An inconvenient light


I’m not speaking in metaphors either.

I hate to be petty and use this moment to complain. I’ve worked hard to make sure my blog stays positive and interesting without being sugar-coated or sappy while still being truthful to my experiences – but I can’t hold back at this moment.

For the last couple weeks I’ve been plagued by sounds of construction in the street outside my room. I’m not sure I really even noticed it at first. Sure, I heard the noise, but it didn’t occur to me to wonder where it was coming from. It was just one more project happening in the neighborhood.

Then they brought in a jack hammer and a giant drill that made the concrete shriek and rumble beneath my feet. This drove me more than a little nuts. It didn’t help that, due to my work schedule, I sleep in later than normal people. Not anymore; not with that racket outside.

Then it finally stopped and I could breathe again. That is, until I turned off my lights to go to bed and my room didn’t get dark. Darker, sure, but I could still see the debris strewn across my floor well enough to avoid tripping. Apparently, all that noise was just a prequel to a more subtle yet equally damaging annoyance: a giant street-light that leaves my room bright enough to read a book in despite the shades being pulled down, the glass window closed and a big leafy tree blocking the way.

To say I’m unhappy about it is a terrible understatement. But there appears little I can do about it. Black-out curtains aren’t an option.  So, I go to bed with an eye-mask on now, and a silent prayer that the bulb burn out quickly and people will be too lazy to come and fix it.

Wolgwang Trip to Wando Beach-2014


IMG_9817 (4)This time last year, I went on a trip with Emily’s church to Wando beach. It rained. We huddled under our umbrellas, taking selfies and pictures of each other until people decided to start tossing the covering aside and jumping in the water anyway.

It did not rain this year but it stayed consistently cloudy, except for a moment of sunshine in the middle of the day. The church group was much bigger this year, too: 2 buses plus more who came by their own means.

I sat in the first bus, misleadingly referred to as the “party bus” (wishful thinking on someone’s part), and chatted with the group of young adults next to me. I’d never met them before and so I asked them what service they went to or if they’d ever gone to the English service. They were part of the praise team for the young adult service, and they hadn’t had to time to visit the English service. They invited me to come to their service sometime. It sounded interesting.

Just to be clear, when I make references to “Emily’s church” or just “church” I’m really talking about the English-speaking community that attends and serves in the English service at Wolgwang Church. The church itself is quite large with many services and attended by many Koreans. This trip was primarily composed of the English-speaking community.

Like last year, we ate lunch before playing and swimming on the beach. Some people worried there wouldn’t be enough meat to fill all of us but I think between the beef, the side-dishes and the snacks we’d brought, everyone was satisfied.

The beach was full of all kinds of people, young and old.

We joined them, playing in the waves….

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in the water…..

on inner tubes, rafts, and other flotation devices……

on the sand: (volleyball….

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and dodge-ball)….

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and IN the sand…….

Everyone enjoyed themselves, I think.

I experimented a little with my waterproof camera but relied mostly on my SLR. Happily, I managed to balance playing in the water with staying out of the water to take pictures.

On our way back, we stopped at a lookout point to take a group picture and some running photos. I’m not sure I quite had the hang of how to best capture the running shots. But everyone was super cooperative and just kept running and jumping until they near ran me over.

The ride home bore the comfortable silence of those who’ve played to exhaustion.

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Kayaking Trip


DSCF0185 (2)Last weekend brought with it a wonderful chance to go on another Lonely Korea, Pedro trip.

In respect for the Sewol Ferry disaster, Pedro took a break from leading trips. Also, he’s been quite busy taking care of the other part of his business: his guest house and hostel, Pedro’s House. It’s been many months since my last trip with him (and I’ve been on more than just a few) so you can imagine my excitement when he posted a new one.

River Kayaking to be followed up with a BBQ meal.

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Water and my DSLR are a potentially dangerous combination. I managed the Water Festival with no incidents but I wasn’t willing to risk it on a river. It was a perfect excuse to go out and buy a waterproof point-and-shoot, though: something I’ve wanted for a while. And though I’ve found myself a little disappointed by the way the pictures came out (not as clear, weird colors) it’s better than nothing. With more practice on the camera as well as with action shots, I’m sure I can get better images eventually. But unless it calls for water, I’ll stick to my SLR.

We meet at the usual spot at the bus station at 1:30  in the afternoon. It’s the latest I’ve ever started a Pedro trip.

The drive to the Kayaking spot is mostly quiet. Several members of the group were up late the night before or just incredibly busy. Everyone’s a little tired.

After distributing life vests and the requisite ugly helmets, we are directed into kayaks, shown how to hold the paddles, and slipped into the water with no further direction. Not that we really need it. We paddle in circles until our guide, dressed confidently in a wet-suit but no life jacket or helmet, joins us.

The weather’s been nice all week and today’s no exception. Despite predictions of rain showers, each day has been sunny and dry. Our earlier rain storms means that the river is high enough for a calm afternoon of paddling with a few moments of excitement.

There’s little to say about kayaking actually. I enjoy the “rapids” and bumping along on the wavelets. We stop partway to sit on a bridge and eat apples and drink some beer. A few people jump off the bridge into the water, just because.

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After a few more dips and scurries the kayak trip is over all too quickly. A truck picks us and the boats up and takes us back to the starting point. It’s not very big, so a few people sit in the back with the kayaks, ducking their heads when the low-hanging tree branches hang a little too low.

Pedro sets up the portable stove and brings out more food than I think 8 people really need. Then he panics that he forgot another box of food, containing bread and wine, at the bus station.

The kayak truck.

The kayak truck.

He jumps in the van and drives away to buy more food despite the fact we aren’t very close to any supermarkets. We fry dumplings and some chicken and eat while we wait. When he gets back, he proceeds to serve us several courses of food: pork sausages with some peppers, bulgogi (marinated beef), and beef patties fried with more peppers and vegetables. As if that weren’t enough, we also had fresh cucumbers, carrots and tomato, and lettuce to snack on.

Among many of his other accomplishments, Pedro is good at and loves to cook. You will never go hungry or thirsty on his trips, even if her forgets half of what he planned to bring.

I wander around taking random photos of things.

A satisfying end to the weekend.

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Stay tuned, as I’ll have another chance to play around with my waterproof camera at the beach on Friday! More later.

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Water Festival Downtown


What better way to beat the summer heat than to have a Water Festival?

Thanks to Pedro for telling me about it in the first place. I was itching to go somewhere or do something picture-worthy.

I don’t mind writing random vignettes about every day life (so long as I can twist it into something interesting) but I miss having pictures to sort through and upload.

On Saturday, I dress in my bathing suit, which I then cover up with a shirt and shorts. Since I’ll be taking my camera with me, I don’t expect I’ll be able to get very wet (a bummer) but I don’t mind too much. Pictures trump almost all in my book.

It’s cloudy when I go outside and I wonder if they picked the wrong day for a water fight.

The festival is close. Just a ten minute walk to one of the main streets downtown. The whole street has been blocked off. Little blue tents line the road with selling drinks and street food. Some of them are setting up games.

I get there before it officially begins. A long line of people crowd around the tables selling cheap plastic water guns. Volunteers are still getting their areas ready.

A stage halfway down the road starts blaring music. Two big trucks with tanks on them, spill water onto the street as they crawl by. On the far end, I can see a big blow-up slide and pools for smaller kids.

The festival starts slowly, with people trickling in and joining the masses with water guns. There seems to be no form or planning to it. They just run around squirting anyone they see and then going back to the water trucks to refill.


The water-gun-toting crowd mostly stays near the stage where groups of young men and women dance and gyrate, in true K-pop style, to music that blares so loudly through the speakers I can feel through the ground, all while being sprayed with hoses from the water trucks.

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A pair of somber looking clowns lumber around on giant feet, twisting balloons up for kids, seeming rather out-of-place.

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I stop to observe a game of rock-paper-scissors-loser-gets-a-face-full-of-water. Pretty self-explanatory, I think.IMG_9329 (2)

Another water-in-the-face game is the classic one where you pose behind a picture with a hole cut-out for your face, and people try to hit you with water balloons.

A makeshift slip-n-slide/human bowling looks fun, though quite soapy. It’s popular with the kids.

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I meet a few people I know but don’t talk for long; they are too busy chasing and being chased. I walk up and down the street snapping as many pictures of people as I can, but without much planning or thought behind it. Form? Composition? Other photography terms I don’t know? All I can think about is trying to capture moments as they happen and hope that some of them come out looking cool.


Though the water festival could be described, at its simplest, as a water (gun) fight, the variety of ways people approached this concept, was interesting. Let me list some of them for you. Take note of them, as you may want these tips for your own future water fights.

Ways to enjoy a water fight on a sunny day:

The "cute" style

In a “cute” style

The "I want to play in the water and stay dry" style

The “I want to play in the water and stay dry” style

Under an umbrella

Under an umbrella

In a Taekwondo uniform

In a Taekwondo uniform

in uniform. (It reminds me a a firefighter costume for some reason)

in boots and a matching helmet. 

While wearing a mask that practically screams "come and get me"

Wearing a shiny mask so people can target you more easily

Wearing PSY's face

Wearing PSY’s face

Watching other people's kids

Watching other people’s kids

Being carried around like royalty....above the masses

Being carried around like royalty….above the masses

If participating in water games doesn’t seem like fun to you (ahem…crazy..cough), you can always take the route these guys took and watch from a safe distance.

...Though I don't think these guys really had a choice.

…Though I don’t think these guys really had a choice.

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remote control drone with a camera

I take a break to eat lunch at my favorite kimbap restaurant.

“Kimchi Kimbap?” the woman asks me. I usually come here after Korean class to grab some to go. I’m practically a regular.

But I shake my head and babble some Korean words to go with the gesture, then I take a seat. At 2:30, I’m their only customer at the moment.

I’m a little sad actually. The food is good of course but part of why I loved this place was because of the ajumma who worked here. She could prepare, roll, and cut the Kimchi Kimbap faster than I could find my wallet in my all purpose purse/bag. Her efficiency and speed were a work of art. Maybe she quit or maybe she’s on vacation but I haven’t seen her for two weeks now. One of the women is fairly good at it’s nothing compared to the other ajumma. They hired a new woman and she makes kimbap like it is the art: laying down everything with great precision but no speed whatsoever.

Still, I like the place. I eat soup with mandu (pot stickers/dumplings) in it, then go back to the festival.


One enterprising man waves me over to his tent where he tries to sell me a cup of something to drink from his various opened bottles of juice and soda. I insist I don’t really need anything but he won’t take no for an answer. I cave and buy water. I walk away more amused than annoyed.

I can tell it’s winding down when the water trucks stop misting and I can get near enough to the stage and the people dancing on the street to see more than their bobbing heads. It never got as busy as I thought it would and there were always parts of the street that felt rather empty. Still, people continue to play.

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Someone comments that I’m rather brave to be running around in the thick of the water gun battles with my camera in hand. I’ve been careful so far and now that the crowd has thinned, I’m less nervous that I’ll be hit accidentally. I’ve been targeted a few times: always by people kind enough to avoid my camera but not gutsy enough to do more than to give my shirt a few sprays. I wouldn’t have minded, nay, would have welcomed a bucket of water poured over my head as long as my camera was out of the way.IMG_9319 (2)

I run into one of my church friends. He’s completely soaked and out of energy. He moans about his bedraggled state and wonders how he’ll get home, and realize how lucky I am that I live so close. If I’d gotten wet, I could have just walked home and dealt with it there. How will others, who live further away, manage?

“See you tomorrow,” he says. It’s casual but a small token of the community I feel – even though I don’t tell him I likely won’t be in church the next day – that there are people outside my job who expect to see me regularly and will notice if I’m not there.

I decide to call it quits when a spray of water hits my camera square on the lens.

Forgotten and abandoned water balloons find solace in each other.

Forgotten and abandoned water balloons find solace in each other.

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