Busan is the second largest city in Korea and is clear across the country. This, however, doesn't mean the same thing as it would in America. 'Across the country' is only about five hours, but its still a long way from home.
The journey started out as journeys in foreign countries usually do - wandering around a downtown area trying to find our chosen mode of transportation. In this case, the bus terminal. We got there in plenty of time but almost missed our bus because we were waiting for it at the 'arrivals' section and not the 'departures' section. By the time we got to the bus, huffing and puffing from running down stairs, the driver was getting into the bus to go.
The trip there was about four and a half hours, during which we stopped at a Korean truck stop. I have become well acquainted with these pit stops over the eight months I've been here. They always have the same fried foods (that always make me nauseous, no matter what I try, and yet I am fooled every time) and make-shift store for traveling hikers.
We got to Busan and had to figure out their subway system (which doesn't use the same cards as ours in Seoul does so we had to buy new ones). Busan had the same big city feel as Seoul, except with not as many skyscrapers and more beaches. The only big difference we could discern between Busan and Seoul was that there were a lot less foreigners. In fact, I think I saw about 7 the whole time I was there. This resulted in a lot more stares and, when we looked like we had no clue what we were doing - which I'm sure was often - in lots of people either offering to help us or stopping to watch us figure it out.
I don't mind the staring - as I learned in India, if you are being stared at all the time, someone's going to notice if you are missing.
We slept the night in a hotel in what seemed to be the heart of Busan. Since we only paid for a two person room and there was three of us (Ryan, Steph and me), I snuck in through the back stairs, which proved to be a wasted effort when the front desk guy greeted me the next morning and asked if I had the key to turn in.
We were almost late to meet the Dive Instructor, Mike. He gave us the stink eye when we finally did show up because the other people who had booked that morning had all bailed as well.
Now, I am internationally certified to dive up to 60 feet in open water, but its been at least two years since my last dive and even though I was pretty sure I could handle it, I signed up as a non-diver anyway just in case there was some sort of vital information I was missing out on. Turns out there wasn't. I spent the morning reviewing things that were obvious to me and to Ryan who had taken the certification course but never actually received his card.
Unfortunately, during the course of the morning, both Stephanie and Ryan were barred from diving for various reasons. Steph because she had a massive head cold and Ryan because he answered 'yes' on the questionnaire where it said 'are you suffering from allergies?' He had allergies, but he is not currently suffering from them. Both of these things would stop someone from doing a 60 foot dive, but since the tank was about 15 feet deep, I didn't see how it was that big a deal. However, I understand Micheal's caution even though it sucked.
In the end, it was just me and Micheal diving in the tank, which was kind of lame.
We spent some time going over basic diving techniques which, if you have been diving even once is pretty much second nature. How to breathe under water, how to retrieve your breathing device if its dislodged from your mouth (not likely to forget that one, this being something that makes me nervous), how to inflate and deflate your boyancey control device (BCD), and, finally how to equalize the pressure.
Practicing my SCUBA Skillz
One skill that I had not previously learned was the turtle defensive manuvers. Apparently, in a tank full of sharks, what you really have to look out for is the turtles. They are the only thing in the entire tank that could snap your finger off. They are so dangerous that they are penned up when divers are in the tank. I still had to have the lecture about them, however, because they sometimes escape. And those turtles? They weigh more than I do.
Feeding the turtles so they don't break out and go after my blood.
Other citizens of the tank include Paulie, the grouper that was bigger than I was, who eats sharks for fun.
This picture really doesn't really quite capture the size and scope of Paulie.
There was also a shark with a hump back who we decided to call Wobbles who was previously sick and would plow into things - glass, divers, other sharks - without warning. There were grey nurse sharks, black tipped reef sharks, hammerheads and various other fish. Out of all the things in that tank that could have hurt me, I ended up getting bitten by one of the silvery fish you can see everywhere in the photos. I seriously had not considered them a threat.
On the way down, we went through a small acclimation tank that lead down into the main tank. Normally it was empty so that we could practice our super hard maneuvers ('this is how you breathe') but this time they had a bunch of plastic sheeting enclosing what turned out to be a school of tuna. We had to shimmy past the school to get to a little area where we could practice. During said practice, however, one of the tuna escaped and we had to track it down before it went into the tank and got eaten by any number of things. To get down in the tank, we had to repel down over a plastic tube that people were walking through to look at all the sea life. I can only imagine what I looked like, spread eagle, shimmying down the out side of the tube. But then I really don't have to imagine it, Steph was kind enough to take a picture of it. And no, I'm not going to post that one.
Once down in the tank, all I could do was stare. The experience was unforgettable.
I collected a bunch of shark teeth and got freaked out several times when large sharks crept up on me - you wouldn't believe how silently they move. The whole time I was being watched by people on the other side.
I did not realize how well they could see me or I would have been much more self conscious. I'm glad I didn't know because I wouldn't have had as much fun. As it was, Stephanie was able to get some great pictures of me.
In accordance with the theme that weekend, we got back to the bus terminal seconds before our bus took off. It also took another hour to get home because of the ridiculous traffic, but by 10pm I was home in Suji, nursing my shark-related wound.