Sunday, 1 November 2009

Autumn Out with My School

Every Wednesday, all of the students leave school after lunch, so usually the staff all gathers to play volleyball or another game similar to dodge ball (my inability to play well at both led my injured pride tochallenge some of the teachers to a footrace instead, then trip and roll in the dirt and gravel while I was in the lead 5 feet from the finish. Now I try and stick to hitting people with volleyballs). Last week, I was informed that instead of volleyball, we would go hiking. There's a hill right behind our school that I haven't tried yet and often hear people talking about, so I assumed that we would head up there during the regular 2 hours we would spend on volleyball.

I was surprised, then, when I was ushered into Taebun's car. When I asked where we were going, he didn't know. Neither did Mrs. Im when she got in, or the new 5th grade gym teacher. This is how plans usually play out, so I've found it's always easiest to go with it.

Therefore, when we stopped at a rest area after a half hour of driving, I was open for anything. This same rest area was the home of a trained duck (painted with sparkly red paint to set it apart from the common duck), which would jump (without flapping his wings) to catch bits of vegetables.

The next stop was to see Banghojeong, an old lecture hall built and named for the pen name of Jo Jun-do (but don't ask me who that is, other than a scholar of some note) on the rocks overlooking a lovely shallow river. The pavilions contain Jo Jun-do's works, as well as many poems by scholars. It's now accessible by a modern bridge, which I found to to be more aesthetic than eyesore; simple fluid lines in an unoffending white.

The location was inspiring, between water and rock. It was surrounded in yellow- little flowers and trees that I was informed are famously called gold trees- money trees. I stuffed some of the fallen leaves in my pockets, just in case.

Our next stop was a white stone beach, in a narrow long river valley between two hills.

The stones looked almost malleable, with as many soft soft curving dents as there were jagged edges. I didn't catch the name of the place, only that it's famous for photographing nude models.

We continued our journey through the land of apple trees. We were pretty close to the town of Cheongsong, which like Andong is famous in the country for its apples. In the summer, all of these trees had little bags tied on the branches to protect every fruit, but now they were hanging in bunches almost too heavy for the branches.

When we made our third stop, I was beginning to wonder if our hiking trip was going to involve any hiking. We arrived at Yongdamsa temple, and were greeted very enthusiastically by a male and female pair of Jindos (Korea's signature breed).

The male, after happily licking our principal, vice principal, and several of the teachers in turn (A remarkable attention to the hierarchy!), went running around our fifteen or so cars marking the tires with his urine. But not to worry, after all, this particular Jindo was a Buddhist (as evident by his Buddhist-marked doghouse).

The temple was quite small, built during the Silla dynasty (and rebuilt in the Joseon), smaller than the other grand temple's I've been to, with only a few buildings. But it is still functioning, like all other temples, and was so quiet in a little clearing beside a forest and a mountain. It was a nice change to see a humble temple.

Our final stop did involve hiking a small path down a slight mountainside, to see a small waterfall pouring into cavern visible at just the right angle between two rocks.

This trickled down to pool into a small pond in the nearby clearing beside the mountain, and turning my back to the waterfall, the contrasting openness was the most beautiful view of the day.

We didn't go anywhere extravagant, and made a lot of little stops which at first seemed to me a bit oddly chosen. However, that meant I saw several places that I couldn't take a bus or my bike to- places I wouldn't even know how to ask for. Surrounded by the colors of autumn, they had an out-of-the-way kind of charm and beauty. I can see the large mountains and cultural sites easily enough on my own, but these little trips are just another reason to be grateful for my school.


  1. i want one of those puppies...and the duck. Was it really painted? Craziness. Animal rights activists are heading to S. Korea as I write this.

  2. I would worry about your school constantly telling you about "little trips" and then taking you hours outside of Andong if they didn't always take you to places that are so cool.

    Where do all the naked people hang out again?

  3. I love the picture of you with Taebun -- and the picture of Mrs. Shim at the end is so adorable :) Mostly, this was such a neat picture of your "daily" life.
    <3 Mom

  4. How lovely to take little trips like this. I wish all jobs allowed for such serendipity.

  5. You are lucky to have such an adventerous staff with whom to work. Sounds like they really like to take hikes. Good blog. Larry