Let's go back in time...

To begin, my phone broke ㅠㅠ. So I had to throw down some major \ on a new phone. Well, to be fair, I could have paid ~200usd to have my old phone fixed, but after extensive research for a phone that would work with my carrier in America, I decided the better choice was to just buy a new phone out of pocket in Korea. The cost in Korea was comparable to that in America... And I just wanted a new toy. So I got myself a Samsung Galaxy S8 and now my photos are marginally higher quality.

I found myself with some days off of work and a big item on my "Korea Bucketlist" was to hike Seoraksan (설악산). So, I took a 6+ hour bus ride and did the thing:

I got to Sokcho (속초) around 3pm and took a bus to my Airbnb. My host spoke no English, but she was really kind. I was actually right behind the hotel that we stayed in during orientation.

After checking in with my host, I went to the beach. I bought 2 steamed dumplings (they reminded me of char-siu I used to eat as a kid) and a beer (not from my childhood).

Then I asked a group of older Koreans to take my photo. I was instructed to pose this like (a "request" that comes up many times in the future).

I knew I should eat some real dinner since I didn't really eat breakfast or lunch. I found a kimbap place. I ate some soondubu (순두부찌개) and got two kimbaps to-go. Then I turned in for any early night.

I woke up very early the next morning and caught the first bus out to the park. It was me, a bunch of ajjushis, and two foreigner dudes (who got yelled at for eating ramen on the bus). I made it to the park and just feel so excited! I was only hiking to Ulsanbawi (울산바외), not the summit, which now I wish I'd gone all in on the summit, but I wanted to walk normally after so Ulsanbawi was a better choice for me.

So... I'm hiking for 30-45 minutes and I pass this older couple. I say hello to them and they say hello back and give me a strange look. I stop to fill my water bottle and the gentleman comes up to me and asks what course I'm taking. I tell him Ulsanbawi and he's like "uhh ya you were supposed to go right back there." I was like "wut?" said thank you and ran off.

Now, I don't know why I felt the need to start running. It was still so early in the day there were... maybe 30 hikers in the entire park. Nevertheless, I take off.

I really should have read more about this hike before I started because about half way up I was very, VERY tempted to turn around and go back down. The last kilometer or so is just stairs bolted to rock and, somehow, I forgot that I'm afraid of heights.

I made it to the top, but was too scared to take really great photos/walk all the way out to the edge (because who wants to fall off? You don't know how strong those bars are!) so my photos from the top aren't great:

On the way down I stopped at this famous spot. I breezed by it on my way up, but basically if you get enough people to push the rock it'll rock back and forth.

So I went back to my hostel, polished off my kimbap, took a shower, laid in bed for a while and then got right back on the bus for Seoraksan! (Before leaving I bought a ticket for a cable car ride.) I got to the park early, or course it started raining, but by the time I made it to Gwongeumseong Fortress (설악산 권금성).

I worked up the courage to ask an older lady to take my photo. Not only did she get it on Snapchat, but she moved me around to different lighting and suggested poses.

The weekend after Seoraksan my students had sports contests. Just like last year, there's a weekend (this year there were 2!) were the sports teams at my school have competitions. And they all happen on one day. Unlike last year, we now have a girl's soccer team! Although, they call themselves Jeonggwang WFC so I should say "now we have a women's soccer team!"

Anyways, here they are:

They are... pretty bad. They won't be playing professionally or even in college, but they are just so happy. The coaches (on the left and a PE coach who is not pictured) are so positive and supportive. Every time the girls even make contact with the ball the coaches say ************ (which just means "okay" or "nice!").

When I asked the girls why they wanted to play soccer they said for exercise, to have a hobby, and spend time with their friends. Which, honestly, makes me smile and tear up. I love girls and women wanting to spend time and uplift other girls and women. And their parents are supportive too! So many parents came by with bread, ice cream, or fruit for the girls (think half time orange slices).

When I asked the girls why soccer and not basketball or volleyball, they told me "well, we're too short to play those sports." It was so honest... and true.

Ideally I would see the basketball team next, but they were playing at a high school very far away and I has already promised to watch the boys soccer team.

I'm not sure if you remember the Jeonggwang Varsity Sports post from last year, but the soccer team was quite good. This year... not so much. The boys this year are much less dedicated. Last year my boys only wanted to play soccer. This year my boys like doing bad things (smoking, PC방, not studying, etc.) more than they like playing soccer.

Still, I really like them. They only one 2 games out of the 6 or 7 that they played, but they took their losses positively and moved on to whatever was next (probably more smoking and PC방).

Gwangju is really proud of their history. So I like... KNOW that the Gwangju Uprising is in May, but I walked into this festival in downtown Gwangju and this set up:

And was ~very~ confused. I later found out that the festival and people (yeah, those are not statues) were for the 1987 June Struggle/Democracy Movement. It's just more proof of the deep (and sometimes painful) history of Korea.

That Monday was YDAC (Youth Diplomacy and Activism Conference), which doesn't really mean a lot, but after school I took a taxi to Mudeungsan Library (무등도서관) for the end of YDAC. I helped Bethany and Bryan organize the awards and clean up the space. And got to eat dinner with Bryan and his students after.

At dinner one of Bryan's students asked me what I thought about Bryan's dream. (Bryan is coming back to Korea to be a freelance journalist.) I was surprised by his question, but told him something like "I think it's great. Bryan is following his dream and doing what he wants to do!" Then his student said, "But he is leaving our school."

UGH. Dagger through the heart. Ded bc there's so much <3 <3 <3 in such a small, young person!!

I told the student, "it is sad, but Bryan is coming back to Korea. He can come back and see you. Or you can see him when you go to university in Seoul ;)"

Sometimes I'm jealous of Bryan and my other friends who are staying in Korea. Leaving Korea will be very hard, but it's the right choice for me.

And go check out Bryan's website!

Bethany and Bryan handing out awards!

That weekend (yeah, I was busy in June) I went to Seoul for Anna's birthday dinner, to hike Bukhansan, and Final Dinner. It was a LONNGGG weekend.

Friday Night: Anna's birthday dinner

We met at Gusto Taco a place that's usually about 80% foreigner and 20% Korean customers. Then we went to Vinyl, this trend hole in a wall that does mixed drinks and wine in bags (a Korea bucket list item for many of us). We drank our drink in the park in Hongdae and listened to some rap possibly titled "Welcome to My Ass."

@ Vinyl

@ Vinyl
Saturday AM (VERY EARLY): Annaliese and I hiked Bukhansan

I never would have thought I'd be interested in hiking, but here I am. Hiking the last of the "famous" mountains in Korea. We hiked to the summit, but the weather wasn't great and, again, I was too afraid to take my phone out and take photos.

I eventually worked up the nerve to get a few photos:

After hiking we went back to Annaliese's apartment and "took a rest" until we had to get ready and go to Final Dinner. (Yes, this is all happening in one day.)

So we got our "business casual" on and headed back to the Dragon Hill Lodge for one last Fulbright event. The food was, well, buffet food, but the company was great!

Sunday AM: I must be crazy because I agreed to do a palace tour before going back to Gwangju.... Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon (창덕궁과 후원)

So Annaliese and I woke up and met a fellow ETA, Erin, for kimchi jjigae and coffee.

The coffee @ Fritz made up for the bad jjigae we had.
Erin was feeling sick so she didn't come with us to the palace tour, but we met up with Anna!

I was not feeling 100%.
Something that I won't miss about Korea is not being able to express what I'm feeling. And that is NOT the fault of Korea/Korean people. It is 100% my problem.

Anyways, lets look @ another instance of Taylor crying in public spaces:

I left the palace and looked at a map and thought "I should just take a taxi. It'll be faster. I'm so close." So I got in a taxi and things started out fine. Until the police officer was like "sorry man, this road is closed." *Internal face palm, Taylor. You know this area always has closed roads!!!!*

So the taxi driver is like "when's your train?" And I'm like "5:45" and he's like "yeah that's not happening. You should have taken the subway."

I'm just so tired and want to go home so badly that I start sobbing in the taxi. And, this poor driver, he just keeps asking me why I'm crying. In between my sobs I tell him that I'm American and my Korean is bad. He keeps asking me why I'm crying and tells me something about my phone and a ticket. So I buy a new ticket on the app and he drops me off at a subway stop. I get home about an hour later than I wanted, but I make it home.

I've now cried on a bus, a subway, and in a taxi. I guess all that's left is a ferry/boat.

Here are just some fun memories so we don't linger on my inadequacies and lack of motivation to learn Korean:

경빈 is a 3rd grade student of mine. He's on the weightlifting team at our school. Someone decided he should lift his classmate. Don't worry, no one was hurt.

I continued to drink strawberry milk from the convenience store by my school.

I really just eat a lot in Korea.

Monster Pizza and beer with Tiffany in downtown Gwangju.

설빙 with Tiffany.

Cake with Tiffany.

짬뽕 with Tiffany.

콩나물국밥 with Maddie.

And finally some inspiration from a student:


Up Next: July!


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