It's kind of crazy how much of a contradiction I am to myself. While I'm viewed by many as a globe trotter, nomad or world explorer who can't sit still, I'm equal parts homebody, total hermit. Having been back in Daegu for a month I've done very little outside a few kilometer radius of my apartment. I work across the street and everything I need is within walking distance of home; shops, restaurants, parks and even the train station. I did get out a few times, visiting Gumi to volunteer at Samsungwon, but other than that winter has sent me into hibernation mode. Two weeks ago though, my co-worker Elizabeth asked for ideas of what to do in Daegu and where to go with her boyfriend, who'd be visiting from the States. I recommended Dongwhasa, one of my favorite temples in not only Daegu, but the whole of Korea. Seeing some hesitation I offered to tag along, playing tour guide for the day, making it the third time I did so, previously introducing my mom and Peter, on their visits in 2013 and 2016 respectively.
Having the ability to show up in a foreign country and contact a friend has always been a dream of mine. I remember thinking that if I studied abroad in University I could make friends from around the world and then later go meet them in their hometowns. I did study abroad, but most of the people I met during that time were fellow Americans, a majority of whom were from the Midwest, so much for those global connections I dreamt of. Thankfully though, life doesn’t end at 21 and I still had plenty of time to fulfill those dreams. Today I’ve got friends in many corners of the world all of which have come from connections made during both my time teaching in Korea and also the traveling I’ve done during and after.
In my typical "I can't sit still" fashion I decided that staying around town was out of the question. I asked my friend Sara if she wanted to go on an adventure to Daegu and try to find Donghwa temple - so that is what we did. Two bus rides and one train later and we arrived! Considering the temple is located on the side of a mountain about 22km outside of Daegu I'd say our travel was pretty smooth (I was mildly impressed with myself). Before heading up to the temple we stopped for a coffee and some snacks and were then on our way.
Last Monday was a national Holiday in Korea - officially 석가탄신일 referred to as Buddha's Birthday, thus providing me with a three day weekend. Having the extra time I knew that I wanted to take full advantage of the weekend, so Sara and I decided to explore Geoje Island, South West of Busan, but accessible by bus. The weekend snuck up faster than expected and we had failed to look into train tickets early so we wound up on the 6:55 am train from Waegwon - really not a problem as it provided us with more time on Saturday. Travel to Geoje went better than expected and we were on the island enjoying a lunch by noon.
This past weekend I took up to Seoul for the Lotus Lantern Festival. There were a number of people going, but I'm never one to rely on or wait for a group so I booked accommodation and said I'd meet them there. Once in Seoul, I ran into Beth and Katie only to find out they were staying at the same hostel as me. I then found Stephen at the subway station and we made our way to the hostel, dumped our bags and proceeded into the nightlife of Hongdae. This was my second weekend spent on the streets of Hongdae and I can say I've not been disappointed. There's a university nearby so there is plenty of bars, clubs, restaurants and street food. It was one of Stephen's friends birthdays so we started by getting burgers, beer and some unnecessary shots at one o the restaurants. After that, we made our way to a few different bars before calling it a night somewhere around 3am.
A few weeks ago I taught the expression "April showers bring May flowers". The kids understood the meaning, however it didn't translate well as rainy season here is summer, unlike the April showers we have at home. Spring arrives here just in time to cure you of your winter blues, this is the time to catch the beautiful cherry blossoms [벚꽃]. Literally, you need to catch them before their gone, the blossoms tend to bloom during the first few weeks of June (depending on location) and are usually gone within two weeks. I was in luck, my friend Son was planning to stay in Gyeongju for the weekend to explore and invited me to come along. Gyeongju was the capital of South Korea during the Shilla dynasty so there is a ton of history and lots to see.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to get time to spend with some of my family. My aunt and uncle had planned a whirlwind tour of Korea and China to show their kids (my cousins) where they were from. I was able to meet them for the weekend in Busan, one of many stops on their jam packed vacation. They weren't scheduled to get into Busan until Saturday evening but I wanted to make the most of the weekend so I got up early and caught a train to Busan. I looked into a few different ideas for the day and since the weather was pretty nice when I got there I decided to start with Yongdusan park (Dragon's head mountain) and Busan tower. It seemed pretty close to the train station so I decided to walk.
Where to start. After living in this country for three years I have memories, experiences and stories galore. I'll now always be a bit partial to the Land of the Morning Calm. Filled with delicious foods, beautiful nature and friendly people, I'm always happy to return.