This past weekend we were invited to join one of our co-teachers on a hike. We were really excited to see more of Korea, so we jumped at this opportunity. We had a wonderful time full of funny stories and we met some really cool people along the way. Only a select few spoke English, but language is nothing when you feel the generosity and love emitted from the people here. Body language and gestures count for more than spoken words.
We went with a group of hikers who travel to a different destination every other weekend. We joined them for their January 17th hike, which was on a Sunday. The bus departed that morning at 7 am and returned home to Busan at 10 pm. We drove for about 5 hours northeast toward the Gangwondo Province where we hiked up the Seun Ja Ryeong Mountain Range. (Here is our group shot--try and find the white people!!)
Here is Alaina's co-teacher, Jijang, who invited us to hike with her group. She lent us most of the gear we are wearing. Items we needed included: moisture wicking clothing, hiking (ski) pants, heavy hiking (ski) jacket, glove liners, gloves on top of that, face protectors (from wind and cold), hiking boots, metal spikes for our boots, and of course, hiking poles. At first, we thought it was quite ridiculous and over the top, but we were thankful for all of our gear once we began our hike!
We were able to see many wind turbines on the mountain. The turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical energy (for electricity). Korea=small land+lots of people!
A small part of our group. We saw literally thousands of hikers that day and not one foreigner. Every person we passed on the trail was Korean. We were the only white people on the mountain! They were quite shocked when they saw us, but friendly nonetheless.
You are looking at the line of hikers on the mountain. This is something you would never see in the states. Most people here are in excellent shape and had no trouble hiking through the snow all day. Koreans really love their outdoor activities! There is such little land for how many people live here so they try and take advantage of it.
From the top of one of the peaks. In the background you can see the Sea of Japan which is on the eastern coast of Korea. Although, calling it the "Sea of Japan" offends many Koreans and it is quite a controversial subject, so Koreans prefer to call it the "East Sea". Fitting, I guess....
So when Jijung invited us to come hiking with her group, she asked us what we would bring for lunch. We replied with the traditional western answer, [PLEASE HOLD ALL LAUGHTER UNTIL THE END]
"Uh, probably some sandwiches and peanut butter crackers, maybe some fruit...is that alright?" With a laugh, she replied, "Yeah, that is ok." Little did we know what the Koreans had planned for lunch. We quickly figured out why they carried huge hiking packs for only a 5 hour trek. Lunch time comes and they began pulling out the pots and pans and started cooking all types of Korean food--on the side of the mountain! They saw our pitiful sack lunches and just shook their heads. Then they began shoving their food our way and we ate like a King! Yes, that is sushi in the picture, we had it in our picnic, and yes, Loren is using chopsticks to eat bulgogi (beef). We are becoming experts at this! The way Koreans eat is by sharing EVERYTHING they bring. Nothing is 'mine', or 'yours', it is all communal. Needless to say, we offered our measly sandwiches and crackers. There were no takers.
Panoramic view of the mountain. Sorry the photo is so small; this is the largest I could make it.
An awesome Korean couple who we met on the trip. The woman actually spoke English very well. They constructed this humorous sled for our hiking and sledding adventure! Too funny!
Yes, this is a photo of two grown men on one children's size sled. Completely acceptable and very typical.
Loren is saying here, "I love Alaina thiiiiiiiss much!"
A great progressive picture of the wind turbines that was taken by one of the other hikers. The cameras people have here put our little Canon Power Shot to shame. Thankfully we had some awesome photographers that came along.
A couple of our photographers on the trip (taking pictures of each other, hah).
The higher you hiked up the mountain, the less people there were. As the crowd thinned out, it allowed for a peaceful walk through barren trees and powdered snow .