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6 Months October 25, 2010

Yesterday, Sunday October 24th, was the six month mark. As with anything in life, when you look forward, time crawls. I miss my family and friends back home. I miss driving and eating at Blind Bob’s and eating crepes at 2nd Street Market with my mom on Saturday mornings. But when you look backward, the time goes by far too fast. I still haven’t done a temple stay or been to the DMZ or seen the World Heritage sites that are right here in Seoul or made the trip to Busan.

Yesterday, on my trip back from Muuido Island, I took a detour to Coex to get some dinner at On the Border. I didn’t realize that the trip from Muuido to Coex would be the exact same trip as the one I took 6 months earlier from Incheon Airport to City Air Terminal. It got me all sentimental, which if you know me, I don’t care for, but I’m learning to enjoy the feeling.

The time has come to start planning for next year, to start cramming in all the things I feel must be experienced, to plan for my vacation. I love Korea, very much. I miss home, very much (especially since my sister insisted upon making my very first niece this weekend. I can’t wait to love you Emma).

Here are eleven things I know for sure at six months in:
1) I am really good with young children. They love me and I love them.
2) I don’t care for the age when kids get to be too cool for school.
3) I could be a good teacher. I could be a good social worker.
4) I love to travel. No matter what financial future is in store for me, I should never forego travel again.
5) People like me. I don’t have to try to make them do it. If they don’t like me, that’s OK. I like me. Doug really likes me. Being happy is more important than being liked. When you stop worrying about people liking you, they like you more.
6) America is pretty great, for a lot of reasons. America is worth investing in because I am an American and other people are not. Infighting is a waste of time and effort. Your petty fights back home seem pretty childish from the other side of the ocean.
7) Even if you try something while open to a new culture, doesn’t mean you have to like it. There is nothing wrong with simply not liking octopus. I can still appreciate the culture of a country and not enjoy the texture of octopus.
8 ) I don’t have to settle.
9) I really love and am good at and miss cooking.
10) American food, while delicious, is gross and unhealthy. We are eating ourselves to death.
11) I am a genuinely happy person and I consider this to be my greatest achievement to date.


How to get to Muuido Island from Seoul October 24, 2010

I spent a second weekend on Muuido Island. This time to enjoy the fall colors and smores. I’ll let you in on the secret of entry to Muuido.

Step #1: Get yourself to Incheon Airport

Step #2: Go to the third floor and stand outside at bus stop number 5

Step #3: Get on the 222 bus. Note: There are two 222 buses. They both take you to Muuido. One will drop you off right at the ferry. The other will drop you off a very short walk from the ferry. Either is fine. They stop running at 8:20pm.

Step #4: Get to the ferry. If you happened to get on the better of the two buses you just need to walk into the white building that is the last thing before water. If you got on the other bus, you need to walk past the seafood restaurant and over a long winding bridge that looks like a good place to fall off and die as there is no room for pedestrians. Just walk behind a Korean couple that is all decked out in hiking gear and you’ll be fine.

Step #5: Buy a ferry ticket for 3,000 won. The woman speaks very good English. You will give them your yellow paper ticket when you get on the ferry. There is no return ticket. They assume that if you are on the island and taking the ferry back that it’s because you took the ferry in the first place. The ferry stops running at 8pm on weekends.

Step #6: Get off the ferry and walk under the arch that says “Welcome to Muuido” and past the stand selling corn and bundaenge and get on the green number 1 bus. It’s easy, it’s the only bus on the island.

Step #7: Take the bus to its last stop, Hanagae Beach.

Step #8: Get off the bus and walk past the big fan-shaped sign on your right to the stand on your left below the arch and by a ticket for 2,000 won to get to the beach.

Step #9: At the top of that little hill, the first building on your right, you can rent your hut. There is a big yellow sign with the rules like “Don’t campfire” You may need to shout in a quick “eugeo.” During the busy summer months it is 60,000 won plus a refundable 10,000 won key deposit. During the off-season it is 30,000 won plus the same key deposit. Check in is at 2pm. They have pillows and blankets available. If they aren’t in your hut, go back and ask for them. There is a limit on people they will allow in a hut. Ignore that rule and cram everyone in one hut. They’re your friends, get cozy.

Step #10: Dump your stuff in your hut and enjoy Muuido. Don’t worry about locking your stuff up. They’re Koreans. They don’t steal.

This is what you need to bring with you.

1) a change of clothes if you feel like you need it.
2) a bathing suit
3) Do not bring drinks. You can buy them when you get there.
4) You can’t “campfire” but you can grill. Bring one and some charcoal that comes presoaked in lighter fluid and any hotdog, bun, eat stuff you want. If you time it right, you can get smore stuff in Ieteawon or at Costco.
5) A blanket for the sand and a blanket to sleep under. You’ll sleep on the provided blankets.
6) There aren’t any showers, so just get ready to go without. There are bathrooms with toilet paper, but there isn’t any soap. Either bring hand soap or sanitizer.
7) Sunscreen
8) Something for breakfast, like donuts or whatever. There are some restaurants, but they are all Korean. You won’t see other choices until you get back to Incheon.
9)  A cooler with ice to keep your food fresh. They don’t have it there.

I hope that helps weary travelers. Enjoy Muuido. Most importantly, it is a great place to meet people. Introduce yourself to your fellow foreigners. You can bother everyone with your nighttime volume together.


An Open Letter October 21, 2010

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 7:07 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Dear parents of the world,

I understand that you love your children and think that they are precious or whatever. The cold hard truth is something different.

Your children are gross walking bags of germs hell-bent on getting anything that educates them infected with their cooties. Good job birthing the most effective means of biological warfare. I’m still not sure why you declared this war on teachers, but you’ve clearly decided to make tiny people so that you could ensure that I would have a perpetual cold.

Congratulations on a job well done.


Teacher Mary


Sweet Home South Korea, Lord I’m Comin’ Home to You October 18, 2010

When you move to a country that’s the size of Indiana, getting stamps on your passport becomes much easier. Case and point, I got to go to Japan. Living in Ohio on a bookstore salary, a weekend getaway includes Lexington, Indianapolis, or Columbus. Thanks to the Korean holiday of Cheusok, I spent three days between Osaka and Kyoto.

Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, is second only to Rome for most World Heritage Sites in a single city. For any of you with art history degrees, I don’t have to tell you how rad this is. For the rest of you, picture, I don’t know, Lady Gaga wearing the Ug Boots or whatever you kids are into now a days. Bonus: I got to meet up with my cousin Craig who just happens to have lived in the city and speaks fluent Japanese.

My day in Kyoto was spent jetting around from temple to temple and restaurant to restaurant via rented bikes with Craig as our guide. I am so much happier when there are wheels below me. I’d prefer eight, but I’ll settle for two any day. Poor Doug however, has not ridden a bike since, well, since I’ve known him and we met when he was 14. So, it’s been a while. He was not nearly as joyous, but felt far more accomplished when all was said and done.

Kyoto is a beautiful city that has gone to great lengths to preserve its integrity against the crushing modernity that has swallowed and now makes up Osaka. There is a height limit on the buildings so you can still catch glimpses of the mountains. The architecture, my God the architecture. Coming from Seoul where the exteriors of building looks shockingly like the interior of buildings, Kyoto was a breath of old, traditional air.

Day two was spent meandering through Osaka’s shopping district. Let me be clear, Japan is the single most expensive place I’ve ever been to. There are 85 yen to the dollar. I saw nothing for under 100 yen. Not one thing. I wasn’t there for the shopping though. I was there for the experience of it. I didn’t bring back many souvenirs, but lots of memories. Most of all a feeling of accomplishment. Just eight months ago I was working two jobs, struggling to pay my rent, asking for parental help every time a medical bill creeped up. Now, I can afford to go to Japan for a few days, all with my very own money.

Osaka was very much my style: big and bold and funny. I never grow weary of things that are typically small represented by things that are huge and made of fiberglass, and Osaka provided. Osaka’s mascot is Billikin, the God of things as they ought to be, and that sucker was everywhere. He looks a lot like a Buddha but with a pointier head and the bottoms of his feet sticking out. Scratching his feet brings good luck. I took a picture with every single one I saw.

The food in Japan is amazing. I like Korean food just fine, but I could eat Japanese food everyday and it would never get old. The Japanese have had a history that allows them to develop culinary, architectural, and artistic traditions that are sophisticated and rich. Think of Japan as France and Italy combined. My beloved Korea on the other hand, is a lot like Poland. It’s spent so much of its history fighting off invaders (including the Japanese thank you very much) that survival has been a bigger focus that fanciful food and buildings.

The Koreans are just now reaching the point of continuous stability in which they can choose to foster these qualities. I think that they will and very successfully. The Japanese may have more creativity, but the Koreans are determined. I love them for that. As an art history major I value artistic traditions in a culture, but as me, as myself, as the person who has gotten me this far through this much fire, above all, I value determination and persistence. If the Koreans decide to develop an artistic legacy, they will because once their minds are set on something there is simply no stopping them.

My favorite thing that this trip gave me was a feeling of coming home and that home was to Korea. Beautiful, mountainous, spicy, hard-working, stubborn Korea.


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