We took a coach bus from Busan at an ungodly hour of morning, to avoid the rush. It was a good decision because by early afternoon, the roads coming into the town were piled up with traffic for several kilometres. South Korea has nearly double the population of Australia.
Once in the town, we simply followed the crowds and ended up catching another bus which took us to this large carpark. One would assume that there would only be one festival at a time in a small town like Jinhae.
Apparently not so. It soon dawned on us that this particular gathering of people was not for cherry blossoms, but for a navy exhibition. There were a few information stands around and some displays, like this old search-and-rescue plane. We wandered around for a bit, even though learning more about Korean naval history was not our original endeavour. One may as well make the most of every situation.
This is a geobukseon, or turtle ship. It was a famous Korean invention and this replica was rebuilt with the help of historians. Originally the dragon head at the front contained a device for creating a smoke screen.
We walked around and soon found what we were looking for. Cherry blossoms are quite nice because all of the trees blossom within the same short time of year and shed petals so frequently that it looks like snow. They were all over the town, lining almost every street including those of the naval exhibition carpark.
Here are some of the happy chaps that accompanied Heather and me. On the right is Min-Hyo, who you may or may not remember from Jef's birthday, then An-An who studies Korean at the same school as me, and next to her is Emily. Randall and Cara from the Hwamyeong branch also came along.
So after we meandered around the carpark, we headed back to the town centre to try and locate the cherry blossom festival. Although there were cherry blossoms everywhere, there was apparently a focal point for it somewhere in the city. Most locals didn't know what we were talking about though and kept directing us around in circles.
After an hour of walking around we finally found it. This stream area was what we had heard about. It was in a quieter part of town but worth the walk.
Here's Heather and her twin sister posing for the camera. When they were young, it was difficult to tell them apart in photos. These days it's a lot easier because they like to style themselves differently. You will never see them in matching outfits.
After crossing a small bridge we came across this mule. They're funny animals.
The sign around its neck informs people that you can sit on it and have your photo taken for 300 won (30 cents). Randall told me that every year they have an 'Eeyore's Birthday Party' somewhere in America and everyone goes wild.
It wasn't long before Cara jumped on. She's from Texas, so that's probably why she didn't need any help. In an instant she swung her legs over the mule like a kung-fu hero and surprised the owner who wanted to bring her a stool to stand on. Even the mule was as surprised as a mule could be.
The next weekend we went out to Tongdosa, an area north of Busan for a bonding trip. These gatherings occur every so often for the administration and management staff at our company and their purpose is to strengthen the network between branches. I was invited because Heather is the vice-branch manager at Hwamyeong. They lit this fire in the middle of a soccer field to start the night's activities.
The food was good and included all the staples of a Korean buffet like pork ribs, raw fish and sea-snail soup. Whenever food is laid out in front of hungry Korean girls, they will undoubtedly use the exclamation "Masshigetta!" which literally means "It's going to be delicious". They will say this continuously in 1 minute intervals until they get to eat.
In Korea, there are many variations of different drinking games. In general they require a little bit of skill and a lot of luck, and are designed to get people tipsy a lot faster than normal.
This is a game called 'Baskin Robbins 31'. It's a little difficult to explain, but basically it's a counting game, where the inevitable conclusion is that someone will have to drink when they are forced to count the number 31. Players can affect the outcome to some degree and the loser has to drink a metal bowl full of beer.
Next weekend I'm going to Jeju Island, so I'll let you know how that goes. The Saha work blog is coming along nicely, with a couple of posts from the other teachers arriving. If you haven't already, check out the link on the list to see what's going on at the branch.