Sunday, November 9, 2008

Couchsurfing and mainlanders

I was blessed recently with a week filled with visitors from the mainland. Some of you may not like sharing your space, even your bed with other people, let alone perfect strangers. But i find it a great way to learn about other people and yourself. Now i am not talking about sleeping around here for all of you who have their minds in the gutters. My visitors of late were amusingly both Canadian one being from Calgary, even.

Lisa, from Calgary, is living on the mainland volunteering at a alternative school. Now if they paid for this position i would be leaving jeju immediately. This is the coolest school i have ever heard of. The kids run themselves, they get to decide what they want to do and what they want to learn. It is all based on Buddhist principles, there is even a temple at the school and they spend thursdays with the head monk. I am definitely jealous. My second visitor was Karen, from Toronto, who i had met at the EPIK orientation in Seoul. We are planning a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos together.

So what is it that i did with these ladies you ask? Well where to begin, Lisa seems a good place as she came first. We awoke late to the rain pouring down and realized the scooter we had rented her would not be used. After some breakfast of coffee and sandwiches, we decided to do the most lgical rain day thing, go to museums. So we hoped on a bus to jungmun and wandered into the Sound island museum. This museum would be better referred to as a music museum, but as James poited out this morning that is a very broad category. The museum consited of three main sections. The first being mainly about Edison and his musically related inventions like the gramophone, but it also hada section on pianos. The second part was about by far the best, it consisted of a hallway and a large room filled with instruments just waitin to be played. They was most definitely well used as you could tell by the sagging skins on the drums and the chipped paint. The last part was a series of large scale diarammas, beginning with music from around the world and leading into a bizarre wonderland of little statues on turning platforms surrounded by shimmering fabric and artificial vegetation.

After the sound island museum we grabbed a cab to the African museum to vsit my Sengalese friends who perform tradtional music there. We made it just in time to catch their second perfrmance of the day which was entracing as always. After we went and explored the museum which is a very iteresting collection. I did not realize but it is actually an Art museum specifically. The first floor was filed with incredible photography taken around Africa. The second floor had various artifacts from masks and head pieces to chairs and sculptures. I think my favourites were the incredibly voluptous female scultures, so strong and yet so soft. The final floor is entirely devoted to the museum store where they sell statues, masks, furniture, jewellery and even some stuffed scotty dogs and mexican dishes (interesting blend i know). By this time we had to head to Jeju-si so i could pick up Karen from the airport and Lisa could continue her adventure with Anj in the big city.

We woke the next morning to more rain and had to adjust our plans slightly. But luckily even though it was raining it was still warm out. So we put on some suitable rain gear and hoped on the bus, venturing out to the eastern part of the island. Our first stop was go-kartingm, a rather interesting request on Karen's behalf but boy was it fun. They dressed us in bright yellow rain suits and cute pastel helmets with stars on them. We sped around the track getting splashed everytime we went flying over a puddle ad as we raced i kept on thinking the track was getting wetter and could not quite understand how our driving around was doing this? Were we spreading the water out? When we finally were flagged down to stop i realized it had actually begun to rain again but i could not tell the difference between being splashed from below or from above. After we dried off, we hoped on the bus again and continued east to the Hanyeo museum. This was another museum filled with little diarammas this time depicting the life of a Hanyeo (woman diver). These women are amazing and you can see why the women on this island are so strong and respected. The Hanyeo dress in dive suits (in the past only thick cotton shorts and tops) and they dive into the ocean to with only a net and spear to collect seaweed and abalone (clam like shellfish that contains pearls). Some women can go down 20 metres and hold their breath for over 2 mins. Alas not many women want to do this today and Hanyeo now are very old. By this time we were getting hungry and a little sick of the rain, so we hoped on yet another bus and continued on to Manjangul caves. I knew they were a way from the highway, but i was not sure how far. So for safe sake we went to the nearest townand stopped at a gas station and wasked them to call a cab. But as we waited for our cab a middle aged man (the owner i believe) offered us a ride "servicus su" (on the house). It was the sweetest thing. Strangely we both had to sit in the back as if we were small children, but we did not mind. Sometimes Koreans can be the sweetest people ever.

We reached the caves just as the rain was starting again. Perfect timing to go underground and explore. As we were buying tickets i think i saw the greatest sign i have seen yet in korea. It was a picture of a huge high heel show with a slash through it. Now you would think it would seem obvious to not wear high heels while walking through lava tubes, but alas Korean women love their fashion and i was quite suprised to see so many women wearing heels down there. The caves themselves were spectacular, they are some of the largest in the world and the way lava solidifies it seems as if it was still liquid. You can see every little detail in it. The caves were very cold and damp with random droplets of water falling from the roof. It was a truly magical place. After the caves we were finally dry again but it was cold and dark, so we hoped on the bus. Which we cut literally as it was about to drive by the turn off for the caves. The journey home was close to 2 hrs and when we finally arrived we were so pleased to be back. We didn't even make it out that night. We just watched a movie and took it easy.

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