Sunday, June 3, 2007

Going Away Party in Gumi

Today my new friend Amanda is comfortable back home in America. She's talking about how much she enjoys sleeping in her own bed, and eating American food, but it was just a short time ago when we visited her down in Gumi for her going away party. I guess now that she's back home, and I don't know if I'll ever see her again, she might be an old friend now, huh? Crazy how that works out. We met through an extremely odd connection of friends, but when we got together we hit it off. My friends liked her friends, her friends liked my friends, and we liked each other. After a bunch of emailing, and then one meeting in Seoul, she invited me three and a half hours south of Seoul, to Gumi, for her going away party. She has finished her year of teaching here in Korea, a good 10 months ahead of me.

I didn't think I was up for a long trip like that alone, so I asked Rachel if she wanted to come. She was equally uncertain about the long trip with just me, so she invited her friends Mindy and Jim. Mindy and Jim have become our token "married couple" friends. Haha. Really they are very cool old friends of Rachel's who are also out here teaching English in Korea. Well, not Jim, he's a different story, but I'm glad he's out here. They are no longer just Rachel's friends, but my friends too. Okay, back to the trip down to Gumi.

Since I'm friends with Amanda, I needed to attend to all the travel plans. Anyone who knows me well knows that is not a good situation for anyone. I was initially going to take the bus to Gumi, but Jim gets car sick on long trips like a little child, so we had to take the train. I had a teacher at school help me reserve the tickets online for the train. Everything seemed great until we tried to get our tickets at the ticket window of the train station. Apparently our tickets had disappeared. Even though I had a print out of the reservation in my hand, our tickets were no longer available. It was a lot like that Seinfeld episode, but I couldn't even make witty jokes because they didn't speak my language. After finding someone that could speak English we ended up catching the next train to Gumi.

The train was really pretty fun. Partially because we weren't standing. We could have gotten "standing" tickets on the earlier train, but we just barely decided against it. Well, about 5 minutes into the 210 minute trip we were all rejoicing for our great decision. People were standing everywhere, there wasn't an open spot anywhere. I couldn't imagine standing on a train for 3 and a half hours. What poured salt in the wounds of the people who were standing was that after about an hour into the ride, we started standing to stretch our legs. As if that wasn't enough, we were speaking English like no one could understand us. That was until we almost got off at the wrong stop and the two guys standing above us told us in perfect English "Gumi is the next station, do not exit the train yet". After that embarrassment we all were happy to finally exit the train...At Gumi.

We got to the party at around 12:30 AM and Amanda, and all of her friends, were already a few drinks ahead of us. We caught up, then the natives argued over what bar to go to next. But Gumi is a small town, it was either 1 bar or the other. We didn't know that at the time, but lets just say we are all a little more grateful for the bars in Seoul now. Around 5 in the morning the party ended and the craziness began.

None of us had ever slept at a Jim-Jil-Bong, hell I was the only one of us that had ever been to one. It's a community sauna, pool, shower, truck stop, bath house, all rolled into one, but you can sleep there too, and for really cheap. Luckily for us, Amanda lived right across the street from one. For just a few bucks, we all got wonderfully thin pads, and ridiculously hard pillows. The night included sleeping in a room with about 50 other Koreans, a few hard snorers, and an oblivious guy who didn't wake up for what seemed like eternity when his cell phone alarm went off. The icing on the cake was the devil Korean voice blaring a wake up call over the loudspeaker at around 7AM. But to be completely honest that's just what Jim told me. If you know me I sleep like a rock, and this night was no exception. However, I was the only one of my friends who got any sleep.

The rest of the day consisted of breakfast at Amanda's, which included pancakes with ice cream, strawberries, home fries, toast, and orange juice...all things I have never had in Korea, and were wonderful. Then some temple visiting, and hiking, followed by the train ride home.

The trip to Gumi was a complete success. I became much closer friends with Mindy and Jim, and now all of us have new friends down in Gumi who we can't wait to come visit Seoul.

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