Sunday, April 27, 2014

The jimjibang.

"Do one thing every day that scares you"--Eleanor Roosevelt

I've always loved those wise words from Eleanor Roosevelt, but I'll admit it, I don't do something that scares me every single day.  However, while I've been in Korea I've made a real conscious effort to say "yes" to more things, even to things that I'm inclined (many times for no reason) to say no to naturally.  When I came to Korea I told myself I had to push myself to do as many things as I could, otherwise there's no point to coming to a new country.

Eating weird food?  Sure.  By this point I've had grasshoppers, chicken feet, silk worm larvae, and live octopus to name a few. Talking to random strangers? Yep.  Making a fool of myself by attempting to speak Korean?  Ok.  I've done a whole lot of things that have made me uncomfortable over the past eight months.

However, one thing I hadn't been able to do in my 8 months here was visit the jimjubang.  Instead of describing every detail of a jimjibang, I'll just let you google it for yourself.  Let's just say, there's a lot of nudity involved. Lots and lots of nudity. Hence why it's been something I've been avoiding.

Today I finally faced that fear.  I feel as if it's kind of like my Korean rite of passage. While visiting a jimjibang is routine for Koreans, I'm pretty sure it's strangest experience I've had in Korea.  With that said, I'm glad I had that unique cultural experience.  I'm just not sure if it's an experience I need to have again. But at least if I do it will be a whole lot easier the next time around.

A few words about the Sewol Ferry tragedy

By this point, I'm sure just about everyone has heard the horrific accounts of the Sewol Ferry disaster.  For anyone who has been living under a rock, the Sewol Ferry was a ship sailing from Incheon (in the northern part of Korea, near Seoul), to Jeju Island, a famous vacation spot south of the country's mainland.  Many of the people on the ship were high school students who were on a school trip--Jeju is a common destination for school trips in Korea.  In fact, my first grade students were supposed to go on a trip there last week.

That is, until the ferry sank. When I first heard that there was a ship that was sinking, I heard that everyone had been rescued.  Unfortunately, that was very far from the truth.

As I continue to follow this story, it breaks my heart more with each day.  At first it just seemed completely impossible. How could something like this happen in 2014?!  As more details emerged I sat with the rest of the world in disbelief.  The passengers were informed to stay in their rooms?!  The captain left the ship before the passengers, the majority of whom were students?!

It just seems completely surreal.

Naturally, when I read about the missing students, I think of my own students.  It makes the tragedy that much more real and heartbreaking in that light.

As you can imagine, all of Korea has been shocked and horrified by this story and the following developments, such as the suicide of the school's vice-principal following the accident.

Everyone who has been following this story has been filled with sorrow as the number of bodies found at the bottom of the ocean continues to climb. In the midst of this sorrow, the other EPIK teachers and I have also been discovering one major difference in culture between western countries and Korea.  The Korean response to the tragedy has shocked us all on more than one occasion over the past week.

When my school's trip to Jeju, which was scheduled for last week, was canceled I was a little surprised, but I could understand it.  My students were going to be flying, not taking a ferry to the island, so I didn't quite think it was necessary to cancel the trip. But still, I could see where maybe it was too soon.

What I was less prepared for was for the announcement that all fun school activities and field trips for the rest of the semester have been canceled.  School's sports days, picnics, and even the teacher's volleyball tournament in May have all been canceled.

Apparently in a time of mourning, it's not considered acceptable to have fun or to show happiness. I have no idea how long this lasts for, but apparently it's until at least July.

Of course, this totally perplexes most us waygookin.  We're not really sure why the fact that some people are suffering means that our students have to miss out on the few fun days of school they have a year.  Never mind the fact that canceling all trips does nothing to prevent accidents happening in the future.  Of course we all want to show respect to those who were lost, but we struggle to see how canceling ALL trips does that.

This isn't where it stops either.  In the morning I typically turn my TV on to the only English channel I have.  At the time when I get ready, it's usually a show with entertainment news and music videos.  Since the disaster, these shows haven't been on.  They haven't been replaced by new stories about the ferry either--it's just been random talk shows.

This is definitely a cultural difference I didn't know anything about beforehand, and it's definitely been a learning experience.  In large part, I suspect this custom stems from the way in which Koreans share a collective identity--traditionally, the focus of Korean society is on the community, not on the individual. A society's mourning culture is something you hope you won't have to experience, but it is nonetheless a part of life and a major part of culture all the same.

My prayers are with all the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy. I also pray for the students who survived, and now have to return to a school missing far too many familiar faces. Students in Korea spend all of their time together, and I've seen just how close they get as a result.  I can't imagine how they will be able to go back to school, especially in a system that is so intense and in a country where mental health is greatly neglected.  Korea's suicide rate is shockingly high, and I worry about how the friends and families of those affected will deal with the loss of their loved ones.  Please pray for these student and families, not just once or twice, but as the weeks go on. The road to healing-- and eventually back to normalcy will certainly be a long and somber one.

Brilliant Korea: Cat Cafes

Before I came to Korea I spent a large amount of time reading blogs written by people in the EPIK program.  One wonderful thing I read about numerous times was the prevalence of cat and dog cafes.  These are cafes where you can go drink coffee and spend time with cats or dogs.  As an animal-lover, I knew that I definitely wanted to visit one of these wonderful cafes once I was in Korea.

Yesterday I went to Daegu with one of my Jeomchon friends, and as we were walking down one of the main streets, I noticed a sign for a cat cafe.  Although I'm sure we were on a totally different mission at the time, we decided that our other plans had to be put on hold because seeing some cats was WAY more important.

We paid 7,000 won (a little less then $7) to enter the cafe, and a drink was also included in that price.  Not bad if I do say so myself.

The cafe is full of cats who wander around or take naps anywhere they please (including on the tables).  The cats were very calm, and it was obvious that they're used to having people around constantly.  I enjoyed seeing the different breeds of cats--they were all beautiful.

This cat was my favorite! It loved to be held and was purring in our arms.  

Finding the cat cafe was a wonderful surprise for our Saturday afternoon.  One thing I hate about being in Korea is the lack of animal interaction that I get, and it was nice to have a way to somewhat fill that void.  I hope it won't be too long before I get some more animal time in my life! 

Monday, April 21, 2014


I've officially hit that point in the semester where I'm burnt out.  It's a little pathetic considering last week was midterms, so I had it pretty easy.  But after only teaching a few classes today, all I wanted to do was close my eyes and sleep.  My enthusiasm for planning is pretty much non-existent, and I can't help wondering: have I lost my teaching stamina?  Surely my workload is nothing compared to what I had back in the States. Last year at this time I could have plowed through the amount of work I simply can't seem to get through here.

But then I remember, working in Korea isn't just about the hours I spend in the classroom or the amount of lessons I have to create every week.  Although the teaching itself isn't as consuming as back home, it's draining in completely different ways.  There's the constant energy is sucks away when you're trying to make sense of the broken english of your students and co-workers.  There's the the constant stress of not really knowing what you're supposed to be doing--or knowing if you're inadvertently doing something wrong.  There's the stress of not ever really being sure what is going on in your work environment. And on occasion (and especially over the past week for me), there's the emotional toll of wanting to be on the other side of the world, far away from the office you're stuck in, with facebook as a constant reminder of what you're missing out on.

I wasn't anticipating having my first year students this week because they were supposed to be on a trip to Jeju Island.  However, given the tragedy of the ferry accident, the trip was cancelled.  Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE my students. I just wasn't mentally prepared to have all of my regular classes this week. Desptite the fact that it's only Monday, I can definitely say I'm ready for the long weekend we have in the beginning of May.

Time to drink some coffee and give myself a pep-talk.  Let's do this!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A hidden gem in Jeomchon

Despite the fact that I've been living in Jeomchon for 8 months now, I'm constantly amazed by how much I still don't know.  For example, I had no idea we had places to hike only ten minutes away from our apartment building, but sure enough, we do.  My friend Jen was nice enough to show me the way to a mountain in our neighborhood this morning.

The entrance to Dondal Mountain(돈달산)  is less than ten minutes away from our place, and although it's not the largest mountain, the whole way to the top is pretty much just all stairs.  It's a short hike, but certainly enough to wake your legs up and make you realize that you're pretty out of shape.  Not that I'm out of shape at all.....  ;)

At the top is a great view of Jeomchon. Although it was cloudy this morning, we still had a beautiful sight to see. 

Panoramic view

On our way down we stopped by a temple that is at about the halfway point of the mountain.  There were people in the temple, and we could hear some of the Buddhist chants in progress.  Pretty interesting to hear, and definitely something that you don't typically stumble across when you're hiking back in the US.

On our walk back to our apartment we stopped to look at some of the flowers that are in bloom all over the place.  I absolutely love the fact that there are so many beautiful flowers EVERYWHERE right now, and I especially love that so many of these flowers are purple! Just fantastic.

Beautiful purple flowers everywhere!

I love these trees! Kind of similar looking to the cherry blossoms, but the flowers are different. 

Love these flowers!

Just look at those colors!

Flowers like these are everywhere right now.  I love the way they grow between the rocks.

Overall, I had a great start to my day.  I'll definitely be returning to this mountain again--perhaps with a book on a sunnier and warmer day.  Jeomchon may be small, but I still am discovering new wonderful things all the time. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Today was the day....

Today was the day I was asked to submit my request for renewal.

If this would have happened even a week ago, I think I would have been much more excited about it.  However, given my Easter-induced homesickness, I felt the weight of the decision with full force.

In the end, renewing my contract is the smart decision. Staying in Korea is hands-down the best way to continue paying my loans (student and car) and to travel.  Traveling is still a priority to me.  I know when I go home I probably won't have a high-paying job, and it will be tough to just make ends meet.  I won't really have the ability to save money for traveling. Being in Korea is different.

Staying with EPIK for another year means that I not only go up another pay level (which means I will be taking home considerably more than I was teaching back home), but I'll also get a renewal bonus, double the severance when I leave, and an extra week of paid vacation. Oh, and when I leave I'l also get my pension, which amounts to 9% of my salary (I contribute half and my employer matches).  By the time I leave, that will also be a good amount of extra cash.

Of course, it's not all about the money.  Being in Korea has really been the most amazing experience, and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can learn in another year.  I've done a lot of things this year, but there are also so many things I still want to do.

Even with all these perks, I of course have some sadness in signing away another year of my life.  The most difficult thing to think about is spending another year away from my friends and family back home.  It feels like a dagger through my heart when I think of missing another Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, countless birthdays, and so much more.  In so many ways, it feels selfish and not worth the benefits of staying here for another year.

However, when I take a step back and think about it, I know that in the grand scheme of my life, I probably won't regret spending another year here.  I think if I give up my opportunity to travel more, I will regret it.  I don't think traveling is something people tend to regret, but I think not traveling is certainly something many people DO regret.  So many people have told me to travel while I'm young, so I'm going to take that advice and run with it.

Another thing that saddens me is the fact that I can't stay at my school.  I've known for some time that I wouldn't be able to stay there next year, but it's especially difficult to face that reality now because I have been having the most amazing semester getting to know my students and co-teachers alike.  Quite frankly, t just kind of sucks.

Luckily (although also sadly), one of my friends in Jeomchon will be leaving his elementary school position in August, so I should be able to take his job.  That way even if I have to switch schools, I won't have to move to a completely new town.

I should note that none of this will be final until I get the official contract in a few months.  If something happens and I decide to change my mind, I can still do so.  Or who knows, they could decide to move me to a completely different town or decide not to renew me altogether.  Nothing will be final for quite some time.

Additionally, I should let everyone know that I plan on coming home in August.  Unfortunately, it seems like I'll only be able to come home for about a week and a half.  I'm not too happy about this, because originally I was hoping that I would be able to take my renewal week and be home for nearly three weeks.  It's awfully expensive and time-consuming to go home, and there are so many things I know I'm going to want to do and people I will want to see.  A week and a half doesn't seem even close to enough time, but I guess I have to take what I can get.

So, there are the updates.  I will of course keep you all updated on the latest.  Thanks to all of my wonderful friends and family who continue to support me, even though I know you don't always want to. I'm truly blessed to have such supportive and encouraging people in my life.  XOX

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Juwangsan National Park

Last weekend I took a trip with a fellow Jeomchoner to Juwangsan National Park.  This park is a few hours away from Jeomchon, so we caught a bus to Andong, then transferred to Cheongsong, the neighboring town on Saturday afternoon.  We arrived in Cheongsong, a VERY small town, in the evening, and shortly after found a place to eat, then found a motel to stay at for the night.  Cheongsong was definitely the smallest town I've stayed in in Korea, and it really made me thankful that I live in Jeomchon where there's more civilization.  I'm not sure how I would have coped with living in a town like that.

Sunday morning was Palm Sunday, so I had requested that we go to church before heading to Juwangsan.  We found a catholic church in town, and headed over around 9, thinking mass would be some time around then.  However, we after waiting for some time, a nun informed us that mass wasn't until 11.  We waited around for a bit and got some coffee, then came back for church.

I don't think that church is used to seeing foreigners, and I kind of got the impression that they'll be talking about our presence for years to come: "Remember that time those foreigners came for Palm Sunday!"  Of course everyone invited us to lunch afterwards (Koreans are generally friendly, but they are EXTRA inviting at churches).  However, we had to get moving to make it to the park so we weren't able to join the lunch with the parishioners.
Such a small, quaint church.

My "palms" I got at church.  Definitely a first. 

We caught a bus to Juwangsan, and got some food before we started our hike.  One thing I love about Korea is all the food options when you're hiking.  There are always tons of places to eat and drink at the beginning of a park, and there are also other small places to eat while you're on trails.  Hiking doesn't really feel like hiking in Korea without makgeolli and pajeon.
The typical Korean hiking food.

We finally got on our way and walked through some beautiful trails.  Junwangsan has some really beautiful rock formations.  It reminded me a bit of the flume back home.  We also saw some lovely waterfalls along the way.
Lovely view.  There were still lots of cherry blossoms in Juwangsan, which made me very happy.  The lanterns that were hung throughout are for Buddha's birthday.  

Beautiful temple.

One of the three waterfalls we saw. 

After enjoying the park for a while, it was time to begin our journey home.  By 8:30 I was back in Jeomchon, and definitely ready for bed!

What's in a year?

Time is a continually perplexing thing to me. From the time you're young, everyone tells you "Enjoy every day because time will go faster and faster the older you get!" I've lost count of how many times I've heard those words of wisdom uttered to me, but recently I've found myself saying the same thing to others. In large part, it seems to be true.  Time seems to be going by faster and faster with each year.  I always feel like I've just flipped my calendar to a new month, then suddenly, once again, a new month has come and it's once again time to move onto a new month.

It's true that when I think about years as a whole, they seem to have flown by.  It seems completely unbelievable to me that it's been a year since I went to the Bahamas with Megan.  It doesn't seem in any way possible that it's nearly been a year since I finished teaching at North.  It certainly feels like a dream when I think about the fact that I've been in Korea for 8 months.  Yes, 8 months.

However, it's also true that these supersonic years can be filled with painfully long days.

These same years that seemingly fly by can be composed of days that are filled with pain, boredom, and sadness.  These interminable kind of days never seem to fly by, but instead seem as if they are years in themselves.  Days like these are a part of life.  If we're lucky (and I certainly am), these days are limited and eventually fade into the distance of our minds as they're overshadowed by fonder memories.

Nothing makes you more aware of just how much happens in a year than living abroad. This is good and bad. Yes, it's amazing and wonderful because of all the new experiences and people you meet.  There are priceless memories and new opportunities for introspection that allow you to learn about yourself in ways you may not have been able to in any other setting.

However, being absent from some of the natural things that happen over the course of one year--deaths, births, holidays, graduations, and weddings, really awakens your consciousness to how full of important events every year is.  When you're home you notice these things, but not in the way you do when you're absent from them. There's a particular kind of pain that comes with missing all of these elements of a year.

When I moved to Korea, I knew that by the time I moved home things would be different.  Friends would change and move away. People would pass away. Babies would be born.  Kids would grow up.  People would get new jobs.  Stores would be built and stores would go out of business.

I know I won't truly know the power of how much can change in a year until I'm home and I can see all of these changes. And perhaps more importantly, how they've changed the landscape of this idea of home that I have in my mind.  I've heard about various things that have happened in my absence, but I know none of it will really feel real until I can see and experience it for myself.

As I'm constantly weighing my options for next year, I can't help but wonder what will be waiting for me if I decide to go home. And maybe more importantly, what will be waiting for me if I stay in Korea for another year and move home in 2015?  What's in Korea if I stay for another year?

Life is short and unpredictable.  I feel I've been given some bold reminders of this recently.

There are so many things I want to do, but they come at the price of missing my friends and family back home.  It's a high price to pay, and my main concern about staying in Korea for another year.

Additionally, this week has brought a consuming kind of homesickness as it is Holy Week and Easter and on Sunday.  In many ways Easter is my favorite holiday, but this week hasn't felt a bit like the week leading up to Easter, which has been incredibly disorienting for me. This is a week I really don't care to spend in Korea at all.  There's not even an ounce of me that is passionate about being here right now. Instead, my heart would much rather be in Manchester, in my home church and with my family.

I know my school is going to ask if I want to renew my contract at any time now (some of my friends have already been asked), but it's a strangely emotional time to make this decision (hence this long ramble of a post).  It's difficult to separate the rational from the emotional at times, and it certainly doesn't make decision-making easy when the two don't agree. This week I've felt a powerful dissonance between my mind and my heart.

Nonetheless, I know this homesickness will pass, as it always does, and things will work the way they're meant to. In the meantime, I hope everyone at home knows just how much you are missed and loved.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Only in Korea: Teacher's Trips

Only in Korea can you:

--Be required to go on a teacher's bonding hiking trip.
--Be given a bag full of snacks as soon as you get on the bus for this said trip.
--Eat pajeon and drink makgeolli (rice wine) in the middle of  hiking.
--Watch your coworkers get drunk in the middle of the afternoon...on a school trip.
--Be encouraged to drink excessively by these same coworkers.
--Eat a dinner consisting of all types of raw fish. And of course, more alcohol.
--Accidentally eat live octopus
--Drink makgeolli, soju, beer, and wine within a few hours.
--Go to a coffee shop with a group of teachers after dinner and order whatever you want, on the school's tab.

Who said field trips should only be for students?  Korea's on to something with this whole concept of field trips for the teachers.  Teacher's trips days are always long, but interesting.  Especially since I can't help imagine what would happen if we had these trips back in America.  School sponsored drinking trips for teachers?  Yeah, I don't think so.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's next?

My heart wants roots
My mind wants wings.
I cannot bear
Their bickerings.
--E.Y. Harburg

As I was sitting at my desk this afternoon, I started flipping through my calendar.  I have four months left to my contract.  It's astounding to see how many of those weekends are already booked.

The reality of the decisions I have to make are starting to hit me straight in the face.

I'm not ready to move back home (although I am ready for a visit). There's so much to see and do yet.  I'm not ready for this to be it.

But then, I'm not sure what the best decision for next year is.  I feel completely conflicted, yet I suppose that's how it nearly always is when it comes to making decisions about the future.  There's no certainty about how things will be, and that's what makes it so scary.  But then again, I wasn't ever 100% certain about coming to Korea in the first place and it was the best decision I ever made.

Times like these I need to remind myself to breathe.  A lot can change in 4 months.

That's not always a bad thing.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The week of the cherry blossoms

Spring announces its arrival in a bold and beautiful way in Korea.  In case the warm temperatures weren't enough to clue you in that spring was here, the cherry blossoms burst onto the scene in way that no one can miss.  Korea's cherry blossoms are famous--you don't have to look far on any tourist information page to see pictures of these flowering trees.  Since I had already seen so many pictures of the cherry blossoms, I had been anxiously awaiting their arrival since the day I stepped off the plane.

When we got back from our trip to Jindo last weekend the blossoms had at last opened.  After a grey, bland winter, the blossoms were a sight for sore eyes. Over the course of this week, I enjoyed picturesque views as I walked around town.  The river right behind my apartment building is lined with cherry blossoms, conveniently making it what is probably the best place in Jeomchon to see the blossoms.  Unfortunately, the river has been torn up for the past few months as the town is redesigning it before it hosts the Wold Military Games in 2015.  I was really hoping that they would finish before the cherry blossoms bloomed, but that wasn't the case.  Although the trees were still beautiful, I'm sure they would have been even better if instead of brown dirt we had green grass and flowing water as a backdrop.

The view from the roof of my apartment building.  The cherry blossoms line the river on both sides. 

The sad state of our river.  Imagine how beautiful it would have been without all that dirt!
My view as I walked to school.  It definitely made the killer hill more enjoyable.

Wednesday afternoon my school attended the small Cherry Blossom festival by the river.  I think I spent the entire two hours taking pictures--especially with students.  It was a fun afternoon, although it did cut into some of my planning time, which I actually desparately needed this week because  I had to write the midterm questions and submit the plan for my summer camp (yes, the summer camp that isn't until JULY!)  But I guess sometimes you just have to forget about work and seize the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful spring day.
Some of the third grade girls. They were my absolutely fantastic second graders last year.  I unfortunately don't get to see them much these days now that they're in third grade!
My second grade boys found my friend on her way home from school and insisted she be in our picture.

Two of my co-teachers!

One of the third grade girls.
My wonderful first grade girls!

Second grade boys
Thursday was the first night I had my night class....and man, I forgot how brutal it is to teach night classes.  As I was sitting at my desk, one of my friends kakaoed me and told me that it was raining, and that with rain and wind the cherry blossoms were going to pass.  I was immediately struck with panic.  They were going to pass already?!  I felt like they had just bloomed.  Although I knew they wouldn't last long, I thought they were going to last longer than that! I hadn't even taken any pictures with my nice camera yet!

I got home from my night class around 9:30 and immediately set out to capture some photos of the blossoms at night.  It actually was quite nice because although the rain had stopped, it was still chilly, and most people stayed in for the night, making it a lot easier to take pictures.

Not a bad view to have literally in your backyard.

I woke up early Friday morning to take some more pictures because I didn't want to worry about all the petals falling off during the day.  I'm actually glad I did because when I went back by the river in the afternoon the blossoms had lost a lot of their petals.
Just beautiful.

As I was walking around town today, I noticed that most of the trees now have green leaves poking out.  The cherry blossoms were really beautiful, but I am saddened by the fact that they didn't last longer.  Although, I suppose that it the way with many of the truly beautiful experiences in life--they never last long, and in many ways it's what makes us appreciate them more.

As I approach my 8 month mark in Korea, the short presence of the cherry blossoms reminded me that my time here is also fleeting.  Even if I stay another year, many of the people who have made this year what it is won't be here.  I'll have a different job, and so many aspects of this experience will be different.  I'm trying to stay present-minded, but I don't want to lose sight of the fact that my life here won't last forever.  This is truly a unique and limited period in my life, and although at times I wish it could last forever, time will eventually bring it to an end.

Until then, I sure have a lot to do. The best is yet to come.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Jindo Sea Parting Festival

Last weekend I took a trip to Jindo, an island in the southern part of Korea.  Once a year Jindo hosts the "Jindo Miracle Sea Festival".  What's so miraculous about this festival you ask?  Once a year the sea parts between Jindo and a neighboring island.  It parts for just about an hour, at which point you can walk from one island to another.  Pretty Moses-esque, right?

Needless to say, when I heard about this festival I knew I wanted to go.  However, by the time I had heard about it, most of the group tours though organizations were already full.  Jindo is really far from Jeomchon, and it would have taken forever to get there taking public transportation because there are no direct buses there.  Luckily, I discovered that our friends in our neighboring town of Sangju had decided to rent a bus and drive directly there.  Some of my friends from Jeomchon and I decided to get in on their trip, which worked out perfectly.

We were all excited for this weekend...but despite the perfectly warm and sunny weather in the forecast for the rest of the week, the weather for Saturday, the main day of the festival, was rainy.  Determined not to let some rain ruin our fun, we met up with our friends in Sangju and began our 5 hour trip to Jindo.

The bus ride down was long, but was actually really fun.  We finally arrived in Jindo around 5 or 6.  Once we arrived we got of the bus and started to explore...only to find not much of anything.  The rain had seriously put a damper on the festival activities, as we found only a few places to eat.  After finally finding some food, we stumbled across an empty tent.  The tent was being used the next day, and the man who was setting up said that we could sit in there if we wanted.  We brought in some chairs and made it our official hangout spot for the night.
Jindo's local Makgeolli

Hanging out in the tent we took over for the night. 
Later in the evening there were a wide variety of performances including traditional Korean singing and dancing to a K-pop show.  The K-pop show actually turned into quite the dance party, which was really fun.
Huge bonfire 

The sea was supposed to part at 5 AM, but we had to line up at 4 AM.  Since we knew we weren't going to sleep very much, most of us decided to rest on the bus for an hour or two before the festivities began.  I wasn't able to fall asleep though--getting comfortable on a bus can be quite the challenge.

At 4 AM we made our way over to the meeting place.  Earlier in the day we bought thigh-high boots to make our way through the sea.  People had torches to light the way (which was slightly terrifying considering the large majority of those people had been drinking all night).  But, regardless, we were ready to see this "miracle".
So many people! Note all the fire in the hands of people who for the most part intoxicated.  

As we started walking we realized there was still a considerable amount of water.  I thought maybe it was because it was still early--that the water would go down as we kept walking.  Unfortunately, that's not what happened. The water only got higher, and as we were halfway across the water, we were being told to turn around.  On our walk back they started to set off fireworks, which was nice, but left me wondering....where was the miracle?
Walking in the sea, definitely not supposed to be so much water still!

I don't know if it was because of the rain, or if they just calculated the tides wrong, but it definitely wasn't what was advertised.  I had seen a lot of pictures from the festival, so I was kind of disappointed that we had come all that way to wade in some cold water at 5 AM.

Following that adventure we got back on the bus and attempted to sleep.  I think I probably slept about 1 1/2-2 hours max.  The ride back home was definitely not as fun as the ride down, and I'm pretty sure there have been very few times I've been so happy to get home and take a shower.

I slept for a few hours in the afternoon, but once again staying up all night had messed up my sleep cycle, which is why I started off this week with a huge sleep deficit.

Overall the weekend wasn't what I was expecting, but it was an experience I'll never forget nonetheless.  Not every trip can be perfect, but that doesn't always mean it's a complete failure.  Spending time hanging out with good people is never a loss.  I'm sure this festival is awesome when it's not raining (and when the sea parts during the day), so who knows...maybe I'll give it another try if I'm around here next year.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I think I can, I think I can...

I have lots of updating to do.  I was away last weekend, and the lack of sleep I got has made this week quite the challenge.  Add on the tasks of preparing the midterm questions, writing my summer camp plan, and grading writing from my students, and I'm beat.  Tomorrow I have 6 classes, then my night class.  I have no idea how I'm going to do it, but I'm hoping there is some energy somewhere inside of me that I can muster up to finish the week.

But....the weekend is within sight.  And I spent the beautiful spring afternoon enjoying the cherry blossoms with my students, so I can't really complain.

I'm staying in Jeomchon this weekend, so I'll update you all on what I've been up to then.

Until then, here's a glimpse of why life is quite fantastic right about now.