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The Korea Diaries Part IV

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Part 4ish

The Beach

 

Although Korea is a place rife with cultural wonders, this past weekend I was able to experience something that was purely a geographical delight. I saw, felt, heard, and accidentally tasted something very dear to my heart: the seaside.

 

As part of MT (Membership Training), which is a Korean activity that involves younger students travelling together with older students with the idea that they will bond and feel a sense of kinship, most of the international students ventured to Daechon Beach. Here, we had rented a pension (a kind of unfurnished beach house) and basically spent the weekend eating, exploring, and having fun.

 

Now, organizing nearly 80 college students is no easy feat, and I have to admire all of the logistical work that one driven student from Texas put in. He purchased train tickets, collected money, and organized a group BBQ on Saturday night. We were free to do whatever activities we desired, with the requisite that we bond and enjoy ourselves.

 

For me, an avid ocean-lover, this was no problem. I grew antsy the closer we became, and as soon as we had settled into our place, I ventured out with a group of other internationals and encountered, for the very first time, a Korean beach. By the time we had settled in, it was dark, but this simply adds to the mystique and serenity. As soon as my shoes touched the sand, they leapt off of my feet and I found one bare foot after the other carrying me towards the ocean. I rolled up my pants, and ran into the warm water. It was incredible. The water made me feel vibrant and full of life in a way that only the ocean could. I was joined by others, and we reverted to small children, finding joy in the playful water. We watched as people around us lit up sparklers and other fireworks, and soon bought our own; in no time the sandy beach was filled with fireworks and laughter. One Korean family brought with them a type of small lamp, that when lit floated delicately into the sky.

 

We looked forward to Saturday, when we would have a full day to experience all that the beach had to offer: zip lines, rentable ATV’s, and the rest of the town. We awoke to the drizzle of rain and a deep gray sky. No matter, although the first two activities could not be done with the threat of an impending storm, we learned that the tide was out and went to explore. We found a plethora of small sea creatures, from purple and orange starfish and tiny crabs to a type of small green anemone. We asked a group of passing Koreans to take our picture, which they obliged, and then all but the one with the camera joined with us! In other words, we have pictures with very friendly Korean’s whom we had previously never met and to this day do not know. All we know is that they were incredibly friendly and spoke English quite well.

 

Saturday night, not to be dissuaded from having fun, we decided to hit the small carnival. After paying prices that are aimed at people with enough extra cash to visit a beach, we won a motley of treasures, from a back scratcher to a strange health drink (which smelt like decaying death and tasted far worse, so we naturally donated it to the other internationals telling them of its wondrous taste). We wandered down the beach some more, and found a large uninteresting slab at the base of the zip line tower. This was a perfect place to sit with our feet dangling at the placid ocean that nearly surrounded the slab. We sat there for a long time, enveloped in the peacefulness. Once we got tired of this, we lit our remaining fireworks and watched as they exploded over the sea.

 

Once we were content, we decided to keep exploring, and meandered the streets and found a ritzier district. We believe this was meant to accommodate all the visitors who would come in the high season, which occurs with the Boryeong Mud Festival held at this beach in late July. We bought fake tattoos of dragons, placed these on our necks, and returned to the main group to surprise all of our friends. Before finally coming back, we spent a few hours in a noraebong, which is like a Korean Karaoke place. Although this may not sound entertaining, it is actually a good way to get closer to people, reveling in the fact that your singing voice is nowhere near American Idol-worthy.

 

We slept soundly that night, and awoke to a sunny Sunday, unfortunately we would be leaving on this day to come back. We went back to the beach, again felt the warm sand between our toes (a wise friend of mine always joked how shoes were simply the prisons for our soles. He thinks he is funny). We collected many pristine shells, rescued a starfish that was quite far from water, and finally had to be on our way. The train ride back was sleepy, but we passed beautiful country side that before we saw only at night. Our trip was over much too soon, but worth every moment.

 

Ryan Loughrey

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