Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ulleungdo, Dokdo, and the DMZ

Well, the past month has been a doosey. You see, things didn't go so well with Joy and I and apparently we're not speaking to each other anymore. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I was confused and in the end, apparently I'm the one who messed up. However, I'm not the only confused one, so maybe there's something else going on here.

On top of that, I'm no longer tutoring a couple of little kids twice a week, which kinda sucks. And then, I was also told IVY not to come in anymore. Well, I guess that's what I get for doing some side work for nothing. :P They can easily replace you with someone else. Oh well, I guess I'm back to my normal work hours...

...which is actually a good thing, because I've begun to fall so far behind in my Korean intensive course, that there's no way I can catch back up. None. So today, I told my teacher that I was going to take the level 3 (lower intermediate) class again. She agreed that was probably a good idea and then said that she's going to try harder to help me, which will be a good thing I think. I'm going to try harder to keep up this time, but I just didn't really get what was going on most of the time.

Oh, and I jacked my ankle coming out of a restaurant in front of the university because someone decided it was a good idea to install internet lines and stuff under the road, but in Korea, that means they have to tear up the whole road, dig a trench, install the lines and then bury it all before they repave. Fun. At least they're doing a better job than the road inside the university itself which took 3 months to complete and sinks after ever rain or ever 100 cars (whichever comes first). The builders in the university think that fine beach sand is a good foundation for building, which they are slowly finding out is not the case.

Anyway, so, aside from those things, there was Chuseok in the middle of this month, which basically meant 4 days of nothing happening...not even restaurants that are open. Fortunately, I was paying attention to the holiday creeping up on me, and managed sign up for a trip through

It was amazing. We went to Ulleungdo, this beautiful island off the east coast of Korea, that is basically just a mountain that rises straight out of the ocean. It was all volcanic rock, so there weren't any beaches, but that mean that we could climb out to the last rock sticking up in the ocean and drive straight in. THAT WAS SOO MUCH FUN. Most of my group jumped off a bridge, but I just dove in from the rocks because I was worried that I would hurt my ankle more. But the water was so clear that you could see the fish, the little sea urchans, and even the jellyfish family in the water before you jumped in. It made it so beautiful and so easy to avoid the more unsavory sea life (as you could see them coming in the water hundreds of yards away). FYI see water tastes like overly salted french fries.

But Ulleungdo is very obviously famous for squid because it looked like Cathulu's breeding grounds out there. There were tons of squid, but on the island itself, there were thousands if not hundreds of thousands of squid hanging from Bamboo being dried in the sun. If Cathulu bred in the waters around Ulleungdo, than the people of Ulleungo are his worst nightmare. It seemed like all of the inhabitants had something to do with the killing, drying, exporting of squid life. If you like squid, Ulleungdo is the place to go.

During my time in Ulleungdo, I paid for a trip out to Dokdo, the fabled Liancourt Rocks. I thought this was a good opportunity because Dokdo is a disputed territory between Japan and South Korea, so it seemed important that I see it to get perspective...since most Koreans and Japanese haven't even seen it. It truly is two giant rocks sitting in the ocean. There isn't even a whole lot of space to do anything. If they hadn't built a dock on the island, the soldiers there maintaining that it belongs to Korea wouldn't be able to morning exercise. There is a space cut into the second rock for the one Korean family that lives there (for only like 5 months out of the year, but enough to be counted on the Korean census). However, it is spectacular.

Like Ulleungdo, the water was clean and clear. I looked over the edge of the dock and saw all the sea weed, rocks, fish, crabs, etc living in the ocean there, and for a moment, I couldn't tell where the water began. So I reached down and surprised myself with how far up to the platform it was. It serious looked like glass. But then, judging by how far the water level was, I guessed that I must have been looking several hundred feet straight down into the water to see all the creatures during their daily sea activities.

Anyway, it was beautiful. More beautiful than the areas in the DMZ that are off limits to development. I went there with Katie, Myca, and Michael, thus making it a fun trip, and ran into Larry on the same tour. What a coincidence. But we traveled around the highly militaristic area of the DMZ and I couldn't help but think that North Korea would have a hard time if they tried to push through. There are honestly barbed fences, gun posts, checkpoints and cache areas stashed every you could imagine them to be. And then some. You can not mistake the fact that North and South Korea are still at war when you go to the DMZ. But it was fun, so I might go again. If nothing else but to see the really awkward North Korean propaganda city.

Oh, and I stayed in a Jimjilbang again. This is time two. I'm starting to like Jimjilbangs...which might be because I can actually start wearing the clothes. Well, the shirt anyway. I brought my own shorts, which was a good idea, but since they were blue, the didn't stand out too much...the just looked like they were the special "Large" shorts rather than the regular once dark but now faded blue. But I mostly like the really hot water.

However, Myca decided to get a hot cup therapy (the name I forgot) designed to draw toxins out of the body through the skin. Well, it worked, however, the next day she had these huge cup sized hickeys all over her back. And they were bad. Like serious dark purple. She said it felt good while they were doing it, but the whole next day while we were at the DMZ, she kept saying, "Ouch, Ow, oh!" Good thing I didn't try it, though I was thinking about it.

Anyway, things are going well with Japanese-Korean translation though, so at least I know one thing: I've still got it.

Happy trails people. Until we meet again.

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