Expat Dribble

Andrea Avery Jackley: An expat with lots of dribble to write about.

7.5.09

Come Fourth of July weekend, some friends and I decided to get the heck out of dodge; mainly: Cheongju. We headed to Muuido Island (or simply Muui Island), situated off the West coast of Incheon – famous battle site of the Korean War – just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the international airport AND the North Korean border. I think I could see Kim Jong Il’s sunglasses from my “house.”

And as convenient as this may have seemed in such a small country, the travel time was truly awesome – an hour and a half journey by express bus from Cheongju to Seoul, about an hour and half, including transfers, by subway from Seoul to Incheon; a short bus ride from the airport to the coast; a wait plus ferry ride from the coast to the island; and a bus ride through the mountainous and rocky terrain of Muui Island to the beach resort where we finally setup camp.

But it was worth it. Picturesque mountains, sandy beaches, fully-clothed Korean swimmers (fab), awe-inspiring tides, horseback riding, fresh seafood and sporadic wildlife populating the shores… not a shabby place to spend the Fourth, even if it is outside of the Motherland.

The most incredible thing happened late in the afternoon – a powerful tide took the surf from us, revealing nothing but muddy shores, covered in crabs and other sea life, as far as the eye could see. I’ve never witnessed such a decline in such a short period of time. The length and width of an American football field was now available for trodding.

And while combing the muddy shores for shells and other treasures, we witnessed what can only be described as a “Hermit Crab Smack Down!” Two crabs, looking for new shelter in each other’s shells, went head-to-head in a thrilling matchup, tackling each other while bearing arms (open claws). There was blood, tears, and eventually, acquiesence. 

Dinner consisted of grilled pork, Korean style, and plenty of side dishes; and a large, spicy, fresh seafood salad with mussels and clams. Washed down with a little makju, it was almost a perfect meal. 

Afterward, as is my style, I met (i.e. forced myself upon) another group of foreigners lodging next to us, whose party we crashed come sunset. By the bonfire we discovered amazing truths, such as: a good group of us were Americans, while the others were from the U.K. It only made sense that, on the Fourth of July, that we should reenact the Revolutionary War on the beach with Roman Candles.

At W3,000 a pop (about $2 these days), we armed ourselves, facing off in the muddy remnants of the tide. It was classic, and by some accounts – slightly skewed, perhaps – heroic. Picture it: Americans vs. Brits, take your stance! The flares went up, and we scattered; almost guerilla-like. The smoke clouded our eyesight, and all we could hear were the battle cries of our teammates – “Shit! Where did that come from?” To our amazement, no one lost any body parts. 

In the end, I’m quite sure the Americans prevailed. I mean, after all, we WERE the ones who kept supplying the troops with Roman Candles. Surprisingly, while never losing sight of the fact that one of Kim’s missiles might chug overhead, no one lost any sleep. Our little beach-front huts, furnished only with blankets and pillows for the heated floor, never felt more comfortable.  

After the smoke had cleared and daylight dawned, we washed our wounded bodies and carried on bravely. Sunday brought another obnoxiously long commute, and some quality time spent in Seoul.

My enduring British friend (despite her country’s latest defeat) and I toured Deoksugung Palace, conveniently situated in a very modern part of the city, and visited  SeMA, the Seoul Museum of Art – which happened, by sheer luck, to be featuring Renoir. While walking next to the rows of police anticipating civil unrest near the new City Hall, with modern architecture that is truly something to behold, we were quite content. Gorgeous, must-see pics now posted.

To cap the weekend, dancing dragonflies filled the skies at dusk during our final hours in the great city. Next adventure, please.

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