Monday, July 16, 2012

The Great Wall of Geochang

So glad to be done with that exam!
In America, we all have Asian friends, and as a general rule they study about five times as much as the rest of us.  I used to not put much thought into it, thining that it was merely coincidence.  And then I experienced midterms week in Korea.  We got new material up until the day before the exam.  On exam day, we spent three hours in testing, 90 minutes of written exam plus a rotating individual oral proficiency exam.  After it was over, our teacher took us to an all you can eat American lunch buffet.  I haven't eaten that much in one sitting since Dad took me to DC in eleventh grade and I discovered the endless breakfast bar.  Needless to say, I was worthless for 5th and 6th periods and instead spent my time in a total food coma.

Fun at squid party night with Mina.
I got home from school on Thursday and assumed my normal position on the sofa in the living room.  Aunt Kim was running around like crazy and told me that "Uncle Joe and sister are coming for dinner."  I said, "sounds good!"  Of course, this conversation was in Korean, and the thing about Korean is that there is no distinction between singular and plural.  For example, if you go to the bakery, you may say, "I want bagel" which can mean that you want anywhere from 1 to 100 bagels.  You have to add the optional units for clarification.  So a better thing to say may be "I want bagel, 12 bagel units please."  Or in my case, it may have been better for Aunt Kim to say, "Uncle Joe and sister - 7 people units - are coming to dinner."  Yes, seven sisters.  When the doorbell kept ringing and women kept coming through the door, I started to wonder what kind of party this was.  However, the night was really fun, and my confusion was soon cleared up.  They also served my favorite Korean food which was a plus.

On a search for the Buddhist temple.
On Friday, I was completely exhausted from the intense schedule of the week.  I could tell I was getting sick and needed to sleep.  I honestly can't remember the last time I got a full eight hours.  But when I was invited to squid party night in makoli town, I of course couldn't turn down an invitation.  I met up with some CLS friends and a few of our new Korean friends.  Though my conversation pieces pretty much amount to random pickup lines and "What did you do yesterday?" we had a good time.

Buddhist Temple.

The next morning, we met at the school at 8:30 for another weekend trip.  Clearly we just can't stay put for more than a few days.  Luckily, we had plenty of time to sleep between random literature houses and museums.  That afternoon, our bus stopped at an unmarked point in the middle of a mountain road, and we were told it was hiking time.  We set off on a 7 km hike through kudzoo-covered mountain paths, just budding soy bean fields, and finally an incredible breathtaking rock beach.  Unfortunately, we took the wrong turn at some point and were forced to trek over a rather trecherous part of the beach which was covered in slippery, pointy, algae rocks.  Added challenge: it was raining.  Thank goodness for good shoes!  After another 3 km monsoon hike, we ended up at a secluded Buddhist temple deep in the woods, a mile from the nearest road.  It was absolutely beautiful set against the foggy mountain backdrop.

Beach night!
We eventually ended up at the hotel which was right on the beach and of course boasted the most incredible views.  That night, after I made a fool of myself at the Korean poetry reading, a few friends and I went to the beach and sat around watching some crazy guys shoot fireworks at their friend target in the water.  It was a lot of fun!

Traversing Geochang with my teacher.
The next day, we toured a literature house and discovered ancient tombs of high class people that were in the style of Stonehenge.  It is crazy that they were able to lift those huge stone

into formation without the help of modern technology.  Afterward, we headed to the city of Geochang's Old City Wall and fortress that was used to protect its citizens from attacks.  I dubbed it the "Great Wall of Geochang," but I really have no idea what it was called.  We arrived back home in Jeonju that evening for some much needed rest.  I don't think I've slept past 8AM since leaving America, but why sleep when there is so much to explore??  This summer, there is an adventure around every corner.

Crazy Korean Discoveries:
1. There is a saying that says, "If you go to Korea, don't forget to pack a spare liver."  This country can drink some booze, let me tell you.  They also have very strict rules for drinking.  For example, when drinking, you must turn away from anyone who is older or higher ranked than you.  This is one of the most awkward table practices I have ever seen.
2. Never, ever write somebody's name in red ink.  This means either that they are dead, will die soon, or you want them to die.  Similarly, if you give somebody a gift in a set of four (like four cups or something), it is like telling them to go die.


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  2. I think you went to Gochang. Geochang is over by Daegu.