"Words have no wings, but they can travel a thousand miles" (Korean Proverb)

Welcome to Flying Words, Jon and Aileen's blog of our adventures in South Korea! We will be in South Korea for a year, starting in mid-July, teaching English in a private school. We just graduated from college this past May, and are looking forward to having some adventures before continuing our education. 
We started this blog to keep all our family and friends updated and to share our photos and stories. We hope this is entertaining for you! We will miss you all, and are very thankful to have the internet to keep us in touch. 

Sunday, August 17, 2008

All's well that ends well.......don't worry, it does.

    It's 5:45 am on Saturday morning. We wake up to the alarm. It's pouring rain, and there's thunder and lightning. 
   Aileen: Do you still want to go to the beach in this weather?
   Jon: Well, we'd get wet at the beach anyway.
   Aileen: Yeah. Good call. I'm just gonna put on my bathing suit and run around on the beach. 

   At 7:30 am, after ending up at the wrong bus station, eventually figuring out it was wrong and where the right one was, and then walking the around in a circle around the right bus station because we misread a sign, and getting soaking wet because raincoats and umbrellas can only do so much, we were on a bus to the beach. Byeonsan Beach, actually, just an hour and a half bus ride away. 

   So we arrived around 9, dry and happy, because the weather was improving. It was only partly cloudy, and most of the clouds weren't toooo threatening. So we bought towels at a roadside vendor and headed down to the beach. 

   The beach was great...it was low tide, and the tides are very drastic. So you could walk out for probably 200 yards before getting to the actual shore. And there were rocky outcroppings to explore, and a lot of shells. I found some nice shells, and also the mother-load of sea glass! Seriously. There was sooo much around the rocks that I couldn't pick up even a tenth of it. Even blue sea glass...which is very rare. 

   So that was fun. After about an hour, it looked like it might rain, so we tried to investigate the area's other attractions, which include a lot of hiking trails, a ferry to an island and a movie theme park. So we headed to the tourist information center, first walking down the main road, then when it turned into a highway, waiting for a taxi. And waiting. And waiting. 

   When we eventually found a taxi, found the information center and learned how to take the local bus, we took it to the other beach in the area, a few miles down the road, that was near the ferry dock and movie park. 

  The first thing we had to do when we got there was eat lunch. What we found out that was, despite the abundance of fresh seafood and the plethora of restaurants, it was not cheap. Eventually we decided on a restaurant, and ordered by pointing at what someone else had, having the waiter show it to us on the menu to check the price, and confirming that we wanted it. What we ended up with was a huge basket of fresh, raw shellfish that we cooked on a fire pit with a grill top in the center of our table. It was amazing. A enormous mussel, clams of all sizes, scallops, conch...everything. 

  After we ate, we found out that their credit card machine was not working. After they had told us they took cards. Luckily we had enough cash, but barely. Now we were left with 6,000 won (about $6), a foreign credit card that no one seemed to accept, and no return bus tickets. 

  No problem, right? Just find an ATM. Well, the only ATM in town didn't take foreign cards. Which is a problem here that I didn't expect, since my card has worked all over Latin America, where no one has cards. Here, where you can pay for a soda at the convenience store with your cell phone, the bus terminal in Jeonju did not take card. The restaurants at the beach did not take card. Only certain ATMs take foreign cards. 

    So what did we do? Went to the beach. We figured we had enough to take the local bus to Buan, a bigger city that was sure to have an ATM we could use. Just barely enough, but enough. If worse came to worse, we figured we had a number of options, including hitchhiking, finding an internet cafe and sending a message to someone that we needed picked up, and/or staying overnight in a hotel. Or walking to Buan. So we figured we'd enjoy ourselves for a little. 

   The beach was nice. It was sunny by this point, and hot. It was pretty crowded, but not too bad. Jon and I swam for a while (I think I was the only woman on the beach in a bikini- most others seemed to be fully clothed). But then it clouded over again, and we decided we should check the surrounding hotels and the dock for an ATM just in case, so we didn't have to potentially short-change the local bus driver. 

   So we walked. And walked. All around town in the hot sun and humid air, taking turns carrying my hiking backpack that had our snacks, clothes, towels and my camera. We must have looked like those hitchhikers you see on the side of the road, traveling cross-country. I'm sure at least that we looked pathetic. But we had fun, laughing at ourselves. 
  No ATM. We did, though, find a store that took card, so I bought some water and ice cream for us. So at least we didn't die of thirst. 

  We made it back to the bus station. Ironically, the bus that goes directly to Jeonju was there. But the ticket office (which was a decrepid desk inside an old, dusty store) didn't take card. So we had to mime to the driver, after we had asked if that was the Jeonju bus, that we couldn't buy tickets. So we watched sadly as it pulled away. 

   So we started walking down the road, following the route of the local bus, since the cost depends on where you get on and where you get off. We figured the closer we got walking to Buan, the less chance we had of making the driver mad by not having enough money. The bus eventually picked us up about 10 minutes (walking) down the road. Since you don't pay until you get off, we figured no matter what, we'd make it to Buan.

   And we did. We counted out all our change and it turned out we had more than enough to make it to Buan. When we got off the bus, we walked only a block and found a Family Mart, a convenience store that we knew had ATMs that would take my card. We were home free. 

  So we took the bus from Buan home to Jeonju. We arrived at the apartment exhausted at about 8 pm. I passed out for an hour, and woke up looking like a lobster but refreshed. After eating something, we decided that we could make it out for the much-anticipated 'Rock Lottery.' 

 The Rock Lottery is something the English teachers of Jeonju (aka foreigners) put together and a local bar agreed to host. They put the names of 20 people in a hat, and drew five at a time. Those five people would be in a band together with 2 weeks to practice and 20 minutes of stage time at the concert. That night was the concert. So we followed the directions we got online from other English teachers (which went something like "Have the taxi driver drop you off at such-and-such underpass. Walk up the hill 200 yards until you reach a 7-11. Buy smokes or whatever there before you get to the bar because it's a pain to leave to get them. Turn left, find a little yellow sign that says 'two be one,' take a little pill [to make you small, like Alice in Wonderland, because doorways and stairwells can be short here] and go down the stairs."). 

  The night was definitely worth going out for. The bar was crowded with foreigners, and the bands sounded.... pretty good, actually. We sat with a bunch of foreigners we had me last weekend, and had a great time. My favorite band was the one that played last, and serenaded us with an acoustic, slow version on Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby, One More Time," and ended with a version of "I can't live, if living is without you" that had to whole bar singing. 

   And the best part? It was dark, so you couldn't tell I looked like a lobster. 


Lyn said...

Well, y'all have had some trying times thus far with language and financial barriers, but I'm glad to see that you continue to come out on top. Joe and I are glad to read that you're having a wonderful time and we can't wait to see you! :)

Anna said...

wow. having some problems are ya?
you might wanna get some more money (and sun screen). bring home some shells and sea glass.
you might want to learn some more korean also.... lol.


Mom/Mama Bear said...

Ditto Anna..........she's the smart one:) Heed her advice. Geez! You guys are funny.