Sunday, November 02, 2008

Autoschediastic little tidbits:

  • I have visitors from Iceland, Sudan, and Morocco! Now I hope to see Iranian, Saudi Arabian--hell, all the bloggers from the Middle East--visiting my blog (though I doubt that the IP address is an Iranian one, but a proxy from another country.)

  • All one-hundred-and-sixty-something views from South Korea = the number of times I've viewed my own profile, since (a) I have rarely expressed anything of a remotely favorable opinion of Korea or its native constituency, and (b) I have given the URL of my blog to only two people, who I'm sure have forgotten the unabashedly long URL that puts DNA sequences to shame. (To be quite frank, it's only unabashedly long when the computer reads my mind and auto-fills the URL at the top of the browser.

This turned out to be a rather fun weekend. I attended no Halloween parties, but I'm completely fine with that. It was rather cold outside, and though I know that I would have had fun with Zach (one of my coworkers), my Saturday was to be started early because I went to visit my friend, Michael, in the hospital.

Michael's life of spreading fabulousness was just put on hold for a few days. There was some shocking news of which I had been informed on Thursday. The natural reaction was to be concerned, but then I was rather confident that all was to be all right; it was--and is--all right, for which I do thank God. Michael even knew that everything was going to be O.K., though there were times when his mind was engulfed in a deluge of subjunctives and conditions...but this is just a reflex response that humanizes us. Knowing that he was in God's hands (and being reminded of that by one of his Korean doctors) and that he had the support of a slew of people who feel blessed to know someone so... well... blessed, he surmounted this relatively larger hurdle in his life, nfp.

Two coworkers and I had tried to visit him on Friday, but a favorable turn of events had made our trip to the hospital fruitless. Furthermore, the hospital made it clear that they are not gift-bearing agents. Due to this fruitless excursion, we visited Michael on Saturday. I went alone since the other two had already left. I'm quite content with this turn of events, though. I was able to spend an hour with him in the ICU before I was informed that he was going to be transferred back to his room later that day. The nurse said that she would call me once this was happening. Since I had thought that said transferral would take place soon after I had been informed, I waited in the quite spacious visitors' area.

Two-and-a-half hours, a memorization of approximately a third of the سورة البقرة, and perhaps 4% progress toward concrete plans for my Iran trip, later...there was no word. I had thought that I had been misinformed as to the floor on which he would be staying. After being somewhat assured that I was on the correct floor, Tub-of-Lard Me decided to leave the hospital and wayfare about the area surrounding the hospital.

Whilst wayfaring, I naturally took pictures of the beautiful surrounding area of the hospital. Autumn was about, donning and boasting its characteristic colors as if there were no tomorrow.

An Aside of Sorts: Good Feature #3 (or #2) of Korea: Korea reveals the true beauties of Autumn--effectively making a fan out of those less enthused about (or totally uninterested in) the season.

Well, let's start with a mug shot of the hospital amongst a slew of trees adorned in pretty colorful leaves.

I especially like how the blue sky came out in this picture.

Surely it is always a delight to come upon red-leaved trees. Pardon the building that you see in the foreground; I would have to have forgone capturing both trees at this angle. The "building" is actually a security/ information kiosk.

This is actually a shot that was taken from in front of the kiosk--just without the kiosk imposing upon the picture.

Albeit this picture puts either my or my camera's superb white balancing skills on display, each color is vividly expressed, as opposed to...

...this picture, in which the only green color that is relatively vivid is that which may be seen in the grass.

Those were all on the hospital grounds (save the first picture, which I took whilst across the street from the rather extensive grounds of the hospital. Here are some that were taken outside hospital territory:

Don't ask me about the wherefores of this thing's existence. I just know that it was outside and underneath some stores.

I actually took that little bundle of Cute back to the apartment with me. Of course it is now the hue of poo. :(

At this point I had only ventured further enough to invest in my first meal of the day at Hansot and in Dunkin Donuts for Michael and me.

Right as I had taken the last picture above, the nurse called me to inform me that Michael was in the process of being transferred to his room. I then quickly bought the food I mentioned and took a taxi back to the hospital...even though the hospital was about two minutes away by taxi (I didn't feel like climbing the very high steps that make one feel as if s/he were on a steep mountain.

Back at the hospital, I was keeping Michael company; he was surely bored with the thumb-twiddling that serves as the only activity when visitors are not around to distract you. His nurses, and doctor, and leg-splitting-with-great-force resident were all very friendly. This friendliness and care seemed to be genuine, too, and this is what totally has me thinking. Is it possible that Koreans are not just automatons that are programmed to distort the right facial muscles which result in the perfectly calculated display of emotion? It just made the hospital one of the best places to be in Korea...a relief from the quotidial dose of assholes to whom I'd just love to see Grade C beef being force-fed.

Oh, gosh.

***Disclaimer's Note: I know that this doesn't include all Koreans. This is probably needed for the one Korean or Korea-philic foreigner who may be clandestinely reading my words and waiting for the day I'll be branded the bête noire of Korea.

Oh, I seem to already have that title.

Anyway, I seem to have found a new hang-out venue: the hospital.

So, to return to the topic (i.e. Michael's visit), I spent the rest of the day with him, read a Rolling Stone's article on Barack Obama to him, and met some of his close friends who had come to visit him. When you are just that all-around allicient--and cognizant of and fearing of God--it seems natural that he or she would have so many friendships with such durability, permanence, security, and realized appreciation for appreciation for being a part of its composition regardless of how macrocosmically wee one is. Having borne witness to the connection between him and his friends and the impact that he has on their lives, has made me ponder on my own desire for friendships of a somewhat equal caliber. I have about two or three friends here in Korea, but the aforementioned aspects are lacking, from my perspective. I could subconsciously be waiting for the friendships portrayed in such TV shows as Will & Grace, Friends, Sex and the City, and maybe even Golden Girls. ^^

Anyhow, I left the hospital around 10 p.m., and all 11 hours was worth it. I'm thankful that I was able to spend time with him; as I told him, I only see him when Neptune makes a complete orbit around the Sun.

The next day, I decided to venture outside of Seoul yet again--something of which I've become quite fond. The victim of my wandering curiosity was 삼척 (Samcheok/Samchok), which is located in Gangwon-do, the northeastern-most province of South Korea. This province is bordered to the north by the only official mark of intranational division in the world that remains: the demilitarized zone, known most widely as the DMZ. Gangwon-do contains many sites of interest to your typical tourist and your average wayfarers looking for new (and possibly improved) titillation. However, Samchok and nearby cities--동해, Donghae; 태백, Taebaek--are the homes to a number of caves. You must give up three hours of your life to get there if you are a Seoulite...something that I really appreciate when I have a window seat...and not one of the seats in the back row that is between the center seat and the window seat(!), as was the case with my return to Seoul two weekends ago.

I had gone there to see Hwanseon cave, which is the largest limestone cave in Asia (it also has special mountain dwellers that may be seen en route to the cave). The tourist guide bore bad news shortly after having arrived: the last shuttle bus--of whose existence I wasn't aware--had already departed just minutes before I arrived. Surely, I enjoy long rides, but I didn't invest in this trip just to return to Seoul after having arrived. Fortunately, there was another cave that was still open. I had ventured through the small area after storing one of my bags in a nearby Home Plus store (it was a rather huge Home Plus, by the way). Being all masterly at retaining information that had been given to me, I wasted about twenty minutes sitting at a bus stop for a bus that never came. Meanwhile, here are some pictures that I took of the area surrounding the Express Bus Terminal:

The Wee Little Samchok Express Bus Terminal

The Hill Boasting Beautiful Hues...and the Accompanying Trees

This is me taking a picture of myself on the local bus to the cave, which a kind old sir helped me board.

Why am I masterly at retaining information? The tour guide had told me that the bus to the second cave leaves from the bus terminal. So, those twenty minutes that I used to wait for the bus at the bus stop were, indeed, a waste. From the pictures and their captions above, one can see that I was finally where I needed to be.

Approximately thirty minutes later, I parted with the bus...roughly 300 m away from the cave. Little did I know--or not at all--that I would have to climb to the entrance. So I proceed up the rather steep stairs


and I see:

Mind you, it was nearing sunset time by the time that I had arrived. Many Korean visitors were making their way back to wherever it was whence they had come; I had just entered. Among the sporadic buzzing of flies and various sounds that I had heard, I looked at the upward path that was to take me to the cave. In my opinion, it was too unwelcoming for early-evening visitors who didn't want to, you know, die. So fled I did to the street level, where Perspicacious Me decided to seek out a second possible entrance that would eliminate the risk of falling and injuring myself, getting robbed (in Korea?), or mauled.

Lo. The entrance to the cave was on the street level; that other area was a mere trail on which people can meander or utilize as a shortcut of sorts. The entrance fee is a measly 3000 won.

Cheonguk Cave: Where one is glad to have heeded the advice of the man at the entrance by wearing your helmet. It is a cave dated to be 400,000,000 - 500,000,000 years old. Stalactites and stalagmites galore. Seemingly labyrinthine, but less so than other caves, I'm sure. Follow the signs in Korea, and you should be all good. The patterns formed by these two types were definitely worthy of being photographed and shared:

Forgive the blurriness, for it was dark in the cave, and I wanted to capture the effect of the colored spotlights--something that would have been infeasible with the flash. Yes, clarity was forgone for fascinating color expression.

Throughout the cave, the structures were further beautified by the colorful spotlights, which alternated color so that one would be able to see the structures in different colors.

Look at those beautiful colors.

Look, ye, at such beautiful colors.

There were many areas at which I was quite happy with having had a helmet atop my head. Methought that falling was imminent throughout the cave, for the stairs seemed to provide no sort of friction whatsoever. There was also one narrow stairway on which I had thought that I was to fall and subsequently die. Thus, this face was very much warranted at many points in the cave:

Here's that narrow, barely passable stairway:

With the grace of God, I was able to contort and descend enough to avoid PWNage by one of the low-dipping stalactites and dying alone at the bottom of a predated cave in Korea.

On my way out, I come across this sign, which comes just a little too late.

After what I believe to have been the whole cave, I left, landed an overcharging taxi driver after nearly 15 minutes, and made it to the Samcheok Bus Terminal, at which I had received a jeopardizing yet sweet offer. I then made my way back to Seoul, and I arrived just in time to take the last subway back to my apartment and chortle at the Korean male university students who were turned away after being told that their destination was not on the route of the last train.

In the case that my imaginary readers would like to peruse the album of pictures that I took that weekend:

Klicken Sie hier (a.k.a. Click here.)


Sergio said...

Nice colours! Are you a teacher? What are you teaching?
Regards from a Spanish living in Iceland!

Metastasizer said...

Hi, Sergio! Thanks for the compliment!

Yes, I'm an English teacher living in Seoul, but I'm originally from the United States.

That's so amazing that you're living in Iceland! Someday I wish to make it there, but I think that I already had commented about that on your blog page. ^^