Sunday, December 14, 2014

Culturing it up in Tongyeong

Twice a year (once in the spring and once in the fall), the Gyeongsangbuk-do Office of Education plans "culture trips" for the Native English Teachers.  After the Sewol Ferry accident, the spring trip to Dokdo was postponed until August.  That trip started the day after I got back from being home, so I decided not to go (since I'll have another chance to go this year).  The fall trip was also postponed until this past week, which means it was really more of a winter trip this time around.  Delayed or not, I don't think any of us really cared.  Tell a bunch of teachers they can miss two days of school and go on a free trip with a bunch of their friends and we were all pretty eager to sign up.

This year's trip was to Tongyeong, a southern port city.  I had only briefly been to Tongyeong during our trip to Bijindo last spring, so I was happy to go back, especially since I knew how beautiful it is in that part of Korea.

Seven of us from Jeomchon went on the trip, so Thursday morning we met up and took the bright and early 6:30 bus to Daegu.  Once we got to Daegu we took a taxi to the meeting point for the trip and quickly saw lots of other people we knew from different towns.  We then got on the bus and were on our way to Tongyeong!

A few hours later we arrived and had lunch, then we were bused over to a beautiful park overlooking the ocean. We had some time to walk around...and of course, take some pictures.

After we finished at the park, we got back on the bus and headed to the cable cars. 

On our way up on the cable car
Obviously our car was the most fun

So many little islands.  Beautiful!

Once we got to the top, it was about a fifteen minute walk up lots of stairs to the top.  The sun was just starting to set, which made it quite beautiful. 

At the top...the sun was killing my eyes fro 90% of the photos we took on this trip.

After the cable cars, we went to a science museum.  I like museums and all, but this once was mostly about fishing, which believe it or not isn't really my thing.  Not much to report on this one, but they did have these cool photo taking centers where we could take pictures and send them to ourselves via e-mail.

After the science museum, it was on to see the Tongyeong Bridge...which we are all still not sure as to why we had to go see?  At this point we were all pretty tired, hungry, and ready to get to the hotel.

After quickly seeing the bridge, we finally headed to our hotel, dropped our things off at our room, and had dinner.  Dinner was a buffet that was served at the hotel.  I'm never much of a buffet fan, and the fact that the majority of the food we were served was cold didn't help....but hey, it's free food.

After dinner we went to our friend's room to have some drinks and hang out before our 10:00 room check.  Yes, we are grown adults who have proven ourselves to be capable of our jobs for at least a year....but apparently EPIK still doesn't trust us to our own devices.  Let's not even talk about how the rules would be drastically different if this were a trip for Korean teachers (there would be mandatory drinking and noraebang included until at least midnight).....but again, free trip and missing school--we can handle the double standard I suppose.  

Since we had to be back in our rooms by 10:00 anyway, we decided to get comfortable in our room.  A lot of people went back out after the room check, but we made the mature decision that it was better to get some rest for the next day (does this mean we're growing up?)

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, but much to our disappointment, it was Korean-style breakfast, which meant that our options consisted of rice, soup, kimchi, and salad.  Not exactly what we were hoping for, but again, free food is free food.

After breakfast it was on to our first stop, which was a craft museum.  The whole thing was really small, and not really the most impressive collection of traditional crafts I've seen in Korea.  Though we weren't there for long, and it was quickly on to our next stop of seeing the Turtle Ships.

These famous Korean ships were used during the Joseon Dynasty, and were used in naval battles against the Japanese.  These are considered the fist ironclad warships, and are an important part of  Korea's success in naval battles that prevented Japanese invasion.

After we finished exploring the turtle ships, we made our way to the mural park, which included a walk through a fish market.  We have an outside market in Jeomchon where you can also buy fish, but since Tongyeong is right by the sea, the variety of fish was much greater.   As we walked by we saw a number of ajummas cutting up the fresh fish.  Yummm....

Soooo many fish!

These ajummas are pretty tough women!

The mural park wasn't really a park, just an area of town where there were murals painted all over walls, homes, and businesses.  Naturally, we had a fun time taking pictures and walking around this area.

Of course there had to be a Frozen mural

Lovely view of Tongyeong 

After the mural park, it was time to get back on the bus and go to lunch.  After some yummy galbitang, it was time to head back home.  

After the 2 1/2 hour bus ride to Daegu we still had another 2 hour train ride back to Jeomchon. It goes without saying that we were all ready to be home by that point. Luckily, the last part of our trip was made a little more festive as we were greeted in Jeomchon with some beautiful snowfall.  Needless to say, the South Africans were the most excited about the walk home in the winter wonderland.  Not a bad way to end the trip!
Walking in the snow with three South their excitement!

All in all, I'm not sure how much I really learned about Korean culture on this trip, but I most certainly enjoyed the break from the school.  It was also nice to spend time with the other native english teachers.  It's the first time I had been in such a large group of westerners since orientation.  Actually, the whole event reminded me of orientation quite a bit with the familiar faces of other teachers I haven't seen since August 2013. Only instead of being bright-eyed and amazed by everything in Korea, we are all now full of crazy stories about our students, co-teachers, and life as a foreigner in Korea.  It's amazing how much has changed since orientation days--sometimes it's easy to lose track of how many crazy/great/frustrating experiences we have in this job, but it's nice to take a break from the monotony and reflect on all that has occurred in the past year and a half.

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