Do you remember when I said, “Yes, it is true what they say. Living abroad means you do exciting things; noteworthy awesome things that make other people want to move abroad and also do exciting non-everyday-things that “over there” are everyday things…alas, this particular blog post is not about those.” ? Well, this is a post about exciting non-everyday(ish) things one has the privilege of doing when living abroad, and it takes us on a tour of the caves, beaches, and mountains of Jeju!
Short side story: among the fun of getting set up here and all the roadblocks we’re hitting, our Teacher internet still doesn’t work and the Student/Guest one, brilliantly, kicks the kiddies offline between the hours of midnight and 6am so that they actually sleep. Alas, this means I too get the boot (not the car trunk ye Irish folk, but a kick in me arse) from the interwebs. This also means I’m attempting to write this from my phone and am unsure of how it will turn out.
This past weekend I finally got to be a tourist! After several days of IB and school training, some of which pertained to us and the rest which gave us technophobes time to explore our school MacBooks (Technology Gods, help me!), the school arranged a bus to take us around the island to three iconic Jeju must-sees.
Manjanggul Lava Cave
The first was a lava cave (oooo, ahhhh) known as Manjanggul. Super cool (both in temperature, which made me a happy camper, and on the cool factor scale). Due to the holiday Gwangbokjeol, or National Liberation Day of Korea, on August 15th (our excursion date) we were able to enter all of our sites free. Double-y cool! I appreciated how Manjanggul was as untouched as it could be with all the tourists it attracts. The ground we walked on was the cooled lava floor, save for a couple of strategic stairs and even a red carpet. The minimal use of dim lighting which safely lead the way along the single kilometre path retained the ambiance and mood of being underground. It was incredible walking down the stairs into the cave and feeling the temperature drop right at the entrance. Honestly, and maybe this is me embracing “old age” (we’ll talk about that later), Mother Nature’s pretty impressive.
The second stop was to Gimnyeong Beach, a beautiful fine white sand beach found on the northwest area of the island. I’m not a beach person. Lying outside under the blazing sun, where my Irish ancestry decides to rear its red hot head and my Italian ancestry conveniently forgets its role in my genetics, does not bode well for a pleasant post-beach experience. Luckily, it was lunch time, one of my favourite times of the day. Everyone was hungry so we headed for the convenience store/mini restaurant and other attached restaurant to decide how to fill our empty bellies. A few of our Korean teacher dons were invaluable to the group, helping order, asking questions, and reading signs.
Four of us broke from the mould and ordered some fresh fish (literally out of the ocean and on to our plates – the picture of the man among the tanks is him…taking care of our food) along with some new and unknown tasty morsels. I don’t remember the name of everything I ate, but I took pictures! After a delicious lunch there was time for a few pictures and to dip our toes in the water, but not a swim. Actually, it seems (so far) that Koreans don’t “swim” much. You’ll see what I mean in the images below. They do love their flotation devices though. OH! I also encountered my first pairs of matching couples. They’re quite popular in Korea. I’m excited to see more because back home we tend to slag couples who match. Another gentle poke in my perspective bubble! 🙂
Seongsan Ilchulbong Mountain
The third and final stop was a hike. Google “Jeju Island”, and you will most likely see an image of a grassy crater called Seongsan Ilchulbong, or Sunrise Peak. It’s beautiful, but holy, was it steep! I am not a hiker, nor am I in shape. Luckily, there were stairs and tiny rest areas along the way for this weary body to muster up more strength. If I’m honest, it was actually the grandmother wearing a lot more clothing, steadily moving at her own pace, who gave my ego a kick in the rump. Ouf. It was definitely worth it, between the view and the feeling of accomplishment of reaching the crater’s edge.
After some prime Vogueing (re: selfie-ing with the girls…I can’t believe I’m crumbling on that one…) and regaining our energy in the shade, we headed down the mountain to see some of Korea’s gems, the female free divers, or Haenyeo. These incredible women have only recently been recognized for their talent, support to the community for food, and cultural significance. I’ve only scratched the surface reading about them, but they’re a part of Korean culture I’m intrigued to learn more about.
A Night Cap of Thai Food and Soju
At the end of the day’s excursion, some of the dons bought food at a nearby mom-and-pop Thai place. Later that night, after the lot of us had regained our energy, we congregated in a fellow don’s room. I had my first taste of soju, we played some games, and talked about the year ahead. Sunday was a sleepy one spent mainly in pajamas, organizing and preparing for the year around the corner.
That is all the excitement for now. Students arrived on campus yesterday and school started today, along with my first overnight shift. Wish me luck that no fire alarms will sound! I will attempt to blog tomorrow, about our “first” days.
Thanks for reading!