Bukhansan and 8 Peaks Later

Making our way through Bukhansan National Park.

Making our way through Bukhansan National Park.

Want to get away from the city, but not willing to drive hours and hours just to get in touch with nature? Come to Seoul! We have plenty of mountains reachable by subway and a short bus ride, just follow all those backpacking adjummas and adjashis; they’ll get you to where you need to go.

Hello there, Mr. Giant Buddha!

Hello there, Mr. Giant Buddha!

One of the hiking groups I joined was advertising a Sunday trip to Bukhansan National Park. They only went on this hike once a year, it was free, and we’d get to see a lot of great scenery. The humidity eased up once we were under the trees, but the mountain rivers still looked inviting. I would have loved to have found a secluded spot and jump in for a few hours. On our to do list: visit 14 gates from one of the dynasties and clamber around 8 peaks. I don’t think anyone was prepared for how intense the day turned out, but it was worth it. I would love to go back, but only to repeat the first four hours and three peaks. Eight is way too many. I have no idea what we were thinking, but my mom mentioned the old fallback – “Because it’s there.” We had a nice hike to a Buddhist temple in the mountains where a giant golden Buddha awaited us. You could hear the chanting of the monks all throughout the valley, and it gave our hike a very free-flowing feel, very natural. It’s a little hard to describe, but it was just as much peaceful as it was challenging. The sounds were encouraging you to continue on, but also understanding and acknowledging that it would be alright if you couldn’t. It was fantastic.

Pretty much what we were doing for half the time we were hiking.

Pretty much what we were doing for half the time we were hiking.

Once the chanting faded away, we came face to face with our first “climbing” experience of the hike. We had to pull ourselves up a cliffside via some steel handrails. Then came the knotted ropes. The Koreans do this without breaking a sweat with addition of heavier packs, long sleeved shirts with pants, and hiking poles. They have some pretty mad skills. We eventually had to shimmy on all five points down a rock crevasse, and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination considering it took us over 8 hours to finish 8 peaks. Let’s just say we were soaked with sweat, out of water, and our legs had been jellified. Our guide told us that it was the hardest trail in Korea because of all the ups and downs. He kept saying that we would be able to do the Himalayas and Mt. Fuji with no trouble. Um, okay. I can’t say I’m ready to test that theory. I will say though, that at least we chose the hardest climb to do for our first hiking outing in Korea. Now everything else should be a piece of cake.

Coworker Burger Night at Trav's. Brian attempted the Double JC Challenge.

Coworker Burger Night at Trav’s. Brian attempted the Double JC Challenge.

In the everyday, many of our students are absent because of summer vacation, but things are going well. We ventured to the Ori CGV yesterday to watch Epic with the preschoolers. Despite needing to figure out what to do with terrified children, it was a decent take on Ferngully. I’ve been tasked with rewriting all the Science worksheets to make them more accessible and understandable for the first graders. Honestly, I’m really excited about that, and not just because they’ll be quicker and easier to grade. My students are finally acclimating to how I run the classroom and that whining is not going to get them anywhere. My new coworkers are also doing well and we make it a point to get together at least once during the week for lunch, dinner, or drinks. We’re off today for Korean Independence Day, and I’m pretty sure the majority of us are spending the day sleeping. We’re going to have an In-Service day on the 30th to get ready for the new semester, which means we’ll be doing a ton of wall work and student comments.

Farewell Party for Jess

Farewell Party for Jess

The social side of things is generally in a good state. Jess returned home last week after a year and a half in Korea. I could literally feel the change, but I’m glad she made it back safely and is with her family and friends again. Maggie, who’s amazing at all the open mics, has offered to help me with some chords and prepping for my own future open mic nights. Meet-ups with new people have gone well, some close to home in Bundang, and others on military bases further away. It’s really awesome connecting with people who are on the same wave-length about what they want out of life and have a thirst for exploring the world around them. And absolutely everyone I meet keeps telling me to get a Costco membership. Everybody. I will grant that they have excellent blueberry bagels.

Next up with any luck: Kayaking, Seoraksan, Sea Kayaking, and September.

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