Saturday, October 27, 2012

Land's End

Today was the first rainy day of fall*. I expect more to come, so I'm going to have to buy some new shoes. The pair I've had since I began college has gaping holes in both heels and bleeds blue onto my socks when wet. Today was the first rainy day of fall, and I walked around in wet shoes and socks for hours in Jeollanam-do with a large group of tourists from a Korean Teachers' Union.

*Actually, it wasn't. I just thought that that would be a nice way to begin the entry.
Host mother and me
My host mother is a biology teacher and belongs to a union. She and half a dozen other teachers from her school joined a tour of Haenam County in South Jeolla Province. We went to Haenam (해남/海南), Daeheungsa (대흥사/大興寺), and Ttangkkeut (땅끝), which is the "Land's End" of Korea -- the southernmost point of the peninsula (this does not include the many islands just off the coast). Due to the language barrier, I did not understand the majority of anything that happened today from 7am until 10pm, neither what our schedule was or what our tour guide was ever talking about. However, I did get some opportunities to practice Korean, I made a new friend, and I took some photos of pretty things at a Buddhist temple. An opportunity to take photos of pretty things is always nice. (Can you tell that I'm really tired right now?)
A statue at Daeheungsa (대흥사), the main temple of the Jogye Order of Buddhism. The temple was large, spacious, and peaceful, I think in part because it was raining and there were no busy crowds.
단풍 (danpung) is the Korean maple tree, as well as the word for the changing of leaves' colors in autumn.
The main attraction at Ttangkkeut is a monorail that goes straight up a steep mountain to the Ttangkkeut observatory. We waited in line for nearly forty-five minutes for a chance to ride the monorail. It was fairly unexciting, save for a moment near the top when the car suddenly stopped and the lights when out, as if the power had been cut. And it was still raining. I suddenly wondered if we'd survive if the car were to freefall down the side of the mountain... But the power outage didn't last long, and soon we were at the top. We stayed up at the top for about five minutes, as the wind and the rain made it uncomfortable to stay up there, and the view was miserable, anyway. So... so much for that! At least I can now say that I've been to the southernmost point of the Korean peninsula. The next time I go farther south, I want to be on Jeju Island -- when it's not raining. The weather put a "damper" on things, if you will. (Damp: 축축하다/chukchukhada)
Ttangkkeut Monorail.
Following Ttangkkeut, we visited a small cabin complex in the woods in Gangjin where the great Joseon period thinker Dasan lived in exile and wrote five hundred books. He must have had a lot of time on his hands. I don't know much about Dasan (다산/茶山/Yes, that means "Tea Mountain"), but I will read his biography when I get the chance to, because his life seems to have been very interesting. (Unlike the photos I took at this tourist spot, since it was getting dark by then...)

After a Korean beef (한우) barbecue dinner, it was time to go home. A few scattered notes: I spent a lot of time today adding vocabulary words to my flashcard deck on Anki, and it's great to see how I'm actually progressing. I'm happy that I got to spend a lot of time with my host mother today. Usually all the members of my host family are so busy, especially in recent weeks, so this was nice. Teachers' unions (교원 노동 조합(노조)/kyowon nodong johap) are an interesting thing in Korea -- as I'm sure they are in the US, too. They haven't been legal for more than a few decades, though. I'll have more thoughts on them according to what I know, later. But it's time to sleep, now. Good night!

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