It was a beautiful Wednesday evening when Eryn and I packed our bags and headed to Daegu. The next morning at 8:30 we were to meet at the Daegu Gymnasium to head out on an adventure with roughly 150 other English Teachers from every corner of the globe. Our initial plan was to spend most of the night shopping, however, that was short-lived as soon as we realized finding a hotel room was going to be more difficult than we imagined. So instead of shopping we spent nearly 2 hours wandering the streets of Daegu in search for an available room. We eventually found one on the 5th floor of an old run-down building near the train station. Wasn’t too bad for only 40,000 won. We left the electric blanket on high when we fell asleep which caused us to have a restless night. Too lazy/tired to turn it off, yet kept waking up every hour or so because I was sure I was on fire.
The next morning we woke up and had a magnificent breakfast at McDonalds and obviously ran into another foreigner heading to Daegu Gymnasium as well. After eating our delicious McSammich we hopped into a cab and headed off. Immediately we started recognized more and more people we knew. It was like orientation all over again…but this time rather than being glossy eyed due to the culuture shock and hectic schedule of orientation, most people were glossy eyed and glazed over due to the lack of sleep they had the night before and/or drinking too much soju with their ol’ friends in Daegu the night before. Everyone was in great spirits regardless and eager to get on our way. The bus was scheduled to leave at 8:20 apparently and we obviously didn’t leave until 9:30. But off we went on this new glorious adventure into the sunrise.
One of our first stops on the trip was to a rest stop (slash) information center just before one of the world’s deepest underwater road tunnels. The information center was just a short stop, slightly interesting and refreshing. Before you knew it we were back on the bus and headed into the tunnel. Inside the tunnel there were no noticeable differences to distinguish it between any other tunnel. Other than thinking if an earthquake happened rather than earth collapsing onto you it would be water and fish. Our next stop: Lunch!
Lunch was delicious. It was a Buffet, and not just any buffet, but a Korean BBQ Buffet! We were told that if we did not finish everything that we served ourselves that our table would be fined. This was not perceived as a threat however, this was a dare. To make a long story short, we demolished that restaurant. Feeling quite corpulent and in dire need of a nap we continued on.
From what I remember throughout my minor food-coma our next stop was Windy Hill. It looked t
o be a small peninsula off the coast with an old English looking windmill on it. We hiked to the hill and because you’re probably wondering – yes, it was windy (windy, as in blowing air in your face and messing up Eryn’s hair, not windy like a windy road). It was a beautiful place though. It didn’t quite look like Korea I was used to seeing anymore. The weather was warm, the hill was windy and there were goats frolicking in the grass along the way. Before you knew it we were on the bus heading to our next destination – Pebble Beach!
Just like Windy Hill, Pebble Beach is what you would expect – Pebbly. Before departing the bus to go explore this beach we were warned not to take any of the Pebbles…the consequence being, and I quote, “you will never be able to go home if you do.” Just like the previous warning regarding not finishing all our food I think now most teachers took it now as a dare, but with a more serious consequence. No one knew the importance of these pebbles and why it was so frowned down upon to take them. I would understand if there were only a few of them. I would like to publicly state that I did not take a pebble and I in face saw no one take a pebble. I guess the threat worked.
After another long bus ride we arrived at our hotel. I was very curious as to what kind of lodging we would be in for the night. In the initial email regarding this trip it was stated that we may have up to 8 people in a room! Come to find out, we had 2 people to the room and it was like a normal hotel! It was split up though between the girls and the boys. The girls were lucky and received the western style rooms (Bed, desk, etc) and the boys received the traditional Korean room (bare space with some padded blankets to sleep on). Although the floor was bare for the boys, we had giant flat screen tv’s! Dinner was served at the Hotel, buffet style, and delicious! Later that night many of the foreigners who have not seen each other in a long time gathered and celebrated this glorious reunion. I don’t think the Family Mart next door has ever seen the kind of business we gave to them. After a few drinks at the Family Mart a group of us decided to head down the street for Karaoke! After some amazing vocalizations it was time for bed.
Waking up the next day at 7:30 was difficult. The warm shower was nice and the breakfast buffet was great. Before you knew it we were back on the bus again heading off to our next adventure. All we heard was that we would be on a boat for a little bit. The destination: Oedo Island. This is a very popular tourist destination and I was so happy we were going. All I heard about Oedo Island is that it’s beautiful, and, it was. The weather was amazing! It was November and I wish I would’ve packed shorts. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and I was eating ice cream. I wish I could write more about the history of Oedo Island, but none of the brochures I found were in English and there was no guide available to explain anything. From what I gathered (and I could be way off) is that a Korean couple bought this island, turned it into a tropical garden for whatever reason, and now it’s a tourist
spot. I’ve seen gardens in Paris, Hawaii, Malaysia, Bali and the US and to be honest, this one does rank up near the top. I would love to go back in Spring when there is more greenery and the flowers are blooming, but regardless, it was still beautiful. The time flew by exploring the island and it was then time to leave. We boarded the ferry and headed back to the mainland.
After hiking the many paths on Oedo the majority of us were starving. Luckily for us we were headed back to the same place we had lunch the day before! All you can eat Korean BBQ! We must’ve learned from the day before because I noticed that our plates weren’t full of towers of raw meat to be cooked on the grill in front of us. We took what we knew we could finish(something I think my mom taught me a long time ago) and felt comfortably full at the end. Two days of Korean BBQ was delicious but I definitely needed a good one to two week stint of vegetarianism after this trip.
The attitude on the bus was reciprocated by all. We were full, tired and wanting to nap. According to the itinerary we were now going to go to a Swamp and hike around. I love nature, and I love exploring Korea, but I was exhausted along with everyone else. Much to our surprise an announcement was made letting us know that due to timing constraints we were unable to visit the Swamp. Instead we will go to a rest area with a souvenir shop then head back to Daegu.
On the bus ride back I reflected on this trip and Korea. Korea is a small country. Apparently it’s similar to the size of Tennessee. But I can’t believe it. I have been here for 9 months and would like to say I have seen a lot. But it seems that there is still SO much to see and I have only seen a fraction of what Korea has to offer. I have yet to explore the north or the west. I have been to the large metropolis cities (Busan, Seoul, Daegu) but as soon as I thought I’ve seen all there is to do there someone asks me “Oh, did you see…” and I respond “No, what’s that?!” I still want to see the DMZ, I want to see the West coast and the northern mountains. Tongyeong was beautiful and at times felt so remotely distant from Gyeongju that it was hard to believe I was in the same country. I thank EPIK for organizing this cultural field trip for the roughly 200 foreigners who attended. It was a great experience that I enjoyed as well as everyone else