Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dropping by Jeju

Plush horses of Jeju!
Whew, a solid week of travel really knocked me out! Since Monday of last week, I've moved around via bike, bus, plane, ferry, rental car, hippie car, subway, tram, local train, regional train, bullet train, and even a sideways elevator; I've ventured across mountains, across and above seas, and to an uninhabited island, stopping at ten cities along the way. And the first thing I did when I arrived back in Changwon was go to taekgyeon practice.

So now I'm exhausted. Fortunately, I have a solid week to refresh and look back on a great week that really made my vacation seem like a vacation before flying off somewhere else. Part 1: Jeju Island! I went to meet with a professor for consultation about my Castleberry research project but also spent some time with Fulbright friends.

On Monday morning, I got a sorely needed haircut, cleaned up my apartment, and then left for the airport. As usual, it took about a minute to get my boarding pass and get through security; though I was hours early, I passed the time with a book, The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester, which was gifted to me by a good friend. It was late afternoon and getting dark when I arrived on the island, but I found my way to my friend Vika's apartment in Jeju City and we caught up, her telling me awesome stories from her recent trip to Laos.

A 돌하르방 at the entrance to JNU
On Tuesday morning, after a paradoxically calming and invigorating yoga session at Vika's favorite local studio, I took a nice brisk walk to the nearby Jeju National University. You can just see the peak of Mt. Halla from the campus; South Korea's highest mountain was covered in snow. At JNU, I met up with Professor Yang to talk about my research project on Jeju-eo. The meeting was fruitful and encouraging in some ways but slightly discouraging in others. The good news is that Professor Yang is 100% on board with my project and thinks that it is an amazing idea and opportunity. The bad news is that, realistically speaking, it's going to be more difficult than I anticipated. We must figure out a way to conduct our own fieldwork (I had wrongly assumed that there would be an existing corpus of recordings of the language), and the timing is not ideal. Despite this, I had a great talk with the professor, gained a lot of useful information about Jeju-eo, and left the meeting feeling extremely encouraged about my prospects.

In the afternoon, Vika and I took a bus headed for the sleepy city on the south side of the island, Seogwipo. This express bus cut right through the island, climbing dizzily through the mountain roads for twenty minutes until we were surrounded by snow, then barreling down the other side for twenty minutes until we saw the beach again. It was an odd journey. In Seogwipo, we walked along the Olle Trails for some scenic views and visited the Jeongbang Falls (정방폭포), the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean! Although it was cloudy out, it was still quite a sight, and even though it was the middle of winter, there were plenty of tourists, especially Chinese.

(An aside: a ticket to see the falls costs two bucks normally, but youth aged 24 or under can get in for one. When I saw this information at the ticketing booth, I realized that, it now being 2014, Vika and I, as well as everyone in the world born in 1990, were now 25 by the Korean system of age-reckoning. But we went for it anyway and showed our ID cards, and score! We got the half-price tickets.)
Jeongbang Falls on a cloudy January day.
Vika and me at 정방폭포
After some more hiking, chatting, and eating delicious Jeju oranges, which are now in season, we met up with some of the Fulbrighters who live and teach in Seogwipo. We hung out in Jessica's apartment and ate tons of cookies while laughing over travel stories and commiserating about graduate school and those onerous applications.

For dinner, we went to a popular barbecue restaurant that Kristen has gone to many times before with her school faculty. It's called 새섬갈비 (Saeseom Galbi/BBQ), and it's amazing. The black pork (흑돼지) is so thick, and the side dishes are good. Prices quite reasonable for the portions. I'd definitely go back, but the best part of the dinner, of course, was sharing it with friends.

At the end of the day, Vika and I took the bus back north to Jeju City; flying through winding, dark roads in the rain (no lights except those from passing cars on this terrifying route) was pretty nuts, but our bus driver seemed to know what he was doing. And on Wednesday morning, I left a cold and rainy Jeju to board my flight back to the mainland. Goodbye, Jeju! I'll be back again soon.
Pure yum. I used to be a vegetarian, but in Korea I'll enjoy a grilled pig any day.
Dinner with friends! Left to right: Jessica, Kristen, and Vika, all of whom are going to go on to achieve amazing things. And then there's me. Taken by Taxi.

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