Monday, July 21, 2008

Our First Real Weekend

Our first real weekend in Korea (last weekend doesn't count because we were jet-lagged and overwhelmed) was both fun and interesting. On Saturday, we decided that we'd visit the nice beach that our more experienced friends recommended. It's called Gujora Beach, and it's a bit south from where we are here. It's larger than our beach, but also sandy as opposed to pebbly, and apparently cleaner. The water was pretty cold, but it felt refreshing after even brief interludes of the beaming sun. It was mostly overcast, but not yet rainy or windy. One thing we noticed was that Koreans do not have the same ideas about swimwear that we do. I only saw two Korean women wearing swimsuits without shirts and/or shorts over them, and those were both one pieces, one of which had a modest skirt on it. Many of the girls were wearing bikinis under oversize white shirts that were basically see-through when wet, but you can imagine that I still stood out with my white skin and my skimpy bikini. There were a few more men wearing regular bathing suits, but most of them also had on t-shirts and/or regular shorts too. Fortunately for my self-consciousness, a couple of other foreign women arrived and dressed what we would consider normally.

The beach floor was also different than what we're used to. I learned why so many Koreans had rented bright yellow inner tubes to float around in: walking into the ocean slowly can be treacherous. Under the water, fairly close to shore is a band of fairly large rocks (maybe about the size of grapefruits) that are not only hard to walk on, but also get thrown around a bit by the waves. So if you're not careful, you might have a rock land on your toes, or get jostled so that you put your foot down on a not-so-felicitous spot. But we survived and managed to enjoy swimming around a few times in between roasting sessions on the shore.

After we left the beach, we decided to drive a bit further south on the island. We enjoyed some amazing views of the water and some hilly islands, and Keegan particularly enjoyed driving on the windy roads. We ended up stopping at a place called Haegumgang, which is an island with huge rocky cliffs. We didn't actually go out to the island - there is a boat tour that goes past it, but I don't know if it's possible to actually get onto the sheer cliffs of the island - but we had some lemonade and looked at the glorious view. And then we got really brave and decided to go to one of the many traditional and wholly un-touristy Korean restaurants that filled the little town on the mainland. We went inside and saw that there was no English translation on the menu. Our waitress stood impatiently while I strained to recognize anything familiar in the Korean letters. Finally, I realized that there were two variations of bim bap, which was familiar because it's what my Korean tutor had when we went to the Korean restaurant in the States. I was very proud of myself because the waitress understood my kindergarten-like reading of the menu item! She brought us two bowls of vegetables and an unidentified, raw, orange fishy substance, two bowls of rice, and the usual assortment of Korean side dishes. The vegetables included red cabbage, lettuce, and dried seaweed. We also got a big bowl of mussels, in their shells, floating in a jalapeno broth. Surprisingly, I found those most tasty and only slightly spicy. After a false start involving gingerly eating some rice and a few veggies from their separate bowls, some helpful and undeniably amused Korean young people (probably in their 20's) told us to "Mix! Mix!" and put the rice into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and stir it all around. It was tastier all mixed together, although I didn't care for the fishy (ha! in more ways than one!) orange substance. About halfway through our meal, we also got some fried egg to add to our bowls, and when we were finished, we got some fresh watermelon. All in all the meal wasn't bad, and we felt very adventurous!

After our lunch we walked around the town a little more, and even out onto some rocks which provided a striking view of the island (don't worry, parents, we stayed far above the rough and unpredictable surf). Then we drove back home and went for a run up to the exercise park I mentioned before. By the time we were back and showered, we were so exhausted that we decided just to get pizza for dinner. Of course, even a visit to Domino's is an adventure because we had the option to get roast potato pizza, seafood and rotini pizza, bulgogi (Korean ribs, but looked like hamburger to me) pizza, and various other unusual choices. We ended up getting half and half - cheese for me, and bulgogi for Keegan. We also bought a video cable that allows us to connect the laptop to the TV and thus watch movies downloaded from iTunes on our nice large TV. So we watched "Before the Devil Knows Your Dead" and munched on pizza before falling exhausted into bed.

Yesterday, Sunday, we had our first experience of a typhoon. It didn't hit us directly, but we still got lots of wind and rain, on and off all day. And boy was it a heavy rain! Because we are on the top floor and the roof is sloped, we actually have drainage pipes from the roof running inside our porch and our kitchen, and we could really hear the water rushing through them. We spent most of the day just relaxing in the apartment, but in the afternoon we got bored and decided to go out to find a bicycle for Keegan to ride at the shipyard. He didn't want to get anything too fancy because the bike will be outside a lot and is just needed for getting from point A to point B in the huge shipyard. So we went back to Home Plus and found him a flashy red bike with a basket. Then we drove over to the shipyard to leave the bike and to check out the gym that they have their for employees and their families. It has a basketball gym, a small workout room with treadmills and stairmasters and some weight equipment, and a 25-meter swimming pool. We're trying to figure out ways for me to get some swims in, so it's possible that I could drop Keegan off at work, use the pool, drive home, and then come pick him up in the afternoon. But that gets complicated because he sometimes needs to drive out of the shipyard for various projects. So we'll see. We were impressed with the gym/recreation center - what a nice perk for all the workers.

Today I woke up not feeling so great - I may have eaten something I shouldn't have, or been less careful about tap water than I should have. But at any rate, the day has been very lazy and filled with reading and sleeping. According to the Internet, these things usually last 3-4 days, but hopefully the next few will feel less ucky than this.

Oh, by the way, I found a tourist site with a fairly good map of the island with Roman letters. Check it out!


Jamie said...

I hope you're feeling better! I loved reading about your authentic Korean meal and about the swimwear - it's the little details like that that turn a blog into a study of a faraway place!
love and miss you,
ps - it's so hot here that none of us - feline or human - can eat or sleep. Herman does a very stylish job of lounging like a capsized boat.

chrissy said...

Ryan assures me_to assure you_ that your system will get used to it. Hang in there! Do they have yogurt over there...if they do, you should eat it.

You are so brave, I think I would have just eaten the rice and gone away hungry (which I'm sure has already happened to ya'll too).

Tell Keegan to keep writing in his blog...his side of the story is awesome!