Adventure is never what I expect.
It’s supposed to be rugged individualists conquering the horizon, usually while wearing lots of khaki. There's a stereotype, a mystique. It's bold, exciting, and Instagram-worthy. But for us, adventure is more often a pair of middle-aged tourists utterly failing to catch a soccer match.
You may have noticed we’ve been gone a while. Well, not gone so much as just… away. We traveled around Korea, then Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Finally, we ended up in Mongolia, and there we took a detour.
Mongolia was both wonderful, and very, very difficult. It was an adventure in the old-fashioned sense of the word, where one finds oneself sprinting off down the unknown road without so much as a handkerchief. We saw some amazing things and met some absolutely outstanding people. But along the way we struggled. We were unhappy. No, we were not the victims of government censorship, or anything equally salacious. We just never quite had the time to keep up the blog. And eventually, we both decided it was time to move on.
From Mongolia. Not the blog. I wanted to clarify, in case anyone was getting nervous.
Now we’re back in Korea, on the isle of Jeju. It’s semi-tropical, covered in palm trees and humidity. And it’s beautiful. There’s a lifetime of adventure right outside our door. And we’re eager to get started sharing that with you.
Which brings me back to our soccer match. The World Cup was a few weeks ago, and soccer fans everywhere rejoiced in the frenzy of sport. Korea had their hopes dashed in the first round by Sweden. Erin and I missed the game. We were having an entirely different kind of adventure, involving a broken car and a sudden lack of cabs.
But the next match was against Mexico. Everyone we talked to felt sure Korea was going to get thrashed. They'd watch anyway, in bars and restaurants and living rooms all over the country. The atmosphere leading up to the game was a mix of dread and excitement. Win or lose, the party would be epic. And Erin and I had to get in on that.
We heard a rumor that the massive soccer stadium in Seogwipo, on the south side of the island, was hosting an open-air viewing. Fans would pay a nominal fee, sit in the stands, and watch the game on the jumbotron. This sounded like the perfect atmosphere. We’d get some beers, maybe a hotdog (or the Korean equivalent… probably squid on a stick), and groan or cheer for the home team. It was going to be a blast.
It was also going to be completely abandoned. the stadium was black and silent when we arrived. I checked my watch. 9:48. The game was supposed to start at 11. “Uh… You’re sure this is the right place?”
Erin made a face. “Yes.”
I looked at the heavy chain and padlock holding the gate shut. “And you’re sure they’re opening up for the game?”
Erin sighed. “I was up until about five minutes ago.” She glanced backward. A small group of kids were playing in the vast, concrete square outside the stadium. But the area was otherwise deserted. “Maybe we’re just early.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Maaaybe. I’d think there’d be something, though. Like… a line waiting to get in. Or some lights. Or even a sign. You know, ‘Come see the World Cup Match!’ That kind of thing.”
Erin planted her hands on her hips and adopted a pugnacious look. “We drove two hours through Korean traffic to get down here. I’m seeing a damn soccer game.”
I grinned. “You gonna bust down the gate and turn on the jumbotron yourself?”
She glared. “Maybe.”
I raised my hands in surrender. “Okay. But we have some time. We don’t need desperate measures, here.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Yet.” Then she sighed. “Let’s go for a walk. Maybe it’ll be open by the time we get back.”
“Okay. Which way?” I asked.
Erin frowned, looked around. A spotlight strobed the sky from somewhere to our left. Through the trees, we could see glittering lights. And there was a background pulse of music coming from that direction—the schmaltziest of schmaltzy Kpop.
Erin pointed. “That way.”
Within a few minutes, we’d left the sparse concrete of the stadium behind, exchanged for an empty amusement park. Bumper cars loomed from the darkness behind a chain link fence. The glittering lights were on the other side of a small lake, beckoning, teasing. We skirted the edge, and found one of Korea’s ubiquitous convenience stores.
And next to it, an entrance.
It wasn’t immediately clear from the outside what we'd found. But the kpop was so loud the trees vibrated. And every visible surface had been festooned in Christmas lights.
So of course we went in.
And discovered a place that looked like the Hallmark Company had gotten freaky with Santa’s Elves and had a profoundly festive baby. And then they let it decorate things.
“Welcome to Romantic Maze!” said the man behind the counter. “You want to buy tickets?”
“Yes. Very much yes,” Erin replied before he even finished speaking.
The man grinned. Then he checked his watch. “Oh! Uhh… we close at 10:30. Very little time.”
“That’s okay!” Erin replied. She was practically vibrating with her desire to start flinging money at him.
“Hmm… I’ll give you a discount.”
“EVEN BETTER,” Erin said.
For our ten dollars each we got:
…a glow in the dark wrist band,
…a balloon shaped like a heart,
…two tickets to wonderland.
The Maze was the best kind of awesome. Earnest, painfully cheesy, and utterly unexpected. The ten-foot hedges were deep green, scattered with glowing gumdrops and fairytale dioramas. Deadends were everywhere, decorated with little signs that encouraged exploratory couples to steal a few kisses. It was a magical place, with vaulted, LED ceilings and strange creatures around every corner.
And at the center? A raised platform to survey the whole, tangled kingdom, and a vending machine full of sodas to refresh the weary.
What can I say? I was thirsty.
From here, we could see the plaster TRex guarding the bridge. A camel peeked up between the rows. And a mighty elephant stood watch by the exit. Erin paused in front of a pair of Angel wings, and of course I snapped that photo.
And then the kind attendant reappeared. He checked his watch, quietly, pointedly. We got the hint.
Back in the real world, things seemed less vibrant. Except for Erin. She was practically glowing.
“That was amazing!”
“Did you see the camel?” I asked.
“And the dinosaur! Sam! There was a dinosaur!”
We walked through the shuttered amusement park, babbling about our experience. Until we got back to the stadium. The entrance was still dark. The padlock looked just as pitiless.
“Oh, screw it. You wanna get some beer and find a TV somewhere?” Erin asked.
“Yes. Yes I do,” I replied.
Korea lost. But we had fun cheering for the home team. And I decided I liked our kind of adventure, where the unexpected could spring from the shadows riding a TRex, to hand me a heart-shaped balloon.
It’s certainly better than khaki.
PS. As of this post, Erin and I will be resuming semi-regular posting here on Posie on the Lamb. We don't have any specific days in mind, although we'll likely post on or around the weekends. We will also post updates, photos and smaller bits of weirdness to our Facebook Page and our Instagram account. So follow us there for the most up to date info.
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