Staff "Harmony" Trip
After a long, sleepless weekend in Jindo, we all woke up early Monday morning and left CEV with our bosses at 9:00 AM to begin our staff workshop - aka our "Harmony Trip" - in Geoje Island. After a long, sleepless weekend in Jindo, we all woke up early Monday morning and left CEV with our bosses at 9:00 AM to begin our staff workshop - aka our "Harmony Trip" - in Geoje Island. Boys went in the rental car with Mr. Lee and So Hee while the girls (plus Liam...lucky guy) went in the van with Richard and Suzi. We shortly arrived at a rest stop for brunch and an awesome view of the ocean and some islands. We ate, took a few pictures, and continued on our way.
Our first activity was a boat ride that took us about 30 minutes over to Oedo Botanical Gardens. It was a gorgeous location with its landscaping on point! The flowers were beautiful and at the risk of sounding cheesy, it felt a bit majestic with the ocean, islands and mountains in the distance. There were also quite a few interesting statues throughout the gardens. We walked around for about an hour, took lots of beautiful and/or funny pictures, and met back at the bottom to get back on the boat.
After our boat ride back, we made our next stop at the Historic Park of Geoje, POW Camp, where we walked through the site, reading about the Prisoners of War, and checking out the...theatrical dioramas. It was an interesting experience as it seemed that many of the exhibits were more propaganda than anything else. Luke and I also would have appreciated it more if it was more about the history of the Korean War instead of only focusing on the Prisoners of War. We eventually wrapped up and went to check in to our hotel. At this point, I decided to take a quick cat nap as we had been very busy the past few days with very little or inconsistent sleep.
We left an hour later for dinner which was a delicious Korean Barbeque and LOTS of beer. Everything was paid for and in Korea, it is rude to not finish the drinks that were given to you. So we had some work to do. After dinner, Richard told us about a "special event" in the business room of our hotel we were staying at. None of us were sure what exactly was going to happen, but there was conversation of some Noraebong previously (Korean karaoke in a private room). We walk in, and there was an extremely fancy setup with a huge round booth that could fit up to ~20 people, glasses all around the table and SOOOO many beers! Richard had rented out the room for two hours for Noraebong! We immediately started pouring drinks and taking turns singing. This was probably my favorite part of the trip and we definitely showed our bosses how much "harmony" there is between all of us teachers.
Tuesday morning we woke up and Richard and Suzi took us to Homeplus for some breakfast and to buy some groceries for the week. At first we were a bit disappointed about our breakfast selection since there were western restaurants in the vicinity just teasing us, but L&I ended up splitting a Korean "breakfast sampler". Fried pork cutlet, some spaghetti-like concoction, soup, cabbage salad and an omelette filled with rice. It honestly wasn't bad, but we were really hoping for some breakfast sandwiches haha.
Our last activity before heading home was a gondola ride to the top of Mireuksan Mountain. This was so gorgeous and was Luke's favorite part of the trip. You could see so many islands nearby it was amazing! We had a bit of time to explore and hike around at the top before trekking back down to meet up with the group. A few hours later we finally made it home and were ready to relax.
Luke and Sam chilling on a peak.
At around 8 or 9 PM, Luke and I were about to start a movie when all of a sudden Liam and Selestia knocked on our door. When I answered it, they were in such a hurry and said "THERE'S A PARADE OUTSIDE FOR BUDDHA'S BIRTHDAY! EVERYONE'S GOING!" So without any questions we threw on our shoes and jackets and in our PJ's, we headed out the door. In our tiny town consisting of mainly onion fields, nothing really happens here so this was a big deal. We were all outside watching hundreds of people in a single file line with handmade lanterns walking in silence. Although only about 20% of the South Korean population is Buddhist, many people still celebrate Buddha's Birthday in many ways, such as joining in parades, making lotus lanterns, and of course visiting temples. We followed the parade about 1 or 2 miles in the dark to a temple. Already feeling out of place (10 foreigners at the end of a Buddhist parade line in our PJs), we weren't sure if we were even going to be allowed near the temple but we were instead told to form two straight lines, and were each gifted with rice cakes and an orange juice box! This was one of the coolest things we've seen and a few of us were on such a high, it didn't even matter how little sleep we had. We talked to a few people who explained the traditions and how each of the hundreds of lanterns were handmade and this was a time many people came to pray for a good and happy life. After some pictures, we made our way back home and fell right to sleep.
Wednesday, we were off of work because of Buddha's Birthday so a group of us went on an 11 mile hike on Hwangsan Mountain here in town. Our first stop up the hill was at a temple with tons of people! Food and drinks were being handed out to anyone, and many colorful decorations were hung up throughout the whole temple. We usually see lots of colorful flags at temples we pass, but this was a bit more special since it was a public holiday. We continued on our way, stopping every so often to catch our breath. The sights throughout and at the end of the hike were incredible and slightly different than other hikes we've been on based on the different view points we got to see. Regardless, the views are always worth it in the end. It's what we love about hiking! Seeing as this was an all day event, we stopped for some water near the end of the hike at a cute little place where we met Choy, the owner. It wasn't exactly a restaurant but he did serve us some food and water and talked to us for a bit before we headed down for some Shabu Shabu for dinner.
Thursday we went into work to write our reports on our staff trip, and then we all began planning our weekend trips since we had Friday off in honor of Children's Day. Although we initially hoped to go to Sokcho, one of Korea's best National Parks, we ended up going to Seoul instead. More on that in a later post. :)