A Big catchup... from Julie

Trip Start Mar 22, 2012
Trip End Apr 26, 2012

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spent most of 2 days Saturday & Sunday at Muju Resort on the top of a mountain in Korea! And I mean at the top! This is a top notch ski resort in the winter, somewhat reminds me of Leavenworth and Whistler combined, a little like a mountain top Austrian village. First we were given a police escort to a hydroelectric power plant on the tip top of this mountain, what an incredible source of energy & water for South Korea, this place is very impressive. When we finally got to Muju Resort on Saturday afternoon, after settling in, Mark took some of us on a walk and showed us around, then we went to dinner in town and back to the resort for some fun times all around. Sunday came really fast and Katie, Sheryl, Lindsey our new friend Mark and I all spend the whole day Sunday in a Korean Sauna (jim-jil-bang) complete with kick your butt massage therapy chairs, multiple hot rooms with different hotnesses and sources of heat such as a salt room, a charcoal room, a brick oven room, and a stone room, as well as the naked baths…. yes those are just what they sound like. The ladies and the men have different shower/locker areas and inside the shower areas are different 'baths' with cold water, medium water and hot water - like a hot tub… except all the people are naked… what?? Yes, i'm serious. Naked. Everyone. We were absolutely a bit shy at first, but by the end of a day of lying in our own sweat, we bit the bullet and said "hey… when in Rome…" LOL - it wasn't so bad actually, just a tad uncomfortable, but you get over it pretty quick when you sink into the water. Anyway….. it was for sure a new experience for us. We enjoyed the rest of our 'rest' time at the resort by going out for team Karaoke with Mr. Chang - the amazing performer we never even knew had it in him, and we had a blast surprisingly. We were hesitant at first, but by the end we were sad to leave because we all rocked the mic and had an awesome time having fun and singing & dancing our butts off and then once again stayed up late hanging out and having a good time together. We are a fun team, and being joined by our young friend Henry and our friend Mark was just the icing on the cake. Henry is a 17 year old (15 american years, 17 in Korean years) teen who has basically been adopted by our team and anytime we are in the Jeonju area, he is a part of the team and comes with us to all of our visits and meetings. He is learning english and his father, a rotarian, asked if we could talk with him and help him along. At first he was really shy and quiet and now his english is markedly improved and he is so fun, we have been teaching him some slang and he is hilarious when he says 'hey guys, I gotta bounce" or "peace out", I honestly think having Henry around has been my favorite part of the trip. Also, we have met so many awesome translators and english speakers, like our friends Hyun Jin, Hosung, and Mark, who is chairman Choi's son. Those guys are seriously my favorite thing about this trip. Love making new friends! The next morning, we packed up and headed back into Jeonju, with a stop in Jinsan first to tour the Ginseng market. Ginseng is an amazing root that is VERY good for your health. It takes 5 to 6 years to grow, but they can use it in so many ways such as tea, ingredients for food and medicine as well as vitamins and candy and many other uses as well. Kindof a miracle root vegetable. Once we got back to Jeonju, we went for lunch of yummilicious bibimbap at a new Mr. Kim's famous restaurant, and said goodbye to Mark who had to get back to work… he owns an english school here in Jeonju. We went to The Jeonju Waste Matter Burning Center - I loved it much to everyones strange dismay… as most of my friends and family know, I LOVE going to the dump… so this place was awesome for me, and also for Peter who works in the recycling field. They collect the garbage and recycling waste from 3 cities and burn it and recycle the materials and re-use nearly everything as road materials, playground materials, and more. We really enjoyed seeing THE CLAW - we got to hang out in the operators room and watch as he controlled the claw to grab the trash and load the burners and shred the big stuff. This thing was MASSIVE and we were so high up that Henry got a little nauseated because of the height. LOL. I loved learning about how these cities try to re-use as much as possible… with so many people living in such concentrated cities, there is a lot of waste materials and they are pretty inventive in how they try to run their cities and country - I have been really impressed with how advanced and innovative Korea actually is, my misconception was that this country (other than Seoul) would be a bit countrified and perhaps rural, but it really has not been the case. I say keep an eye on South Korea people, this country is doing some amazing things in the world and is definitely a business and technological leader, I think this place is really wonderful and the business side of things here is very modern and impressive. Anyway…. after the waste burner center, we went to the Jeonju Police Horse Training Center.  We were supposed to go to a Police Agency, but there was a big murder here recently and the timing just was not good for us to go visit. Anyway, the horse training center place is 1 of the only 2 police Equestrian centers in all of Korea! They have 4 horses here, and they are really only used for patrol, demonstrations and parades, etc. We all were given a briefing about the horses and how they are used in Jeonju and the proper way to ride, etc and then…. yes, we all got to ride the horses, to some of our dismay! George jumped right in and showed off his past equestrian skills, and Peter bragged that he used to be somewhat of a stunt rider… LOL, apparently not anymore! He was so funny to watch, as were the rest of us. Lindsey is a natural in the saddle, and Sheryl, Katie and I all endured as much as we could. It was pretty fun actually. We went for dinner at Mr. Chang's restaurant again, which we love. We met up with our new Jeonju host families, and yay - I got a partner this time. Lindsey and I went to our home, where we chatted a bit with our 'dad, mom & lil sister'. We were so tired from our previous nights that we went to bed super early! In the morning we met up with the team and our friend Hosung, our translator, and we went to the KBS Broadcasting Station - really cool place! It was pretty exciting to tour the TV & Radio station - pretty interesting behind the scenes action happening at those places. We even got to have some "anchorman" shots behind the anchor desks! LOL. We also went to the Jeonju National Museum where Hosung told us about the tragic lives of so many of the women in the past. We viewed their works of art, poems and books written by them about the sadness and tragedy they endured by their husbands in their lives. It was interesting to learn from Hosung, and I wrote down some names to look up and watch the movies about them when I get home. Hosung is so funny and makes some boring things pretty interesting to learn about, I very much enjoy his company. We went to the Jeonju Daily Newspaper as well that afternoon where we met with the editor and learned about the process and distribution of the paper. We were even interviewed and photographed and yes… the next morning, there we were front and center in the newspaper! FAMOUS, YAY! :)  That night Lindsey & I went out with our host family and some rotarians from their club to Tom & Toms Coffee, where we chatted and got to know each other better. We really enjoyed this time with our family and we pulled out the iPad and translated back and forth and we really had a great time with out lil sis Kristine. She is such a cutie lil gal and she was having so much fun with us that even when we went home we kept up the chatter as we packed our bags, unfortunately we only had 2 nights with this family. On Wednesday 4/11 Lindsey & I left home #4 and we went to our 'dads' office (he is owns an international tour company) and we got to actually FILM A COMMERCIAL for his company! again I say… FAMOUS, YAY!! :) LOL, they were reallllly happy to have some beautiful foreigners in their commercial! This day was supposed to be a free time day for us, but plans changed a bit. We ended up going to Hanock Village, a traditional style shopping village within Joenju. We all split up for some shopping time, and Hosung and I walked all round Hanock Village. We stopped in for some Pot-Bing-Soo, which is a red bean dessert. It is a red bean 'paste' or 'sorbet' like consistency, over the top of a bowl of shaved ice and topped with "ttuck" which is traditional Korean Rice Cake (chewy consistency). It was SO GOOD! We also stopped for a small lunch of Gilgoryeao, a baguette burger. It is a hollowed out baguette, filled with beef and veggies like cabbage, onions, red peppers and a sauce that reminded me of a bbq, mayo and hot sauce like sauce. It also was SO GOOD! Hosung told me he used to eat these everyday when he was in school. This was food I would have never experienced without him, real Korea!! We went hiking in the afternoon at "Horse Ears" mountain, they look like giant horse ears from far away. It was about a million stairs up the mountain, where we found hidden temples and beautiful stacked rock towers. They stack the rocks to signify peace and health for family and friends. I also stacked rocks… I made a 9 rock stack and prayed for some health and peace for my family. We missed our friend Sheryl this day, because her host family loved her too much to let her go anywhere for the day and she spend the entire day shopping and watching movies with them, lucky girl! :) When we got back from hiking, Lindsey & I were picked up by our new host family and takes to LaLuce Buffett for dinner with some of their rotary club. I LOVE this place. Lucky me, I have been here twice now, it is pretty posh and has so much amazing selection for food. We were stuffed afterward and had a good time chatting with a new friend, a daughter of one rotation, she came to do the interpreting for us, and she was super sweet. We went back to the families HOUSE (the people here all live in apartments so going to a house was amazing, not to mention this house was POSH and BEAUTIFUL) where we had more get to know you snacks of fruit and ttuck (chewy rice cakes) and we chatted and got to know our host family a bit more. The son, daughter, our interpreter, lindsey and I all went out for Karaoke for a couple hours and then went back home to sleep. I slept on a STONE BED fror the first time. I actually slept really well. These traditional stone beds are covered with a very thin piece of leather and are heated. Nice and toasty warm for me! :) In the morning after a big breakfast of bulgogi, toast, fruit and some kind of tiny fish with pepitas, we met up with the team again and headed off to the city of Buan. We toured the Samangum Dam again and learned more about the 34 kilometer sea wall and the project of draining the ocean and building up Gunsan and Buan ad a new major metropolis of the world. We went for lunch at a mountainside temple, where we ate delicious chicken soup (yes, chicken on the bone…) and Hamool Pajuhn (korean seafood pizza) then walked up to the temple and toured around a bit. Our hosts brought us to our home for the night… a rocking posh hotel right on the beach!! We went down and walked on the beach for a few minutes before heading to dinner with our Buan rotarian hosts. Hosung had to go back to Jeonju so we had another english speaker come to help out, her name was Beryl and she is a native Philippino who married a Korean man about 3 years ago when she came here to visit her sister who lives here. Beryl brought her 2 small sons, ages 4 months and 2 years, and they were cutie patooties and we had fun playing with them and holding the baby! We finished up with an impromptu birthday party for Katie who turned 29 yesterday! Since we were all staying together at the hotel, we bought a birthday cake and shared some wine with cake as we chilled in the room for a bit before bed. Unfortunately we had only one night at that awesome hotel, then we packed up again and headed out to Gochang where we met up with a new rotary club and then went HIKING all day basically. Not generally a problem, BUT the girls and I decided on wearing skirts and heels that day so here we were touring temples and hiking up mountainsides in HEELS. Yes, I say again, hiking in heels. No good. It was beautiful, but I really wished we had understood that was on the agenda for the day. My feet were KILLING me by the end of the day. It was pretty funny actually to see all of the girls having to hang onto the men as we defended the mountains. Unfortunately George ended up twisting an ankle, poor guy, and he wasn't even in the heels. We ate dinner of EEL, which was NOT my favorite thing and then the rotary members took us out to one of their other establishments where we celebrated Katie's birthday again with them. She was serenaded and given cake and afterwards, Katie, Sheryl, Lindsey, Peter and I went next door for Karaoke for a bit. We finally settled down in our motel room and crashed hard. This one was different from all the hotels we've slept in previously… it was one big room with cushioned mats for us to sleep on… no beds. We were all so tired, it was fine for us, we can pretty much sleep anywhere these days LOL. Unfortunately, I woke up sick this morning, my first bad stomach day so far, and it has kicked my butt all day long. We went for breakfast with our hosts, then our bus drove us about 1 1/2 hours back to Jeonju, and we all had a decent morning nap on the bus. We went to GIL Architecture this morning and learned about their architecture processes and many of the projects they have designed we recognized as we have toured so many places. I felt badly, but I was so ill I didn't really pay much attention and was fighting not to fall asleep. boo. Anyway, we were brought to our hotel for the next 2 nights, it is the same hotel we stayed in for our first 3 nights in Korea so we are familiar with the area which is nice, and then we were taken to PIZZA HUT for lunch! Ahhhh, american food, bless you, bless you. Even though I was ill, I still ate, and man it was like heaven. Never thought I would say that about the hut. lol. Now were all settled into our hotel and some are out shopping, and some are resting, or online. We have a bit of free time today and tomorrow, so thats nice. Church in the morning, YAY! :) I'm looking forward to it. Anyway, I'm about to crash for a nap, then we will head to dinner tonight, and hopefully we will go out clubbing tonight for a real birthday party for our Katie girl!  Thats it for now. Busy days, nice people and good food, in my opinion. 
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