I could babble for days about my favorite Busan hikes, but a recent trip to Seokbulsa (석불사) has me second-guessing my ranks. The temple, located in Busan's Dongnae (동래) neighborhood, is further out from more popular tourist locations, like Haeundae. But with its hundred Buddha statues and all those massive carved rock-faces, you'd regret not making the trek. Getting to Seokbulsa can seem confusing, especially if you don't speak Korean, but the easiest starting-point would be Oncheonjang Station (온천장역) on the orange 1-Line
I know. I know. I know.
I'm late with this.
I mean...it's August, and yet I'm talking about Spring. Yikes.
April and May had consistent outdoor adventure after weeks of being cooped up inside with the 미세먼지 and cold. But when the cherry blossoms reached their peak, I'd gotten an itch to once more roam every nook and cranny corner Korea could offer.
Normally I hate spring. I've always gotten sick, always been stuck in school with a boat-load of finals (as a student and teacher), and always had at least one emotional tragedy since middle school. So--well--spring's never been a good time. (Okay. It was amazing in New Zealand, but obviously traveling helps.) This time around, Busan bloomed in blossoms, and I couldn't help but catch Spring Fever.
I know I live a privileged life. I'm debt free working a job that makes me a little under 30k a year but still managing to reach my monthly savings goals while traveling Asia, exploring Korea, and going out with my friends. I work a job that affords me loads of free time to study Korean, sure, but to also write and plan for my future, my goals. I've fallen back in love with my hobbies and interests while exploring new opportunities for growth and lifelong education. The beauty of my circumstance is not lost on me, but what I've experienced in Korea over the past 10 months has been so much more than just myself and my goals (though that's all pretty great).
The things I love about Korea--small as they may seem--hold a certain kind of beauty. In the words of Perks of Being A Wallflower, they're my infinite moments.
By the way, I'll be writing a companion piece about the wonderful things I've experienced in Korea as well.
If you want a preview of the good-feels, take a look at my Thanksgiving post.
So I've been binge watching Korea vloggers again. More specifically, Korea expat vloggers.
Inevitably, you come across the videos titled "10 Things I Hate About Korea" and "The ISH I Don't Like: Korea" and "Why Living in Korea SUCKS" and "The TRUTH about living in Korea."
And they all start their videos the same way, too.
"Hey everyone and welcome back to my vlog *insert cutesy brand hand gesture that feels kinda like they're throwing gang signs* Today we're going to talk about the things I CAN'T STAND about Korea. PSA: These are just my opinions and okay let's start!"
Then they list the same regurgitated stuff about not finding trash-cans, ajummas being aggressive on public transportation, etc. etc. I'm not saying these things aren't true or frustrating, but there's only so many videos I can take of the same three complaints. ...Especially, when I reflect on my own struggles in Korea. What's an annoyance? What's truly a difference I'm not willing to compromise on? What distracts and detracts from my experience here? I know in making social media content we tend to shy away from controversial opinions, sticking with more light-hearted topics that no one takes too seriously so as to amass followers. Meanwhile I think it's disingenuous and misleading for people who seriously consider moving here. That's why my favorite vloggers and bloggers tend to be more transparent, less persona driven, and--more often than not--have less followers than others.
So I decided to throw yet another voice in the discussion. Why not? I'm basic, right?
Oh boy. A post about winter in Korea?! When May's about to start?!
*cue me not caring*
The last you'd all heard of my adventures, I was baking Christmas cookies and prepping to travel Japan. I shared some photos from that trip here, and even if they're not the best, I'm quite proud of how they'd turned out. Especially this one:
But once the weather dropped in Busan, how'd I spend my time in the Land of the Morning Calm? Well I got lucky. Busan is known for her milder winter climate compared to the rest of Korea, and though there were a few chilly days (~25 degrees Fahrenheit), I think the temperature hovered mostly around the mid thirties/low forties (and considering New York hit -5 real-feel--I was thankful).
Overall, I got to spend more time seeing the museums I'd been meaning to check out. Between the Busan Museum's flower-themed art installation, the Loving Vincent Van Gogh exhibit in Seoul, and a tour of the Korean War Museum with some friends from Japan, I had a blast getting some much needed cultural escapes. (And bringing New York back into the conversation with its literal hundred museums: I've missed art exhibits like crazy.) Interspersed had included birthday celebrations, writing days that led into bowling nights, one too many books bought hot off the shelves, and trips to nearby cities. Of course, the cold weather also inspired me to stay indoors and study some Korean!
Below the cut you'll find a few phone photos documenting what my life had been like through the last few months of winter!
Exhaustion fogs my mind as rain patters down against the door to my AirBnB. I listen to it as long as I can then close my eyes, thankful that I'm warm, that my hiking shoes have finally been discarded at the entryway, and, of course, that my overflowing Osprey backpack dries by the fire place. At the kitchen counter, my host puts together a midnight snack with sweet potato and honey. He sets the dish in front of me, and we look again at the map that we had, at least two hours ago, smoothed out on the table.
"My ancestors came from this area," he says, pointing to the west then plowing through an abbreviated few centuries of Korean history--and his own modern-day life pursuing green-energy hospitality. The sleep that had been drying my eyes and nodding my head stops for just enough of a second to ask another question that spirals into another, and another.
My host answers them all. I apologize for my stream of thoughts, but he counters by asking me questions about American culture, about what brought me to South Korea. I lean back, eat a little more sweet potato, then tell him as much as I can, lulled by both rain and good company.
"I need to buy eggs," I think without opening my eyes. Somewhere outside my window a bird tries to sing louder than both the six am construction hacking away at the sidewalk and the workers melding to creation new high-rise buildings across the street.
"Eggs," I think again, making a list, "bread, bananas, tomatoes."
And I kind of want kimchi fried rice for dinner later today. But it's Saturday, the fifteenth of September, and I'd already made plans to meet with friends at a brewery in Gwangan around seven.
Finally, the construction dulls to a quiet hum and I can hear that stubborn bird breaking into chorus.
"Eggs." I try drifting to sleep, get a few more hours in before my Skype "meeting" at eleven. "Bread. Bananas. Tomatoes."
That morning of the 15th marked my official one month anniversary of moving to Korea. I hadn't realized it until the day after, a sleepy Sunday before the start of a new work-week like any other Sunday in any other part of the world.
Do I give the whole shebang of a life-update? Tell you exactly how many friends I've made, sights I've seen, and epiphanies experienced? Or do I photo-dump and peace-out, use the rest of my current mid-term exams desk-warming time to brush up on my Korean?
To be honest, I think this post will read more like a diary...
From guides to rants.