Yo everyone, I just turned 27–WOOO! To celebrate my birthday, I decided to get out of Busan and have a birthday adventure. So, I packed my rain boots and my birthday flask (no I don’t have a problem–good booze is expensive in Korea) and hopped the bus to Jindo.
Welcome to Busan, South Korea. Oh, you want to live and work here? Fantastic, please direct yourself to the Busan Immigration Office to apply for your Alien Registration Card (ARC). To ensure you deserve to live in this wonderful city, the Korean government has made their immigration office a royal Pain In The Ass to find. After 2 consecutive years of getting lost on my way to immigration, I’ve decided to post directions to the ACTUAL Busan Immigration Office. Because, the directions available online are all WRONG! Continue reading
To literally no one’s surprise, I’ve decided to renew my teaching contract and begin a second year in Korea. I say literally no one’s surprise because after years of watching me flit around the globe, none of my friends and family are even remotely surprised when I decide to continue doing the “Ex-pat Thing.”
To kick off my second year, I’m going to start writing here again. I know, I know, no excuse whatsoever. I mean, I’ve been living and working in a foreign country all year and I’ve barely had anything to write about?! Not freaking likely.
So. Stay tuned for more Jeannette adventures, stories about life in Korea, and general snark and profanity (sorry not sorry, you’ve been warned).
I know what you’re saying.
Shootings just happen. Americans are always dying at the hands of murderous assholes with powerful weapons. How many times has it happened in just the past year? I’ve honestly stopped counting. You get numb after a while. To mentally keep going, you have to get numb.
I sympathize; I’ve done the exact same thing. But I’m going to ask you for a moment to turn off the numbness and try to listen.
One year ago, this was my day: I woke up at 6:30 am and scrambled for coffee and work uniform. I walked to work in the freezing cold, realizing halfway there that I’d forgotten my hat and was going to have crispy iced hair when I got to work. I entered the building and set up for the day. And then, as the clock reached 8, I unlocked the front door, sat down behind my desk and started the first of many conversations with the women and men coming through the door to the Planned Parenthood building.
I was literally the first person you would see if you walked through the doors.
We didn’t have security guards. Any patient, would-be patient, or man with a gun could easily walk through those doors. The doors were always unlocked.
I’m not saying this to yell in horror that “It could have been me!” When I took that job, I made my peace with the sad-but-true fact than too many of my fellow Americans now thought I was evil, now wanted me to suffer and die. I accepted that my job had a non-zero chance of motivating someone to try and make me suffer and die. This is a realization that soldiers have. Should this be the realization that a 20-something receptionist has?
My friends are going back to work today. They’re asking “How can we keep our patients safe?” They’re hugging each other. They’re comforting the scared women in the clinic who, in spite of their fear, still need help.
Tonight, they’ll walk to their cars in pairs. They’ll drive each other home, or wait by the bus stop, making sure everyone is safe.
This is courage. This is heroism.
This is refusing to be cowed by terror.
This is what conviction in the face of persecution looks like.
The next step on my Korea Roadtrip 2015 was Ulleungdo–a tiny island 80 kms east of the Korean coastline. It’s much smaller and less well-known than the famous Jeju Island. And a small island appealed to my KR2015 motto of “Sit in pretty places and write pretentiously.” However, as you might expect, getting to Ulleungdo successfully turned out to be an adventure in and of itself.
That morning I woke up at 7:00 and headed to the Pohang Ferry Terminal at 8:00. Where is this terminal? Hidden away in some random parking lot on the FAR RIGHT of Bukbu Beach.
Note–I was there 3 hours before I was supposed to be there. I was supposed to be on the 11:00 ferry, but I was insanely early.
“But why?” Because, despite the 10 minutes I’d spent on the phone making my ferry reservation, years of travel instincts told me that I should expect trouble.
So I found a friendly Korean clerk, showed her my ID and waited politely as she looked for my reservation. And couldn’t find it. And couldn’t find it. What a surprise!
Since it was still 2 hours until the boat left (Because boat was leaving at 10, not 11–this is why I’m paranoid!) the clerk offered to sell me an open seat. She also gave me a note with my return ferry information, my name, multiple phone numbers–it basically said, If Found Return This Dumb Foreigner To Pohang. I proceeded to head back to Bukbu beach and enjoy the emptiness while I devoured more convenience store kimbap.
The ferry ride was uneventful. Despite the dire predictions from several friends, no I didn’t puke from seasickness! In fact, the boat ride was calmer than most Korean buses. I WAS the only foreigner on board–and the only person not a) wearing fluorescent hiking gear, b) eating corn on the cob, or c) hauling boxes of peaches…Korean travel is weird.
The ferry took a little over 3 hours and I arrived in Dodong harbor–which is the major harbor on the island. I landed at about 1:30 and got hit with the type of humidity that comes from being surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. I dodged the tourist promoters and set off to find my accommodations–meaning the place I could ditch my backpack. However, I had one more adventure.
Because I’m Jeannette (read: cheap) I was staying in a Guesthouse. Guesthouse is Korean for “hostel style dorms and sketchy concept of amenities, plus you sleep on the floor because beds are for wusses.” I’d figured out that my guesthouse was NOT in Dodong village, but the next village over, Jeondong. Since Ulleungdo is made of hills and more hills, I decided that walking was a terrible idea and proceeded to find a bus. (SPOILER: You can walk from Dodong to Jeondong along the ocean and it’s glorious. But it’s a 1+ hour hike. Do not do with luggage)
I then performed the international travelers’ time-honored Bus Dance:
The International Travelers’ Bus Dance
Step 1: Ask bus driver “Do you go to Place?” in your very best LocalLanguage
Step 2: Get blank look
Step 3: Repeat “Place?” 2-5 times until glimmer of understanding appears on driver’s face.
Step 4: Driver shakes head and shoos the foreigner off his bus.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4 with additional buses until positive answer received.
Step 6: Enter bus amid laughter from locals who didn’t expect a tourist on their clanky, janky bus.
I finally made it to my guesthouse and ditched my sweaty backpack. Then, it was time to explore Ulleungdo! Bring on the waterfalls! Bring on the squid! (To Be Continued…)
Pohang is a small-ish (by Korean standards) city about a 100km north of Busan. During my Korean Roadtrip, I decided to spend a couple days there. To be honest, I was mainly looking for any city next to the beach. And Pohang had the added bonus of being the city where I was going to take my ferry to my next destination.
Getting to Pohang from Gyeongju involves hopping a bus from the Not At All Sketchy Bus Terminal in Gyeongju. It’s not sketchy–they just don’t have air conditioning, even in 100 degree summers, but they do have mucho flies, and plenty of redneck-rigged fans running. Continue reading
After a quiet evening at home where I packed and prepped for my trip (HAHAHA–try again, do you know me at all?), I woke up bright and early and started my Korea Roadtrip 2015 with Gyeongju! Since Gyeongju is quite close to Busan, I hopped the metro to Nopo bus station and bought a bus ticket for only 5,000W. When I arrived, I sweated through all my clothes, located my awesome Couchsurfing host Evan and proceeded to eat my weight in Korean convenience store snacks (no, it’s not as terrible as you’d think…Korean snacks are healthier than American Crappy-Ass Treats).