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….

Windy Hill (Geoje Island Area)

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet up with some members of the Daegu Hiking Club (facebook link) and explore the Geoje Island area. The original plan was to explore the hilly area on one of the islands for a bit and then take a ferry-boat to Somamuldo Island. However, because of the recent Sewol disaster and a bit of a rough chop on the seas, our day was cut short and we were only able to explore the Windy Hill area.

Hiking in Korea is a lifestyle. People here form clubs, don matching gear, and rent (or BUY) charter busses to take them to different hiking destinations. The Daegu Hiking group is maintained by a Korean who connects the group with different touring groups (mostly KJ Hiking Club). It helps them fill up seats on their bus (keeping their costs down) and lets foreigners see a whole new aspect of Korean culture. Win-win, if you ask me.

Our day started bright and early at 7 am. We met up downtown and boarded our bus. About 45 minutes later, we made a stop and had some Korean-style breakfast (part of the fee for the trip). Korean breakfast is delicious; seaweed and soybean soup over rice with kimchi and a few other types of banchan.

Breakfast amongst the azaleas

Breakfast amongst the azaleas

Breakfast was provided by the tour group¬†and I found out later that there are kitchens who sell “hiking breakfast kits” to the various groups. The group tells them how many people and a price-point and the company sends boxes of rice, soup, banchan, and utensils. The fact that a service like this even exists should tell you how popular hiking is in Korea.

After filling up, we got back on the bus and headed further south towards the coast. I have to admit I slept for most of the ride; I was dead tired from being up so early. When I awoke, I was greeted by some very tropical-looking scenery. Maybe it was just the contrast from being in the city, but it just seemed so green. All around us were amazing coastal vistas, lush forests, and hills that seemed to sprout up right from the coastline.

Just before we got off the bus; this was one of my first views of the area

Just before we got off the bus; this was one of my first views of the area

At this point in the day, we were fairly certain we wouldn’t be going to the island to hike, so they gave us a bit of extra time to wander around the area. The area known as Windy Hill is a thin strip of land that rises up and connects one part of an island with another part. It is barely a mile from one side of the island to the other (width-wise), but the climb up the hill makes it feel much much much longer. The coastline is rocky and reminds me of Spain quite a bit. We had great fun exploring each side, before heading back to the bus.

The coast on the right (eastern) side; we went out to explore the rocks on the left-hand side

The coast on the right (eastern) side; we went out to explore the rocks on the left-hand side

A closer view of the rocks from the beach.

A closer view of the rocks from the beach.

Our intrepid leader (name withheld to protect the innocent!) and Angelica on the eastern side

Our intrepid leader (name withheld to protect the innocent!) and Angelica on the eastern side

Another view of the coastline on the eastern side

Another view of the coastline on the eastern side

A boat tied up in the western harbor.

A boat tied up in the western harbor.

This old woman was selling all sorts of sea creatures for people to snack on. I tried some, but was not entirely impressed. They needed to be cleaned a bit better to be really enjoyable.

This old woman was selling all sorts of sea creatures for people to snack on. I tried some, but was not entirely impressed. They needed to be cleaned a bit better to be really enjoyable.

The coastline on the western side; it was significantly windier on this side

The coastline on the western side; it was significantly windier on this side

It was REALLY windy!

REALLY windy! (Photo c/o our leader, whose name I cannot put on here because of his top-secret job ūüôā )

All in all, a really lovely way to spend a Sunday. Despite not getting to go on the hike, we had a very nice time hanging out by the water, climbing rocks, and taking in the scenery. Thanks again to KJ Hiking Club for a great day!

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.

Another weekend adventure

This is part one of a two part post, the second part is forthcoming. I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been busy!

A few weekends ago, a few friends and I headed out to Gyeongju for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Saturday’s weather wasn’t ideal, but it was still beautiful. I’m going to keep this post light on the commentary and let the pictures do most of the talking, which is to say this is a very picture heavy post, so sorry if you have a slower connection.

We started by visiting some burial mounds (next picture) with a wishing turtle at the front of the park.

We started by visiting some burial mounds (next picture) with a wishing turtle at the front of the park.

The ladies and one of the burial mounds.

The ladies and one of the burial mounds.

View from the top of the park.

View from the top of the park.

Cherry blossoms and terracotta

Cherry blossoms and terracotta

Tiles outside the state park

Tiles outside the state park

Funky trees. I love some good topiary

Funky trees. I love some good topiary

Finally, the blossoms!

Close up of some of the blossoms.

Someone's house; I think they weren't too pleased we were taking all these photos, but I loved the contrast of the rust, crackling paint, and trees

Someone’s house; I think they weren’t too pleased we were taking all these photos, but I loved the contrast of the rust, crackling paint, and trees.

Gold and pink and green all over.

Gold and pink and green all over.

We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky, as we lie in fields of gold (this was bliss).

“We’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky,¬†as we lie in fields of gold” (this was bliss).

A little (huge) grasshopper to serenade us along.

A little (huge) grasshopper to serenade us along.

We checked into our love-motel (which was, by almost any standards, quite nice, despite the name and reputation) and crashed for the evening. The next morning, we packed up and headed out to see the flowers along the lake. The day was sunny, if a little cold, but it made for some spectacular viewing. We got there early, so there weren’t a ton of people out yet.

The path leading down to the lake; surrounded by blossoms and trees.

The path leading down to the lake; surrounded by blossoms and trees.

The ever lovely Angelica posing by the lake.

The ever lovely Angelica posing by the lake.

Lake, bridge, blossoms. We had views like this for hours and hours.

Lake, bridge, blossoms. We had views like this for hours and hours.

A perfect blossom.

A perfect blossom.

After our walk (and some much needed coffee), we headed off to Yeongdeok for a¬†crab festival. I’ll write (and post) that story soon, as it was quite the adventure…

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.

Settling in

Apparently, if the emails, gchats, and questioning over Skype from my father are any indication, I am a bit remiss in my blogging responsibilities. Sorry! I’ve been getting settled in to my apartment, my new job, and a whole new country.

I will do an update on my apartment once I can find a cord for my camera. I left mine at home back in the States and need to buy a new one here (relatedly, isn’t “home” an odd notion? I’ve moved a number of times in the last few years and only the last place I lived ever really felt like “home.” Now I’m trying to make this place my new home and it is really hard work!). My apartment is quite large (I have a bedroom!), but there was A LOT of cleaning I needed to do when I first moved in. I’m just finishing up the last of it and once I do that and put up a few more things on the walls, I will photograph/record it.

I’ve been spending a great deal of time getting to know my new city. I’ve been to the big EMart (like a super Target, but better) a few times, I found a local supermarket I like for my everyday groceries, I’ve been out to eat a few times.

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Yes, that is an octopus. Yes, it was delicious. Yes, I ate a ton of this for dinner one night. AND IT WAS CHEAP!

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BBQ on Monday nights is a thing. SO MUCH GOOD FOOD ON THAT TABLE.

Ok, I’ll be honest, I’ve been out to eat a few times. It’s just so GOOD. And the prices aren’t that bad. That soup, split between two people (there was a ton of soup…we each had 3-4 bowls) was about $6/person. BBQ is more expensive, at around $12/person, but still totally reasonable for a large group. It’s also a fun meal, since you get to mix the meat with all sorts of yummy things (see all that stuff on the table? It’s all there to accompany the meat!)

I needed to work some of that food off, so this past weekend a few of my fellow teachers and I went to climb Palgongsan (Mt. Palgong). The mountain is amazingly beautiful and only about 40 minutes outside of Daegu. If you want to visit, just take the 1 bus (the red regional bus) out there. Once you see mountains, get off, or wait a little longer and the bus will take you about 1/2 way up. It’s really cheap (1,600 Won, or about $1.60 US) and very convenient. It does tend to get crowded on weekends, so get to the stop early.

We started our afternoon by wandering around the Temple area. There are many different temples and shrines, each constructed to best suit the type of prayer or offering one is making. The buildings were quite beautiful and the whole Temple complex had the scent of incense wafting through the air to really add to the ambiance. The highlight of the Temple area is a 50 foot tall Buddha. The area around it is covered in intricate marble carvings and statues with beautifully manicured gardens. It’s quite a peaceful setting.

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This 50 foot Buddha is one of the highlights of Palgongsan

After the Temple area,we decided we were too tired to hike up the mountain so¬†we headed down to the main road and around to the cable car area. Thank goodness we did that; that cable car was one of the longest rides up a mountain in my LIFE! I swear it took us almost 10 minutes to get to the top. However, it was totally worth my nerves being rattled (such a tiny car and the door kept almost coming open. AHHH!), as the view at the top was breathtaking. The fog created beautiful layers and really highlighted the mountains in the distance. I’m sure it would be great to see Daegu and the surrounding areas from a distance on a clear day, but this was beautiful in its own way.

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A view from the top. This is pretty much what I saw while eating dinner in the restaurant at the top.

After our cable car ride, we headed back down the mountain, past a street full of these cute (and sometimes weird) statues, and tried not to fall asleep on the bus ride home.
034I‘m working on making friends (I am part of a knitting group!) and figuring out how to do everyday things (how the heck do I mail a letter?). I know that it will take time before I feel completely comfortable (how do I even order food in a restaurant without just pointing and hoping for the best?), but this is the exciting part and exactly why I wanted to travel. ADVENTURE!

Seoul recap and hello home

Well, as I promised it was a quiet week on the blog front. I was super busy with training week and hardly had a chance to do anything besides eat (mostly convenience store food and gimbap), train, and practice teaching. Even though training was only 3 hours a day, the homework and practice took up a lot of time before and after “class,” and jet lag was a noticeable thing. I’m still feeling it a bit, but I think it’s starting to go away. I did catch a bit of a cold (I hope it’s a cold, WebMD tells me it might be strep or whooping cough) and that’s keeping me from really enjoying Daegu as much as I’d like right now. Also, teaching while sick is the least fun thing ever, even in a fake class.

The last week did sort of fly by for me. I had some incidents on the Seoul metro (almost lost my shoe to the huge gap between the platform and train, got my skirt caught in an escalator, and the many many many times that old ladies scolded me for one thing or another), but honestly there wasn’t too much to note. I only have a few pictures and they’re mostly of food. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve already seen them, so I won’t repost right now.

After I passed training on Friday, they shipped us off to Daegu (there are 3 of us new teachers) and put us on the KTX first class. I swear it did not feel like we were going 220 mph for most of that trip. It went by so quickly! I did take some notes from the ride…

-there is ondol (floor heating)
-free water! We get bottles of it out of a fancy little machine.
-my seat is HUGE. There could easily be another in front of me with leg room for both
-they washed our windows, inside and out, before we left. Fancy fancy.
-they just announced we were 3 minutes behind schedule and apologized for it (I think someone was slow to get on in Daejon). The guy behind me is visibly agitated by this info.
-a monk just got on in Gimcheon!
-no one has even checked to see if I have a ticket yet.
-every time an employee comes in or goes out the door, they give the whole car a little bow.

Again, nothing too exciting. Sorry for living such a boring life here in Korea!

I’m moved in and just about unpacked. My goal is to be all done putting clothes away tomorrow and then do a little video tour. I got the kitchen set up first (big surprise, right?) and I’m slowly moving from area to area cleaning VERY thoroughly. The place was pretty gross (and COLD) when I first got here. I was a little sad, but at least I have a one bedroom and not just a studio.

On a more personal note, I’ve been feeling a wee bit homesick recently. I don’t really have any friends here and it’s hard to get out and meet people when I have such a disgusting cough. I’m also still really tired in the evenings, so I don’t want to go out too late or do anything too wild. Even back in the States, I wasn’t a huge go out and party sort of person, so getting into it around here is really tough. I really like my quiet nights in…I know things will get better once I meet some of my coworkers (I actually went to a BBQ at a bar tonight; it was pretty fun, but I didn’t know anyone there! I’m not so good at just jumping into a new conversation), but I’m just really not feeling it right now.

Ok, that’s all until next time! I’m going to try and do this at least weekly to recap what’s been going on. And next time I promise there will be pictures! Is there anything in particular you’d like to see? My neighborhood? The trash (why??)? Something else? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try and get it up here.