The place is, at best, grim. There is little to do in HongSeong. Eating out, playing pool and the occasional beer at the local - wait - thats starting to sound like England! Although being in the far east is a little differant! Take a look - its the view from my school building :
The city is not so small, but it is almost as countryside as you can get in Korea. A 5 minute drive and you would be driving on winding country roads through paddy fields and cattle farms and under and between looming forest covered mountains. Korea is exteremly mountianious and most cities and towns are built into their cradles. This often makes for a spectacular backdrop. This is a typical shot of Korean countryside, in summer
And, in the winter!
It was 3 long weeks before I found another native speaker, of Scottish origin. Turned out she had a friend from Canada, and he had a friend from Canada as well and so on and so on - something like the snowball effect. Within about 2 months I knew all the foriegners who lived in HongSeong. A rough count would be about 7 or 8 people (out of 250,000 and not including filapinos or russians), and out of those I would socialise with about 5. It was through a message I placed on a popular internet disucussion board for expats in Korea that we met the guys living in the nearest medium sized town, about 20 minutes down the road. A strange day it was boarding the train and going to meet 5 completely random people waiting for us in the train station. We had a BBQ, we had lots of drinks, and I was visiting them every weekend (almost) for the rest of the year . Running into those guys really made the year as good as it was, even though most of them were Canadian......(just kidding guys ;). So, after a few months I had established a social grounding of normal people (relativly normal in this alien land) that would see me through the frustrating work days in school (another BOOK altogether).
To cut this long story short, we did many great things together including my highlights:
Countless barbeques and overnight parties in Yesan, making the weekend worthwile.
Countless drunken nights in various parts of Seoul, and all the banter that accompanies a lot of drink and good friends.
Our trip to Sapsido, a very unusual place to visit. How can I explain it? An island. The closest to Thailand your gonna get in Korea.....
Countless motorcycle journeys with Irish Joe, including down the beach and along the coast in the summer, through the countryside exploring small villages, and to the top of mountains in the autumn and spring and absolutely nowhere in winter (too friggin cold). And of course, our monumental journey to Jeonju, where at one point Joe tried to impress me with a wheelspin and succeeded in flattening himself with his bike. Not quite the biker just yet.
The constant learning curve of living in Korea. I don't think I'm far from the truth when I say theirs is a truely remote culture, just witnessing some of the bizarre events that occur unfold was memorable. Especially that of a Korean wedding - we were the guests of my friend Carlos from Peru. The cermony was a little longer than 10 minutes and including the happy couple standing in a hydraulic box which hoisted them 3 feet into the air and moved very slowly from one end of the room to the other. I've never been so embarrassed for someone else in my life.
And on and on........
Thats all so 잘가!