As the buses pulled away from school, I felt my excitement build. I still had no idea where we were going, or what we would do when we got there but it didn’t matter. We had left school early, and that alone was exciting. I had my PJs, my toothbrush, and my bag of carefully packed snacks – I was ready for anything.
Or so I thought. I knew I was in trouble when the “Bus MC” took out his games. Why couldn’t we just enjoy the scenery? I wondered. It was a beautiful day and we were hurtling past Korea in the Fall. Couldn’t we just calmly look out the window instead of sticking post-it notes to each other with our mouths, and guessing how many pieces were in a baby orange? Apparently not.
Our first stop was a temple in the middle of nowhere. The temple was famous for its ‘mook’ (acorn jelly), which tastes a lot better than it looks.
It was also famous for a particular kind of liquor. Everyone became a wee bit flustered when I tried to learn more about the temple’s famous tipple. I soon realized why – apparently the liquor was a form of natural Viagra.
“Makes your friend stand up and say hello!” my co-T informed me, blushing.
Goodness. That’s a novel way to being in the believers.
Purely out of scientific curiosity, I asked how to say ‘penis’ in Korean. Nobody would tell me because I’m not married. Scandalous! 😀
After the temple, we headed to Pohang (a large city on the east coast) for dinner.
“The seafood in Pohang is very famous!” a co-worker told me excitedly as we arrived at the restaurant. The seafood is famous in Ulsan too. Why did we need to come to Pohang? Perhaps it was a different kind of seafood?
Sadly, there was even some whale.
We were even served Sannakji, a Korean delicacy. I quite like it but the Lonely Planet lists it in the “We Dare You” section. Apparently eating still moving octopus tentacles can be a choking hazard. (Sorry, my camera wouldn’t focus. 😦 )
Drinking is a huge party of Korean culture and this party was no exception. Before long, everybody was extremely cheerful. It is very bad form to pour your own drink, so if you’re feeling thirsty, just fill up your neighbour’s glass!
All too soon, it was time for bed. Normally on Teachers’ Trips, we sleep Korean style – on the floor. I have tried to be open-minded but I just can’t do it. I HATE sleeping on the floor. Especially if the floor is heated.
The last time I tried sleeping on a heated floor, it was January and bitterly cold. I was staying with a friend in a Korean-style hotel. We spread out our sleeping mats, and settled in. The floor was a bit hard but the heat more than made up for any discomfort.
I drifted off to sleep in a haze of warm happiness. All too soon, I awoke from a peculiar dream of being barbequed to discover that even though I was awake, the sensation of being grilled had not disappeared.
The side of my body closest to the floor felt like it was on fire. Any bit of me that protruded even slightly – shoulder blades, hips, my rather large bottom- was superheated by being pressed into the floor by the weight of my body; turning over provided only temporary relief. The blankets covering me trapped the heat, turning my cozy nest into an inferno-filled cocoon.
Removing the blankets was worse; the air in the room was freezing. I tried arranging my blankets to allow heat to escape without letting the cold air in and for a while it worked but I still had to flip over every few minutes, almost as if to ensure I was roasted evenly on all sides. Sleep was impossible.
It was inconceivable that anyone would choose to sleep like that. How on earth did the Koreans do it?
I followed the other teachers towards our hotel, already dreading the coming night. Imagine my delight when I discovered we were heading towards a Love Hotel. I swear I heard a chorus of angels when the hotel room door opened to reveal this:
I have to admit I was slightly nonplussed to discover that THREE teachers were to share ONE bed. Sharing a bed with a co-worker would have been awkward enough, but sharing a bed with two co-workers was interesting. Good thing my co-workers are all tiny! 😀