Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Long Way Home - Day 1: Ferry from Donghae

Sunday, August 26th, 2012. 10:00 pm (Korea time)

Somewhere between Donghae, South Korea and Vladivostok, Russia. Off the coast of North Korea.

Lying in my bunk, I can feel the constant vibrations of the mighty diesel engines and the very slight swaying back and forth as our vessel plies the waters of the Sea of Japan.

Eight hours ago, we set off from Donghae, South Korea, aboard the Korean ferry Eastern Dream. Earlier this evening, sitting on the deck of the ship, it occurred to me why I found the view of the sea around me so unnerving: it's flat. Korea is many things, but flat is not one of them. For the past two years, I have been surrounded by mountains. Granted, they lacked the majesty of Canada's mighty Rockies, but they were omnipresent. Now, I am surrounded on all sides by flat ocean as far as I can see. Perhaps this voyage is preparing me, in some small way, for a return to the prairies of my home.

This day has been so surreal. It took a long time for it to become apparent that I am actually leaving Korea for good. As I watched the coastline slowly recede, it finally began to hit home. I leave behind two years of great friends and the best time of my life. So far, that is.

What lies ahead? Who knows. But as I begin the next chapter, I find myself so grateful for this time of retrospection. I can't imagine immediately returning home after these past two years and experiencing anything approaching normality. This time is needed for decompression and to reflect of what these two years have meant to me.

As our ship chugs along through the inky blackness, I keep hoping  that the clouds will clear, revealing the awesomeness of the night sky without the interference of Seoul's lights. Alas, the clouds never do dissipate, and we remain mired in the infinite black. I miss the stars, but I take solace in the fact that they can't hide forever.

Time to get some sleep. In about thirteen hours, we arrive at Vladivostok port in Russia. For now, we keep sailing along, giving the coast of North Korea a wide berth. Tomorrow, I set foot in Russia for the first time.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

An epic journey begins...

As I write this, I am sitting in an internet cafe in the small town of Donghae, South Korea. Today is the last day I will spend in this country, a culmination of two years of teaching English, being immersed in a foreign culture, and one of the best experiences of my life. So far.

Tomorrow, my friend Fergal and I will board a ferry bound for Vladivostok, Russia, taking our first steps on what I hope is a pretty epic journey. My internet time during this trip will be pretty scant, and there is a good chance that this blog will see very little activity in the way of updates for the next month and a half. But then again, what else is new?

Our travels will take us to Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Moscow, and St. Petersberg. From there, we will make our way across Europe, traveling through Belarus, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Taking a ferry across the Channel, we will see the white cliffs of Dover before moving on to London. From London, I will fly back home to Canada, with a brief stop in Reykjavik, Iceland. Because, well, why not?

As I said, internet access might not feature much in this trip. However, I would like to write about my experiences and provide some pictures. Rest assured, if I am able, I will endeavour to do so! The current plan is to arrive home on October 9th. Wish me luck!

- Dan Gunther