Clinton Stamatovich is one of The Elkhart Truth’s community bloggers. He was born in Bristol, Indiana, is teaching English in Busan, South Korea, for one year. You can read more about his experiences in South Korea in his blog, Living in Korea.
In the branch of Mahayana Buddhism, Buddha’s birthday is celebrated in the month of April. Buddha, or Gautama Buddha, was the man whose principles make up the base of Buddhism and its offshoots. The holiday is celebrated in many countries such as Myanmar, Nepal, Sri-Lanka, India and Korea. Korea celebrated Buddha’s birthday during the first week of May this year, which meant a long weekend for many foreign teachers, public and private.
One common tradition in Korea during Buddha’s birthday is the tedious process of making Lotus lanterns. These decorate temples and streets, and many of the temples serve bibimbap to those who attend the lantern making activities. Bibimbap is a hugely popular dish of white rice with mixed sautéed vegetables, chili sauce called gochujang and a fried egg on top. It is presented in a stone bowl while still cooking, and the patron stirs the cooking ingredients to desired effect. My American coworker spent a large part of her Saturday at a temple having bibimbap and contributed to the making of the lotus lanterns.
My girlfriend and I were invited by a friend to attend a beach party and pension sleep over on the southern island of Geoje (Guh-Jay) — the self-dubbed “Blue City.” Those who attended generally came from Changwon (my first residence in Korea) and the neighboring areas of Masan and Jinhae. Approximately 30 to 40 foreigners materialized for the festivities, which consisted mainly of beach lolling and drinking various Korean beverages.
Some of us, myself included, camped on the beach in common break-down tents and built a fire by the ocean. These were drastically different than those Koreans use for camping, which are exceedingly expensive, apartment-sized tents complete with folding chairs, battery operated televisions and radios, as well as miniature grills and entire sets of dishes spread out on break-down tables. They also wear multiple layers of clothing and hiking gear that are most fashionable here and protect them from the sun.
Geojedo (Hangul: 거제도; “Do” meaning island and “Geoje” translates to large crossing) is close to Busan (where I live), off the coast of Gyeongsangnam-do province. There is a direct highway, in fact, that runs from Busan to Geojedo, making the trip more accessible. Next to Jejudo—the effective Hawaii for Koreans and an active honeymoon/vacation location—Geojedo is the second largest island, with an area of 383 square kilometers.
The trip to Geojedo by bus is flanked by large expanses of pine-treed hills, with colorful houses appearing from time to time. The island features a winding and rugged landscape, with roads zigzagging around mountains to the ocean.
Geojedo, historically, was prominent during the invasion of the Japanese (Geoje being a naval base) in 1592. General Yi Sun Shin is known for having defeated the Japanese in Okpo city on Geojedo – a major milestone in Korean history concerning Imperial Japan. A POW camp, built during the Korean War, is now on display as a museum on the island as well.
Among other attractions on the island are the Gohyeon Castle in Geoje city, which was built during the Joseon dynasty; Oedo and Naedo, two islands located off the southeast coast of Geojedo; multiple museums and over 10 beaches. There is also a ferry trip visitors can take to Haegeumgang – rocky cliffs grouped together in tight formation. The boat generally enters between the cliffs and into the mouth of a small cave before reversing and exiting again.
During my trip to Geojedo in 2013, I took a ferry with friends to Oedo, which, at the time, I was unable to find information about, its attraction being mysterious. On arriving, the island turned out to be a botanical site complete with nude Greco-Roman statues and exotic flowers collected from all over the world, groomed and tended to. The walkway was uphill the whole trek and reaching the top, we found a large structure reminiscent of a modern mansion from a 1970s-era James Bond film, with baby statues in the front yard.
If traveling through, Geojedo boasts fantastic cities, as well as smaller villages with traditional style fish markets and multiple harbors with dated and beaten fishing boats — glass jars with lights are strung up from the mast for vision at night. The natural scenery is also striking, being largely mountainous and vegetated.
My trip this time was less adventurous, staying on a remote beach of Gujora — remote as we had to walk a distance to get anywhere — visiting with friends. The beach, a little bay, had shrub covered islands that beach goers could swim or kayak to. During the 20 minute walk to the beach with new company, I met Victoria Majeika (from Virginia), an entirely friendly individual with a better education, international experience and skill of photography than myself. You can find her engaging blog here: http://theglobeisbeautiful.com/, where she writes about her experiences and uploads professional photos of what she finds.
A smaller area with only one bus stop, Gujora had a series of dated homes and apartments with slim alleyways that elderly women walked up and down, curious of newcomers. Old men drove 1970s Doosan work trucks through with loud speakers announcing apples and mangos for sale. Against the beach, adjacent to the narrow streets, was a waist-high wall that residents had designated as a communal painting project with images of multiple cultures and messages suggesting more attention should be directed towards the maintenance and upkeep of the Earth in bright, thick colors.
You can visit Geojedo’s English-Korean site here: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264228
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