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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.

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.

New at the Expo

Slowly, but surely, new recreation venues are being added to the Expo grounds. I was out there during the Chuseok holiday during the day and again a few Saturdays ago. As I’ve mentioned before, the Big O show goes off nightly, and I was surprised at the long line of people who had bought tickets to watch it and were waiting to enter the amphitheater. On that evening, at least, there were some large crowds taking advantage of the site.

In addition to a few outdoor food vendors who’ve set up shop on the long Ocean Plaza walkway, there are a few indoor restaurants that have opened at the Expo Digital Gallery. There’s a mini-mart, a small Japanese noodle shop, a coffee shop, and two Korean food restaurants. You can also get international fare at the food court in the aquarium. For some reason it was closed the night we were there, so it may have some odd operating hours.

Other new additions include a small pirate-themed children’s play area and a rather tacky (in my opinion) putting green. I think a decent mini-golf course would be a much nicer addition, if the powers-that-be are thinking of adding more areas of that type.

Pirate playground

Pirate Playground

Putting Green

Putting Green

There’s also a small area near the Big O where you can rent a kayak, and, in that same area, you can ride a zip line, as evidenced by the poster below. It wasn’t operating the first day I noticed the poster, but a few weeks later it was being used quite a bit. It’s only about a very slow 25-30 second ride from one side of the small lagoon to the other, near the aquarium. It didn’t look all that exciting, but I would guess people are paying a hefty price to ride it. I’ll have to try to find out what the going rate is; anything more than $5 would, in my opinion, be a ripoff.

Zip line poster

Zip Line Poster

Kayaking center

Kayaking Center

Zip lining at the Expo

Zip lining Above the Kayakers

Kayaking

Kayaking

Kayaking

Kayaking

Kayaking

Kayaking Near Big-O

I wouldn’t recommend this (being a former Montana outdoor guy), but, in another new addition, you can set up “camp” near the MVL Hotel. This is “camping” Korean style–densely packed tents set up in a gravel parking lot. No trees, but I guess you’re right on the ocean, if that’s any advantage. This is more like apartment living, except there’s no one above you. In this highly urbanized country, this is about as close to the “great outdoors” as many Koreans will get. I think I’ll pass on this one.

Camping at the Expo

Camping at the Expo

Although the area is, usually, attracting large numbers of people, the crowd is nowhere near what it was for the Expo. Because of that, it’s easy to get some photos that would have been difficult to get last summer. Here are a couple of the Theme Pavilion, sans people.

Theme pavilion entrance

Theme Pavilion Entrance

I can’t make up my mind which of these two I like better.

Theme pavilion detail

Theme Pavilion Detail

Theme Pavilion detail

Theme Pavilion Detail 2

Here’s another area that was empty on this particular day, which was one of the Chuseok celebration days.

Quiet Expo

A Quiet Expo

Empty roads, too, on that day.

Empty Expo road

Empty Expo Road

There are still a couple of boats docked near the MVL Hotel. During the Expo, tours were held on both of them. One of the boats is just a regular large ship (I guess), while the other is a Maritime Police boat. I haven’t noticed any tours going on at either of them, but perhaps my timing has been bad. Here’s a close-up of the anchor on the regular boat, and the second is of the Maritime Police boat.

Anchor on Expo tour boat

Anchor on Expo Tour Boat

Maritime Police boat

Maritime Police Boat

The Big-O is starting to show some signs of wear at its base, but it’s still standing tall.

Base of the Big-O

Base of the Big-O

The Big-O

The Big-O

There have also been several concerts held at the site, so I’m very happy to see that this marvelous (for Yeosu) area is getting used (except for the putting green and the camp area). I’ll keep checking it out every so often and keep you posted about anything new and exciting or new and not-so-exciting.

Also, a fitting end to the day, from my dorm apartment. More later.

Sunset in Yeosu

Sunset in Yeosu

P.S. – Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that my apartment didn’t get “flooded” from the typhoon. I don’t think the wind was blowing from the wrong direction, the rain wasn’t as heavy as forecast, and the storm raced through the area, its peak lasting only a few hours. Lucky me!

End of the Semester

Well, it’s that time of the year. I’m pretty busy with end-of-the-semester exams, grading and paperwork, but the light at the end of the tunnel is that I’m taking off for Thailand and Laos on June 14th, returning on July 7th, a nice 3-week vacation of fun in the sun, I hope.

That’ll be a change of pace from the past few days, when we were drenched with 6 inches of rain from noon Monday until early Tuesday morning. Things are still pretty wet, and the students are attending and participating in the university’s annual 3-day festival down on the soaked, muddy grounds just below the campus. Just lucky it didn’t start Monday!

I’ve been going to the Expo site almost every weekend to check out any changes to the area, and I’m happy to report that a small Japanese restaurant, a mini-mart and a couple of outdoor food stands have opened. Hopefully, this is the beginning of bigger and better things for the area.

I’ll try to get some more posts and photos up before I go on vacation, but, as tardy as I’ve been lately (sorry ’bout that), I’m not gonna promise anything. But, I’ll try. More later.

Yeosu Expo Grounds Reopen!

Yes, at long last, the Expo site has reopened for the general public. I was just down there today, along with a few thousand other folks, and I was very happy to walk around the grounds. It brought back a lot of fond memories of the Expo’s three-month run last summer.

I’d guess that only about half the area is open, and there are no facilities, like restaurants or coffee shops, open yet. I hope, and expect, that will change. The area around the Big-O was closed off to the public, and about a dozen or so workers were laboring over the fountains in front of the Big-O. One of the large banners at the main entrance seems to indicate that the area will be free from April 20th to May 10th. On May 11th, the Big-O will also open again, and there will, maybe, be an admission fee. I don’t know how much that’ll be or whether there will even be an admission charge (my Korean is quite awful).

Today, though, the Expo Digital Gallery was up and running, the various fountains were entertaining kids of all ages, and the Sky Tower was operating (2,000 won — about two bucks — for a trip up the elevator to the observation deck).

It was a beautiful day made even better by the limited opening. I’m really looking forward to what the summer will bring to the area. More later.

Demise of Yeosu Expo Site?

What to do with the Expo site? An article from the JoongAng Daily entitled “Yeosu businesses fight to stay afloat months after the Expo” explores the issue. The article notes that the Yeosu city government wants to open the site by April 20th, but it doesn’t indicate what the area will be used for.

The worrying thing, as the article points out, is that the Yeosu Expo site will become an albatross around Yeosu’s neck, much as the Daejeon Expo site of 1993 has become for that city. To forestall the economic liability that the Expo site could become, the city government is trying to get private investors to buy the area, while local folks want the government to run the facility. However, the local government seems to refuse that idea:

The government’s firm stance on the plan comes from its bitter experience in dealing with the Daejeon Expo complex. What was once used as an amusement park and science-related tour facility after hosting the 1993 World Expo could not avoid mounting debts. It was eventually ordered by the Ministry of Safety and Public Administration to go into liquidation in 2008.

Daejeon, home to the 1993 World Expo, still suffers financial strain due to its failure to effectively manage the facilities that were built for the event.

Let’s hope that all parties involved can get this worked out; it’s a beautiful site on the harbor which has a lot of potential. But, of course, it seems that none of the entities that planned for the Expo looked this far into the post-Expo future.

In an article on the Huffington Post, “The Future of Yesterday: Photographs of Architectural Remains at World’s Fairs,” artist Ives Maes is quoted: “Everyone works in a frenzy to complete structures for a fair, and then they walk away when it’s over. We need to remember these buildings and these moments in time.” Hopefully, this doesn’t mean the demise of the Yeosu Expo site, a sad fate that the area doesn’t deserve.

Yet Another Yeosu Expo Update

I took a walk around the Expo site last Sunday, and, basically, nothing has changed since the last time I was down there. No more demolition has occurred, and it looks like everything that’s remaining will stay there. The only noticeable difference is that all the rubbish, debris, steel beams and whatnot has been removed and the site looks nice and neat and tidy, as if it were ready to open.

The only rumor I’ve heard lately is that the Big O is going to be revamped, due to some damage that it took from one of the typhoons that swept through here last August and September. Also, due to its disuse, the salt water has clogged up the plumbing system, so that’s going to be repaired also. Evidently, then, the Big O is going to be used, but to what extent I haven’t heard.

As I stated before, the Aquarium is open and seems to be attracting a good number of visitors. Hopefully, the rest of the site will open by this summer. I’ll try to round up some more “rumors” and keep you posted. More later.

Yeosu Expo 2012-Romania Pavilion

Romania Pavilion Sign

One of the more colorful pavilions at the Expo was the Romania Pavilion, and it was colorful in more ways than one, changing shades every few minutes. It seemed to occupy a smaller space than other major pavilions, but it was quite beautiful. However, it was larger than at first glance, taking up two floors. It also harbored a small restaurant, which, unfortunately, I never tried. In the early days of the Expo, this was quite a nice area in which to relax at the half dozen or so white, plastic tables with their chairs outside the restaurant. No one from the restaurant or pavilion hassled you if you didn’t order anything, and just sitting there and people watching was quite pleasant. Later, of course, with the huge numbers of people, hanging out there, if you could get a seat at all, was more an exercise in crowd watching; you couldn’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

So, here are a few shots of the Romanian Pavilion, chameleon-like, but nice.

Romania Pavilion

Romania Pavilion in Pink and Blue

Romania Pavilion

Romania Pavilion in Green

Romania Pavilion

Romania Pavilion in Purple

Romania Pavilion

Romania Pavilion in Violet

Romania Pavilion

Romania Pavilion in Blue

Romania Pavilion

Romania Pavilion in Brown

Upstairs at the Romania Pavilion

Upstairs at the Romania Pavilion

Yeosu Expo 2012-Pavilion Exteriors

We had some nice weather the last few days, pale reminders of this past summer, but it’s turning cold and windy again, so I thought I’d start posting some photos of the Expo that I’ve got laying around on my computer. Hopefully, these shots will help recapture the fun that was the Expo and help me to feel the summer heat again, if only in my mind. Yeah, I know that it’s quite a while after the fact, but perhaps you’ll enjoy them anyway.

First up are some shots of a few of the exteriors of various country pavilions. I won’t comment on these, since the countries are evident. These were all taken early on in the Expo, so there aren’t any huge lines of people waiting to enter the pavilions. Later on I’ll post some interior shots and some cultural performances. I was going to go to the Expo site today to take some new photos of the area, but the weather started becoming more winter-like sooner that the forecast predicted. I might still go down there, but then again I might just stay in my warm cave. More later.

The exterior of the Turkmenistan Pavilion

Turkmenistan

The exterior of the United Arab Emirates Pavilion

United Arab Emirates

The exterior of the Cambodia Pavilion

Cambodia

The exterior of the India Pavilion

India

The exterior of the Egypt Pavilion

Egypt

The exterior of the Pakistan Pavilion

Pakistan

The exterior of the Netherlands Pavilion

The Netherlands

The exterior of the Sweden Pavilion

Sweden

The exterior of the Germany Pavilion

Germany

The exterior of the Israel Pavilion

Israel

Yeosu Expo Dismantling Update

I took a trip to the Expo site on Sunday to see what had been dismantled since my last visit 3-4 weeks ago. There really hasn’t been too much taken down since then. All of the corporate pavilions have disappeared, with no sign that they had ever been there. However, none of the remaining buildings have been touched. The only other structure being removed is the Organizing Committee Office building, across the street from the Expo, near the Expo Town Gate.

So, the only major structures remaining at the site are the very large International Pavilion, the Korea Pavilion, the Theme Pavilion, the Sky Tower and the Big O. I’d make a good guess that the Sky Tower and the Big-O won’t be taken down. The Sky Tower will be a good observation platform for whatever becomes of the site, but I’ve heard from a reliable source that the Big-O’s special water effects won’t be available. It was underestimated how high the costs would be to keep the effects functioning, because they have to be run every day, due to the salt water clogging the system if it’s not used. I suppose the lighting effects would be easy and cheap enough to use, but without the water, it just won’t be the same.

Those lighting effects are located on the Theme Pavilion, which I also have heard won’t be taken down. Most of it wasn’t designed as a temporary structure, since a large mass of it is concrete. If the lighting is used for the Big-O, the system will probably have to stay where it’s at right now.

Here’s a shot of the Big O with the Theme Pavilion behind it. Do you see those 6 small blue spots on the Theme Pavilion? (You might have to click on the photo to enlarge it.) Those are the projectors used to light up the Big O.

The Big O and the Theme Pavilion at Yeosu Expo 2012

The Big O and the Theme Pavilion

The International Pavilion contains the Expo Digital Gallery (EDG), which probably won’t be dismantled. The vast main concourse area, where the EDG is located, has been used successfully as a concert area since the close of the Expo, so I’m gonna guess the Pavilion, at least most of it, will remain.

International Pavilion

Main Hall at the International Pavilion

I’ve also read in one of the English-written Korean newspapers that the Organizing Committee stated that the Korean Pavilion won’t be taken down. Here’s a night view of part of that structure.

The Korea Pavilion at night

Korea Pavilion

Here are a few more shots from last Sunday. First, a couple of views of the corporate pavilions area. The first one looks down the Ocean Plaza walkway and the other was taken from the far end of the Expo site, near the MVL Hotel. If you look at my previous post, you can see what the view down the Ocean Plaza looked like several weeks ago.

The Ocean Plaza at Yeosu Expo 2012

Looking Down the Ocean Plaza

Sky Tower and Corporate Sponsor Area at the Yeosu Expo 2012

Sky Tower and Corporate Sponsor Area 2

If you enlarge the next photo and look to the far right of it, you can see what the corporate pavilion area looked like back in August.

The Yeosu Expo site on August 28, 2012

Expo Site on August 28, 2012

And another shot of the corporate area. The white building on the right is the Cruise Ship Terminal. I assume that cruise ship visits are probably part of the discussion about what to do with the area.

Sky Tower and Corporate Sponsor Area at the Yeosu Expo 2012

Sky Tower and Corporate Sponsor Area

And here’s the area from above the railway station now, and when it was under construction.

Former corporate sponsor area from the railway station

Corporate Sponsor Area From Above the Train Station

Corporate Pavilion Construction

Corporate Pavilion and Energy Park Construction, Yeosu 2012 Expo, Jan 28, 2012

Here’s the skeleton of the Organizing Committee Building now, and the building with the “Spyglass Lady” right after it was constructed.

The Organizing Committee Office Building being torn down

Skeleton of Organizing Committee Building

Steel beams from the Local Governments Pavilion are stacked up near the aquarium. The aquarium was again busy this past Sunday, which is hopefully a good sign that the area has a bright future.

Steel Beams Near Aquarium at Yeosu Expo 2012

Steel Beams Near Aquarium

One of my former English students, a professor at the university, who is on the advisory committee that is deciding what to do with the site, told me that no decision has been made yet on the future use of the area. Shopping area? Tourist destination? Ocean theme park? High-end resort? No one seems to know, yet, but I’ll keep my eyes and ears open, and as soon as a decision is made, I’ll post about it here. More later.

(The MVL Hotel, self-described as a “seven-star” resort, would be a good option for high-end tourists staying in the area.)

Boats near the MVL Hotel

Boats and MVL Hotel