Friday, September 17, 2010

The Craziest Day of Our Lives: Part I

This post is one that will literally recount the CRAZIEST day of our lives thus far... and I'm not joking. Danny and I have been priviledged to do some crazy stuff, but this day was one of those days that you thought, "Is this happening right now? Am I dreaming or taking some crazy pills?" And the answer is...NO. It did happen, so get ready for CRAZY. (I must warn you now, though, that no matter how eloquently I write (yeah right) I will never be able to truly give justice to this day...sorry.) Here we go:

Danny and I were invited by one of the teachers at Danny's school, Mr. Kang, to go on a hiking trip to Busan (a southern beach area in Korea). We thought, "Oh this will be a fun and interesting experience so OK!" and oh how I am glad we said yes. Koreans like to be in clubs, so we met the "hiking club" early one Saturday morning.

The hiking club consisted of about 60, 45-60 year old Koreans, all decked out in their hiking gear. Koreans don't do hobbies half-hearted, so they all wore the nicest North Face, K2, and Merrell apparel that they had and at that, we all started getting on the train. Again, we (meaning Danny, our friend Andrew, and I) still thought we were in for a normal day, but we began to get suspicious when we saw men carrying boxes of beer and Soju (STRONG Korean sake) onto the train. That was hint #1.
We were off to Busan finally and began to look around the train and make friends with the hikers who we again thought were calm and collected adults. Below you can see some of them who look "normal" to the naked eye, but don't be deceived my friend, oh no, don't let them fool you.
The train was probably going for about 30 minutes when things finally started to get weird. It started with the food. Thankfully Koreans love snacks so they were well prepared for the trip but these are no normal snacks, no they gave us the good stuff! Over the course of 10 minutes, we finally ended up with a collection of snacks that you can see below. The snacks included: one WHOLE cucumber, squid jerky (yum!), caramels, milk candy, a thing they called "hard jam" which isn't nearly as good as it sounds, sliced sting ray, compressed pigs head, all-you-can-eat boiled eggs, water and beer. The more silly snacks, the more we laughed as you can see. And a reminder that this is at 8:30 in the morning. (Hint #2 this would be no ordinary day)

The beer started flowing around 9 am and unfortunately since it is considered rude to say no to the first drink offered by someone in Korea, we got to enjoy some Hite quite early. (And let me just say now that no, we did not get drunk that day, despite the Koreans best efforts ; )

Now my next question is what would a hiking club be without train activities? Well we got some! After our "delicious" breakfast, a game of Bingo started, and to continue the insanity, this was no normal Bingo, but Bingo with the best prizes ever! Danny's fellow teacher Mr. Kang was in charge of Bingo so he didn't get the usual pencils and stickers for prizes but instead went all out. Almost everyone on the train ended up winning something but luckily Danny ended up with a Korean Lotto ticket, I got a large silver tea pot (yes, a tea pot before going on a hike), and our friend Andrew won an entire box of FRIED CHICKEN! Could this day get any better, oh you bet it does!
The beer kept flowing and the prizes kept coming which also included picnic blankets, more chicken, and Scotch... lots and lots of Scotch. Of course when the Scotch was won, people had to share that as well, so thanks to the man standing in the picture (who we called "Grabby Hands" because later that day he was running around the train grabbing women's butts, and who is also an Andong police officer) we got to have shots of Scotch at 10 in the morning. Oh my. (Hint #3: I don't know if Koreans even try to use the excuse "It's 5 o'clock somewhere." They just say, "Hey, I like Scotch, I like beer, who cares if it's before noon!")

More funny train events passed in our 4 hour ride to Busan that I will not mention, but I will say that a good majority of the hikers got a good buzz going on by the time we got to our destination. Below is most of the group that we said looked like Skittles because of how many colors their expensive hiking gear was. (Things we are learning: Koreans LOVE banners for any occasion and even if they are going on a simple walk up a hill, they will dress as though they are climbing Mt. Everest)

The hike was beautiful and green, and for the brief couple of hours up the mountain we had some wonderful peace and quiet.
You could see the ocean from the top of the mountain which was awesome and we had to take lots of time posing with different club members being that it's not everyday they have some foreigners in their midst.
The woman all wear long sleeves, even though it was really hot, just so they wouldn't tan but as you can see, I'm not afraid of a little sun!
That's all for the train trip before the hike and the hike itself. Stay tuned for Part II of the "Crazy Train" series. Let's just say it will blow your mind!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Racism: The New Korean Fashion

Some days, life seems "normal" here in Korea and I have to remind myself that we are in a foreign country. And then other days, we see things that you would literally never see in the US. This shirt below is an example of one of those things:

Unknowingly, some Korean child is out there wearing one of the most ridiculous tank tops I have ever seen. In Korea, English writing on shirts is usually entertaining such as one shirt that we saw with "Happy Virus" on it and a picture of a ice cream parfait, but I must say, this one takes the cake! Abby and Albert: You want me to get it for my new nephew!? ; ) I hope you all laugh as hard at this as Danny and I did!