Tuesday, April 21, 2009

pusan, daegu, mountain temples, fish markets, road-trippin in korea, jabba the hut's secret identity revealed!!

last week was midterm week at HUFS.

students may (and do) complain about this, but it's just as much work for the teachers - at least it was for me because all of my tests were speaking tests, so not only did i have to write the test, but i couldn't even sit back while the students took it; i had to really pay attention to each student's fluency, accuracy, participation, grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, etc. as they took my test in small groups. one of the shocking (but not really that surprising once you think about it) secrets about teaching is that teachers actually have an idea about what grades to give the students before the test. ive discovered grading here to be quite a bit more arbitrary than i expected.

anyway, it was a busy week, so i've got a lot of catching up to do on blogging. and i've been DOING a lot too. lots of pics and experiences to share.

the weekend before midterms, i went to 부산 - pusan (southeast corner of korea) - to visit and hang out with my friend 용훈 - younghoon (a.k.a. brian). he's working as a personnel manager for a construction company there which builds energy generating or harnessing plants, such as power plants, windmills, dams, etc. i think he's enjoying his job a lot, but it's sometimes lonely i guess, since his hometown is in 대구 - daegu - and his only acquaintances in pusan are his coworkers. i was really glad to head down there and give him some company. he's also a really good host.

on friday night, after class, i rushed to 강변 (gangbyeon) station to get to the 동서울버스터미널 (dong-seoul bus terminal) which has express buses to just about anywhere. i hopped on a night bus at around 11:50pm and slept as best i could until my arrival in pusan at 4-something. i suppose it is pretty exciting to ride by yourself on a night bus to somewhere far away, but i was also really exhausted. it would have been sadly anticlimactic to go to sleep when i got there though.

brian met me at the station (he had actually slept in his car waiting for me) and we drove out of the city toward his home which lies near the border between pusan and another city called 울산 - ulsan. as there were no restaurants open at that hour, we had some instant ramen and microwave dumplings at a local family mart. i was starving.

afterwards, we drove a little ways more to the eastern point of korea to catch the sunrise over the ocean. we just made it, and although the sky was a little hazy, the lighting was lovely. the ocean didnt shine like it does reflecting direct sunlight - it glowed from within, as if the sun were rising through it.

[this older couple were the only other people around.
a distant airplane silently pierced the warming sky,
slicing a fiery ribbon through its pearlescence,
signaling the day to begin.
this statue of a woman and her children are the family left behind of a man, 박제상 (park jesang), who sailed eastward to old japan long ago to rescue the captured princess of 산라 (old korea) and disappeared; they remain, gazing east for his return]
we then drove to brian's employee dormitory. it wasn't a bad place. the area around was really countryside. the dorm itself was actually a pretty large complex of buildings, which stood out against the rest of the neighborhood. when we got there, the place was beginning to wake up; there were people coming to the cafeteria for early breakfast, and brian told me that they often had to work on saturday mornings.
we crashed for a few hours before going off to tour around.
the first place we visited in the morning was an old temple tucked into the folds of a lumpier-than-average chunk of the korean landscape. i really loved the countryside out here. seeing such old, old, time-polished mountains that have withstood eons of change draws a strange, deep-rooted feeling out of me - maybe if i were to lose myself in those mountains, i would discover my own history carved into theirs.
the drive there was pleasant.
the weather was simply perfect that day. sun shining, we drove down the cherry tree-guarded road to the temple. the breeze that shook the last of the cherry blossom petals from the slender branches seemed to be inviting us. windows down, music floating out of the speakers, we cruised lazily along.
[these flowery temple sentries ushered us toward 장안사 - 'jangan temple']

[this several-mile-long string of lanterns led the way to the temple]

[this statue of buddha reminded me of jabba the hut]


[inside 장안사]

after touring the temple, i coaxed brian to climb a small, nearby mountain with me to get a better view of the landscape. we discovered another little temple which was a mountain hermitage for monks.

[on the hermit's doorstep]

[a gang of hikers we passed on our way down]

[brian told me there was an ownerless donkey that wandered around here. we didnt get a chance to see him, so i settled for a picture of a man relaxing and eating an orange]

after visiting 장안사 we went looking for a much needed brunch. the place brian took me too was a wonderful feast of korean side-dishes. it was like the korean equivalent of a sunday morning brunch. i gleefully stuffed myself.
our next stop was the pusan fish market!
we drove into the city, parked in someone else's apartment garage, and toured the streets. the colors, sounds, and smells of the fish market were dazzling.
[on the deck outside the market with a view of the surrounding city that stretches around 부산만 (pusan bay)]

[a little girl was taking photos too]

we then wandered around a crowded, nearby flea market. it was choked with people digging through piles of clothes and eating street food. the streets were really narrow and hot, but full of excitement too. afterwards, we went back to the apartment were brian parked his car, bought a couple of beers, and enjoyed them at a small park in the late afternoon sun.
[brian said it's sort of strange to drink beers like this outside, but it's one of my favorite things to do in the summer in korea (okay, it's not summer yet, but who cares?)]
in the evening, we went to an italian restaurant and ordered some delicious, buttery cheese pizza that was also served with honey as a dipping sauce. yum! we then grabbed some bottles of soju and beer and an assortment of snacks and headed back to brian's place to relax and chat the night away. we spent a good deal of time (especially me) remembering past experiences in hawai'i and when i was last in korea, talking about how people have changed or not changed. it was thoroughly nostalgic and wonderful.
we woke (somewhat) early sunday morning and jumped in car to head to 대구 (daegu), brian's hometown, where his cousin was getting married. i love daegu best out of all the big cities in korea. as soon as we were driving down its tree-lined streets, i was reminded of how i felt the first time i was there. it's so cozy, surrounded on all sides by mountains - it feels somehow home-like to me. i was delighted to get a chance to return to daegu and to see brian's home and meet up with my friend hyejeong while brian was busy with wedding/family stuff. on top of that, it was easter, so i asked hyejeong if i could visit her church, which i did. before meeting up with hyejeong, we stopped by brian's home, and i met his mom who served us a superb korean breakfast. there was a marathon in daegu that day, and i sat on brian's couch, watching it on tv. it was a really bright, sunny day, and it filled me with the hopfulness of spring.

the marathon also had the added effect of making it virtually impossible to drive anywhere, as many of the roads were made inaccessible to cars. eventually brian got me to the subway station and i hopped on board to meet hyejeong in 성서 (seongseo). we got some 냉면 ('naengmyeon' - cold, rice noodles and beef with vegetables - perfect for a hot day) and then headed to hyejeong's church. it felt good to sing church songs again (even if in a different language - singing in korean was one of the ways i learned how to read korean more quickly) and i made many faces at the numerous cute children running around during the service and staring at me. after church, hyejeong and i got some coffee before she had to go to meet a student for a private lesson.
[hyejeong and me at 계명대 (keimyung university) before saying goodbye]

after parting ways, i wandered around keimyung university while i waited to meet up with brian again. the place was huge, and aparently modeled after havard, according to hyejeong. i remember visiting this place at night with her brother 3 years ago during my first visit to daegu. at one point, i became desperate for a bathroom and ran all over the place looking for one that was actually stocked with toilet paper. the details to the end of this story are quite grim and possibly unsuitable for most faint-hearted people, so i will omit them here. rest assured, i survived. barely. and not without sacrifice. there. that is all.
[building around the univ.]
brian met me at the university to deliver my backpack which i had foolishly left in his possession, and our goodbyes were made brief. he had to get back to his family business and i had to get back to seoul. i got on the subway again and headed for the bus station in daegu. it took me a while to find a bus, but i eventually did. unfortunately, by the time i made it back to seoul, due to an accident on the freeway, it was too late to take the subway back to my home. i made it as far as 성수 station, where i was stranded. i was tired, and the drab, shadowy neighborhood around there didn't help my spirits. i walked around underneath the immense, looming overpass that hung over the subway exit, looking for a cash machine so that i could take a taxi home. i should have been better prepared, and as one convenience store cash machine after another failed to respond to my pleas, i became more and more desperate to get out of there. i decided to get as far as i could on the $5 i still had, and as i was searching on the side of the road for a taxi to pick me up, i witnessed a terrible sight. a biker, apparently on his way to deliver something, was smashed into by a taxi underneath the overpass. horrified, i stared, waiting for a sign of life from the man sprawled in the dark street.
the police came, tried to speak to the man, and questioned the driver and some of the passerbyers. they drew a line around his body. an ambulance came and took him away. there were no sirens. it was a bitter experience. standing out there in the dark, in an unfamiliar place, my heart and mind were racing. eventually i got into a taxi, gave him my destination, and showed him my $5. the wonderful man took me all the way home. perhaps he saw something of what i had just seen reflecting in my eyes when i told him to let me off because i didnt have any more money and asked him how i should walk the rest of the way. he just told me it was alright, switched off his meter, and kept driving. i was so thankful.
even afterwards, i felt pretty shaken up over the next few days - like i had left some tender part of me out in the sun too long and it had shriveled up. but new things quickly came and brightened my spirits. most notably, my 1A class! they'll be in my next post, so keep reading!


  1. Hi pete. I'm Tom. I'm watching your blog but it's hard to understand. It's too long to me. I don't want to study English on Friday. I'll try it later. See ya

  2. lol
    okay dude, dont worry kk
    just enjoy the pictures
    see you in class!