Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gangwha Island

Today, instead of having classes all day, we went on a field trip. I'm pretty sure this was Korean for "ride a bus for a long time, get out for a few minutes to listen to a lecture you don't understand, take some pictures, get back on the bus, repeat." No, I'm being sarcastic, it was actually quite fun. but being herded around in a group
is not really my idea of traveling. that's okay though.

As has become my normal schedule during orientation, I woke up early, showered, got dressed, and headed out to take a walk around the neighborhood and to get some coffee. The weather this morning was wonderful, not to hot nor too cold. I've been trying a different coffee shop every morning. Sometimes it's Paris Baguette, one time it was a little place called Ediya's Coffee, and my favorite is Cafe Bene. Not only can you get an Americano (or latte or drip coffee), but you can get a homemade waffle with fruit, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I may have tried one. Or two. This morning, however, I walked further down the road to a place called Cafe Gunururu. I don't think I'll be going there again, because it was fairly expensive - my iced Americano was 4000 won compared to 2500 - but it was lovely to go upstairs and enjoy my coffee while overlooking the neighborhood. There was a TV film crew (or TV news crew more likely) filming something on the sidewalk, and it was fun to watch.

Around 8:20, I headed back to board the buses to Gangwha Island. These Korean teachers are pretty organized and they like carrying signs. We had a two hour bus ride, during which I had a really nice conversation with Arlene, a teacher from Nova Scotia also going to Daejeon.

The bus ride was actually quite pleasant, and I have to say that Korea is much greener and prettier than I thought it would be. I was looking out the window at the green trees and rice fields when I started to see soldiers, tanks and barbed wire. That's when the tour guide told us, "You are lucky today. It's really clear. You can see North Korea." She told us that North Korea was 2 KM away, across a river. "You can swim across the river in 15 minutes," she explained. I think I'll pass on that one.

At the island's observation deck, we were able to admire North Korea, as it were. It was really sort of creepy - I looked through a telescope and all you can see on their side are some small houses that all look the same and then vast open areas with nothing. I can't imagine living there, especially at night, seeing the lights of South Korea knowing that it's only 2 KM away but impossible to reach. I also can't imagine living on the South Korean side, knowing that this country is so close by. It was really interesting, but the most interesting part is that this whole thing served to remind me that I need to register with the American Embassy.

After walking around the island, we went to lunch. I must say, as someone who has continually been faced with white rice and beef (and canned fruit if I'm lucky) in the school cafeteria - don't worry, I've been spending some of my millions of won going out to eat because it's either that or starve - it was like heaven to see heaping plates of fresh vegetables: lettuce, spinach, mushrooms, bean sprouts, pickles (they have sweet pickles here.. that is one Korean food that I really enjoy). It was called BiBimBap, and is quite possibly what I will live on for the next year. Everyone was given a bowl of rice and could choose to add beef and an egg (I had the egg, but passed on the beef). Then we went to our seats, where we could use our chopsticks to add whatever vegetables and sauce we wanted to our bowls. Since I am not quite adept at using chopsticks, my food may or may not have gone flying over the table.

After lunch, we went to what was called on the schedule "a manufacturing experience." Turns out that meant weaving mats. I was not very good at it, but it was interesting to try, especially when the Korean women who worked there guided my hands without speaking. Needless to say, since I am artistically challenged they had to come help me a lot.

After weaving our mats, we got back on the bus and headed to the Gangwha Dolmen. None of the tour guides really explained what it was, but it looked like a stone formation in Ireland, so I'm assuming it was used as some sort of burial chamber.

Finally we got back to the university around 6:30 PM. Two more nights in this dorm and then I get to go to Daejeon and have my own apartment! And buy my own food, and explore my new neighborhood. Can't wait!

1 comment:

peggy kravchuk said...

it sounds like a full day and very interesting. you weaving a mat is pretty comical. that would be like me weaving a mat. absurd. we re not a family of crafters.