Remember the time we spoke about Ulleung Entertainment? Boy…did I get it wrong. In the deciding phases of my life in Ulleungdo, a friend, who desperately hoped I would decide in favour of island living, re-assured me that there were even Norea Bangs (singing room, aka karaoke) on the island. There aren’t even singing rooms on the island…there are only singing rooms. Even the Khan Night Club is a pzazzed (I use the term loosely) Karaoke type set-up…where I guess dancing is…optional. No DVD rooms then, not even a DVD rental. No board game rooms, no ice rink or ten-pin bowling… absolutely no coffee shops (for women) and no fancy brand name shops. Our world connects to modernity through the Family Mart which, when times are hard, suffer as much as the rest of us. There are, of course PC Bangs (internet cafe’s)…which I would argue are merely portals to a different somewhat disconcerting world called LAN. There is therefore absolutely NO difference between a PC bang in Ulleungdo and on the mainland.
What a wonderful world! The sudden panic of being so immediately secluded from all things nice and flashy and commercial wears off sooner than you’ll think. Firstly, dear fashionista… wipe your tears, and fix those mascara tracks… Internet shopping is a favourite past-time if you have a credit card and posting all your favorite goodies from Pohang will only set you back about 4000 won (thats $4) per proper sized box. One of the first things about Ulleungdo that really made an impression on me, was how much less pressure there was for me to dress well, or wear loads of make-up. I was a declared oddity… which gives one a fair amount of freedom. The simpler things gave way to so many of my diamante expectations. And believe me…Ulleungdo is never boring! Did you think ordinary people chose to live on an island? Flashy art exhibitions made way for a myriad of weird and wonderful artists who seek a wider horizon for a home.
Dokdo is a small Island near Ulleungdo. Korea and Japan have been disputing territorial rights over it, but it’s finally been awarded to Korea. These disputes have spilled over into various forms of propaganda, one of them being a wide choice of interesting T-shirts. My very first party in Ulleungdo, was a Dokdo T-shirt party. Here I met a Japanese lady, three Phillipino ladies, a news announcer, producer and camera man, a curator and an anthropologist. At the squid festival you can try out lots of local cuisine and catch squid from a pool. If you have the stomach for it…they’ll let you compete with a fisherman’s wife to kill and clean the poor thing. If you’d care to trek up the mountain between Dodong and Namyang, you’re likely to encounter a gang of cowardly goats, and in spring, get to play with the kids. In Nari Bungee you could sip on some special Makeoli (rice beer/wine) in the shade of a tree while waiting for locally specialised Bibimbab.
Within a short time, I got roped into taking part in a ceramic class, while Miss B learnt Nanta, traditional Korean percussion. We were both involved in a couple of documentaries, took many pictures, went hiking, met local celebrities, watched free theatrical performances and outdoor pansori, saxophone and arirang shows. Then, those Wednesday night art classes with Mr. Ma. Lunches at church and DVD’s from the public library. The awe striking view from the Tae-Ha mountain. We sat drinking beer on hot summer nights on the roof of a small seafood restaurant. Had nighttime picnics in Jodong harbour in the lee of the lighthouse by the light of passing ships.
Once my flatmate decided to organise a singles evening for all our lonely hearted friends…and we walked half-way to Jodong along the bridged cliffs with the sea sometimes roaring underneath our feet while the guys boasted about how easy the walk was for them, and the girls pretended that the guys were carriers of meningitis. Not to mention my beautiful, kind innocent students. The kids who would fetch me from my class to play balloon ball with me and didn’t laugh at the teacher, even once, as she huffed through the game red-faced. My co-teachers whose hospitality let me to feel so accepted and at home in a place where I clearly stand out like a sore thumb. I will ever be indebted to them.
So, you see…there are plenty of weird random entertainments available in Ulleungdo…but you won’t know until you’ve been here.