Sunday, September 27, 2015

Happy Chuseok!

It's our first week of vacation since school began.  The students all returned home (or elsewhere) on Friday and many teachers followed suit, flying off to other areas of Korea or other countries.  I opted to stay in Jeju since there is still so much to see and do here.

I christened the break with a good 15k hike followed by another 8-10k the following day.  Though sweaty work, it was well worth the time and effort.  I don't have the pictures on this computer so I'll share some later.  Just know that with each adventure, I am finding it hard not to fall in love with this beautiful island.  

Today was Chuseok Day (추석) which is basically Korean Thanksgiving.  One of the other Teacher Dons at the school invited me to her house in Seogwipo and I was more than happy to go.  While I couldn't communicate with Misun's family, the food was delicious and the afternoon was fun.  
Just before we started eating.  The only food not featured in this picture was the steak which was still being grilled.
My artsy shot of the cutlery.
After lunch, we went for a short walk by the sea and stopped at Terarosa Café.  
This river fed into the sea.  Earlier in the year, you can go kayaking here.
A couple more lighthouses spotted!  I have lost count at how many I have now seen.
The last eventful part of the day occurred as we made our way back to the bus stop.  We were walking down side streets when a Korean man called out to us and asked if we wanted to see his garden.  He told us that he likes to talk to foreigners whenever he can and that he wants to learn English.  He explained a few details about his garden which Misun translated for me.  The whole exchange took maybe five minutes, and amused both Misun and me.  At the end, he really wanted to shake my hand and so I obliged.  

He did have a really cool garden and I wish I had taken a picture.  If you're thinking of a backyard garden, stop now.  Think of a table.  Now put a bunch of rocks on it followed by low-water plants.  That'll give you a better comparison.  The garden was maybe 3x1.5 feet and consisted of interesting and large pieces of Jeju rocks.  Each rock housed numerous air or low-water plants.  I didn't see any soil.  He kept it protected from direct sunlight by a black woven tarp-like thing suspended on wooden poles. Très cool.

And now, tomorrow I think I might climb a mountain.  We'll see.

Love and Hugs.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

my new bike and exploring the coastline

I recently bought a bicycle.  I wasn't going to, originally, but with all the cycling I've been doing lately, the school bikes have been a pain in the butt.  Literally.  Those bike seats are terrible after 30 minutes and I generally like to go longer than that.  And so when a deal came up, I jumped at the chance.
Here's me with my new bicycle after our first ride together.  She's camera shy so I posed with her.
There was only one hiccup in my purchase: how to get said new bike back to my house?  The seller was in Jeju-si which is about a 40 minute bus ride from the school.  Your first thought, like mine, is probably, "Just take the bike on the bus." Except, I haven't seen a bus with a bike rack yet.  And with my limited Korean skills, I wasn't sure how to ask the bus driver about bringing a bicycle.  It's probable that I could have eventually found someone to help me drive in to the city and pick up the bike, but I wasn't sure when that would be with the diversity of everyone's schedules.

So, naturally, I chose the next best option to do with a bicycle: ride it home.
Statistics from my MapMyRun.  Naturally, I recorded my route.
I should add a category for # of Lighthouses Spotted.  Answer?  19
And I probably missed one or two... 
This was the longest bike ride that I have ever done to date and the weather (and route) was absolutely stunning.  I purposely chose to take a scenic route instead of coming straight back to the school.  My total time was nearly 3.5 hours, but if I didn't stop to take so many pictures, I think I could have done it in 2.5 hours.

I was a little worried as I left Jeju-si behind that I would be stuck riding along the busy highway, but after a couple kilometers, a bicycle lane veered away from the busy road.  Marked by a thick blue line, this lane took cyclists and hikers along the coast, where possible, and while they added a couple kilometers to my trek, they were well worth it.  (If you are a cyclist take note that Jeju-do has so far been extremely bicycle friendly--although I cannot say that I have done a lot of cycling in the cities.  Many places that I have visited have had separate bicycle lanes or the roads were not too busy with car traffic to be overwhelming.)  The route had mild hills, but overall was not too strenuous.  If I had had more time in my day, I would have loved to linger upon my way.

Here are a few photographs from my trip. I only wish that my pictures could truly capture the peace and beauty that surrounded me as I rode.

The first stop I made was at Iho Beach.  You'll notice that no one is swimming.  That's because no one really goes into the water after the end of August for some reason.
Continuing onward, I couldn't resist pausing to look out over the farmland to the seashore beyond.  
The road curved out to the north and I was able to capture this shot of Jeju-si in the background. 
This is one of my favourites.  I paused for a moment to look back the way I had come.  At this point, you couldn't even see Jeju-si in the background anymore.
I love how the land and sea fold back and forth together--like an accordion or like ruffles.  It's not a smooth edge, but something constantly changing.
Another lovely beach where I paused for a moment.  This is Gwakji Beach.  The sand was so white, I could hardly believe the difference from Iho Beach.  I definitely hope to visit it again.
One last image of my bicycle posing with another Haenyeo Statue (these are everywhere!)
Who knows where my bike and I will end up next?

Love & Hugs

Thursday, September 10, 2015

why you should go to Gapado

Two weeks ago I wrote about my unexpected food outing on Gapa Island, and I mentioned how due to the sudden change of events, I would have to go back to really see the island.  Today was that day.
It was sunnier than the ferry ride last time!  BRB Jeju.
Gapado is a small island and honestly there is not much there in the sense of "touristy" attractions. Both times that I went, I really stood out being the only foreigner. There are no museums, no huge famous monuments, no amusement park. If you were to walk around the edge of the island, you would walk a total distance of 4.2 km (according to a giant map standing at the harbour gate).  Small, eh?

So why should you go?

Gapado is the world's first carbon free island (according to a different display in the harbour).  All vehicles on the island run on electricity.  As well, the island is mainly farm fields.  There are little "hamlets" on each side of the island but everything in between is green.  It's so calming to walk through.
View from the middle of the island back toward Jeju.  The tall "mountain" on the right is San Bang San.
There are some cute little restaurants to visit on the island and you can get freshly caught sea food--some caught by the Haenyeo.  It's a wonderful cultural experience.

Another reason?  Do you like hiking?  There are a series of trails called the Olle Trails that go around Jeju's edge.  Each trail is numbered with specific start and end points and a different difficulty rating.  This in itself is a huge attraction in Jeju and many people frequent the trails.  I recently got an Olle Trail Passport that allows me to collect stamps from a number of the trails upon completion.  One of these trails is on Gapado.  It's an easy trail and only 5k, but it's beautiful and relaxing--especially when the weather is clear (like today), and you can see San Bang San and Mount Halla from the coast.
The faint mountain in the background is Hallasan.  Today was clear, sometimes the clouds are so thick you see nothing.
The coast was so lovely to walk along!
Are you still not sold?  I have one more reason, and I personally think that it's the best one:  I have come to love meeting Korean tourists.  Just like last time, I was "adopted" by a group and despite the language barrier and our jilted conversations, we had a blast.  Seriously.  A couple of men saw me with my Olle Passport as I boarded the ferry and attempted conversation first.  They were doing the trail, too, and wanted to know how many I had done before.  When they found out it was my first one, they got excited with me.  A couple of others were walking the trail, too, and we soon were a group of 6.  What was really cool was that everyone was a stranger--except two of the men who were vacation buddies, I think.  But everyone was coming from different cities and age ranges, and yet we all walked the trail together.  It was so much fun.
Shortly after starting the walk, we documented it with a picture.
At the end, we were proud to have finished.
This is why I want to travel--to meet other people who, like me, want to share life together, even if only briefly. Maybe I'll run into them again, which would be a treat, but even if we don't meet again, it was fun for the moment.

This is also why I recommend Gapado.  Both times I met lovely people who were willing to share their time with me, even though we couldn't easily communicate.  That in itself makes the trip so much more than what it would have been.

If you get the chance, just get out and go.

Love and Hugs.

Friday, September 04, 2015

a bit of sunshine and sunflowers

For my mum and sister and for my friend Bonnie, who all love sunflowers.

Earlier this week, Jessica, one of the other Teacher Dons, came up to me in the cafeteria.  She had taken the bus to Jeju-si the day before and on the way they had passed a field of sunflowers.  From the bus, she could see people stopping to go and take pictures among the beautiful blossoms.  It was only a couple of stops from the school and as I'm often exploring nearby places, she thought I might like to go.
The field from one edge.
Yesterday I had a couple extra hours and so after class, I headed out on a bicycle.  It was farther than I had anticipated, and pretty much all up hill, but it was worth it to see the field of sunflowers.  Many of the blossoms were huge (and thus heavy)!  It was as though someone had cut up basketballs and glued the pieces to the center of bright yellow petals.
Me and a giant sunflower.
I love how sunflowers follow the sun.  To me, it seems like such an intelligent thing for a plant to do. In a way, the plant takes initiative to follow what it needs and what it loves: the sun.  The sunflower can never get enough of the sun.  All day it follows the sun, and if the sun shone at night, it would follow it then as well.

These sunflowers weren't that tall--maybe three feet high. And yet they stood together to create a bright beacon in the landscape.  People were stopping to take a moment amid the flowery field--to simply be there, nothing else.
As I walked through the middle, I spotted these two small sunflowers and couldn't resist a picture.
I want to be like a sunflower.  

I want to chase after the son of God with a need and a hunger that is uncontrollable and unstoppable. With desire to learn more and to be better than I was yesterday, I want to stand tall and bring a bit of brightness to those around me--to inspire and encourage those I meet.  I might not be a field, but if I can get one other person to bloom beside me...

Love and Hugs.