It was another stellar week and weekend in SoKo.  First off, I finally met the rest of the English teachers here in Yecheon.  We ended up going out early in the week and having beer.  Since I am an early riser I didn’t stay out too late, however I stayed long enough to play a drinking game (of which I managed to stay sober LOL) and eat some dhak ddong jib, which is literally chicken anus fried in a spicy blend of peppers and onions.  For those of you curious as to what this tastes like… I think it most resembles eating chicken gizzards, with a slightly fecal aftertaste.  Truthfully, it’s not bad!  Another popular food to eat when drinking is fried chicken legs.  I’ve yet to try this, however. 

Mexican Chicken

My classes all went smoothly last week.  No major hiccups or issues to report.  There WAS an English speaking competition on Friday in Yecheon, which I had a student from each school participating in.  The topic of the speech was “What is your dream?”.  So, the student that was asked to participate had to write an essay describing their dream.  Two out of the three schools had me help their students starting two weeks ago, however one school asked me to help the DAY BEFORE the competition!  Ouch!  Many of you know how much I enjoy editing and correcting essays, so in a school where I am the ONLY native English speaking teacher, you’d think they’d have asked me much earlier.  Anyway, I did my best to help that student out. 

Unfortunately, I was the ONLY English teacher in Yecheon-gun that did NOT get to go to the competition.  The principal of my primary school is a notorious PITA and would not let me go.  All the English teachers and Ko-teachers were looking forward to meeting with me, but when they realized I wasn’t going to show they assumed it was because of my principal (EVERYONE knows he’s like this, apparently LOL).  Anyway, my student Hera placed third in the Elementary school division! 

My girls @ Yongmoon

I’m so proud of all my students that were chosen to participate!  Just imagine what it would be like to stand on stage and have to recite a 2-3 minute long essay in English (memorized) and then have to answer questions in English.  This is no easy feat, I assure you!  Hera chose to talk about her love of playing the saxophone.  She began her speech by playing a couple segments of Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music on her saxophone, which I thought was very clever. 

Korean side dishes
 

Bulgogi


On Friday evening I met up with some of my American friends for dinner and coffee.  Afterward, (around 10:00 PM) we hiked up the mountain to check out the Pagoda.  The walk is almost a vertical climb up 700 stairs, which comes out to half a mile (and I’d already ran 3 miles that afternoon!).  Once we arrived it began to rain, so we didn’t spend much time there.  The walk back down was much easier, however the wet leaves made the wooden stairs slippery, so we had to tread more carefully. 

 

My apartment is down there :D

The next day we all (Jordan, Jonah, Nina and I) met up at 10:00.  The original plan was to go to a traditional Korean sauna, but since the weather was so nice we decided to go hiking instead.  Mr. Do, a teacher at Nina’s school, was our guide and was GREAT at playing the part!  He took us to several historical sites.  The first one was Cheongryongsa.  To get to the temples we had to hike up long and winding roads lined with knotty pines and a stream off to one side.  The landscape is lush and rich with vegetation.  Once we were within eyesight of the temples you can see where the earth had been cleared and various vegetables were planted for the monks to harvest and eat.  The buildings were sparsely constructed, however the roofs had heavily carved corbels and were painted in exquisite detail with vibrant colors.  The only buildings which contained iconography were the actual prayer halls, where gilded statues of Buddha sat facing the entrance… as if watching over all that resided there, as well as all that lived down the mountain side. 

A monk chants in the temple.



 

This is a stone pagoda.. there are coins on it where visitors
make a wish and try to toss their coin on one of the landings.

Jordan being... Jordan!

Ceremonial drum used to waken the living creatures each morning.

Traditional hand cast brass bell

After leaving the first temple we drove to the next location, which was Biryong-san.  This part of Yecheon contains both an amazing temple (Jangan-sa) and down in the valley is the village Hoeryong-po that is literally surrounded by Naeseong-cheon "stream", shortly before it runs into the Naktong River.  Because we had such a hard and long rain the night before, the river had risen over the foot bridges, so traveling to the island wasn’t easy enough to attempt.  As a result, we observed it from the main land at a pavilion built specifically for that purpose. 

Hoeryongpo Village

At the top of the mountain there are metal conical towers where lovers
will write a prayer for their love to be everlasting and lock it to the structure.

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From there we took the car up an incredible stretch of road.  I had to take a video of it, because it was so impressive!  We climbed a crazy grade and Mr. Do made an impressive parking job on an insane slope!  From there we still had to walk up a road that snaked its way up the mountain side.  Finally we arrived at the Jangan-sa temple (Guardian of Peace Temple).  This site was similar to the other temple, however it had a gigantic stone Buddha, which sat outside and looked out over the mountain top.  It was as tall as a house!  Each temple also has a gigantic brass bell, which hangs in a bell tower and has a large log, which is swung using ropes to ring the bell.  These bell towers are painted with traditional patterns and Chinese text.  The bell houses (actual bodies of the bell) all feature some sort of scene with figures depicting events, as well as traditional ornamentation. 

When we returned to the car we tried to go to a traditional Korean Sauna, but because the weather was so nice, the saunas were closed.  They are usually open when it is cold or rainy.  So, we headed to Samkang-Jumak, which boasts of one of the oldest taverns in Yecheon.  There they hand make their own tofu, acorn jelly, and Makgeolli.  Makgeolli (or Makkoli) is a wine made from rice and is famous as a beverage drunk by the river sailors while resting and eating between passages along the river.  It tastes refreshingly sweet and is a milky color and consistency, which separates if it sits for a few minutes.  It is served with the other homemade sides, as well as squid bulgogi and Korean pancakes made with cabbage or chives and julienned carrots, and kimchi.  My friends and I stuffed ourselves on this amazingly delicious, yet simple meal.  In the background there were people singing to music and a song I knew began to play, Sarangbakken Nan Molla.  So, of course I began to sing it and received a room of applause from the patrons afterwards (a huge entourage of Korean hikers had sat down in the dining building).  They were cheerful and laughed and played Makgeolli games LOL. 

Traditional Makgeolli... it's sweet and refreshing, but hits you hard before you know it!

Jordan and Jonah digging in...

The village where the Makgeolli is made is located at the convergence
of three rivers.  It is a place where sailors would come for food and drink.


Eventually we made our way back to Yecheon, where we celebrated the day with a cup of coffee and then parted ways.  Later that evening my friends came over to my apartment and I cooked for them.  We laughed until our sides hurt!!!


The next day I had promised to go to church with a coworker from Yongmoon elementary school.  I was surprised to learn that she attended a Presbyterian church.  I’m familiar with Presby services and the songs, so I only had to read the Hangeul lyrics!  It was challenging, but I managed to keep up with the singing :D.  I decided to attend the second service, since the orchestra was going to play.  The service was led by a pastor who has resided in the US for the last 25 years.  His sermons were definitely more energetic and contemporary (very indicative of larger churches and US sermons) and his terminology was more hip, which meant I understand about 50% of everything he said!  It was actually entertaining!  After the service I met a musician that speaks decent English and he accompanied me while I sang some broadway tunes and some snippets from more well known arias. 

 

The evening concluded with me going to Jonah’s apartment and watching Ong Bak.  So, it was a fantastic (surprisingly so) weekend :P.  Next weekend it’s Daegu time!  I’m going to join my friends for a much anticipated music concert and a tour of downtown Daegu with an entourage of local musicians and artists.  Should be fun!

Me, Jonah, Jordan, and Nina