Monday, October 6, 2008

The Best Sundays Are Spent in Busan

Yesterday I left Gyeongju at way-too-early-in-the-morning to meet some friends in Busan (they had gone on Saturday and stayed the night). We went to the Busan Aquarium, which is quite nicely done. Of course, I've never yet been to an aquarium that I haven't enjoyed, being such an underwater fan myself. I managed to get some really excellent pictures:

After the aquarium, the four of us went to Friday's to meet some other friends for a tasty, albeit overpriced, lunch of western food. There, we had service so lousy that it became quite hilarious. Let me give you a rough idea of just how terrible the service was: After waiting over an hour for my food (to be fair, the first twenty-five minutes were actually spent waiting for someone to come take my order), I was served my delicious blackened chicken alfredo. I was given only a spoon with which to eat it, and no napkin. This made for an amusing adventure as I tried to coerce my food to stay on the spoon for the entire journey from the plate to my mouth (with many, many failed attempts). After I remarked sadly on the absence of a napkin, three of the guys gallantly sprang up from the table and stole napkins from other (unoccupied) tables, which they then graciously presented to me. One of "the boys" even gave a little bow.

Following lunch, Beau, Diane, Kelly, and I went to church, while everyone else went back to Gyeongju. After church, we braved a light, cold rain and walked to the metro station, where we really had some fun. Metro tickets are an excellent chance to use up coins, and we had plenty of them. We were determined to pay for four tickets (5,500 won) using only our change. Unfortunately, when we were about 1,000 won away from completing our purchase, the machine lost patience with us and returned all of our change! Well, we were not about to take that sitting down.

The war was on! We counted out about 400 won more than we needed, then Diane and I crammed them into the coin slot as quickly as we could. This time we got within 250 won of purchasing the tickets before the machine returned all the change. So, we switched to a different machine and threw in the money even faster, all the while laughing (no Koreans were inconvenienced by our hilarity). On the third try, we were only 150 won away when all the change came crashing back. Since we knew that we could not physically go any faster, we decided to trick the machine by only buying three tickets at once. At last, we were victorious! We managed to outsmart the machine and pay for all four metro tickets using only change. We decided that next time, we are going to bring a few 500 won coins and have another stab at buying four tickets together using only change.

After we finally made it from the metro to the bus, and were safely deposited in Gyeongju, Kelly and I set about getting taxis (Beau and Diane were going elsewhere). I flagged one down rather quickly, and offered it to Kelly, who was thrilled to accept. Unfortunately, I could not get another taxi for myself. It was only about 7:00 pm, but it was dark out and the taxis were unable to see me. Feeling adventurous, I decided to walk home from the bus station, neglecting to take into account that I do not know how.

After about half an hour of peacefully walking in the dark, I realized that I had no idea where I was, and moreover, my toes were killing me (I was wearing dress shoes). I wandering down a few busier streets, hoping to find a taxi, but every taxi that I saw was either occupied or on the other side of the street. Finally, I risked my neck crossing a busy street and managed to capture a taxi on the other side. Ready for the really frustrating part of the story? It turned out that I had finally stumbled on the right direction, and if I had just kept walking, it would only have taken me about another ten minutes to make it home!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"