Friday, April 18, 2014

Jindallae (Azaleas)

Last Wednesday, all the teachers at my school hiked a local mountain, Cheonjusan (천주산), which is famous for its azaleas. Every April, one side of the mountain becomes carpeted with delicate purple flowers, called jindallae (진달래). A small festival draws locals and some tourists to the mountain every spring, and since I missed it last year, I was eager to join this hike.

The school outing was meant to be a sort of picnic (소풍) near the peak, but since I got there a bit late, and my hiking buddy, the super-fit earth science teacher, was determined to make it all the way to the top, I missed the picnic part. (It was soju and Korean-style sashimi, neither of which I care for in the least, so no great loss there, anyway.)

But we did reach the peak and were rewarded with a hazy view of the city (much like my previous trip to this same mountain). Snap one photo for evidence, then head straight back down... with a few pauses to get more photos of the beautiful flowers... I really regretted not bringing my camera with me on the hike, but I had headed off right after my afternoon classes, so I wasn't even in "proper" hiking gear (운동의류). All of the other teachers had come prepared; every Korean has a spare sweatsuit and neon-colored running shoes stashed away somewhere handy, it seems.

After the hike, we all went out for dinner -- fortunately the fish and liquor was just the pre-game -- at a duck restaurant. The soup was spicy but it wasn't just my burning tongue that kept me quiet. Although it was nice to be in the company of my colleagues, I find myself talking with them rather less these days. I feel that mealtimes are now just a tinge awkward. After two years, I'm no longer a novelty at school, and only a few dedicated non-English teachers are still willing to strike up conversation with me (though they are consistent and friendly in their efforts to improve their English). The others I just smile at while they speak in Korean, or play volleyball with weekly while they speak in Konglish. It's small stuff, but I've got to cherish it because my time with them now has a clear -- and fast-approaching -- ending date.
Such a gorgeous view, and such a pity I only had my phone on my to capture it!

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