Exotic Animals Attacked Our Car. (And dog.)

Possible one of the best Easters ever.

Josh and I figured, since he didn’t have to work but we didn’t exactly know what to do with ourselves on Easter, then we should go “find an adventure,” which we use as our general motto for life.

So, on Sunday, we trekked out to Davis to check out this place we’ve been wanting to visit called “Arbuckle Wilderness: Oklahoma’s Premier Exotic Animal Theme Park”.

IT. IS. AWESOME.

Basically, it’s like Jurassic Park when they get to drive through the dinosaur park in cars, except replace the dinosaurs with camels.

Example A:

I was talking to Josh while he was driving, turned back to look out the window, and was face to face with a camel! (Josh was laughing his fool head off, by the way.) Then, our little dog Quincy decided to lick our new camel friend in the mouth.

We drove through and saw ostriches, tigers, timber wolves, llamas, zebras, buffalo, rhinos…it just keeps going! It was SO much fun, and, I have to say-well done, Oklahoma!

I never would have expected to feed zebras smack in the middle of the U.S.!

There were only two things that weren’t completely picturesque.

1: Poor Quincy was attacked by emus, which, as it turns out, are incredibly aggressive bird-like things.

2: This llama.

Arbuckle Wilderness

$17/adult ($12 military discount)

3 cups of feed=$5 (worth it)

http://www.arbucklewilderness.com/

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Woolly Mammoths

Not quite my finest moment.

Remember, before I came out to Oklahoma, I was really excited about seeing buffalo? This was because, ahem, I thought they were…um…extinct.

Josh, realizing this needed to be addressed immediately upon my arrival last September, took me out to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It is HUGE, with over 59,000 acres of land. There are bison, elk, deer, wild hogs, a prairie dog town, longhorn cattle, not to mention tons of other animals just roaming around. You can drive through the refuge and, if you’re too enthusiastic for your own welfare, actually get out and touch one of the animals you’re that close. (I would definitely not recommend this course of action, as I myself was ferociously stared down by a furry-headed bison when I got too close in my excitement.)

There’s also Mt. Scott, which lots of people hike or bike, but you can also drive to the top if you’d rather. It’s beautiful.

Side note: Josh is clearly a crazy person.

So, I figured out why I thought buffalo/bison were extinct. I was confusing them with woolly mammoths. (Sometimes, I’m just not that bright despite what my mother used to tell me.)

NOT EXTINCT

EXTINCT

Church + Prison

Seoul Anglican Church

Oh yes you read that right.

Church? Prison? Home in time for dinner?

Hell yes I did!

I can’t really get on with this while cursing and feel right about it, so I’ll have to rein it in a bit.

Today, I visited the Seoul Anglican Church.

Touted as a “harmonious blend of traditional Korean and Romanesque features” (according to the free pamphlet), the building is really beautiful and definitely stands out from surrounding architecture.

However. I hate to say this, but, the inside just doesn’t live up to expectations. Actually, it’s really boring with water stains from ceiling leaks.

lovely nun

The flip side to that is that the people are just so nice! I mean, there was a, well, I don’t really know what she was. A greeter? Anyway, she smiled and treated me like a guest in her own home. Super nice. Also, she was really eager to show me around, and insisted that I see the chapel. I don’t completely understand why, because it didn’t seem that out of the ordinary, but then again, I guess I’m more used to Anglican churches than many of the Korean visitors.

Best part: I MET A NUN, which I’m very excited about!

Seoul Anglican Church

Line 1, City Hall Station

Free

As she let me out the front gate, the nun asked me where I was headed next. I felt awkward telling her I was now off in search of a prison, like those two places should be next to each other on a traveler’s itinerary, so I just kind of laughed it off and now she either thinks I’m crazy or hard of hearing.

Sigh. I knew this friendship-with-a-nun thing was too good to be true.

prison museum

So, prison. Or more lengthy, Seodaemun Prison History Hall.

The structure is a little over 100 years old, and was originally built during the years when Korea was basically ruled by Japan. The prison housed mostly Korean patriots fighting off their Japanese captors both inside and outside the prison walls.

What’s kind of freaky is that the museum is actually inside the buildings where hundreds of nationalists died by starvation, disease, contagion, and torture. I’m not sure if this makes me really sensitive or just the history nerd that I am, but stuff like this really gets to me. It’s like visiting a cemetery; people actually lived and died there, and not even that long ago. I was very reserved and respectful. My eyes must have gone huge as I watched all the Korean visitors racing around the building, pushing each other to look into the jail cells. There was even a wife + husband team that were laughingly shoving each other into the solitary confinement cells and snapping pictures on their camera phones. I guess I’m just a stick in the mud about torture and death, and I felt kind of awkward being both the only person getting upset and being the only foreigner.

In my defense, they really went out of their way to try and portray scenes that actually happened using mannequins and, in some rooms, recordings of people being interrogated and screaming in pain. I mean, look at these!

consolation

Do you see that mannequin on the left? The one CONSOLING ANOTHER MANNEQUIN?!?!

Oh, that didn’t weird you out?

Then how about….THIS!

women's torture cell

Yeah, I thought that one might get ya.

blech

The other thing that kind of struck me as bizarre was this little tiny area kind of “out back”. It was this walled-off square where people were executed. Right in front of it is a single tree, a “wailing tree” I think they called it, because prisoners would run to it and try to hold on before the guards snatched them up and dragged them through the doors. Here, they didn’t want you to take pictures inside in order to respect the dead. However, it’s completely negated by the fact that a monstrous set of apartment buildings pretty much sits right on top of it.

I don’t really get it. Why would people want to live there?

Not only is it right next to a prison. It’s right next to a very historical prison where tons of people have met a horrible death, execution probably being the most merciful.

Not only that, but the apartments are placed atop probably the most horrific corner of the entire plot.

Not only that, but, did I mention? It’s all under construction.

construction

Seodaemun Prison History Museum

Line 3, Dongnimmun Station, Exits 4 + 5

W1,500

Jogyesa Temple + Cheonggye Stream

Dear,

I’m completely cheating. I know this is poor blogger etiquette or something, but frankly, too much was crammed into Sunday and it would make for a very long, long post.

So here it is. A SEQUEL.

I’m sorry it had to come to this.

Sincerely,

Crystal

SUNDAY

Part Deux

I missed Buddha’s birthday at the end of April/beginning of May. I was SO upset about it…I really wanted to go to Jogyesa Temple in the heart of Seoul and watch the Lantern Parade and the whole deal. Unfortunately, I had my dates all switched up and therefore missed it entirely. I can’t remember what I did instead; maybe I went to a Chili’s? (That in and of itself would be exciting as it means I would have been at the army base with Josh.)

Ok, so the personal reflection out of the way, the point is I never actually went to see the Buddhist temple right in the middle of the city and I really should have at this stage in my relationship with Korea. As the chief temple of a large Buddhist order, with foundations dating from the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty, it’s kind of a big deal. I was expecting something more of a museum, a revered place unsullied with the day-to-day of the common folk.

Jogyesa Temple

Wow. I was way off the mark.

As it’s right around the corner from Insadong, I started sniffing out the area and followed my nose to find shop after shop selling Buddhism paraphernalia. Little Buddha statues? Of course. Jade jewelry and wooden bracelets? Naturally. Monk robes? In multiple colors. It was looking pretty secular to me, but then, I’m just boldly stating opinions based on almost no knowledge of Buddhism, so you know. It would most likely be wise to ignore me.

And then I actually saw the temple. They were in the middle of  a service, and this place was hopping. Not kidding, it was standing room only (which is probably good, since they have to bow in prayer pretty frequently, it looks like.) It was to the point where people were sitting outside on the ledges, or out under a tent someone had set up with lawn chairs.

Definitely not what I was expecting.

I checked my shoes at the door and stepped inside for a few minutes and listened to the monks before slipping back into my flips (sandals) and back out onto the street.

(This is about the time I wandered my way through Insadong and finally onto the shrine, so you already know that part.)

At sunset I found myself walking along he Cheonggye Stream in the center of the city. I remember last year they usually had something going on for the Hi Seoul Festival right in the plaza between City Hall and Gyeongbuk Palace, and I thought I’d go investigate.

Korea + America

And they did. And it was reason 2,408,293,508 I really wish Josh was with me. He would have loved it.

They had this big exhibit going on with lined posters chronicling the history of Korea and the strength of their nation. Included were many posters of the relationship shared between America and Korea during and after the Korean War. One poster, tucked in the corner of the photo here, is of General McArthur and the first president, Syngman Rhee, embracing one another towards the end of the “conflict”.

It was so striking to be standing there, me as an American, and look over at this Korean woman reading the same poster with both our flags in the background. We had all this national history right in front of us, with pictures proving the tough times faced by most Koreans only 60 years agO, and then all around us was proof of how hard they have worked in such a short time to completely revolutionize their country. It’s amazing. Literally and completely inspiring. It was one of those moments you’re just happy to be in.

It was a really, really good day (despite ominous clouds).

stream

Changgyeong Palace + Jongmyo Shrine

Today was eventful! My neighbor has mentioned Jongmyo Shrine a few times before, heavily hinting that I should really get myself there to visit it sometime, and that sometime was today.

Of course, I got lost.

face-painted hangover?

Typically on setting out for any madcap adventure, I only have a very limited idea about the general direction I might want to walk towards. Other than that, the details get sketchy. Which usually means I get lost. Which usually means I meet up with something like this guy.

Is he a resting circus performer? A colorful and vibrant homeless man? Is he dead? I had no idea when I found him at an incredibly busy intersection in Insadong, but all the passersby seemed just as stunned as I was, so at least it can’t be blamed on some culture difference.

And, movingrightalong.

Now, it’s probably a little surprising that I was in Insadong seeing as I was aiming for the shrine. Let me say first: you are not crazy. I just wander around and get distracted a lot.

So after playing around in Insadong, I got started in earnest really looking for that shrine, problem being, I really didn’t know what I was looking for, exactly.

After a while of not seeing any signs written in Hangeul with the English translation of “Shrine This Way!” I gave up right around the time I was out front of the Changgyeong Palace.

I know this is REALLY bad to say, but…after seeing one palace, every other palace feels….exactly the same. I think I would get into it more if I knew anything about these places. I mean, once I get the historical significance, I’m into it. Prior to that…maybe it’s just me, but one heavily stylized roofing design looks just like the next. I should try to find guides, maybe. That’d probably help.

Anyway, Changgyeong. Originally it was built as a summer palace, but with a few additions  it became one of the Five Grand Palaces during the Joseon Dynasty. It’s gotten itself a rep among the other palaces because when the Japanese came in they turned the place into a zoo (literally) and made a mockery of it. All that nonsense has since been removed, but it’s still interesting to note.

I really liked the crowd that day. There weren’t a lot of us, but for the scanty selection, everyone was so photogenic!

P1000999P1010008

So the great news…the PALACE is connected to the SHRINE! And I didn’t even know it. Sometimes, I really do think you’re put in the exact place you need to be. (Thank you up there!)

Well, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Forested, yes. A creepy cemetery vibe, not really. Jongmyo was built before 1400 BC as a Confucian shrine to honor the kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. Basically, there are a few long buildings equipped with many rooms side by side, or “spirit chambers”, which divide the families. The original buildings were burnt down by (you already guessed, I know) those Japanese again. However, the original memorial tablets were saved when they were secreted away with just some random citizen. Like, stuffed in kimchi pots or buried in the yard or something. I mean that last part is plain conjecture, but where the H could you hide those things?

Jongmyo

Anyway, glad I went but I don’t feel really compelled to revisit. Oh, but one more fun fact! In the shrine area, they built 3 exits from each building; two are for mortals, and one is for spirits.

I LOVED that.

Changgyeong Palace & Jongmyo Shrine

W1,000

Line 1 Jongno 3-ga Station, Exit 11

Line 3 or 5 Jongno 3-ga Station, Exit 8

Eurwang-ni Beach

The weather’s been a little strange lately. I’ve been told by various cab drivers that we’ve hit the rainy or “monsoon” season, but mostly it’s just a weird mix of erratic rain showers and overall gray cloudiness. I prefer extremes and would like either bright sunshine or dramatic thunder storms, so it’s been throwing me off. Basically, I’ve been watching a lot of old movies and spent a lot of quality time being completely lazy.

bathing suits= not socially acceptable. However, there was a bit of sun last weekend, so in my fever I committed myself to finding a beach. I’ve been wanting to explore Incheon a little more, so I got on the (multiple) train(s) and got off at the airport. I knew the beach wasn’t that far away and there had to be a way to get there.After finding out that a cab was W40,000, I wandered around and eventually asked Information about the buses that run to the most touristy beach, Eurwang-ni. The bus only cost W1,000, so I was psyched.

After passing through what is basically still countryside, my bus driver signaled that I should get off since he’d been looking out for me. (What a nice guy!) I followed the crowd onto the beach and plunked myself down on a towel and people-watched while listening to my I-Pod. I was lazily conjecturing why everyone was fully dressed with not a bathing suit in sight when a teenage girl came up to me. She roughly explained that she had lost a bet and could she listen to my I-Pod with me for 10 seconds? I said, “Sure,” and she and I enjoyed a little of The Format until she put her thumb up, said, “Good song,” and thanked me before running away again.

hermaphrodite sand(wo)man

The Koreans nearby were a little curious about me, with one small boy standing directly in front of me and yelling “hello!” like I might be slightly deaf while I contented myself watching the group of teens in front of me. They had chosen one sacrificial lamb to bury in the sand until he couldn’t move. They began sculpting him a new sand body, and I have to admit, he can’t be wanting now. He’s got….well, everything anybody could ever need, anatomically. When I asked to take a  picture they laughed hysterically and said, “Yes, yes!” while their friend reclined miserably in the dirt. I told him to say “kimchi!” which caused his friends to fall back into more laughter, and he cringed in embarassment. Awwww, cute.

I walked through the surf for a little bit and followed the shoreline over to a rocky jetty where people were picking through the shells and mussels or whatever it is that attaches itself to ocean rocks. (I’ve never entertained the idea of becoming a marine biologist. Shocking, I know.)

After a while of maneovering through the high edges to find footing, I looked up to find myself on a completely different beach which was much quieter and smaller than the one I had left. A Korean woman started yelling to me, which led me to believe I may have been trespassing on private property, which seemed to be even more the case when I had to step through a gated fence to get back out.

jetty

What I like about Incheon is that it is actually an island of extremes. On one side of the road is the beach, and the other side is farmland which looks like it hasn’t changed in the past 100 years. It’s really beautiful and sparsely populated once you get away from the tourist section. The farmers stopped to watch me walk past, mouths hanging open as I stopped here and there to take pictures of their rice paddies or goat farms.

In a somewhat related note, one of the girls in my school is originally from Thailand. Her English name is Pam, but her younger sister is named Incheon. My co-workers think it’s the best thing they’ve ever heard.

farmland

Seoul Forest

 

fountain

 Today was pretty eventful. I recognized a place by smell alone, I finally went to Seoul Forest, and I played with bunnies. 

 I have been wanting to check out the Forest for a while now, but it’s a little far from me on the subway so I’ve been procrastinating about it. I decided it would be today’s mission, and shoveled a towel, sunscreen, water, and a book in my huge purse before heading out.

On the train ride, I got bored around Daebang Station, and since the Cemetery is somewhere around that stop, I got off to look around. I had been there once before but there were still a few things I wanted to see. In typical fashion, I wandered around hoping I was heading in the right direction. There was a lot of construction going on so I didn’t recognize anything, and just kept walking. And walking. And then I started smelling a very distinct scent; it was like a moldy cellar/faulty septic system kind of smell. It was a little breezy today, so occasionally I would also get slapped in the face with the smell of fish coming from somwhere unseen. To top it all off, there was a lot of car exhaust. It reminded me of  Noryanjin Fish Market. 

To my shock, I circled up on Noryanjin Station. I have never recognized a place solely by scent before. 

gardener

I got back on the train, seeing as I never found the National Cemetery, and then went to Seoul Forest directly. It’s huge, with lots of foot paths, biking trails, gardens of wildflowers, an insect pavilion, skating rink, and “Family Yard” complete with families picnicking on tables and little boys playing catch with their fathers. There was a sculpture park as well, but my favorite part was the water fountains. Those kids got soaked. You know when you’re just laughing so hard, you can’t even breathe and have to focus on gulping in air? Picture that, x 100 kids. It was really fun. 

Everyone was just so friendly with each other. Example: An older man, in beige fishing vest and a white hat, was watering the plants under his care at the small arboretum. Two little girls ran up to him, giggling, and all of a sudden he was teaching them how to spray the nozzle, helping them direct the water (it was a little powerful I think, because they were accidentally spraying a group of people nearby) and treating them like they were his grandchildren. He even laughed when they turned to ask him a question, bringing the hose with them, and therefore soaking him from the waist down. 

concertI’d say the only not-so-picturesque moment was when I saw a completely out of place T-shirt slogan. English writing is a popular fashion trend, and it’s printed on every T-shirt, hoodie, tote bag, etc. My previous favorite was a woman wearing “Niggas Prefer Blonds” [sic] but I kind of like this new one better. A young girl, prettily blushing while her boyfriend flirted with her, would most likely be embarrassed to know what her shirt meant. She probably didn’t understand the context of “Give Me Some Head“. But, I’m just assuming. 

After wandering around people-watching, I retreated to a small grassy lawn and laid out on a beach towel, and I swear I had brought the Bible because I’m determined to read it (or at least get a respectable start), but a seemingly impromptu concert started up so of course I had to watch. They played medleys from Phantom of the Opera and Cats, and a little girl next to me was dancing in circles, getting dizzy, and falling over. I liked her.

It began to look like it might rain, so I gathered my things and got back on the subway. One of my transfers was at Singil (shin-gill) Station, which is a station I actually like but had forgotten about. In between the transfer subway lines, there are kiosks selling men’s ties, women’s nylons, colorful socks, and waffles. At the very end, an older women lays out newspapers, squats over them, and tries to hawk out black and white bunnies for W20,000. She really whips  them around, throwing them onto the newspaper or swiping them off the tile floor. They’re always really docile which makes me think she drugs them. Maybe getting whipped around everywhere (I’ve actually seen one go airborne, she’s that forceful) does that to you.

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