Logbook: Week of 4/22

Title: International Students invade the Korean Beach!

Abstract:  Last Friday, 44 exchange students from my university traveled together to a beachfront city for a weekend of fun. Have you ever been to the beach? You can see on a map that my home state of Arkansas is very far from any beaches. So, I was very excited to visit one here in South Korea! It was even better that I got to go there with so many of my new friends! Let me tell you about what we did when we got there.

Location Name: Daecheon Beach is located on the west coast of South Korea. Can you guess what country I would reach if I jumped into a boat and continued west from Daecheon Beach? You could say “Ni Hao” to the people once you get there. The answer is China!

Time Zone: KST (Korea Standard Time)

How far did I travel this week? I traveled about 60 miles from my university to Daecheon Beach.

How far have I traveled on my journey so far?  At this point, I can only estimate the distance I have traveled. I try to get out and travel every weekend so I can see as much of Korea as I can before I run out of time here. I think I must cover around 40 miles per week. Since I have been here for 7 weeks, how far is that all together?

How did I get around this week? First, I rode the Mugunghwa Express from my university train station to the beachside city of Boryeong. Then, I rode a city bus from Boryeong to the hotel where we slept for the night. For most of the weekend, we walked everywhere we wanted to go. Everything was located very close together so walking was very convenient.

What was the most interesting place I visited this week? Daecheon beach was the most interesting place I saw all weekend. The area beside our hotel was covered in soft, beautiful white sand. Another area nearby is famous for its smooth ocean mud. The mud is believed to have minerals that are very good for your skin. Many people go there to bathe in the mud. At some point, someone must have realized how much fun it was to slather the thick grey mud all over other people. Now, they have a festival every year on the beach where thousands of people come to have a wild mud party in the summer sun!

Other travel news from this week:  Riding the Mugunghwa express train was an interesting experience. Even though the ride was an hour long, the time flew by. The whole train was built around entertainment for the passengers! There is a dining and snack car, a computer car, arcade games and even Karaoke rooms on the train! I was truly amazed! Next time, maybe I should try the Karaoke!

Number of sunny days this week: 4

Number of cloudy days this week: 3

Number of rainy days this week: 2

Number of snowy days this week: 0

Number of windy days this week: 4

What is the air temperature right now in Fahrenheit: 57oF

How was the weather this week? Our timing for vacation could have been a little better. It was bitterly cold and rainy when we woke up on Saturday. At first, we wondered if we even wanted to leave the hotel.

The second day was so much nicer! Even though we had to return home by 2pm on Sunday, we really enjoyed the sunny and windy weather. Maybe we should have asked our teachers to let us reschedule our Monday classes so we could stay another day. Do you think they would understand?

Harbor Fish Market

What animals did I see this week? Walking around the harbor market was an awesome experience. There was fresh seafood everywhere! Koreans really love to buy any kind of seafood while it is still alive so they know it is actually fresh. Because of this, the markets keep giant tanks in front of their stores for all the creatures to swim around in. We saw ocean life of every shape and size. I don’t think I could list all of them!

My favorites were the many different octopi (more than one octopus). They flexed their long tentacles and walked all over the tanks. One of the fishermen let me hold one of them! I think I should say that he let the octopus hold me instead. As soon as the wild little guy touched my hand, he wrapped all his tentacles around my hand and started sliding up my arm. It felt so cold and slimy! I could feel his little suction cups pulsing along his tentacles. Can you imagine what it feels like? Would you try to hold one?

Look at this starfish!

What was the coolest thing I saw in nature this week?  As we walked along the beach Sunday morning, we saw so many things that the tide had washed in. There were hundreds of different shells, smooth ocean stones and starfish! I was amazed to see my very first starfish in real life!

Another starfish!

There were dozens of little purple starfish with red or pink dots on top, a few white ones with really long legs and some really spiny, light purple ones. I was very sad that we got to the beach too late to save any of them. They had already been out in the sun so long that they had dried out and died. We found a couple of them that were still moist so we threw them back into the ocean. I hope we saved at least one of them!

Other nature news from this week:  Along with all of the very cool natural stuff that washed up on the beach, there was also a lot of trash. The Boryeong city government pays people to clean up the trash on the beaches where tourists will visit. In other places, you can see horrible amounts of trash that are continuously adding up. I found many fishing nets, styrene foam, glass, aluminum cans and every kind of plastic thing you can imagine.

I was heartbroken to see, first-hand, the way we treat our oceans. It seems like it is difficult to make people want to protect the creatures of our oceans simply for the sake of the creatures, but what about protecting ourselves too? I thought about all the seafood being sold in the market beside the beach. When we pollute our oceans and then eat the animals that were raised in that pollution, what is that going to do to us? Have you ever read about the dangerous trash in our oceans and what we can do to stop it? Do you think we can ever work together to fix it?

What main languages are spoken here? Everyone speaks Korean here. However, I was surprised that almost nobody in Boryeong seemed to speak much English. Around my university, almost all of the students speak some English, so it was much more difficult for us to communicate in this new area than it is  in Asan. Having this new challenge was a really good thing though. Even though verbal communication was limited, we found other ways to get our questions and answers across. For more about this experience, I hope you will enjoy reading my third journal entry. It’s about learning and using Korean while I’m here!

What type of money is used here? Our school was nice enough to help us set up a bank account and get a debit card last month. Since then, it has been much easier to handle my finances. I can withdraw KRW(the Korean currency) at any ATM and use my debit card to pay for almost anything directly.

How much does a bottle of water cost? Water is still a little more than $1USD, but the seafood was extremely cheap! My friends and I bought a giant bag of oysters from a woman in the harbor market for only $20.00! I can’t even imagine how much that would cost in the United States!

We baked the oysters in their shells over an open fire. 20 of us must have been eating oysters for almost 2 hours. Have you ever had an oyster? Sometimes we have to be careful when we try new foods. One of my classmates had never eaten an oyster before and found out that she was allergic to it! We had to give her a big dose of Benadryl to stop her face from swelling and becoming very red and itchy. Good thing we brought along our first aid kit!

What was the best meal this week? I can’t say I had just one best meal this week. I had three amazing meals this week! I was overjoyed to find out that our rooms in the hotel had portable gas stoves and plenty of cooking utensils for us could use.

Cooking on the floor

There were seven or eight other students who also love cooking on the trip. We went out and bought lots of groceries! The first night, a couple of Chinese classmates made Mapo Tof which is steamed broccoli with wasabi soy sauce. They also made pan-fried Napa cabbage with garlic and onions. Everything was so delicious and it was exciting to watch them prepare the foods in front of us!

Since they were so nice to share food from their home, some of the American students and I wanted to share food from our home as well! We made potato and egg breakfast burritos with homemade tortillas and salsa! It was the first time that some of the students had never tried a tortilla!  The final meal was the massive amount of oysters we bought in the harbor and baked on the grill! Delicious!

Making our tortillas

What music did I listen to this week? Korean pop music star, PSY, released his newest song just a few days ago. Everyone here can be found listening to “Gentleman”! Have you heard the song yet? What do you think about it?

Rail Bikes

What activity was the most fun this week? I am very glad we decided to go exploring on Saturday even though the weather was so bad. We found a tourist information center with a nice old man who spoke a little English. He told us about a type of car that you ride over the railroad tracks! Four people can sit inside the pedal powered car and travel around the countryside. He said they were called rail bikes.

My friends and I were excited to try them. It was very fortunate for us that the rail bikes had a cover on the front and top to protect us from the rain and cold winds! The cars were surprisingly easy to pedal and they even had small electric motors to help us climb up the long hills. I took a video of our trip on the rail bikes and I will send it to you! In the video and pictures you will see my classmates that rode in the car with me. Each of them was from a different country. We were from Japan, Laos and China. We were so happy to be trying something new!

What did I read this week? In preparation for my mid-term examinations, I have been reading many articles on the Joson Dynasty of Korea. It was the most influential of the old Korean dynasties. It was so important that North Korea still uses the name “Joson” to refer to themselves and their alphabet. South Koreans use the name “Han” instead.

What games or sports did I play this week?  I have recently learned to play a very cool card game called “GoStop”. The cards are very different from the playing cards that you are probably used to. These cards originally came from Japan and are about 1/3 the length and width of a poker card. The cards that are used today are made of thick plastic and have brightly colored pictures of flowers, birds, animals and ribbons on the faces.

To play the game, players try to match the cards in their hands with the cards on the table. You get to keep any cards that you match. The more cards you have, the better your chances of winning the game. Scoring the game is a bit more complicated, but if you are really interested, you should try searching the internet for complete instructions. Most Koreans like to gamble money on the game, but I prefer to just play for the fun of it!

Other news from this week:  There was one more exciting thing I want to share with you! Because the weather was so nice on Sunday, we ran to the beach as early as we could to enjoy the last few hours of our trip. On the beach, we found a very tall tower that said “Zip Trek” on it. As we got closer to the tower, you could see four cables going from the top of the tower to a platform on a distant beach. It was a huge zip line! A zip line is an extended wire that is attached to a seat and stretches from one destination to another. You sit on a small swing-like seat and “zip” along the cable line!

We were a little scared, but we knew it would be so much fun to fly out over the ocean on the cables! After buying our tickets, we strapped into our harnesses and rode the elevator to the top. The landing platform looked even farther away from up there! When it was finally my turn, they connected my harness to a large pulley and clipped me to the cable. The tower attendant then pulled me back as far as I could go and threw me forward off the tower! Woosh!


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