My contract expires in August and so I've been running around the last few days getting everything in order for my flight home and my visa extension. I finally booked my flight home on Tuesday, after a hassle-and-a-half. I didn't intend to push it until the last minute, but my schedule was still up in the air. I found out the week before that while I wasn't required to do a summer camp for Suncheon I would still have to do a summer session for my school. A summer session that may or may not be cancelled and that still doesn't have a class roster yet. Anyway, I looked around Interpark for cheap flights and just about everything was standby only. For various reasons there are no direct flights from Asia to Pittsburgh, and if you can find one with only one stop each way you're lucky. All the ones that were popping up had at least two stopovers, which is a major pain in the ass. I eventually found one that only had one stop, and I had my choice of a layover of 10, 12, or 18 hours in Chicago. However, with Interpark the price you see isn't the final price, as they're still tinkering with taxes and stuff, and it's moreover difficult for me since my Korean isn't very good, and if they contact me with an urgent matter I obviously wouldn't be able to understand. It was very important that I booked no later than Tuesday, and since the price for that flight ended up being more than one I found on Kayak.com, I went with the English-language website.
Tuesday morning my coteacher told me she talked to somebody at the local Office of Education, after I emailed her to stay that tickets would probably be expensive and to see if that was all right, and she told me that they would compensate me for whatever ticket I buy, provided it's economy class. Since you're being nebby, it ended up coming to around $2,800 round-trip. Later that morning my coteacher told me that after she asked again the boss of the guy she talked to, LOL, just told her that I would only be compensated up to 2 million won (a little over $2,000), and that I would have to make up the difference. I was like how the fuck am I supposed to find a ticket for under 2 million for the middle of summer with less than three weeks' notice? It's hard enough to do that in the middle of February with five months' notice, and even then I think it'd be tricky. My coteacher said that I knew I would be going home this summer so I should have been able to guess the weeks I'd be gone and booked a ticket further in advance. asdfjwfjiowaj932w does not compute. Keep in mind my summer schedule still isn't finalized, some six days before the end of the semester. I told her this, and also told her that I didn't find out until last week that I wasn't obligated to do a summer camp, since it'd interfere with my contracted vacation. She called the supervisor back to complain about the short notice and when I got back from my class she said that the official, final schedule for summer camps wouldn't be releaesd until next week. So, I was supposed to guess my vacation in advance . . . when the schedule isn't finalized with less than a week to go, and there was still the possibility I'd be scheduled for further camps or summer sessions. Nice.
Just for shits and giggles I'll mention my itinerary last year. Because I was changing locations I had to lug all my . . . luggage around for this because I didn't yet know about courier services. So I walked fifteen minutes to the bus terminal in Gangjin with all my bags, rode ninety minutes to Gwangju, pulled my bags through the bus terminal, tried to find the airport bus, gave up, found a taxi to the airport, flew into Gimpo then took a bus to Incheon. My school did the last-minute thing last year, too, getting tickets with less than two weeks left, so I guess only the shittiest ones were left. I had to spend the night in a motel, then fly to Beijing the next morning, wait around for four hours, then fly to New York, where my flight was delayed four hours, then fly two hours back to Pittsburgh. From the time I left Gangjin to the time I arrived in Pittsburgh nearly two days had elapsed. I repeated the route in reverse on the way home. I said I'd rather just take the shuttle bus to Incheon from Gwangju, but I was told that the school would only reimburse me if I flew, and I didn't have any say in the matter then. This year I'm taking the shuttle bus, because it turned out my coteacher was wrong last year, and the Office of Education would reimburse for all modes of transportation used to get me home. I never saw any of that money, and I when I asked to be reimbursed for those two nights in a motel or for the seven nights I spent in a motel in Suncheon when my apartment was still occupied, I was told it wasn't possible. Still waiting to get paid for the three-week winter camp I worked last year, too. Gangjin Sparkling!
Anyway, the flight options were brutal. Flying into JFK and having to switch to La Guardia. Having layovers in combinations of two of these cities: Orlando, Detroit, Denver, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Tokyo. I lucked out and found one with only one stop both ways, and it ended up being a little cheaper than the ones with two stops or with lengthy layovers, including the ones available on Interpark, so that's nice.
Okay, so that was Tuesday morning. Tuesday evening I took the bus to Gwangju because I needed to catch the 4 am bus to Seoul in order to run to the U.S. Embassy and get an affidavit for my Criminal Background Check. I ended up not sleeping since I knew I'd sleep through both my alarms, but was able to navigate the bus terminal and the subway with no problem and I was in and out of the embassy in under thirty minutes. Also on Wednesday I had to run to the Jeollanam-do Office of Education to pick up my new contract then run over to immigration to get my visa extension. I was given two days off to do all this but I hoped to get it all done in one so I could have Thursday to myself and hopefully go to Busan (don't tell my boss). I was making really good time and I would have accomplished this, too, had I not forgotten that Suncheon was under the jurisdiction of the Yeosu branch, and I was curtly told "여수" by the woman at the desk. So today I went to the Yeosu branch, which is where nine migrant workers detained in the prison died in a fire last year, and which is located in a still near-empty "New City." The immigration officer scrutinized my paperwork for a few minutes then said that they didn't need my Criminal Background Check because I was an employee of the Jeollanam-do Office of Education and had already submitted one when I was hired in 2006. ajlsjfiojfoiasf러만이ㅓ리ㅏ더지ㅏㅓ먀ㅓㄷ. This contradicted all the information I had heard from immigration thus far---which said that everyone getting or renewing an E-2 visa after a certain date needed to submit a background check that was certified, notorized, or apostilized---and went against what I was told by that same Office of Education numerous times, in spite of me telling them that I had already submitted a check, and obviously had I known this I wouldn't have paid for one from Pennsylvania and wouldn't have spent more than $100 in fees and transportation costs getting an affidavit. Jesus Tapdancing Christ. But I will say that the officer there was very kind and spoke pretty good English, a rare find among immigration officers in my experience.
A fairly large park with replicas of ancient dwellings is behind the immigration office in Yeosu.
After that I spent the rest of the afternoon at a couple of beaches. I had never been to any beaches in the area before, and though I had written about most of them for Galbijim, the only one in the neighborhood that came to mind was Manseongni Beach (만성리해수욕장). It is known, I mean "known," for being Korea's only black-sand beach, but as Iceberg Korea said in the seminal post on this topic, it's not really black-sand. And like some other beaches in Jeollanam-do I've read about, this one is good for your girl parts, as Korea.net tells us:
One of the beautiful beaches in Yeosu City, Manseong-ri beach is distinct for its rare black sand. Burying your body in the sand is claimed to cure neuralgia and various women's diseases making the beach a crowded place for visitors who come from all over the country to experience its benefits.
Actually, it kind of sucked. The sand isn't black but is rather a light-brown collection of rocks and shells, with some garbage thrown around for good measure, that grinds into your feet as you walk around trying not to impale yourself on something. When I asked around yesterday on Suncheon Crowd for directions to beaches in the area, one of the members said it was shit, and I kind of have to agree. At least shit compared to the reputation of being an attractive beach
Views of Manseongni Beach.
The member on Suncheon Crowd also recommended I try Mosageum Beach (모사금해수욕장) instead. It's about three kilometers north of Manseongni, and though it's pretty tiny it was a lot more pleasant. There is real sand, the water is comparably clear, and you can actually see fish jumping out of the water as you swim out to the deep end. Granted it's nothing extremely special, and you can find beaches of its sort all over, but you know what it was nice and relaxing, and I ended up finally catching some sleep. You can catch a cab to this beach, too, because that seems a little easier than trying to figure out Yeosu's confusing buses. There's a minbak right on the edge of the beach with a kind woman who will call a cab for you when it's time to go home.
Views of Mosageum Beach.
I took two short videos just to give you an idea of the size and layout of the beaches, so go here for Manseongni and here for Mosageum. There's another beach just over five kilometers north of Mosageum, called Sindeok Beach (신덕해수욕장), but I didn't make it up that way.
I think tomorrow I might make a poll asking visitors to vote on their favorite beaches in Jeollanam-do. I have a collection in mind of about ten, so we'll see how that goes. I don't think I get many visitors from Jeollanam-do, though, and I think that people around here who do go to beaches usually stick to the big ones. But, anyway, I think it'd be neat to see what turns up. As far as Yeosu goes, there are other beaches on Dolsan-do and some of the outlying islands. If you can navigate Korean you can use Naver to pull up a map of the city and then skim along the coast. The official Yeosu site has a little something up about beaches opening this season that I'll leave you to ponder:
Enjoy your summer vacation in Yeosu, a Mediterranean-type ocean leisure city.
Yeosu City will greet summer vacationers with opening ceremonies at the major beaches in Yeosu, including Manseongri Beach, before the onset of summer vacation season.
On the 24th, Manseongri Beach, which is famous for its black sand, will host a black sand fomentation event called ‘A Day of Black Sand Opening’ to greet vacationers.
Manseongri beach will operate a water leisure-sports free experience event with an accident-free praying ceremony for five days from June 27 to July 11.
Eleven beaches, including Bangjukpo Beach, will be opening between June 28 and July 4 to greet visitors.
The beaches will open until August 24, 2008.
Major beaches in the Yeosu area include Manseongri Beach, Dolsan Bangjukpo, Samsanmyeon Yurim, Hwajeong-myeon Sado, Nammyeon Ando, Hwayang-myeon Jangdeung, Ohcheon-dong Mosageum, Samildong Sindeok, Samsan-myeon Seodori Yigeumpo, Samsanmyeon Sonjukri, Samsanmyeon Chodori Daepung, Samsanmyeon Chodori Jeonggang Beach.
And since we're here it bothers me that on the main Korean page the section for other languages is labelled "foreigner." Listen, my brother browsing the site in Philadelphia isn't a foreigner, shithead, and I'm not too keen on that word being used domestically, anyway. Sorry guys, I think I've got a little black sand in my vagina today. And you'd think that'd be healthy, coming from Manseongni, but it's not.
* Update: A friend of a Facebook friend just uploaded some pictures from Mosageum, including one of a neat starfish:
* Update 2: A Yeosu paper has a different look at the beach: