Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Vacation within a Vacation

Despite my insistence that I was perfectly fine to just spend my Korean days around Gangneung, the family felt a need to take a mini-vacation together. So, we decided to all (the extended family) take an overnight trip to Pyeongchang, the area that was just selected to host the 2018 Olympics. Being a small country, the vacation driving time wasn't the same as for a vacation in the United States (we arrived at our destination in about 30 minutes). We did take a driving break 25 minutes in to stretch a bit and set up a bulgogi picnic.

Joo's dad used a newspaper rather than bother with sunblock...

Joo's aunt, Imo, is probably the most jovial of the whole bunch and yet somehow the bright smile always seems to fade into a monstrous expression a millisecond before the camera clicks.

We arrived at the resort early in the afternoon. It turns out that the whole complex (a place named Alpensia where the ski jump competition will be held among other events) was owned by Holiday Inn. The women were soon busy working on the dinner (some vacation!) while the men enjoyed the view.

As it was raining all day (and Koreans tend to be very adverse to being touched by rain; they believe the high acidity causes baldness among other things - which could very well be true since I'm in no position to argue!) we stayed inside and focused on indoor activities like Go Stop!

Amazingly, I was able to avoid the alcohol by hiding out with Kiwi and Kong at the appropriate times (things haven't always gone so peacefully in the past). Aside from the fact that I'm abstaining from alcohol until Joo gets pregnant, there are ethical reasons why I do so when I'm with Joo's family, but a public blog is probably not the best place to go into detail there.

I had to stay up until 2:30 am to Skype into a meeting at Ohio University. Joo, my technology expert, set everything up for me and even managed to force herself to stay awake as I tried to dial in. For 45 straight minutes. It was a bit frustrating - my Skype was working fine (I tested it by calling other people) but no one was picking up at OU. I emailed all 30 people at the meeting on the hopes that someone would check their email mid-meeting and see that I really was trying to get ahold of them. I even tried Skype-out for their cell phones, but they were apparently on silent mode. Eventually, at 3:15, with Joo looking like a zombie, we gave up and called it a night. I later found out that severe thunderstorms had taken out OU's internet connection that afternoon.

The next morning, we took a gondola ride to the top of one of the nearby mountains.

A bit less passionate than Joo and I were the large piles of stones. These cairns are built in honor of San-Sin, the long-bearded Korean god of the mountains who sits under a pine tree next to a tiger who serves as his messenger. Some of the more traditional Koreans who worship ancestral spirits (or are at least too superstitious to risk offending them) contribute a rock to the pile after reaching a high spot on the mountain as a symbol of their gratitude for San-Sin's protection.

On the gondola ride down the mountain, Imo and us youngsters took a car by ourselves, allowing me to kiss Joo more freely and engage in other silly activities.

After the gondola ride, we visited the slopes where the ski jump competition will be held.

After another cable car ride to the top of the ski jump hill, we relaxed in the roung for awhile (keep in mind that many Asian countries don't distinguish between L and R and that the silent "e" at the end of words is difficult to remember).

And finally, the long 30-minute ride back home which Kong enjoyed thoroughly.


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