Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Heavy winds, 90 percent chance of pain

Above, a sore grandfather and a "stone grandfather".

[I've put lots of photos here:


You don't need a Facebook account to see the pictures. G'ahead. Cut and paste the addy, g'wan over, take a peek, and c'mon back.] 

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Our school field trip to Jeju Island, 50 miles off the southwest point of the peninsula, was certainly memorable.

It would take more pixels than I can afford to go into detail about everything we did, so I'll just make a list.

On Wednesday, we flew there, had lunch, visited a teddy bear museum,
clambered about on volcanic cliffs, walked on a lavalar (lavanic? lavalliere? I need a lava that won't drive me crazy) beach under otherworldly rock formations,

had dinner, walked a mile to a beach where we attempted to frolic in 35-degree wind chill and horizontal spatters of rain, gave up, walked back, conducted violent sporty activities in a gym, drank beer (teachers only... I think) and went to bed (well... floor).

By Thursday dawn I was in more bodily pain than I'd ever been in my life, including after mild-to-medium car accidents. Sitting cramped in the plane and the bus, hiking and hiking on an arthritic knee, wrenching my shoulder, back, and foot and taking skin off my knee by taking a nasty tumble on a wet rock by the hotel parking lot, sleeping on a mat on the floor... I was afraid that I wouldn't die in the night.

I loosened up over the course of the day, long enough to climb this:
for these views:

On Thursday, we walked in a cedar forest with trees coated in overnight snow, visited a folk village where everybody but I chuckled at one of the island's famous black pigs in a tiny stonewalled pen and then ate the pig's older brother, walked along another rocky beach, climbed a 600-foot-high long-dormant volcano (above), visited the female diver (for abalone and seaweed) museum, stopped at a botanical garden that had long lava tubes (tunnels made by rushing molten rock), navigated a huge botanical maze (I thought I could do it quickly, but had to hedge my bets), had dinner, did three hours of noraebang (karaoke) for which modesty forbids me from naming the star, but he put the "Y" in YMCA... you haven't heard a rendition until it's been rent by me. Then beer and floor.

On Friday, we had breakfast at the hotel (I couldn't face one more helping of gloppy white rice and fixin's, identical to our other breakfasts and dinners, for breakfast, so I had cookies and liquid yogurt), walked about the stone statue park, and flew home.

We were all exhausted, though all the students had an uncanny ability to sleep all the way through our multitudinous bus rides. As for me, to quote the Fourth Doctor (Who?):

"Oh, my arms! Oh, my legs! Oh, my everything!"

The trip was such a cascade of stuff that it's taken me a week and a half since our return to finalize my impressions, and frankly even now I'm leaving 90 percent of it out. But here are a few final impressions.

The guide on our bus told us that Jeju is famous for three things: wind (oh, so much wind), rocks (on beaches and piled in hundreds of walls), and women. (When it comes to what Jeju's known for, contrary to the vocal stylings of Mr. Marvin Lee Aday, two out of three ain't that hot.)

The place is really, really relaxed about toilet stuff... you don't want to know what the famous black pigs eat or what they're known for biting off if you're not careful in the outhouse. And the stone statue park had seats shaped like butts for that oh-so-special gag picture... and a statue of a guy on a toilet, under which people had thoughtfully piled a bunch of little stones.

The island is overrun with seas of yellow canola (rapeseed) flowers. Everybody on the island who isn't catching stuff out of the ocean is selling citrus fruit. (Y'know, I never had a kumquat before... they're so good!) Although there does seem to be a thriving job market in driving buses and narrating for the Griswolds.

And, oh, have I've missed the ocean.

The weather improved from simply miserable to just unseasonably chilly during our stay (Korea's Hawaii? Ha!), we were all far past exhaustion (when, after all, just sitting in school with 80 kids is enervating enough), it was so good to get back, and it took me three more days before my foot, knee, and back were pain-free enough to go for a jog.

But it was pretty cool.

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