Magic

I’ve been a bad blogger and am not sure I’ll become much more disciplined. I live in a magical place and a magical situation that allows me so many experiences, and I find myself overwhelmed to write about it. When I have the time, there’s too much to share. I have experiences about hosting a couple cookouts and a small dinner within two weeks (as an introvert); about the incredible “wildlife” in our backyard (the most gorgeous spiders and craziest weeds any North American has seen) and my transition from bug-fearing to bug-admiring; my slow acceptance of Korean food (I feel very ashamed about that but am trying); the whole experience of being an introvert in a primarily extroverted situation; about being away from my mom; about starting to feel some heavy grief over the loss of my dad; about wanting to experience the full spiritual experience of a this Buddhist/Christian/Naturalist land; about hosting long-term guests I like and love versus those to whom I’m obligated. I also intended to post some basic information helpful to expats who were not coming here to teach ESL. As one of those, I was unable to find much of any information regarding life here outside of teaching and less information regarding living outside of the Seoul area. I have good intentions regarding future posts.

 

I just get too busy to write it all down and then, when there’s a lull, I’m overwhelmed with what to share. My most favorite thing about living in Korea is that Koreans love hiking. It’s a national pastime, and everyone seems to do it. Because it is a country made up primarily of mountains, the hikes are up. They aren’t full of many switchbacks. Koreans seem to prefer to just go straight up. When I have to leave this place and move back to the States in 2-3 years, I expect to be in fantastic shape.

I was a runner for years. It’s probably my favorite exercise, and I was addicted to the endorphin high. But my back decided it had enough. I’ve enjoyed biking, but I seem to find it more a mode of transportation than exercise because it requires such a distance to equal the output I got from running.  Hiking, however, fits that whole magical thing. I love it. I love what it’s doing to my muscles and lungs. I love that it brings me into natural beauty. I love that I can do it in any season. When I discovered it about 12 years ago, I was in Texas and had to drive at least a day to get to a place worth hiking. Now I am 30 minutes away from mountain hikes. If there is a mountain or hill here, there are trails on it. And just so you don’t get too cocky, Koreans also put exercise equipment and hula hoops at the top of many hikes, dampening the feeling of accomplishment by essentially telling you that you can do more!

These aren’t “just” hikes, either. So many of them have mountain-side Buddhist temples that are serene and beautiful. As a follower of logotherapy, I’m drawn to Buddhism. I’m drawn to will to meaning. I’m especially drawn to being mindful of the present – essentially living in the here and now. And I’m drawn to Buddhism’s teachings to transform our experiences and to be fully responsible for our lives.  I’ve lived many years in the past, projecting it to my future, which has resulted in missing out on the present. My present finds me living in a very humid paradise for a minimum of two years. I don’t have a work Visa, so my husband has told me my job is to find fun things to do. Much of my initial time was spent getting the household set up. When you move to another country with no furniture and very little kitchenware, there is a lot of shopping and setting up to create a home. But that’s done, so now I’ve been hiking and dining and making new friends. Rough life, huh? And I really like the people I’ve met.

I will offer a piece of advice to anyone coming here. If you are fortunate enough to be invited to hike with a Korean, bring a lot of water, wear hiking shoes, consider a small sandwich or something, don’t skip breakfast, and follow this formula regarding what they say about the hike: If they say it’s easy, assume it’s moderate. If they say moderate, assume strenuous. If they say strenuous, perhaps consider making up an excuse as to why you are unable to participate. But count your lucky stars if you are able to share any part of this country and culture with a native. They are a kind, funny, positive, and healthy people who really know how to enjoy themselves.

Bugs

Last night as we were hanging curtain rods, a flying giant got into the house. I thought it was a hummingbird and worried it was going to bash itself to death. After seeing there was no beak, I thought it was a giant bee. I went into a slight panic, and the dogs got the heck out of the house. It finally landed, and we saw that it was a huge moth-like creature: A moth the size of a hummingbird. Wikepedia does list a “Hummingbird Hawk-Moth” (Macroglossum stellatarum) that has been known to live in these parts. We captured it in a trash can and released it outside. This is just one of already many encounters with unfamiliar insects.

I tend to say our house is a spider factory, which is okay because it is also a fly and mosquito factory. The spiders can have at it with the latter two. The ones I’ve seen in the house are small, thick, and brown. They’re easy to catch and to relocate. Outside, the yard and garden are filled with larger spiders that are pretty shy. And I’ve seen a couple of beautiful caterpillars. But those flies and mosquitoes are another story. I will transport wasps to the outdoors. I will pick up worms to try to prevent them from burning up on the pavement. I love lots of living critters. But flies and mosquitoes are not my friends. Because I have two “large” dogs in a small yard, there are a lot of flies. And Sacheon is doing its 1970s best to control the mosquitoes, but judging from the bites I wake up with each morning, the mosquitoes are winning.

Twice in the two weeks I’ve been in the house a large fogging truck has driven through the neighborhood. This is the small-town method of mosquito control: Kerosene and pesticide fogging. These trucks are very noisy, and the smell precedes their arrival. I thought it was a helicopter that was possibly dumping fuel. I didn’t grow up running after these trucks, which is apparently a fond memory for many. If you look it up, there are more claims that it is harmless than there are claims that it is not. However, the taste of kerosene in my throat for hours didn’t taste harmless.  I hope the fog also kills centipedes because fairly quickly after moving in, I encountered a large one of those on the back porch. I had some trash and bags of dog food out there, and I think it was feasting. Just one word from me to sum up the incident: Gross! The dog food has been moved inside, and I’ve littered the porch with moth balls and other insect irritants.

South Korea, or the Republic of Korea as is its official name, is almost an island. It borders only North Korea and otherwise is surrounded by the East Sea, the East China Sea, and the Yellow Sea. Its climate is temperate and has four distinct seasons, with the summer being hot and humid. Because Sacheon is very far south, it is more temperate than Seoul. The heat and humidity from all that ocean makes for lots of creepy crawlies. Maybe I could have researched this a little more before the move, but it wouldn’t have changed anything. I feel I was destined to be here.

The people here have made the best of the insect world. There’s a long history of insect-eating (entomophagy). Beondegi is a popular snack and is boiled silk worm pupae. Crickets and mealworms come fried as well as ground into powder forms and are also popular. I don’t know about the worms, but I’ll eat a cricket over a sea cucumber. Much of the insect trade relates to feeding livestock, but it is a growing industry for human food production. It makes sense to me although doesn’t get my salivary glands moving. My adventures in eating haven’t gone past bibimbap, kimchi, bulgogi, and naengmyeon. But that’s another story.