Friday, August 19, 2011

Korean Class, Hiking, Bus Stations, DMZ, Seoul

Hi everyone,
Some Korean class silliness with our teachers.

     I am now writing to you from my homestay in Naju.  Since I last wrote, Korean classes became quite intense and, thus, I did not have a lot of time to blog.  I had my final exam last week, which I was busy studying for, and also worked with my classmates to make a short video for our final project.  The basic plot is that some detectives go looking for one of the characters from our textbook after she goes missing.  Once my classmates found out that I was a Film major, I ended up filming and editing the video.  (The video can be seen here...  clearly I still have a lot of work to do with Korean!
      On one weekend, I went on another great trip hiking!  This time, I went with several other ETAs to Songrisan National Park which is one of the largest national parks in Korea.  Koreans love to hike and will frequently take days to hike to the top of a mountain with friends, eat lunch at some point, and come back down to their home.  Of the trails that I have been on, I have noticed a few trends.  First, there are often lots of rocks, which can make hiking a bit trickier.  Additionally, none of the trails that I have been on have had many cutbacks.  As a result, you are frequently walking up or down steep trails when hiking in Korea.  While walking at Songrisan, we frequently noticed that middle-aged Korean men and women were hiking up and down the hills much faster than we were.  I guess I need to get into better shape to keep up.  The following weekend, I went with some friends to Chungju, a small city/suburb near Goesan, and ended up sleeping the the bus station after we were ripped off by several hotel owners who were raising their rates because they saw a group of foreigners (definite first in life).
I am with a giant buddha that is in the middle of the park

Some other ETAs hiking down the steep  declines

View from the top

        After passing my final exam in Korean, the other ETAs and I headed to Seoul for our graduation.  We had several days to explore and check out the city.  On the first day, everyone went to the Joint Security Area.  It was quite surreal to be in a place, which I had seen so many times.  We only had around 5 minutes at the border.

The Joint Security Area

Immediately following this trip, we went to the US Ambassor's house for dinner and spent time talking to the different people who work at the US Embassy.  Later that night, I went with some friends to Hongdae, a part of Seoul that is famous for restaurants, bars, and clubs.  We found a small jazz club and listened to some great music before getting a snack and sleeping.
Di-Hoa in Hongdae
Some jazz

       The next day, I made an epic trip to Costco in order to get pizza and stock up on some snacks from home.  Costco was massive, but not big enough for the amount of people in there.  For example, after ordering and getting our pizza, we waited for 45 minutes in order to get a table in order to eat.  We had to stand next to several different tables and watch different families eat their food in hopes that they would not go back for more.
The crowds at the eating area in Costco
      The highlight of the weekend came later that day when I went with some ETAs to a baseball game.  Baseball is extremely popular in Korea.  Different corporations, such as LG and Samsung, sponsor teams.  We saw the Lotte Giants (a team from Busan) play the LG Twins (from Seoul).  The tickets were  inexpensive compared to the USA and we had great seats.  When purchasing our tickets, we were asked which team we were rooting for and realized that they split the fans in half.  As a result, there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm surround us during the game.  The Koreans had a different song to sing for each play and cheerleaders would constantly be dancing around.  Also, each team had a guy running around whose sole job is to get the crowd into the game.  There was a large amount of energy in the stadium which made the experience fun.
Paddy and Liza enjoying the ball game
Koreans come prepared!  There was a sea of umbrellas after a little rain appeared in the ballpark
      The next day, I went to church and spent some time exploring Myeongdong, one of the large shopping areas in Seoul.  Koreans love clothes and within this area there were both large department stores and street vendors who were willing to negotiate prices.  I was not there at a very popular time but, there was still constant motion and flashing lights.  After an early night of sleeping, we went to Seoul National University (one of the top schools in Korea), for our graduation.

Jenny and I at graduation
      Now, after having a few days to relax and hang out with my ETA friends, I have moved to Naju.  Naju is in Jeollonam-do, a province in Southwest Korea which is known for having the best food in the country.  It is considered rural Korea, although the town has a large downtown area and is quite close to Jeonju (home to one of the biggest film festivals in Asia) and Gwangju (one of the largest cities in Korea which also has a big art scene).  When I met my co-teacher (my main contact at the school who I will refer to for help) this morning, he presented me with a large bouquet of flowers (everyone was getting flowers- both men and women- so this must be a custom?).  A little later, I piled into a big coach bus with the other 3 ETAs who are living in Naju.  We drove down and then met our host families at a big dinner.  My host family seem to be pretty awesome.  They live in a house which my host-father built.  Also, I have a younger host-sister.  I do not have a whole lot of information yet, since I just go here, but there will be more to follow.
The Naju Crew:  (L to R) Kyle, myself, Erin, Jim (previous ETA in Naju who now works at Fulbright Office in Seoul), and Eric before we head off to our new home


  1. Ahhh, looks like you're having a great time! Can't wait to hear more.

  2. it's so great to read about what you're up to, anskar! you're also setting the bar high for blog posts! can't wait until i can get to thailand and contribute too!