Friday, May 13, 2011

Mountains and puppies make the world go round

How can you resist this face?
So, first things first - The Travel{east}a got a makeover today! I've been slaving over it all day...HTML...CSS...jfilsfjsfslfjsklfjdsklfkowe! So what do you think? 

Also, I finally added pictures to my North Korea post. Enjoy!

Now that that's out of the way... Last Thursday was Children's Day here in Korea, so we had a day off. Tuesday was Buddha's birthday, so we had Monday and Tuesday off (thanks, Buddha!). Today is Teachers' Sports Day. You guessed it.

My job rocks.

On Thursday, Alex and I decided to climb Cheongryangsan. It's a mountain Northeast of Andong, where Alex lives. He biked the 35km (about 20 miles for you Americans) to the mountain; I rode the bus. I like to think that I'm pretty hardcore when it comes to outdoorsy things. But bike 20 miles, climb a mountain, and then bike back 20 miles? I'm just not that hardcore. Not yet, anyway...

Our friend Seamus insisted on meeting us there to hike. He is a 60-something retired Korean man who was once a safety manager in Uiseong. We met him at the saxophone bar where Alex plays, because he is a regular. His jet-black hair is lightly salted with gray, and he speaks English almost fluently. Seamus is also an alcoholic. We discovered this when he met us at 10 o'clock. His hands were shaking like crazy. Alex was slurping up some ramen outside of a convenient store, so Seamus ran in, returned with three beers, and started chuggin'. Beer before 10:30 a.m. I just can't comprehend.

I have to be honest - Alex and I just didn't think he was going to make it up the mountain. He told us that he had climbed it 20 times last year. Even still, I just wasn't so sure...but you know what? He wasn't too bad of a hiking buddy at all! Halfway through our trek, he informed us that we were on the advanced trail. Thanks for telling me this now, Seamus...It was the most grueling path fit for, well, the fittest of the fit. I guess that's why we took a break every, oh, 15 minutes.

But it was so worth it once we reached the peak. My calves were throbbing, my muscles were quivering. But there was a Sky Bridge at the top that connected our mountain to the next. It was truly one of the most incredible views. I hardly noticed the pain...that is, until we began the stumble downward. That's what it was - a stumble. My legs were trembling so badly with each downward step that I thought they would buckle right under me. So I turned myself around and began taking the trail down one backward step at a time. What a relief it was! I soon had Alex doing it. We soon had everyone we passed doing it. There was a viral outbreak of backwards walkers on the mountain that day.

Today, though...oh, boy. Today, two perfect puppies pranced into my life, that's what (like that alliteration?). On my way to the Teacher's Day volleyball tournament, there they were, plopped down on the sidewalk between the road and the river. I sat down and played with them, of course. I stroked their fluffy, dirt-filled fur and let them give me puppy kisses.

That's probably why they started following me. Their tiny bodies were just abouncin' and their little tails were awaggin' as they scooted along after me like my baby ducklings...oh man, I fell in love. My reasoning then fell to that of:

1. I can't let them stumble into the road and get hit...or fall in the river!
2. They're sort of in the middle of nowhere, really (Yecheon is basically the middle of nowhere).
3. And it's definitely going to be a long walk for them if they keep following.

So, dangit, I carried them with me to the Teacher's Day games!

They were a huge hit. The other foreigners and I took turns being on "puppy patrol." Lucky me - I got the tiny hyper one to watch while my school and I were trying to have lunch. He wouldn't sit still and the wind was furiously blowing everything around. Didn't exactly make for the most pleasurable of dining experiences...but I didn't care! I'll do anything for a sweet puppy...

Just call me the dog lady.
After lunch, they were pooped, so they napped in our laps. I mean, they were out. It was then that I reached a dilemma. Usually at this point in the game (yes, this sort of thing happens to me often), I have a house that I can bring the dog/cat/homeless sweetheart to. Dad always screams at me not to feed them or let them in the house. I, naturally, disobey (for love of animals!). Soon, said animal becomes my own. This is how the cycle has always worked! So how was I going to do this?

Well, I took them back. Sean helped me be strong, and together, we dropped the dogs off on a patch of grass next to a random home (near where I had found them, but away from the busy road). We snuck away as they were busy sniffing around and being distracted little pups. I wanted to cry. 

I immediately went home, poured a cup of rooibos tea, and mourned my sweet losses. 

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