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 :)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Yakcheonsa Temple, Jungmun Daepo Columnal Jointed Lava, Jungmun Beach and Chocolate Land

It's amazing really, how the one day I have off is the longest and most tiring day all week. I get up earlier, stay up later, walk more, eat less, and enjoy myself immensely!

This was my most recent adventure:

I took the 700 bus 2 hours to Seogwipo (서귀포), all the way to the very end of the line. Then I changed buses to the 600 bus and continued on for about 15 minutes to what some call the most beautiful building in Jeju, the Temple of Yakcheonsa (약천사). It truly is spectacular. The intricate details and art everywhere is breathtaking.

Beautiful and colorful gong hanging in one of the two towers.

Taken from the corner looking toward the main hall with one of the two towers in front.

Art work was everywhere; except the hand rails.

Miniature Buddhas, filigree, color and ornate decor everywhere you look.

The massive Buddha and two "small" Buddha's take up the back wall.

It is the first public building I believe I've ever entered where I wasn't allowed shoes. That's right, all shoes must come off before entering the temple. Unfortunately the floor isn't warm and it was cold outside so I was very glad to be wearing socks!

There are three floors in the temple and you can also pray to Buddha in the sanctuary. If the main hall is too public there are several other Buddha shrines with kneeling mats that are less touristy and hidden from public view better.

Behind this statue is a hidden sanctuary seen in the picture below.

Named the Hall Of Three Stages. I have no idea why because this picture captures the entire room.

Visiting the temple is free and definitely worth the time if you enjoy the beautiful architecture and ornate artwork.


After visiting Yakcheonsa, I continued on foot to the Jungmun Daepo Columnar Jointed Lava. It was only about a half hour away and although the day was windy, it was sunny and I enjoyed the fresh air.

It costs 2,000 Won to see the columnar lava. There is a path that leads to multiple lookouts for good photos. Being so far away though takes away from the beauty of the columns. I was hoping for a closer vantage point, but was disappointed at the distance the boundaries keep you. It was still a nice place to visit and not expensive.

I walked along the promenade for a little while after leaving the main viewing area. They have lots of promenades in Seogwipo and there are many benches and mini parks or exercise equipment and sometimes gazebos along the way. I just enjoyed the walk as I continued on to what was supposed to be my next destination. As I was walking however, I happened across someone studying a map, and although I was also visiting I'm helpful so I asked if I could be of assistance. Turns out it was a visiting Chinaman. After discussing the map for a while we both decided to see the Jungmun beach that we were practically at and then find a suitable place for dinner. He spoke adequate English and I always enjoy meeting new friends :) So by the end of the night I'd introduced him to his first Korean shopping mart, his first Korean pork bulgogi, and his first Korean soju! I'd say I was successful!!!

Drawing in the sand :)

Jungmun Beach near sunset.

On the way to dinner we happened by a Chocolate Museum. Of course I took a detour and paid the 3,000 Won entry fee (way overpriced) and wandered around the 3 floor museum. It's very small actually, but pleasant. Lots to buy, enough to look at, and even a place to make your own chocolate but it wasn't happening when I was there. They did have a tasty hot chocolate though :)

Chocolate Chess set. If I take your piece I will devour it!!! mwah ha ha 
Getting a cuddly smooch ;-p

Chocolate history and displays

My favorite dolharubangs ever!!!

They had walls of chocolate memorabilia from the different continents.

Doesn't say it, but I'm going with an ode to Willy Wonka!

All in all it was a fun day filled with lots of sight seeing and exercise and new adventures. Now it's back to work again. Don't know when my next opportunity to play tourist will be since my day off each week doesn't necessarily always happen. But up soon will be a circus show, a movie at a Korean theater and I still have to tour the west side of the island. Good thing I still have three months left to fit it all in between show days!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Left and write

No, I didn't misspell the title. I wrote it that way on purpose....just keep reading and you'll understand why.

Long ago, I attended a private high school. Their punishment for misdemeanors was called a 'strike'. If a student amassed three 'strikes' then the result was a more severe punishment called detention. 

Now, I had my faults like all teenagers, and one fault happened to be a need to constantly challenge procedure (which can work for good if directed in the right way). But in high school it rarely results in anything good; as was my case. Consequently I became quite familiar with the detention regime. In detention the protocol was to write a previously composed work by another student in an English class as many times as was necessary to fill an hours worth of time. By the end of that hour you could leave if you had finished hand writing the paper or you had to stay and finish it if you had not. 

Being the resourceful teenager I was, I decided to put my detention time to good use. I taught myself to write left handed. I'd write the paper hurriedly right handed and spend the rest of the hour scrawling the letters and words out left handed. I wasn't breaking any rules, although I was challenging procedure in my own way.

A personality trait that I still have and had already developed at that time was the ability and desire to turn an undesirable situation into something educational, fun, interesting, or just different if nothing else. This is what I did with detention. Twice a week almost every week I practiced writing left handed for a good half hour or more. I actually started to get good at it. I became interested in seeing what other things I could do left handed. So I would try things out at home left handed and to this day there are some things I do left handed instead of right handed and there are a number of other things I do either way depending on what hand is free.

Why did I write this random story from my teenage years? 

A couple of years ago I got tendinitis in my right shoulder. I had to leave cruise work and go through physical therapy. The treating doctor said I had a couple of cysts in my shoulder that they could remove then or they could wait indefinitely. But if I had them removed at that time then the recovery period to return to cruise ships would be significantly longer so I opted for the quicker therapy and return to work.

It's been a couple years, as I said, since that happened and I've felt nothing since. 

Until now...

Working here in Korea has been sometimes a solid month of performing everyday. Which to anyone that knows my cruise schedule, that doesn't really amount to much. I realized this and wondered what could be causing the pain to arise at this time as opposed to another. And it dawned on me, that before I had the pain the first time I'd been doing a lot of handwriting of piece history and composer trivia into my score so that I could introduce the pieces to the audience with background information. Here in Korea I'm studying Korean every day. I spend hours each day copying lesson notes and practicing writing words over and over to help me not only remember the definitions but how to spell the words and recognize them in print. Usually I spend at least 2 if not 3 or 4 hours each day writing away. 

Apparently I hold a lot of tension in my right shoulder; when I write, when I play, and I've noticed recently, even when I sleep. I'm changing sleeping positions to try to force my shoulder to relax more and I continue trying to focus on relaxing my shoulder while I perform and practice. But everyday while I am writing, even when I try to relax my shoulder, it is still tight and by the end of the day it hurts to play my violin.  :(

So I've made the decision I feel I must make. It is time to become predominantly left handed. Of course I will still use my right hand for many things because I'm all about efficiency, but I will force myself to do all my studies left handed. It goes against my OCD nature of having my notes very orderly and neat since my left handed writing isn't up to par right now, but I think it is worth it to save my shoulder from further pain and suffering. And all my non OCD friends with find themselves grinning at the thought of me forcing myself to do something that goes against my OCD nature....arg....

By making this rather radical change to my daily life I hope to reverse the swelling that is obviously occurring in my shoulder and also to better my life by improving it in more ways than one.

Here's to the future and 'lefties' everywhere!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sangumburi Crater & Saryeoni Forest/ 산굼부리 & 사려니 숲길

My last post was Halloween and I have had a day off since but it was a rather drizzly day and I wasn't feeling energetic so I cleaned the house and lounged around for the day, resting up for another week on the stage.

This week however, I was ready to play tourist again. After a late start I caught the bus to Sangumburi Crater. This is a popular tourist destination that I'd been recommended by a lady I met at the Geomun Oreum. She told me to make sure and go in the fall to see the grasses. So that's what I did. It only costs 6,000 Won to enter. There are several small souvenir and cafe shops of course and it is easily accessible via bus or taxi because it is centrally located on the island.

The crater itself is amazing and beautiful and I think if I'd come a few weeks earlier it would have been even more colorful, but was gorgeous none the less.


On the other side of the crater is the field of grasses. There is a trail all the way around and also one straight through. I was so fortunate to visit on a day when the sun was shining and the clouds were fluffy and white.


Even the great Mt. Halla was visible in the distance!


It was a lovely way to spend my afternoon (despite the chilly temperatures) as is evident in my smile!



I was quite chilly after walking around Sangumburi so I stopped at one of the coffee stands on the way out and purchased a cup of hot chocolate. Then I sat and waited on the the bus for 15 minutes and chatted with some American tourists that happened by. You never do know who you will meet on this island I have discovered...


My next stop was Saryeoni Forest. I'd read about it in guide books and wanted to check it out for myself. Not much of a "hike" to those that know my more usual ventures, but a nice getaway. It's only a 10 minute bus ride from Sangumburi so I was there by late afternoon and started my trek.

There were quite a number of walkers when I started and absolutely none when I finished. Had I known better, I would have arrived much earlier and walked the whole thing round trip because getting a bus at the other entrance back home was not possible. Needless to say, after dark and in freezing cold temperatures, I ended up walking along the highway (not on a sidewalk) for approximately 4.5 kilometers before reaching the highway that goes back to my town. By now it was really really cold and I was shivering despite wearing corduroy pants, a tank top, long sleeve shirt, flannel shirt, and the heaviest winter coat I own plus knit gloves and a fleece cap complete with ear flaps. I waited at that bus stop for 50 minutes, walking back and forth to try and stay warm. By the time the bus came I could feel every inch of skin on my body and any movement I made sent tingles and sharp cutting sensations through me. I could no longer feel my nose and my toes and fingers (shoved deep into my coat pockets and curled into a ball) ached to the bone.

When the bus finally came around the corner I was so happy, but when I asked the bus driver if he was going to my town he replied that he was not. I didn't care. I got on anyway. The bus took me 10 minutes in the direction I wanted to go and then dropped me off so I could wait on another bus for half an hour. By this time I was so cold that I was shaking and couldn't stop. No amount of walking and rubbing was helping. I just needed heat and somehow my body is missing the "heat yourself" gene. I've known this for a while, but having avoided cold winters for the last several years, had forgotten to what extent I can't produce heat. The second bus arrived and I stumbled on and rode the last 20 minutes home. Unfortunately, no bus really goes near my home. It's a 20-25 minute walk to my house from the town area so after I got off the second bus I buried my head, squeezed my arms to my sides and headed home, teeth chattering the whole way.

When I walked in the door it was one of those times you can't decide what to do first because you're so happy to be home. I turned the heater on high first thing and it stayed on high for hours. I stayed fully dressed in my coat for another hour and didn't warm up until after I had been under the covers in bed with the heater running on high and a warm cup of tea in me for over an hour.

Needless to say, I learned my lesson. I shall never again play tourist after dark in South Korea. It is far too cold and makes me wish I'd never left home.

But before my escapade in the cold I did enjoy a nice walk through the forest. It was a beautiful time of year to see the trees. Here are some picture highlights from Saryeoni Forest, which is free by the way!

The moon at night.
The bridge.
Yellow and red take sides.
A red vine creeps along.
Color on the trail
Trees in bright hues
Forest therapy

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween in Korea

The title is kind of an anomaly since Koreans don't celebrate Halloween, but it's a great excuse to party and dress up so that's what we did. Seriously, when I said Halloween is coming and I need to get my costume, I was responded to with looks of confusion, questions about dates, and general confoundedness. Since I've been working internationally for the last four years and there have always been crazy Halloween parties and decorations everywhere and candy galore, it didn't occur to me that there are parts of the world where this holiday doesn't exist....literally. This is why it's good to travel the world. You learn things about people you'd never know otherwise, but best of all though, you learn about yourself. (There's a whole blog entry to write about that sometime).

Back to my Halloween in Korea story; me, one of our Korean bosses that was in town, and the European swimmers carved a pumpkin, made decorations (because you certainly can't buy them here), created themed food trays and threw a party!

In America we would go for a hay ride or maybe go to a haunted house or even just go to the mall and see all the crazy costumes competing for best prize.

And of course, what's Halloween without Trick-or-Treating! Whether you go with kids or go with adults or hand out the candy at your house, trick-or-treating is a staple of Halloween. This was the first year since I can remember that there was no candy (I can hear your whaling and screaming from's ok....everything will be all right)!  @.@  BUT, lucky for me, I'm not a huge fan of the traditional Halloween candy, just the normal candy bars and we all know how good those are for your health and your waistline SO, I'm ok~~~~but only for one Halloween. The next one had better well have some Snickers Bars~!!~!!~!!

Here, I was the only one that went in "full" costume. Our boss had vampire teeth and drank some ketchup but otherwise, it was just pajamas. It's ok though. We had a good time! We played musical chairs (I came in second place) and limbo (I won first prize!) and just ate and drank and laughed.

Can't say it's the most memorable or the most fun or the craziest, or scariest or any adjective I'd associate with Halloween, but it was a good time and to share some of the good times from my Halloween in Korea,,,,I've included ..... PICTURES AND A VIDEO!

I even had real parrot feathers to make my costume! You can definitely see the Indian blood in my face structure...
Scary pumpkin face!!!

Banana ghosts and orange pumpkins :-O 

handmade spider web orbs
Traingle bread and chocolate ghosts. 

Worst costume I've ever donned, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do when there's nothing else a girl can do~~~