Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Well look who stopped by Korea land!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kayaking the Hongcheon and a Heroic Moment

It’s pretty hard to resist a free kayaking trip, and why would you want to anyway? I’m not sure why it was free, but feel pretty positive the company renting the kayaks was getting something in return- a free photo opportunity.

My hiking group loaded a bus early Saturday morning and arrived at the Hong River in Gangwan-do at about 11am. It was hot and when we stepped off the bus, not a single person went unsurprised by the suns intensity. Nonetheless, we were excited.

The group was large, as tends to be the case when taking trips further away from Seoul via bus. For special trips that have a little something extra beyond hiking, we also get quite a few randoms, or people that aren’t regular hikers. Randoms can (not always) also equal whiney and disrespectful foreigners that you’re embarrassed be to even remotely affiliated with. Fortunately, they were easy to spot, errr hear, right away and even easier to separate oneself from.

The kayak ride itself was great…and also humorous. The scenery was beautiful, air smelled fresh, and it was neat to see Koreans out using traditional fishing techniques as we passed under bridges. The fishermen, however, were not too thrilled by the 30 kayaks racing toward them, some barely missing the opportunity to take them out. At times, it felt like a game of bumper kayaks, but there were also points when it was easy to escape the chaos and hide in a cave or tour the outer limits.

We took breaks here and there and despite signs informing “suyeong geumchi,” or “no swimming,” us brave souls did anyway. At the end, we started to cross the river toward some rocks on the other side. This is when I had my once in a lifetime opportunity to save a life and I’m dead serious (pun intended), I saved a life. A fellow hiker and friend of mine recalled his childhood swimming adventures and, he too, decided to make the cross. Unfortunately, his abilities in his mind didn’t quite match those of his body. I spotted him bobbing up and down and first thought he was getting his hair wet, but then I heard a quiet “help me.” Quickly, I swam over, grabbed his arm and swam to the closest shore. I tried to keep it on the down low, but I must say, I am pretty dang proud of myself. It was also extremely satisfying to see the surprised looks in the eyes of those men that did hear of the event. A girl saving a guy? No way!

Today, thinking about the incident reminds me of a funny happening way back in high school. My very first boyfriend and I were swimming across part of Hagg Lake. We made it about half way when he realized he couldn’t make it. He wasn’t actually drowning, but was certain he would if he didn’t get help. So, I flagged down a boat that pulled us up. From then on, he would always joke about my “savng his life.” It made me laugh because I think the boat would have picked him up had I been there or not. Maybe I chose the wrong profession. Maybe I should be a lifeguard instead?

Anyway, back to the story, which there’s not much more of. There was a tasty lunch followed by karaoke on the bus ride home. Today I’m burned to the crisp, but it was well worth it!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Double Life: A Visit Home

Let me introduce you to the half of my double life that I visited during my vacation. It surprised me how quickly I settled back into it and how easily old routines emerged. I had known that I was learning a lot about myself basically living a double life away from home, but something my mom mentioned during a drive from California back up to Oregon resonated. She explained how much she learns about herself with each trip to California to visit her family. It wasn't immediately after, but as my time in the U.S. grew short and my reflective switch turned on, I noticed the same was true for me during my visit home. I learned that I'm over a lot of internal and external conflict that I had previously though still bothered me, but not over some things that I had previously forgotten.

Most importantly, though, I got my dosage of my friends, family, and animals. A wedding, two birthday, BBQs, nights out and in, Margarita dates, homemade Thai food, coffee times, dog walks, hikes, etc. filled my three weeks that once seemed would be too short, but that turned out to be satisfactory (of course, I would have appreciated more time). On my last night, I remember coming home from a BBQ with my friends and thinking how wonderful they make me feel. Then I began packing and saw the perfectly folded shirt that my mom had mended and already packed for me. An enormous wave of gratitude swept over me. I forget it sometimes and to others it may not be obviouse, but I do have the perfect family and the perfect friends and  this was the most valuable reminder I took from a wonderful vacation to the missed half of my double life.I think I'm ready to continue with the half that takes place in Korea and really hope that the two converge every now and then.

Some of my favorite photos:

A wedding! Of someone special <3

One of the people I missed the most with one of the things I missed the most.

Sauvie Island with best friends. Doesn't get better than lounging on a beach.

Since high school; it's absolutely crazy.

One of the best hikes of my life with the uncle on Brokeoff Mounta, Lassen Nat. Park.

3 generations. Two of the strongest, most beautiful women I know.

Reunion of graduate school girlfriends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dog-day Cicada. It's August and I'm back!

I've arrived in Korea from the U.S. for the second time. This time, though, there was no waiting for an unknown person to pick me up and take me to an unknown destination. There was no fear that, once in the van, the non-English speaking driver might drop me off at my school rather than a much desired resting place. There was no head spinning during an 11pm shopping trip to gather the basics- TP, E-Marts chicken on a stick, cleaning supplies, and pillows. There was no realizing I purchased paper towels and then also squirting water from the bidet straight onto the kitchen floor as a results of not knowing the Korean on the buttons.

This year around I know what I am getting into and so, for the most part, I know what to expect. Then why after arriving do I feel so similar to how I felt upon my first arrival? Everything- the lights, the scents, the scenery- all take me back to my first day in Korea rather than the day before leaving for vacation. I have a hunch it's because I'm back to sensing things with a clear and rested head instead of one clouded with frustrations. In this state, I'm ready for anything.

It may also be that I am embarking on the second year recognizing that it will be very different from the last.
Many good friends have left/are leaving for new places, I'll be trying new things, exploring news places, and experiencing things that, at the moment, I cannot foresee. To top it off, I'll be moving to a new apartment 5 floors up. It's obviously not far, but it means re-settling and making it my own. These things make me both nervous and excited, but in a good way as I don't want it to be the same year, but a different one in the same country.

Off the top of my head, a couple goals for the next year:
-Practice Korean regularly
-Brush my teeth after lunch regularly so that my co-workers don't think I'm gross
-I'll need to find some new friends
-Spot a cicada/mae-mi (매미) because their sounds of electricity come from every tree of the city (including those outside my office window where I currently sit) yet I cannot see them and it's very frustrating. I'd be nice, it's just that I want to put a face to the noises and also see how big they are. I've seen pictures of giants and then minis and wonder what they are like here in Korea. I'd sort of like them to be of the smaller sorts...just in case one jumps to my head one of these days.