Sunday, May 28, 2017

Climbing Mount Halla: Gwaneumsa

I used to think that they were giving you a bit of cushion room when I heard it took about 9 hours round trip to the top of Halla Mountain. They were, I thought, accounting for people who were out of shape or who planned to take longer breaks--or maybe people who planned to climb in the snow or other strenuous conditions.

I've gone up the Seongpanak trail (click for blog post) 3 times now in different seasons and at my weakest, I've taken around 7 and a half hours. When I heard that the Gwaneumsa trail was finally open again, I was ready for a different perspective. And now I know why they say 9 hours.

The Facts for Gwaneumsa (관음사 코스):
Distance: ~8.7 km (sources vary, even on the trail)
Vertical Climb: 620 m start to 1,950m summit
Campground available at base: Sources paid max 6,000 to park, rent site and use shower facilities

Compared to Seongpanak (성판악 코스):
Distance: ~9.6 km
Vertical Climb: 750 m start to 1,950 summit
No campground at base

Yes, Gwaneumsa is technically shorter (by 2km in the round trip), but you are climbing up an additional 130 m which makes for a whole lot more stairs. Seongpanak is definitely a gentler beginning with the most difficult part at the end. Make sure to bring lots of liquids and snacks for the climb. As of right now, the check point does not sell any food and I don't know if it ever will.

Still, when you finally get out of the trees and can look back toward the coast, it is so worth it.
Panaramic view toward Jeju City. If you can see the small building, its the Check Point about 6km in.
I doubt I will ever climb Halla in better weather conditions. Not only was it an ideal temperature (started with 12° and worked up to about 22°) and sunny, but the day was so clear. I could see islands off the coast that I had no idea existed.
I never knew you could see Gapado and Marado through here! 
That big white half moon shape (Right side close to sea) is the Jeju World Cup Stadium.
Ignoring the lucky weather, I think the highlight of the Gwaneumsa trail in comparison to Seongpanak is that Gwaneumsa weaves more into Halla on the way up and as a result has better views (IMO). Both trails are mainly in the woods until they arrive at their respective check points, but afterward is where the big difference lies. Seongpanak takes you around the dome as it climbs, which is nice, but it's basically looking back at the same parts of the island the whole time. Gwaneumsa takes you into a folded valley and has a switchback, giving you an alternative perspective on the mountain in addition to the distant hills and towns way below AND then the same views as Seongpanak from the top. There was one side of the mountain that reminded me of the hills I trekked around in Somerset. I almost expected a couple of goats or sheep to pop up amid the grass and rocks. Gwaneumsa also has a nice big bridge and some cool caves along the route which again makes it stand out from Seongpanak.

With my sore calf muscles, it's too soon for me to say I'll head up Gwaneumsa again. I still want to summit when there's snow, but who knows what route I'll choose then. Who knows, maybe I'll go up one and down the other when the time comes.
Top of Halla looking down Seongpanak Trail
I spy Udo and Sunrise peak~~~
If you're contemplating climbing Halla and are determined to summit, I would recommend Seongpanak if you are not top physical form, but if you would like more of a challenge, hit up Gwaneumsa. If you don't care about going to the summit, hands down I say skip both and do Yeongshil instead. (Or up Eorimok and down Yeongshil; click for Yeongshil in the winter). ㅎㅎ

Happy Trails!

Love and Hugs.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Fond Farewell: Thoughts on Graduation

This past weekend, my grade 12 residence students bid adieu to our school as they walked across the stage to receive their high school diploma. They looked lovely in their white dresses, with their hair and makeup all done-up so fine, and grinning from ear to ear. 

This was only my second graduation ceremony as a teacher and as proud as the students were for making it this far, I was proud to have watched them grow and develop their amazing skills over the past couple of years. In someways, I can't imagine being more attached to a graduating class. After all, as a residence teacher, I didn't just see the academic side. I lived with most of these girls for 2 years. While I worked with them, they taught me how to teach English and how to better listen and support others. While their day school teachers often saw them at their best, I saw it all--the ups and downs, the fights and resolutions, the late night ramen (or other snacks), the crankiness and the goofiness. Talk about a different perspective. One that I will forever treasure.

As I walked into the ceremony, one of my more experienced coworkers made an off hand comment about the number of graduation ceremonies that they had attended. While they were still excited for our current graduates, the comment made me pause. I started to wonder would I ever become jaded to the idea of a graduation? If you watch too many graduation ceremonies... if you see thousands of students passing through and going on from high school to university will you start to see them as a bother or a bore?
A mini-bouquet from one of my students

I hope not. 

I want to take a lesson from this. So, dear future me, no matter how old you get... no matter how many students walk through your life... no matter how many times you have to repeat instructions... or no matter how many times you want to bang your head against a wall after a lesson gone awry, never forget why you decided to become a teacher in the first place. Teaching for that aha-moment, for the progression a student makes from A to B, for the simple conversations that somehow make all the difference, and the graduation celebrations as they leave to take on the world. When they leave, yes I hope that I made a difference in their lives, but really, at the end of the day, I'm here because I believe they are worth my time and investment--whether they valued it or not. And because of that, every graduation should always be a celebration of how far they've come and how far they'll go.

From my study of psychology, I know that a large part of emotion is choice, and I hope that I will always choose to celebrate the milestones of others. 
Love and Hugs

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How to get rid of a car on Jeju

(and NOT by selling it to someone else)

With the active expat community on Jeju, it can be fairly easy to buy and sell a car. From the public hagwons and local schools to the increasing number of international schools in Global Education City (GEC), there are a number of people coming and going. It's easy enough to find a car through a friend, one of the active Facebook Groups (Jeju GEC Schools Social Committee Facebook Group,Jeju Marketplace Facebook Group) or through seeking help from "the Queen of Jeju," a Korean translation service for foreigners.

But, what do you do when you want to get rid of a car? Maybe it's dead (or dying). Maybe it's just old and at risk. Or maybe, like me, you don't think it will pass the next mandatory inspection. Whatever the case, I wanted to share what I had to do to "get rid" of my car, since I found it impossible to find English sources. Any searches with "Jeju" and "Car" pointed me toward rental agencies.

Luckily, with the help of one of my Korean friends, she pointed me in the direction of a couple of junkyards.

What you can say:
폐차를 해주세요
(pyeh-cha-reul hay-ju-say-yo)
(Roughly: Please scrap my car)

The first one is on the east side of Hallasan in Jeju:
Korean Address: 제주 제주시 저찬읍 종인내길 281
Address: (Roughly) Jeju-si JeoChan-eup, Jonginnae road 281
Hours: Open 24 Hours--not sure about weekends.
Unfortunately, this scrap yard is about 2km from the nearest bus stop and the forecast called for rain when I went. So I did not go here.

The second one she found is on the west side in Daejeong near the GEC (a lot more convenient for me!):
Korean Address: 제주 서귀포시 대정읍 영락사독로90번길 41
Address: (Roughly) Seogwipo-si Daejeong-eup, Yeongraksadok-ro 90 road 41
Korean Name: 안전자동차해체재활용산업
Phone Number: 064-792-4500
Hours: Open until 4pm on weekdays according to our phone inquiry
I ended up going here after first trying a scrap yard in Hallim (which had unfortunately closed the week before and was no longer accepting cars). As I rounded the last couple of meters of the small, weaving roads, and pulled my car to a stop near the office, I left my car to the sound of a hissing tire. I guess that was as far as Robin wanted to go. Luckily I did not have to drive away.

Unluckily, the lady didn't give me any money for my car and didn't tell me why (I was only expecting between 20-30,000 KRW, but still). I recommend bringing someone who can speak Korean so you're not taken advantage of.

It was definitely a weird feeling taking my car to the junkyard. It was a year of ups and downs, yes, but Robin took me on many adventures and I was sad that this marked the end.
Robin's last cruise along the coast. RIP
Hope this post helps someone else!

Love and Hugs

Things I've learned about France (or at least Normandy)

Well there we go, my second European country. In some ways, very similar to England (a lot of meat and potatoes, fancy churches, pay toilets...