Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas in Korea 2013 Pt.2


O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim

Christmas in Korea 2013 Pt.1

'Well, I've celebrated christmas in untraditional and unusual ways. I've worked on Christmas day and still had the best Christmases...until this one.

I woke up this morning to a gloomy and cold day (although thankful I had a heater). I didn't have lots of time so I got right into the shower and put the shampoo in my hair and the water went frigid. I clipped my soapy hair up, wrapped it in a towel and went to try to do the only thing I knew to do, heat the oil tank for more hot water. I turned it on and 45 minutes later realized I was heating the floor and not the water. Doh. So I switched the buttons to the other option and waited half an hour until there was 15 minutes left before I needed to leave for work. (Yes, I'm working this Christmas too).  When the water wasn't any hotter I pulled out the only two pots I have, filled them full of water and set them on my two burner stove to boil so I could at least rinse the shampoo out of my hair. Well, turns out the gas is out too. One burner started to light and then fizzled out into nothing. Sigh, this morning isn't going so well. There was nothing to do but stick my head under a freezing cold stream of water in the sink, wrap it in a scarf and walk out the door into the cold gloomy weather. 

Not feeling clean, warm, sexy, or pretty for that matter, I arrived at work with five minutes to get dressed and do all my stage makeup and prep for the Christmas show directly following. Arg. I'm lucky I've had lots of practice so I can move quickly through the routine.  My hair still wet and now super frizzy, I put in my Christmas bows and headed up to the stage for the first show of the day. 

I thought the show was going well considering I hadn't had a chance to warm up or even sit down and think for a second. But halfway through the show a hair on my bow broke. Normally this is no big deal. You break it off at the ends and just keep going. I can't do that though because if I drop a violin bow hair on the aquarium stage it will wash down into the water and the dolphins will eat it and die, or at least that's the premise.  So I played the rest of the show with this hair twisting and tying itself into knots with the other hairs on my bow. 

After that show it was a quick dress change and scurry upstairs to the lobby for the Christmas show. I play Jingle Bells and O Holy Night at the very end of the program. Since all the equipment for my electric violin is tied up in the other show arena and while we're upstairs performing a Christmas show the animal show is going on so the sound techs are still working there, I have to perform on a cheap acoustic. I'm not playing on my instrument because there is no one to drive me to and from work everyday when it's snowing and raining outside and I'm not willing to walk outside 20 minutes to work and back with my really expensive violin. So my boss has the really cheap one that when I opened it and tried to tune it for the first time the D string broke. I replaced it with a spare of mine and tried again the next day. The next day the E string broke. I replaced that string too. It takes nearly five minutes to tune the violin every show and it doesn't even stay in tune for one entire piece. 

Today I waited for Santa Claus and the dancing Santa clad girls to finish and then walked out with my sprightly version of Jingle Bells. Of course, with Santa Claus and the pretty girls there, people pay me no mind. In fact, people have nearly walked into me numerous times and walk in front of me while I'm crossing the lobby "stage" all the time. I stand next the the girls in front of the Christmas tree and there is a crowd of people taking pictures with Santa and the girls. I'm still playing... Then when Santa is out of gifts for the children and all the pictures have been taken with the girls, everyone leaves. I'm still playing... I finish playing to an empty lobby with no one to watch and listen (outside of Santa and the girls). Do I really sound that bad? Maybe, it's possible, but I doubt it. I'm even dressed in a sparkly and sexy blue dress and I have my eyes open and am ready to interact with anyone that comes by. Today this scenario played out yet again; an out of tune violin, and an uninterested public.

^~^~Check out my Christmas vlog, Christmas in Korea 2013 Pt.2 for one of the tunes.

But I made Christmas no bake cookies (since I don't have an oven). The nutella ones came out way too sweet, but the peanut butter and chocolate ones are great. I've distributed them around to everyone here trying to share some Christmas joy and hoping to gain some in return. 

I am happy to hear that tomorrow I get a day off. It wasn't expected so it's a nice surprise. I will spend the day visiting the doctor, baking more cookies for the girls, working out, cleaning my apartment and maybe making a few phone calls. So there won't be a touristy blog entry this week, but I will have some things to say regardless (I can see the smirks from here!).

The cookies all disappeared...thankfully, because that means I won't have to eat them all myself. After recording the video for the second blog post (vlog), I came home with a friend and had a good Insanity workout, a nice warm shower (finally I feel clean), and am nibbling on popcorn and drinking tea while finishing this blog.

I can't say it was a very Merry Christmas but it could have certainly been a lot worse and for that reason, I am thankful this holiday  :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cheonjeyeon Falls, Olle Trail 8 and the World Cup Stadium

This was an unexpected pleasure. I'd been informed that I was working straight through the holidays but I was given a day off at the last minute! I'm not complaining :)

Before the offer could be retracted I jumped on a bus for Jungmun in Seogwipo. The last time I'd been here I'd toured the famous Jungmun Beach as well as a chocolate museum. This time I was going to stay outside.

I had noticed a set of stairs leading off into the woods beside a large ravine so I hopped off the bus near the start of the stairs and began climbing. It's a good thing I don't mind stairs! I didn't realize it until I began that this was Olle Trail No.8. The island of Jeju has a bunch of walking trails called Olle Trails. These were started a few years ago to uncover the hidden trails that are not suitable for cars and use them to preserve some of the history of Jeju as well as to create a wonderful alternate tourist option. All the trails connect to each other so you can spend a long time walking the island. Most of these trails are too long for me to hike in one day so I haven't spent much time researching them beyond the historical factor, but I found the one trail by accident that was perfect for me :)

I enjoyed the "hike" in the woods, careful not to slip on the wooden "trail" covered in pine needles. There were several lookout points that gave expansive views of the city and island. Here is a video I took along the way.

Previously I'd seen three of the four waterfalls listed on the tourist map in Seogwipo (the overlying city that envelops Jungmun) and had heard that the biggest one, Cheonjeyeon, only really flowed after or during a big rain. Well, my day off is on Wednesday and the Tuesday prior it rained and poured the whole day and the whole night and Monday night as well so I was hoping for a spectacular waterfall.

It must not have rained as much as I felt like it did because when I caught my first glimpse of the first waterfall (there are three that make up Cheonjeyeon), well, there wasn't any water falling.

It was still a beautiful sight and I can easily picture the beauty of water cascading over the cliff of rock. I took my picture and hiked back up the several flights of stairs to continue on to the second waterfall.

This one was flowing and was surrounded by colorful trees refusing to succumb to the cold temperatures and drop their brightly hued leaves.

Most of the tourist were gathered at this location so I again took pictures and then hiked back up to continue on to the third waterfall. On the way there is the famous Seonimgyo bridge. This bridge has beautiful artwork depicting nymphs on the infrastructure.

Once across the bridge there is a random gazebo and an overlook of the second waterfall. The overlook is slightly out of the way and doesn't have good signage so I was happy to enjoy it for a moment myself before the family that followed me across the bridge decided to trail me to the lookout point. I then wandered up into the gazebo and was blown away by the spectacular colors displayed before me in the garden below.

Once I toured the courtyard area I then headed back across the bridge to the third waterfall. This waterfall was much smaller and felt more secluded than the previous two. When I arrived, there was a young couple taking silly pics. I offered to take their picture and then they took mine and they left, leaving me a brief few minutes of solitude. I sat down on a bench, leaned my head back against the railing and listened to the sounds of the water and the nature surrounding me. It was heavenly, until my head rest began jerking, alerting me that more tourist were descending the stairs.

I vacated the lookout point and wandered back up to the main courtyard area snapping a few more photos and then proceeding into town to catch a bus to my next destination, the World Cup Stadium.

I'd seen it in passing numerous times and finally decided to stop. It's not exactly what I expected. Yes, there is a big soccer field and lots of chairs, but there is also a movie theater, a spa and water park, a couple museums and businesses. Really? Is that normal for a retired sports stadium?

I didn't go to any of the side attractions, but I walked the circumference of the stadium on a nice walking/jogging track as the sun was setting. Then I boarded a bus for the long ride home.

It was a really enjoyable day and I am so glad I had the chance to get out and explore some more, but now it's back to work.

I will post a couple more entries over the holidays (non tourist related) so stay tuned! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

First snowfall in Seongsan, Dec. 2013

I'm not a vlogger, but this is as close as it comes I guess. Took a video of the snow...

sigh. I would so much rather be watching the video than taking it :)

When do I join back up on cruise ships again??

And I take full responsibility for the awful rhyme at the beginning. 
It was a sarcastic attempt at cheerful humor :-/

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Seopjikoji Walk

This a double up post because I didn't write anything about my day off last week,,,because I didn't get one. However, despite that fact, I managed to walk around the edge of the peninsula that Aqua Planet is on and take some pictures and pretend to be off for the day. It was actually a beautiful and sunny day and I had a lovely walk around the peninsula. Enjoy the pictures. And yes, even in December there are still flowers blooming :)

Ilchulbong behind flowers.

Rock Towers along the beach.

Stone silhouettes.

Lots of stairs (I think I counted 127) leading up to the lighthouse.

The other staircase that I took down.

The path from the lighthouse to the church.

Looking down at the bay beside the lighthouse.

The now famous lighthouse.

Flowers covering the hillside.

Modern day smoke signals!! This is a smoke tower, really.

A church famous for being used in a Korean movie I believe.

Just posing by more large rock towers.

The lighthouse over the sea of bright flowers :)

Then today when I actually did get a day off it rained and the wind howled and sometimes it even hailed on me as I walked to town and back. Most of the rest of the day I spent inside cleaning the apartment, writing this entry and watching Downton Abbey, but I went for one other long walk today just to get outside again (yes, I'm crazy I know) and was richly rewarded with a beautiful double rainbow over Ilchulbong. It was hard to capture on film but I think I got a good picture of the main rainbow and if you look for it you can see the second. I'm so glad I braved the weather twice today!!

The perfect rainbow over Ilchulbong.

Moss on the rocks in the flowing river.

Double rainbow! With a reflection in the water.

At the end of the rainbow and the end of the island.

It was so beauttiful!

What a productive and good day overall. Ended with an invite to pizza next door and a chance to practice my Korean with non English speakers. Tomorrow morning I finish my laundry and all will be in order once again :)

Korean pizza is quite different from American pizza. This particular variety had sweet potato in the crust. It was like a main course and dessert all in one pizza...was tasty actually.

Now back to another week of work.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Monkey Beach Night Club in Jungmun, Jeju-do

No, I didn't hop a ship to a monkey run island, I hopped a cab to a new club in Jungmun, South Korea. There is a successful one in Seoul so the owners decided to open one on Jeju.

What a crazy club! This club has pretty much everything; buckets of alcohol (given...but in a bucket?), table shuffleboard, darts, pool, foosball, basketball (super small hoop and only for a competition every night...but still), giant jumping rope (two guys stand on large boxes to swing this huge rope), giant water slide (for after you get hot jumping rope...), 4 stripper poles on a rather narrow bar plus one fenced dancing pole a little higher than the bar, Jenga tournaments, and who knows what else I haven't witnessed. This club definitely keeps you busy!

Last weekend the whole group of girls from the show here in Seongsan went on Saturday, the day after it opened. There was a fire dancer show and I played every game there except I decided it was a bad idea to jump rope at the same time I'm drinking alcohol. However, I did win a free bottle of vodka for my stellar basketball free throw skills!

This weekend we all went on Friday and enjoyed another fire show (the fire dancer is quite amazing really), played Jenga, I practiced pole tricks, played pool and darts and shuffleboard and drank copious amounts of liquor. You can imagine when your drink in a bucket; there's at least 6-8 shots or more in each. Whew...don't ask me how many buckets I drank. But I still managed to win another bottle of Whiskey this time with my awesome girl basketball shoots!

Now I have two big bottles of booze and I just need some friends to come over and help me drink them! The other girls won their own fair share of booze so I want some non work friends to come visit! Yes, I'm bribing you with alcohol, AND some homemade cookies :) Tis the season!

Check out the pics, I don't have any pics of me on the pole (everyone else was busy jump roping) but I do have some photo proof of the bruises I acquired as a result...

Panorama of the main area before the club opened. I'm standing by the pool table and darts area.

Amazing fire dancing!!!

Crummy picture of me with my winning shot and winning bottle of tequila!!!

My winnings from playing basketball!!

The WATER SLIDE. It's really a metal slide with a waterfall on it. I went down twice in jeans....which meant I had to dance them dry :)  Crazy club to have a rope wall to an indoor water slide, but it's lots of fun!


We won second place and a bottle of ??? because a certain girl (not me) didn't share :(

Everyone is gathered for some Jenga action.

From pole climbing..
More pole climbing...
This is on my inner thigh from "sitting" on the pole after I climbed it.

A couple tipsy girl jumping rope in dresses...always good for random entertainment.

I'll say I shared this with three other people since there are four straws in the bucket...

A terrible sound quality video I know, but shows a bit of the club. There is some line dancing going on in the main area.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

One cold and lonely night in Jeju-si.

It certainly was an interesting last night and day, my most recent day off.  Started out well enough working the usual four shows. My boss brought me my newly cleaned costume from the cleaners, I made exciting plans and enjoyed a tasty lunch of teokpeoki,  one of my favorite Korean dishes.

Then after work I changed into normal and warm clothes, removed the crazy stage makeup and headed to the bus.

Plans were to meet a friend,  see the second Hunger Games, grab some drinks and chat the rest of the night away.  Turned out that friend was thrown a curve ball and was unable to join me or let me couch surf that night. No big deal I thought. I have three other friends here who have either offered or already let me couch surf.  So I messaged one. I didn't have to wait long before he replied that he too had had an unfortunate problem arise that day and he could join me for one drink but that was it. So I messaged another friend. Never received an answer. Eventually messaged my last friend who was in a similar situation as the second and any other night I'd be welcome to crash but not this night. Zero for four.

I was out of friends. Jeju friends that is.

During all of this friend searching I purposefully got off the bus two stops later and walked back just to keep active until the one friend who could grab one drink got off work. I still had extra time to kill so I walked all the little assured l streets in the city hall area until I received a text saying where to meet. 

Along the way I saw some amusing and fun signs.

Hmm, one of these things doesn't belong here...

I'm scared to venture a guess as to what this sign is indicating...

Guess I am back in Kansas again.

I wonder how those shoes work....

We chose a western bar named Wabar with a good beer selection and sat down for a quick chat. After one beer my friend left but seeing as how I still had no place to go I simply relocated to sit at the bar. I ordered myself another beer and chatted with the friendly bar staff who were all eager to practice their English. I asked if any of them knew a place I could crash but of course I was told no.

Thankfully there was a phone charger at the bar and I was able to search for places as well as reply to friends without my phone dying.  I stayed at the bar until 2 when I was so tired I'd given up hope of finding a free couch and headed out in search of the cheapest hostel I found online located a solid half hour walk toward the ocean.

Being so near the water it's very windy and being winter it's very cold. I was dressed in corduroy pants with 3 shirts plus my heavy winter coat, hat, gloves, and scarf. I was still freezing. I found the hostel easily enough but only to find out the office closed at 10 that night and there was no answer when I called the number painted on the door.

After sitting on the stoop for 10 minutes deciding what to do next I decided to try another hostel another half hour back the way I had come. I actually considered finding a secluded and sheltered place to sleep on the ground but I've noticed there are absolutely no homeless people on the streets here which makes me wonder if it's illegal. Not that I don't invite adventure, but the last thing I need is to be arrested and jailed in Korea for sleeping on the street.

Short interlude; you may wonder why I didn't just go to the closest hostel in the first place. I thought about this myself for a while today. I tell people how to always see the bright side of things and to look forward into the future to the possibilities that the negative circumstances you're currently living will someday work toward good. Why couldn't I pull myself together last night and just enjoy the trip? I'm not sure what it is that my brain links to spending money unnecessarily but it makes me so frustrated and angry. Even though I could have a had a much more pleasant night I chose to stress and be miserable trying to find the cheapest and/or free places to stay. I know that if I had gone to book a room and then hit up the movie and then maybe even grabbed a beer before heading to bed I could have had a much better night, but I know that I would not have inside because spending the money on the hotel would have covered the fun in a wet blanket. I don't know if it stems from having no money as a child or from still having no money as an adult. But this is something I truly noticed for the first time today. I don't want to chain myself to the ground of misery when spending the money is inevitable. I must learn that I did what I could to plan and things were done to my plans that were out of my control. Spending the money didn't cause me to not eat, not sleep. It just caused me to be unhappy. This I must change.

Thanks for listening to my personal rant and I welcome any and all constructive criticisms and suggestions.

Ok, back to my story. 

I continued on to the next hostel to find it also closed but with no number on the website and no number on the door to call so I started wandering the neighborhood (city hall) and found a foreigner hostel. I also was closed but had a number posted on the door. I called it (thankfully I have a smart phone with Skype credit to call foreign numbers and Korea has unsecured wifi everywhere) and a lady answered and I said I was standing outside the door. A man came down a few minutes later and let me in (it is now 4:00 a.m.). I was so cold I  couldn't feel my skin many places and was so tired (I got up at 7 that morning and worked all day and had just been walking for the past hour with no dinner to boot unless you count two beers) that I was not very successfully holding back tears as the owner told me all the dormitories were full and I'd have to pay for a single room. The cost was actually cheaper than a taxi home and approximately the cost of the dirtiest scumbag motel rooms in the middle of nowhere in America, but still, I didn't want to pay it. The man was very kind and discounted $3 off the price (I'm guessing because it was late and I was obviously miserable and men hate seeing women cry) and showed me to my room. He turned on a heater and gave me a key and said, "It's ok. Please don't cry." as he walked out the door for the night. I was so tired when I awoke the next morning I didn't remember where I was and when I walked out of the room I had no idea what floor I was on and which way to go to get down, nor what room I was sleeping in. 

This turned out to be the place and there was a washing machine here too. Nifty.

I found my way to the kitchen quickly and read the sign to help yourself, but wash your dishes. This I could do. The fridge was fully stocked with eggs, jam, yogurt, milk and there was bread and pancake mix and a stove and all the cooking necessities. I just opted for some toast and jam, yogurt and hot tea. I wasn't very hungry despite the previous night. I enjoyed a nice long breakfast checking email and listening to American jazz on the stereo. It's a nice place really. I would recommend a foreigner to stay there. They also had an ipad next to the bed in my room. Very cool! There is also apparently a bar although it wasn't open while I was there.




Then I got ready and headed to the movie theater.

This was my first time in a Korean movie theater. It was interesting. It was in a sky scraper style building and the first two floors were all shops. 


The 2nd through 6th floor was the theater. You got your tickets and food and drinks, played your arcade games and drank coffee with friends on the 2nd floor and the 3rd through 6th floors housed the actual movie screens. 

When you buy your tickets you actually have to pick your seat too! It's not open seating like America. I was seeing the Hunger Games which was on the 6th floor. I've never taken elevators in a movie theater before. It was unique! When I got to the 6th floor a man checked my receipt. I was 20 minutes early so I figured I would go sit down and wait 5 minutes for the stupid advertisements to start. Nope. Not in Korea. There was another movie just finishing. They don't need much time to clean apparently. Anyway, I waited in the lobby area for 10 minutes and then filed inside with another half dozen people. It was a very small theater by American standards, but it was comfy, cozy and had nice stadium seating. It was also clean from what I saw. There were some advertisements and one preview for about ten minutes and then the movie started....wait...only 2 minutes late! What?! Crazy on time by the standards or lack thereof that I'm used to in America. I enjoyed the movie and was the only one who ever laughed out loud. I wonder what all the Koreans thought....

After the movie I headed outside where the wind had picked up considerably and the sky had turned an even darker shade of gray. I pulled my scarf around my face tighter and headed to Emart (the Walmart of sorts here). The wallk was only 40 minutes but it was very cold and it hailed on my for a good 10 minutes of it so I was wet and shivering by the time I arrived. I wanted groceries that I can't buy in the village where I live. Things like almond milk, muesli, different canned vegetables were on my shopping list. I stuffed my backpack and one extra bag with food and headed to a cafe I'd seen across the street. I had some time to kill and wanted some hot chocolate and a sandwich. I also wanted to charge my phone. I sat in the warm cafe for an hour watched the wind terrorize the plants outside the window and wishing I didn't have to go back outside again. But my bus was leaving at 7 to go back to my home so at 6 I walked out the door and headed west for a 45 minute walk. By the time I got to the bus the sun was gone completely and the wind was whistling in my ears. I stopped at the restroom before getting on the bus and was so cold that I didn't even feel the visible goosebumps covering my bright red legs. Apparently corduroy pants are not warm enough. Even with a tank top, tshirt, long sleeve shirt, flannel shirt, sweater, winter coat, fleece scarf and fleece hat with ear flaps I was cold beyond feeling. Winter is definitely not for me. I never need to live through one again. Cruise ships please!

I was so thankful the bus I returned home in was heated. The public buses aren't and I can't get warm because I am sitting still. I fell asleep for the ride and awoke when we reached our destination. After another 30 minute walk home in the freezing rain I'm happily lounging in a slowly heating room on a cozy bed. 

It was quite the day off for sure. I'm sure I'll repeat the trip with hopefully different results. I'm always optimistic :)