April 21st, 2011
Mom and I woke up early and went to 광화문 Gwanghwamun area to catch a special free tourist bus to 전주 Jeonju. These buses, which go to 경주 Gyeongju and 부산 Busan as well, are widely advertised as a great way to get foreigners a chance to see things outside of Seoul. A lot of foreign residents in Korea pan them because you can't ride the bus in the opposite direction if you wanted to go to Seoul for a day or a few. However I think it's a pretty good idea to get people around the country if they're just visiting Korea for a short trip. There are several ways in which the system is not so good, though. First of all it's not done on a first come, first served basis. It's done on a lottery system. I entered our names a couple weeks ago and got a confirmation email. Then I waited. I didn't see any other email, so on the 20th I got on the internet and went to the site where I entered our passport numbers and it said "reservation confirmed" and it also showed that there were (unless I was totally misunderstanding) still tickets available on the bus. But when we checked in at the site they said that we had not 'won' tickets (although every other name of every other person and the person(s) accompanying them on the list had 'won' tickets). I protested that we'd seen a confirmation email but never seen any other follow up email such as a 'sorry, you didn't win, try again' email. The young lady was apologetic and explained that she often gets people with the same complaint but there is nothing she can do; her job is just to check people in not to send emails related to the program. Fortunately some people who had 'won' seats didn't show up, so mom and I were able to get on the bus after all but it was a bit stressful and I had lots to say about how bad it made Korea look to foreign tourists if they experience something as confusing as that.
In Jeonju (and this is basically why I even decided to go) the bus took us to the 한옥 hanok village; an area of Jeonju where traditional style one story buildings made of wood with tile roofs are still common. We walked around the streets, and checked out the scenery, a couple 한지 hanji (paper) making workshop/factories and their associated gift shops, a calligraphy museum, some other craft halls and had a marvelous lunch. Overall I found the area too developed for tourism—it was a bit gross how much of it was predicated on rapidly relieving the visitors of their money. Most of the tourists, of course, were domestic, including several school groups, but I started feeling really claustrophobic and uncomfortable. The best part of the entire Jeonju experience (except for the lunch which was just the type of ordinary home-cooking I love) was our visit to the 경기전 Gyeonggijeon with a shrine for 태조 Taejo, the founder of the dynasty. The inside of Gyeonggijeon was just as run over with visitors but the area was far larger and the birds were chirping, the sun shining and the new leaves were practically unfurling as we watched.
We took a taxi to the Express Bus Terminal and took the 3:10 bus to 대구 Daegu, arriving shortly before 6:00. We took another taxi to my 합기도 Hapkido studio and we spent the rest of the evening there until I felt that mom would turn into a pumpkin if I didn't take her to Georgy and Jinhong's and a bed. At Hapkido I led class (it was a day to focus on kicks) and had a pretty good time. It was fun that mom got see the 관장님instructor 15 years after she first met him.
April 22nd, 2011 Earth Day
I'm afraid I didn't do anything special for Earth Day. I guess I just have to say "every day is Earth Day!" In the morning I made pancakes for the four of us. Jinhong took mom to see some things and I worked on an application while Georgy made cupcakes (I had given her a cupcake cookbook because she loves cupcakes). After a lunch that Jinhong made I went to the post office to send my application (Jinhong drove me to a print shop and the post office, so sweet), and mom and Georgy went fabrics shopping at the traditional market.
I went back to 합기도 Hapkido and stayed there until 10:45. It was a test day so I mostly helped run the test, but I got some exercise in as well. When I got back to Georgy and Jinhong's only the latter was still awake.