Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy New Year…Again (3 February)

Today is the official Lunar New Year (Seolnal).  I thought that yesterday was the new year holiday so I sent text messages to all of my Korean friends while on the bus – if they only knew just how long it took for me to type that message in Korean! 

We wake to the sound of the emergency rescue team doing their morning warm-up exercises on the bunny slope in front of our hostel.  It’s interesting to watch them stretch and warm up, and it makes NZ2 and Catfish keen to hit the slopes as early as possible while the snow is freshly pressed and the slopes are quiet.  After my slide yesterday, I’m not quite as keen to ski all day.  We head to the cafeteria in search of breakfast before returning to our room for Catfish and NZ2 to collect their respective gear for the slopes.  This is when we notice that they are inadvertently ‘couples dressing’. 

Couples Dressing 

Couples dressing is extremely popular in Korea.  Since public displays of affection – beyond holding hands or hugging – are generally frowned upon, couples tend to dress in identical clothing to ‘show their love to the world’. Some couples wear only matching colours or smaller matching items like scarves or beanies while others go full out and match their entire outfits.  Catfish and NZ2 have inadvertently hired identical snow suits which make them look like a couple.  While they pose for photos in their snow gear, I somehow manage to tie the shoelace of one of my sneakers to the strap of my bag which has also caught halfway through my scarf and accidently strangle myself somewhat when I attempt to stand upright.

With clothing issues sorted out, we head out to the slopes to take more photos of Catfish and NZ2 in action on their skis and snowboard respectively. The snow is crisp and the slopes are fairly empty that it’s almost enough to tempt me into getting my skis and joining them on the slops – almost.  Instead, at KiwiKat’s prompting, I attempt to make a snow angel on the compact snow which results in something that resembles more of an angry face than anything else. 

View From Below

Having said goodbye to Catfish and NZ2, KiwiKat and I head back to our room where she keeps herself occupied with various activities and I catch up on some sleep.  By midday, I’ve slept enough that I take out my Korean phrase book and attempt to study a bit of Korean.  YeonJeong, one of the awesome AK staff members on the trip helps me out by explaining a few confusing phrases to me.  She seems surprised to find me studying Korean but takes this in her stride and teaches me additional useful phrases from time to time. 

After only hitting the slopes for another 30 minutes, I resign myself to the fact that a natural skier – or even athlete – I will never be.  I’ve taken the gondola to the peak of the  highest slope just to take photos and then once again part ways with Catfish and NZ2 who ski down while I take the gondola back down to safety and hit the bunny slopes once more.  I feel a bit like a child being escorted by parents who are eager to do more advanced things than I can manage but don’t want to be discouraging either.  The day passes fairly quickly and I’m soon returning my ski gear and preparing to head to Blue Water Canyon, the water park attached to Phoenix Park.

Winter Waters

The water park feels like a sauna as we enter and the smell of chlorine cloys at our throats in an attempted suffocation.  Once changed, everyone seems to make a beeline for the heated pools where we have a choice of three variants: Aloe, something pink and something blue.  We warm up in the pools before heading over to the slide into the circular pool which leads outside too.  It’s a rather strange experience swimming outdoors in a heated pool in the middle of winter but it’s a pleasant evening of playing in different pools before moving to the jet pool for water massages.  The jet pool contains several jets at a variety of heights which makes it possible to direct pressure on specific muscles in your legs, backside, back and shoulders.  The male lifeguards on duty seem quite happy that there are several foreign women at the water park.  From their vantage points high above the water, they seem to be enjoying the view afforded to them by large chested bikini-clad women.  It’s ironic that Koreans will make unpleasant comments about excess body fat but don’t seem to object to a larger bust in general. 

The Start of a Late Night

By 20:30, we’ve moved onto the noryaebang where we once again spend an hour singing songs at the top of our voices while KiwiKat plays around with the pitch and speed controls while we sing.  We’re determined to make this an early night since we’ll be at an ice festival all day the next day.  Fate, however, has other plans for us.  As Catfish and I watch the night skiers from the windows in the stairwell, Seokjin greets and chats to us for a few minutes before inviting us to join him and the Korean staff downstairs for some drinks.  Sure.  We’re not huge fans of soju but we’re keen to drink with the Koreans. 

Downstairs we meet Seokjin’s younger brother who, at 1.82m, is an ex-national volleyball player and good looking too.  He’s hesitant to speak English despite Seokjin’s instructions that we make him speak English to us.  YeonJeong, KyungSu and Seokjin, however, are all lively talkers and our conversations are highly entertaining as we eat chicken and pizza and learn Korean drinking games which involve two rounds of parties since we’re not quite ready for bed after the first round when YeonJeong and SeokYun leave to go night skiing.  Round two of drinking with KyungSu and SeokYun, however, takes us to somewhere around 3:00am and very giggly by the time we reluctantly go to bed.

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