It was a while ago now that I took off along the southern coast of Korea for my 6 day Buddha’s Birthday holiday, yet it is still fresh in my mind like it was only last weekend. I was in the midst of May Concert rehearsals, teaching was full steam ahead and I was just starting to get serious about studying Korean.
I was busy! I wasn’t really ready for a holiday. It seemed to come at me unexpectedly, forcing a break in productivity.
I was in one of those outwardly annoying phases one projects when they are pushing themselves too hard and forget the value of relaxation. I’d been in hospital for stomach ulcers that had caused perforations in my stomach, bad enough to need stitches, and leave a large dent in my wallet; I had sprained my ankle and I wasn’t sleeping. BUT OHHHHH NO. I WAS FINE. FIIINNNEEE LOVE. Idiot Heather.
Some part of my subconscious wasn’t quite so stupid, and listened when some Korean friends suggested I try a temple stay. I booked my self in for 3 nights at the Golgulsa Temple near Gyeongju in the South East of the country. I chose this particular temple for two reasons. First, I was keen to visit Gyeongju, one of the most historically interesting areas in the country. Secondly, Golgulsa is known for training in the art of Sunmudo, a Korean martial art; sweating my frustrations out seemed like a far more welcome idea than seated meditation.
Before I headed off to Gyeongju I had some things to take care of in my own province. I had a “western” breakfast date with a friend, Lindsay, completed with a peanut butter milkshake and a suggestion that we trip 15 minutes south to visit friends in the coastal city of Yeosu. This would be my first visit to the Korean coast. I had heard many a “you won’t be that impressed”, “you’re Australian, don’t bother”, “the water is gross and muddy in the west” – so naturally, I was keen to go. It may be the product of growing up a short walk from the relatively small, windy, basalt encrusted, seaweed stinking bay that is Altona Beach, but colour me impressed Yeosu – you’re perfect! It was small and unassuming; southward facing (so that the sun was never in my eyes); dotted with islands and cool water, perfect for paddling; surrounded by a lovely boardwalk and palm trees. It was a perfect, homely paradise.
Alas, adjective-inspiring siesta’s must come to an end, and I ventured back into Suncheon and onward to Gwangju the next day for a joint rehearsal with the Hoshin University Choir. I had hoped to skip this rehearsal, however conductor guilt got the better of me. It was lucky that it did! I received a call from a non-English speaking government worker telling me that I had incorrectly disposed of my garbage, and I needed the Head Conductor to take the call for me! I’m still not entirely sure what I did wrong, but the conductor guy got me out of a fine by saying “waegookin” multiple times so ummm… yay?
I wasn’t to make it to Gyeongju that night and expected to make an uneventful pit-stop overnight in Daegu. Ha! “Uneventful”! I was to discover that Korean motels can be… interesting. Often called “love motels”, rooms are available on a nightly basis … and an hourly one… to satisfy the ahhh… “love” drive… of young adults in Korea still living at home. One can find vending machines filled with “toys” and “protective gear” and some very interestingly themed rooms; the appeal of which I will never understand. I got Snoopy:
CLIFFHANGER!!!! Part 2 will be up tomorrow 🙂