Thursday, April 17, 2014

Back in Cheonan, Pt. 1

This past weekend (April 11-13) I had set aside to visit the place where it all began: Cheonan. If you've read any of my posts from the time I was in Cheonan, you'd know this was the 1st place I started teaching, also the place I spent the longest amount of time (14 months straight). Every time I go back to visit friends, I feel like I'm coming home.

I didn't quite have that feeling of coming home this time around, though. There have been quite a few changes. Granted, most of the major landmarks haven't changed, but several others have. Makes sense. The last time I was in Cheonan was over 1 year ago, hence change is expected yet surprising at the same time.

I had to go to school with my carry-on bag, seeing I wasn't going to have time to catch the 17:00 bus from Wonju to Cheonan if I didn't leave for Wonju straight from school. I had it well hidden that no one asked until I whipped it out as I was leaving.
I arrived too late for the 17:00 bus, but was able to get the 17:25. If I'd taken the 17:00, I would've arrived at Cheonan by 19:30. With the 17:25 bus, I arrived at 19:10 or so. Hooray for serendipity!

First person I met was MJ, the only one I've ever seen graduate in my entire time with SDALI. She met me at the bus terminal and we had dinner at a Korean restaurant on the 5th (?) floor. Oh, the bus terminal is on the basement/ground level of a Shinsegae Department Store. 
Her husband came by to pick us up and dropped me at my hotel. I stayed in the Cheonan Business Hotel, somewhat near Cheonan Station, although not really. I didn't realize how scary this area was at night. I've never really been here before. I've been near, just not in this area. Let's say it's the kind of place where I, as a solo female, would feel very uncomfortable. There were a ton of hotels all over the place (in case some of you don't know, hotels/motels in Korea are known as "love motels" where you can even rent for an hour if you want). I got in to the reception desk. Ok, nothing too fishy here. The man tried speaking to me in English--and I tried responding in Korean. I think we understood each other pretty well. Into the tiny elevator up to the 5th floor (really 4th, but 4 is an unlucky number in Korea, like 13 in the States) and stepping into my room . . . oh, so inviting, so comfortable, so cozy, so . . . safe. Now I know I can hide here and be ok.
Well, more than ok. This room had more than what we get in a budget hotel in the States: a computer connected to the internet, a bunch of free toiletry samples, a shower/sauna + tub/Jacuzzi, and an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet (mind you, Korean breakfast, not Western) Mon.-Sat.! I don't know about the tv 'cause I never used it. Considering I paid 60,000 KRW ($57.81 USD/ 41.77 Euros) per night, I think it was a good deal.

On Sabbath, I found myself at the SDALI Cheonan Institute (not SeoCheonan) for church service. I was surprised to see a guy from my SDALI orientation there! When I was sent off to SeoCheonan, he was shipped off to Busan. Now I learned he was in the States for a year, got his Master's and is now a professor at a nearby university for the past 1.5 years. Way to go!
After church, it was lunch at Kate's house. It was nice to finally meet her husband. It was also interesting to hear from her what it's like in the early stages of pregnancy, since she's in her 1st trimester. What a surprise when her mother stopped by to see me too! Kate was our interpreter, since my Korean is lacking and her mother's English is nonexistent. Good times.
Then it was off to see Phil, one of my 1st students. We met at his pharmacy then he drove me home. They moved from where they were before, for his daughter's education. They live in a pretty good area. It's where I used to go to use the KEB bank. This is the BIGGEST apartment I've ever seen in Korea! 2 floors?! Wow! 
This is such a beautiful family; both Phil and his wife are sweet, down-to-earth people with hearts of gold. Their children don't know how blessed they are to have such parents (besides the fact that the girl is about 4 and the boy is about 1.5 years old).
At dinnertime, Phil and his family drop me off at the place I was to meet a group of my former students, whom I also consider friends (just like Phil, Kate, and MJ). Hooray for Sooway, HyoJin, Hojun, and Jimmy! Dinner, tea, and about 3+ hours later, we all went our separate ways. Fortunately, Hojun the gentleman dropped me off at my hotel. If there are any good single girls interested, I recommend Hojun! ^.~

On Sunday, it was a day with wonderful Eve. We had an early lunch at "With Spoon" family/all-you-can-eat restaurant. Then it was to her home and I met her 2 sons. Wow, motherhood really isn't easy; kudos to her. After her showing me her university where she's getting her Master's, dropping her sons at the library and home, she dropped me off at the bus terminal. It was an almost 2 hr. ride back to Wonju, then a 25 min. bus back to Hoengseong. By 20:00 I was home, unpacked and reflecting on when to return to see those I couldn't see this time around . . . and maybe see some of those I did see again . . . 

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