Racoonamatata…It means no worries…until you run out of treats!

In deciding that I would no longer wait for someone to schedule and choose an outing destination for me, the next question was where to go?  I would be on my own, unable to speak or read the language and not very knowledgeable about what was around within a reasonable distance.

There’s so much I want to see here: temples, markets, parks, historical sights, but narrowing it to only a few was difficult.  So, of course, I found out about a raccoon cafe in Busan.  Now where else could I expect to ever again find such a place?

So, armed with a subway map of Busan (which is about an hour away by bus) and some general directions from friends, I set off on a five-mile hike (in 90 degree weather and 100% humidity) to find the bus stop that would take me to the main terminal in Changdong.  There, I got a ticket to Busan, and once in Busan, I got on the metro.  Sounds easy enough, right?

OMG!  My ankles (many torn tendons/ligaments due to youthful sports designed to keep me thin and happy.  Now, I’m paying for THAT)  to really and truly hate me by the time I caught the bus coach to Busan (Note:  inside of bus looked like a cross between a Tijuana Taxi and funeral home and the color was hot, fuscia pink).  But I’m no quitter and so I hobbled onto my choice destinations.

First, I went to the NC Department store, apparently it’s a big deal here.  To me, it’s just a multilayered shopping mall and I lingered only long enough to take a picture to show I’d been there (No one believed that I would actually undertake this trip alone).  So, here’s a picture of that:

No Big Deal – A department store.

Next, I went to the Ginko Tree Street market, where vendors sell many cute/pretty items that are handcrafted.  But, nothing really spoke to me (and again, it was steamy hot, still) so, I got some iced coffee (Starbucks…because I knew they had free wi-fi) and made a decision.  The feet were not going to put up with a whole lot more walking.  So, I decided to go on to Sasang and seek out the Racoonamata Raccoon Cafe. Back to the subway.

By the time I got off the subway (and climbed a zillion stairs to exit) I knew I was cooked. So, I flagged a taxi (taxis are very cheap here) and gave the driver the address.  “It’s right across the street in that alley,” I interpreted from his gestures.  “I don’t care,” I said pointing to my hot, red face.  “Please drive and help me find it.”

Turned out that was a GOOD idea, because it was close by, but I would never have found it on my own.  It was up on the 4th floor of a building and I simply wouldn’t have found the building without help. My ankles were screaming (despite compression ankle supports) and I would have probably tossed in the towel, which would have been a super bummer.

My chosen destination:  4th floor, Racoonamatata.  The restaurant “The Perfect Pig” was below it.

YAY! I proceded up the the fourth floor (yes, MORE stairs.  Everything in this country is up and it’s all accessible by stairs, with the occasional handicap elevator, but I do have my standards.)  TA-DA!

The sign reads: “Coffee, Dessert, Playing with Racoon,” who could ask for anything more????

You must buy something to eat or drink, but that’s the only charge and it wasn’t that bad. About $6.00 for an iced coffee (which I passed on…because I wouldn’t sleep and it was already 4:00 in the afternoon) or a dessert.  I felt entitled to the dessert after all the walking.  It was in a clay flower pot and was like a cake souffle, with a pudding middle. I’m certain it was nearly zero calories.

MMMmmm.  Delicious and calorie free dessert.

And while you enjoyed your yummy confection, you could sit and watch the little bandit-faced creatures in the glass playroom from your table.

The room for the racoons is quite large (pictures don’t really convey that) and there is a separated area for the twin baby racoons to play in or rest, away from visitors and adult racoons, but you can still see them.

Baby raccoons wrestling.  She is on the bottom at this moment.

The babies had been wrestling (the girl is a creamy color, while her brother is the darker brown) when I first got there, but soon were sound asleep, so I didn’t play with them.

 
But, I did buy a $2.00 packet of raccoon food (small mix of dry cereals, almonds and other bits) and, after carefully removing all jewelry, including my watch and earrings emptying my pockets of all items (as per the instruction card, which was in English and Korean).  I went in to play with the adult raccoons (there were four).
The racoons are definitely used to humans and pretty aggressive, but not in a dangerous way.  They DID go through my pockets (and darn near pulled my shorts OFF) and steal my eyeglasses (I knew that would be a problem, but I can’t take pictures if I can’t see), but I triumphed and got some great pictures.  I liked rubbing their tummies.
This guy would make an excellent pickpocket because boy, does he get his paws DEEP in there!!! 
This one liked a little belly rubbing.
I managed to use some of the food treats to get him to give me some good pictures, but it wasn’t easy.  This is just before he decided to steal my eyeglasses, cheeky bugger! But definitely worth it.

The room that you interact with the animals in is full of all kinds of climbing towers and raccoon appropriate exercise gear.  The animals seemed very healthy and care for and apart from wondering why they were awake in the day (not their usual habit), I could enjoy the opportunity without feeling like I was exploiting them.

Then back to the subway (I was a bit rested, so the walk was manageable)

and then to the bus (this one was a purple fringed interior design.  Prince would have approved) for the return ride home.  Needless to say, I did NOT retrace my five mile hike; I took a taxi all the way back from the main bus terminal!!!  Well worth the $5.30!

I was tired and my ankles were in need of ice and elevation, but I was ticked with myself.  I’d made a plan and executed it and I had successfully done some things on my own.  It was just the kind of empowerment lift I needed.

I sign off here with my favorite picture from my raccoon adventures.  I call it his Ninja Pose (“You have reached enlightenment human, you may return to your people now.”) All in all, it was a great day!

“You are out of snacks.  Your time here has ended.”

 

 

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Me-Ow-T!

As most friends know, I am a pet lover.  I have a dog and two cats, although I’d prefer that the cats were indoor cats, I am a sucker for a fuzzy face.  They stand by the door and cry to go out, and I feel bad for keeping them cooped up in the townhouse.  So, with supervision, I let them out on the patio or in the yard, so long as I can see them and they come safely back inside when called (yeah, they do.  Bill has trained them to come when he whistles)!

I’ve come to understand how they feel.

My current homestay family is very nice and they have done their best to make me comfortable.  But there is a gap in understanding, in that I do not want to go to church every day after work for hours.  I want to see Korea.  I’ve come a long way and sitting in an, albeit very fancy, apartment is not for me.

I have an obligation here to teach every day (ridiculous, really, because I am teaching art, for crying-out-loud) from 8:30 to 4:40.  But in the evenings, I was told to expect that the “host teacher-mentor” (who is the teacher who will come to the U.S. in January as my guest in this teacher exchange program) would plan and escort me to local sites and occassional dinners with the other American teachers.  That has happened once.

At the apartment, I am confined to my (very nice, and I know they all sacrificed to give me this set of rooms and a bathroom) “space.”  I am in my room and if I come out, everyone asks me why.  I don’t get to mingle or play with the kids.  I get to be in my room.

So, I’ve taken to escaping.  Today, I escaped to the park across the street.  I was advised (strongly) against this because, “There are many mosquitos there.”  Please.  I’m from Ohio, on the Great Lake Erie.  We have mosquitos so big there that they have FAA approved flight numbers on their wings.

I went anyway.  I felt lighter the minute I got outside and I had two hours of freedom.  There were no mosquitos, because all the water features were turned off (I assume, because of the heat and the fact that it would attract mosquitos!)  I enjoyed a great walk, it was cool outside among the tall (weirdly shaped…all bent and squiggly) pine trees.  There was a little “temple-like” pavilion in the center and a group of older (than me) Korean women waved me to come up. We exchanged a few pleasantries, but for the most part they just went on with their conversation.  They didn’t ask me my age, or discuss my body size or press me for anything, just welcomed me to sit with them for a few minutes.

Like most parks I’ve been to, it seems that only the old and the very young frequent them.  One woman stopped me on a path to make sure I knew where the toilet was (I did, but I thanked her.)  It didn’t seem to bother anyone a bit that I don’t speak (much…except the necessary phrases to be polite…thank you, hello… it’s nice to meet you, the meal was delicious, goodbye, see you tomorrow or see you soon, etc.).  They just went right on talking to me as if I understood every word.  Really, it was quite nice and I was completely comfortable and at ease.

My mother is not allowed to read this part. With regard to the many, many questions about my age and weight, I’d very much like to learn how to say, “*#@k off” in Korean.  Not that I’d use it here, but I’d like to know that I COULD.  Sensitivity is definitely not a strong point in this culture. However, heaven forbid you break any of their rules.

Here’s some pictures from my stroll in the park.  I am planning a much bigger excursion to Busan (which is far enough away that a bus and metro are involved) tomorrow.  I hope I can manage it (given the language issues)!

map of the park.JPG

Above:  map of park (which does me no good, as I can’t read Korean yet).

But some things I can guess.  For example, below is the clearly marked “vacuuming area” which I obviously avoided.

Below, (in order: Squiggly pine trees, landscaped hedge, rhododendron flower (last of the season, I suspect).

above: rhododendron flower
Guess which shoes belong to the American?
The pavilion, from a distance.
The ladies who invited me to sit with them (God knows why.  Maybe it was because my face was red and they thought I might expire soon.  
The beautiful but simple design of the pavilion’s ceiling (all wood).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh the Deacon went down…to the cellar to pray…He fell asleep, and he stayed all day…

  Today is Sunday and my homestay family goes to church.  They are Presbyterians, as am I and my family in Virginia, and so they invited me to attend services with them. Services began at 7 a.m., but I wasn’t required to go with mom at 7.  I got to sleep in and go with… Continue reading Oh the Deacon went down…to the cellar to pray…He fell asleep, and he stayed all day…