Road Trip with Mr. Park

November 15, 2008 at 12:45 pm (Uncategorized)

Ever since we arrived in early August our boss, Mr. Park, has been saying that he wanted to take the three English teachers on a road trip.  We were not exactly enthused with the idea, but feigned interest in the hopes that he would just get too busy and forget about the whole thing.  Sadly, it was not to be.  Mr. Park approached us in mid-October and asked us to pick a weekend day that would work for all of us so he could take us out to see the East coast.  We decided October 25th, but told him that we had just visited the East coast with Wendy the weekend before, and asked if we could go somewhere a little closer to home (i.e. that wouldn’t involve an entire day of travelling).  He was shocked that we had visited the East coast without him, and stubbornly said that he wanted to go back there to show us pretty much the exact same area all over again.  He is such a peculiar man.

For yet another weekend morning we woke up before the sun, and set out to meet Mr. Park in front of the school at 6:00am.  He was explicit about the departure time – we had to leave at 6am to get ahead of the traffic! – but when we arrived he was nowhere to be found.  He didn’t arrive until almost 6:20, and by that point my already grumpy morning mood had morphed into outright surliness.  Sarah, Dave and I had been debating who would be stuck in the front seat with Mr. Park on the long journey across the country, so in true Korean style the decision was made by using “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. Dave was the unhappy loser.  We set off, and I tried to get as comfortable as I could so I could get some much needed sleep, but we soon pulled over and Dave was ousted from the front seat in favour of Sarah.  Apparently Mr. Park was on the verge of falling asleep at the wheel, and wanted Sarah to talk to him so he stayed awake.  He always knows how to put people at ease.  Dave and I fell asleep listening to Mr. Park drone on about the width of the lanes on the highway…..poor Sarah.

Our intended destination was the city of Gangneung, which is about half an hour south of Sokcho, the city we’d visited with Wendy the weekend before.  The original plan was that Mr. Park was going to drop Dave, Sarah and I off in Gangneung while he attended a church service (he is an extremely devout Seventh Day Adventist), but the voyage from Seoul took longer than expected so he decided to forgo church.  We were honestly shocked – this is the man who has wood carvings of Bible quotes in his office, who goes to church at least several times a week, and won’t allow the school cook to serve pork because it goes against his beliefs – and he was skipping church?! 

Anyway, our first stop was the Ojukheon & Gangneung Municipal Museum (http://www.ojukheon.or.kr/museum/main.jsp), which is a large complex known around the country for its black bamboo trees.  It is the birthplace of Yulgok Yi Yi, a famous Confucian scholar, and his equally famous mother, Shin Saimdang.  You can see a picture of Yulgok on the 5,000 won banknote, and his mom is on the 50,000 won banknote.  Along with cultural and folk objects from the sixteenth century, the museum also houses a large collection of Sin saimdang’s plant and insect paintings.  It was fairly interesting, but it would not have been one of my top choices for places to visit in Korea.  As appreciative as we were that Mr. Park wanted to expose us to a piece of Korean history, we could only look at pictures of bugs and broken pots for so long…..

Next stop was the Seongyojang House, the largest residential dwelling in Korea.  It was, well, a really big building with lots of rooms.  Mr. Park told us that it had a beautiful lotus pond, but when we arrived we found it dried up and the lotus plants had died off for the winter.  Our total disinterest in spending the day with our boss definitely coloured our perceptions of the sites we saw!  Mr. Park then drove us to Gyeongpo lake, which used to stretch all the way into Seongyojang House, but has since shrunk substantially.  We rented a four person bicycle and rode all the way around the lake, which was actually really nice.  Dave and I sat in the front, and Mr. Park and Sarah shared the back.  At one point Dave wondered why he was pedalling so hard to keep up on his side, only to look back and see that Mr. Park wasn’t pedalling at all!

Afterwards we drove by the coast, and Mr. Park asked if we wanted to see the ocean.  Since Dave wasn’t with us when we visited Seoraksan he wanted to run down and at least put his hand in the water, and Mr. Park gave him exactly enough time to do just that.  He double parked on the side of the road, and told Dave we could only stay for one minute, and that he’d better hurry.  Looking a little shocked, Dave bolted out of the car and ran down to the water.  He ended up getting soaked to his knees thanks to the tide, but at least he got to see the coast! 

We were all pretty hungry at this point, and Mr. Park suggested this famous tofu-only restaurant he knew in the area.  I knew Dave was a little nervous, since he’s not quite a tofu convert, but we all needed food so we agreed.  Unfortunately, after driving around for about half an hour it became apparent that Mr. Park could not remember where this particular tofu restaurant was located.  We just kept driving and driving aimlessly, passing dozens of perfectly decent looking restaurants on a fruitless search for this one particular place.  He eventually gave up the quest and we settled on one of the other restaurants we’d passed by about ten times already.  This one also served only tofu, but apparently wasn’t the one he had been looking for.  The meal was delicious, even by Dave’s standards.  We had a ton of dishes that were all primarily tofu, with lots of little side dishes, soups and rice as well.  It was definitely the best part of the day.

We were more than ready to start heading home, even though it was only 2pm, and luckily Mr. Park obliged.  Unfortunately the traffic gods were not on our side that day, seeing as the trip to the East coast took three hours, and the trip back into Seoul to five, count ’em, FIVE hours.  It was brutal – tons of traffic heading back from Seoraksan created massive traffic jams, and Mr. Park was again complaining about falling asleep at the wheel.  We all wanted nothing more than to get back home, but by the time we were back in Seoul the day was over and the only thing on our minds was bed.  We’re now hoping and praying that Mr. Park’s desire to show us around the country has been pacified and we can avoid future road trips over the next eight months!

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