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Ever in a day

It was a busy weekend.

On Saturday morning I went, with Habiba, some of her colleagues and Charlie, on the Korean Foundation Volunteer Network’s latest event – a so-called Palace Break (after Prison Break). This was held at Changgyeong Palace in Central Seoul. I’d been there once before with Bo, but this time I saw some different parts, including the adjacent Dongmyo – a shrine for the dead kings of Korea.

Sean and Habiba 2

The event was a gentle treasure hunt, with five or six easy clues to decipher. It wasn’t really that much fun, but it was nice to go round the palace and to meet a few new people – our team consisted of Habiba and me and three attractive European women: an Armenian, and Pole and a Hungarian. They’re all in the country studying the language – although they all seem to speak it fairly well already.

Charlie and I had to leave early – before lunch – in order to go to work. After that we met Habiba’s friend Cybele and a couple of her friends in Itaewon for a very decent Pakistani buffet meal.

On the following day, the hagwon I’ve been working for on Saturdays organised a trip to Korea’s largest amusement park – Everland. I was invited, along with Charlie and Habiba – for free, no less. We were expecting to have to keep an eye on a group of children when we were there, but we were free to go and do as we pleased. And that’s what we did. Our child-free group was completed by Charlie’s friend Ju, who also works at the hagwon.

Everland

I hadn’t been to an theme park since a school trip to Alton Towers way back in the mists of time. It was fun, there’s no denying it, although I tend to look down my nose at such childish pursuits. We went on a number of rides, including the big rollercoaster, the T Express (sponsored by a mobile phone company), twice.

That was some experience. Although the queue was pretty long, and we were informed the wait would be an hour, it didn’t seem all that long a wait – about half an hour. The queue winds through the supports of the rollercoaster, and every few moments you hear the thunder of a car rushing by overhead and the screams of the passengers. Sometimes you can see the car whizzing past. It gave me the feeling of hunting some mysterious beast in the forest and every now and then catching a glimpse of it.

The ride to the top at the beginning takes you high up in the air, providing a good view of the rest of the park – except you’re not really concentrating on that. The first dip is ridiculous – you go down almost vertically. It’s pretty terrifying watching the world and the rest of the rollercoaster yaw upwards in front of you until you’re heading straight downwards. The rest of the ride was pretty good too, with lots of moments where you’d be thrown right out of your seat if weren’t for the restraints.

T Express

I thought that would be the outstanding highlight among the rides we went on, but a there were a couple of others that proved almost as exciting. They were both in ‘Rocks Ville’ (themed on 1950s America) and the both involved rows of chairs on arms that rose into the air and rotated unpredictably. The latter of these two was particularly violent. I thought it was fun, but the others seemed to think it was a bit much being turned upside down and suddenly jerked back and forth and round.

The weather was nice the whole day and the park wasn’t as crowded as imagination would have led us to expect. Some of the rides were out of commission – no doubt because it wasn’t peak season. On only a couple of occasions during our seven hours or so there did we run into students from the hagwon.

So we had a great time, but we weren’t entirely sure why we were there at all. The director of the hagwon had told me that he would get a free adult ticket for every ten child tickets he got – but there were more like five kids for every adult that went. Charlie suggested he just wanted some foreigners present to show off to the parents. Whatever, we were all grateful for him offering to take us.

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