Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday

May 5th and May 6th are national holidays here in observation of Children’s Day and Buddha’s birthday respectively, and today is the last day of our four day weekend.
My weekend started off fairly roughly. Our payday was Friday, so I decided to go out shopping directly after work. The subway stations here are practically underground shopping malls. They’re really cool, but there are always so many people in the tiny stores. A lot of the employees at the stores like to follow foreigners around and watch them closely. It pisses me off a little and stresses me out a little more. The Gangnam subway station (which is about a 15-20 minute walk from my apartment) has SO MANY cute stores, but I hate shopping there. I decided to go somewhere with actually above ground shopping centers. I wanted to give up feeling like a teenage mutant ninja turtle for one night.
I picked a place called Dongdaemun History and Culture Park on the suggestion of another teacher. I had been to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park once before for 7 a.m. soju drinking (that’s a story for another time, my friends). I didn’t get a chance to explore the area much at that time, so I decided to try it out again. I hopped on the subway a little after 6 p.m. The quickest way to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park via subway from Yeoksam is to take the green line (Line 2) toward Jamsil.  This line goes through Sanwangsimi as well. Sanwangsimi may or may not sound familiar to some people back in the states. It was recently featured on the news. Recently as in last Friday between 6:30-7:30 p.m. my time. See, there was a subway collision near that station at that time.
I was not on the subways that crashed; I was traveling on the same line, but in the opposite direction. I did see the news cameras and journalists at the subway station though. At the time, I had no idea what had happened. I texted my boyfriend to see if he knew what had happened. He told me the subways had capsized (he has been obsessed with that word since the ferry). I was so close when it happened! Apparently people had to break open the subway windows to get out, and the last car on the first subway disconnected. I don’t know if there were any deaths or serious injuries, but it must have been a terrible experience for all those involved.
When I finally arrived at Dongdaemun History and Culture Park, I went into a Lotte department store. A cute little boutique caught my eye. I looked at the clothes for a little while, then the adorable shopkeep came up to me and offered me a dress she thought was cute. I stayed in the tiny shop for about 30 minutes while she handed me different things to try on. It was a really fun experience! The young woman didn’t speak English very well, and I have an extremely limited Korean vocabulary. We communicated through small words and big gestures. It was a lot of laughs, and I did end up buying a dress. She was so lovely. I went to one more shop briefly. One of my Korean friends texted me while I was there to ask if I wanted to get drinks.
I grabbed a pretzel from the Auntie Anne’s in the mall, then jetted out.
There were guards posted at the ticket gates at the subway station. The way toward Sanwangsimi was completely blocked because of the subway crash. The guards only let people through if they said (or in my case, motioned) that they were taking the opposite train. The good thing about the green line is that it is a circle. I could ride the train going in the opposite way and still get home. It would just take me a looooooot longer to get home.
I told my friend I would be in Yeoksam a little after 9, then waited until a seat opened up on the subway.  When I finally got to Yeoksam, my friend and I walked to an American-style bar called Big Rock Brewery in Gangnam and drank two pitchers of beer.

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I. Got. So. Sick! I barely left bed on Saturday or Sunday.

I felt much better by Monday.

Three of the other teachers and I left on what would turn out to be a 6 hour journey to a little island called Naminara.

The island should usually be a two-hour trip from Yeoksam, but we hit quite a few bumps. When we got to the district, there was a huge line of people for taxis, but no taxis in sight. We waited in line for about an hour. When we got to the front of the line, the taxi driver told everyone that he wouldn’t take anyone to Nami Island because traffic was too bad. Another group of girls got into his cab. The next taxi came less than 5 minutes later. The cabby told us he would take us as close to the island as he could. We ended up riding in the cab for 10 minutes, then another 20 minute walk to the ferries.

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There are two ways to get on Nami Island-ferry or zip line. The zip line was ₩35,000 (around $32) and there was an hour wait. It looked like a lot of fun, but we all wanted to get on the island as quickly as possible.
We had to buy an entrance visa to go to The Republic of Namimara.

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The visa only cost ₩8,000, and it covered roundtrip ferry access.  We waited only about 20 minutes for the ferry for the island. The ferry ride itself was another 20 minutes.

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We all fell in love with the island as soon as we landed! It was so beautiful. Trees were everywhere; flowers bloomed;  squirrels ran amuck.

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It was glorious. There were loads of people all around us, but it wasn’t unbearably crowded. We were able to explore the island without feeling claustrophobic.  We learned that the island was named after a famous general named Nami whose remains are believed to have been buried on the island.

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The island had a lot of interesting things on it. They had held an international childrens’ book festival on the island. Decorations for it were still all over the place. There was also art from many different international artists.

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There were also lots of fun statues that symbolized different things…

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The last image is a statue from Winter Sonata. The drama (I don’t know if all of it or just the finale) was filmed on the island. There were lots of tributes to the drama on Nami Island. I should probably watch it soon!

Besides statues, there were a lot of signs.

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And bridges and railroad tracks and walkways and cute houses…

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Okay, so we had a fantastic time in Nami! We spent about 3 hours there and enjoyed practically everything. We did have to wait in a massive line for an hour to get on the ferry off the island though…