Well, my hot water doesn't usually work and ants have taken over my kitchen. They are closing in on the bathroom, which doubles as my laundry room. There is black mold spreading and a spider family lives above my refrigerator. I named them Stin and Acacia. I sweat myself to sleep each night in tropical weather. I do have a fan, but the protective cage is missing causing frequent hand injuries. Hornets live in the electrical box that threatens to set the apartment on fire each day, and I don't have enough dishes or a way to filter water. It smells like natural gas, and every time I use the bathroom my leg gets stuck.
So when my school asked if I'd like to move, I said you know what? Let me think about it. I kind of like my apartment. It's nice.
It's because after 6 full months of teaching my second graders still can't speak English fluently. It's getting a bit ridiculous. When I was 8 years-old my English was fine and I didn't even have a teacher. How am I supposed to teach them American if they can't even speak English?
Thankfully I had some teaching help recently in the form of Kayoko Lyons, who decided to spend a few weeks here in Uljin.
The students really took a liking to her, and hopefully her visit will improve Korean-Japanese relations as well.
The breaks separating semesters in Korea are shorter than those in America. Most students will have about 5-6 weeks off, although their "summers" are likely filled with extracurricular programs like English camps. Due to my involvement with English camp, I had a very limited 10 days off to explore the southern coast of Korea with Kayoko.
But first, we rendezvous with a Korean friend who happened to live just a few hours from Uljin.
Kayoko's friend Hee-Yeon graciously invited us to stay with her family for a night in Daegu. We accepted, fully expecting to sleep in a downtown apartment. Instead, Hee-Yeon and her father picked us up from the train station and we drove into the country side until finally arriving at what looked like an entire village.
It would turn out that Hee-Yeon's family owns a very historic compound, over 200 years-old.
For the second time in my life I woke up to Asian tourists taking pictures of me sleeping. About 30-40 of them to be exact, one of which closed the door to my room to respect my privacy. When I noticed the tourist surrounding my sleeping area, I tried to quickly get dressed, but they kept opening the door. I kept closing it. This cycle lasted for an uncomfortable 15 minutes.
The embarrassment was a small price to pay for the hospitality Hee-Yeon's family provided. We were undeserving of the traditional dinner made from scratch, the homemade honey given as a parting gift, and the accommodations in general. Hee-Yeon's mother even arranged for her barista friend to come over after dinner, preparing different drinks for us to sample. The barista invited us to her coffee shop the next day where we tried even more varieties including "luwak," a coffee bean eaten by weasels, digested by weasels, then collected in weasel feces before being brewed into a delicacy.
We parted ways after reluctantly accepting even more gifts. I remain in constant awe of the generosity strangers have shown me while traveling around this country.
Both of these cities lie in the Jellonam-do province, an area particularly difficult to reach from Uljin. After a few bus transfers and about 8 hours, Kayoko and I found ourselves posted up in Suncheon, roughly 30 minutes from the expo. Early the next morning we hopped on a bus to Yeosu.
It's hard for an event with the title "World Expo" to live up to it's name, but I was thoroughly impressed with everything Yeosu had to offer. Basically the expo was a mix of innovative exhibits, crowd pleasing shows, and pavilions based on countries from around the world.
I was tired, so I first looked for the Ethiopia pavilion to get a cup of coffee. It was disappointing to learn Ethiopia wasn't part of the line-up, but there were about 60 other countries featured. Most pavilions included a presentation based on the expo's theme of water sustainability, along with cultural decor and of course a gift shop. Some countries had restaurants where patrons could sample various cuisines from around the world.
Kazakhstan's exhibit was the most impressive, Brunei's was the least, Democratic Republic of Congo's was the scariest, and America's was next to a Dunkin' Donuts.
Kayoko and I were no match for the ajummas, and our attempt to get a cab was unsuccessful. Stranded, our last option for refuge was a hopeless wander around the city for motel vacancy. It appeared as though we'd be spending the night homeless in Yeosu, until an ajumma screamed at us to follow her down an alley. After a bit of haggling we slept in this random lady's house for a reasonable price, although I think there should have been a discount for the used dishes sitting in the middle of our room.
The next morning it was off to Boseong to check out the storied tea fields. Twas a surprisingly long trek to these mounds of green, but the views made our journey worthwhile as did the tea infused local foods. And the angry birds chips
Although traveling with no set plan can be exhausting at times, it's amazing how things have a way of working themselves out.
And I will abruptly leave you with this little gem: http://www.buzzfeed.com/babymantis/20-bizarre-pictures-drawn-by-little-kids-1opu