Last week for our 3 days off my fellow American boarding assistants and I took off for Jeju City. We spent a night exploring the bar scene and had some surprisingly good Mexican food. From there we took off for the majestic island of Udo off of the East of Jeju. It is viewable from Sunrise Peak on a clear day. The island is called Udo or “cow” because it is of a bovine shape. It takes about an hour to get around and features a lighthouse with a panoramic view of ocean and mainland. We rented scooters and bikes and got to exploring, almost immediately finding a room for rent a short walk from the beach. The room was more of a suite complete with kitchen, big screen tv, and computer. Not bad for 10 bucks a piece…
Monthly Archives: September 2011
This post will be short on words because I have a lot of pictures to unload. During week 2 in Jeju I did a lot more exploring on the island and am starting to become familiar with names of places. I took a night to learn the Korean alphabet called Hangul and it’s been a fun challenge to try to read all of the Korean signs.
On the 9th they bussed us to Jeju City to get some immigration paperwork out of the way and I took off with a group of Americans into Dongmun market. It was full of food, souvenirs, distinct smells, colorful cloth in tailor shop windows, and people. There were women with enormous machetes hacking at fresh fish and packaging it for customers on the spot, enormous heads of grinning pigs, and mounds of spices.
On September 10th, the school took the staff on a trip to the famous Sunrise Peak on the east side of the island. It was quite a long bus ride but well worth it. When we got to the mountain it’s crater top was swallowed by fog. I soon realized that the Korean concept of hiking differs from much of the world. They seem to want to make it as comfortable an experience as possible. At the base of the climb there was a Dunkin’ Donuts. From there you walked on a paved path and continued up stairs to the top of the mountain. There was even a rest stop halfway into the ten minute climb where you could get some snacks. The only challenge was a vicious wind that seemed to want to pluck people off of the peak. From there we walked into town and got a delicious meal of very fresh seafood. I had a stew that was packed with crab, clams, and prawns and then walked to a Buddhist temple at the base of the mountain.
Getting to my dorm room on the currently evolving campus of Korea International School was quite the process. Leaving my house in Maine at 3:30 I went to the Portland Jetport. I then hopped onto a flight to Chicago where I met up with some fellow Maine boarding assistants who joined me for a fifteen hour flight to Seoul. From there we took a bus that transferred airports from Incheon to Gimpo and then it was a one hour flight to Jeju. We arrived at our hotel room in the new section of Jeju-si and wandered around the streets a little dazed from the jet lag finally settling on Korean barbecue for dinner where we ordered chicken gizzards, eel, and soju (a Korean rice alcohol that tastes a lot like vodka.) I spent two nights in the hotel (literally named T.H.E. Hotel) until they finally took us to the campus of the school where I’ll be working for the next 10 months.
At first look I was very surprised at how unfinished the school was. For the past five days or so I have lived on a construction sight. My time on campus is filled with the constant sound of cranes, bucket loaders, buzz saws, and power drills. Mixed in with the rubble, dust and construction equipment is a stunning scenery prominently displaying Halla-san (Korea’s tallest mountain) and Sanbang-san (a mountain that we have decided looks much like an ice cream scoop.) There are workers everywhere scurrying to get the school together for the arrival of the kids this Thursday. I was a little apprehensive to believe that the task could be finished. However, the changes that occur on a daily basis are astounding. Each morning it is like waking up to a new surrounding that is quickly beginning to resemble a finished school.
Since my arrival, I have been taking full advantage of all that the island has to offer. So far I’ve been to Chungmun Beach twice. The water is the clearest I’ve ever seen and as the winter comes the waves should get bigger. At Chungman I’ve seen the famous Jeju woman divers in their distinct black wetsuits with round goggle, snorkel and flippers. In Korea it is considered ugly to have tan skin because it is a sign of poverty. It is not uncommon, therefore, to see Koreans bathing in long sleeve shirts and pants and a sun hat. The distinct grandmothers can also be spotted all around the island with ridiculously large visors that encircle curly perms. After both trips to the beach we hiked to a vegan restaurant called Loving Hut where a very motherly woman served us multiple courses of delicious food.
Besides the beach, I have been running on the Olle Trail System almost every day. The trails were envisioned and created through the efforts of a woman named Suh, Myung Sook. She was inspired after hiking the Camino de Santiago to bring the concept back to her island of Jeju. The first Olle trail opened in 2007 and from there has grown to a network of trails that connect the whole island. On the trail I’ve seen families of horses, neon yellow spiders, bee houses, and uppity pheasants. The trail near my school picks up at the O’Sulloc Tea Museum, a famous producer of green tea that I have visited a few times with the other boarding assistants.