Ok so it’s already October, that means only two more firsts of the month for 2017, let’s not panic. I luckily (or lazily) have a couple of stories that happened in early months that have yet to be told, so let’s distract ourselves with some dinners and festivals that happened back in July before getting into what went down over the October holiday on Jeju Island…
Thur 20 July: Teachers’ Dinner
Sharing meals and drinks is a significant part of Korean culture. This applies to work life too and makes for quite anticipated dinner events among the teachers at my school. So far this year we’ve had a pork BBQ Dinner, a Hike + Duck Galbi Dinner, a Shabu-Shabu Dinner and last week we had a Hike + Raw Fish Dinner (that was an interesting one). But because this is a belated post, we’re skipping back to the July dinner which was probably the most delicious and “eventful” one: Shabu-Shabu. This meal is “a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water,” and also includes (to my demise) a buffet of everything from sushi to fried chicken and pizza.
The main hotpot soupy dish sits bubbling away in the middle of the table (with crab legs sticking out of the broth) and you add in all the veggies and interesting things, then dip the really thin slices of meat in with chopsticks for a couple of seconds only. You can use the round rice papers soaked in water to make a little meat, sauce and lettuce package which you shove in your mouth and try deal with the size and deliciousness of it. All this plus being fed beer and soju by colleagues and later the principal and vice.
It never ends there either, there’ll still be a post-dinner dish served, which should be the dessert course, but is a soup and rice serving of sorts instead. And more drinks. And then… you might just land up in a noraebang i.e. a karaoke room which involves singing, more snack foods (including fruit and dried squid, which is the Korean biltong of choice) and more beer and soju. And mind you, all of this on a school night. On vocals for a number of songs was the principal, a dignified 50+ man. Alongside him stood the vice principal, a similarly aged and mannered lady singing Korean ballads with my one co-teacher as the backup dancer and tambourine player. I unfortunately got coaxed into singing an English song for everyone, by myself. We’ll leave it there.
Sat-Sun 22-23 July: Mud Festival
Just days after our teachers’ dinner, I was off on a bus with a bunch of friends to Boryeong (about a 4 hour bus trip) to go and get covered in mud, go on mud slides etc at 보령머드축제. The mud is said to have beneficial minerals for your skin, so basically it’s an excuse to go wild for the good cause of skin enrichment. However, the event was packed. The queues to the mud slides and all the fun things in the mud park were too long and we ended up only doing mud wrestling, during which I got tackled too enthusiastically by my friend. We did leave the area fairly muddy, but it’s a rather watery covering which isn’t unpleasant. Luckily the mud park is right next to the beach so we joined the many others taking a natural bath in the magically warm sea, while floating a large plastic beer bottle amongst our group.That night included the most spectacular fireworks I have ever seen. The ships were anchored off shore, shooting off the fireworks of different designs to the rhythm of the music playing, the lights reflecting on the water while we stood in awe on the beach. This was the definitely the highlight of the trip. There were also Kpop performances on the main stage on the beach and other festivities going on.
Tues 19 Sept: Baseball
This was possibly the most fun I’ve had on a Tuesday night in a long time. I’m not much of a sports fan, but it was the end of the baseball season and when next would I ever get the chance to watch this very non-South-African sport? Well to be honest I spent very little of my time there watching the game. It was way more fun watching the cheerleaders and mascots in the front while chanting the individual player’s chant with the crowd when they scored. One of the chants was for “Andy Bonzoo” (the American playing for Busan), which I only found out the next day that his surname is actually ‘Burns’. Ah, Korean pronunciation! But our pronunciation of the Korean players’ names was suspect too and we relied on the big screen to try decipher how to say their names during the chants.
Near the end of the game, orange plastic bags are distributed to the audience for trash collection. However, it is customary to take the bag, catch air and tie a knot then put the bag balloon on your head and hook each handle over your ears to make a nifty head-piece while everyone sings the Lotte-Lot-te-Lott-tehhh-Looooooooooh-teeeeh song.
I left the stadium without realising that I didn’t even know who had won.
Fri 22 Sep: Just another day in 6th grade
I’m now used to the kids throwing pencil cases around, tackling each other, erasing things off the board, knocking over chairs, ringing the desk bell and going through the papers on the teacher’s desk. But this story will beat all the other incidents of them being wild between classes:
Disclaimer: They are better behaved during the lesson, but in the 10min between classes, these types of behaviours can be expected, especially with this grade.
Tue-Sun 03-08 Oct: Jeju Island adventure
Who wouldn’t love a 10 day holiday to look forward to? So after a few free days to play around in Busan, a couple of friends and I went with EnjoyKorea , a great English tour company (free advertising right here) to the honeymoon island of Jeju – a mere 9 hour, 2 bus trips and a ferry worth to get to this large island south of Korea for 5 nights.
Might I add that we left at 1am in the morning from Busan to get there by 10am, which we used the rest of the day to lie on the beach, eat chips and nap. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite warm enough to convince me to swim as I sat there in jeans and a hoody, I mean it is Autumn here. Our hotel was pretty sweet with a lovely big pool (once again, no swimming for me) with the ocean in view. We were in a room of 4, but luckily there were two single beds, and only 2 “floor beds” ondol style. Beds are a bonus in Korea!
We had a really decent itinerary over the 6 days, which included enough sightseeing to let us see what Jeju has to offer (things are rather spread out over the island though) and balanced with a lot of down-time to chill or explore or find restaurants (and craft beer shops). We also played a lot of cards on this trip, just FYI.
Day 1-2: A temple, Gold Buddha, little Holland, 3 waterfalls and a tequila night with water slides and ball pits:
Day 3: Love Land
The sex theme park full of humour and pleasure…
Day 4: Craters and Caves
We missed seeing the diving ajummas that day because of the bad weather but we did get to hike up the stair-cased mountain to see the large crater and then later go into the volcanic tube caves.
We did a good few hours on the bus that day and I can say Jeju has a lot of horses. Random fact. And it’s known for its oranges. And the many dol haraubang stone statues that look like penis men.
Day 5-6: Free day, beach day.
We spent a lazy day wandering around the nearest town (Hyeopjae), looking at hippie shops (odd for Korea), and chilling on the beach. We also found a rather hipster container yard of shops and restaurants.
After an early start of bus-ferry-bus and about 6 hours later, we made a slight detour to Namhae and its little German Village for the Korean edition of OktoberFest.
What a random and magical little German-themed town kitted out with beer stalls along the streets selling great German drafts, people in lederhosen and dirndls, worst and of course Korean music for the occasion (?). The closest we can get to Europe right now.
We got home around 9pm and still had the Monday off to recover the next day. A fantastic Chuseok break, I’d say.
Thanks for scrolling! Part 9 to follow soon…