Thursday, June 28, 2012

The First Day in Jeju

The first morning I woke up at what I thought was 645AM, perfect timing we were going to meet Ko at 8AM for a tour of Jeju National University. Turns out that I actually woke up at 545AM my clock was on daylight savings time. Ethan and I decided to explore the campus and as we walked down the hall we ran into Professor McCuan who also had gotten up during the wee-hours of the morning, we wondered around the empty campus walking into different buildings and exploring. Nothing was locked and hardly anything had signs in English so we mostly spent our time trying to figure out what buildings were what. The campus is interesting, the architectural design is not consistent at all and the entire campus is on a hill. This combined with the early morning mist made for a very interesting and unique atmosphere that is hard to describe.  At 8 we met up with Ko and he gave us the full tour, explaining what each building was as he lead us to go get breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. Yes there is a Dunkin Donuts on Jeju. They can’t expand onto the west coast but they can expand onto an island off the coast of South Korea. However the Dunkin Donuts was closed so we went to a local bakery which served pastries Korean style.  Their pastries are incredibly sweet and they all seem to have creamlike fillings. I was glad that we got to eat at the local bakery; going half way across the world to eat an American chain just feels wrong.  But oh so sweet. 
Walking down towards the base of campus

Jeju International Summer School 2012
Once your name is on a banner you know you have hit the big leagues

These guys were playing this weird volleyball game using only their feet and heads. It was super interesting to watch and looks quite fun.
This is a green on campus with some gardeners tending to it. The campus is quite  beautiful but the weather has been drissly and it is hard to caputure the atmosphere with a simple point and shoot camera, so I am just putting up a bunch of photos so that  you might be able to glimpse the beauty of the campus.
The Dunkin Donuts that was closed which is attached to a 7-11 and a Baskin Robbins. 
The base of the campus where the bus stop to the city is and where our bakery was. 
These deer statues must have some significance unfortunately the plaques are all in Korean so I cannot tell you what they mean. They look good though. 
I really like the wooded look that Jeju National University has. All the foliage around the campus makes the air fresher  and gives the campus a very earthy feeling.
As we left the bakery to start our arduous walk from the base of campus to our class room, Ko seemed fairly agitated, he kept telling us that class was at 9AM.He leads the way to the classroom probably a good ten minutes late, again this was after traveling for 20ish hours and my sense of time still lacked sense.  When we arrived there were already five people waiting for us, three female Korean students, one male Korean student and a female Korean professor. The Korean professor pointed at her wrist as we arrived to draw attention to our lateness. Apparently Korean Professors are never late, the students can arrive late but the professors are always on time. From my two years of experience at SSU I would say the professors are on time 50% of the time.  An interesting cultural norm as in most of Korean society elders are given the utmost respect, I figured a professor could arrive whenever they wanted but evidently not.  As Professor McCuan began setting up his computer on the complex Korean podium/classroom control center, the Korean professor suggested that all the Americans meet the Korean students. I went over to the nervous looking guy and introduced myself. It became clear almost immediately that this guy spoke almost no English. I asked him why he was interested in this class and he said because he needed it for his “report card” which I took to mean he needed it to fulfill his credits. I sat awkwardly as he searches for the words to express what he is thinking. Finally he blurts “I didn’t know this class was in English.” I gave him a wide eyed look and simply said “shit” and we both kind of laughed. Once class began to resume he leans in and says “Nice meeting you Joe” and he then bolts out of the classroom.  The rest of the class session just seems like a normal class taught by my Professor. But we are in Korea. It is kind of surreal but I got over that quick as I became more and more engaged by the class.

The cafeteria at Jeju. It is much larger than this with probably 15 to 20 tables running back from where I took this photo.
Boiling molten hell soup harnessed from the lava tubes of Jeju, and side dishes. The Koreans always have side dishes.

During each break I would go out to the vending machines and binge on the 500 WON (50 cent) sweet canned coffee drinks that are sold in vending machines all over campus. The thing is that they are like 150ML and pretty weak. I generally drink half a pot of coffee a day back at home and I make it strong and drink it constantly. I need to make up for the lack of giant cups here by taking the equivalent of caffeine methadone hits during the class breaks.

After the 3 hour class session all the American students and Professor McCuan went with Ko to the cafeteria.  They were serving kimchi soup with side dishes. The kimchi soup was dark red and came directly from a massive pot where it was stewing and placed into a cast iron bowl that resembled a potions cauldron.  I carefully walked to a table carefully holding my tray of side dishes and the boiling cauldron of magma.  Once we were all seated Ko explained the side dishes and told us that the soup was even spicy for him. I devoured everything on the plate sweating profusely when I was scooping through the kimchi soup. I quite enjoy kimchi which I am told is not something foreigners typically enjoy. I guess others palette’s are not sophisticated enough to enjoy fermented cabbage. Or my palette is so unsophisticated that the whole spectrum has come full circle and I will literally eat anything in front of me. I am pretty sure it is the ladder but I like to pretend it is the former.

This is how the mornings pretty much have worked since the first day. Go to class at 9, drink 175ML coffee drinks in the vein attempt to chase the caffeine buzz I knew in America, go and eat some spicy food of which I know none of the main ingredients. Then the afternoons are free for us to go and explore this exotic and different land.  The first night Ko guided us to go to Jeju City’s Lotte Mart a sort of supermarket on steroids, like Wal-Mart but with less elderly greeters and sadness.  It is owned by the Lotte Corporation a conglomerate that owns a variety of stores and makes a variety of products. Sort of like a Korean Costco or Siemens, one of the companies that are kind of scary in their variety of products. All of the Sonoma State students, Professor McCuan and two of the Delaware State students went down with Ko to Lotte Mart. Ko had to go to attend to some other business but he gave us a note to give to the taxis in order to get back to Jeju National University.

The Lotte Mart was amazing; simply because of how different it was to anything American. The bottom floor was the fresh grocery area. There were all sorts of live sea-creatures, dead sea-creatures, refrigerated Korean dishes that only needed to be heated to unleash their potential deliciousness power, and exotic fruits. Erica, Holly and the Delaware State girls all went different directions to explore the exotic supermarket while Ethan, Professor McCuan and I slowly perused the supermarket. There were friendly Lotte Mart associates giving out free samples all around the store, they were aggressively friendly giving out samples. We were all looking at the seafood and we spotted these small little crabs that were for sale. Professor McCuan was incredibly excited at the little fellas and the attendant noticed his excitement. She quickly skewered one for each of us and not wanting to be rude we all ate the full miniature crab.  The best way to describe it was “earthy” it kind of tasted like the earth. It was good and the shell was soft but the consistency was definitely that of a full crustacean. Each level was filled with new discoveries. On the sporting goods level we found incredibly cheap sets of high quality golf clubs. On the level with electronics we saw the newest in Samsung’s TV technology. On the top level we saw an “American style restaurant” which looked as if they modeled their interior on both a Marie Callender's and Nancy Regan’s favorite bedspread. We decided we should probably put that on the places to go for the Fourth of July.

After we were done exploring we all met back up to go and eat some of the local cuisine. So we went to the local Burger King, which was a few doors away from the Krispy Kreme. I got a whopper at 7,000 WON and it tasted just like an American whopper. I guess it was a good move to ease my gut flora onto Korean food. After our dinner of Burger King we grabbed a taxi and headed back to our dorm. The taxi driver was very dedicated to keeping our travelling cost low. So dedicated that he decided to pass two cars on a blind turn, forcing a car coming the other direction to bail into a turnout. So kind of him. He did keep the cost low only about 7,000 WON (7 dollars) to get from the city to Jeju National University. Props to him. I went to bed with my body tired and confused only to wake up again at 630AM.

The entrance to Lotte Mart. The stone guradians on the left and right are  traditional Jeju symbols.
Fresh fish frozen and packed for you. 
Samples on samples.
They have these little bins where you put your small dog while you shop. I don't know what happens if you lose the key...
Krispy Kremes!

Sorry for the lack of substantial updates while I have been in Jeju I have just been really busy enjoying and exploring the island. Now that the routine is established I plan to post summaries of what we all did in the afternoon and then also have the less regular post about cultural things I have noticed. By Sunday I hope to blog summarizing my expierences inside the classroom and what is challenging about teaching advanced American election concepts to foreigners. It is truly a unique and eye opening experience for me and my fellow Sonoma State Students. I also hope to post some random cultural differences and some funny and awkward communication challenges we have faced.  If there are any suggestions about what you want me to post about let me know.


  1. This is so interesting. Great pictures and captions. Thanks for the update!

  2. Interesting read! Good on you for eating the crab, I'm not sure I would have been able to stomach it.

    1. It is hard to refuse when a sweet old Korean lady is waiting for you to try it.

  3. That volleyball game looks awesome. You should learn the recipe to the boiling magma soup and start up a trend back in the US.

    Tell me more about these Delaware state girls. BIDDIEZ.

    1. I want to start playing crazy Korean footvolleyballtennis. New rec league?