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Farewell to Yeosu

I’m leaving Yeosu and Korea. I’ve sent out dozens of applications for jobs around the country, but it seems that Korea is so insanely paranoid about hiring older teachers that I’ve received only a couple of interview offers out of the nearly 100 applications I’ve sent, and more than one promise of a contract or interview has been broken; so much for obligations on the part of certain Korean educators. If you ever come here to teach, don’t depend on the Koreans to fulfill their obligations or promises. Even though you think their words are written in stone, everything can and just might fall apart.

I had an interview from a school in Vietnam last night, and the interviewer told me, upon hearing  my gripe about the ageist Korean system, that there was no such limit in Vietnam and that older teachers were well respected there. Some countries, it seems, have more common sense than Korea. (And, by the way, I think I did pretty well on the interview, so I hope to have some posts from Vietnam in the next few months.) So be it; I’m leaving, and good riddance to me, I suppose, and to Korea from my life.

Despite the age problem, it’s been an interesting experience here in Yeosu (the city, not the university), so here is my farewell to this beautiful location on the south coast of the Republic of Korea.

Farewell to Yeosu

Yeosu, it’s time to say goodbye. I’ll be leaving you tomorrow. I’ve enjoyed my five-year sojourn in your beautiful and, by Korean standards, pocket-sized nook nestled between the mountains and the ocean, but I’ve got to move on.

I won’t forget the food, especially the raw-fish restaurants, pricey, but delicious, and the cozy little mom-and-pop diners specializing in crab, eel, squid and octopus dishes. The aroma of beef and pork grilled over glowing charcoal in small, crowded barbecue joints will linger with me wherever I go, and the spicy heat of your renowned Dolsan gat kimchi, green mustard-plant leaves smothered in deep red chili pepper sauce, will always bring sharp memories.

Korean Seafood Stew–Photo by Ron Anderson

 

I’ll miss the warm, friendly people, the ajummas and ajossies, those weather-worn old ladies and men, backs permanently hunched from doing years of stoop labor in the fields. Their occasionally dour and taciturn faces, etched by sun and wind with crevasses and fissures, are nearly always ready to return a friendly smile or a hello with one of their own. Ahn-young-hahshim-nika, “Hello,” I say, and their return smiles imply that they are surprised, but delighted, that I speak their language, even though they don’t know that that is about all I can say even after five years here.

I’ll always remember the fascinating architecture, especially the structures that house your churches. Unforgettable is the one that has an exterior shaped as a bishop’s miter and another that resembles the prow of a boat. Most remarkable, though, is one of the oddest sights in Yeosu, or in all of Korea, for that matter, the “White Whale” church, a testament to the Biblical Jonah and to the local fishing culture. It’s Moby Dick, land-locked and immortalized in concrete and plaster.

The White Whale Church-Photo by Ron Anderson

Then there was the Expo, that glorious World Exposition of 2012. Though it was only a Minor World Expo, unlike the Major Expo of Shanghai in 2010, I’ll never forget it. The excitement that accompanied it woke up your sleepy summer harbor and brought you great pride. Exotic wayfarers embraced you. Middle-Easterners in indigo and maroon turbans, Africans in yellow, green and red dress, and Latin Americans with brilliant white smiles thrilled and delighted you.

Gone for more than a year and a half are the hordes of visitors, the busy pavilions of the exhibiting countries, and the fantastic displays of light, all of it now mere scattered fragments of memory, whisps of a dream. The acres of the grounds stand empty except for small, forlorn clusters of leaves of the past autumn and black plastic bags dancing in the dark corners to the music of the winter winds whistling through the rafters.

Yeosu Expo 2012-Photo by Ron Anderson

Yes, Yeosu, I’ll miss your aromas, tastes, sights and sounds. I won’t forget your friendly, welcoming inhabitants. I’ll cherish the memories wherever I go. Farewell, Yeosu. Ahnyounghi-kahsay-yo. Goodbye.

That’s my paean to Yeosu. I leave tomorrow for Bangkok, Vientiane, Haiphong, ???. Who knows? The future lies before me. Whatever it holds, I’m gonna post it here. Stay tuned, because I have a lot more coming later.

Snow in Yeosu

Yeosu rarely gets any snow. It snows about once a season, and it hadn’t snowed yet this winter until this morning. I woke up at my usual early hour, 5:30, looked out my bedroom window and saw quite a few large flakes coming down. Because it was still dark, I couldn’t see how deep it was until I went to work, when I had to slog through about two inches of soft, wet snow. One of my colleagues, who has been here about as long as I, said that she thought this was the most snow we’ve received in at least five years, and I agreed.

I don’t really care for the stuff, after living through 40 years’ worth of Montana winters, but this snowfall, our first and probably only one this winter, was kind of entertaining. I saw a few people slipping and sliding on the sidewalks and a few cars weren’t being very careful on the somewhat icy road. I almost went down a few times myself.

So, here are a few snapshots I took while I walked to work. At first sight, I thought the fellow in one of the photos below was using a snow shovel to clear the road, but another teacher told me later that he was using a sign! Other people were using brooms. Like I said, we’re not used to snow.

Motorbikes in snow

Right outside the front door of the dormitory, two lonely motorbikes.

Benches in snow

Nobody’s gonna be sitting here for a while.

Footprints in the snow

Looks like I’m not the first one to go up the steps this morning.

Steps covered in snow

Careful walking up the steps or you might find yourself going back down

Shoveling snow

This guy’s using a sign to shovel the snow. Are there any snow shovels in Yeosu?

Tire tracks in the snow

A few cars have been by already.

Camellias in the snow

The camellias probably aren’t enjoying this.

Autumn in Yeosu

Autumn in Yeosu is, in my opinion, not as outstanding as in some other areas of South Korea, such as Mt. Seorak or Jiri Mountain. In no way is it anywhere near as spectacular as in the northeastern part of the United States, with its glorious maples, or in the western part of the nation, with aspen groves golden against the snow-covered peaks of the Rockies. Still, there are some very nice areas, especially around the university campus.

The season is almost over now, but there are a few groves of resistance to the inevitable. Like dowagers in tattered gowns, a few trees still stand out against the greenery of the pines, gradually shedding their rust-colored leaves, hurried along by the brisk breezes that we seem to get everyday. But, the glory days have fled in advance of the approaching winter, my least favorite season.

So, in memory of the fine autumn days that we had, here are a few snippets for your enjoyment. More later.

Here are several from around campus.

Students enjoying a walk

Students enjoying a walk

Looking toward Horang Mountain

Looking Toward Horang Mountain

Campus Autumn 2

Campus Autumn 2

Campus Autumn 3

Campus Autumn 3

Campus fall 1

Campus Autumn 1

Campus Autumn 4

Campus Autumn 4

And a few from Odongdo (Odong Island) and Jasan Park, near the Expo site.

Bamboo Grove on Odongdo

Bamboo Grove on Odongdo

Odongdo from near Jasan Park

Odongdo from near Jasan Park

Flowers in Jasan Park

Flowers in Jasan Park

Admiral Yi Sun-shin monument at Jasan Park

Admiral Yi Sun-shin Monument at Jasan Park

Enjoying the Autumn Colors at Jasan Park

Enjoying the Autumn Colors at Jasan Park

Autumn at Jasan Park

Autumn at Jasan Park

Autumn at Jasan Park

Anti-aircraft Replica at UN Memorial at Jasan Park

A Hike Above the Expo

I’d been wanting to hike up the mountain just behind the Expo for quite some time, so a few weekends ago I finally decided to give it a go. Maraesan (Marae mountain) stands at 385 meters high (1263 feet), but it isn’t that steep of a hike to the top, as I was to find out. First, though, I had to find a trail. Just about every hill and mountain around here has numerous paths going to the top, so it wasn’t too difficult to find one to Marae. I assumed I could stumble across one if I went behind the traditional Korean hotel just up the hill from the Expo. Sure enough, I found one, so up I went. Here’s a shot of the mountain, and the traditional hotel, which was under construction when I took this photo, is almost smack dab in the middle of the scene, just up and to the left of the Big O. (Click on the photo a couple of times to enlarge it.)

Expo Overview from Jasan Park

Expo Overview from Jasan Park

Here’s the present-day hotel from a short way up the trail.

Traditional Korean hotel

Traditional Korean Hotel

The trail forked into three just a short way from the start, and the first two I tried seemed to be dead ends just a short way along, so I finally opted for the third one, which took off to the right, the direction I needed to go. Not too far along, it started to dwindle and it eventually came out into a large field of quite old burial mounds and wandered into smaller ones. Eventually, it petered out altogether, but I decided to bushwhack towards the bulk of the mountain; I assumed I would eventually stumble onto another trail. Well, after hacking my way through copious amounts of thick spider webs and bleeding slightly from a razor-like thorn bush, I began to think that this wasn’t such a hot idea.

Tomb_MG_7652

Here’s a close-up of one of the tomb guardians. There was no one else around and all was silent. Being a fan of the Lord of the Rings books and The Hobbit, I could imagine being in the Barrow Downs, hoping not to awaken any tomb wights.

Guardian_7653

I could almost see the top of the small hill that I was on, so I thrashed my way up, thinking that I could probably spot a better route at the top. I broke through the brush and, surprise, came out to a broad, well-used trail! It must have been one of the supposed dead ends that I didn’t use. (On the way back, I found out that it was.)

The rest of the hike to the top of Marae was pretty ho-hum with but a few steep stretches, but with plenty of clearings to catch the increasingly beautiful views of Yeosu and the harbor. Here are several more photos I took as I made my way higher.

Harbor_7651

ExpoHike_7666

Expo 2012 site from Mt. Marae

Expo Overview

Yeosu from Mt. Marae

Yeosu

Yeosu from Mt. Marae

Yeosu

Yeosu Harbor

Yeosu Harbor

Expo site from Mt. Marae

Expo from Mt. Marae

Yeosu Harbor

Yeosu Harbor

Expo Overview

Expo overview

Once you reach the ridgeline, awesome views of Manseongni Beach, north of the Expo site, open up.

Manseongni Beach

Manseongni Beach

So, it was a nice hike on a beautiful fall day. If you’re ever in Yeosu, give Mt. Marae a shot.

Yeosu Mural Alley

I’d been hearing about the Yeosu Mural Alley for a while, ever since before the Expo began last year. A few reports that people published online stated that the alley begins near the Expo site and continues for about a kilometer. I searched everywhere near the Expo, but could never find the Alley. I recently found it, however, and it’s actually about a kilometer or so from the Expo. In fact, the entrance had been staring me in the face, more or less. It’s near the Jinnamgwan site, across a pedestrian overpass, which was built about a year ago. So, if you’re visiting Yeosu and you want to spend a pleasant few hours walking down the Mural Alley (a.k.a. Angel Alley), here’s a photo showing you the location.

Mural alley entrance

Mural Alley Entrance

To the left you can see part of Jinnamgwan. If you look closely, just to the left of the blue information sign in the bottom middle of the photo there’s a short road up to the pedestrian overpass. Cross the overpass and follow the road and the arrows, and you’re on Mural Alley. Pretty simple, really.

As I said, it’s a nice way to spend a few hours, strolling through the Alley and taking in the dozens of paintings along the way. Let’s take a walk and see some of the artwork, shall we?

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

In some places the route gets a bit narrow and the paintings are actually on the sides of the homes in the area.

Mural alley

Narrow Going

Mural alley

Another Narrow Alley

Mural alley

Tight Squeeze

In addition to featuring historical scenes and depictions of everyday life, many of the murals are quite whimsical.

Yeosu mural

Hitching a Ride

Yeosu mural

Sending a Letter

Mural alley

Mural Alley

Mural alley

Running Chair

About halfway through the walk you can take a break and catch a nice view of the city.

Yeosu Overlook

Yeosu Overlook

In this same area nature shows off its own mural skills.

Nature's mural

Nature’s Mural

Let’s continue with the walk.

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

The Alley draws quite a few interested people, but in the few days that I’ve visited, it hasn’t been overly crowded.

Yeosu mural

Yeosu Mural

Looks like someone is trying to take a shortcut out of the Alley.

Mural alley

Wall Climber

Mural alley

Butterfly Wall

Mural alley

Mural Alley

Mural alley

Mural Alley

Mural alley

Who’s Watching Whom

Mural alley

Mural Alley

Mural alley

Tiger, Tiger

Finally, near the end of the walk, across from the tiger, are these wings. Perhaps some people think these look like angel wings, hence the nickname of “Angel Alley.” They could be bird wings, too–I guess it depends on your point of view.

Mural alley

Wings

That’s the end of our walk, but there are dozens more pieces of artwork here. So, the next time your in Yeosu, take a few hours to visit Mural Alley.

Yeosu’s Harbor Market

Taking a leisurely stroll through Yeosu’s harbor market is a pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning or afternoon. Though it’s not a huge market, like Seoul’s Namdaemun or Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market, it still offers plenty of shopping opportunities for food, clothing and other items, and opportunities to get slightly lost in a small maze of alleyways.

I took such a walk a few weekends ago just to while away some time, but also to try my hand at taking photos without aiming or setting up the shot. I held my compact camera in my right hand down by my side, with the lens pointing forward, and just started snapping photos straight ahead and left and right, by swiveling my hand ever so slightly. (I did take a few shots in the “normal” way, camera held to my face and aiming.)

I shot over 120 photos, some not too bad and others basically garbage. Here are some of the better ones. I liked doing this because people tend to freeze up and get very camera shy when I pull out the large camera. This way is pretty surreptitious, so people don’t seem to notice that this odd foreigner is taking photos. It also gives a different point of view of the various market scenes.

I also messed around with processing a few of the shots in black and white, to give them an “old-timie” feel. Kind of fun, but it took a while to cull out the bad shots and work on the better ones. My little compact camera doesn’t do too well in low-light situations, so I had to utilize a high ISO setting of 800, which led to a lot of digital noise in the shots. I think I got rid of most of it, but, like I stated, this was kind of an experiment, a fun couple of hours shooting at the market.

Clothes vendor

Clothes Vendor

Hardware

Hardware

Fish for sale #3

Fish for Sale #3

Fish for sale #2

Fish for Sale #2

Fish for sale #1

Fish for Sale #1

Seafood for Sale

Seafood for Sale

Covered Market

Covered Market

Covered Market

Covered Market

Market Guys

Market Guys

Seafood Vendor

Seafood Vendor

Seafood Vendors

Seafood Vendors

Market Lady

Market Lady 1

I looked around for Paul and Ringo, but, alas, they were nowhere in sight.

Crosswalk

Crosswalk

Outdoor Market Area

Outdoor Market Area

Vendors

At the Yeosu Market 3889

Strawberries

Strawberries

Vegetables

Vegetables

Gochujang (hot pepper)

Gochujang (hot pepper)

Various grains

Grain

Pillows

Pillow

Korean Cabbage

Korean Cabbage

Colorful Boots

Colorful Boots

P.S. Did you find the Beatles reference? Not too hard to spot. I’ll have some more Yeosu photos to post later, since I’ve been out and about a lot lately, what with the warm spring weather we’ve had.

Mountain Hike

Wow, long time, no see! There are various reasons for that, as usual. The spring semester has started here at the university, and we’re using new textbooks for one of the classes. Writing lesson plans for that class seems to be consuming a huge amount of my free time. We’re also having some gorgeous spring weather, so I’ve been spending a lot of time outside.

A few weeks ago, a couple of other teachers and I hiked to the top of one of the nearby hills, a walk I’ve made before, which you can read about here. It’s about a 30- to 45-minute hike through dense trees and vegetation, so there’s not much of a view going up. At the top, however, the view of Yeosu is spectacular. I took this panoramic shot, stitching together 8 individual photos into this single view. Click on the photo below a couple of times to get the large view.

Panoramic view of Yeosu ocean

Panoramic View of Yeosu Ocean

Although it was a bit on the chilly side and somewhat breezy, there was abundant sunshine, and it felt like true spring was just around the corner. Here, Rob and Corrie ham it up at the summit.

Rob and Corrie

Rob and Corrie

There were a few trails back down on the other side of the mountain, but we couldn’t decide whether to take a trail to the top of the next rise or a trail down to the valley and then on to the ocean. Rob and I played rock-paper-scissors to decide, and I was the valley route competitor. I won, so we hiked down to the valley floor. Scattered throughout the hills of Yeosu, and, I assume, the entirety of South Korea, are these little pagoda picnic/shelter areas. Rob and Corrie are enjoying the view from this one.

Yeosu Mountain Pagoda

Mountain Pagoda

On the way down we got a great view of the bay, as did a busload of company employees enjoying the day.

Ocean view

Ocean View

Finally, at the ocean, we stopped at one of the local cafes and had a small lunch. All in all, it was a great early spring day.

The next post will be about my recent stroll through the Yeosu outdoor market. See you then!

Snow in Yeosu!

We got our first snowfall of the season this morning, a rare event, as it hardly ever snows in Yeosu. We got quite a bit, for us, probably around an inch and a half near my dormitory apartment. Areas north of us must have gotten quite a bit of the white stuff yesterday; Thursday evening I saw a car pull into the parking area outside the dorm and it must have had 5 or 6 inches on its roof.

Naturally, some of the students were out having fun, taking a break from studying for their final exams.

Snowball fight

Snowball fight

If I had wanted to ride my motorbike (the one in the foreground), I would have gotten a bit wet.

Snowy Motorbikes

Snowy Motorbikes

The trees were all quite lovely with a blanket of white. Most of it has melted, and the sun is shining right now. Not exactly a Montana snowfall event, but pretty nice for the short while it lasted. More later? (Snow, that is.)

Snow-covered trees

Snow-covered Trees

Bolaven and Tembin-Double Trouble

Bolaven has come and gone, but wayward Tembin, now a tropical storm, is on its way, predicted to dump some heavy rain on Korea tomorrow. It won’t have quite the wind speed of Bolaven, as here in Yeosu the forecast is calling for about 30 mile-per-hour winds and rainfall of more than 3 inches.

Bolaven didn’t dump that much rain on us; we got just a bit over an inch in Yeosu, according to the KMA. The winds weren’t terribly destructive, but I’m guesstimating that the peak gusts were around 60 mph. I have a good idea about that guess, because, after the rain quit, I took the bus down to the Expo area yesterday morning, down by the harbor, where fierce winds were howling through the area around the Expo. I had to keep my eye out for any debris that might have been heading my way, but I didn’t have any serious trouble. The wind was strong enough to keep me off balance, and quite a few of the trees that were planted for the Expo had been blown over. Signs in the area had been knocked down, trash cans upended and various bits of mayhem caused by the wind could be seen.

Here are a few shots from campus and from the Expo area. First, here’s a short video of what it looked like from outside my dormitory apartment around 9 a.m.

Most of the trees knocked over at the Expo were planted not too long ago and they hadn’t had enough time to put down deep roots. However, here’s an older tree at the university campus that was blown over.

Tree knocked down at the university

Tree Down at University

Down by the Expo Main Gate was this unfortunate tree.

A tree knocked down at the Expo

Tree at Expo Main Gate

Quite a few of the trees by the MVL Hotel, right at the harbor’s edge, were uprooted, including this one near the hotel.

A tree knocked over by Typhoon Bolaven

Tree by MVL Hotel

There was other damage in the area, including this restaurant sign that was half-way taken down by the wind.

A restaurant sign blown down by Typhoon Bolaven

Restaurant Sign

From the MVL Hotel, I noticed that the spray of the surf was washing over the causeway that leads to Odong Island. I walked over to the road in front of the MVL, but the street had been closed off by police, and I was politely told to vacate the area. Hmmmm, I wasn’t going to go out on the causeway; I just wanted to see if I could get some good shots. Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I decided to walk through one of the new tunnels that take traffic from the Expo area to the other side of Jasan Park. From there, I was able to hike up to Jasan and part way down the other side to the pagoda that overlooks the causeway and the island. I shot this video from up there. Here’s a shot of usually-placid Odongdo.

And here’s what it looked like around 12:30 p.m. on the 28th, one still shot and one video.

Heavy surf at Odong Island

Odongdo Surf

No way could anyone have walked to Odongdo that day; you would’ve probably been swept into the harbor. I’ve got a few more photos and another video of the island that I may put up later, but I’ll update you on what happens with Tembin in my next post.

Spring in Yeosu

As usual, spring time in Yeosu is, quite simply, gorgeous. It’s a city that features flowers of all colors, amazing green hues in the trees and, at times, deep blue skies. Following are a few shots that I took while walking around campus when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Most of the blossoms have fallen, but right now various other flowers are dominant.

Our English Tour Guide class took a field trip this past Saturday to several areas around town, including an achingly beautiful temple up in the mountains. I haven’t processed those photos yet, but they’ll be forthcoming soon.

I’ve also been down to the Expo Site and everything appears to be up and ready to go. There was a kind of mini-rehearsal on one of my visits, when a few thousand Yeosu citizens were invited to tour the facilities. This Saturday, May 5th, is the first full-scale dress rehearsal with around 100,000 folks visiting the site–I’ll be among them.

I also tried to get some night shots of the Expo, but heavy fog prevented any long-range photos, though I think I got a few interesting shots from around the area. I’ll try to get some of those up also.

Sorry for the delay between posts, but, except for a few days of heavy rains, the weather has been fantastic. I’d rather get out and enjoy it than spend the hours inside. 😉

OK, here are the campus shots. I will definitely have some others up soon!

Spring flowers in Yeosu

One Campus View of Spring

Yeosu Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms 1

Cherry Blossoms in Yeosu

Another Cherry Blossom Shot

Magnolia flowers

Magnolia Blossoms

Magnolia flowers

More Magnolia Blossoms

Campus Rest Area

Rest Area Near the Dorms

Azalea blossom

Azalea Blossom

Camellia Blossom

Camellia Blossom