Saturday, October 18, 2008

Weeks in Review: Trailblazing, Traveling, and Talking

Lots has happened in the past few weeks - we've gone biking and hiking and visited Jinju again. I've met Brazilians and Ukrainians and acquired another student. Here are some of the details:

Two weekends ago we had quite a hiking adventure! We decided that we were going to hike a mountain overlooking the Samsung shipyard where Keegan works. We saw a sign for the mountain, so we parked by a small village and started walking. We went through some rice paddies and when the concrete path along the fields came to an end, we saw a small track leading into the woods up the side of the mountain. We forged ahead. The trail got rougher and rougher, and we brushed aside more and more spiders, and finally we realized that we were not on a trail at all but were instead hacking our way up the side of the mountain in rugged explorer fashion. My calves and ankles were screaming as we plodded up the steep mountainside through brambles and sandy soil that crumbled away under our feet. Finally, I heard a call from Keegan up ahead, and he said that he had found the trail! After less than ten minutes of walking on the real path, we were at the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, the weather was not so nice - drizzly and hazy, so our views were a bit disappointing, but we were proud of our rugged adventurousness!

On the way back down, we took the real path, curious to see exactly where we had strayed. Well, it turned out it was at the very, very beginning. On the concrete paths that led through the rice paddies, we should have taken a sharp right at one point. But there was no marker at all, only a signpost where the trail started, which was not in sight from turn that we missed. Well, now we know.

Last weekend we went back to Jinju for the annual lantern festival - maybe you've already seen the pictures on Flickr. The festival had everything you could hope for in a fall festival - food, games, crowds, and a very impressive display of lights and fireworks. All of this had a distinctly Korean flair, especially the food, which was fascinating. The first thing we noticed was small mobile food carts parked along the side of the road selling seafood and ricecakes. My favorites were trucks whose entire back ends were covered in stacks of enormous crabs. There were also the perennial favorites bbang tigi, which are rice cakes made in a funny machine. The machine pours about a quarter cup of rice into a small cylinder and then covers the cylinder, which I suppose is very hot and at a high pressure. When the pressure gets too high, the cylinder pops open and shoots a rice cake out with a satisfying "bbang!" There were also several stands selling a very hard kind of slightly sweet peanut brittle, which the proprietors cut up with scissors that looked like they had cleavers for blades. Also for sale were dried squid and silkworm larvae, which smell terrible and look like something the contestants on Fear Factor used to eat.

The main attraction of the festival was, of course, the lighted lanterns floating on the river and displayed along the shore, and they were amazing. We saw fire-breathing peacocks and a fire-breathing dragon, an enormous pogoda at least two stories tall, bulls and matadors, and countless others. On the shore, there were tunnels hung with all kinds of lanterns made by festival attendees, and there were walls of red lanterns, too. There were booths where you could make wire lanterns (unfortunately, you had to have a reservation), and there was also the opportunity to buy a small lantern that you could attach a wish to. These lanterns had a candle inside, and after you wrote your wish on the lantern, you could float it down the river. There were also floating footbridges that you could cross to get a better view of the lanterns on the river. It was all just overwhelming, and I'm so glad we went.

This week has been full of social events. On Wednesday, I went to Quizno's, favorite hangout of the Okpo foreigner population, for a meeting of the Brazilian Ladies of Geoje Island. One of my students was eager to introduce me to her friends, and I was eager to go. The Brazilian women are a talkative, friendly, noisy bunch, and I enjoyed spending time with them. Many of them speak very good English, but of course now I am intrigued by Portuguese and want to start learning. If I am going to start spending time with a group of Brazilians, I'd probably be able to pick up the language more quickly than I'm picking up Korean! It helps that there are a lot of similarities with French and Spanish as well.

On Friday, Glenda and I invited our EFL students over to my apartment for tea and snacks. We had a Brazilian contingent and a Ukrainian contingent, but everyone seemed to do very well speaking and listening in English. It was a fun, interesting gathering full of fun, interesting, intelligent people and lots of chances to talk about and observe linguistic quirks, so I was really in my element. There may not be any money in adult ESL, but it sure is a wonderful way to meet the best kind of people.

Here are a few pictures from the get-together:

Our tea group. My student Rita, who is doing fantastically, is on the left. Next to her is Andrea, also from Brazil; Elena, my new student from Ukraine starting Monday; Alla, our neighbor and Glenda's student from Ukraine, and Glenda.

Pepper discovers the tea cozy is just as its name suggests.


Jamie said...

The client I mentioned in my blog post is from Portugal, and speaks English with a gorgeous accent. She also speaks Spanish and French. Why someone with such quadruple language skills works manual labor is a mystery to me, but hearing her accent and her turns of phrase in English is enchanting!
By the way, Pepper is ADORABLE. And I am officially a Crazy Cat Lady. Vivienne is dead set on being an indoor cat, Herman and Pip like her, so . . . three cats in the house.

Mom said...

I'm glad I got my knee fixed so that Dad and I can go hiking with you guys next May! Sounds like you are seeing and doing so many new things.

KIM! said...

i want to see the lanterns! sounds amazing.