Monday, April 4, 2011

The Birds and the Bees

After an uneventful March, the month finished with a trip to Jeju Island for the 2011 Fulbright Spring Conference.  Over the past weekend, all 106 English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) gathered at the KAL Hotel in the town of Seogwipo, generously funded by the US State Department:

The glorious KAL hotel

Jeju is known as a vacation island for mainland Koreans, due to its scenery and (somewhat) better weather. Imported palm trees dot the landscape, giving this foreign land a feeling reminiscent of my home back in Southern California. I bet they look a little strange when it snows!

For the first two days, we conferenced about a variety of topics ranging from teaching pedagogy to home stay issues. While the discussions proved useful and informative, I found the most educational part of the trip to be the final day. Fulbright generously provided the opportunity to participate in an all day tour of the island, but I declined since I had already done those activities when I visited Jeju with my high school last Fall.
A group of friends and I had been planning for months on stuffing our faces full of delicious Equine, which I experienced for the first time with my fellow teachers during my last visit to the island.  USD $32 later, I dined on raw horse, horse sashimi, horse brisket, grilled horse, horse intestine, and horse liver. After literally eating a horse, we pondered our next destination during our free day.  Interestingly enough, Jeju is  home to South Korea's tallest mountain, a teddy bear museum, a traditional village/folklore theme park, a hedge maze,  and the country's only erotic-themed park. I bet you can figure out which place we chose to visit.
Looking to further our roles as cultural ambassadors, we thought it a grand idea to learn about love, Korea style.  Plus, I had already visited the aforementioned attractions with my high school, but our trip conveniently left Love Land off the itinerary.
Love Land's existence is the result of a few socio-historical trends that culminated in the construction of a park filled with phallic statues and suggestive art work. Jeju Island's warm weather and picturesque scenery has attracted newlyweds who were unable to afford international travel, inspiring the nickname "Honeymoon Isle." Moreover, until the early 1990's, arranged marriages were common place. As a result,   hotels offered seminars and shows to ease shy, unfamiliar couples into consummation. Sure enough, this small island a few miles south of the peninsula became the leader in sexual education and home to South Korea's only sex park.

Welcome to Love Land! South Korea is obsessed with "cutesy" depictions of everything, including human reproductive organs. I'll let you come up with your own dirty joke here. 

After a modest $9 entrance fee, we curiously entered Love Land. As expected, the park was filled with suggestive statues, phallic objects,  artistic interpretations of genitalia, and even a gift shop! Coincidentally enough, my trip to Love Land also coincided with the first semblance of the Spring Season. The lotus flowers were beginning to bloom, (in more ways than one) and the smell of rejuvenated fertility filled the air. Needless to say, the birds and the bees were busy in more ways than one. 
Food for thought: A recent survey states that 50% of Koreans do not believe that homosexuality exists in their country. Apparently Love Land doesn't either.

If looking at suggestive artwork wasn't provoking enough, the hordes of middle-aged Koreans roaming the park with us only added to the surrealism. While we were floored by the graphic forwardness, the other patrons acted as if they were at the Louvre. I guess seeing a 10 foot tall golden phallus isn't that strange after all!!  Euphemisms aside, Love Land was definitely a stimulating climax to my Jeju weekend.
Until next time...


Ellie Wolf said...

hahaha, Joshua, this is the best post ever. I'm here eating guinea pigs, you're there eating horses. What strange lives we've made for ourselves. Miss you!

Weston said...

Haha hey man I'm on the floor laughing, great post and I am glad you are having such an entertaining time across the pond there. Still just here eating regular old cow and chicken but I had a great time at PitZers rockabilly festival, miss you brother, be good!

Sol Estin said...

What a strange, strange place!... I'll take the KAL hotel, hold everything else! Hilarious post as usual, JB.


TayTay said...

Yay! Wish I'd "come" there with you...