A good start for the new year
Trip Start Jun 29, 2006
23Trip End Jun 26, 2007
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I thought I would take a moment to actually catch up to the present.
Our school took a five-day holiday over New Year's weekend. We had Friday-Tuesday off, which was quite excellent.
My roommate went to Seoul to visit a Korean friend that went to University of Chicago with him. I headed East with Melissa and Brandon for an adventure in Japan!
It was a real spur-of-the-moment decision for me to go. I hadn't had any time to plan so I just figured I would stay home and catch up on things and enjoy the roommate free holiday. On December 26th I got a phone call from Melissa saying that there were still tickets available to Japan and the hostel had beds left. I took care of things the next day and was so excited. Early Friday morning I met up with Melissa to catch the bus to Busan
We made our way to our hostel and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening wandering around. Initially we were trying to find lunch. Perhaps the Japanese have their own version of a siesta, because places were closed between 3 and 5 or 6! We ended up staying in, talking with other hostellers and getting a good night's sleep. The next morning we took our time and then ventured out into the city. We went to Fukuoka tower in order to take in the sights - it was such a beautiful, bright, clear day. The view was gorgeous. We went to the beach. We went to the hip, youthful part of town to check out the shopping. We had our first real Japanese dining experience. We ended up out until almost 11pm! Needless to say we stayed in again. The next morning we were treated to a real surprise..
We opted for club Happy Cock based on paperwork and recommendations from foreigners and their Japanese friends. We bought our all-you-could-drink passes and went to grab some dinner. New Year's eve was pretty fun... the club ended up being much smaller than we expected, but it was absolutely packed! I thought it the size/crowd worked to our advantage because Melissa, Brandon, and I didn't have to bother keeping track of each other because we couldn't actually lose anyone and we would bump into one another on the way to the bar/dancefloor/or toilet! At first I wasn't all that into the mood (the music wasn't the best mix, but it definitely wasn't bad). Sometime after midnight I started really dancing and enjoying myself. I met a nice Brazilian guy, two fabulous Japanese guys, and joined some random Japanese groups for dancing
Brandon, Melissa, and I stayed out late enough to hop the subway home in the morning when it started running. We slept for a while and then wandered around town again, using our all-day passes for the subway to the extreme. At one point we hopped on a different track and ended up at a stop where middle-schoolers were swarming to go home!! It was such a perfect, unplanned thing.
We went out, trying to find a Japanese bar to spend our last night at. We ended up running into the American from Ohio and he showed us a cool little place that he was going to. We had two kinds of sake, quite a bit of food, and it was a lovely, cozy environment. The next morning I had to head out before the other two, but the trip alone was just fine with me. It took a long time... I left the hostel at 8 and arrived back at my apartment in Cheonsang about 6. All that travel switches... walking, bus, ferry, walking, subway, bus, another bus, and walking takes a long time! The trip was so great though.
Japan was so very different from Korea. Not so much as a European country, but I was really glad to get the opportunity to compare it to another Asian country that I actually live in. I don't want to say that Japan is better, but it is no less cool. I love what I saw and experienced of Japan. Enough to really make me want to go and teach
It was tough to go back to work on Wednesday. The relief was that it would be a three day week, which meant interviews, more interviews, and game day! Funny though how by Friday it felt like such a long week! On Saturday, Stephen and I were invited for a day trip to Gayasan and Haeinsa temple with our director, his wife, and daughter. It was about a two hour drive NW of Ulsan. When we got out of the van it was SO cold. We bundled up and went up to the temple. Haeinsa is very cool, considered a Dharma center. It houses over 80,000 Triptaka Koreana wood blocks, considered to be the best collection in the world. It's a UNESCO item even. It was lightly snowing while we were there, but we started to hike up Gayasan. We were about 1.5km away from the peak when our director decided we had better turn back, otherwise the increasinly heavy snowfall might prevent us from getting our car off the mountain! We hiked back down and it was really snowing. Amazingly beautiful but a little bit treacherous! We had a delicious, large lunch/dinner of samgyupsal off the mountain and then headed back to Ulsan. That night we actually caught a bit of snow in Ulsan. It stuck for about an hour and then disappeared. On Sunday, Melissa, Stephen, Brandon, and I caught a late showing of Casino Royale downtown. For about four hours before the movie, Stephen, Melissa, and I wandered around Samsandong, went shopping, and played UNO at a coffee shop
This past week was a nice change. It felt like forever (almost a month really!) since we had a normal schedule at work. I've opted for a new year-new teacher attitude and am cracking down! It works relatively well, but this week was still frustrating. Why can't they listen?! I got some great pictures and even a couple videos during game day on Friday. My Korean class at the university had a birthday party for our Japanese student as well, which was nice. Last night I went into Mugeodong with Brandon and Melissa for some dinner and drinks with Yoonsoo (who has only been back in Korea from Alabama for a few weeks), John, and John's friend Snow. Sangjae made his typical 5 minute appearance! It was nice to see people, it feels like a lot of the Koreans have dropped out of existence. Some are in Cairo for a month, some are in Seoul for jobs, some are busy with family and vacations, some are studying/trying to get jobs. Today is Youngwoo's birthday and that means he'll be spending all weekend attending drinking appointments with his seniors (people he works with, people in his engineering club, old friends, etc, etc) so perhaps we'll get to see him next weekend.
I've caught you up. It's strange, I know! My Korean class only lasts two more weeks and I'm pretty sure I'm not taking the next level. The time for class isn't a problem but I'm not sure I want to devote the time necessary to succeed for outside studying
I hope everyone is having a good 2007 so far and I'd love to hear from you!