Looking Back: Korean Highlights (March 2010 – September 2010)

  • My first trip to Seoul (1 May – 2 May 2010)  – remains my best trip to Seoul.  I was planning on going by myself but ended up going with my friends Bryce and Leandra from Gunsan.  I had such trouble getting a taxi in the morning and I didn’t have a cellphone yet so  I was so worried they’d leave without me.  But I ended up making the bus and had a wonderful time in Seoul.Even though I had some touristy stuff on my list I ended up tagging along with my friends as they went shopping and met some of their friends from other parts of Korea in Seoul.  It was the first warm sunny day in more than a month and it was a great introduction to Korean nightlife.  Seoul’s Hongdae neighborhood on a normal Saturday night feels like the Fourth of July or New Years Eve.  We were sort of a big posse by this point and after a samgyeopsal dinner, we hit the bars and met more people.  There was dancing and drinking.
  • Running the Saemangeum (16 May 2010) – Gunsan Marathon.  My first 10km race.  Training for this really kept me motivated during my first month and a half in Korea.  The first few weeks in Korea were rough for a variety of reasons – normal adjustment stuff, interference from back home, and bad weather.  As I wrote on this blog, the day was beautiful and the day was capped off by a shot of soju and my first trip to a Korean bathhouse and then also drinks with some people who would later become good friends at McJoo – a good outdoor bar in my neighborhood.
  • Biking the Saemangeum (5 June 2010) – On my ten ton bike, I rode with my friend Amber for hours out to sea.  The ride started with some delicious food at her apartment.  We rode out on a beautiful June day through rice paddies and industrial parks before getting to the largest seawall in the world.  We went way out on to an island called Yami-do.  The ride back in to the wind was pretty difficult but rewarded with a delicious fish soup at the fish market on the foot of the seawall. I think again after this there were more drinks at McJoo.
  • World Cup (11 June – 12 July 2010) – This was a great time to be in any of the 32 countries playing in the World Cup finals and Korea was no exception.  There were huge outdoor screenings and non-stop drinking and partying.  It was the most festive I saw Gunsan.  There was no other event or holiday that was so public or exuberant.  Even though South Korea and the U.S. were eliminated in the same time, my friends and I kept up the viewing even though it required being awake from 330-500am.
  • Bumper Cars at Woobang Towerland, Daegu (3 July 2010). I met my friend Julie for an outing in Daegu.  The day started off pretty uneventfully with some Korean-style curry rice and udong  for lunch.  After pondering out next move in the Daegu heat, the spur-of-the-moment decision was made to go to Woobang Towerland in the heart of Daegu.  In the almost empty amusement park, Julie and I could ride any ride we wanted with little or no waits.  While playing bumper cars, I decided to go after my arch-rivals: 10 year-old Korean boys.  But, typically enough, the harder I went after them, the more they loved it.  I ended up with a posse of kids and we got in to all sorts of mischief in the bumper car arena.  Their English was good enough that we could talk about who they liked in the World Cup finals.  Korean boys love Lionel Messi.
  • Gyeongju and Busan – Summer Vacation (29 July – 2 August 2010) I wrote about this before in the blog, so I won’t go too in to details here.  But this trip was great.  The hostel in Gyeongju, the disappointment with the Buddha Grotto, the heat, the coolness of the ice coffee and the weird Germans I met there.  Then Busan was just great.  Everything clicked,  the fantastic train trip, drinking on the beach in the hot sun followed by my first (and maybe only) time ralphing on booze in Korea, gambling away 200,000 won at a casino by the beach, drinking margaritas and eating some raw fish in a massive fish market in Busan’s harbor, meeting a nice girl at a bar then meeting a one in a series of wise Irishmen at the metro.
  • Shanghai (22 September – 27 September 2010) – China.  I loved it.  It had a lot of what I like in a place: history, culture, class, trash, energy and beauty and delicious food.  Again, there’s a blogpost from September about my initial reactions but looking back now, the China trip was sort of a turning point in my time abroad.  Things definitely seemed different before and after that trip.  The weather changed, my social activities changed, and time seemed to go faster after this trip.  

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