March – Birthdays, temples and dog fostering
It was my birthday on the 3rd March and also my first weekend back in the Gu, so I made arrangements with some chums to meet for dinner in downtown Daegu. After lots of standing around outside shivering and a little bit of voting, we decided to go to an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ called Mr Pig. It was my first time there and as I’ve had a fair few dodgy all-you-can-eat BBQs I was somewhat dubious as to how nice it would taste. My fears however were totally unfounded in this case, it was well yummy. As with the usual Korean BBQ, the diners cook their own meat. In addition, this time we could cook and eat as much meat as physically possible. We could also pick our own sides (In Korea you get lots of free sides with BBQ’s but they are usually set and given to you by the waiting staff). There was one rule. If you had too much food on your plate when you’d finished you would get fined. What a good way to cut wastage! So yes, lots of lovely meat was eaten and there was no fear of us leaving anything.
After a post-eating trip to the loo I was surprised by the best cake ever – An ICE CREAM cake! Nom nom nom. We all dug in with our spoons and demolished it in no time. Thanks guys! Afterwards we went to a bar called Organ and got a wee bit merry in to the early hours
On the Saturday Ash and I visited the dog shelter. We’d decided to take the plunge and foster a beagle puppy we’d named Betty through KAPS (see my previous post about KAPS), but had to wait until after the weekend to finalise details. With that in mind we decided to walk her as much as possible beforehand to make sure we were all a good match. In the evening we went to our friend Andrew’s house where he’d made dinner, and then to some local bars near his house.
We’d made plans to go hiking on Sunday, which was my actual birthday but we massively overslept! I woke up in a panic at 9:30 as we had to get ready, get a taxi, pick up the dogs from the shelter and then get to Apsan Park to hike up Apsan mountain for 10.45. After no breakfast and the shortest wash in the world we made it and met up with friends.
Most of the following pics aren’t actually mine because I was too dehydrated and tired to remember to take them so thanks Keir, Emily and Claire!
For the next few hours we hiked up Apsan and along its top ridge. I was pretty tired and hungry but it was a brilliant way to clear away the cobwebs and spend time with friends. Once the incline was mostly done, we sat on a rock with a nice view of the city and relaxed for a few minutes. It was here that for the first time ever I got to open birthday presents on a mountain. I even got to drink a cappy of Soju thanks to Keir and Emily!
Hiking in Korea is definitely an experience. There are beautiful mountains dotted all over the country and in Daegu we’re lucky to be surrounded by mountains. Another thing that makes it special is the sheer volume of Korean hikers out every weekend, what should be a tranquil experience can be anything but in Korea! Also the fact that everyone gets fully kitted up in colourful climbing gear meant that we looked like a bunch of total hiking amateurs.
Apsan is a fairly straightforward route, or so I thought, until Claire and I managed to lose everyone else and go off road climbing up a weird rocky and slightly dangerous part of the mountain, until we found a barbed wire fence and a pylon! Whoops. We rushed back down, rang the others and eventually found them.
Once we’d completed the walk we sat on the terrace above a restaurant on the mountain top and had lunch. We spent the next hour or so hiking back down before Betty had a freak out and started barking uncontrollably and we mostly ended up going our separate ways.
We collected Betty from the shelter the following Wednesday and have been fostering her for just over three weeks now… but more about her later.
Saturday morning temple times
My co-teacher In Hee invited me to spend the following Saturday morning visiting Donghwasa, a famous Buddhist temple nestled in the Palgong mountain range on the outskirts of Daegu. I’d only briefly seen Donghwasa when hiking in Palgong last Spring, but had heard that it was really beautiful, boasting a giant white Buddha in one of the courtyards. So I was really excited to get the chance to visit with a practising Buddhist.
The second area of the temple complex contained lots of Buddhist prayer lamps. In Hee told me that many Buddhist families donated money to have intricate prayer lamps hung up around the temple grounds for their family. Some paid even more for special golden prayer Buddhas to be placed within the shrines.
As it had been my birthday the week before, In Hee said she wanted to buy me a prayer lamp. I had to write my name and a wish on it, so I wished for my mum to recover well from her impending hip operation. We hung it up in the courtyard and now it will apparently be valid for one year. That should be plenty of time for my mum to get her hip sorted!
After visiting the temple we went for lunch together. In Hee chose a dish I had never heard of. This turned out to be a bad decision because she ordered an enormous bowl of mushroom stew. I really really hate mushrooms. So much so I have hardly eaten any in my life. I sat there for half an hour forcing so many different varieties of mushroom down my throat I felt like I was going to be sick. I’m sure a mushroom lover would have been in heaven though. Lucky for me because we were in a really traditional Korean restaurant we got loads of different sides so I sneakily tucked in to them to avert my hunger!
Our trip was over by 1pm. I would definitely recommend visiting a temple in Korea early in the morning. It’s such a peaceful way to start the day. Also they can get quite crowded later on. Donghwasa is a must see for those visiting Daegu.
Betty the beautiful beagle
As mentioned in a previous blog entry, we’ve been walking dogs at the local dog shelter for quite a while now. After 9 months of regularly walking them we decided we wanted to foster. We’re going travelling next year so we’re unfortunately not in the position to adopt, but at least wanted to give a dog a better chance of getting homed and also staying alive. KAPS take in dogs found in Daegu. Some will have escaped whilst others have been abandoned. The centre doesn’t have much funding in a country where animal rights is just beginning to get some attention, so most of the dogs that come in are living on borrowed time. If they aren’t fostered or adopted they may get sick or even be euthanized. I always get upset about this but now we’d decided to foster when I met Betty it really hit home.
Betty is a beautiful, affectionate and funny beagle puppy. Ash had walked her with my friend Claire whilst I was in England and everyone had loved her. I instantly fell in love too. So 6 days later (after going through an application with KAPS coordinators) we took Betty home. She is such a cutie and we’re really attached to her. In three weeks she has transformed from a rather meek little dog with a cold to a boisterous, mischievious and loving little thing. She is pretty much toilet trained now and understands commands like SIT, STAY and NO (although conveniently forgets the last one from time to time). She’s got a profile on an adoption site now and is already attracting interest so I’m not sure how much longer she’ll be with us. Whoever gets to keep Betty forever is very lucky, if we weren’t going travelling we’d have adopted her by now. She definitely deserved a place in this blog entry because she’s ACE.