“Why did I order this? I am trying to be vegan.” With a fork I toyed with the muscle in my seafood pasta. I was reliving dissection lab from Invertebrate Zoology three years ago. It’s difficult to find something appetizing when you trying to recall functional anatomy. Regardless, I was enjoying my time alone with a mouth full of bread.
That was until I an unsolicited visitor joined me at my corner table. Short and bald, he had an accent thicker than the sauce of my pasta. “Hello there! Mind if I sit?” He asked after he had already sat.
“You are sitting here all by yourself. Why are you alone?” We introduced ourselves to each other. I can’t remember his name, but I can remember the alcohol that scented his breath: gin. “You seem like a normal, nice person. I am not coming onto you, you just seem like a normal person and I wanted to give a friendly hello.”
If I had a piece of chocolate every time I’ve heard this from a white male 50+ years old, I would have diabetes.
He continued his monologue. I stopped eating. He told me I should leave Korea. He said that I am not happy and my heart isn’t here. He said that I will start drinking and drinking more if I don’t go and pursue my passions. I sat there and nodded my head until he went to tend to his nicotine fit. I paid my bill and skedaddled.
This interaction didn’t sit right with me. It took me a couple of days until I understood why. It wasn’t what he said, it was who said it. Drunk, older men trying to give us life lessons. Fuck them. They are answering questions that no one asked. They do not know the secret to our happiness. This small behavior, this “friendly hello” is actually oppressive.
And then I realized that this small island had made some big changes. I won’t say that I have found myself, but I have become more comfortable with who I am.
My impromptu itinerary
Land in Jeju and head towards the beach in search for a fabulous brunch spot.
After wandering for two hours I acknowledged this brunch spot no longer exists. I settled for the place that it turned into. As serendipity has it, they had one of my favorite beers that is only sold seasonally in California. I ordered one at 11:00 AM.
Scuba diving! I walked into the dive shop early in the morning and told them I wanted to go diving. An hour later, I was on a boat headed towards this island:
We were dropped off on the island and lugged our gear onto the rock. There were tons of soft corals and tropical fish. I was lucky enough to see tuna hunting in a school of sardines. It was some of the best diving I have ever done! I felt like I was in a BBC documentary.
I decided not to dive again because I am lazy. Instead, I visited a bunch of waterfalls and went to the healing forest.
In the afternoon, I went to the Seogwipo Forest of Healing because I had some work to do. I was denied entry on account of my flipflops. I was perplexed. They warned me there were snakes and getting bite by a snake would do the opposite of healing. They called me a taxi and I went home to change my shoes.
I set this day to tackle Mount Hallasan. An early morning and $30 cab ride later, I discovered the mountain was closed due to bad weather. Vanquished, I made my way back into town to come up with a different plan. I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful scenery unique to Jeju.
These cliffs were formed from the cooling and solidification of lava from 250,000 years ago. The columns are formed when molten lava contracts during cooling, which splits the rock into polygonal columns. It is called columnar jointing and is pretty badass.
Next I went to Love Land. It is famous for it’s plethora of dick statues. Everyone is immediately immature upon entering. A group of giddy young men behind me giggled as they grazed the exhibit. It was also refreshing to see a German woman directing her daughter how to pose with pornographic sculptures.
I was sad to leave Jeju but I will be back in the winter. I am excited to see how the island has changed over the different seasons. Until then, I will continue to have adventures on the mainland of Korea.