Hello All! September 28th – October 3rd we traveled across the country (which would be like traveling across a state in the US) to visit 2 couples we went to college with. We had time off school thanks to the Korean holiday Chuseok. It’s basically the Korean Thanksgiving. There is also a mass exodus of Koreans traveling to their hometowns.
However, we didn’t actually celebrate Chuseok. We all met on an island in Southern S. Korea called Namhae. Our friends teach in Southern part and this island is about midway between them. We got to make the trek from the north along with the masses of Koreans leaving the cities to go to their hometowns. After a 2 hour trip up to Seoul and a 5 hour bus ride, we made it to Namhae.
Our first order of business was to get a bus ticket back. We had success and then decided to ask around to find a cheap hotel for the night. They are called “love motels” here cause apparently you can rent them out by the hour. We were in luck. There was a hotel just above the bus terminal. The hotel owner was very helpful despite his minimal English. Our accommodations were fair for one night. However, Korean beds are very hard (we bought a mattress topper for our bed at home). We spent the night doing a little exploring around town and playing games back at the hotel. Our friends were going to arrive the next day.
After spending the next morning exploring and playing more games, our friends started arriving. Derik and Amanda have a car so they were our transportation for the rest of our trip! They were such a blessing along with all the necessities they brought with them (food, grill, pan, …). When Steph and Josh got to Namhae we decided we should find a camping spot for the night. We drove and took a taxi about 30 minutes further down south to a beautiful beach with a grove of trees where we pitched our tents. We soon realized that there seemed to be more foreigners on this beach than Korean though. They were quite rowdy and sadly lived up to the stereotype most foreigners have in Korea. Although, we did have a few interesting encounters with them throughout our stay. Our night and next morning were filled with cooking (you know how camping meals are a process) which gave us plenty of time for much-needed catching up.
Throughout our stay at this campsite, we got yelled at by various Koreans telling us we couldn’t camp there or cook food on our grill. We never really found out what we were or were not allowed to do. However, in our defense there were at least 20 other tents pitched around us. The next day we decided to venture up to a Buddhist temple that was perched on the side of a mountain. The temple was quite busy and the little car we were in was pushed to the limit driving up and down the steep mountain with all 6 of us but the trip was so worth it.
We’re not in Kansas anymore…
(Derik and Amanda Grove, (us) Ethan and Sandra Lagerquist, Josh and Stephanie Klein)
It was really bright so, that’s why some of us don’t look very happy but really we were having a blast!
After 2 days and nights of camping, we were starting to get a little stinky cause we didn’t have showers at our campsite. In fact, the closest restroom was the squatty pottys (as Ethan and I call them). We had the brilliant idea to try to rent out a love motel for an hour and take turns showering. However, between the closed hotels and the hotel owners who didn’t know what 3 couples wanted with 1 room for 1 hour, we were having a hard time finding a shower. Finally, on our way back into town we stopped at a castle looking love motel and convinced the owner to give us a room. Really it was Steph and Josh because they have been here the longest and therefore know the most Korean. 🙂
Josh and Stephanie had to go back a day and a half early so we drove them into town and ate some yummy Korean BBQ and Baskin Robbins ice cream. We spent the remainder of our day light driving through the gorgeous coast and mountains of Namhae. This island is mostly a farming and fishing community. The little villages were quite picturesque with the locals working in the fields and the sun setting in the background. This is what I would picture Korea as before all the industrial development where everyone moved to cities and now lives in a high-rise apartment.
We actually have a co-worker that is from Namhae. Her parents still farm there. I asked her if one of her siblings is going to take over the farm. She said no and that is a common problem in Korea. Farmers never have very much profit, so, most farmers are old Koreans who have been doing it their whole life. It’s true you will see 70-year-old women out in the field harvesting rice. It’s really sad too because everyday we go out we see older people in a permanent hunched over position from years of back-breaking work. Another thing we saw was rice spread out on tarps on the side of the road sometimes half the road. Occasionally, there would be someone walking through it and making rows with their feet.
We ran across “American Village” and had to take a little drive through. The houses really did look American especially cause they had yards. I think all of the houses were Pensions (vacation houses to rent). Of course we had to take a picture with Lady Liberty.
The next day we wanted to kayaking and check out “Oktoberfest” going on in The German Village. Kayaking ended up being rather expensive so we just strolled around German Village. There we tons of people mostly Korean but maybe 10% were foreigners which is actually is a high ratio! There was a Korean band playing mostly Western songs beside the infamous Gangnam Style (if you don’t know what I am talking about here is a link to a YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0 ). This song is a national phenomenon right now along with the signature dance move. I’d say we get asked at least twice a week if we like Gangnam Style by our students. Back to Oktoberfest… there we a few choices of beer and lots of bratwurst to go around. I guess the town was built for Koreans who had gone to Germany in the 1960s seeking work and later Korean-Germans returned. The architecture of the houses is German-style, and even the construction materials were imported from Germany.
All and all our trip was incredible! We got to spend time with two really awesome couples and share our funny stories, struggles, and make new memories. That was so comforting because anything familiar here is a treasure. To have friends that can relate our journeys of where we’ve been, where we are, and the unknown future was so refreshing. It seems as if most of the foreigners that are here don’t share all of our values (or at least we haven’t met many in our town yet). This proves to be a challenge in making friends. So, Ethan and I have been spending almost all our free time just the two of us, not bad, but it was wonderful to share time with genuine friends. We are looking forward to trips in the future with hopefully both of theses couples.
Josh and Stephanie are actually back in the States right now. Their contract ended in October and they are in the process of looking for jobs in a public school to come back in February. Be praying for them! Also, here is a link to Derik and Amanda’s blog http://derikandamandagrove.wordpress.com/. She does a really good job and has some awesome posts and more pictures of our trip.