Sunday, June 2, 2013

Amazing Free Weekend

I mentioned before that I'd made friends with another math teacher at my school. This brings my current count of Korean friends (not including infinite gyopos) up to about 6.

Well, on Friday night I went over to Math Teacher 1's house for dinner and some movie watching. We ordered some jjajangmyeon (spicy black chinese noodles) and some chicken and beer, and pigged out while watching Stander, which, for the American readers, is a good South African movie about a bank-robbing cop. Halfway through the movie, MT1 asked me if they were speaking Afrikaans. No, they're speaking English, mostly... Well, that's why we had subtitles. Next time, she'll choose a Korean movie. When the film finished, Math Teacher 2 arrived with flowers and cake, and we stuffed our faces some more and had typical girl talk - boys, clothes, hair, make-up, art and interior design (MT1's house is amazingly decorated).

They decided that before I went camping with MT2 and her family the next day, I should get my hair done and get a free facial, massage and consultation at her husband's oriental medicine hospital. This all being in Korean, I figured I was getting a hair cut and someone was going to massage my face. Hey, why not?

So, finishing off our beers and our awesome Fire Friday, and promising to do it again soon, I went to bed, excited for the weekend ahead.

Getting my Hair Done Sans Anglais

MT2 took me to her usual stylist, in Beomeo. Less than 100m from a geocache I found there last weekend. So I will definitely be able to find the place again, which is good because I don't remember what it was called. If it helps, it looks like this:

I had no idea what to get, but I knew one thing: I did not want a trim and a blow dry. Other than getting a bob, or shaving my head, or a fringe now and then, the only haircut I've ever gotten is a trim and a blowdry. No, I felt it was time to veer away from a haircut. I wanted a hairstyle. So I put my fate in my new unni's hands and she made all the major decisions.

She chose a bob.

I made her choose something else. So there I was, with chemicals in my hair, getting my first perm. I had asked them if they had worked with foreigner hair before but they had no idea what I was saying and gave me delicious herbal(?) coffee to shut me up. They left the chemicals in too long, resulting in something close to an ajumma perm, so the stylist, muttering "I've made a terrible mistake" in Korean, suggested something else. Something that would take another 2 hours.

I sat like this for an hour or so
The coffee was delicious, but 3 hours in a hair salon is a bit much for me. Still, I love the end result:

Straight on top with a 'natural wave' perm on the bottom. 
Then my unni took me to her husband's hospital, in Changwon. I walked in and discovered he was a bigger deal than I thought he was. He's worked with dozens of beauty queens, specifically dozens of Miss Koreas and one Miss Universe. The main nurse is a flight attendant student and she's pretty good at English and didn't want to miss a chance to practice on me, so we chatted away while I was weighed, measured, squeezed, poked, prodded, and had my bone density checked. Turns out the scale I bought at e-mart isn't very accurate; I'd put on 3 kilos over lunch. Then she took me in to see the doctor, and asked me some questions about my diet. The most awkward moment was when she had to look up the english words for 'Bowel Movements' on her smartphone. I rolled with it. 

The doc handed me a diet plan (completely in Korean) and sent me in for my 'facial massage'. That's when I discovered it was a facial AND a massage. While I was lying there with the mask on, he prodded my stomach and suggested some acupuncture. Well, I'm all about new experiences so why not? Stab me with needles, my friend. Well, they did something... My stomach did feel better afterwards. A girl came in and was chatting with her mom, who was getting the same treatment as me. She came in cheering; she was down 3 kilos from last time she'd checked, which made it a loss of 5kg in one week... without exercise. Wow. Maybe I should take this diet seriously and give it a try. 

The nurse asked me if I wanted some 'cupping' and again, I'm all about the new experiences, so she stuck some cups on my back with fire and gusto, and I had the bejesus sucked out of me. Pop, pop, pop they were removed and I was sent on my way. The doc and I got into his HUGE 11-seater hybrid and drove off to his apartment, to pick up the wife and kids. While we were driving, we had an incredibly intense chat about religion, philosophy, medicine, genetics and legacies, in broken English and Korean. Like a boss. 

Jirisan and Namwon
Unni, Doc, the kids (aged 7 and 9 by western standards) and I drove to Jirisan, a huge mountain near Jeonju. I taught the kids to play "I spy with my little eye" and immediately regretted the decision. 3 hours of "I spy a tree" later, we arrived at an absolutely stunning resort. My camera and phone batteries were both dead, so here's a photo from the hotel's website:

It's pretty new and there's a lovely camper van area you can stay in that looks good for a romantic getaway. We stayed in one of the normal bedless sleep-on-the-floor rooms. After dinner and putting the kids to bed, unni, doc and I headed out for an evening walk and a couple of beers. 

The next day we were up bright and early to tackle Jirisan, a huge mountain that I have to return to at some point soon. Unni doesn't like hiking very much and the kids were very young so we just did the easy walk up to nogodong peak. We stopped at a temple along the way.

Misty morning view from the resort

Kid 2 at the gate to Hwaomsa 

The main temple building

You can do templestays here and it looks like a lovely, peaceful, secluded place to do it. Just right, I think.

Then we headed up the mountain. 

Exhausted, we had some ramyeon next to a mountain spring and then headed to Namwon, a small town near Jeonju, for a walk in a famous park and a proper lunch. The park is named after Chunhyang, a love story similar to that of Romeo and Juliet, except that in this one, 'Juliet's' death was an ordered execution and 'Romeo' saved her just in the nick of time. I think I prefer this ending.

Outer wall of the park, which is part of the original city center

The biggest swing I've ever been on. 

Golden Koi

Then we headed into the hanok village, where we had a feast. A hanok village is where people live in traditional houses, quite closely to the old way of life, and I think they get a grant from the government to do so.

Remove your shoes and eat in a private room. We shared a room with a guy who looked like Korean Elvis. 

The food was pretty good; standard traditional fare with lots of side dishes. I was absolutely stuffed. We all were. We rolled ourselves back to the car and set off for home.

Kid 2 fell asleep before the food was served, snored loudly and hilariously through the meal and woke up when we were in the car on our way home. He murmured, "Heeeey... I didn't get any food." We gave him some chips and he went back to sleep. By the end of the trip, everyone was asleep except for myself and my new unni. Hanok villages rolled by, we sipped iced Americanos, and kpop popped quietly over the radio.

It was a fantastic weekend and I have been racking my brain to find out how I managed to get it all for free. I think they wanted their daughter to practise her english, and boy did we. Also, the doc asked me to translate the meal plan and send him a copy of it in English for his foreign patients. And I'm perfectly happy to do that since I have to translate it for myself anyway. It was nice to have a change from the drinking-with-foreigners routine I have gotten into. Not that that's so bad either.

Life is good. Next weekend I'll hike Gayasan with a bunch of waygooks, visit Haeinsa temple and take the kids geocaching in Duryu park, as we weren't able to do it in Jirisan because they'd been muggled or had bad coordinates.


  1. That looks amazing and your hair is awesome!

  2. Loving the new 'do! Sounds like you had an epic weekend.

    1. Thanks! It was amazing but I could use another day to recover. This is a 3 day week though, at least. :)

  3. thank you for bravely leading the way for transparency in healthcare
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