Silence In Korea: Bijindo Island

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The news of having two days off of work caused a sense of restlessness throughout the school. Before the big break we were scheduled two days of special activities for the kindergarten kids, which included painting nails, hair and makeup, norebang (karoke), cafe’, and an auction. Oh, and the five of us foreign teachers starred in a big production of The Three Little Pigs.  

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Leaving the school Wednesday night my legs ached and my pace dragged, I was feeling completely exhausted. Knowing we wouldn’t make it far I purchased bus tickets for the next morning wanting nothing more than to lounge.

Early the next day we taxied to the bus terminal arriving only minutes before our 7:00 a.m. departure. We were headed southwest to the city of Tongyeong. Stepping off the bus into the bustling city we followed directions navigating us to the ferry terminal but our journey wasn’t quite complete. 

With plenty of time to wander until our ferry we ventured out into the warm, welcoming sun to explore the city. Across the street was a local market. The issue of our-diets-always-lacking-fruit (it’s SO expensive here) led us to the fruit section looking to purchase a couple of oranges. The lady waved her hand as James asked, “ol-may-ye-yo” How much is this? We were surprised, did she just give us two free oranges? We also stocked up on the makings for tin foil dinners: potatoes, peppers, carrots, and an onion costing us a grand total of about $3!

After feeling satisfied with the food situation we aimed our destination to a lookout on top of the hill, a perfect place to get a good view of the landscape.

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Yeah, I really don’t know. Insert caption here …

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The view not only brought great scenery but also silence, something, I feel, is constantly lacking in Korea. We were far enough from the crowds, the whizzing scooters, the reprimanding ajummas, to finally feel silence.

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Before boarding the ferry we grabbed one of my favorite Korean dishes, seolleongtang, at least I think that’s what we were eating. A broth made from beef bones with sliced meat added to the dish upon serving and plenty of sides are available to add, such as green onions and Korean hot pepper sauce. These really are essential to get some flavor and hopefully add a bit of a kick.

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When we arrived to the ferry there were nothing but smiles and a sense of anticipation and excitement amongst everyone. Is it just me or is everyone in a much better mood on non-working days? 

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A quick fifty minute ferry ride landed us on the small island of Bjindo. CNN states it’s “The Korean island where time stops”,  I couldn’t agree more! It was mid-afternoon when we arrived, the few locals in sight sat comfortably staring into the endless ocean horizon. Although the ferry was crowded with Korean visitors they quickly dispersed onto the trails and throughout the trees. We followed slowly behind winding up the hill to find a spot to plop our hammock.  

One man-made road connects the two islands for the one or two vehicles to cross. The majority of locals take up walking or ride a four-wheeler. There is only one restaurant and one convenient store that sells water, soju, a few sodas, and ramen noodles.

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We enjoyed the beach the entire afternoon into the night. A small beach fire lasted long enough for us to cook and enjoy our dinners and welcome a Korean family to join us for a short conversation. It was interrupted by one of the local men patrolling the beach, putting an end to the five fires sprawled across the sand. What’s more disturbing, small groups enjoying the island, or a fuming man on a four-wheeler pacing the road?

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We slept to rain trickling down the tarp and waves crashing on the shore. It was a nice change from sleeping to the noise of people in the street, bustling traffic, and endless sirens and horns.

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Although we were hoping for a nice beach day the clouds hung low in the sky creating a Pacific Northwest feel, rain drizzling upon us. We decided to commit to the hike we planned the day before, embracing the rain and the fresh clean air. The island was peaceful. Not a lot of people dared to escape their sanctuaries. Again, we were able to appreciate the silence. The stillness. The worry-free atmosphere.

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Although we didn’t capture the well-known photo of Bijindo island or spend as much time as we wanted to there, it was the perfect place for a short getaway. We were able to have a complete recharge from our busy day-to-day routines and relax for a moment. The conditions made us both nostalgic for past times on the Oregon coast, and camping, and enjoying late night fires (that don’t get stopped).

Bijindo island is the place to go to slow down, forget time, relax, reminisce, and let your thoughts wander while admiring views of the ocean and nearby islands.

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