Wonderful Weekend in Wonju

Most weekends, Kris and I are too lazy to go anywhere. The times when we have enough motivation to get out of our pyjamas and leave the house, we tend to do something that we could never have done in our home country of South Africa. This weekend, we managed to accomplish three very worthwhile activities: see the city that we will be moving to when our current contract is completed, ski, and eat waffles in the company of raccoons. Needless to say, it was a good weekend.

For a few weeks now, one of our fellow teachers and Frisbee companions has been planning to visit Phoenix Park, one of the major skiing parks in Korea. We told him we would go, jumping at the chance to experience skiing. Getting up before the sun on Saturday morning was hard. But we managed to do it.

After about two hours of travelling, we met our friend at the Wonju bus station. We picked up some kimbap (it looks similar to sushi, but is warm and quite delicious), and drove to Phoenix Park. Upon arrival, we parked, payed the significant entrance fee, and sorted out our rental clothing for the day. Decked out in mismatching clothes and boots that seem unnecessarily clunky, holding pointy sticks and long pieces of plastic that apparently help you glide on snow, I felt ridiculous but excited to try and ski.

Our friend warned us that skiing is learned by falling down multiple times. I certainly proved that adage correct. In the 8 or so hours we spent at Phoenix Park, I fell on my face, hips, arms, buttocks, and shoulders. The number of times I hit the powdery dirt was likely in triple digits. But I enjoyed almost every minute of it. Within moments of my first run on the slope, I experienced the first instance of the lowest point of skiing, in my opinion: losing your skis.

Losing your skis when you fall down is the epitome of sadness. Skis are designed to fall off of your foot with sufficient force, in order to avoid twisting your ankle. However, when it does so, you have to trudge uphill and attempt the ‘putting on the ski again’ ritual. When I first tried, I spent ten minutes looking at the skis, shoving my foot in the slot where they went in the first time, shoving it in harder, kicking the ski in frustration, swearing, and looking at the skis once more. I was ready to get out an ancient bone knife and slit my wrist in a blood ritual to allow the ski demons to open forth their plastic home. Luckily for myself and the onlookers on the slope, I was soon met with my first of many ski patrol staff, intent on helping me master the art of gracefully falling down a mountain covered in snow. This very polite Korean gentleman informed me that the blood ritual was not necessary. All I needed to do was push down the button right behind where your foot goes, and clip your foot in again. I felt more than a little unintelligent. But then I got up, skied for about 5.7 seconds, fell down again, and forgot all about my previous predicament.

We spent more time than I had expected at the park – we enjoyed it enormously. Whilst I was learning the intricacies of falling over, getting up, and re-applying one’s skis, our friend and Kristen were elegantly making their way down the slope. After our day of fun, we returned our gear and then returned to our friend’s home. His very kind Korean mother attempted to feed us, we said goodnight, and fell asleep.

This morning, we woke far later than expected. Our muscles ached from the exertion of the skiing, but we were excited to see more of Wonju, the city that we will soon be calling home. It looks very nice. Far bigger than Dongtan, far older, and with a prominent feature that Dongtan is lacking: a cafe’ where you can drink coffee in the company of raccoons.

I know what you’re thinking: raccoons are dirty scavengers that roam the earth with the sole aim of raiding dustbins (trash cans to my American readers) for their goodness. These raccoons convinced me otherwise.

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Look at that thing. All it is is a big ball of fluffiness and curiosity. We were warned that we should close our bags in the cafe’, as the raccoons would raid them and eat whatever they found. With that warning successfully heeded, we had a wonderful time with them. I feel that the raccoon cafe’ will become a regular haunt of ours in Wonju. They’re so cute and fluffy!

After our time with the raccoons, we went to a PC room and played Dota for several hours. We won, we lost, we shouted, we had fun. All in all, we became very excited for our move to Wonju. It will be good to already have a group of friends in a city before moving there. The fact that two of our better friends in Korea live there is even better.

We had an exquisite time in Wonju. Whether we were skiing (or as close as I could come to skiing) down the slopes of Phoenix Park, marvelling at the cuteness of raccoons, or playing the game that we love with people that we love playing it with, we are both very glad that we decided to leave Kichu and Catsby to guard the apartment whilst we frolicked in central Korea. We have six weeks left in our current contract before we can call Wonju our home. After this weekend, we are even more eager for the time to pass.

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