Beijing and Korea with Dad!
15.07.2011 - 07.08.2011 17 °C
I have officially been in Korea for a year! I haven't been doing a very good job with keeping everyone updated on my life over here in the ROK, so I will attempt to fill you all in. If you haven't heard, I am staying in korea an extra six months. I swore that I wouldn't even think about staying in Korea longer than what my signed contract required, but somewhere along the way friends, money, adventure, and my students were the things that convinced me to extend my time here. I think my decision to stay was made easier once I got to see my dad, it was the little bit of home that I really needed. I picked him up at the airport after work on the 15th of July, and I can't even explain how excited I was. My dad has been my greatest support system while embarking on this journey and I was so excited to see him and share my experience.
The first place I brought him was Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. This is one of my favorite temples. It is a pretty unique temple since rather than being in the mountains it sits on rocks facing the ocean. While we were there we met a wonderful Korean couple who we had drinks with, they were so friendly and interesting. We all shared stories about our families, countries, and cultures.
We also did a lot of hiking while dad was here. There are so many places to hike in Korea so I took dad on my two favorite hikes, Seong Jong and Beomeosa.
I told dad before he came that he had to experience a Korean baseball game. Korean baseball games are nothing like the games we see in Canada. They are more like a hockey game... with even more excitement and energy. People are drinking, cheering, and dancing. The atmosphere of the game is almost better than the game itself. In the seventh inning we all get orange plastic bags which are quickly turned into devil ears, hats, or bows.
One of the best parts of dad being in Korea was that he got to meet my kids and my friends. He has heard so much about them, so it was nice that he could finally see the people who have made this experience so great. My kids were thrilled to meet him and hear all of his stories.
After our trip to Europe, where we caused havoc on tours in Austria and drove on the train tracks in France, Dad and I thought it would be best that we never travel together again. So, I am not sure why we thought it would be a good idea for us to travel to Beijing, though we did have a lot of fun seeing the sites, hanging out with the cops, and raiding tea shops!
The way the vacation started should have prepared us for what was to come. We spent our first day in Shanghai, it was beautiful, I enjoyed showing dad around the French Concession and the Bund. Afterwards we took a 4 hour flight to Beijing. It should have been an hour long but the weather forced us to fly there twice, I was not impressed.
Day one in Beijing was great. When you think of China, Beijing is what you imagine. It is very traditionally Chinese, unlike Shanghai. It is impossible to forget that you are in a communist country as you walk around the streets of Beijing. There are cops everywhere, watching everything you do. If you simply touch or take a picture of something that you shouldn't, they will be sure to let you know. It was strange being in a country that is run so differently from what I am used to. Before going to Beijing people described it as being dirty, and they were right. It isn't dirty in the sense that there is garbage everywhere, but the air quality is ridiculous. In the five days that I was there I did not see blue skies or stars, the smog and pollution is like nothing I have ever seen.
We met some really nice girls my age on our first day in Beijing, they were English majors, and like in Korea people always want to practice their English with foreigners. After talking for awhile we all decided to go have some tea. I was a little skeptical so I kept my purse close the whole time, but I figured tea was pretty harmless. They brought us to this great traditional tea shop, they had a little tea ceremony where we tried lots of different types of tea. It was great to talk to the girls, they told us a lot about what it is like to live in China, and in return we told them all about Canada and the many other places we have been. They were so intrigued by our travels, since it is very difficult for them to leave their country, they have never left Beijing.
When we got the bill we almost had a heart attack. After checking the exchange rate the bill came out to $1000... for tea! The girls expected us to pay but I quickly assured them that they were going to be paying half. Once we got to the hotel we made sure to ask the concierge what he thought of the whole situation, we were soon advised to call the police. Shortly after the police came to get us and we jumped in the back seat of the cop car with our translator. The last place you want to be while in a communist country is in the back of a police car. They got us to bring them to the tea shop. I have never seen people move so as when they saw us and the cops. They immediately started saying, "money, how much you want?". Being from Canada we figured we would let the cops talk, but they stood back and let us deal with the situation. While I am sure we could have asked for their life savings and their first born child, we just left with what we had paid. On that note, tea is not as harmless as I once thought it was!
The next day we headed to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City It was an absolutely amazing day! It was so neat to be in places that have so much history, I could have spent days just walking around.
We had such a great time while he was here and I was really sad to see him go, especially since it will be a long time until I see anyone from home. The trip to China and the visit from my dad made me really excited to travel South East Asia with Trista after my contract is over. I miss everyone a lot, only seven more months until I am home!