Babies, Beaches, and Bluffs!
October 8, 2013 § 3 Comments
(You might want to settle in with your hot beverage of choice. It’s gonna be a long entry.)
As the weather cools and Autumn officially falls upon us here in Gwangju (see what I did there?), I’m actually reminded of how much I miss home. The older I get, the more I realize how truly beautiful the place where I grew up is. Though Korea itself has some outstanding foliage, none of it is as easily accessible to me here as it is in Berkshire County. In Gwangju, I have to actually hike a mountain to get a breath-taking view of Fall’s colors instead of just hopping in the car and taking a 20 minute drive to Taco Bell. You win some, you lose some, I suppose.
A few unique things have happened in the last 3 weeks that I wanted to share with everyone. The first is that we had our first official field trip with the kindergarteners, and it was…hilarious, to say the least. We went to the local YWCA for a lesson in sex education.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why are they taking children who are barely out the womb themselves on a sex education field trip? And believe me, I’m with ya, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super excited for it. The first part consisted of a very cute, if very weird, animation that depicted penises, vaginas, and even ejaculation into a vagina! It also included the following still, which shows a naked man proposing to a naked woman with his sperm:
After that, we got to go into the “womb room.” And yes, it was as awesome as it sounds. Imagine a tiny, very thickly padded velvety red room with cartoon sperm and ovaries hanging from the ceiling. Add to that the sound of a steady heartbeat that’s been implanted into the walls and there you have it — a living, breathing womb. The kids weren’t scared at all:
Once we were reborn from the parted red curtains (these puns ain’t gonna stop), we were ushered into a room where we got up close and personal with some plastic models of private parts. The best bit was where some of the boys were able to wear a baby bump and really get a feel for what it’s like to be pregnant.
Not everybody was having as great a time as me, though. Our head Korean teacher, Lynn, thought it best she step outside for a little catnap.
All in all, it was a great first field trip that I’m sure will live on in the memories of the teachers who attended, if not the students who were made to go.
September also meant the most celebrated of Korean holidays — Chuseok! Chuseok is similar to Thanksgiving for westerners, as it’s one of the only times during the year where Korean families get together for an extended period of time and students get time off from school, etc. As a result, it was the first chance Jack and I had to get real time off from work and plan a trip.
We were lucky enough to snag 2 of 9 very coveted spots to Jeju Island (known as Korea’s “Hawaii”) with Pedro Kim, a man well known in Gwangju for organizing trips throughout Korea.
Jeju Island, or Jejudo, is famous in Korea for a number of reasons. It boasts both black and white sandy beaches that look and feel almost tropical. It is home to Korea’s highest mountain, Mt. Halla. It is a popular honeymoon destination for newlyweds, as well as a filming location for a number of Korean dramas. Its volcanic origins give it a landscape that is so unlike any other place in Korea that, for a lot of Koreans (and even a lot of foreigners who have lived in Korea), Jejudo feels like traveling to another country. The roads in Jeju City (Jejusi) were so up and down that it reminded me of driving in San Francisco (minus the steepness, of course). It’s popularity gained global momentum when it was named one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature by the New World Corporation in 2011.
Needless to say, it was a place Jack and I had been wanting to travel to for a long time, and it did not disappoint. We spent 5 glorious days lounging in sand, swimming in crystal clear waters, exploring volcanic caves, viewing majestic waterfalls at night, and gorging on barbecued meats and cactus chocolate. We visited tourist attractions like Hallim Park, Jungmun Beach, and Loveland (a sex themed park I had wanted to visit since before I came to Ktown). Check out some of my favorite photos below and click on them to scroll through/properly read the captions.
And here are a couple videos to give you a better sense of the beauty I was dealing with on a daily basis, as well as the awesomeness of a talking bird.
The last and most recent adventure I wanted to share with you was my hike up Mudeung Mountain! This is something that I have wanted to do since I first stepped foot in Gwangju. Mudeungsan is Gwangju’s highest mountain and one of it’s biggest gems. It’s one of the first things people do once they move here. I had ample opportunity last year but simply never got around to it, and now that we’re back, we thought what better way to spend a Thursday off than sweating and panting up a mountain? (Okay, so I was the only one sweating and panting, but I digress.)
ECC has recently gone through quite a big turnover, and aside from Jack and I, we now have 2 new couples we also work with. Cheryl and Nathaniel (who hail from Canada) and Ben and Adele (from the US — Boston and Syracuse WHAT). Since Ben and Adele had only been in Korea for about a week, we thought it would be a good excuse to bond with our coworkers, tick a box on our Korean bucket list, and get a good work out.
The weather was perfect, which made the hike pretty enjoyable. We decided to go a roundabout way toward the top, which led to increased exertion but spectacular views.
Last but not least, I recently made a video of our new neighborhood in Bongseon-dong to give you all a real-time peak into our surrounding space. Apologies for the length as well as the strange fuzziness/shakiness, youtube + imovie edits to make it less wobbly can only do so much! Make sure you watch it in HD for the full effect.