Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On Hiking

So, I haven't posted in a bit. However, I've been here over four weeks and just about one month. I am starting to recognize Korean words as words and not just pure gibberish. That doesn't mean I actually understand much, just that I am differentiating words. So, that's top notch.
Yesterday (Tuesday), my company had a day off from work. Why? I don't know and I don't as much care...it was a day off work!! Well, it was probably much harder than a day of work, but still a break from classes in the middle of the week was pretty cool. As a treat, the school set up a day trip out to Mu-ee Island. And, wait for it...I took pictures. These are the first pictures I've taken in Korea.

4 of the foreign teachers and 10 of the Korean teachers and staff signed up to go on this excursion. It meant getting up early (8:30) in the morning which wasn't all that much fun (I usually get up at 10 or 11). Then it was a long walk out to school (2 minutes). The school provided a bus and a driver to drive us (40 minutes) out to the ferry. And, then it was a very long ferry ride (10 minutes) out to Mu-ee Island (in the West Sea). Okay, so, it really wasn't all that bad and by 10:30 or so. The fun had started. Four of the Korean teachers went straight to the beach...I'm not sure why because it was cold by there standards and I saw no skin from any of them (the foreign teachers, including yours truly, were all in shorts and t-shirts, although I was the only one who stayed that way the whole day). What do you do for 3 hours on a beach without sunbathing? I don't know.

Anyways, the rest of the group skipped the beach for a bit and went hiking. Here's part of the trail. I did see a few signs that helped me estimate that it was about a 5 kilometer hike (maybe, 3 miles). It was up a "mountain" (it MAY have been 1000 feet or maybe a bit more). I consider that a hill, not even a foothill. Anyways, this picture was actually on the way down, but it was on the worst part of the trail. The rest was more like the next picture.



Like I said, the Koreans thought it was winter or something, long sleeves and jeans and sweaters for when they stop hiking for too long. It is craziness. It was probably about 55 F and really sunny. Back to hiking, this slight incline and easy trail covered 80% of the climb. I could have gotten a better picture of the trail, but I didn't so this is it. Anyways along the way up. Ann, in the picture to the left, was giving me some Korean alphabet lessons (Hangul is the name for the Korean alphabet).



So, here is the marker at the top of the trail. Of the two names in the center, the one on the right spells out So-Mu-Ee-Do (I'm spelling that phonetically). Basically each vertical set of characters is a syllable (not necessarily a letter). For instance, the first syllable has an "s" sound on top and a long "o" sound on bottom. Next is the "m" and "u", then a long "e", and, finally, a "d" and a long "o". Anyways, welcome to Hangul 101. It is actually a fairly easy language to pick up, if you can hear the difference between a couple of vowel sounds and some consonants that roll the "r" and "l" sound together and so on. I can not do those things on the fly as yet, but I'm working on it.

Here are some random pictures on the hike down the hill:




























After hiking for about 3 hours, we made it to the beach. Where we saw this:













Are they some of the first regular sized houses that I've seen in Korea? Well, yes, kind of. They are actually for a famous Korean television show, which had all the Koreans doing this:

video
Alright, I have a better video with all of them jump-posing, but it is longer and I'd have to edit it, and I'm just lazy at the moment.

Moving on, mid-afternoon lunch consisted of clams roasted over coals in the middle of the table (mmm...), kimchi (of course), some pancake/pizza like thing with seafood (it was actually better than it sounds), clam/noodle soup (really good), some more clams boiling in some kimchi soup mix (I think), pork strips over the coals, and, of course, beer and soju (Korean national alcohol). Soju will knock you flat pretty easily, but it comes in a beer sized bottle for about 2 dollars. So, what do cheap booze, the beach and a sunny day bring about? Nudity? Mud wrestling? Hmm??

No, no...we all played kickball. The rules were pretty much the same with a few differences. I played center field and went 7 for 7. I hit for the cycle (1 home run, 1 triple, 2 double, 3 singles). I still have mad skills (ok, kickball is a little easier since I didn't hit a homerun in baseball after the first year that I played, but whatever). My team still lost, but hey what can you do?

After a fun game of kickball, it was decided that it was time to go. Frankly, I think we got the last ferry back to the mainland. So, I'm not sure as we had a choice. Anyways, that is how this particular Korean Hogwan takes a company trip. All in all, it was well worth it and a good way to kick off my second month in Korea.

--Matthew

P.S. The pictures and the words don't quite go the way I want them to, but whatever, there are pictures and that's something.