It finally hit! Homesickness. I was surprised it took this long. Karima and I met Tuesday to go to our Korean class, but I suggested we skip it. The lady goes too fast and there is more emphasis on writing the Korean characters correctly than speaking Korean, which is not quite what I was looking for. Also, because I was feeling down and she was feeling the same way. So what better to do than go to an American restaurant, Young Gu’s (which has a really good oven-baked spaghetti plate), and talk about what we miss from home! It helped. We both felt better afterwards and our spirits were lifted a little bit. Good thing, because the homesickness was making me a not so happy person and I could definitely tell it affecting my teaching that day.
One morning when I woke up for school, it was raining. Since I HATE it when the bottom of my pants get super wet from soaking up all the water, I decided to wear a dress to avoid that… Didn’t make a difference. I noticed that it was a little windy, so I grabbed my raincoat instead of my umbrella. The wind was incredibly strong that day (not a huge surprise seeing as I’m living on the island of WIND, women and stones) and it, of course, blew the rain everywhere. By the time I got down to the bus stop to meet my car pool, the bottom half of my dress was completely drenched because my raincoat only comes down to my hips. When I got in the car, the other 3 teachers that I car pool with didn’t have a drop of water on them… (Pardon my language, but…) WHAT THE HELL?!? If everyone got picked up at their front door except for me, this is soooo unfair! Eun-mi and the other teachers were shocked that I was so wet. They all had to walk to meet the car pool and it was raining a little bit in town, but apparently the weather gets a lot more intense out in the boondocks where I live. I was wringing out as much water as I could from my dress. And it didn’t help that I was sitting on leather seats… I definitely won’t be any drier by the time we get to school.
When I got to school, I ran up to the English classroom to grab the little heater and bring it town to the English office. Using my amazing MacGyver skills, I rigged up a little system to get dry before my class first hour. I took the heater and found an empty box to put it on top of. Then I had it pointing at me while I stood at my desk so I could still work on my lessons and check email. I got quite a few weird looks as students and teachers walked in the office. Oh, how I wish I got a picture of this! But I was about 98% dry by the time class started… Mission Accomplished!
Our first English Teachers Dinner! What’s on the menu? Sushi. As a self-proclaimed picky eater, this is going to be rough. Yes, my taste buds have drastically changed since I landed in Korea, but this is a whole nother ball game! I didn’t want to be rude, so I was just going to suck it up and try it! It really wasn’t that bad! We had a five-course meal at a restaurant near the harbor. First, the appetizers were shrimp, fish skins (I passed.. I can only handle so much), fried ground fish (?), and some other things. Next was the main course, it was strips of some sort of white-meat fish with a bunch of different sides. I preferred to wrap it in lettuce leaves and throw a few other little things on there. They were also nice enough to bread and fry up some of it for us… That was good! Then they came with more fried fish, fried sweet potato slices, and some smoked fish (passed… too much work to have to peel the meat off the bones when the bones are smaller than a needle). After that we had seaweed soup with some dough flake noodles. It was pretty good, but then all of a sudden my mouth was on fire!!! Apparently, Eun-mi forgot to warn me to take out the jalepeno peppers. Lastly, they brought out dessert. It was crushed ice with red bean paste and some chunks of fruit. I believe this is a popular dessert in Korea, which is called bingsu. I’m not a fan of the red bean paste, so I passed… Not like I had much more room in my stomach anyhow. It was a lovely night out with my co-teachers.
Friday with the 3rd graders and the boob gestures continue… The third week in a row! It was a different boy again and again I just ignored it. Then after class, they all surrounded me as soon as Hosun said class was over! They made a double-layered circle completely surrounding me! I had to give EVERY student a high five. I thought I was done, but no! They wanted more high fives and they still weren’t letting me go. Hosun had left class. I was there all alone. Then their homeroom teacher walked in and got a good laugh out of the situation. I finally was able to squeeze between them all and break free. Haha too funny!
Saturday, Karima and I stopped by the airport to get some information on the Olle Walking Trails on the island, and so Karima could get a ticket to Seoul. As I was sitting there waiting for Karima, I was approached by a lady. She wanted me to take a survey about being a tourist. She didn’t speak English very well, and after about 5 minutes of trying to explain that I’m not a tourist, I finally just gave in and took the survey. Then Karima came over to say something and she got suckered into it too. We got a little golden, clover leaf bookmark thing that has something to do with the hanbok (traditional Korean dress women wear for special occasions). After that, we went to my house for the night. Derek came up from Seogwipo and we all made a dinner together. I fried up the pork cutlets I bought from the parents’ organization at school, and Derek and Karima were in charge of the veggie dish. It was a delicious dinner, followed by a new card game Karima taught us.
The next morning, we woke up early and headed off to do Olle 16. It was beautiful! We walked along the coast for a while, then it took us through some villages, fields, up and over an oreum (small, parasite volcano, a.k.a. a big hill), through a forest, and across some highways. We walked by a haenyo shop, where they had a big tank of octopus outside! Susanbong was the oreum we climbed, it was basically straight up and straight down… What a workout! We also saw a 400 year old Japanese Black Pine tree. There was also a temple we came across that was holding a Sunday morning service.
After 5 hours of walking 17.8 kilometers, we had finished our first Olle! I don’t know about the other two, but I felt very accomplished. I have made it a goal to walk every Olle this island has to offer. I think there are about 24-25 Olles all together.
When we finished, we were having some difficulty figuring out which bus to take us back to my house. An old man, that didn’t speak a word of English, tried helping us out. He had us waiting at one bus stop and then left. Then he came back a couple minutes later and asked again where we were going. He must have realized he was sending us the long way back, and pointed us in another direction. We walked to the top of the hill and I realized we were only 3 bus stops away from my bus stop. As we were waiting for the bus, a caravan of National Geographic Offroad Team drove by… My dream job!