It is Independence Day in South Korea. This is a red day for many public school teachers. Yes, we have a day to ourselves. Many of my colleagues and I intended on having a hike in our local town. Since it was a midweek break, we did not have any intentions of travelling far. We changed our hump day into an unintended adventure.
Once a month, a group of expat teachers along with locals hike in Jeollabuk- do. Our basic requirements are costs for the bus trip (on average 4500 won), snacks and patience to walk with different people of different fitness levels. As a result, we have a starting time and no finishing time. However, we travel together as one.
I have enjoyed several pleasant days in the mountain with my local hikers in Gochang – gun. One hike that will remain with me was the day one hiker asked local man directions to the nearest restroom. Instead of taking us to the trail restroom, he offered us his bathroom.
Madison and Injae left the group to use the restroom. While we stood outside waiting for them to finish. This middle-aged man asked us about our hike, the terrain and our journey to Korea. We were eager to leave. Then, he offered us tea. We could not refuse the offer. We felt obligated in some ways. Here, a senior man was offering us something to drink in the woods.
We entered his home and sat on the floor. There we were seated in a small and cosy cabin beside the fireplace. The ondol was on as I could feel the heat rising from the floor. Also, our host had a splendid display of different classical types of vinyl and books throughout the cabin. Tea bags were hanging from the ceiling, and handmade ceramic tea sets were on display.
The ambience of the room left ten expats including two locals breathless. We were in aware of the blend of old and new within the chamber. Injae and Injo helped with the introductions to the host. We were able to make ourselves comfortable in his home. There, we were drinking tea and speaking about our lives. Yes, we talked to a total stranger about living in Korea.
He spoke about employment opportunities for young men after leaving the military services. Also, he highlighted the cost of living in Korea. We talked at great lengths of the salary differences between Korea and our home countries. He joked about living alone in a cabin at the foot of the mountain. His straightforward manner of speaking was refreshing and intimidating at times. We sat on the ground for two hours next to the fireplace.
He spoke his rationale for leaving the military services and how becoming an artist was liberating. He talked to the men directly about love, lust, and romance in South Korea. It became clear that he had heard about nuances between expats and Koreans. He was firm about dating lives and the temperament of men in Korea.
I thought this was refreshing. Two hours have passed, and we were still seated on the floor of this person home. My friends and I were mesmerized by the beauty of the cottage. Here, in the middle of nowhere, no I lie, Gochang – gun. We have found an artist who displayed his work in Europe.
He chooses to live a solitary life to ensure that he is untouched by the hustle of life. He offered us tea which he had made. After that, he informed us that he build everything around us from scratch.
For more details on the artist, please follow the link below. The artist is open to people visiting his cabin and displaying his artwork upon request only.
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Thanks to @inn_jae and @tracymn2171 , we met a lovely artist on our trail. Lessons learned 1. Value quality over quantity 2. Respect your hiking companions when they want a toilet break. 3. Speak to older people on your trail. You never know if the person is famous or not. 4. Drink tea or soju with strangers in #korea. Follow my blog for details about the day in the cabin with an artist. #hikingadventures with my Gochang-gun crew. #eatpraytrails @bbc @bbc_travel @news24 @hikingculture