Archive for the 'marc’s visit' Category

Peaceful

From Marc and I’s trip to Cheongpyeongsa Temple in Gangwondo.

BackPost

This is a post from July 18th that got lost in my masses of drafts.  It’s a bit out of date, but entertaining, I think:

As Marc said yesterday, “Life with [me] is always an adventure…”. Yesterday was no exception.

I got off work at 11, because my co-teacher had to go to Gwangju to pick his son up from high school (public schools have small dormitories here for students who don’t live conveniently close), so I came back to the apartment and finished my lesson plans for the camp I work a week from now, and then Marc and I picked something off the tourist map for Jindo and headed there on a bus, after dealing with the stationmaster, who I suspect sees me as a bit of a moron because I can’t read their bus schedule.

We headed to Namdoseokseong, a 13th century fortress that still has all of its walls intact, and a reconstruction of a couple of the buildings inside. The neatest part, to me, is that people still live almost entirely inside the walls, in the village. There were only 3-4 houses that were outside the walls. What was even neater was that the old roads and stone irrigation ditches were still there and still being used, virtually unchanged. I’m pretty sure that none of the houses inside were original, but many of them used the traditional stone/mud/thatch construction that was used for most of Korean history, so it was virtually the same as it would have been. Don’t worry, I will post photos soon.

Where the nuts part starts is actually when we LEFT the fort.

So, we had checked when the next bus left the station before we left, and then figured we’d track how long it took us to get there the first time, and then just add that to the new departure time, to figure out when to catch the bus back. By our calculations, it should have come around 5:15, so we got to the bus stop around 5. A few minutes after we got there, three old women were dropped off at the bus stop by a tractor, so we assumed that was a good sign that we were at least somewhat right about the timing. Nope. 5:15 passed. 5:30 passed. Around 5:30 the women were picked up by a car. That was disheartening. Around 5:50 I tried to talk to some old men who were just sitting around one of the buildings about having them call a taxi. They said, basically, “bus in 10 minutes!”. So I went back to the bus stop, since they seemed to think that it was better just to wait. Around this time, I decided to explore the tidal flats behind the bus stop. While chasing a crab around, I took a wrong step, sunk ankle-deep into the mud, and lost my shoe. I then had to dig around in the mud for my shoe, resulting in one muddy arm and one muddy leg (the other leg wasn’t exactly clean either). I rinsed myself off in an only slightly cleaner stream, and then found a utility sink to rinse off the dirty water. We waited around 20 minutes after I had talked to the old men. No bus. By that time, the men had disappeared. Around 6:30, two cars worth of Koreans pull up, get out of the car with a camera and tripod, and gesture towards us. We assume they want us to take a photo of them in front of the fort, so I agree. As it turns out, they want us IN the picture. Foreigners here are a bit of a spectacle, so this is not the first time I have been grabbed to be in a random photo. It’s a bit demeaning, but whatever. So we let them have us in their weird family/friend photo, and then since we did THEM a favor I asked them to call us a taxi, since their 8 year old son spoke some English. They gladly called, and the taxi finally came around 7:00 and we were back in Jindo around 7:30ish.

I am often entertained by this sort of zaniness that is so pervasive in Korea, though sometimes, such as that day, I do find it more on the frustrating end of the spectrum.  Makes life an adventure though, as Marc found out while he was here.  You have to be very flexible here in Korea, or you’ll go crazy.  It’s something I thought I was good at in the US, but Korea takes it to a whole new level, and I’m still adjusting, two months in.

Here’s a photo from the bus ride there that day:

“Fan Death”

While he was here, Marc and I came up with a phrase that we say whenever we discover something very odd about Koreans/Korean culture (typically some belief or another, typically an ignorant one):  “Fan Death”

Koreans believe that if you have a fan on and the windows closed, you will die, because fans “steal your air”.  There are even warnings on the boxes, and they all have timers with a maximum of 3 hours.  They also believe that if a pet is left alone with a fan in the room, that it will explode.  Not just suffocate (as they believe humans do), but spontaneously explode.  It’s absolutely absurd, and at the same time rather humorous.  Thus, when something similarly odd about Korea comes up, we both look at eachother and say “Fan Death”.  It’s an inside joke, and one that won’t get much use now that he isn’t here, but it does make me chuckle.

Generally, I am very accepting of odd cultural beliefs, but the Koreans have several (such as the examples I just gave) that just reek of plain old ignorance, and so I can’t help but laugh.

 

And because I hate making posts that don’t contain a photo, here, have a visual-overload one from Marc and I’s visit to Cheongpyeongsa temple in Gangwondo:

Sometimes I think that monks must be into psychedelics…

Written on the Train

According to my countdown program, I have 9 months and 28 days until I return to the US (or at least leave Korea).  For the next 28 days (exactly), I am teaching at English camps (until the 21st of August) and then I have until September 1st, when school starts again.  They may give me that time off, or they may have me “work” in the education office.  I’m hoping for that extra time off, but then again, a side effect of me holding my supervisor to my contract is that she also holds me to my contract, which I think is reasonable, though I do feel that sitting in an office surfing the internet for like 6 hours is still a bit absurd, as it accomplishes nothing except keeping me under her watchful eye.

After the start of school, I only teach for about a week before I get somewhere between 4 and 9 days off for Buddha’s birthday, depending on how generous the education board is feeling.  That puts me at mid-ish September, and then I have a cumulative 4-ish months until winter vacation starts in January (which I’m not sure what they’re having me do during), and about 5 months until my actual vacation starts in February.  I’m considering a few different options for February; New Zealand, Laos, maybe China, Australia, or going back to the US for a bit.  I’m more inclined towards New Zealand/Australia/Washington DC, because I miss being able to hold more than a simple, somewhat halting conversation.  That 5 months is going to be hard, but I went 4.5 months between the last time I saw Marc and now, so I should be able to make it.  6 months is longer than 4.5, but honestly, not by much.  Once you get above a month or so, and especially above 2 months, it all starts to feel the same.

After my vacation, I have only 3 months before I’m finished, and then it’s back to the US to start looking for jobs with Marc, and for places to live.  He has a bit of an advantage over me, as he can start looking starting this school year, but due to time differences, being unable to interview in person, etc, I will likely have to wait until I return to the US, which makes it a bit harder.  We’re looking in Pennsylvania primarily it seems (though we’d love to find something in Vermont), since it’s a relatively blue state, it’s somewhat of a center for reenacting, the housing is cheap, and it has a good mix of rural and urban areas.  It’s one of few states where it’s possible to live in a completely rural area but still be 15-20 minutes from a city of decent size, which is sort of what we’re looking for.  We want rural, but we also don’t really want to sacrifice convenience, either.  It’s difficult, but quite possible, with some perseverance.

Sitting here on the bullet train, I find myself wishing that Marc was napping with his head in my lap or on my shoulder, but that’s something I’m going to have to get used to not having.  Okay, that’s enough sappiness for now.  I’m sure you’re all quite tired of hearing about him.

Seoul was quite interesting as far as a place to visit.  I don’t know much about the city, and it rained at least a little each day.  Our DMZ tour got cancelled, which was a huge disappointment, as Marc is highly unlikely to come to Korea again, and this is really the only place that the public can visit an active warzone.  We also wanted to visit the traditional village (think Colonial Williamsburg for Korea) in Suwon, but since you wander around outside, we didn’t really relish the thought of doing so in the rain for hours.

We ended up going to several markets, which was quite interesting.  The markets are multi-storied, and packed to the gills with stalls (with products often even forming an inadvertant roof in places), and it can get quite crowded and claustrophobic at times, if you’re inclined towards that sort of thing.

Our final day we ended up just hanging around.  We stayed in a hotel in Itaewon, the foreigner district of Seoul, for our time there, and so I wanted to hit up some of the stores (both legit and blackmarket) that tend to sell western products such as English-language books and western groceries.  We had a leisurely morning, then headed out for about an hour to find those stores, grabbed brunch at a Belgian-French (i.e. Wallonian) restaurant named Mignon (French: “cute”), then headed back to the hotel to lounge around in bed, snuggle a bit, and watch movies.  It was a nice, low-key last day, and I think it was what we both needed.  Marc was feeling a bit melancholy (a guy who shows emotions in a relationship, how novel!), as was I, and so being able to spend time being close was good for both of us.  This morning we had a $50 cab ride to the airport, but for only $20 more than the bus costs, it was worth it to not have to schlep our bags everywhere and stress over making the flight.

When I get back to Jindo this afternoon, I have one final night in my apartment, and then tomorrow afternoon I will be schlepping my stuff over to Lisa’s apartment, where I will be living for a week before heading up to Damyang, north of Gwangju, to teach at my teacher’s camp.  I may even just take my bedding and tomorrow’s clothes over there tonight, as I think that being in the same bed that I last slept in with Marc is likely to make me sad, and being in a new environment will help me cope a little bit more.  I do get very nostalgic (I sleep with one of his shirts, for instance), but far less so when I am not surrounded by reminders of what was.

Anyway, this is vastly too long, and I will stop now.  Time to read some of Aftermath, Inc., which Marc left for me so I would have something other than history books and travel narratives to read.

 

Here, have a photo from one of the markets:

Left Behind

Well, Marc has gone.  His plane left an hour and a half ago from Incheon airport.  I’m very proud of myself that I didn’t cry.  I got a little choke-y at one point, but no tears.  I did cry last night a bit, but I figured it was better to do so while I had him around to hug me rather than at the airport, where I’d just be embarrassed.  I will definitely miss him a lot, but I figure that if I’m really, really lonely, I can always go back to DC for my vacation in February (or part of it).  I get the full month of February off, so I could take the first week to go to North Korea (I may be able to finagle that) and pack, and then take the other three to go back to DC.

I have realized that in fact what bothers me more than Marc leaving, in a way, is the loss of someone to talk to about stuff I enjoy, someone who knows me and my behavior, who knows my background and outside the context of Korea.  When he’s here, Korea doesn’t feel so alien, and I realized while he was here that what I miss is in fact the familiarity of the US, rather than the US itself, etc.  I think those last three months here in Korea are going to be hard, and so if I’m feeling particularly frustrated, I may just go back to the US for a little while to help with that.

I took this photo on Friday while we were taking a break from wandering around the fabric market, and I like his expression.  I also think it’s cute that he’s wearing his shirt from when he used to work for the Arlington Police Department and sitting in a donut shop, but that’s just me.  He can be very photogenic, and has a good sense of what he looks like in front of the camera, and has a nice smile.  He’s easy to take a good photo of, which makes me happy.

 

 

Marc at a Donut Shop

Marc at a Donut Shop

 

Anyway, that’s all for now.

Heading Out Soon

Today Marc and I are heading up to Mokpo to start our non-Jindo-based vacation.  Yesterday we were going to go to Wando, but the weather didn’t seem good enough, so we just went to Gagye beach here instead.  Due to stuff with trains, etc, and me having to pack up my apartment for the move, we decided to make today a leisurely one and we’ll be heading up to Mokpo this afternoon, and we’ll catch both Hellboy 2 and The Dark Knight this afternoon/evening.  Tomorrow we’ll hopefully be heading up to Chuncheon, via Seoul.  I’m definitely excited about getting to visit Gangwon province, since it’s about as opposite from Jindo as you can get in Korea.

We’re planning on seeing some of the Korean War sights, since we’re both reenactors of that period, and we’re hoping to check out a temple or two.  We’ll spend a couple days in Gangwon and perhaps the province below it (I can’t recall the name at the moment), and then we’ll head to Seoul and the DMZ, before Marc flies out on Sunday.

I’m going to be pretty depressed for a couple days after he leaves, I suspect.  Thankfully, I work an English camp immediately after he leaves, but I only work for an hour and a half a day (I’m off by 10:30), so I can use that time to relax and maybe go to the beach, rather than just building stress while working.  After that week, I go up to Damyang to teach at a teacher’s camp for two weeks.  The facilities are really nice, and I’ll be surrounded by other foreigners, so it should help my mood.

 

Marc at Sangaysa Temple

Marc at Sangaysa Temple

 

 

For now, I’m just taking lots of photos of him, as it will give me something to look at during the 10 months before we meet again.  I’m a very visual person, and so having photos of the ones I love is very important to me.  I have strings of photos here in my apartment, so I have probably about 50 or 60 photos hanging up to remind me of home.

 

Marc at Namdoseokseong Fortress

Marc at Namdoseokseong Fortress

Public Service Announcement

All posts prior to this post were back-posted, so their dates are not correct.  I arrived in Korea on May 23rd, 2008, for those who need a point of reference.

For now, have a photo:

 

Marc standing on the fortress wall at Namdoseokseong


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