Buddha’s Birthday Bachlorette in Busan

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Kitty, Santa and Krissy packed their bags and headed to the beaches of Korea to celebrate the long weekend. Buddha’s Birthday is recognized as a national holiday in SK, so they decided there was no better time to give Krissy one last girls weekend away before she ties the knot with her fiance in August!! The weekend was off to a hilarious start when they boarded their bus in Gwangju to find they were not the only english speaking travelers with plans to enjoy the beach. It was like being back at home; they could understand all the conversations that  surrounded them and they didn’t like it one bit. After about 30 minutes of taking in the English chatter, they all began to realize what was going on. Did that man behind us just say “Gather around my lords, we have council members to impose. Right now we will discuss our wizards internal fairy rights?!” They started to listen closely as they realized the group behind them were absolutely serious and they were not playing a game. This was real life to them. Kitty and Santa had heard about these fantasy role-playing games called Dungeons & Dragons, but never in their lives had they come across a group of 15 wizards, lords, fairies and warlockes. Four hours on the bus with this talk, and Kitty and Santa felt like they had been in a real life video game. “Will’s outside, but he’s invisible. Lets grab our royal weapons and head to the streets!!” Kitty, Santa and Krissy agreed with the wizards as they jumped off the bus kicking and punching the air. It was time to hit the streets running!!

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The three gal wolf pack checked into their love motel, got ready and met some of Krissy’s friends at their favorite Indian restaurant. After dinner they went back to their hotel to enjoy some Jameson and dress Krissy up in the bachelorette gear Kitty’s Mom so very nicely sent them. It included (but was not limited to) a sparkly sash, bling bling rings, mustaches, beads, buttons, glow sticks and shot glasses. Everything necessary for a  successful night out. The girls headed to Wolfhounds, a fabulous Irish pub that became their home for the next three days. They danced and sang to some classics like: ‘Nsync and B*witched.  Over the course of the night the wolf pack doubled, and even tripled in number.  With vocals like these, they aren’t sure how anyone could stay away.

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The following morning they weren’t feeling too shabby.  The weather in Busan didn’t exactly make them want to run to the beach, so they picked up some Starbucks and decided to walk around a bit.  They came across Kitty’s favorite fair game, and she couldn’t pass it up without trying her luck.  Krissy also decided she needed to take a stab at it.  Although the carney caught them stealing some extra darts, they ended up winning three hand-made shell necklaces.  They ran away with their dollar store jewels, like three of their excited kindergarten students.

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Just down the street Kitty spotted last nights stomping grounds, “Hey, why don’t we go to Wolfhounds and grab some good food.”  They all agreed they were pretty hungry, and headed in to find a table.  As they waited to order, they decided having an afternoon cocktail wouldn’t be such a bad way to kick off day 2.  As they ordered their drinks and a few appetizers, Kitty spotted something that she hadn’t seen in Korea before.…GOLDSCHLAGER.  Kitty couldn’t resist ordering a round for the wolf pack; she knew Krissy would enjoy the golden delicious treat.  Once it hit Krissy’s lips she was in love.  Let’s just say this round led to a few more, and again, the wolf pack began to grow.  They started playing darts, dancing, and Kitty even got her hair did!  Their table was seated next to a lonely ‘lost and found’ box, and they ended up finding some props to wear for that day’s festivities.  It was a long day at the pub, but one they will most definitely never forget.

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The following morning they weren’t feeling as fantastic as they had the day before.  They showered up, grabbed their props, and headed for the subway.  As usual, Kitty and Santa were cutting it quite close.  While Krissy and Kitty grabbed some food, they sent Santa to hold the bus.  Santa was standing in the bus door with one foot on the ground waving to the bus driver to wait just a few more minutes. Luckily, Kitty and Krissy made it before take off time, except the bus Santa was holding was a bus to Seoul….not Gwangju.  They muttered some “mian haeyos” (I’m sorries) as they ran off the bus, and managed to jump on the Gwangju bus before it peeled out of the parking lot.  As they all reclined in their seats for a much-needed nap, they were thrilled to see and hear that there weren’t any  wizards, lords or warlocks on this ride.  Kitty and Santa had never been happier to be surrounded by Koreans.

Although they didn’t see much of the beach in Busan, it was a great weekend celebrating Krissy’s last fling before the ring!! Congrats to their wonderful friends, they will most definitely be missed in South Korea when they leave in July!!

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Springing South Korea

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Kitty and Santa spent the last 2 years of their lives on the tropical beaches of San Diego. When they made the move to South Korea not only did they experience culture shock, but the winter weather also brought on a period of hibernation like the Chicago bears they were raised to be. Since the weather has now turned and the flowers have bloomed, Kitty and Santa have come out of their cave and wasted no time frolicking about Korea. Here are some of their spring highlights!

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Gwangju 10K

Kitty decided that it might be fun for the duo to partake in a race while here in Korea.  After a bit of online research, and some translating by Kitty’s elementary students, they had signed up to run a 10K on April 21st.  With a little convincing, their friend Krissy signed up to run as well!  Santa and Kitty didn’t take the training too seriously, as they weren’t planning on winning.  And Krissy, well her training consisted of shopping and dancing at the bar on Saturday nights.

On race day, they had planned on meeting Krissy on the corner so they could catch a cab to the starting line together.  When Kitty and Santa arrived that morning, Krissy was nowhere in sight.  Santa started freaking out, as she always likes to be at least an hour early to EVERYTHING.  They started to walk towards her apartment, but turned around in fear she might have taken a different route and that they’d miss her.  As they neared the corner again, they spotted Krissy who was enjoying a breakfast of champions: Oreos and chocolate milk!

After a nerve racking 15-minute wait, they finally were able to flag down a cab.  They pulled out the race map in hopes that the cab driver would know where they were suppose to go.  He got a bit angry, but in the end they arrived at the starting line with about 20 minutes to spare.  Krissy, Kitty, and Santa all started the race together, but ended up getting separated during their run.  They reunited at the finish line where they were presented with medals, chocolate pies, and sweet bread (not the normal fruit and fuel they were use to receiving post run).  After snapping a few pictures with every Korean fan, they felt as though they had won the race.  Success! One more thing off Kitty and Santa’s Korean Bucket list!

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Shopping in Seoul

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Kitty and Santa hadn’t been to Seoul since they celebrated Kitty’s 26th year of birth in the fall.  This also means that they hadn’t been shopping since November.  In Gwang Ju they have a lot of small boutiques and places to shop downtown, but here in Korea the majority of clothing is one size fits all, or FREE size.  Seems a bit weird, but everyone here is pretty small.  Free size might work for most Koreans, but not for Kitty and Santa.  Their friends Krissy and Kivi also wanted to get up to Seoul, so they decided to all take the KTX train together the weekend following their big race.

This was everyone’s first time taking the train in Korea, and it was a really enjoyable experience for all.  They arrived around noon on that Saturday, and Kitty and Santa found themselves back at the scene of the crime, the Seoul Subway! As Krissy and Kivi tried to figure out what line they needed to take, Santa and Kitty got a snack and decided that after the mix up they experienced the last time they wouldn’t be putting in their two cents.  Fifteen minutes later they jumped on a line that took them directly to their love motel (love motel is how they refer to cheap motels here in Korea).  As Krissy and Kivi would say, it was actually quite nice!  They dropped off their luggage and hit the streets for a day of shopping.  After spending over three hours in the five-floor Forever XI, they decided it was time to get back to the motel and freshen up.  Krissy’s childhood friend and husband are currently living in Seoul, and invited them all over for drinks before dinner.  They enjoyed some Lithuanian sprites and snacks, before heading out to a Thai Chinese fusion restaurant.  After a family style dinner, they headed to an Irish pub for darts and Jameson.  They spent the rest of the night bar hopping, dancing and taking firework shots before ending up eating Doners at 3 am.  According to Santa, Doners is a snack she once enjoyed while visiting her sister in Germany many years ago.  Kivi really enjoyed the Doners, and went back for seconds, thirds, and maybe even a fourth.  The night become a blur after the food coma but they woke up in their beds feeling well rested!

The next morning they enjoyed a breakfast at a cute French restaurant in a quiet neighborhood, before jumping back on the train to Gwang Ju.  Kitty and Santa enjoyed their weekend away in the big crowded city, but it’s always nice to come home to Gwangju!

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Bamboo Forest and Festival

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Kitty and Santa set off for yet another weekend adventure. This time they headed to Damyang for the traditional bamboo festival.They tasted some wonderful traditional teas, cookies and bamboo flavored ice cream. Hiked through the famous bamboo forest, purchased some local bamboo goods and hung out with some bamboo wearing festival dancers. Just 45 minutes outside of Gwangju, this day trip was well worth the wons!

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Mt. Wolchulsan National Park

Santa was looking to get a feel for some real Korean hiking, so while Kitty spent the day studying for her online grad school classes Santa took the bus with a friend to Mt. Wolchulsan National Park. She was told by her friend (an experienced outdoorsmen kind of guy) that it would be a long hike but not to worry. He would provide all the snacks, water and necessities one might need while climbing a mountain. She left around 7:00 AM and returned dirty and tired at 7:00 PM. A full days work but it’s not every day one can proclaim that they climbed a mountain…and hiked an entire national park! It might have been one of her favorite days in Korea so far. Go Santa GO!

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Gokseong Train Village 

One of the many perks of living in Korea is the fact that it is so small, so seeing a lot of the country on day trips is possible. Kitty and Santa decided to hit up Gokseong Train Village on a sunny Saturday afternoon to ride their famous rail bikes around the town’s mountain base. They brought along some snacks, a bottle of wine, two dixies, and of course their cameras for documentation purposes. Kitty and Santa arrived at the bus’s final destination but didn’t see the village they were expecting. After a game of charades with the bus driver they finally were able to get the point across “RAIL BIKES”. The bus driver showed them to a taxi who drove them 15 minutes into the middle of no where. He pointed to a small building next to an old railroad track and said “rail bike, good bye”. Kitty and Santa shrugged, threw him some won tons, and got out of the cab.

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They approached the ticket counter where they asked for a two seater rail bike. The ticket lady crossed her arms and shook them violently, a korean term  they were familiar with, NO. A young Korean with excellent English skills stepped in to translate. “Did you make a reservation?” Kitty and Santa looked at each other and than made a big X with their forarms. “Noo.” Apparently it was necessary in order to ride the rail. Kitty and Santa stood there in contemplation. They didn’t know whether they should wait for another taxi to take them to this village or go on the trek without a mode of transportation…”I mean if we follow the train tracks I don’t think we will get lost…do you?” Kitty asked. The Koreans standing around them thought it would be too far for Kitty and Santa to walk, but they pointed the girls in the right direction and shook their heads as they watched Kitty and Santa disappear.

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It wasn’t long before Kitty and Santa busted into the wine as they followed the tracks winding through the beautiful Korean landscape. They sang some old rail road songs, screamed and jumped around when they crossed paths with a large snake, had a few panic attacks when crossing bridges (it was pretty close to being in the movie Stand by Me…), laughed hysterically and talked for hours about how weird it is that they live in Korea.

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One pretty important question kept coming about, especially when crossing the bridges…do trains actually ride on this rail still? The first time it came up they both laughed it off. Of course NOT, this rail was now for bikes only, and they would have plenty of time to jump out of the way when they saw them coming.  They both laughed and then became very silent…”do you hear that?” Kitty would ask over and over again. Santa kept turning to look behind her, expecting a large freight train to be there. Well, about an hour into the trip there was no mistaking the sound of a bustling steam engine heading their way. Its horn was bellowing and smoke came clouding out the front. Santa screamed and jumped into the ditch, not even thinking about the snakes. Kitty jumped to the side. Santa wanted to go further into the woods afraid the train would take them out. They were happy when they realized this train was full of tourists and it was moving like an authentically slow locomotive.

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After hours of walking they finally stumbled upon the train village. They were greeted with cold beers, carnival rides and amazing locals. Kitty and Santa enjoyed the town for an hour before trying to head back to Gwangju. A few Koreans near by spotted Kitty and Santa scratching their heads wondering when the next train back would be. “Last train to Gwangju is finished. You can ride with us, we take you back.” Kitty and Santa were so happy to have met such wonderful people. They chatted with the young newlyweds all the way back to Gwangju. The day couldn’t have gone any better…Oh Korea!

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 -Sometimes it’s not about the destination but journey that should be appreciated-