Sunday, July 22, 2012

Let's go to the beach, each! (동해, pt. 1)

This past weekend was tons of fun -- followed quickly by tons and tons of work. I'm not joking; we returned from Donghae (동해) this evening to a mediocre dining hall meal and then an hour-long meeting consisting entirely of announcements, reminders, and assignments for the coming week. But I'll expound on that later. For the moment, I'd like to continue reliving a great vacation for as long as I can. Photos! (I took about 400 photos over three days, and lots of videos, too.)

On Friday morning, I got up early for a short run, and by 7:15am all of us were boarding the buses to go to Donghae, a coastal city about three hours northeast of Goesan. On the way up, I had a great chat with Sara C., one of the peppiest and most positive people I've ever met. I introduced her to Pentatonix and we talked about the environment, college experiences, and our ideas for making the most of our grant year.
This is Sara. She has more spirit and charisma than you do. Her birthday was over the weekend, and it was quite an adventure, to say the least!
When we arrived at our hotel, it was very apparent that, as we'd been told, the establishment was owned by the same people who own Jungwon University. The hotel had the exact same architectural style as our school: the same long white marble halls, strange displays, and somewhat arbitrary organization. (I haven't yet written the post about how bizarre this school is, but you'll soon see what I'm talking about.)
Here's a glimpse of the Mang Sang Grand Hotel (The 망상 area is a bit north of 동해 proper), with May doing an impressive star jump in front of it! The bridge we're on connected the hotel to the beach boardwalk.
After lunch, many people hit the beach! It was a beautiful sunny day, about 85 degrees out and not a smidgen of humidity anywhere. It was literally the first time I'd seen and felt the sun in a week and a half, and the air was incredibly refreshing. I felt so alive! And I would've run straight into the ocean were it not for two things: I had my camera, and we didn't have too much time before a mandatory cultural workshop on Buddhism. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself simply taking photos of everyone else.
We were so happy to see blue skies and seas that we had to take a jumping photo! From left to right: party poopers Kelly and Monica, then Kaley, Lauren, Jason, and Kristen, with headless Neal way up in the front.
There are plenty of things to do on the Donghae beach and boardwalk -- lots of bars and places to get patbingsu and smoothies (Cecile even bought a coconut with a straw stuck in it!). There were banana boats, too! I had an unforgettable time riding banana boats in 墾丁 (Kenting, Taiwan), and I really wanted to do it here, but unfortunately I didn't get the chance to. Some other time, hopefully! Also, in the evenings, they sell small fireworks (roman candles, sparklers, and the like, just as we had had on "July 4th") to set off on the beach. But the best part by far is simply the water.
Looking longingly towards the Pacific. This photo was unposed! :)
Nobody was allowed to swim very far out into the ocean (supposedly because of a strong riptide, as well as the speedboats). As I stood sinking my toes into the sand, just watching the line where water met sky, I was reminded that I was looking across the Pacific... homeward, in fact. I didn't feel very homesick, but it made me think for a bit. Two and a half weeks ago, I was home, and nobody here, none of my new friends and colleagues, existed in reality. They were just names and faces, but we will be each others' allies and cheerleaders for the next year. It was a good thing they gave us this weekend vacation. Mrs. Shim, the head of the Korean American Educational Commission, told us specifically that this vacation was, more than anything, time for us to bond as a group, because we'd need the support throughout the year. So now, names and faces have become friends, and doing silly things now like posing with seaweed will become the basis for relationships that will help us all do the best teaching and ambassadorship we can manage, together.
Jason grew a seaweed moustache. Now it kind of reminds me of the red weed from The War of the Worlds, which I'm currently reading.

That's all for the beach! Coming soon: Mureung Valley (무릉계곡) with its hikes and beautiful waterfalls, a Buddhist temple, a bizarre museum, and more!

In other news, Camp Fulbright begins tomorrow! I won't say a lot about it here, but during this two-week English camp for Korean youth, run in conjunction with our Orientation, all of us ETAs will have three opportunities to practice teaching. So, I have to finish my first lesson plan by -- and consequently teach my first-ever class -- this Thursday! That, plus, several other upcoming deadlines, are what's keeping me very busy this week. I'll try to keep updating every day, though! Leave a comment to motivate me! ;)

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