anniversary, bathhouse, Busan, Cheonan, dog, hiking, Icheon, jimjilbang, Kara Kara, kimbap, Korea, mountain, naked, nudity, Pocket Vinyl, poisonous berries, puppy, sauna, second anniversary, shelter, soju, spa, stray, tour, wedding anniversary
As I type this I’m home, sick in bed, and I’m pretty sure I began to get sick the morning of our Second Anniversary (the actual day of our anniversary, though if you read the previous post, you saw that we celebrated with a day trip to Icheon the day before). I was just feeling queasy and nauseated, so we decided to put off some of our big Anniversary adventures for the morning. (They weren’t really that big. We decided to stick around Cheonan for the day. But still.) By late morning I felt ok enough for a hike up a nearby mountain. We got a bit lost and the heat and humidity played their part in convincing us to give up but try again another day.
Stumbled upon those red berries on the path and I exclaimed “Raspberries!” and was about to pop one into my mouth when Eric asked if I was sure that they were safe… Well, they do have weird spiky black tips… For all I know, Eric saved my life.
Once we were all sweaty and hot we headed over to our favorite jimjilbang, a Korean public bathhouse. Maybe right now you’re being all judgey, because ew, being naked with tons of strangers is gross, but that’s only because you’ve never experienced the freedom and relaxation of open and judge-free nudity. Also, because the United States is what it is, I doubt it’d be able to suddenly handle public bathhouses in every city and town. But let me tell you, they are awesome. For one thing, body image judgement is out the window. I feel like nudity is a great equalizer. Also, just to clarify, yes, male and female sections are separated. But there is a middle section for both genders, but everyone wears these awesomely comfortable and bulky orange t-shirt and shorts pajamas.
Let me back up: At our favorite jimjilbang (a block away from the Korean Nazarene University where Eric lived three years ago), you take an elevator down a floor and come out to a very large lobby decorated with Greek and Roman inspired mosaics (the whole place is very mosaic-y, going for the ancient feel of the first bathhouses). It costs 5,000 ₩ (about $5 USD) to get into the jimjilbang, and another 1,000 ₩ if you want a set of orange pajamas to go into the mixed-gender area. By the way, $6 and you can stay as long as you want. Plus, these places are open 24/7 and it’s expected that people spend the night if they want to. Sure, you sleep on the floor on a thin little mat with a square foam pillow in the same large room as a ton of other people, but it’s perfect if you’re traveling around the country of Korea and want some super cheap accommodations and a super refreshing spa. When we were last in Korea Eric & I took a weekend trip to the southern city of Busan and stayed at a jimjilbang that had multiple floors and included outdoor balconies where we could soak in hot tubs overlooking the ocean while it was snowing. Amazing!
Anyways, Eric goes to the guys’ section, I go to the girls’. You get a receipt with the number of a lock box where you can put your shoes. Then you take the key from that lock box and match it to a locker where you can store your pajamas and personal items. Strip down (everyone else is already naked so it feels totally normal), grab a water bottle and fill it with ice water (it gets hot in there) and shower. Soap is typically provided, or you can bring your own stuff. After showering you can head into the pools. At Kara Kara there are… I think three different hot pools with varying water temperatures, plus two cold pools. There’s a sectioned off area where you can get a personal massage, and there’s also a very hot sauna that I typically stay away from, and another not-quite-as-hot sauna that holds a huge ceramic jar of salt. I like this room a lot; you use the salt to exfoliate while you sweat, then there’s a small tub with a bucket to rinse the salt off with cold water.
After 45 minutes or so I grabbed my orange pajamas and went to join Eric in the large middle room. The main area is wide and open, with people lounging on mats on the floor in their matching pajamas. There’s a snack bar where you can get bowls of noodles, hard boiled eggs, ice cream bars, drinks, etc. There’s a little arcade, a small playground set, and some massage chairs. There are also a whole bunch of other sauna rooms leading off from the main room: There’s one that literally looks like an old-timey oven or kiln that’s super hot, there’s a freezer room that’s fun to jump in just for kicks, and there’s my favorite: a large room with a domed ceiling covered in a rock crystal mosaic and what looks like a huge sandbox on the floor, filled with chunks of rock salt about the size of smallish pebbles. There are wooden blocks you use like pillows as you lay down in the rock salt, scooping out your own personal body-shaped bed while to admire the mosaic ceiling above you. It’s super nice and very calming.
Once we’d had our fill we returned to our gender-specified sides for a last hot tub dip and another final shower before meeting back up in the lobby again.
Then the nausea that I’d started the day out with rushed back with force. I couldn’t figure it out; my first thought was that I’d drank too much the night before, but this seemed worse than that. The nausea made me consider food poisoning? I know now that I must have picked up a bug sometime the day before, because like I mentioned earlier, I’m now typing this a few days later sick in bed. Let’s hope by the time I actually post this I’ll be over whatever cold this has turned into.
Anyways, we quickly grabbed a couple rolls of kimbap to go (which amazingly, at least for me, are a perfect stomach soother) and spent the rest of the afternoon quietly at home.
That evening our friends Dave & Jami (who we originally met in Korea three years ago and lived with us in CT for about a year before deciding recently to come back to Korea again. Also, yes, they are originally from the States.) invited us over for dinner with the ulterior motive of introducing Eric to Penny. Dave & Jami recently adopted a teacup poodle named Ling Ling (she is adorable, as you will see).
Another friend of their’s (Rae) that lives a floor above them and teaches English in the same program as them has a little dog as well, so sometimes they have dog play dates. We were visiting Dave & Jami a few days earlier and Jami & I met Rae outside right after she’d picked up a second dog, a very sweet and shy little two year old named Penny. Penny was apparently born at a shelter here in Cheonan, adopted by a couple from the states, but then returned to the shelter when they decided not to bring her back with them when they returned home. Rae just loves dogs and decided to foster shelter dogs while the organization searches for homes for them, and Penny is her first foster.
Penny’s sweet shy attitude combined with her slight resemblance to my childhood dog Sammy that passed away in 2011 melted my heart pretty quickly.
So on our Anniversary, Eric, Jami, & I headed up to Rae’s apartment to meet Penny and play with her a little. It’s difficult not to love this dog, especially when you hear about her sad back story.
And it is so cute to see how much she loves playing fetch and rolling over to have her belly rubbed. She just so badly wants love.
Of course Eric and I are so completely torn. We would love to adopt Penny and give her stable love and our big back yard to run and play in, but how on earth could we balance her and going on tour? We’ve of course fantasized about one day having a pet (a cat or a small dog) that we would train and could take on tour with us, but are we prepared for that now? What about the logistics of it? What would we do with her when we’re physically playing shows? If it were too hot or too cold out we couldn’t leave her in the car. And it’s not like most venues allow dogs. And even if she was allowed inside, would she be able to handle the loud noise of a show? What about when people offer us places to stay on the road? We can’t expect people to be cool with us bringing a strange dog into their house. What if they have allergies? Or pets of their own? These are all things we seriously need to consider. But… Look at her little love-starved face! Ugh. Anyways, we’ve set the end of July for us to decide, since it would take that long to complete all the paperwork to bring her to the States.
Well, dinner was wonderful, and we all took soju shots from a new ceramic shot glass we’d gotten in Icheon the day before, and despite the beginnings of a cold it was a very wonderful Two Year Anniversary indeed. Here’s to many more, including many more adventures.