Being surrounded by glass, chrome, and asphalt for an extended period of time always has me feeling a deep-seated need to get out and find some nature. So, on a cool spring day, my significant other, a couple of friends and I decided to leave Seoul and explore Nami Island (or Namiseom 남이섬).
Nami Island is famous for being a prominent filming location of the famous 2002 K-Drama Winter Sonata, notably where the protagonists shared their first kiss. It is a small half-moon shaped island North-East of Seoul named after a General from the 13th century who was falsely accused of treason.
It took us about an hour standing on a crowded train to arrive at our destination. And some food and soju later, we went to find our way onto Namiseom. The island boasts two avenues in which to cross the water: ferry and zip line. The wait for the zip line was more than an hour long, and the slowly darkening skies portended an oncoming rainstorm, so we opted for the ferry. Although it rained on and off for the rest of the day, Nami was still incredibly charming and gave me the nature fix I was craving.
After obtaining some fashionably pink rain ponchos, we began walking down a mud-filled pathway (I have to say I am rather impressed with myself for not falling down – which on a normal dry day is always an extremely high possibility with my oh-so-graceful self). Unexpectedly, we ran into a flock of Ostriches. There is something a little scary or creepy about Ostriches…maybe it’s the claws? The big eyes? I’m not sure what it is, but it was interesting to see them up close.
We also came across the famous filming location of the “first kiss” scene from Winter Sonata. Having never seen the show ourselves, our Korean friend shared a video of it with the group. It is a sweetly comical scene where the two main characters make snowmen and push them together in a snowman embrace, then the male lead kisses his companion and her eyes become huge in surprise. Very cute.
To the side of a path lined with tall trees, there was an unexpected statue (pictured below) of an expansive and jubilant woman breastfeeding a child. It was more notable for the fact that there was a group of tourists who asked us to take a picture of them in a long line behind the statue baby – waiting for their turn haha. Closer inspection of the statue revealed the Chinese sculptor’s intention is for the breasts to be symbolic representations of the two main rivers that flow through China.
Some pancakes and Americanos later, the rain started pouring down torrentially, so we decided it was time to head back. We took the ferry across the water and went to wait for the bus that would take us to the train station.
We sought shelter underneath the bus stop overhang, and a long line began queuing up behind us. After waiting for quite some time (the bus intervals were 30 minutes give or take), the bus arrived…. Unfortunately, the bus stopped in the middle of the line. Chaos ensued. And here was my first run-in with the infamous Korean Ajumma, or rather a large group of them.
An Ajumma (아줌마) refers generally to middle-aged Korean women. Apparently, they have a ‘look’ that can be spotted easily from a distance – tightly permed hair, a propensity for colorful clothing, and some type of large visor or hat. They are known for not being very shy when it comes to getting to where they want to go.
At the head of the line, we began to walk toward the door of the bus, thinking the line would be somewhat orderly…boy were we wrong. As we walked toward the door in the pouring rain, the Ajummas were pushing and shoving from the very back of the line to be first on the bus. The pure physical strength of these women was confounding. I don’t think I’ve ever been shoved by a woman in her 60’s before. With the crush of the crowd behind me and on both sides, I had to squeeze myself past the wiry muscles of the fifth or sixth Ajumma trying to cut the line in order to make it onto the bus before departure. But both the old women and our group all ended up finding seats and making it back to the train station in one piece. If I were to have an arm wrestling competition with one of those women, I wold certainly lose…