought that was the end of my fishing experience. I tried, desperately embarrassed, to walk away with my one crab, but the volunteers once again pushed me back towards the pool, pole in hand. Twice more they helped me to catch a crab (I tried, really I did, I just don’t have the finesse necessary to catch crabs in a swimming pool). After what I thought was the last one, they said “one more, one more!” so back I went. This time however, I put my pole in and one of the men in waders grabbed my hook, stuck it into the underside of a crab, and threw it back at me. As I pulled it out (assisted, of course), people started shouting “Winner! Winner!” They took my last crab off the hook, put it in my hands, and thrust me up onto the platform over the pool with the MC. He had me hold it up to show the crowd and began asking me questions in Korean. I still have no idea what he said, but he kept having me smile for a camera with my crab, turning me around in circles so everyone could see my “catch.” After a few minutes of this, I was pushed towards the steps where an ajumma (older woman/grandmother) came to congratulate me. She took one of the winning crab from my bag and pulled a gold-colored band from around the pincer. Then, taking the ring, she¬†shoved in on my finger and started saying something in Korean and smiling at me. I would later learn that this was some sort of wedding ceremony and I was now married to the King Crab, making me the queen.

The ring didn't fit on my ring finger, so it went onto my pinky. Photo c/o Angelica H. Bonus

The ring didn’t fit on my ring finger, so it went onto my pinky. Photo c/o Angelica H. Bonus

In a sick turn of events, I then took my lovely crab husband to be steamed (for the incredible price of 1,000 won, or about $1) and we feasted on him and his friends.

My "husband" and friends. Not sure which was which, but they were DELICIOUS.

My “husband” and friends. Not sure which was which, but they were DELICIOUS.

And that is how I ate crab for $1 and became queen of the crab festival. A few people came up to me throughout the day to congratulate me, and I learned from some Russian women that the ring was actually 24K gold (!) and probably worth a bit of money.

The rest of the festival was mostly just tent after tent of seafood (THEY GAVE AWAY CRAB SAMPLES, SO DELICIOUS AND FREE!) and enjoying the overall atmosphere. Here are a few more photos from the day (if you made it all the way through the story above)

Enjoying a ride on the crab bus. L-R Me, Angelica, Dawn, and Katie

Enjoying a ride on the crab bus. L-R Me, Angelica, Dawn, and Katie

Boats in the harbor.

Boats in the harbor.

Crabs for days.

Crabs for days.

Squid drying in the sun

Squid drying in the sun

There were tables and tables of dried fish

There were tables and tables of dried fish

FRESH FISH!

FRESH FISH!

A woman sitting in the wet market area with some of her (very much alive) fish for sale.

A woman sitting in the wet market area with some of her (very much alive) fish for sale.

Say “Yes.”

Apologies for the blog-silence. Last week I had student reports due and it made life VERY hectic and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep every night. After such a crazy week, I needed to get out of town and this past Sunday provided the perfect opportunity.

The first view of the day that made us go "woooooow" and pull over the car to take pictures. There were many more of these throughout the day.

The first view of the day that made us go “woooooow” and pull over the car to take pictures. There were many more of these throughout the day.

I know I like to say that I have a good sense of adventure; I love to explore new places and try new things, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes, I just want to stay in bed and watch Netflix. Take, for example, this past Sunday. I was planning on Skyping with my mom, making some breakfast, watching some Buffy (rewatching, really), heading to my knitting group, and then going to grab some groceries. It seemed like a pretty good plan for a sunny¬†Sunday. Then Angelica¬†(remember her?) came¬†a knockin’ on my door and says “Hey! I’ve got a car, want to go?” Of course I said “Yes!”

My lovely traveling companion

My lovely traveling companion

While there are many places to go in Korea by subway, bus, or even train, there are some that can only be accessed by car. Such was the case when Angelica and I ended up in a tiny river/mountain area between Daejeon and Okcheon (approximately here). After a very relaxing two hour drive, we found ourselves surrounded by beautiful mountains with wide, sweeping rivers flowing between them.

Mountain, river, repeat; it just doesn't get old.

Mountain, river, repeat; it just doesn’t get old.

We spent the next few hours going “OOOOOOOH! WATER! LET’S GO¬†THERE!”¬†And driving between all the different points in the area. While we never had a very specific destination in mind, it ended up being exactly what we both needed in the day. It was a beautiful way to relax, take in the Korean scenery, and enjoy an afternoon. We saw some fantastic houses (and pensions that can be rented by the night, week, or month, apparently) and daydreamed about what it would be like to live in some of these places. Some were very old-fashioned while others were nothing short of architectural wonders. All were situated to best take in the incredible views.

Our dream house overlooks both a mountain and a river. Perfect.

My dream house overlooks both a mountain and a river. Perfect.

My favorite spot of the day; we hiked a bit to get out on this peninsula. This was the view when we turned around.

My favorite spot of the day; we hiked a bit to get out on this peninsula. This was the view when we turned around.

The other view from the peninsula. Yes, the dirt really was that red.

The other view from the peninsula. Yes, the dirt really was that red.

After a long day of wandering, exploring, and seeing such amazing scenery, we were a little tired and a lot hungry. We headed over to Daejeon for some BBQ and ended up meeting up with a friend of mine from training. All in all, it was a lovely day and (totally not surprisingly) I’m really glad I said “Yes!” to these last minute plans.

In other “Say Yes!” news, I’m meeting up with a group of people to participate in the Daegu Stamp Trail¬†this weekend. It seems like a great way to explore my hometown and you get a pretty sweet souvenir at the end of it all. In addition, I’m headed to a Samsung Lions baseball game this weekend with my coworkers! It’s shaping up to be a pretty good weekend.

10

I know, it’s been a while. Longer than I’d like. I need to figure out a regular posting schedule and stick to it. It would probably help if I felt like I had more to report, but there’s not so much going on right now.

I got my Visa back from the Korean Consulate last week (horray!). Turns out that the FedEx guy really screwed me over by saying they couldn’t do prepaid envelopes, but the Consulate worker who called me was incredibly understanding and helpful and made sure I got my documents back very quickly. Thank goodness for HELPFUL people!

I’m about to start packing, which is seeming more and more terrifying as time goes on. I have so much STUFF. I’ve gone through everything several times now (in addition to clearing out junk several times while moving this past year), but it still seems like I’m going to have too much. I plan on leaving a box or two at my parent’s house, but otherwise my possessions will (hopefully) shrink down to the size of a very large suitcase and a medium sized backpack. That seems crazy, but I’m really excited to not own so much.

This weekend I have two going away parties and then it’s really crunch time. It doesn’t feel real, sometimes. I can’t believe that in 10 days exactly I will be boarding a plane (and taking off at almost this exact time) to start a whole new life on the other side of the world. CRAZY!

52 and a bucket list

52. I have 52 days until I leave for Korea. In that time, I have trips to Texas and Florida planned (to see family), I need to go through my clothes again (moving 4 times in a year helped cut down on what I own, but I still have a long ways to go to get to the 50 lb/2 suitcase limit), I have to sell my car (anyone want a 2002 Nissan Maxima? I’m serious on this), sell one of my bikes (the other is staying in storage at my parent’s house), and hopefully buy a new camera lens, if I have the money for it. I also need to get vaccines (Hep. A and B, a flu shot, maybe typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, and malaria, plus a prescription for Cipro), get my visa, and make sure I have all my other documents together before I take off.

In addition to all the things I need to do, there are a few things I would like to do before I leave. They include…

  • Go to the Blue Nile (Ethiopian food)
  • Celebrate NY in STYLE; glitter glitter everywhere
  • Head to UMMA
  • Go sledding!
  • One more night of karaoke in town (before all the norebangs!)
  • Bake as much as possible; it seems like I probably won’t have an oven in Korea.
  • Spend as much time as I can with family and friends- my sister and I will both be unemployed and in town for January! I can’t explain how excited I am for this…
  • ???

I don’t know what I’m going to miss. I’m trying to think of all the things I take for granted here, but I keep drawing a blank. I think, in many ways, I’m ready to go (mentally, clearly not packed, etc.). Of course I will get homesick, and of course I will miss my family and friends, but I can’t think of the activities I’m going to miss. Maybe part of the problem is that I don’t do a lot here. I work, I cook, and I try to not fall asleep before 9 every night. It’s not much, and I really do like my life here, but I’m ready for a change.

Anyone else have “home” bucket lists? Things that you’ve always been meaning to do in your hometown but, for one reason or another, just haven’t?

Lists are easier, sometimes.

Oil spill on the ground outside my house. Gross, but beautiful.

Oil spill on the ground outside my house. Gross, but beautiful.

Things that are good right now:

  • Coffee! I brought in single serve cups (yeah yeah, I know – so horrible for the environment, but so much better on my wallet!) and used the building next door’s Keurig. It’s not the best, but it’s better than the coffee made in my building and waaaay cheaper than going across the street for a cup.
  • I walked to work today! I love that endorphin rush…
  • Snow, yo. It’s so pretty! From the lovely, snow-capped buildings across the way to the cute pumas outside of the Natural History Museum, it’s all so WHITE and pretty (and we haven’t had months on end of the stuff…so I’m still enamored).

    A puma outside the Natural History Museum.

    A puma outside the Natural History Museum.

  • My slow cooker. I made split pea soup yesterday, which Adam and I devoured alongside grilled cheese sandwiches (UM, DID YOU KNOW THAT COSTCO CARRIES GLUTEN FREE BREAD NOW?!), and when I get home tonight there will be a big pot of chicken and tomatoes just waiting to be added to some pasta. I love not having to think too hard when I get home from work!
  • Korea! Duh. I’ve been in a “this is a REALLY AWESOME THING” mood, recently. I’m looking at places I want to go, adding to my bucket list (which I will post, at some point), and thinking of all the great food I’m going to eat in the next year. This is, honestly, how I feel about this whole adventure, but sometimes I just get in a mood about it, ya know?
  • I’m almost done with work! While I feel very appreciative to have kept my job during the last month and a half, I’m really really looking forward to some time off. I need to go through all my stuff ever, pack, and maybe create a “USA” bucket list for before I leave.
  • Weekends! This one was a ton of fun. Friday, Adam and I went out with some of our friends to celebrate our birthdays (last Tuesday and Thursday, respectively) and then we went over to his coworker’s house on Saturday night and ate an AMAZING hotpot meal. This was my first experience (I think? Does shabu shabu count as hotpot?) and Zong Rong did an excellent job. Beef, chicken, lamb, tofu, and tons of veggies in flavorful broth – what could be bad? We were a little confused at first, having never eaten this way, but it was SO good. I think I’ll be dreaming of that broth for a while.

Hotpot food, all ready to go. Not pictured: the hungry and confused dinner guests.

Zong Rong cooking us an amazing hotpot meal on Sautrday.

Zong Rong cooking us an amazing hotpot meal on Sautrday.

 

 

 

Nichols Arboretum

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I have no idea what the name of this peony is; I just think it’s beautiful.

Last night I went with some friends to see the¬†peony gardens¬†at¬†Nichols Arboretum. They have the largest collection of historical peony plants in North America (maybe the world?). It was beautiful and smelled so good. We walked around the arb for a bit and then wandered back to the peony gardens, stopping to make some faerie houses along the way. There is a “faerie hollow” just beyond the peony gardens, and we decided to add to the collection of houses.

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This is my contribution to the faerie houses. Sorry it’s so blurry!

So much fun! Afterwards, we went out for some gelato and watched a guy get arrested (entertainment!). All in all, a fun evening.

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Here is everyone (except me) looking very lovely, if a little awkward, by the Huron River. L-R, Ellen, Adam, Morgan, and Ethan.

Today is my mom’s birthday, so we are having a little dinner party for her and some of our family friends. The weather finally cleared up and it stopped raining, so maybe we’ll be able to go outside a bit!