We had our second meetup event this past weekend, and I must say it was a raging success! The beginning was rocky as we had several mis-communications with our school about time off, but eventually they got solved. The trip was planned around the premise of a three day weekend. March 1st is March movement day or the beginnings of the Korean Independence from Japanese rule. It is a holiday that most schools have off as it is a special day for Koreans. While we were at Ansan, I was told we would have the day off. We RSVPed and put down our deposit. However, once we arrived in Yangpyeong, we were told that we were in fact working that holiday. So we requested that day off.
The response: "Impossible"
We tried again, this day, for a half day. "We will see." was the answer we received.
By Wednesday they granted us a half day.
Thursday, in the morning meeting our scheduler asked, "Do you want the whole day off?"
Do we want the whole day off? Of course we do! Three day weekend, here we come!
Friday evening we stayed the night with Amy once again so as to cut down on the travel time in the morning. However this time, we slept not on the floor but on her new blue couch.
The bus left at 9 am, but rather than getting sleep as I had hoped, we spent the time "meeting up" if you will, getting to know new faces and peeps.
The chartered bus was the most amazing bus I have seen in Korea. And by that, I don't mean it was the most comfortable bus I have been on, nor the most technologically advanced with TV's on the back of each seat. What made this bus special was the Korean hippie bus driver and his hippified van. One thing to know about Korea, is that it is very uniform. People wear the same style clothing, have the same hair cuts and generally are more about conforming to the norm than being an individual. It is rare to see an emo Korean, a gothic Korean, or a hippie Korean. They just do Korean for the most part. So seeing a Korean man with long died hair was a novelty in itself as was his decked out bus with fringe, dangling Buddhist trinkets, thirty to forty stickers of all shapes and sizes such as stars and butterflies, commemorative towels from soccer games, paintings of Buddha, and the virgin Mary, random statues and miniature furniture made for a doll house. The three hours on the bus to our destination was not enough time to notice and appreciate each minute and careful detail this man had put into his work of art.
We arrived around 1 pm and were immediately dropped off at the ski store to gear up. Unprepared to be ready to ski immediately we searched fruitlessly to find my ski gloves that we purposely remembered to bring forcing me to purchase a new pair, a duplicate pair. It was only an extra $10, but it was the principle of the matter. I HATE RE-purchasing something that I already own. It is just so wasteful. But I did re-purchase gloves with quite a bit of grumbling. We got fitted for our boots and skis and we were off to the slopes.
The great majority of people on our trip were snowboarding however, and the few of us that were skiing were intermediate to very beginners at best. Several people agreed to give instructions, and we decided it would be less crowded at the top of the bunny slope (the beginner slope) than at the bottom where we could be hit by incoming skiers. Because of the unclear signage we made our doomful first mistake. We ended up on the top of a level three slope with three beginners and low intermediates. A level three slope is quite steep and the look on Kyle's face was one of terror. He had a right to pee in his pants, however as he didn't have many options: roll down the hill, walk down the hill, or ski, he gritted his teeth and skied, not without a few tumbles, but he survived. Kyle intends to write an entire post on his first ski trip so I will leave it to that. I do apologize however for the lack of photos in this area. I regret that because our cameras are a bit larger than your average point and shoot, and tumbling in the wet snow was an inevitable part of our day, we decided not to risk taking the camera up the slopes. We did manage to get a photo on our phone, but I haven't figured out how to transfer it to the computer.
The next day we decided against hiking mostly because we are CHEAP and skiing is not. Skiing with a big group brings benefits because we were discounted half off of our lift pass, however it was still $60 a person including our rentals. Seoraksan, the third highest mountain was located relatively nearby and was the ultimate hiking area. Unfortunately, half of Korea also thought hiking Seoraksan was a fantastic idea for their three day holiday. Waiting in a line of cars for over thirty minutes gave us an idea of how crowded the park was before it was decided that walking would make faster progress than driving at snail speed.
Lunch was first.
Then visiting the giant bronze Buddha.
A short hike, cut shorter from the amount of tourists moving slowly.
A cable car to the top of the mountain (yes we took a cable car instead of hiking. You may call us lazy, or wimps, but considering our time, it was the only sure fire way of getting a glimpse of the summit.) Once atop the mountain, dangerously powerful gales attempted to knock us off. I seriously had to tie my hat on to prevent it from flying up into the clouds. It was difficult to stand without falling over. It was magnificent all the same. The view was breath taking.
Burritos for dinner. Everyone had their own way of cooking Mexican and we were limited with ingredients. Avocados run about $4 a piece in Korea when they are found. Cilantro as far as I know is not be found, nor are pinto beans. So instead we had black beans and red beans, mushed and slightly re-fried. Needless to say it was a wild cooking experience with 20 experienced taco makers all with their own ideas and concepts on the best way to make a burrito. But they turned out delicious, and everyone had a happy and full tummy in the end.
Monday, we woke up to a blizzard. Well, it wasn't really a blizzard, but as it snowed the whole day long, it was as close to a blizzard as I have ever come. It was also the day we went to the waterpark. Somehow, I didn't make it to Korea with a swimsuit but they had some for rent. It is also a requirement in Korea that everyone wears a swimcap. Not that it is required to keep all of your hair inside the swimcap, just that you have it on your head. Sometimes I wonder if anything in Korea makes sense.
The water park was honestly a little lame by Texas standards. Of course Texas standards are high as three fourths of our seasons are warm enough to go to a waterpark, they are nearly as an essential part of living in the South as Bluebell ice cream. This Korean park however only had two rides. One was a body tube and one for gliding down in yellow tubes. Both were thrilling including sections of pure darkness and others with rainbow lights, but riding the same rides over and over again starts to get boring after the fifth ride. A lazy river was also included in the park, which wasn't lazy at all but sloshed agonizingly almost like a wave pool. A four foot wave pool which required life jackets was a huge thrill for the little ones, but not older people as the life jackets were a deterrent. (once again, why does nothing in Korea make sense?)
But the best parts were the outdoor saunas with scented heated pools. Some of the scents included citrus (the water looked like pee), ginsing (it was poopy brown), and sometype of purple flower pool with a lovely smell. To get to these hot pools however, one had to run through a plastic maze completely exposed to the outside world which at the time was below freezing. Screaming was common while traveling down the icy mazes as the shock of cold blasts of wind against the bare skin could not be endured without a shrill cry. Once inside the saunas however, the cold and the snow was almost soothing. When I lifted my upper half outside of the water, the sensation of small cold snowflakes speckling my skin and face while at the same time feeling completely blanketed in the warm water on my bottom half, it was electrifying . We spent over an hour outside, occasionally having snow-fights between the different pools. I'm not sure when the next time will be that I get to have such an unique experience as this, but it was one to remember, and one I will never forget.
Regardless of the amount of money we spent, which was altogether too much, and the amount of sleep lost, also too much, it was a fantastic weekend. A trip worth a thousand memories, and we can't wait till the next one (that is when our bank account replenishes).