Sunday, August 7, 2011


Korean Adventure (August 16, 2002 Chautauqua)

In my first year of teaching here in Korea, I spent the last six months at a school in the small coastal city of Changwon. I really enjoyed my time there as the school was well organized, and most of the people who worked there were really nice.

I went down to visit them on July 19th. It seemed like they were happy to see me, and we had a good visit, catching up on old times. It was interesting to see the kids that I used to teach in the morning were now attending in the afternoon. I guess they must have graduated from pre-school to elementary. It was kind of like watching my own kids grow up.

I was treated to dinner that night, to a meal advertised as a traditional Korean dish, galbi jjim. It was a great deal like my mother's beef stew, and I ate a pretty good portion. My old director picked up the tab, and he was even nice enough to treat me to a motel room that night. There are some very nice people down there.

The next day, I was off to Pusan, to visit a teacher I met on the ferry to Japan. My first stop was a motel, so I could drop off my stuff. An indispensable part of my journey here is the "Lonely Planet Guide." It gives some useful information about the country you're travelling in, including budget places to eat and stay. The motel I decided on was fairly cheap, with an...interesting atmosphere.

The bed was round. I think that might give you an idea of what sort of clientele the place catered to. There was even a vending machine in the room. The logo read: "Love Calling." Now, I am a world traveller, but sometimes I come across aspects of a foreign society that remind me that in many ways I am still a kid from the prairies.

My next stop was the ancient Geumjeongsanseong Fortress on top of a mountain. You get up there via cable car, which rises up through a sea of evergreens to a height of 540 metres. The contrast of forest and crowded city is startling, especially once you reach the top. It was almost like being back in the mountains of Banff National Park, it was that quiet. Fortunately it was a clear day, and I could see all the way to the port, and the Sea of Japan beyond.

The Busan World Cup Stadium. You can see how hazy it is. There were some clear days, but a lot of the weather looked like this.

There is not much left of the old fort, just some crumbling walls, almost hidden by the green growth of the forest. The gates have been restored and are impressive sites to see.

There are hiking trails that lead all around the outside of the remains, and it can take a day to see everything. A planned tour will end up at a magnificent Buddhist temple of Beomeosa.

I met my friend at Haeundae Beach, which is the most famous beach in Korea. There are international hotels, and many western-style eating and drinking establishments. My friend and I consumed many beers at a seaside beer garden, before going in to enjoy a curried dinner that just couldn't be beat.

There is one thing about travelling in Korea - it is fairly cheap and efficient. Buses, trains, and taxis are all well within the budget of anyone and everyone. There are even "standing room" tickets available for the trains, which are sometimes the only tickets available if you do not plan ahead. In no time at all, I was back "home," ready for the next trip.
One of the teachers at my old school asked me why I came back for a visit. Her question was asked in an aggressive manner, like she suspected my motives.
Maybe she saw the unbridled lust I had for my old supervisor, I don't know.
When I was on the cable car going up the mountain, there was this ajumma who took a shine to me. Maybe it was my beard, or my Batman shirt, or my sheer animal magnetism.
Most Korean women have a hard time resisting.
When I visited my friend on haeundae Beach, he introduced me to Dongdongju, for which I will be forever grateful. As Flint always says, I love dong... dongju.