Caveat: Dinkytown

I spent some time in my very old haunts around Dinkytown, the neighborhood on the northeastern edge of the University of Minnesota campus.  Some things change — there's the appalling new stadium on which the University clearly spent a vast sum of money, and new parking ramps and buildings and roads.  And the Student Book Store where I worked for 3-odd years has changed management and shrunk a bit, while the "Dinkydome" where it's located is under humongous renovation — it looks like they're going to put a giant building behind it where the parking lot and the Starbucks used to be.  The "Expresso22" (the cafe with the punk-gothy vibe that I used to escape to) is closed because of the renovations. 

But some things stay the same.  Down on 14th Street, the Expresso Royale is still going strong and has the same feel to it.   I used to study many hours there, way back into the 80's, when it was called something else and was open 24 hours a day.  I even saw some of the same dysfunctional Dinkydenizens loitering along 14th street… faces familiar from 10 and even 20 years ago.

Then I saw Minneapolis police officers on horseback.  That was weird.  What's that about?  In Dinkytown?  It's always been rather bohemian (Bob Dylan started his folk career there), but horse-mounted police was a rather excessively Manhattennish touch, I thought.

Overall, I guess  I was just reminiscing, though I stopped in the U's bookstore, as it's a good place for the obscure sorts of things I tend to like to browse. 

Caveat: That didn’t last long

I went into a grocery store, and it was strange how the "reverse culture shock" of my return to the US suddenly caught up with me.  I really hadn't been experiencing much difficulty with adjusting to being back, but somehow being in the store left me feeling lost.  And even more strangely, amid a giant warehouse-style grocery store, I managed to find some locally made kimchi in about 2 minutes, but couldn't find several things that should be easy.

I managed not to have kimchi for about a week.  I guess I was craving some.  Weird how it grows on a person.  I used not to like it.

Caveat: 개구리도 움츠려야 뛴다

개구리도 움츠려야 뛴다 => frog-also crouch-[“only when”] jump-[UNMARKED PRES.] => “A frog has to crouch first to jump.”  A Korean proverb that I found inscribed on a tourist-souvenir tshirt that I bought before leaving Korea.

I ran errands today.  It was blustery with cobalt clouds scudding across the sky.  Intermittent splutters of rain, 12 C.  Weather like this could convince me I’d rather stay in Minnesota than return to Korea or elsewhere — I love Minnesota’s weather so much.  People think that’s crazy, but it’s really, truly true.

I had dinner with my stepson Jeffrey, who’s moving from St Cloud to Twin Cities because of a promotion with his work.  I enjoyed my time with him — he’s turned out a strong, decent sort of human being, and I’m glad.

Caveat: I lost my truck in the Han River

OK, not really — it was a dream.

It didn't take me long to start dreaming "driving" dreams again.  And I haven't even done much driving, yet.  The dream started kind of vaguely, with my driving my Nissan pickup around Japan and Korea.  Which makes sense, of course, given I recently was traveling there and only now returned to Minnesota to be driving my pickup, running errands.  But then the dream became very vivid.

I drove it onto a ferry boat.   Despite the fact that I never got near the automobile deck on any of the ferries I rode, the ferry auto-deck was rendered in great detail, with appropriate Korean-language warning signs (who knows if they were correct), appropriate makes of vehicle (Hyudais and Kias and Samsung-Renaults and Ssangyong SUVs, etc), and appropriate men standing around smoking.  My dream-truck was rendered in great detail, too, with its post-two-year-storage coating of dust on the hood and dented front license plate (actually, that wasn't quite accurate, as my actual front license plate doesn't look so dented, as far as I can tell looking out the window at it, just now).

The truck was parked at one end of the auto-deck on the ferry, right up against one of the fold-down ramps for unloading the cars when the ferry docks.   I fixated on one of the fat, smooth steel rods or "bolts" that are used to hook the ramp up by passing through a padlock hasp sort of arrangement in order to hold it in place, and the fat cotter pin through the end of it.

 

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Looking out through the crack between the ramp and the steel wall of the ferry, I saw the Seoul skyline gliding past.  All of which is implausible — there are no vehicle ferries on the Han River through Seoul, and it's unlikely I'd be driving my truck in Korea, right?   But such are dreams.

 

Then the cotter-pin I'd fixated on popped out, the metal rod popped out of its hasp, and the ramp fell open.  The boat was rocking violently, although I saw no waves.   And so my truck slipped off the deck and into the muddy river water, almost soundlessly.  The men smoking cigarettes hardly noticed.  I felt very little alarm, either.   And that was the dream.

Interesting symbolism.   At right, the truck in question.  No picture of the ferry auto-deck, however — I didn't have my cellphone camera in dreamland.   But below is the Han River, as seen from the "63" building in June.

 

200906_SeoulKR_from63skyline_P1010856

 

Caveat: Sleepless in St Paul

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, and was completely wide-awake.  Jet-lag, and all that. 

So, I got on my computer and finally got around to trying to build a "cafe" (which is what Koreans call user-generated web-forum-blog-type-thingies:  "카페") on naver.com.  It's a bit challenging for me, since the interface for signing up and doing the configuration and settings is only in Korean.  But after looking up lots of Korean words on the various links and buttons and instructions, I succeeded!  I have decided that I'm really bad at keeping my own ASP.NET-based website updated, and my students are very comfortable with the Korean internet's cafe concept, that the best way to set up something internet-based for interacting with students and staying in touch would be to make my own cafe. 

So, here it is.  I even posted something there.   I've redirected "jaredway.com" to that location, now, too [update – this "redirect" is no longer true, but the cafe is still there.  neglected].  We'll see if it works out for keeping in touch with my former students (and, presumeably, over time, future ones as well?).

Warning — there's a lot of Korean on the site.  Not because I put it there, but because the "frame" is part of the naver.com internet portal, which is one of the big 3 Korean internet portals.   Of the 3, I like naver.com best because it's the only one that works seemlessly with firefox.  The other two seem to be more Microsoft dependent.  If your computer doesn't have the Korean character set, you might see a lot of gobblygook.

Caveat: Disorientation at Dawn

I had one of those moments when I woke up in "the middle of the night" – actually it was around dawn, I think – where I spent a really long, mostly lucid time puzzling out where in the world I was.   That's common for many people when traveling, but I don't experience it very often.  In my brain, I was paging through the many places I've been over the last month:  my apartment in Ilsan, hotel rooms and ryokan and yeogwan in Japan and Korea, my friend Peter's apartment where I crashed, too.  Nothing was matching up to the homey familiarity of my crashing spot on Mark & Amy's living room floor.   It took a long time — at least 5 minutes.   Finally, I put it together, where I was.

Was it all a dream?  This is where I stayed on the nights before my departure for Korea, too.  So it's a "full circle" moment.

Beautiful Minnesota fall rain, now.   I slept late — later than I have in ages.  I can blame timezones.  Now, off to get some things done.  I hope I can get my car running.

Caveat: Back home in Minnesota

Minnesota is only one of many places I consider home.  But it's one that has played one of the most significant roles in my life.

Nothing long to write about.  Tired.  Airport to airport to airport to airport.  Teleportation in loud slow motion.  Dinner with great friends Mark & Amy and their sons Charlie and Martin.  Tomorrow, I need to begin sorting things out.   I will probably be spending some quality time at my storage unit, which is close by to here, and getting my truck running.

Caveat: Killing time in the Tokyo Airport

The wait for the next flight is longer than expected.  So here I sit.  I should take this time to work on one of my videos, maybe. 

I already feel exhausted, and I've only done the shortest, easiest leg of this 2 stopover airplane journey.   I guess I had some busy days the last few days, with a VERY late night having dinner and beer with my friend Curt and two former LinguaForum coworkers, Ryan and Keith, and my friend Peter who was so generous as to let me crash on his extra bed in his apartment in Ilsan the last few days.  Yes, I actually drank a few glasses of beer, which is almost unheard of for me.  I think I did it as a Korean-style "show of good faith" to my friend Curt — he's one of the few Koreans to whom I've admitted that the fact that I don't drink alcohol isn't really because I have a problem with alcohol per se, but rather because I have a problem with Korean-style drinking culture (i.e. get puking drunk with your coworkers as a way of bonding with irrational management).  Anyway, we were talking and and eating 안주 until after 3 am.  This is so typical of Korea — and that's on what was a worknight, for all of them.

Yesterday, I made a weird sort of disconsolate "pilgrimage" to the Seoul Museum of Contemporary Art.  What do I mean by that?  Well… in around April of 1991, I made a trip to this museum, and it was my absolute very first time "on my own" in Korea.   I arrived in Korea with the US Army in December of 1990, but because the Gulf War was going on, we were almost constantly on "lockdown" status, and getting leave to go off base was difficult.  As a consequence, the first time for me to be able to take a day and go exploring the country as a civilian didn't come until 4 months in.  I got a "day pass" from my commander, and rather than use it to go to another post (like Camp Casey or Yongsan), I decided to go exploring on my own.

I'd been studying Hangeul, so I was confident I could decipher any location signs on e.g. trains or buses (Korea in 1991 still didn't have a universal policy of putting Roman-alphabet transliterations on all public signage, the way that they do now — at least not out and about the provinces — so being able to competently navigate public transportation required at least a basic mastery of the sounding out the writing system).  

It was a Saturday or Sunday, I don't remember.  Around 9 am, I took a taxi from the Camp Edwards gate to Munsan train station, and took a train into Seoul Station.  Nowadays, there's a subway line that goes right in front of where Camp Edwards used to be, but back then it was a slightly decrepit suburban commuter line.  At Seoul station, I got into the Subway (I think it only had 5 or 6 lines then — now it has 15 or something like that).  I had decided based on some guidebook I'd found at the base library, that I was going to try to go to the museum.  I was feeling starved for culture.

I enjoyed navigating the subway, and I got out to Seoul Grand Park (대공원역) on the blue line by around noon.  I walked up the pathways, past the smallish theme park called Seoulland (well, small back then — it seems much larger now when I saw it yesterday), and found the museum.  When I went back yesterday, I was running too late to be able to go in, as it was closing.  Back then, I went in and spent a few hours there.  I remember I bought a tshirt that didn't fit me very well, but that I was proud of because it had Korean writing on it, which was unheard of for a GI like me to be wearing. 

Caveat: “The Subway Octopus” and other uncategorized photos

Here are some other uncategorized still photos I have uploaded from my computer.

First, here is a picture of an octopus sculpture I saw in the Busan subway.

200909_BusanKR_subwayoctopusp090912115757

Next, there is the Busan skyline as seen from the top of Jangsan (which is situated north of Haeundae beach in the northeast part of the city).  I'm looking south by southwest, here (roughly toward Taiwan, off across the sea by a thousand kilometers or something like that).  You can click on these pictures to see bigger versions — this one is quite high resolution.

200909_BusanKR_fromthetopofjungsanIMG_0113

This is a picture of "Busan Tower" that I ascended while in Busan one evening.   The view of the city, all lit up, was pretty spectacular, but I didn't get any photos.  Sorry.

200909_BusanKR_tower_p090911194209

Here is a picture I took of the screen in the express elevator that runs to the top of this tower.  When your express elevator is running Microsoft Windows, and Windows crashes (as is its wont to do), does the elevator then crash, too?  We were all somewhat alarmed to see the error message suddenly pop up on the screen, two thirds of the way to the top of the tower.

200909_BusanKR_elevatorvista_p090911200020

Here is a picture of greenery on Ulleundo that I like.

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Here is a picture of red peppers drying in the morning sun on a Dodong, Ulleungdo, side street.  A very common sight everywhere in Korea, this time of year.  Such a delicious country!

200909_UlleungdoKR_redpeppersindodongIMG_0163

Last:  I met a guy and his wife and mother-in-law who were on tour visiting Ulleungdo.  They shared some food with me and we chatted in a rewarding mix of his terrible English and my terrible Korean and his mother-in-law's monologue.   I took some pictures of the three of them, using their camera, with the view of Dodong harbor behind them (I hadn't brought my own camera on that particular hike). 

Then he took my picture in the same spot as they'd been standing.  I wrote my email down for him, because he said he would email the pictures to me.  I thought nothing of it — but the other day, I got several pictures of myself via email.   So… here I am, standing on the rock path at the southwest corner of the Dodong harbor entrance (the camera is pointed roughly north).

200909_UlleungdoKR_swcornerdodongSDC11132

Caveat: 돈키호테. 진짜?! 왜요?

I keep telling myself that if my Korean is going to improve, I need to try harder to read things.   I frequently puzzle my way through parts of newspaper headlines or articles, and I’ve learned a lot reading advertisements, but such forms of “found Korean” won’t be available to me when I return to the US.  So I’ve been telling myself I should buy some actual books in Korean to try reading.  It is perhaps too ambitious, given the pathetic level of my vocabulary — but I’m pretty good at working out the grammar as long as I have a dictionary in hand.

In one final visit to the bookstore today, I bought what looks to be a late-elementary or middle-school level text of Korean history, that I might try.  I also found an abridged translation of Don Quijote (돈키호테 = don-ki-ho-te).  I remember when I was first trying to learn Spanish, I would sit down and try to read, in Spanish, books I had read before in English.  So what better first text to sit down with in Korean than a translation of something I know very well in Spanish?

Caveat: I said some goodbyes to students today

… I felt a bit melancholly.  And they complained, of course, about the new teacher.  But I remember when they were complaining to the previous teacher about me, too.  Such are students… they get used to something, and then the changes are always a bit hard.  Nevertheless, I will miss them greatly.

I tried to work on editing a little video of Ulleungdo today, but I was getting perfectionistic and wasn't happy with what I had.  I think I will start over.  Sorry.

I've been making a lot of lists, lately.  Lists of things I need to do or buy (before leaving Korea, after getting back to the states, if-and-when I return to Korea — those sorts of lists).  But also, perhaps I mentioned, trying to list "good things" and "bad things" about Korea, in an effort to help myself decide whether I really want to return here or whether I would rather do something else, next, with my life.  I don't like the idea of being "flighty" about things.  I like the idea of "sticking to" something.  So, what, exactly, am I sticking to by returning to Korea after some length of break.   And, is it something I really want to stick to?  If so, why?  Are there better things to take on and stick to?

Caveat: War. Conflict.

I went to the Korean War Memorial and museum in Seoul today.  I've never been there, although I came close to going a few times.  It's interesting to go there for me, in part, because it's sited on land that was still part of the Yongsan Garrison (US Military command base in Korea) when I was first here in 1991.  Being in the Yongsan area always makes me have strong recollections of when I was here in Korea in the Army. 

The museum had a few interesting aspects.  I actually enjoyed the displays on the first floor, about earlier Korean military history (i.e. back from 19th c. and earlier) than about the Korean war.  Modern state nationalism and ideology-driven conflicts, in all their manifestations, often leave me feeling rather negative about the human condition.  I suppose the earlier stuff is more interesting because it's less relevant… I can kind of look at is a broad swathe of almost literary background, which is always the way I best enjoy reading history, I guess.

I've had people asking me for "more videos."   I have lots of "footage" (kind of an outdated term in the age of gigabytes of storage on harddrives or USB sticks), but I need to put some things together.  Maybe I'll work on something tomorrow.  I'm going to visit my former job and say a final goodbye to some of my students and coworkers in the afternoon, but hadn't really decided on something for the morning yet.

I've been feeling rather conflicted the last few days about "Korea."  What I mean, is that I have been pretty sure I want to come back, and I have some solid opportunities to do so, to work.  But I keep playing lists in my head:  positives about Korea in one column, negatives about Korea in another, and it's too evenly balanced.  And there are other adventures to be had, elsewhere in the world. 

How strong is my interest in, and acknowledged passion for, the Korean language?  How willing am I to accept those many annoying aspects of Korean culture, in my pursuit of the language?

Caveat: Weed-wacker infomercials on Buddhist TV and other random observations

Yesterday felt a bit unproductive.  I wasted two hours trying to figure out if I could reactivate my cellphone.  The company ended the service as soon as their records indicated that my work visa had expired.  Last time that happened, I had a one month grace period which I'd been counting on to be able to exploit this time so I could have a functioning cellphone for the rest of the time in Korea.  I suspect I didn't get the grace period this time because I disappeared off the grid to Japan for 10 days.

Anyway, it started seeming very expensive and complicated to get them to reactivate the phone, so I gave up and just rented a cellphone for this last week, so I'll be able to call people or whatever.  It's hard to function in Korean society anymore without a cellphone — adoption is basically 100% as far as I can tell.

I then had to find a different hotel, as the funky place I stayed my first night was fully reserved.   I had chosen that place almost solely on the basis of the fact that they offered in-room free wifi according to their website, which is hard to find in anything but top-end hotels.   It was OK, kind of a youth-hostel vibe that reminded me a bit of my years at Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City.

I may try to stay with an acquaintance, Peter (not the same Peter I worked with, but an American I met through my friend Basil some months back), in Ilsan — he's made an offer to crash on the extra bed at his apartment.   It would be convenient to be based in Ilsan, and the choices of hotels out there are surprisingly limited, especially for Korea:  either high-end business hotels or those pseudo-posh "love motels" (a la the Japanese model) where you can easily get a room overnight, but they look at you funny at the front desk when you ask to stay for such a long time, and your neighbors might get noisy.   I have seen very few of the traditional Korean yeogwan that can be found almost anywhere in most Korean towns.

I felt very tired yesterday.  Perhaps all the traveling, catching up with me.  Returning to my comment of some days back:  I'm really not that good of a traveler… I just like being in lots of different places.

Staying in various hotels and places, I've been enjoying (?) the glories of having access to Korean cable television, which is something I never had access to in my apartment.   60 odd channels.  Here are some random observations.

Why did the minbak at Dodong, Ulleungdo, have a channel with Chinese-language music videos?

There are at least two Christian networks (one may be Catholic?), but there's also a Buddhist TV network, which is fascinating, as it follows the Americn "Christian media" model closely, but of course, the content is strikingly different.   At one point, I was fascinated to watch a long lecture (sermon) by a traditionally bald-headed senior monk at some temple, and to note that he was, in fact, an American (ethnically European), speaking fluent Korean, badgering his audience and telling them jokes in a style not unlike a Christian pastor.   Of course, I laughed for a long time when this was immediately followed by an extended informercial for a weed-wacker. 

There's the "Go" channel (as in the complex board game of "Go"), but there also seems to be a channel with a lot of Chinese-style chess.  And there are 3 or 4 sports channels, too, but I'm puzzled by the fact that they always seem to be covering the same sport at any given time, but different angles and specific matches or events.  At one time, you'll seem 3 or 4 channels covering golf.  Then later, they're all covering soccer matches.  Mostly, they're covering baseball (this is late summer in Korea, after all).  But… are they all working together, or as a cartel, such they always have the same sports?  Is there some convention or rule that says they have to stay in sync?  Or is all really the same company?   I can't quite puzzle it out.

Korean TV seems to have a lot of shows dedicated to following "average people" around in their lives.   So you can sit and watch someone shopping, or meeting their friends for lunch, or having dinner with their family, with a running narrative commentary.   I'm sure there are special reasons why these individuals and families merit following around with a camera crew, but my Korean is not good enough for me very often to figure out what those reasons are.   But as a cultural observer like I am, I find myself drawn to these programs just from the way that they offer windows into daily Korean life.  One show that I caught last night was following a group of Korean expatriates living in Los Angeles, which I found particularly fascinating.

Caveat: Some pictures from Ulleungdo

Here are some still pictures.    I didn't actually take that many, because I was too busy playing with my video camera.  Not sure how to balance that out, yet.

The first is from Cheonbu harbor (center of the north coast) looking west toward the Chusan outcropping.   Straight west past that is South Korea.  Northwest, to the rightish, is North Korea.  Exactly north, to the right, is Vladivostok.  And behind is Japan.  All off across the sea, of course.
200909_UlleungdoKR_cheonbuIMG_0159
The next is from the southeast coast, between Dodong and Jeodong on the walk to the Dodongdeungdae.
200909_UlleungdoKR_dodongdeungdaeIMG_0119
These are some boats in Dodong harbor.
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This is the view of Dodong from the ferry terminal.  Cute town.
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This is the "no road existing" sign that made sure I didn't get lost.
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This is the island of Jukdo, off the northeast coast.  According to a guidebook, it is inhabited by 3 families and their cows (which have to journey to and from the island using slings into and out of boats to get up and down the cliffs all around it).  I want to visit this island.
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This next is from somewhere along the northeast stretch of highwayless coast.  I liked the tree very much.
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And here are a few from my cellphone camera (much lower resolution).

Here's a buddha next to a modernist cartoony statue of various sea-denizens that are part of Ulleungdo's identity.

200909_UlleungdoKR_buddhaandseamonstersp090914174140

Here's a temple wall that has a very striking picture of a sea-dragon amid the waves.  It was a gorgeous painting but didn't come out so well on the cellphone camera due to the lighting and resolution.

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Here's the excursion ferry arriving at Dodong from Dokdo.  I nearly went to Dokdo myself, but the mobs of nationalistic Koreans rather put me off. 

200909_UlleungdoKR_ferryarrivesfromdokdop090914150310 

You see, Dokdo is a tiny outcropping of rock (less than 1 square kilometer) that juts out of the water about 90 km southeast of Ulleungdo.  It is claimed by both South Korea and Japan, though it's currently controlled by South Korea, and as far as I can tell, they have the most valid claim: since medieval times Dokdo has always been grouped with Ulleungdo administratively, so whoever "owned" Ulleungdo also was considered owner of Dokdo, regardless of whether the "owners" were ultimately the Japanese emperor or the Korean king, depending on epoch.

Right now, there is a huge nationalist fervor in Korea, provoked by recent ambiguous but typically in-denial-of-history mumblings by some Japanese ministry or another.  The government and the media powers-that-be are encouraging all Koreans to believe firmly that "Dokdo is ours!"  You can even get "Dokdo" t-shirts at Dunkin Donuts.  Nationalistic geo-fetishes always make me uncomfortable, as historically they often seem to lead to bad (read: violent) outcomes.

Caveat: ah, bus stations…

I'm in the Pohang bus station, and found a PCBang inside it.  I have bought a ticket for DongDaegu, which is the Daegu city express train terminal, where I will buy a train ticket back to Seoul.  I thought of buying a direct bus ticket (it's only 5 hours), but I decided to make the journey a little more interesting by going intermodal.   Everyone knows how I am about the maximal enjoyment of all forms of public transportation.

Caveat: 섬더덕 제리

I’ll make this a short entry… I have to catch my ferry back to Pohang.  I went around to Chusan and Cheonbu again this morning, and also rode the cable car to the top of the hill here in Dodong.  Mostly just wandering-around-sightseeing, as I tend to do.

Ulleungdo is famous for the things it makes with pumpkin, among other things, and although pumpkin is not normally one of my preferred tastes, they have these pumpkin jellied candies (섬더덕 제리) that are pretty good.   [Correction!–dated 2009-09-17–섬더덕 is not pumpkin, but rather Codonopsis lanceolata (see wikipedia).  I was confused because the woman selling to me was confused, but a friendly man on the ferry back from Pohang enlightened me.  Anyway, I like the candies a lot, and probably the fact that it’s not pumpkin explains why.]  I  have bought some bags of them to take back to the LBridge kids, if I get a chance to pass them out on my last goodbye visit next Monday/Tuesday.

I’m pretty sure I’m headed back to Seoul tomorrow.   Not that there aren’t tons of other places in Korea that I haven’t seen and that I would love to see, but I have a week left, at this point, and although I lived in Seoul (well, suburbs) for two years, there are a lot of toursity things I never got the chance to do.  This will be my chance to explore and get to know a bit better the city that’s been my home.

Caveat: Clockwise. Counterclockwise.

I went around the island of Ulleungdo twice today. 

First, to make up for the viewless and deckless ferry ride across, I decided to get one of the "round the island" ferry excursion tours that are offered.  Well, first thing in the morning, I walked out to the 도동등대 (dodongdeungdae, a downright stunning mouthful of frustrating Korean vowels, which means Dodong Lighthouse… actually, I think "Dodong" just means "island town").  That took about an hour.  Then I got on the excursion boat at 9 and rode it around the island, which took about 2 hours.  The boat was crowded with tour-group people, mostly large tribes of middle-aged and older Koreans, shoving and pushing and chatting and yelling and picnicking and taking each other's pictures.  I tried to stay out of everyone's way.  I noticed they had a second boat full of teenagers (middle schoolers or highschoolers on "school trip" most likely), so I probably should consider myself lucky.  Then again, teenagers are more likely to be sociable with "foreigners" like me, as they are too young to care what the foreigner might think or say.  But, the scenery was fabulous.  So, that was "clockwise" around the island.

Then when I got off the boat, I got on a bus to 저동 (Jeodeong), which only took about 10 minutes.  And I began walking.  The island had no roads until 1976, only trails and round-the-island ferries.  The government has been developing the island, and they've managed to complete about 80% of their island-circling highway.  The northeast quadrant, between Jeodong and Seokpo, roughly, is not yet built.  So, to go around the island by land, one has to walk at least this stretch of it.  There are some stretches of highway of the "road to nowhere" variety because they don't connect to any town properly, and there's not bus service for that reason.  So I had to walk about 5 km of highway and about 4 km of rough mountainous trail.  There was a lot of up and down.   But unlike in Busan, I'd remembered to get a big plastic water bottle, and I didn't feel lost — I followed the right signs, including one which memorably read "길없음" (gil-eops-eum = "no road existing" and pointing to the left, which therefore convinced me to take a right even though it was against my intuition of the moment.  So, I didn't get lost.  And by 3:30 pm, I was in Cheongbu, where I could catch a bus back around the north, west, and south sides of the island and back to Dodong, which is on the southeast corner.  That was counterclockwise.  It was a great day.  I'm tired.

I took some video of both trips, and when the battery on my camera ran low, I took some pictures with my cell phone (which isn't allowing me to make calls, unfortunately, but which I still carry for it's handy pocket-watch and korean-english dictionary functionality).   I'm not posting any pictures, from here, however, as I have to get things loaded across to my computer, and then, preferably, I should try to find a place where I can wifi directly online and not have to transfer to a USB stick to upload on a public computer.

So anyway, that was my day in Ulleungdo.  I think it's the most beautiful place in Korea that I've seen, and it's in my top ten list of most beautiful places anywhere.

Caveat: … or not off the grid?

I should have known it wouldn't be easy to escape (or leave behind) civilization… especially in crowded Korea. 

I'm on Ulleungdo, and I just couldn't resist popping into the PCBang (Korean style internet cafe) just up the street from my pension.    Yes, they have PCBang in Ulleungdo.  Sigh. 

Pohang is a depressing, charmless city for the most part.  But I walked the length of it, from the bus station to the ferry terminal, and saw more fish for sale (mostly still wiggling) than I ever thought possible, at the market.   The city is famous as Korea's "steel town" (a kind of Pittsburgh by the sea, I guess) but that's all a recent development of its history — 50 years ago it was just a generic east coast fishing village.

The ferry crossing was… stunningly boring.  Once again, even though this wasn't a hydrofoil, passengers were not allowed on deck.  And my seating section didn't even have windows.  It was like spending 3 hours in a shaking, rocking, rolling room full of 300 hungover and picnicking Koreans.  Hmm.  Next time, remind me not to be stingy, and to instead go ahead and blow the extra 7 bucks for an upgrade to First class, where, apparently, at least they have windows.

But landing at Ulleungdo Dodong harbor and stepping out was like stepping into a movie set.  This verdant, tiny island fishing village, with hawkers and sellers and the entire day's worth of departures and arrivals for the island's only transport connection to the world bustling around the dock.  I had read in a guidebook that people will accost all obvious tourists (which I am no doubt one, given my complexion and physiognomy if nothing else) with offers of lodging at the various pensions and hotels to be found in the town (of about 5000, I think).  

I took up the first ajumma (older Korean woman archetype) to make me an offer — entirely on the criterion that she obviously knew no English whatsoever.  Finally, someone who will force me to speak Korean with them.   She wasn't very chatty as we walked up the street to her pension (two rooms in the back of her storefront that she rents to travelers), and her price seemed steep, compared to the guidebooks, but still less than the generic hotel I'd stayed at last night in Pohang.

But she unleashed a monologue of discussion (what did I want to eat, I got that) when I'd gotten settled in my room and come back out to go off exploring.   "뒤에" [later],  I said, but I wasn't sure I was using the right word, until another ajumma came by on the street and yelled at my proprietess "뒤에!  뒤에!"  and added something to the effect of  "just listen to him, he said later."

I still probably wasn't using it quite correctly.   But at least I wasn't completely off the mark.

OK, I'm off.  In theory, given I showed I can do a 15 km hike in about 5 hours in Busan, on Saturday, I could walk around this island in a day (well, a long day).  According to the guidebook, it's 73 square kilometers.  That's a pretty small island.  I don't think I'll try that.  More later.

Caveat: Off the grid?

I'm taking the bus to Pohang today, and the ferry to Ulleungdo tomorrow.  I'm not expecting to find convenient internet connections (although you never know, these days), so, I may not be posting for a while.  I've posted at least once for every single calendar day this year.  I'm really amazed at this record.  I'll try to keep it up, by back-posting for the days I'm off the grid.  I'll be back on mainland Korea next thursday at the latest, or maybe sooner if Ulleungdo proves disappointing or frustrating or unbearably boring.  And who knows, these days, and in the land of broadband internet connectivity, I might just find easy internet there, too.  My guide book is a few years out of date, and these things change fast.