“Roam abroad in the world, and take thy fill of its enjoyments before the day shall come when thou must quit it for good.” ~ Saadi
5.2.14 - 6.21.14
Blast! Behind again. Well... better late than never I suppose...
Let's see. I need to start at the beginning of May, That's easy! Buddha's Birthday weekend!. I had a nice long (5 whole days) vacation at the beginning of May. Well, all of Korea basically. The normal weekend was followed by Children's Day (May 5th) and Buddha's Birthday (May 6th) so I planned an escape.
I wanted to see parts of Korea that I had yet to make it to but still have fun. My solution: a weekend experiencing Korean history at its finest. I planned to go to Gyeongju- the old capital during the Silla Dynasty. There are a plethora of things to do and see in Gyeongju, it was going to be grand! And then I found out that my wonderful Korean friend, SK, was going with her kids to Gyeongju also... so naturally it became a fantastic adventure to be.
We started off leaving a little early from school on Friday afternoon because traffic was going to horrific. You'd think with such a small country travel time wouldn't be that bad, especially because plane, train, and bus tickets all sell out months in advance, but no... going from Seoul to Gyeongju (southwestern provence) took about 7 hours. Seoul to Gyeongju is roughly the same distance as Bakersfield to Disneyland. And it took 7 hours. SEVEN hours. Although I do have to give credit where credit is due. Korean rest stops are kind of amazing. Like... super amazing. Food, shopping, massage chairs, lots and lots of CLEAN bathrooms, coffee, entertainment, decor... if you have to be stuck on the road for 7+ hours it is nice to know places like that exist. Wonderful little (well not really little) oases amid the cars and roads.
I was super excited to see a bunch of historical things and visit a part of Korea I had never been to... until I realized I had been there.
Talk about a bubble bursting. One of the few weekends that is super easy to get away and travel (it's practically expected of you to leave the country during this time) and I was going somewhere I had already been!? Say it ain't so.
Yup. When I first came to Korea my school asked me if I wanted to join a Korean cultural tour for Native English Teachers. I said yes, obviously, of course I wanted a cultural tour two months into my new life in a foreign country. But apparently two months in to a completely life changing experience means you will not really remember it.
I only noticed "hey, this looks familiar" on the road when I was looking at things to do and was like "hey, I've been there... wait... I've seen that.... holy crap what I've done that too!..." It was not my finest moment.
But all in all the trip was very good. I got to experience Gyeongju how a Korean family would see it. We stayed in awesome traditional houses, ate lots of delicious food, saw wonderful things, and made some great memories. We didn't revisit all the places I went before and we saw many new things as well. We climbed up a billion steps to see this Buddha that was carved into a mountain over a thousand years ago, went to a beach town and took some crazy pictures with these stone hand statues that are coming out of the ocean, watches some kids desecrate some tombs by climbing the hills and then sliding down, all in all it was a great time.
Then came the rest of May and most of June.
A friend I made in Korea started a challenge for his birthday. He has been working really hard for over a year now to lose a lot of weight. He has managed really well but decided for his birthday he wanted more encouragement and to help out any of his friends that wanted it. For eight weeks we couldn't eat fast food or pizza, drink soda, and we had to exercise at least three times a week. And then each individual week we had three different challenges: a physical, mental, and emotional challenges.
It was a crazy and amazing 8 weeks.
It started out really rough but near the end I really got motivated and stuck with it. I didn't each fast food or pizza and I only had soda once during the whole 8 weeks. The different challenges were fantastic. They ranged from (physical) running a mile, exercising somewhere new, working out with a friend, riding a bike, cutting elevators out of your life (this one killed me... I live on the 12th floor), (mental) go vegetarian for a week, write down positive affirmations and read them to yourself, give up a vice, and (emotional) do something nice for someone, forgive yourself (or someone else), reach out to an old friend. The whole 8 weeks were definitely a roller coaster, but it was a wild ride I am beyond grateful I decided to go on.
It has started me down a journey I hope will change my life for the better. I now go to the gym six days a week and I have never felt better.
These last two months have also been a season of change.
One of my best friends that I made in Korea left. She is moving onto the next step in her life so we had to say goodbye to her. KB I know you'll have a fantastic time in grad school in the fall and you're having a blast in Europe right now... but that doesn't mean I miss you any less! 화이팅!!
All the rest of June has been filled with random bits of normal. I am filling my time as much as I can with friends because my time in Korea is short. I haven't been doing much in the way of travel, more along the lines of, "Hey, let's get dinner." or "Hey let's play cards (or a board game, or see a movie)."
I did take a random adventure to Incheon a few weeks ago. My friend KL and I decided we were in desperate need of a beach day and because Koreans have their election day off of work we decided it was the perfect opportunity to explore Incheon's beaches. It was great! We laid on the beach, soaked up the sun, I walked in the water a little... definitely just what the doctor ordered.
I also have finally experienced a baby's first birthday in Korea. Now, you may be wondering why that is a big deal, so let me tell you. It is huge. The parents will have big parties that might cost as much as a wedding. You first arrive and you get a ticket and that ticket means you can eat anything you want on this huge buffet line. Then the mom and dad (who are dressed to the nines) carry the baby around and say hello to everyone and everyone says hello to the baby (who is dressed in a ridiculously cute hanbok). After that the real fun begins. These events will have an MC, yes, someone will MC your baby's first birthday. They will ask questions and if you answer correctly you get a present. Millions of pictures will be taken. Then a candle will be lit, you sing happy birthday, and mom and dad blow out the candle.
Then the cardboard cake (yes, cardboard cake) will be removed and next comes the most important part. Fortune telling! There is a tray with different items placed on it. The items can be different but they usually stay the same. For example there could be a gavel, a rope, a microphone, money, food, or a pencil or book. Then the tray is put in front of the baby and they choose an item. What item the baby chooses is supposed to determine his/her future. They picked up the book? They will be smart. The gavel? A judge (or have good judgment). The rope? Long life. Food? They won't go hungry. The money? They will be wealthy. Etc...etc. I saw a baby pick up the gavel (but they made her put it down because they didn't technically start yet...) then she picked up the microphone (outgoing personality) and then the rope (so a long outgoing life??) Haha, I don't really know. But it was cute.
Then there is more eating and more talking and then the party is over. A lot of money is spent on these parties but they are important in Korean culture. I am glad I was able to experience it!
But that is the last month and a half in a nutshell.
Until the next time!