This is the Blog for Scott's Uhls's vicissitudes in Ulsan, South Korea.
Monday, August 18, 2008
The Gyeong-Ju experience
For the past few days, I have been living in the oldest place on the face of the planet, and somehow already have an -1 point infraction. The classes here have been been much more of the same thing, except for today, where we got to do Zen meditation and Taekwondo instead of the usual "How to teach an english class." Personally, I enjoyed the Zen Meditation lesson, as I find Taekwondo the weakest martial art ever. Sure it's got cool kicks and sure its all exercise and whatnot, but come on, is it really that practical in a streetfight? I'd like to see someone land a spinning back kick in a streetfight before they get rushed and curbed stomped...
Anyway, yeah. Let's start in chronological order, shall we?
First, we had classes, which turned out to be the exact same thing we learned before, only this time we had to listen to lectures in rooms with bars on the windows. Now I can understand bars on the outside of the windows, but these particular bars were on the inside, which only adds to my assessment of this place being a glorified prison. But then, the rain decided to help us out and created a small flood on the campus, which meant that all of our evening lectures were cancelled, as well as the Korean Classes, so all 200 of us where stuck sitting around the Family Mart in the basement killing time. That's when I met the Japanese girls living in the dorm building, and it's kinda refreshing to be able to talk to someone in a language that I understand.
Anyway, Nathan and I ordered some steamed chicken, which turned out to be disgusting, and definitely not worth the money we paid for it. I won't order that again, you can be certain. However, I spent the evening milling around because I was bored and there's nothing to do around here. NOTHING. And even less to do when it's raining.
So now we move on to Saturday. This was the day that we were supposed to go on a tour of the Bulgoksa Temple and the Soccram Grotto, which are like the top two sites of the Asian Buddhist world, but because it was raining, we had to move to plan B. Now, the Temple and the Grotto are both indoor-type activities, which I thought would be fine things to do on a rainy day, but apparently the Head Coordinator lady thought differently and Plan B consisted of going to Kampo Beach and the Anapji (which is a man made lake). I should have thought of that, 'cause there's nothing more I want to do on a rainy day than get soaking wet while looking at and contemplating water.
What a completely dumb use of our time that was. Basically, we started out by going to the lamest museum on the planet (I only say that because it housed a bunch of Silla dynasty pictures, not actual stuff, and everyone in Korea was going there that day because of the rain) and then we drove 45 minutes to go to a beach that was closed due to the rainstorm. It wasn't bad, but the tide was huge and the drop-off was even bigger. The Coordinators were afraid the current would take us out to sea, and to be honest, I bet it would. So, we had lunch and drove all the way back to close to where we started to visit the man made lake. It took me a grand total of 30 minutes to visit all three pavilions, take pictures in each, take a picture of the island, walk around the lake, take a picture of the pavilions, and then come back to the front gate; it was that small. I would say it was more like a backyard pond than a lake. The reason it took me so long was because I was enjoying Victoria's company while I walked, and that was the only reason.
Needless to say, no one was upset when the Coordinators announced that if we all got on the bus early, we head back home an hour ahead of schedule. And we did, mostly I think because no one wanted to be on the tour anymore. We were tired, we were wet, we were hungry and thirsty, and basically bored to tears because, sorry to say, there wasn't much to offer in the way of excitement out here. The Blue House was definitely better, despite the raining, and that tour was cut way short....
So, we all came back to the campus and many people signed out and left, taking buses to Busan. I didn't want to spent the time, energy, or money to go, so I stayed in instead and we convinced the coordinators to let us watch Hancock on the Big TV in the convention hall. I like the movie, even though it was nothing like it could have been.
Anyway, the day ended on a rather boring note to follow all the other boring notes of the day, but that meant we had nothing to hold Sunday against. Smallwood and I left to go into town...we were going to go to a Church, but the closest one is in Daegu, and we didn't want to wake up at the crack of dawn to hop a bus to get the city to go into the subway to ride the train to the place that dumps us off only a couple of blocks from the church...well, I think you get the picture. So we decided to go into town and mill around, checking out the stuff in town and finding out what there was to do. We got bored pretty quick when we realized that we couldn't communicate with anyone very well, so all we could do was walk around and stare at stuff.
Eventually we ended up in the infamous Gyeong-ju burial mound park, and like idiots we climbed to the top. Two problems with that: 1) it's incredibly disrespectful to the person buried beneath (but in our defense, there was a footpath up where other people had already climbed it, and there were empty soju bottles, so there was a party up there recently) and 2) the thing is built straight up, so I had to Billy Goat my way down the side. I couldn't roll or anything, 'cause it was like a 5 story drop...ain't happenin' sorry.
Anyway, after a long time and about 15 people staring and taking pictures, I managed to get back down one foot in front of the other while holding onto the hill. Smallwood video taped it, and I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up on Youtube. The view was awesome though, and I got some great shots of Gyeong-ju...one of which is the picture on this entry.
Afterwards, we hit up a PC Bang, which is like an internet cafe except that everyone's playing games and not just checking emails or anything like that. I asserted my Korean skills while Smallwood played Starcraft and somehow won (we didn't understand half of what was going on because it in korean) when I walked up the lady at the counter and asked her how much it was for one hour. That's right, I talked to someone. WAHOOO!!! Party over here.
Well, we got bored and completely forgot about Gyeong-ju World, which is pretty much just an amusement park in the middle of town, so we ended up coming home early, which resulted in a long walk around the campus. BOOOORING.
Finally, today, we took a tour of Gyeongcheon Elementary school, which gave us time to see what schools are like in Korea. We were supposed to have lunch with the kids, but my table consisted of a bunch of Half-Koreans (and these are the same elitists that ruin every training experience here in the TaLK Program) who decided to speak to the kids in Korean continuously and then complain that we weren't doing anything. Glenn and I wanted to punch the guys and leave, but not only would that have messed up the kids experience, but it would have got us fired. Anyway, we spent a very awkward 45 minutes in the cafeteria before heading back to the bus. Glenn and I were the only ones who didn't make a friend on this trip because of the jerks at the table, but it was still an awesome experience anyway.
At least I know what it feels like to be elited against. I just really dislike John (who likes to say his name is Joon, but it's not, it's John) more than I did before, and I didn't think I could dislike him anymore. He made a claim that we should cater to the Koreans because it's in their blood to better at video games than White people. Whatever. I'm glad I won't be around him for more than a few days.
Anyway, as I said before, the day ended with Zen Meditation and Taekwondo. I got a good workout in before I got a great dinner of Tonkasu...which is Korean Tonkatsu, so that was friggin' amazing. I would say, aside from my awkward 45 minutes, it was a good day.
Mountain Dew Drinking, Japanese and Korean speaking, story writing nerd who doesn't exactly spend all his days in his basement doing nothing, but don't be surprised if you find my laptop filled to the brim with downloaded TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Dark Angel, Supernatural, The Wire, or the occasional anime. I lived in Japan for 2 years, and lost a whole lot of my manga/anime fanatacism, but I also learned to love Manga. 2 years in Korea reminded me that I can do the impossible.
I've got the perspective, if you are willing to listen then I'll give you low down on whatever you want to know.