Monday, September 23, 2013

"No matter where or why you travel, there is always something wonderfully new to be found"

I had the privilege to partake in a 4-day/3 night trip with an academy that provides this opportunity to both foreign teachers and high/university Korean students. There was a total of 36 teachers selected from towns and cities all over my province.

Day 1: We began our journey at the crack of dawn Saturday morning and took the bus for about 6 hours to the city of Samcheok in the north east of the country. First, we stopped for lunch and had the always delicious, bibimbap. We began our trip with an opening ceremony, where we were divided into our groups/roommates, were informed about the academy, the programs, and were presented information about our schedules, duties, etc. Following that, we took a tour around the museum, and were told about history ad interesting stories about this area. There were maps, photographs, and other exhibits displaying information about the surrounding city and its role in history.  Departing the museum, we stopped at a pavilion that served as the meeting place for the sending off parties of the great generals, such as Isabu. A brief summary about this guy "he was a 4th generation descendant of King Naemul of Shilla. He captured the Usanguk (Ulleungdo and Dokdo). At the time it was just an independent tribal nation by the seas. Because of its peoples' aggressiveness and fierceness, they were not easy to defeat. Therefore, Isabu came up with a wise tactic. He made wooden lions, arranged them on his vessels, and proceeded to Usanguk. Then, he said, "If you don't surrender, I'll release these hungry lions and have them eat you." As a result, the people of Usanguk surrendered obediently and promised to pay taxes to Shilla every year."
We went to one more historical location, right on the sea, with a significiant statue and story, then went to dinner. Galbitang, a beef soup I've only had a few times, provided a delectable end to the day. We arrived to our hotel, where we all camped out on the floor Korean style, and had a delightful evening of story-telling with the new roomies

Day 2: Started bright and early and
had the chance to gaze out at the sunrise coming up over the East Sea right next to our hotel.  We bussed straight to the ferry that would take us to Ulleungdo Island. It was a 3 1/2 hour ride and I passed the time by getting lost in a book. There were no places to hang out outside of the boat sadly, so we all basically just spread out around the boat napping, reading, etc. As we approached the island we eagerly observed the beauty awaiting us, with its turquoise waters, and pirate cove port.

Once we disembarked, it was lunch time! We had a Korean buffet style meal, and a bit of free time after to mosey around the port area and stock up on some snacks. We dropped our luggage off at our pension, and began our journey around the island.

As we cruised along the coastal road we made our first stop at a special "turtle rock". Literally every rock, mountain, or tree had some kind of shape or animal. It was entertaining to hear all the tales and legends.
We went to a place with a lookout to climb and after I sipped on some of the most amazing pumpkin juice ever! We had some time to sit out on the beach and soak up the sun and take in the dazzling blue sea.

This island is known for pumpkins so we stopped by a small goody shop where we sampled some pumpkin bread and candy. That evening we went to a museum about Dokdo filled with old maps, documents, debates and stories about this somewhat controversial territory. We then went to a delicious dinner of a spicy pork dish and headed back to our pension.
view from the pension! :)

Day 3: This morning we left for Dokdo. After an hour and 40 min ride we docked at the islet. We took some group photos, of course, and had a bit of time to capture the panorama of rocks and sea.

We returned to Ulleungdo and walked around a lion park/gallery covered with wooden statues and carvings relating back to the tale of the wooden lions. There were also various glass sculptures, and other types of art. We left for dinner of Samgyetang, a soup with a chicken stuffed with rice, in a broth of ginseng, ginger, garlic, and dried fruit seeds.  It's traditionally served in the summer because of its nutrients used to replace those lost during the hot days. After dinner we returned to the hotel where we had stayed in the first night.

Day 4: Following breakfast of another savory soup, we went to see the largest patrol boat of the Korean Coast Guard. We watched a brief video about the Coast Guard and were first shown the bridge, which was fascinating with all the screens, controls, buttons, gauges, and dials. It was thrilling to be where all the action happens! We were escorted around the other parts of the boat learning about the various duties and functions of different things. Following the tour, we walked over to a building nearby to give our final presentation with our groups regarding the trip; what we learned etc. Then we piled onto the bus and cruised back to Jeonju. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to participate in this trip. I learned an immense amount of history and information, got to interact with other teachers from my province, and visited these captivating islands. 

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