Last week and weekend were quite eventful since it was essentially Korean Thanksgiving Day on Monday. At school, we had Chuseok activites for most of the week and some days the kids came to school wearing their Hanboks which was pretty special to see. On Tuesday we practiced bowing and of course the school had a professional photographer to document it..
Wednesday the kids learned how to make rice cakes, which seemed to me like pieces of dough rolled in some sort of sweet powder. When we were handing out the last ones to eat, we were asking each student how many they had eaten already and everyone was saying two or three until the smallest girl in the class, with her mouth still full, yelled “FIVE!”
Then on Thursday we played traditional Korean games. One involved the kids standing back to back and trying to knock each other off a mat using their butts, another involved throwing folded up pieces of paper at the floor- not entirely sure what the object of this one was, one was literally hopscotch, one was sort of like hacky-sack with a pom-pom on a string, and one involved throwing sticks into a pot.
After all the games, there was more professional photo-taking of the kids while playing in the park by the school. My students are basically part-time models, haha.
Now I have just finished an exciting four day weekend. I spent Friday night and Saturday during the day just relaxing and then went out for dinner and to play pool and darts at the two foreigner bars in Bucheon with friends on Saturday night. Then on Sunday I went with Matt and Judy to Seoul for the afternoon and evening. We went through Insadong, which is a really traditional area of Seoul where you can get a lot of cool Korean souvenirs. Since it is such a traditional place, all of the shops must have their signs written in Hangul and so this is the location of the only Starbucks in the world with a sign not written in English.
We also went to Samcheongdong, a really artsy neighborhood close to Insadong that has a lot of museums and old-style Korean buildings and an abundance of rooftop coffee shops. We stopped at this one for iced coffee after wandering around for a couple hours and seeing the area including a small Buddhist temple.
On Monday which was Chuseok Day, I went to my co-teacher Bella’s house to join in her family’s celebration. Since this is such a family oriented holiday, I felt really special to be included and Bella’s relatives all made me feel so welcome. First, I just watched as they had a memorial for their ancestors. They started by preparing and setting out food without the usual strong spices because from what I understand, spices will scare away the ancestors. Then they bowed three times for each ancestor. It was really interesting to see and Bella did a great job explaining the beliefs behind everything they did. After the memorial, it was time for us to eat. Everyone was worried about having me sit on the floor to eat but of course I wanted to- it’s all part of the experience. Bella and her brother told me the Korean names of all the foods and explained what it was in English but of course I can hardly remember even a fraction of what was there. Suffice it to say that it was a feast!
After we ate, Bella, her brother, and I set out for Seoul to go through Gyeongbokgung Palace. This palace was originally built in the 14th century but has been rebuilt several times after invasions from the Japanese and the Korean War. Gyeongbokgung is the location where the Japanese assassinated and burned the Korean Queen Myeongseong, following which her husband the King no longer wanted to live there and relocated.. which I learned courtesy of an English pamphlet. The grounds of the palace are huge and we didn’t even see all of the buildings in the few hours we spent wandering around.
While we were there, we also got to watch a Changing of the Guard Ceremony. When we got to the palace, I was positive that the guards at the gate were fake so it was quite funny to see them marching around. Overall, I’d say that the ceremony was quite a bit more entertaining than the one at Buckingham Palace, although that could be because it was also a lot more concise!
This three day week has flown by of course. On Wednesday I was finally able to pick up my ARC from Immigration and so today I got a Korean bank account and hopefully a cell phone is in the near future. I am really looking forward to this weekend because I am going on a weekend trip with a travel group in Korea. We are going camping on a beach that is really close to the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea so I’ll get a chance to check out the DMZ museum and get a glimpse of North Korea. We also get to choose between some other entertainment options so I will be going ziplining which I am quite excited about!
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