No school today! No school until Friday actually, my students are taking exams and my school didn’t need me to help and Thursday is national Hangul Day. And on Friday I still don’t have to teach because the first and second years are going on a field trip and I will be helping chaperon the first years – we are going to technical plant and afterwards an amusement park. Yes, an amusement park and no, I can’t envision myself acting very mature based on my track record of cursing loudly and uncontrollably the moment a roller coaster takes off from the ground. But anyway that is all in the future. You may be asking what am I doing right now and what have I been up to since the last time I blogged.
Well … today I woke up to no alarm, watched some TV, and skyped with my parents. It was just nice not to be on a schedule and just relax in the house alone. For the rest of the day I have no plan. I have already found my way to a coffee shop and ordered a smoothie, so the day is already quickly moving by me.
But as for what I have been up too … For the last two weeks I have been away from home on the weekends so I haven’t had the chance to write. This past week was my birthday! Wednesday was a quiet day, but I didn’t mind. I got to open a package from my parents and play a new game with my host-family. Then Thursday I had three friends (another friend was suppose to come but she got lost :() join me at my house for a birthday dinner organized by my host parents. It was really cool to share my life with my friends and have them meet my host-family. The next day, Friday, we didn’t have school because of a national holiday honoring the creation of Korea (think Turtle in the sea becomes the world kind of day) so Kat and I spent the morning playing with my host sister and then going to the Naju National Museum. The museum was cool and outside the exhibit was giant mounds of earth that looked like a pregnant woman’s belly. These earthy mounds represent royal tombs from Naju’s past. Afterwards we had lunch and played with my host-sister some more until Kat and I left to head out to Gwangju to eat an early dinner and then catch the bus to Jinju for a lantern festival. Going to Gwangju was exciting because it was good test to see if I could remember on my own. There was only one moment I had a mini panic that I made a mistake and thankfully I saw one of my students and was able to get confirmation that we were on the right track. Then 45 minutes later, taking the bus, the subway, and walking we made it to our destination. At Usquare which is Gwangju’s bus terminal we settled on going to eat at TGI Friday’s for two delicious burgers and fries.
In the time were enjoying our food and good conversation we mixed what time our bus was leaving so by the time we had gone to the ticket counter to get our tickets the bus had left. We both just laughed because we had made it to the station over an hour early and we still ended up missing our bus. Thankfully, we were able to take the next and last bus for the night to Jinju which was only scheduled an hour after the one we originally booked. We set our alarms being extra cautious now and went to a coffee shop to play some cards to pass the time. It was now close to 9:30pm and we arrived in Jinju. The city was crawling with people more than I ever imagined. We still hadn’t figured out the logistics for our housing so we decided just to begin walking and check out any hostel, motel, and hotel we saw. Close to an hour later we found that everything was sold out, but we were enjoying the walk and getting to see the lights lit all around. Finally, we ended up at a motel where an adjuma (an old Korean woman) saw us and thought we looked tired. She then walked us outside and introduced us to another lady who took us to a jinjabang. The owners were really welcoming and friendly and the price tag was only 10,000 yuan a night for each of us. We were then given a change of sleeping clothes: I received a matching blue shirt and shorts and Kat was given pink pajamas. At the moment it felt like a post-apocalyptic movie. After changing and getting comfortable we were shown our sleeping arrangements which was a big squared room with a heated floor where other random travelers already laid asleep. They had given each of us two blankets, one to serve as a mat and the other to cover us, and lastly pillows made of rocks. Besides, the pillows it was a comfortable sleep. That night before going to sleep we met up with other fulbrighters who arrived in Jinju earlier. It was great to see everyone and we spent some time catching up and sitting by the water enjoying the lights until it got to cold and we got tired.
The next day I spent the day walking around and getting a feel for the landscape of the festival. Throughout the day we stopped at different stands to enjoy street food and snacks. There were lanterns everywhere and we became only more excited to see them at night. We learned that the lantern festival was created to honor Korea’s use of lanterns in the war against Japan to make their armies appear larger. The festival was nothing was envisioned. All the lanterns were artistically created to honor different countries, cultures, and icons. As soon as it got dark the lanterns began to slowly turn on and the space around the river transformed into a lighted arena. It was beautiful and chaotic. There were people everyone.
The next day I headed back home. The weekend was great to get away from Naju and see friends. I was back home for 10 minutes until we headed out to dig up potatoes. Then I got to spend the rest of the day relaxing.
I will update stories about my other adventures soon!