A Korean lady came into the library yesterday with gifts of sweets, made of rice – I think she had been distributing gifts throughout the school. She was celebrating 100 days since the birth of her child. I had seen the baby the day before, strapped to grandma’s back.
In Korean culture, the first 100 days of a baby’s life are considered to be the most fragile so the family celebrate when that milestone is passed. After 100 days, the child can be taken outside and introduced to friends and neighbours.
We’re living in Jeju’s Global Education City, an ambitious project to create an education hub on the island. Three international schools are already in place, but there are plans for universities, an arts and cultural centre, an English language teaching centre, a commercial area, etc.
It’s all being created on a brand new site. From where I took these photos, there are school buildings in one direction, waiting for term to start. In the other direction is a site cleared of trees, ready for future developments. There are roads and paths going nowhere, streetlights and bus stops with no current purpose. There’s building going on in several locations and it’ll all look very different in a few years’ time.
We took the bus this morning for the short trip to Moseolpo Port. It’s obviously an active port with a small fleet of fishing boats. Most boats have a line of large lights above the deck; I think that’s to attract squid but I need to find out for sure. We watched one boat fill a couple of freezers with ice, presumably in preparation for going out to sea.
Unsurprisingly, there are lots of fish restaurants between the port and the town so that’s where we had lunch – a couple of fish dishes and assorted pickles. It was delicious and not bad for around 15,000 Korean Won (£10).
We took a trip on a coach yesterday with lots of the new staff. It took us to the O’Sulloc tea museum (which is a subject for another day) and to Jusangjeolli, on the south coast of the island. Jusangjeolli is an area of hexagonal basalt columns, formed when molten lava met the sea. There’s a walkway that allows all the tourists to look down at the sea as the waves break over the rocks.
Tourism is the most important source of income on Jeju, but agriculture is also important. One of the main products of the island is citrus fruits, and there were half a dozen ladies selling tangerines as we left the coach. They are delicious, so we bought a bagful.
There’s no rice grown on the island, apparently, because the topsoil is too thin.
We went to Gwakji beach, on the north side of the island, last night along with all new members of staff and their families. The sea was warm and the children had a great time.
It was raining when we arrived, which caused some humour about the British at the seaside; Jeju has had six weeks of dry weather but that uncharacteristic dry spell has just broken. So, our first stop was one of the restaurants behind the beach. We chose Korean – a spicy mackerel stew, a seafood pancake and a Korean beer.
We’ve arrived! This is home for the next two years or more. We had been told earlier in the summer that it wasn’t complete, but it was ready two days before we arrived – there’s a building site at the back and the next set of homes is still under construction. It’s very smart and has three bedrooms, so there’s plenty of space for visitors. It’s also reminiscent of Landridge, where we lived in Singapore.
It’s not just our home that’s similar to Singapore – the temperatures are in the 30s and it’s very humid. The vegetation is lush and tropical (lots of palm trees, and we saw pineapple plants on the way to the supermarket today), there are cicadas and mosquitos, and familiar bird calls.