Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jindo Island, May 19-20

This past weekend, LA and I took a short trip to visit our friend, Jessica, who has relocated from Daejeon to Jindo Island.  I am going to write two entries about this because 1. The trip was amazing for me and 2. This little rural island in southwest Korea was a far different experience than anything I have seen here before.  This will be the fun vacation-y blog.

Because both my wonderful animals are currently being medicated for their respective ailments, neither of them were deemed kennelable (totally a word) by our vet.  I wasn’t willing to postpone the trip because I had already rescheduled twice on her for Charlie’s issues, so I had to make a decision.  Charlie stayed home with the dog sitter (and enjoyed lots of BK french fries) and Messi came with me.  I thought having the mommy/son bonding time would be good for us since we haven’t had that yet. He’s also about 1/3 the weight of Charlie so he travels much easier..

Terrible picture of me but his cuteness cancels me out.  (You can’t even tell that my shirt was inside out. Stressful mommy morning...)

It was about a five hour bus ride but both dogs did great. I never would have thought traveling with them would be so easy. Of course they had to be in carriers, but both LA’s maltese and my little poodle did quite well.  Everyone was either receptive or indifferent to them, some of the bus drivers even petted Messi.  There was definitely no animosity towards them at all.  This is quite different than my experiences with Charlie over the last year and a half, but he’s too big to take on the bus anyway.  Messi spent most of the bus ride poking his little head out.  He didn’t like being stuck in the bag very much.

“Look mom!  I did it!!”

We arrived in Jindo around 3pm and Jessica met us at the bus stop. From there we went straight to her apartment – which is AMAZING.  Rural island life definitely has some cons, but a strong positive seems to be the housing.  She lives on the second floor of a house owned by the family of a couple of her students.  Three proper rooms, adequate furniture (many foreign teachers are supplied empty apartments and are required to furnish it themselves), and a proper kitchen and bathroom by Korean standards.  It’s quite nice though it does have a few little problems. Namely, the dog.

Jindo Island is home to the famous Jindo dogs, a Korean national treasure.  Jindos are so treasured that they are actually not allowed to be removed from the country unless it is for a showing. They are beautiful fox-faced animals that are well-respected in Korea for their loyalty and intelligence.  I actually think every family in Jindo has at least one Jindo dog and most are kept on a 4-5 foot chain attached to a tree, post, or dog house. Rarely are they kept as pets in the American sense of the word. They are trained to be the the families’ security guard, CCTV, protector of all who live there... And biter of Amy.

The family residing in the lower half of my friend’s residence has such a dog.  His dog house is located just to the left of the entrance gate and had a chain that allows him just enough length to mutilate any unwelcome visitors. Jessica carries cookies with her at all times in order to distract him anytime she wants to go in or out of the gate. While many people are probably thinking I was trying to befriend this unfriendly dog, (given my history I don’t blame you for thinking that) I was not.  I have a healthy respect for dogs that are trained to attack and do my best to stay out of their bubble.  Completely on accident I got in his bubble and he lunged at me.  He did exactly what he was trained to do. Good dog.  (And I’m fine.  My jeans are not fine, but I am perfectly fine.)


We had some delicious food but Chinese, pizza, and pasta don’t really constitute traditional Korean food so I’ll skip right over that. 

Saturday night we walked around part of the island and saw a Jindo dog training camp and a gorgeous park that they have set up for anyone who wants to use it.  There was a proper running track and a soccer field where we hung out for at least a few hours.  We all ran some sprints, and Messi and I ran a kilometer in preparation for my upcoming 10K. My ankle is still very messed up from my little incident on the mountain three weeks ago but I think it’ll be fine to run on in a couple weeks.  It has to be.

We spent hours just laying in the grass at the park surrounded by complete silence.  It was such a nice reprieve from Daejeon.  While I haven’t really spoken about it in my blog yet, the drinking culture here is huge. Being that I live downtown, my two-block walk home from work each night generally consists of weaving around the drunkards that are vomiting and urinating in the street. (You really wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it with your own eyes. Which I do, several times a week. Trust me.)  So being able to just spend time outside in the evening without the company of wobbly drunk people was just so nice. I have forgotten how much I love rural life.  I need some time on the farm when I go home this winter.

Sunday we went to the beach.  Jindo is on the East Sea and is also home to a mysterious Sea Parting each year.  Every Spring, the sea “parts” (I call it low tide) and reveals a path out towards an island about three kilometers away.  You can see a video about it here.  I’m not really educated enough about it to explain, nor is that the objective of this blog. 

My little poodle loved the sea.  Messi jumped right in the water and was happy to follow me anywhere.  Apparently, I’ve spent a lifetime underestimating this breed.

After a few hours at the beach and learning to navigate the Jindo bus system the way only foreigners can – by walking for miles in unmarked territory hoping to come across a bus stop, we took a 30 minute bus ride back to the non-metropolis downtown of Jindo.  The bus ride itself was exhilarating for me, though probably no one else. Traveling through pure farm country brought a calmness on me that I haven’t felt in a long time.  It also made me long for the company of my dad as I thought about how much he would enjoy a little touch of life down there.  Seeing all the farmers on hands and knees in their modest farms was fascinating for me.  No giant combines down here.  Little tractors barely larger than a four-wheeler were the biggest I saw at work.

Most of the weekend I felt like I was in the Charleston, Missouri of Korea, minus the current gang violence and all.  Small town where everyone knows everyone, enough cultured restaurants to satisfy your cravings, but rarely more than one of each variety.  There was a calmness there.  Korea is a “hurry up and wait” society that is famous for it’s “빨리, 빨리” (quickly, quickly) culture. This was definitely not present in Jindo.  It was much more slow paced and I appreciated that so much.  No getting shoved out of someone’s way on the sidewalk and pedestrians had the right away again. The world seemed right again.  But now I’m merging into the topic of the second blog so I’ll stop. 

Way before I was ready, it was time to board a bus and head back to my concrete jungle, which is also very dear to my heart. I’m a little bit of city girl, little bit of country girl.

*Super big thanks to Jessica for hosting us for the weekend!  I had a wonderful time. You were a wonderful hostess!

**Thanks to LA for letting me steal pictures since my camera is at home. I’ll use mine in the next blog.

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