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February 2017: Deskwarming Preludes Beachwarming in the Philippines

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I finally left Korea! But I’ll be back in March. Mid-February marked five months living in the land of the morning calm, so I took off on a two-week trip to the Philippines to celebrate winter vacation (& steady paycheck). Other than experiencing the gorgeous sights of the Philippines, February was also a time of learning more Korean language an culture with friends in my town. My inner Korean is coming out full-force, and it is wonderful to feel so accepted in such a different place.

Days Danced: 6

Days Sick: 0

The End of Deskwarming Season

Because I spend most of my time alone in the winter, it’s now become a big deal to be part of a group. My main social interaction is at climbing club, where a bunch of new people showed up, tripling our numbers right before spring starts. I spent a whole Saturday afternoon with two new unnies (older female friends) before hiding out in my cave apartment the rest of the weekend.

I went out to dinner with the main members of the climbing club after practice one day, and the amount of love they have for me, and vice versa is just palpable. It’s almost like I’m everybody’s younger sister. They are so patient and nice, and I always leave these meetings having learned many more Korean words and cultural expectations. I’m basically gleeful when I return home, especially after a lonely Sunday in my hovel. It’s wonderful to fit in.

Two nights in a row I went out for food with a fun group of people, and on weekdays, no less. I have found that filling my schedule with appointments or assignments makes me more productive in the end, and I have a better time living in such a small town. At my school this month we ate lots of food out, usually the principal’s treat, but also sometimes I got a surprise bill from my coteacher the next day… An ongoing theme in our cross-cultural relationship. February was generally a productive month for Korean learning.

I made friends with a Korean girl in my town, and my other friend got us tickets to go see Dean & Zico in March, as well as Dean again at a hip hop club in Seoul this month! Nothing could motivate you to learn more Korean like that man’s face. At least in my case that’s true. The Dean show in Seoul was very nice, albeit freezing cold to get to. Brain Child & Ghost X, the two DJs that night, were good, but Dean took nearly three hours to actually come on for his five or six song set. Not that I’m super annoyed or anything.

My First Jaunt Out of Korea

I left in the middle of the month for two weeks in the Philippines, and it took me a very full day to get there. 19 hours from waking up to arriving at my hostel in Cebu, to be exact. I was exhausted. And like the idiot I apparently was for a bit, I did not bring cash and forgot to write down the PIN number for my new ATM card, so my wonderful & selfless father also had a very restless Wednesday morning in The States.

I did finally arrive, however, and set out on the next rainy morning for the ferries that would take me to Tagbilaran City, Bohol Island. I ate a lot of sandwiches and almonds, and saw almost as many Koreans in the Philippines as when I was in Seoul. In Bohol I hung out with a group of Danes & Germans staying at my hostel— we basically saw all the big sights of the island from the back of a motorbike!

Alona Beach on Panglao Island

Alona Beach on Panglao Island

The tarsiers, man-made forest, waterfall, Chocolate Hills, Bohol bee farm, a cave lagoon, Alona beach… I think the only thing I’ll need to go back for is the Loboc River cruise! I managed to buy almost all of my gifts while at a local bee farm, though I saved a few inches of space for cool stuff I might find on the beach in my next city. The German guy & I had to travel back to Cebu by ferry after a few days, both of us for flights from Cebu to other islands, Boracay in my case.

I arrived after another stupidly long day of travel, and the next day I went scuba diving and made friends with some Korean boys and the guy sleeping in the bed below me, as well as my scuba instructor, who had lived in Korea while serving in the military! My bunk mate & I explored the island on foot the next day, before we grabbed dinner at a local restaurant and then hiked the island’s small mountain.

I lounged around a lot, enjoying a good book and a cup of coffee. Boracay actually has its own coffee roasting company! I bought a kilo of green coffee and a half kilo of medium roast to bring back and try. In fact, I think I’ve bought roasted local coffee beans in every coffee-producing country I’ve visited!

Boracay Philippines Beach at Sunset

Latin Dancing on a Whole New Level

The much-anticipated Latin dance festival started on the beach the next day, and I attended the majority of the workshops. It was overall a good festival, but not amazing; I was surprised to find that the most fun I had was when everyone was dancing together on the beach on the first and last nights! We got to take breaks at the bar of the venue, cool off in the ocean, and relax on the sand. It was… Memorable. I made friends with one of the instructors, also from D.C., and was on a friendly basis with all of them.

Being a tiny festival definitely has its benefits! Including those semi-private workshop lessons at 9am when nobody else wants to be awake. During the amateur competition at the end of the festival, a drunk Korean couple actually walked onto the stage and stumbled around a bit. It was cringey, but everybody laughed, especially the couple. Crowd interaction was one of the best parts of it all; everyone was very helpful and supportive of each other while competing and while learning in the classes.

On my last morning on Boracay I decided to go island hopping, and ended up also cliff diving and snorkeling. This Korean couple who was my age actually befriended me after I asked them to take some pictures of me taking the plunge. After I jumped off it twice, and didn’t touch the lower boards, this Chinese woman with serious balls jumped off the 10 meter board and then I high-fived her (she stood there for awhile, so didn’t think she’d really jump!), so she asked for a picture with me, air-kissed my cheek and professed her love for me. I appreciated it, but walked away noticeably fast.

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When we stopped to snorkel, I almost missed my ride to the airport, but it was still worth it. I had a solid vacation and a great last day on one of the 7000+ islands in the Philippines. With such. Amazing. Sunsets.

Have you ever been to Boracay? Was it too touristy for you, or exactly what you wanted?

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