Monday, October 19, 2009

Jamie's Visit

Sorry, loyal readers, for not posting for so long. I'm sad that I've missed so many interesting things to post about! But there's no time like the present to get back into the swing of things.

Jamie came to visit last week! I had been anticipating her visit for such a long time that it was a shock when it was finally over in such a short time. But we crammed in a lot of fun activities, and Jamie appreciated all the right things about Korea, just as I expected her to.

We picked Jamie up in Busan on Friday the 9th and drove her into the city.

Jamie and Ellen, reunited at last at the Busan airport.

Keegan and I were a bit hungry after only a small meal on the ferry, so we decided to find something small to eat. We ended up trying udon noodles at a tiny street stand. They were delicious! We made friends with several Korean men who were also eating at the stand, and one of them paid for our noodles. I really wish we had taken pictures with our new friends, but alas we did not.

On Saturday we spent the majority of the day driving to Uljin and finding the registration for the triathlon. The Uljin triathlon was not held in the actual town of Uljin but a ways south in Hupo Beach. So that made things interesting. I was really glad I had done some research before we left! On the way there, we stopped in a big field full of amusing homemade scarecrows and took a bunch of pictures.

Homemade scarecrow festival south of Uljin

Anyway, we managed to get registered, drive the bike course, and eat lunch at a really great Korean buffet in a rest stop near Hupo. In the evening, we stayed at the Baeck Am Springs Hotel, and Jamie had her first taste of the Korean spa and of bi bim bap.

Sunday morning was the triathlon. I was quite nervous before the start because it was going to be a mass start, which meant that all 500 or so competitors were going to get into the water at roughly the same time. It was a complete and total madhouse, and my slow swim time (37 minutes for 1500 meters) reflects that, but at least I survived. The bike course was flat, though a bit windy. I learned that my training on hilly terrain allowed me to switch my position more often than riding on a flat course. By about 30 km into the bike, my butt and back and arms were KILLING me. I resolved to wear shorts with at least a little more padding for the next tri. Ow. The run course was three loops of about two miles each. I felt great on the run and was really surprised with how fast my time was at the end. Unfortunately, Keegan was confused about the number of laps we needed to do and ended up crossing the finish about two miles short. It would have helped if the course map posted online and given to us in our race packets had been accurate. But he was remarkably unfazed by his mistake. We spent most of Sunday afternoon driving back to Geoje - some of the scenery was really beautiful, but it was a loooong drive for two tired triathletes and their jet-lagged guest.

On Monday, Jamie and I went to Home Plus for shopping and then met Joy, Kayoko and Jana for coffee. After coffee, we bought pumpkins to take home and paint. We had a good time watching Planet Earth, eating Mexican food, and painting three festive Halloween pumpkins.

Tuesday was the day for a swim in the morning and a party in the afternoon. All of my students, plus Joy and her students and Sandra and her students joined us for coffee and goodies. Jamie happily chattered in Russian to my Ukrainian student Elena the whole time and was beside herself with a chance to practice. I was happy that she had a chance to meet everyone.

On Wednesday, we decided to go for a hike and engage in some long overdue girl talk. If any of the Koreans on the trail spoke English, they certainly overheard some interesting things, that's for sure!

Jamie at the summit of Guksabong

We were very tired after the hike and mountaintop picnic, but we had enough energy left to do some shopping and get some refreshments nonetheless. In the evening, Fred joined us for a big lasagna dinner and we had a lot of fun reading my Culture Shock Korea book and laughing about its tone.

Thursday was the day for the big trip to Oedo Island. It's as beautiful in the fall as it is during the rest of the year. We had a fairly calm boat ride and were even offered some dried squid by our neighbors. Jamie would later regret the one bite she took, but I didn't think it was too bad. We also enjoyed an impromptu singing performance by our boat's tour guide, which I have never seen before. Jamie was very impressed.

Our guide on the boat to Oedo, belting out Korean hits.

We saw some truly enormous jellyfish in the water during the boat ride. In the evening, we went out to eat at the Chinese restaurant and devoured a huge plate of stir-fried tofu while indulging in more girl talk.

On Friday, we decided to spend the day in Busan. We didn't actually get on the ferry until 12, though, so it was a quick afternoon seeing the sights. We checked out the fish market and the Busan tower.
Jamie in Busan, near the Jalgachi fish market

There was a festival going on, possibly in conjunction with the Pusan International Film Festival or PIFF, so everywhere was very crowded. We enjoyed being at the top of Busan tower in the evening, so we could watch the lights come on in the city. After the tower, we went to the Shinsegae shopping center for a truly delicious pasta dinner and a shopping spree in the adorable stationery section of the Kyobo bookstore. It was a very sad evening in the hotel as we prepared for Jamie's early departure in the morning. It was a whirlwind week, full of female bonding and good experiences. I miss Jamie already, but I'm so happy that she made the time to come for a visit!