Jirisan Day 2

I woke up a few times in the shelter – there were a few groups of people who had set alarms for 3 am – I assume they wanted get to Banyabong by sunrise. I finally packed up my sleeping bag around 5:30, and was on the trail by 6. Nogodon pass was pretty in the morning sun.
Nogodon pass

Around 7:30 I bumped into a woman who spoke some English, although not a great deal, and we chatted for a bit. It turns out she was in a group of about 10 hikers from Seoul and Daejon who had met on a chat room. I met the whole group about 20 minutes later, and the men of the group offered me soju. At 7:50 in the morning, and I thought I still had 7 hours of hiking in front of me. Not wanting to twist my ankle or do anything similarly stupid because of drinking while hiking (plus, it just didn’t sound good), I declined. Here’s the group: The group that adopted me

I ended up hiking with them all day – mainly 황규복, but towards the end I was hiking with the guy second from the left on the above picture, with the hat and red hiking gloves. I can’t remember his name :( It was a pretty interesting day, mostly – there was a lot of half english half korean conversation, from which neither party really understood anything that was going on. But I was told I must rest with the group, and we must all go together – so I ended up taking over an hour more breaks than I would have by myself, but I was fed lunch (ramen) and fed soju both at lunch and during a subsequent break – they would not take no for an answer. Here’s 황규복 and a picture found on the Yeonhacheon Shelter outhouse:classy

Anyhow, later in the day when I was hiking with the second guy, the sky started to get a bit dark. And then it started to get a little windy. This was around 4. It started sprinkling, a little, and I put on my raincoat. Strangely enough, a large number of people that we saw on the trail had umbrellas!! Who on earth takes an umbrella backpacking?! I can’t even imagine what sort of pain in the bum it is to be scrambling over rocks and climbing stairs and navigating the trees with an umbrella. Anyhow, it got really hot in my raincoat, because there were a lot of stairs, so I took it off and let myself get a little wet for about an hour. At one point, the guy I was with said something about ‘600 meters’, and we were cold and a little wet and that was awesome, so we booked it until we saw the next sign…. 1.7km to Seseok shelter. Well, damn. So we kept going, and then it started to get really really windy and it started to pour. I threw on my raincoat, but not my rainpants – and my pants got completely soaked through, and it was crazy cold. Finally we saw a sign – Seseok Shelter, 600 meters – and we went for it as fast as our tired legs could carry us on the slippy rocks without falling. When we got to the shelter, it was PACKED. There were people everywhere. They never even bothered to verify my registration, the staff was so busy, they just gave me a spot. I was ok with that. Here’s a picture I took of the bottom of the shelter the next morning (when it wasn’t raining, but it was quite windy, and there were lots of clouds moving by):
seseok shelter

Then I went to cook dinner, and everyone was huddled under this deck – there were some people who’d set up sleeping bags under there, and it took a while to find anywhere i could set my stove. Then, when I finally set it up, it was wet and there was so much wind that I couldn’t light it. There were a few minutes there where I thought I wasn’t going to get dinner, and that was a very sad thought after hiking 12 hours. Then I realized that there might be some room in the field kitchen – and I ran over there, completely re-soaking myself in the process, but thank god. the field kitchen had a roof, and walls, and it was almost warm in there with the heat of so many stoves and bodies. I didn’t find a place to put my stove for about ten minutes, and even then it took me a few tries to get it going because my hands were frozen, but in the end i had lasagna. It was glorious. I got a lot of ‘what on earth does she have?’ looks from everyone else, who all had kimchi and many of them had either something involving tuna or meat in a leaf.

So after dinner I ran back to the shelter and set up for bed – they had lines up in the shelter above the bed spots where you could hang wet stuff, so all of my clothes and me raincoat went up there, and because the shelter was heated a bit it all dried overnight! I slept well, even despite the gaggle of ajummas that woke up at 3 and talked, rather loudly, for 15 or 20 minutes as they got their stuff together to leave.


Jirisan Day 1

I finally decided to write up an account of my hike through Jirisan, which I did on the three day weekend May 3-5. I started at Nogodan, stayed at Nogodan and Seosok Shelters, and finished at Daewonsa. It was a good time.

The first thing that I feel I should mention is that if you want to stay on the mountain in Jirisan, Seoraksan, or Deogyusan for multiple days, you need to go here and make a reservation 15 days prior to your stay at 10am. The reservations fill up in minutes, so I suggest being on the ball about that one. Camping is illegal (up to a 500,000 won fine) and the shelters are comfy, complete with heating in the winter and wool blankets you can rent (even in the summer – you can use them as pads if you don’t want to bring your own).

On Saturday, I got moving a little later than I planned – I didn’t get to Gurye until about 11. Then I hopped on a intercity style bus that a few people told me was the correct one, looked at the map of Jirisan on the wall of the bus with a few people for a while, and then when they came to take the tickets I got booted off. Obviously not the correct bus. A nice woman from Seoul who was there to do a temple stay at Hwaeom-sa saw me get booted off, and she got me onto the correct local bus when it arrived, and insisted I didn’t leave her sight until we saw Hwaeom-sa. It was a pretty big temple, but there was nothing that struck me as really unique (I’m not a big temple tourist, though, so take that with a grain of salt).

I finally got on the trail somewhere around 12:30 or 1. It wasn’t that crowded for a trail in a national park – there’s a bus that takes you to the ridge, so rather than hiking it most people just bus it. But I heard that Hwaeomsa-Daewonsa was THE route through the park if you want to have through hiked the whole thing, and I wasn’t about to cheat. There was a small hermitage about a third of the way up, which I thought would have water (the map indicated water somewhere around there), but didn’t. But it was still sort of pretty.Hermitage

The hike up to Nogodan Shelter took about four hours, as predicted. Finally getting to the ridge was sort of trippy. I was sweaty and gross after hiking uphill for four hours, and then the ridge trail pre-Nogodon was a dirt road filled with tourists with their kids and women in heels. When I got to the shelter, I met the same lady who had befriended me on the bus – she’d gotten situated at the temple and hopped on the ridge bus. She gave me a piece of her chocolate, which was awesome, and then she went off to get back to the temple.

Nogodan Shelter

Signing in at the shelter was a bit difficult. Apparently the computer system only prints off the reservations from the Korean website – the people working Nogodan shelter didn’t even know there was an English language website! I’d written down my reservation number, thinking that would be enough if there was confusion, but it totally wasn’t. After a bit of miming and horrible Korean/English conversation, they let me into the backroom to use my grubby fingers on their nice, clean computer to show them my reservation. They recognized the confirmation it told me to print off (oops) as legit and gave me a bed. Then I wandered around – there was a lovely stream which people were putting their feet in, and that felt lovely – made myself dinner, and settled in for the evening studying my Survival Korean book.

The Nogodan Grandmother figure

Namjachingu mogo shippoyo?

Before I say anything else, I know that’s a messy transliteration… but I’m tired. So there.

Today was ‘Teacher’s Day’. I received K-Swiss socks, a handkerchief, face wash, two wands with flowers on the end (one real, one fake, both smelling good), and one other thing which struck me as truly bizarre. I walked into a class full of mainly 5th grade girls, and one of them handed me a wrapped box, indicating I should open it. But then they were like, ‘it’s dirty!!!’ and made weird signals with an open hand moving up and down over their pelvic region. So I thought maybe someone had stuck it down their pants?! I was a little confused, but then they all ran over to open it. So that possibility got checked off the list. No, ladies and gentlemen, I was gifted, essentially, crotch wash. The package says “Soft Cleanser / Inner Cleansing / natural-oriental herb cleanser for body / hygienic and refreshing / daily lady’s cleanser.” Strange, eh? One of the Korean teachers at my hagwon said her mom has been a public school teacher for thirty years and never gotten quite the same gift (although soap is common).

I taught eight classes today, which meant teaching essentially for six and a half hours straight (my longest break is five minutes). I didn’t get much sleep last night because I stayed up watching lost – I’d been abstaining, but then I had a beer and my lost my willpower. Basically, I say this to illustrate that I was tired. Then, directly after school, I met up with 3 Koreans and 4 foreigners for a language exchange.

The guy I was paired up with was great – he’s really friendly and enthusiastic. After we studied the books for a bit (and he told me the names of the letters of the alphabet! I’m over half way thought the book and I’ve just now learned them!), he said we should try free talking. My brain was pretty much done from all the teaching and no sleep and pronunciation practice, but I went for it. We started with the basics – who I am, where I’m from, what I do. Then we moved on to harder stuff, like the weather and what I like to eat. And then he asked me, “Namjachingu mogo shippoyo?” Which, for the uninitiated, means “Do you want to eat your boyfriend?” I did a double take… did he really just ask me that with a straight face!? I had him repeat it. “Namjachingu mogo shippoyo?” Oh dear. Am I really being asked by a random man 10-20 years older than me this question? Is he trying to be funny? Is he serious? I just started laughing, because it was so absurd. And I told him no comment. And when I stopped laughing, which took a minute because my brain was already completely overloaded from all the free talking, we moved on. And then a minute later I asked one more time what he really said. “Namjachingu bogo shippoyo?” Oh. OH!! (I thought to myself) “Do you want to SEE your boyfriend?” I told him about the misunderstanding, but either he was saving face or really didn’t get the significance of the difference, and just chuckled a little. It’s all about the subtle differences.

And that, friends, just about sums up my day. Oh, except to say that the place by Holly’s Coffee is finally open for business, and their cheese kimchi beokkumbap is amazing. Yum.


Over May 10-12 I went to Jirisan with Kirra and Shanda. The first day was spent almost all on a bus – we missed the 8am bus to Sokcho from Gwangju, so we had to make a stop in between Gwangju and Sokcho. It was pretty late by the time we got to the park, too late for much of anything. We strolled around a bit, had pizza, and went to bed.

The next day we left pretty late for the park (8am-ish). The plan had been to split up and then meet at noon to go to this area on the border where you could see N. Korea, but since we left so late we just decided to all follow Kirra’s lazy day plan of going up the cable car and walking to Biryeong Pokpo, an easy to get to waterfall. The line to the cable car was really long, and when we got there we realized tickets were booked until later in the day. We got 6pm tickets, figuring we’d read it would take about an hour to get to the border and therefore we’d be back in plenty of time. Then we went to the waterfall, which involved some walking but no actual hiking (most of it was walking on stairs and platform with mesh above so rocks/ice chunks didn’t fall on your head). We saw some nice outdoor coupleswear, a nice waterfall, and some guys in their early 20s who were the biggest cheesers ever. They took tons of shots of themselves by the waterfall.

Then we went to the unification spot – you need bus 1-1 and not 1, If I remember correctly, to get north enough – which we learned when we got dropped off in seemingly the middle of nowhere. Luckily the next bus came without too much delay. Then you have to hoof it up a big hill, supposedly a four minute walk, to get to a place to buy passes to go. Then, once you’ve gotten that far, if you don’t have a car you are screwed without a random benevolent Korean with a car. Which, thankfully, we found. This guy and his girlfriend (wife?) put us on their pass, and then we jumped in their car for what turned out to be a 10km ride to the viewing station. There was a small museum, food, souvenirs, and a lot of those coin operated super huge binoculars. One of the mountains we were looking at was Mt. Geumgansan, although I’m not sure which one. We also saw a few gates – but I’m not sure what that was about. Were they gates to the DMZ? I’d like to think so, because that would make it cooler. However, I think they were just gates to get to gates to the DMZ. We also saw a lot of barbed wire and railroad tracks going north that didn’t seem to be currently in use. Oh, and soldiers with guns. It was neat in a, ‘oh? I can see North Korea? cool.’ sort of way, but I wouldn’t recommend the journey.

Then we got back way too late for the cable car, so we hung out in Sokcho for a bit, ate some amazing pizza at a place called Buono Pizza, and then headed back to the hotel. While there hadn’t been much physical activity, there had been lots of standing and riding on a bus, which is always a bit tiring.

When we woke up the next morning we got to the park a little after seven, where we parted ways. Shanda and Kirra went for the cable car, and I really wanted to get at least some hiking in so I went to Ulsan Bawi. It’s supposed to be about 4 hours from the base of the trail and back, but I took a little longer because the trail had several temples and hermitages along the way, and it was Buddha’s birthday – which means they were all decked out in celebratory lanterns and looked pretty cool. There was one hermitage with a cave that they were currently embellishing. Have you ever seen those walls in temples where there are tons of little buddhas sitting in their separate spots, a lot of times each with their own candle? It was sort of like that, but HUGE. They’d started to fill the spots up with stone buddhas, each about a foot tall. it probably went 10m up, and there was space for maybe 25-30 buddhas in each row. It was also curved to fit the cave. Very cool.

There were a couple cool small temples on the way up, and then on the way down I stopped at the big temple that was almost at the base of the Ulsan Bawi trail. It was a party. There were people everywhere, hundreds of lanterns, women in Hanbok, a few little girls dressed up in things that were sort of like hanboks, and 5 or 6 little boys who I initially thought were dressed up as monks – however, their heads were shaved, and that’s way too much for a day costume. They were actually little boy monks, most likely orphans. The little boys were handing out bracelets and posing for pictures (because everyone was taking pictures) and they were super cute.

Then I went back to Sokcho, had lunch, and then went for a stroll because there was still some time before the Gwangju bus came. I found a temple with some gorgeous art on it – one of the best I’ve seen yet in Korea. There was an ajumma directing people to pour water on this little golden buddha and give thanks. I was taking pictures and she pulled me in and had me bow and thank the buddha, then pour water on him and thank him again. I’m not quite sure why the pouring of water happens.

There was also a minigolf course next to the temple – but not american style. There were golf balls, and holes, and putters – but there was no astroturf and numbers written everywhere. (+15, -7, +10, etc.). In this minigolf it wasn’t necessarily about getting the ball in the hole – there were multiple holes on many of the stations. It was about hitting the right things on the way there. It was sort of like a cross between putt putt and pin ball.

That pretty much sums up my weekend. Hopefully I get around to writing about last weekend (May 3-5) soon. I went to Jirisan, and it was amazing.

old school entertainment

hello, old school dancing! I was originally looking for the first two, which Camille showed me several months ago, but I found a few more fun things along the way : )

Scene from Hellzapoppin’!:

‘Potato Salad’ Contortionists:

Cab Calloway and The Nicholas Brothers “Jumpin’ Jive”:

Clayton ‘Peg Leg’ Bates:


I like food art.

I also went to clinic #5 for my wrists this week. It was more of the same on that front. I’ve decided to go check out Seoul National University Hospital – I’m hoping I can get in. I called, but the English speaking receptionist didn’t know the word appointment, and kept saying ‘who are you?’ over and over again. Apparently my name or that I wanted to go to the hospital didn’t qualify. Maybe she was feeling philosophic? Then she said something about shoes. At this point I decided the conversation wasn’t going anywhere. I also filled out some online form for making an appointment, but 4 days later they haven’t gotten back to me and I don’t think they will. So I’m making the big trek up to Seoul. Hopefully they’ll see me. The weather is supposed to be prettier up north anyway, and I think I’m going to try to hit a new national park while I’m up there.

I’m not done with Anna Karenina yet. I’m over halfway done, though! 537/940. I’m quite enjoying it. I’ve never read Tolstoy before. I’m in love with Levin.

Now I’m headed to P-Club for the pub quiz. I’m not really feeling it.. hopefully I will shortly.


One of the kids in my chung-sim class, which is composed of advanced elementary school kids, has a mother that owns a gelato/espresso/pocket sandwich shop named “Caffe Ti-Amo.” Today, right after I’d explained to the kids for the billionth time that no, no matter how many times they ask we will not be having ‘free time,’ and no, they may not eat candy in class, Tim pulled me out of the classroom. I actually thought I was in trouble, because I raced in from my break late to that class. Oops! However, he was informing me that a huge pile of pocket sandwiches and a big styrofoam crate of serving sized ice-cream bits had been dropped off, and my class got to have some. Woo! I spent half the class eating ice cream and sandwiches with the kids. They even had sweet potato sandwiches, which were not only delicious – they were vegetarian, too! Yay!  So that was my happy story of the day.

Now I’m running away from the internet. Mike is leaving in a few weeks, and I realized I still have the copy of Anna Karenina he loaned me a few weeks after I got here. And, as with most books people have loaned me since I got here, I still haven’t read it. Out of books I’ve actually started, I’m currently part way through The End of Poverty, The Glass Castle, The Neverending Story, and Mutants. That’s too many books to be in the middle of. I have a deadline on this one, though! I started reading it earlier today after a trip to the dentist (where it was confirmed that I have healthy teeth and gums), and now I’m on page 92.  Only 848 to go! I hope to return it by Friday : )