The next day I headed off to the other city on the island, Seogwipo. It was the first time I’d been there so I carefully consulted my TaLK Jeju Orientation book to find out which bus I should take and where to catch it. I took bus 502 to City Hall (east of where I live) and caught the 5.16 to Seogwipo. (It’s named after the road it drives on, I worked out later.)
I was going to meet Sylvia and Héloise, our British friend from orientation. We planned to hike Olle 6, but as I had not brought any shoes even remotely resembling hiking footwear with me, I had to stop off on the way and buy some. That accomplished, the journey to the south continued.
The 5.16 takes about an hour to get from one city to the other. It goes right up into the foothills of Hallasan, the highest mountain on the island (and Korea). This means a very twisty turny journey for the passengers! But I had enough to look at to keep me distracted. Well, there were large stretches of forest. As in, just trees. But I was seeing it all for the first time which made it very exciting.
Seogwipo is not so much a city as a seaside town. It’s very lovely though; you actually feel like you’re living on an island there, not just a coastal city. Even the air smells different: it has a definite salty tang.
The walk began in town. But wait! I hear you cry. What is this Olle thing anyway? Well,basically, it’s a hiking trail. There are at least 17 around the island; the first one was opened in September 2007. They’re quite popular with both locals and tourists and mostly run along the coast. The goal, I believe, is to have Olles going around the whole island. The route is marked with blue and orange ribbons or Olle dogs (see pictures). You can even get an Olle Psasport and collect stamps from Olles you’ve completed.
We were doing part of Olle 6, from town to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall to Oedolgae. It was quite a walk. Ahem. It was a good thing my shoes were comfortable because the rest of me was not: jeans and a handbag are not ideal hiking gear at all. Plus it got very hot along the way and there were some steep-ass hills to climb. But the stunning views and spectacular scenery and great company made it all worth it. It was also the first time I’d been down to the sea since arriving on the island – and I couldn’t imagine a better place for it.
The fish dinner we had afterwards wasn’t too bad either!
The next day, Monday, was not a public holiday, but as the Tuesday was (Buddha’s birthday), most people had the day off – including me! I took it easy, discovering the delights of flavoured Oreos and assorted series. (No judging, please.) I also tweeted the following: “Wowee. The heat and humidity have arrived – practically from nowhere.” which is very amusing, three months later. I can’t believe I thought that was hot and humid. Ha. Haha. Hahahahaha.
Ahem. Where was I? Ah yes.
On Buddha’s birthday all the temples are open to the public and they serve (free) food. So off Sylvia, Héloise and I went to a temple just outside of Shin Jeju (my area). I wanted to go because I knew it was something I would more than likely not do again, and I was really interested, from a cultural point of view, to see and experience what a Buddhist temple was like.
They gave us plastic lotus flowers and real gerber daisies at the entrance: the one to wear and the other to put in a vase at the feet of one of the giant statues. We did so, then wandered around looking at and listening to and smelling everything we could. (Well, maybe not smelling everything.) We then went off to the kitchen area where we were warmly welcomed (we were the only foreigners) and joined other temple-goers, sitting on the floor of the crowded room at low tables. Many people had taken their food outside and were eating under canvas awnings.
Everyone was given the same meal: a thin soup and bibimbap, which is a rice dish with five or so different kinds of raw vegetables, and pepper paste to mix it all up. I mostly like it but there’s one veggie with a really funny taste, which kinda ruins it for me. I like it better when it comes with a fried egg on top (but really, when does a fried egg not improve a meal?!)
Back in Shin Jeju we wandered around, doing a little bit of shopping and dining on ice cream for lunch (what?!). I had the dark chocolate and mint combo – the most delicious ice cream you will ever have, hands down, case closed. I wish I could send you all some, but you’ll just have to use your imaginations instead. The dark chocolate is creamy and delicious, not too bitter, and it has actual bits of dark chocolate in it. The mint ice cream is the best accompaniment, as it just lightly cleanses the palate and refreshes one after the heavy creaminess of the dark chocolate. True story!
We also visited the “dollar store” – not as much fun for me; I have to think carefully before I buy anything because I honestly have no space to put stuff – and one of the many electronics stores you see everywhere. I think this one was an LG. I was in pursuit of a toaster: the cheapest I’d seen at Lotte Mart was well in excess of R200, and I simply refused to spend that much on what is essentially a machine that burns bread! Fortunately I found a relatively well-priced one at LG and purchased it immediately. (I have place for a toaster, okay.) And went home and made freaking egg on toast. It was amazing.
The next day I didn’t have much to do at school, so I amused myself by seeing if I could use my bank card to book tickets to visit my most excellent friend KAP on the mainland over the upcoming long weekend in June. Turns out I could. Surprise, KAP! It was all a little fast for someone who likes to think things through and weigh up all the options and double-check everything before doing something as solid as booking plane tickets! (That’s, um, me, in case you were wondering.) But now I had something epic to look forward to.
The rest of the week consisted of minimum teaching, maximum deskwarming (that’s when you literally sit around and do nothing but keep your desk warm. Best time to do it is during the summer holidays! Coughsarcasmcough.) My second school had Sports Day practice on the Thursday, hence my enforced idleness. But look how cute they are!
I didn’t mind though, as I had just discovered a website that lets you watch episodes of TV shows online, for free. I also had a book to read, and of course, lesson prep to do.
That night I tried dak galbi for the first time – it did not end well. Dak galbi is a sort of chicken dish cooked on your table in a very spicy sauce. Even the “medium” is spicy. I’d heard it is not for beginner Korean food eaters – so maybe I’ll try again in a couple of months. Maybe next year. (I have sensitive taste buds, okay.)
Friday was a semi-frustrating day: operating on very little sleep (multiple public holidays and extended weekends caused my sleeping patterns, never “normal” at the best of times, go completely haywire) and without a homeroom teacher (they tend to just randomly not pitch up, I never know why) made my task of explaining the concept of plurals to the grade 2s virtually impossible. Fortunately I only had to teach one other class that day and so got to nap at my desk. (It’s okay to do that here. Seriously!)
On Saturday night I went with S and H to Open Mic Night at a place I could probably not find on a map again (it was dark!). I hadn’t seen that many foreigners under one roof since Seoul, and I found it rather overwhelming at first. It’s hard to explain, but you don’t realize how quickly you get used to just seeing Koreans, so to suddenly be surrounded by a whole bunch of non-Koreans is a little strange.
The highlight of the evening was an honest to God South African guy performing honest to God pantsula. I couldn’t believe my ears when the MC announced his act…but it was awesome. I don’t know his name but he comes from North West. Sadly I have yet to meet him again, but he definitely made my night.
The next day, after much procrastination, I set off on an epic trip to find the PC shop I’d spotted from the bus some days before. (Trying to fix Lawrence the Laptop before I was informed it could not be fixed.) The shop had sadly and inexplicably disappeared, and I arrived home an hour later; hot and sweaty, with an aching shoulder and a sad realization that despite its best efforts, my heroic immune system had caved to the Korean germs and I was in for a bout of sickness…