I’ve taken an ice-cold shower once before. I was camping then too. I was just a kid, but I remember the moment well. Who can forget what it feels like to shower in mountain spring water so cold that it knocks the breath out of you? Never once did my whole body stand underneath the stream of water that came from the spicket in that wall. Instead, the trick was to wash one appendage at a time. First an arm, then a leg, and so on. To wash your hair simply turn your head to the side so the water runs straight from your head onto the floor, never once touching your lower back. That’s the worst part about a cold shower. Washing your back…well, that and maybe your armpits.
Ava took it like a champ. She was in and out of there with a thorough cleaning. Sarai, her 7-year-old twin, not so much. Sarai had a bit of a breakdown in that shower room, even more so when we discovered that one of her earrings was missing. The only thing that kept her mind on this planet was the promise of a triple s’more. And then we found her earring.
Wide awake like I’d had three double espressos at around 8pm at night, we jumped back into the truck and headed out to round-up some dinner. I’d packed enough food to last almost the entire trip. In fact, we were only shy two dinner meals. Packing our food saved us a ton of money. We drove to the closest CU (like a 7-Eleven) I could find on my Google map, hoping for at least a cup of ramen, a Korean staple food. Next to the CU was a “chicken snack” restaurant, Bill’s favorite. Basically, it fast food fried chicken in whatever kind of sauce your heart desires. He likes his blue flame hot. The man was happy.
While we waited for our chicken we began to notice the walls and the floors moving. With both the front door and the back door wide open, this place was literally crawling with insects of all kinds. No matter, when in Korea do like the Koreans. The bugs didn’t seem to bother the other customers in the place and the workers went about their business as though these bugs were just a part of everyday life, so we did the same, except that our feet were no longer on the floor but rather tucked underneath our bottoms.
To say that the landscape surrounding our campsite at the base of Mount Hallasan was beautiful would be an understatement of the grandest kind. Then again, I am partial to a mountain setting. Soft morning light filtered through the tree canopy and highlighted the mossy rocks of the dry creek bed that was located behind our tent. The birds chirped and the crickets sang. It was a symphony that any nature lover would adore. Our short, but sweet (excluding the pouring rain that seeped into our tent and onto our bedding that night) mountain visit did wonders for my soul. As we packed up the ice chest and the tent and everything else, I watched our puppy sleep through it all, exhausted from five days of near endless activity that her young life had not previously experienced. She looked so comfortable to me, even if she was laying on a bed of rocks and wet dirt.We spent our last night back at the bungalow we’d stayed at when we first arrived in Jeju. Our ferry was scheduled to leave the port very early in the morning (click here for ferry schedules) and we wanted to be as close to the port and as packed as possible so as to avoid any issues we might have on the return trip.By 7:50am the following morning we were standing in line waiting our turn to present our tickets and board the Hanil Express, Wando bound. Our rental truck was already on board and secured, as was Roxy, who was probably sound asleep in her crate. It had been an amazing vacation.
But just as the journey to Jeju was complicated and stressful, so too turned out to be the journey home. The man collecting tickets took one look at the Hangul across the top and stated, “ticket exchangie .” We may not speak each others language, but those two words said enough. They meant that something was wrong with our tickets which meant that we had to leave this line for a completely different one where tickets could be exchangied. I looked at the clock. In 30 minutes the ferry would pull away from the dock, separating us from our beloved dog who had no clue what was about to happen.
I panicked and tried cutting in line. My good Christian sense flew out the terminal window. All of my American intuition told me that I would not make this ferry in time because people don’t work fast enough to make everyday life happen, let alone miracles. Bill turned in any direction opposite of me so as to hide his embarrassment of my actions.
Faster than I thought possible, the ticket agents worked their way through all the customers in front of us in a matter of minutes. By 8:00am we were in the process of getting our tickets exchangied. I produced our passports to the smiling agent who began thumbing through them at an efficient pace, that is, until she reached Bill’s. Being an American soldier sent to Korea on orders to protect the country from communist overlords, his passport was not stamped at customs when we arrived in Korea. Instead, they simply check his military ID and wave him on through the metal detectors. Now, here at the ferry terminal of hell, as it had so quickly morphed into, for me at least, this was a problem. “No stampie,” she said with a quizzical look on her face.
Bill tried typing the English explanation into his cell phone translator while sliding his military ID onto the counter top. As his phone translated she called someone from hers. I watched the clock tick and the kids fed into my panic, asking questions like, “Are we going to make it on time Momma?” And, “What’s going to happen to Roxy?!” The ticket agent continued her conversation with whoever was on the other end of the phone and Bill tried showing her the now translated version of his explanation for not having a stamp on his passport. “I’m an American soldier,” it read. “We do not get stamped.”
“Try writing it a different way” I begged him. “Try again!” But before he could erase the first translation the ticket agent had gotten the response she needed from The Person Who Ruled Terminal Hell and hung up the phone.
“OK,” she said, and the smile returned to her face. The ticket machine spat out five new tickets that looked exactly like our old tickets and we ran back into the line that was ferry bound. I held my breath as Bill handed our new tickets to the ticket collector man. After checking them once again he waved us by and I began to let out my breath, but promptly sucked it back in when we were stopped by another lady in the “foreigner” lane, who wanted to review our passports.
We made it on that ferry with 15 minutes to spare. When my feet stepped onto the plank that connected the ferry to the dock I looked around, half expecting to see someone running to us, needing to stop us from getting on that boat for some reason I wouldn’t be able to understand. But no one was running, and no one was looking at the foreigners. It’s all going to be alright, I thought, and I could feel my stress begin to melt away.
Despite all the details written into this post, know that I’ve left so many out. Reading about someone’s journeys is one thing, but living them yourself is quite another. I’m grateful for my camera and the modern technology of blogs so that I can share my experiences with the world, but I am even more grateful for the power of the mind, a gift that God has given to me, where I can hold and treasure the smaller, sometimes more important memories that my family creates. Bill, the kids and I held God’s hand throughout this trip to Jeju. He watched over the Army training up north, He soothed the nerves of the Korean leaders, He provided a safe and comfortable vehicle for us to travel in, He opened up a passageway for us to the beautiful island paradise He created so many years ago, He provided shelter for us every night and He threw in a few twists to make this story a little more interesting. I thank God for allowing me to discern His voice in prayer and for allowing me to see His wondrous creation!
Ears that hear and eyes that see- the Lord has made them both. Proverbs 20:12
Here are a few more photos from the last portion of our trip. Also, I’ve included a map that shows where each location mentioned above can be found should you be interested in seeing any of these sights yourself. Happy travels!