Hallasan

So during the height of the recent threats from North Korea, Kim Jong Un claimed that he would stake his claim on the tallest mountain in South Korea, which is the peerless Hallasan. Unfortunately for Jong Un… I, a humble Canadian, have peaked it first. But let’s be honest, it’s not like he could make it up the mountain anyways, unless it was by air lift.

 

This is as close as he will ever get.

This hike took part some time ago, but like I had warned many a months back, this blog will not be updated as frequently as when everything was so shiny and new in Korea. Mostly laziness has set in, as well as the deep and invasive humidity of an asian summer.

Halla was wonderful though, though not really for the faint of heart! It took us about four hours up uneven rocky stairways by the Seongpanak trail and about three and a half down Gwaneumsa trail. I was in pain for days! Despite this it didn’t stop us from seeing both young and incredibly, remarkably elderly Korean people from climbing up along with us.

And while Seongpanak was nice, Gwaneumsa was stunning. Gorgeous views on the way down. I also got the chance to see the volcanic lava tubes of Jeju, so two items on my Jeju bucket list checked off in one week!

Otherwise life on the island has been its crazy wonderful, occasionally very upsetting self. I’ve still been running, climbing, beaching and enjoying the nightlife on my weekends in Jeju! I’ve started to not feel like one of the “new” people in Jeju now, what with newbies coming in more often. For anybody considering choosing a location in Korea in teach I do highly recommend Jeju. The foreigner community here is very lovely and welcoming, and as long as you make even the tiniest bit of effort to get out I promise you will meet many people. As well. BEACHES.

 IMG_1655

Coming down!

Coming down!

Totally different plant life down Gwaneumsa

Totally different plant life down Gwaneumsa

Gwaneumsa

There was water in the crater, which is supposed to be good luck!

There was water in the crater, which is supposed to be good luck!

Near the end. So thankful!

Near the end. So thankful!

The rest station coming up.

The rest station coming up.

Gwaneumsa Gwaneumsa Gwaneumsa

View of the top up Halla from a little side trek.

View of the top up Halla from a little side trek.

This little pond is up on a little side hike coming up Seongpanak.

This little pond is up on a little side hike coming up Seongpanak.

Just starting!

Just starting!

IMG_1665  IMG_1617 IMG_1688

 

Speedy

Hola! This post is not going to be nearly as titillating as a review of Jejus’ sexiest museum, but hopefully a report on my race is at least moderately exciting?

This weekend was a big moment on Jeju for the foreign population of the island. It was the Jeju Furey Beach volleyball tournament that happens twice a year. It’s kinda a big deal. I missed out on getting a team this tournament so I signed up for a 10 km race at the Jeju marathon on Sunday. I had originally been planning the full, then the half… and then laziness set in. That’s a lot of training! I’m a bit of a busy lady, if these blog posts are any indication.

Despite this, after some rock climbing in Musucheon on Saturday I stopped by to watch some games and cheer people on at the tournament. Even just being a spectator at Hammdeok beach is really fun, and I didn’t have so do much other than watch and sun tan.

Also present at the beach were a couple groups of American soldiers. It was easy to spot them because if you asked the standard questions almost all Waygook’s ask upon meeting… “Hagwon or EPIK?” they just give you a totally blank look. I’m sure they are a dime of dozen on the mainland, but its not common to see them on Jeju. Maybe that will change if the military get their way and build a base on the island?

Anyways, went to bed early and was very lucky to get a ride to the marathon in the morning. It was on the completely opposite side of the island from me, starting on and along Gimnyeong beach. I was also concerned because I never received my race package in the mail, but sorted it out pretty quickly at the headquarters tent.

It was my very first race, and I loved the atmosphere and the attitude of all the runners. And while running the race I know I was affected by the mood of the race because I barely felt tired until the very end! I was pretty happy with my time, I had wanted to break the 50 minute mark, but I think it came out to be more like 50:10. We don’t have official times yet, but I had to wait for the crowd to leave the start line after the clock started and I stopped for water. So maybe without those I could’ve have done it? Also maybe if I drank less beer on the weekends? And though back home that would only really be considered a relatively okay time, in the Jeju 10 km I think I may be in the top 10 female rankings. I’ll have to wait and see!

 

This was the start for the full course. Inspiring people! One day...

This was the start for the full course. Inspiring people! One day…

Because I didn't get the blue marathon shirt in the mail I ran with my own! I was the brightest runner by far in the pack with my blonde hair and highlighter coloured shirt.

Because I didn’t get the blue marathon shirt in the mail I ran with my own! I was the brightest runner by far in the pack with my blonde hair and highlighter coloured shirt.

After the gas was released the wind blew it right into the runners eyes! AH!

After the gas was released the wind blew it right into the runners eyes! AH!

The fiercest of competitors!

The fiercest of competitors!

So I went to Loveland…

To all of my regular readers, all four of you, (Hi Mom!) I am not dead! Haven’t posted in awhile I suppose, but it hasn’t been for lack of exciting events. Within the last two weeks I have really grown as a person, and by that I mean I have traveled to mainland Korea and have witnessed the most extraordinary treasure that Jeju has to offer. And no, it is not Mount Halla. It’s LOVELAND.

… But not really. I’m sure Halla is going to be lovely, I am aiming to climb it pretty soon before it gets unbearably hot on the island. Jeju has many beautiful natural attractions, yet the island is also well known for having three sexually themed museums. I guess one just wasn’t enough? Loveland is by far the most famous. It’s the product of a group of art students all making a large exhibition of lewd statues and needing a place to put them. So during the previous Saturday to this one I went there with some friends, as well as Hamdeok beach for the first time. Just gorgeous, nicer than the beach in Moseulpo (but hey, there’s a beach in Moseulpo) with green, blue waters. Attempted a swim, but the water was just a little too cold for a comfortable splash.

But back to Loveland, everything was just one giant visual pun. It also puts you in a seriously Freudian mindset. Everything you look at afterwards is suddenly phallic and you can barely go a conversation without a bad “that’s what she said joke.” Anyways, if you only have a short time on Jeju, this place would be highly recommended for a good laugh. I wouldn’t take someone there as a method for sexual education though, they may get the entirely wrong impression. Also a funny feature of Loveland though is the play centre they have for children for the parents who need to dump their kids off for an hour. Well played.

Sunday was quite good as well, climbed Dansan with some snacks and wine and watched the sunset. Tripped and fell down a bit of mountain on the way down, but I remain in good condition.

Jeju has gradually become more hot and humid, with this last week basically being a big sticky mess. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night, so I went to buy a fan. At the store I picked up a display fan with a stand and pointed at it repeatedly, gesturing that that was the one I wanted. Of course, the lady hands me a box and when I get home it’s a wall mounted fan. My wall fan is currently lying on my floor pointed at my bed and hitting me about half the time. I didn’t want to go through the mess of returning it.

I had this last Friday off for Buddha’s birthday, so knowing this I had bought a ticket to Busan with some friends for the long weekend. Leaving Jeju during the holidays is much easier than coming to Jeju on the holidays! It was an easy, early flight over to Busan, and I finally got to see a Korean big city! It also finally sunk in to me how truly different Jeju is from the mainland. The big city on the island is so puny and laid back compared to Busan, which in turn is probably so much smaller than Seoul.

Our hostel was right near Haeundae beach, and we sort of just bee lined it to the ocean as soon as we got there. It is a bit silly, considering that Jeju has so many beautiful beaches of it own, but I guess I’ll never really get over wanting to hang out on the sand. Spent most of our weekend in a giant tourist trap, but I didn’t mind too much, we had a ton of fun. Friday we went to Yonggungsa temple for Buddha’s birthday, which is set on cliffs over the ocean. Very beautiful. And that night, for celebrations off our own we set off cheap fireworks on the beach. Hazardous, but completely awesome.

Saturday more beach lounging, and than H&M. Oh, american style, how I missed you. Put a serious dent in my bank account and also picked up some english books. I’ve just started “The Marriage Plot,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, but I’m taking my time with it and trying to savour having a new book in hand to read.

The bar we attended twice was called the Wolfhound, which is such a Waygooken bar. I thought the Factory in Jeju-si packed in a lot of foreigners, but this place was teeming with ex-pats. It’s a little weird coming from Jeju and recognizing about half the ex-pat population by sight to coming to Busan where they are incredibly common.

Anyways, was very happy to see my little Moseulpo again. Really shocking, but it really felt like coming home. Busan was great, cool city, met fun people and had a great time!

Hopefully it won’t be another two weeks to my next writing post, but next is my pictures!

Hey Beach?

This week was weird at work. Because of the midterms there was crazy schedule shenanigans, and I ended up working much less than usual. The middle school students needed to cram in as much as possible for their tests and needed to be prepped by their main korean speaking teachers, so I was relatively useless there. 

 On friday the hagwon had a quiz format day all day, so only the elementary students showed up with some friends for ice cream and a hectic quiz game with me. It was interesting to have a shake up in the schedule, but I never had a clue what was going on for most of the day. Luckily the children seemed to be appeased, because they had been plied with candy and ice cream the whole period. Children always have the right priorities. 

 Wednesday I did have a chance to hop over the Jungmun beach in the morning for a bit of beach time. Snuck onto some resort chairs and just chilled in the sun. And that night because of the relaxed work schedule I ended up in Seogwipo for ANOTHER Jeju United game. Missed the very end, but once again they won 2-1. Ell ya! Missed their game for the first time this season today, but just checked, they won against Ulsan 3-1!! They are undefeated so far! 

 Saturday I returned to Jungmun beach for a birthday after some really great sushi with a coworker, and it was smoking hot outside. Bikini weather, which I regret not bringing there now! Swimming is technically off limits until June, but since that rule is completely and appalling ridiculous it’s generally appropriately ignored. Got in some beach sports, as well as slack lining for the first time! Which is really cool, but I can’t quite manage to stand up on my own yet. Also, while stopping at the Jungmun Starbucks (their Starbucks are super swanky, it’s kinda sick) apparently we saw a famous actor? I don’t know, I’ll try to update who it is. Just hangin in the chairs. He was older, so he wasn’t like an idol type or anything. Still, strange. 

 Headed to Gecko’s after the beach, to drink a disgustingly potent pitcher of Long Island Iced Tea and beer, with more beer. It wasn’t that bad. I remember pretty much the whole night, unless I’ve forgotten that I’ve forgotten something. Played some stumbling dart games… I think. 

 It wasn’t so bad, because the next morning I awoke to realize that I had somehow survived. Attempted climbing super early at Musucheon, but I was completely pathetic. I had a hard time balancing while standing on solid ground, I think I was being over ambitious about balancing in little rock cracks. Went into Jeju-si to replace my running shoes, and proceeded to pretty much burn a hole in my NH bank card while buying summer clothes in Tapdong. Most places were closed, but I found some amazingly cheap stores, with all the bizarre and cute Korean clothing I could want. I found some keepers, thats for sure! Thank goodness it was payday on Saturday. 

Gentleman

Finally! I believe that the last vestiges of winter have finally begun to vacate Jeju. The chilly grey days were beginning to depress me. The humidity of the island is really on the rise though, and my hair for one is not thankful for it. Soon I will look sporting the Einstein-do. 

 As well this weekend was right and gloriously sunny, and my skin has begun its fast turn over to baked. Light skin is highly valued in Korea, but since I tend to look slightly jaundiced when I have light skin I am just going to ignore this all together. Maybe I’ll promise to take the T out of G.T.L-ing this summer though, as a slight concession. 

 

Image

Image above is my usual summer appearance. 

This last week I did finally make it down to the Yongmeori coastline just below Sanbangsan. Last week the weather was veering towards the scary side and the coast was closed. Monday was all bright blue skies this time, and the water was calm and clear. It is not a long area to explore, but it was very beautiful to see. The rock formations are quite stunning, and it was pretty easy just to sit down and chillax along the walls for a bit. 

 So here is another Jeju traditional experience maybe I don’t quite understand? I saw an elderly woman wandering along the walls with her head to the rock and praying out loud. I don’t know who or what she was praying to, but her husband was walking around below her and just taking pictures like a more generic tourist. There is a lot of mysticism on Jeju that I have not even begun to really study, but hopefully through out the year I will pick up a few things. 

 This last week has been pretty tense at school, so it was nice to have such a sweet start to the week. All the middle school students are preparing for their mid-terms (in Korea all of these exams are counted through middle and high school) and they are really beginning to fray at the edges. Constant work sheets, practice tests and the always impossible feat of making them stay focused! It’s hard, because when you see them so stressed out you don’t really want to be the extra stone on the rock pile of burdens for these kids. Their performances will reflect on the Hagwon, so the academy can’t really afford to go easy on them. 

 More meals with the rice cooker this week, it has basically become my swiss army in the kitchen in lieu of a microwave. Because I make so many of my own meals finding the right grocery shop was very important. I have finally picked a favorite, where the selection is decent for a small town and the staff are friendly to the confused and bewildered waygook kind. One of the staff is so friendly he will basically assist me around the store, because, as he tells me, “He is a Gentleman. BUT NOT LIKE PSY.” Who says that chivalry is dead?  

 

Image

 

I don’t know why he wouldn’t want to be like PSY? 

I also signed up for a 10k race for the end of May this week! It was be my first real road race. It’s exciting, but since 10k is kinda just a typical distance for me I am hoping to challenge myself to really cut down on my time. 

 Weekend was wonderful, as per usual. Friday was beer and boardgames, and Saturday was beer, board games and bbq and Sunday was… NOT BEER. AMAZING. 

 Saturday was super fun though, we went to a Braai for the South African’s Freedom Day and ate a whole load of incredibly delicious South African meat and desserts. Ran around the field trying and largely failing to play varying sports. Listened to some Johnny Clegg who I would say is like the South African’s equivalent to Gordan Lightfoot or Stompin Tom (R.I.P) so you know that’s pure quality right there. 

 Woke up the next morning in a bit of pain. It was totally manageable though, because I am a born trooper. Hauled my hot mess self over to Jeju-si to watch the climbing competition going down (up? HAHA…) at the synthetic climbing wall in the afternoon. I had missed the beginning, but I got there in time to see the technical competitions between the high school girls, the boys, and the mens finals. Unlike in speed climbing the climbs were judged by the amount of holds touched or grabbed, and how high you  manage to reach. The synthetic climbing wall, which is usually very manageable, was actually made into a series of routes so difficult it was rare to see someone reach the top! Some of the falls were pretty brutal too, and one of the high school girls really knocked herself quite badly coming down. I may have made a louder noise than she did! 

 One of my friends I have been climbing with, Dan, was actually competing in the mens section. He did great and came in third overall! The mens finals route was frickin difficult looking. I may get a chance to check it out later, because the competition routes will be up for a month or so. 

 Afterwards went to go see Iron Man 3!! Jealous North Americans? Oui? I’ll just say that I enjoyed it…

 

 

I had to check the spelling of all the artists mentioned in this post.

Monday to Friday slid by this week at an alarming rate, and I have very little to post about those days that I would be willing to put any readers of this blog through. On Thursday I attempted to see Yongmeori coast near Sanbangsan, only to be rebuffed by the ticket lady who very sternly told me it was closed. Why? I’m not sure, but I think it was very windy that day by the coast, and the waves were crashing quite high. This is a big cultural difference I’ve noticed between Canada and Korea. In Canada if you want to be stupid out in the wilderness it’s really your own prerogative, and it’s not like anyone’s around to stop you. In Korea, especially as a foreigner, (it’s a visibility thing) the moment you step off a path or seem to be doing anything that is not with the rest of the crowd be prepared for a scolding. But hey, at least I’ve not been swept off into the sea. So maybe they are onto something. 

 

Friday I went into the Chusa Memorial house, which is a very small museum of the calligraphy style of Chusa and a recreation of the house and surrounding buildings of the originator of the style who was exiled to Jeju roughly two centuries ago. Too tired to pull up specific research at this point. There was something incredibly calming both about the atmosphere of the gallery and the elegant calligraphy style. The houses in the back were basic, in terms of the recreations I’ve seen of historical huts, but for a mere 500 won (less than 50 cents) the beauty of the calligraphy scrolls was much more than worth the price of admission. The Chusa Memorial house is also quite close to Moseulpo, and is always a couple stops right before reaching or leaving the town. 

 

And went to Charlie Chaplin’s again. And actually this is the last time I’m even going to mention going here, because it’s nearly as routine as school by now. 

 

Saturday the weather was looking pretty grim, which basically nixed most plans I would normally have on a Saturday. Luckily there was an exhibition I had wanted to see in Shin Jeju at the Jeju Museum of Art called My Chagall, Your Picasso. This is an exhibition of 128 pieces on loan from Venezuela and features a broad array of artists from the formerly mentioned Chagall and Picasso to Manet, Miro, Cezanne, Mondrian, Warhol and I even saw an awesome Rauschenberg and a de Kooning. Most pieces were prints of varying techniques, but there were a number of impressive pieces amongst the show. I had been missing gallery spaces before this experience, and though I appreciated seeing a number of these pieces in person I have to say I actually enjoyed the quiet Chusa museum experience more. 

 

The gallery was quite busy (for obvious reasons, this is a blockbuster exhibition), and we were trying to evade a large tour group. As well, some pieces were not as well treated by the set up of the gallery. The bigger names had all the proper lighting and space, while some smaller pieces were given a rather lackluster display. But worth seeing? Definitely, especially since I don’t think chances to see these artists come around often on Jeju! 

 

Afterwards I saw my first American movie in a Korean theatre! Went to Lotte Cinema in Shin to see the new movie Oblivion. Good choice for a decent nights entertainment which some great special effects and Tom Cruise hamming it up. Not Oscar bait, but it’ll do. 

 

 

Sunday I decided to attempt at least half of an Olle trail. We started though first at the tea museum in O’sulloc. There is a wide span of these beautiful rows of tea bushes across these fields that the museum sits within. Inside the museum buildings were colourful and well arranged, but we pretty much made a quick loop around and asked where the Olle trail was.

 

Olle trail 14-1 (from where we started, which was about half way in) was only about a 3 hour hike to Jeoji. It’s a pretty pathway though, through a dense forest and over an oreum. I hadn’t really realized how thick the forest on Jeju could be until this point, so it was a whole new kind of foliage to see! It was also almost completely devoid of other hikers, so we mostly has the place to ourselves. Now my weekend is finito! SO SAD.