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I Can’t Quit You

7 May

What started as a fun travel blog, later became a chore.  So I took a break; I felt like I was too focused on writing about my experiences instead of actually experiencing them…but after another fab conversation with Monica, and a writer’s-dilemma post from my friend Jenna, I realized it was time to get back to it.

Writers write.  So if I’m not writing, I’m not a writer.  And that made me uncomfortable.  So in the hope that motivation will win out over my penchant for self-indulgence, I’ve decided to make myself write every day.  Even if it’s just a paragraph.  Or a quote.  Or a picture with a caption. Something. Anything.

But, let’s quickly catch up.  During the last 8 months, I…

-met and fell in love with my nephew. I happily wear the crazy aunt hat.

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-got my TEFL certification, despite my best efforts to avoid scholarly pursuits outside of Jeopardy

-left Korea, amid a flurry of parties and tears.   3 months later I came back, amid a flurry of parties and tears.

-Dated someone I thought was really amazing, but we broke up because he wasn’t.

-Went to Malaysia for New Year’s Eve.  And Taiwan for a 3-day weekend. (pics of Taiwan to come- Malaysia will not be mentioned on the blog again due to aforementioned break up and my self-respect.)

-Became a kindergarten teacher.

-Got violently ill à la Bridesmaids at the Incheon Airport.

…and today I cut all my hair off, which was much needed.  I am metaphorically and literally lighter.  The last 4 months have been a challenge, and now that I’m finally coming out on the other side of it, it’s time to write again.  You’re so welcome, friends.

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Today’s quote:

“And in the spring I shed my skin
And it blows away with the changing wind”     
  –Florence and the Machine, “Rabbit Heart”

And lastly, to stop the constant self-deprecating humor, and for my own spoiled peace of mind, I’m going to write something I’m thankful for everyday – which is cheesy, but significant nonetheless.  Like a good episode of Gilmore Girls.

Today I’m thankful for how utterly humbling the last 4 months have been. (please see public food poisoning in above list) And I’m thankful they’re over.

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Fam Fam Goes to Thailand

29 Aug

alternative titles:

National Lampoon’s Thailand Vacation

Beer & Whining in Thailand

Epic Tans and Other Meltdowns

Summer vacation came not a moment too soon: I had been itching to travel, needing to catch up on sleep, and downright desperate to see my family.  And I also wanted to go to Thailand.  And lucky for me, it all came together. . . .just a day later than we planned.

Our vacation started off as they always do – with an epic airport meltdown.  This one was caused by American Airlines, who delayed a 40-minute flight to Chicago, which ended up setting our trip back an entire day.  While this hardly effected me, my family added some extra travel time to a 20-hour trip.

Luckily their spirits were boosted when they finally arrived in Seoul, and had a reunion with their favorite daughter. (me)  Seeing the family in Seoul, for the first time in 11 months, was surreal, emotional, and completely normal all at the same time.  Eric said it best when he just hugged me and said “It’s really been too long.”  Yeah, it has.  We spent the day killing time in the airport (due to the monsoon outside), which was surprisingly fun because: 1) the airport is really, really nice and has free wifi and 2) we were reunited.

Killing time at the airport, while regressing into the children we are

We arrived in Phuket at night, found a beautiful hotel, and promptly went to sleep.

Relaxing in Phuket

Bright and early the next day we took a taxi, then a 2-hour ferry to Kho Phi Phi, the island where we would be staying for the next 5 days.

And the next week consisted of:  swimming, tanning, napping, relaxing, eating, massages, fish pedicures, catching up, gossiping, drinking, complaining, laughing at each others’ expenses, Eric doing his summer homework, shopping, and even a bit of kayaking.

The second time fish have eaten my feet this year

It was a perfectly relaxing vacation.  There was no schedule, and no “have-to’s”.  And the landscape was truly stunning – words just sound silly trying to describe something that didn’t even look real.  Turquoise ocean interrupted by jutting cliffs, and untouched jungle. . . well it’s not something our little Kansas fam took lightly. (as evidenced by our pictures, most of which don’t have people in them, and our myriad Jurassic Park jokes)

Sigh

Low tide

We all took a much-needed break from real life and just relaxed together.

Nights that start with buckets. . .

. . .end in 3-hour, hilariously honest and insightful conversations between siblings (but we really missed you Ben & Mandy!)

The Dean Takes a Holiday

Practicing our water ballet while making fun of the other guests

We also relaxed back into our familiar patterns, as only families can do.  That means: my dad asks any question that pops into his head then half-heartedly listens to the answer, my mom tries to stay positive until she has enough and goes swimming solo, Eric does whatever Eric does all day and we see him at dinner, and I have zero patience for anyone, while being secretly overjoyed that my family is here to complain at.  And then 5 minutes later, we all laugh at each other and resume having fun.  It also helps that I do a spot-on impression of my mom while Eric does a perfect imitation of my dad, meaning every dinner is a comedy hour.  Or a roast, depending on sensitivity levels. 

I love this picture. Her laugh is legendary. And I inherited it.

Yes, we are those tourists

We left very relaxed and very tan.

Love.

Island-living suits us.

The next 4 days were spent in South Korea, which is another post, soon to come.

And while I was really, really bummed to leave Thailand, it’s just like I told my family: “Don’t be sad you guys.  We’ll all be back here in the future for Eric’s third wedding to a really inappropriate, much-younger woman.”

I'm sure I have no idea why my family bought me a shirt that says Little Miss Grumpy.

Mudfest!

28 Aug

Last month we finally got to take part in Mudfest – an ex-pat right of passage, and something my friends have been talking about all year.  But since it involved lots of mud and foreigners, my expectations were fairly low. . .

. . .And it turned out to be one of my favorite weekends in Korea – and one of the few moments in my life where I knew, while it was actually happening, that I was having fun simply to have fun.  This is why I travel: the rare chance to stumble into new, ridiculous adventures, that remind you just how young and unencumbered you are.  Oh, and there was mud.  And a lot of drinking.

You can read about the details of my weekend here, where I wrote about it for the Go! Girls site.

And here are some of my favorite pics:

There was nowhere for this day to go but ridiculous

Day 1

Beach scene

After watching the fireworks, I wandered off and stumbled upon heart-shaped glowstick glasses AND a motorized scooter. Winning.

Megan and me on day 2, where we played in the mud for hours

Suwon’s Hwaseong Fortress

16 Aug

. . .where I got my tourist on.

Ancient temple in the foreground - modern-day Suwon in the background.

Sometime last month when it was still raining, but hadn’t yet flooded, some lady friends and I headed to the nearby Hwaseong/Suwon Fortress.  It’s basically Korea’s “great wall” (without the communism), and with a lot of good photo ops and small buildings along the way.  It’s about 40 minutes from where I live AND it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it was about damn time I went.  Rain and all.

First and foremost, I totally underestimated the size of this thing. (that’s what she said)  I figured a few hours was more than enough time, but you could easily spend a day here just walking along the wall.  Or posing with an umbrella:

This is as Korean as I get.

The upside of the rainy season, is that everything is so lush.  Which is also the single most delicious word in the English language.

There were lots of things to climb:

. . .and lots of territory to defend:

In the future, this is how I will protect the world from zombies. Or Scientologists.

We also find a really pretty shrine to hike to.  The statue is of a very important king, whose name I have absolutely no recollection of and which I’m far too lazy to Google right now.

At the shrine, we also found a very inappropriate baby Buddha:

Thus, the Legend of the Pantless Baby was born.

All in all, a good touristy experience.

Well done gal pals.

Rehash, Rewrite, Refresh

1 Jul

As my sister-in-law says, “When you’re not writing, I know something’s wrong.”

So I decided to stop being lazy and catch you all up.  In my defense, I haven’t written this month because my mind has been elsewhere.  About 6 weeks ago, my personal life literally imploded.  I’m talking my love life, my relationship with my friends, everything.  And I feel like I’ve spent the weeks following working through all that.  And I don’t write about that stuff, or at least I try not to.  So I’ve been avoiding y’all, while slowly moving things back on track.

Without further ado, Awesome Things I’ve Done While Not Writing:

1) EVERLAND!!!!  To celebrate Teacher’s Day, which was anticlimactic to say the least, some of the ladies and I finally ventured out to Everland, which is basically Korea’s own Disneyland.  Everland is an amusement park, zoo/safari, and full-on entertainment venue, with performers, parades, singing, dancing, and of course, lots of merchandising.  It was beautiful, and SO FUN!  And unlike Disney, it didn’t cost a million dollars:  we got in for $19, and all the food was about $5.  Please for a minute imagine if Disney or anything theme park in the US was like that.  You can’t, because it will never happen.  But don’t worry, we’ll always have Everland. And I finally rode the famous T-Express roller coaster – a huge wooden monstrosity, that has the scariest vertical drop EVER.  And it.was.awesome.  Honestly worth the nearly 2 hours we waited in line for it.  Oh, and it also gave me infinite street cred with my students – most of whom are too scared to ride it.

Bad things don't happen here. That's a fact.

T-Express: Please note the pee-in-your-pants drop at the beginning

2) Buddha’s Birthday/Lantern Festival

Earlier in May, we headed out to Seoul for the annual Lantern Festival and parade.  It was really pretty, colorful, and tame – meaning we sat in chairs and no one got into a fistfight because this is Korea, not the US.  Happy Birthday Buddha, you look great!

Not Buddha

 

3) The sweet escape:  Earlier this month we had a 3-day weekend for Korean Independence Day (or something like that, my students weren’t exactly clear, or helpful).  We decided to take advantage of the time off and head down to Busan, a huge city on the southern coast.  And while the city is broken up into many different parts, we really only explored Haeundae Beach, which kept us more than entertained.  We spent our days relaxing on the beach, which was hosting all kinds of contests and activities because this was a huge weekend for travel.  And we spent our nights partying.  Please note, I saw more foreigners this weekend than I have in the last 10 months.  White People Spring Break 2011 was a great success.

The ratio of Koreans to umbrellas is approximately 1:1

4) FINALLY going out in Hongdae, the university party area in Seoul.  (Also home to Korea’s 2nd Taco Bell, but that’s another story) Hongdae is just a huge, winding maze of club and bar-filled alleyways.  It’s full of foreign teachers, military guys from the US, and more drunk Koreans than you can count.  While Koreans are the epitome of prim and proper during the day, they have no shame in their drinking game.  It is absolutely normal and acceptable to get black-out drunk, stumble around while balancing on a friend’s arm, or just straight up pass out in the street.  No one will look twice, or rob you.  My favorite of the night  was a guy driving a Vespa, with his comatose friend sleeping on him on the back.  That is love people. And that is Hongdae.

5) Getting my early morning meditation on: the ballet studio changed owners, and so we are now taking yoga class 3x/week.  While this is not “hot yoga” it is a veritable sweat lodge in there, due to my sadist teacher’s aversion to air conditioning.  Oh, and did I mention it’s now at approximately 300% humidity here?  So despite losing at least a pound in water weight every morning, I’m loving the class.  They’ve finally hired a replacement ballet teacher so next week we start ballet on Tues/Thurs., meaning I will be working out before work every day.  I will pause for my parents to express their surprise, pride, and utter delight.

6) Preparing for the apocalypse: and by that, I mean the rainy season.  As I said, the humidity is stifling, and it’s been raining for the last week.  Every day.  All complaining aside, I really do prefer this to the cold.  And since everyone has been warning me about this for months in advance, I knew what was coming.  This weekend I bought my first pair of real rain boots (in eye-assaulting teal), and my 3rd umbrella in Korea (while buying rain boots, I LOST my umbrella in the store. . .only to have to buy another one in the same store.  Both ironic and cruel) Either way, I’m now fully outfitted for this season, which is best described by Forrest Gump:

“One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night… “

This is basically how I look and feel everyday.

At least it’s given me a plausible excuse to wear my hair in a ponytail every day, and whittle my makeup routine down to eyeliner and chapstick.  What can I say, I’m a sweaty kid.

7) Reading like a mad woman.  I’ve been geeking out, and devouring books left and right lately.  Currently finishing up the 19th Wife, and just finished an engrossing non-fiction book called Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, written by an amazing journalist.  Like I said, geeking out.

8) Contemplating how the hell an entire year has gone by since I graduated.

9) Crying over pictures of my nephew (no really) and getting really excited to see my parents and younger brother in LESS THAN A MONTH!  I might literally pull a Scarlet O’Hara and faint with heatstroke emotion.

10) Freaking out that I am the next teacher to leave.  Granted, that’s not for 3 more months, but it’s still pretty weird.  There is absolutely no other word to describe it than bittersweet.

11) Bungee jumping!  Some of the teachers and I peed our pants had our first bungee jumping experience at Yuldong Park in Bundang.  It is insane how long the free fall feels (say that 3x fast).  It’s just like falling. And falling. Forever.  Then you bounce up, and do it again. And again.  And finally, we were lowered into a  row boat, with a less than enthused teenage driver, that would take us to shore.  Nothing makes you feel more like cattle than being lowered via crane, into an awaiting boat.  I also used this prepaid harness time to work on my Circ du Soleil moves, but like I said, the boat guy was less than impressed.

Peer pressure: If all your friends jump off a bridge-type building, are you going to jump too? Why yes, yes I am.

And lastly, I’ve just been trying to figure out what the hell happened the last 6 weeks.  Not that it has been terrible, or in any way unbearable, just confusing and at times sad.  And like I always try to explain, everything is magnified when you’re in another country.  As my very wise friend Betsy said, “You just feel so vulnerable here.”

So, onward and upward.

Rehash.

Rewrite.

Refresh.

Monk Livin’

24 May

*Please note that once again, all pics are stolen from Megan.  It’s recently come to my attention that my camera is old and in need of replacing, so I’m now relying on other people for documentation of my awesome life. Thanks Meg!

Last month, Ms. Megan and I teamed up once again.  This time the excursion was a temple stay – a program that allows outsiders to live like a monk for a weekend.  This was one of my must-do things before leaving Korea, and spring was a great time for it.  The weather was perfect – and most of the temples are up in the mountains, so it was really beautiful. This was also a good excuse to not wear makeup or play Carmen Sandiego all weekend.

Saturday morning we boarded another charter bus, and headed about 3 hours outside of Seoul, to Magoksa Temple, located in Cheung Chong.

Partial view of the temple grounds. Please notice the lanterns, which were strung all over the place.

As soon as we got there, we were divided up into boys and girls, and then given our monk clothes for the weekend.  The clothes consisted of khaki parachute pants, and a pink jacket type thing.  And yes, I did the MC Hammer dance immediately after putting on my parachute pants.  These outfits were insanely comfortable.  Paired with my black converse sneakers all weekend, I looked pretty fly for a monk white girl.

We were then introduced to the basic bows and chants.  While a half-bow is super easy (simply bending at the waist) a full-on monk bow is a work out.  To do this:  place your hands in front of you in a prayer pose.  Bend your knees, lowering yourself to the ground.  Place your forehead and elbows on the ground, along with your knees so that all 5 points are touching.  While keeping your elbows on the group, lift up on your hands.  Then return to kneeling, then standing pose, all without using your hands.  Repeat.  A million times.

We then took a tour of the grounds, which consist of a lot of small temple buildings, most used for praying, and some for sleeping.  The whole place was decorated in colorful lanterns, in preparation for Buddha’s birthday, which was May 10, a national holiday.

One of the temples, which housed 1,000 Buddhas.

Next, we went to the stream, where we were treated to an exercise in trust and patience.  First we had to partner up, with one partner wearing a blindfold.  We then had to hold hands and guide our partner over the stepping-stone rocks across the stream, which was actually a good distance.  We then switched and repeated this.  Thank god I trust Megan.  We got a good system going, which consisted of a lot of “little step, little step, little step, ok BIG step!”  And thanks to her, my feet stayed dry.  So did hers, for the record.  We also had a great time watching other people sticking their feet out and blindly moving it around, hoping to find a rock at the end.  Some got their feet wet, but sadly no one fell in.

I even trust Megan enough to take a good pic of me.

Then it was craft time.  No, really.  Under the supervision of monks who laughed at our sub par motor skills, we made lotus flower lanterns, and prayer bead bracelets.  While my lantern was a hot gluey mess, my bracelet is pretty sweet.  I wear it when I’m feeling all spiritual and what not.

Then it was gong-ringin’ time. After watching a highly skilled monk play a huge drum, we were allowed to go up and ring the gong, 2 by 2.  Which was pretty bitchin’.

Megan, in front of the beautiful structure that housed the drums and the gongs.

We then went to the pagoda statue/monument, where we said a prayer, and walked around the statue for about 15 minutes.  In silence.  Which was very peaceful.

We then had dinner.  All of the temple food is strictly vegetarian.  Also, the monks believe that not even a kernel of rice should be left on your plate, so you must only take what you will eat.  It is also frowned upon to talk during meal time.  Unfortunately, I misjudged the kimchi, and wound up with a lot of it on my plate.  I just couldn’t do it.  So I quickly gave my plate to the monks, apologized, bowed, and ran away.  (shrugs)

We then had tea time with our monk, a big jolly guy we got to hang out with all weekend.  Fact: I had to fight the urge to hug him all weekend.  We asked him questions, and a lot of the information was actually really interesting.  For example, most monks don’t decide to enter into the lifestyle until they are in their 30s or 40s.  And for the record, there are lady monks as well.  And monks are divided into 2 groups: those that meditate all day, and those that do administrative type tasks for the temple.

Fact: I love this man.

Divided once again into boys and girls, we retired to our separate rooms and went to sleep. At 9pm.  And once again, we slept on the floor.  Sunday, we were woken up. . . at 3 am.  Which just means it’s dark and kind of cold, and everyone is highly disoriented, but too tired to complain.

We went to the temple where we chanted and bowed with some of the monks.  Then we spent 30 minutes learning the art of mediation.  And of course the monk gave us a topic to think about, which of course everyone thought about for 5 minutes. . . before drifting off into thoughts of caffeine, internet access, and what to wear tomorrow.  Or was that just me?!  Either way, at least I didn’t fall asleep, like our program director who, impressively, snored loudly while maintaining his mediation pose.

Then we got hardcore.  It was time for the 108 bows.  Remember earlier how I described the full-on monk bow?  We did that.  108 times.  We bowed to an audio recording, which explained what each bow was for.  There were 4 sections, some asking for forgiveness for past transgressions, some discussing acceptance of our present lives, and some offering prayer and hope for our future.  And while I am highly skeptical of all religion, I thought this was extremely beautiful.  Mainly because the 108 different sayings and vows were so applicable to everyday life.  They were simple things we can all do to be better people; things like selflessness and getting rid of our own egos.  This was, surprisingly, my favorite part of the weekend.

It was also my cardio.  It took us 30 minutes, and by the end we were sweating.  So it was spiritually and physically cleansing.  And I was just proud to say I did it.

Then we had breakfast, which included a lot of ceremony.  We had to place our food in certain bowls, in certain ways.  We had to help pass out the food to each other.  We ate our small, vegetarian portions in silence (but please note, breakfast was delicious).  We then did a cleaning ceremony, in which we used a yellow radish (the bane of my culinary existence in Korea) and water to clean each bowl, before eating the radish and drinking the water in the last bowl.  Which was disgusting.  Because I hate yellow radishes.  And because the water tasted like yellow raddish, mixed with bits of leftover food from the other bowls.  So I thought of it like a shot – breathe out, drink it fast, and try not to puke at the end.

Surprisingly delicious.

We then did a few chores like sweeping and cleaning the dishes, before having free time, in which I napped.  Megan of course took a picture of me, because: “You looked like a dead child.  Or like a dead Ooompa Loompa.  Don’t worry, I took a picture.”

Zen.

Next was our hike.  Please note, all of this is happening before 11 am.  Our monk led us up into the nearby mountains, for a fairly easy, relaxing hike.  We took a lot of pauses, where he asked people to sing songs. . . so we heard everything from Nelly to kindergarten chants we use for teaching.  The monk loved it.

The hike took place in the most beautiful woods I’ve ever seen.  It was straight out of a Disney movie.  The trees were huge and twisty, and the whole place was covered in purple flowers.  It was exceptionally beautiful.  And very peaceful.

Perfection.

After the hike, we had more free time, where I slept again.  Then another meal.  Then we changed into our regular clothes, turned on our cell phones, and boarded the bus.

After exiting the charter bus in Jukejon (much closer to my home than going all the way into Seoul) I wandered into one of Korea’s largest department stores, Shinsagae. (like Nordstrom’s rich, Asian cousin)  Despite being dirty and exhausted, I made my way to the Starbucks, where I finally injected some caffeine into my veins.

I was home napping and playing Carmen Sandiego by 4pm, despite having done a full day’s worth of activities, which made the weekend feel very, very long.  But wonderful.  It was peaceful.  And rejuvenating.  And I was proud of myself.

Another thing that keeps jumping out at me from the weekend was a particular girl on the trip, whose mom had come to visit her from America.  The mom was always joking with her daughter or playing with her hair.  And I couldn’t stop staring at the mom.  And then it hit me:  I haven’t seen my own mother in 8 months, and I miss her more than I even realize.  I was so jealous of this girl, whose mother was with her – I honestly didn’t realize how much I had missed those simple maternal gestures; like how my mama always touches my hair, or complements my outfit, or gives me a hug.  Let me tell you, it is very strange to go without that for so long.  Especially when, on a day-to-day basis, I find myself doing those same things to my kids (well the ones younger than 13, who still think it’s cool to hug the teacher).

Strange.

That one time we tested fate

23 May

Ok, so this whole Rapture business got me thinking:  I’m pretty sure we all know I’m not going to be a “chosen” one, so I better blog the hell out of my last days/months/decades on earth.  It’s the only way I’m going to successfully get myself on a reality show and make my D-list mark on the world before my time is up.

So, without further ado, here’s the story I hinted at last month, the weekend that left me with PTSD.  But also a really good story, so it’s a wash.

. . . . .

In March, a few gal pals of mine and I signed up for a weekend excursion, about 6ish hours south of Seoul.  The plan was to spend Saturday hiking around an island called Jagged Ridge, and then spend Sunday at the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival.

The Facebook message about the trip said the hike would be fine for anyone who “exercises regularly.”  Having just finished my 30 day shred, I overconfidently persuaded my friends that this would be cake.

So our trip began Friday night, where we all boarded a charter bus in Seoul.  After an awkward say-your-name-in-a-microphone-to-break-the-ice-game, we all settled in to try and sleep.  Which is impossible on a Korean charter bus.  So we mainly all just shifted around a lot until sunrise.

A few minutes after 6 am we got off the bus at Yi Soon Shin Admiral Park in Tong Young to watch the sunrise.  While this was really pretty, it’s going to take a lot more than the sun to get me all jazzed at 6am after spending the night on a charter bus.

Please note: all pics stolen from Megan's blog, which she stole from Andrea's camera. Just try and sue me bitches.

Our bus then made its windy way to the ferry station, where we then traveled the 40 minutes to Sa Ryang Do Island, where we would hike.  We were given maps, and told there were 4 peaks, and if all goes well, we should be finished in about 4ish hours.

Lies.

The hike started pretty well.  Mainly because we were hiking around a beautiful island, so every rocky peak had amazing 360-views of the ocean.  We also met some cool people.  And we also met some people who were fun to laugh at.  But that’s another story.

About an hour or so into the hike, we were feeling fab – it was challenging, but certainly not impossible, the weather was perfect, we still had plenty of water, etc.

Much like Jurassic Park, we had no idea the horrors that awaited us on this island.

2 hours later, we start to get weary.  Mainly because Jagged Ridge is ridiculously unsafe.  Korean hiking is much like a Japanese game show: dangerous, fast, and best left to the Asians.

There are no rails, and few signs.  Everything is steep and rocky. If you fall, you die.  And why you’re contemplating that, 60-year-old Koreans in neon hiking gear are passing you left and right, usually while muttering about your slowness under their breath.  Note:  They also like to stop mid-hike for lunch and alcohol.  Seriously.

One of my fave pics of all time. Please note my 1 arm muscle - COUNT IT!

Time marched on, and so did we.  Slowly.  Complaining.  Mocking the lying Facebook message that got us into this perilous mess in the first place.  We got sunburned.  We were also cold.  We walked down vertical metal stairs.  We walked on the edge of cliffs.  And two times, we seriously had to use a rope to climb up the side of the mountain.

Why would that be a good idea?

I realize this sounds fun, which it is – in theory.  In reality, it’s really f-ing scary.  This is the one time during the hike I just straight up panicked.  Like halfway up, while death-gripping the rope, I looked down and thought “if i lose this rope, I’m going to fall. And die.”  And then I full on couldn’t breathe.  And may have cried a bit.  But thank god for my lady friends who got all motivational-speaker on my ass, and helped me through.  I still don’t know if it’s scarier to use the rope going up the mountain or going down.

Andrea going down the ropes. This was like Survivor with no money at the end.

Of course, the rope was easy for the Koreans.  As Megan so aptly described it: “Jesus, they all look like Spiderman.”

6 hours later, we made our way down.  Only to find that we were among the first 20 or so people finished with the 4-hour-hike.  Hello, validation.  By then my whole body was shaking, and my ankle was throbbing something terrible. . . so we ate ice cream and waited for the bus.  And had a bitchin’ nap on the floor of the ferry.

We then made our way to the pension – a Korean-style hostel, where you sleep on the heated floors, which is much more comfortable than it sounds.  After showering and thanking god for not killing us on the mountain, the whole group had a Korean style BBQ, which was of course delicious.  From what I remember.  I decided the best way to celebrate our triumphant hike was to drink copious amounts of soju.  Hence why I went to bed at 9pm.

But of course, not even bedtime was uneventful.  We found out that sometimes Betsy sleep-screams, where she subconsciously yells at people with her eyes open.  Which is scary.  We also awoke to the sound of 2 men yelling at each other in Arabic, around 4am.  Still thick with soju, I awoke and legitimately thought I was in a dream for about 5 minutes.  Until I saw Megan army crawl her way over to me to discuss our room’s “situation.”

As we learned the next day, the 2 men, who were far too old and unattractive to be pulling these stunts, were completely drunk from the bottle of rum they consumed the night before.  And because they are cavemen, this turned into a half-conscious middle of the night screaming match.  Just for added context: These two life rejects also peed in bottles on the charter bus on our way home.

Sunday was rainy, and we were oh-so sore.  We made a quick trip to see a Turtle Ship – a type of famous ancient ship created to fight the Japanese.  They are called Turtle ships because the round outside of the ship is covered in metal, like a shell.  Get it?!

Turtle Ship > Japanese

We then drove 2 hours to Jinhae, to see the sub par cherry blossoms.  At least we weren’t hiking.  The festival was similar to any street festival in the US: it’s packed with stalls for food and shopping.  That’s about it.  So for a few hours we wandered around, eating awesomely bad street food, and taking pics.  Fact:  I ate a corn dog WITH FRENCH FRIES ON IT.  Koreans are so far ahead of Americans, it’s not even funny.

Lots of tents + pretty cherry blossom trees = festival.

We then spent another 7 hours on the bus, cranky and uncomfortable, before finally arriving home.   Where I collapsed into fetal position. For the next 12 hours.

Much like Pearl Harbor y’all, we will never forget what happened that weekend on Jagged Ridge.