Sunday, August 8, 2010

Korean Adventures Part I

Finally. I'm back home after what feels like ages. Actually, my trip doesn't seem that long now that I think about it. I came home at what feels like the perfect time. If I stayed any longer, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed my trip as much. But there's still so much to tell about it! I don't know where to start...

But let's see. After these past three weeks, I would definitely give my vacation two gigantic (because I have mutuated monster hands apparently) thumbs up. I think at the beginning, I was being too pessimistic about it. I shouldn't have kept thinking about what I could be doing, and focusing what I can do there. I ended up doing a LOT of things. My last wall post ended with me going to the shopping mecca of the country. Within the next few days, I managed to go to my mother's cousin's house. I would write something else for the title, but I don't really know that the name for that type of relative is. We'll just call him Uncle A. Hahaha, so I was at Uncle A's house because I needed to fill out the ballot for my freshman writing seminar. Because I lived in America all of my life, he thought that I could help his son with his English homework. The kid is seven years old, so I figured it couldn't be too hard. WRONG. HORRIBLY WRONG.

I was shocked and appalled at the level of complexity for an elementary school student's homework in a foreign language. I tried to help him in the section about diction. The excerpt was about Greek mythology, more specifically, the creation myth. So, the premise is that a teacher is talking about how different cultures made stories and reasons as for how the earth and its inhabitants came to be. Whatever happened to the old stories about Peter Cottontail, or how the chicken crossed the road? I didn't know schoolwork had to be this complicated. But it was about to get worse. The excerpt expected the student to be able to list the string of words missing from the passage, based on what the reader said aloud. There were words like cosmological, apparitions, condescending... I don't think kids in high school even know how to spell these words. I couldn't believe that these third graders were expected to know so much. I'm almost positive that half the people in my grade can't even spell cosmogony. I didn't even know that was a word. So, with my faith in the American education system shaken, and my confidence in my intelligence level dropping, I went home. I thanked Uncle A and the family for letting me stay over for so long. Although I filled out my ballot hours before, I was on facebook for the most part and they didn't mind at all. They even treated me out for Chinese food in the middle of it.

And so I started packing for my trip to Gwangju. Gwangju is very much in the southern part of South Korea. My cousin had told my mother and I to come down there. Her husband had been stationed there by the military, and so they had an apartment in the area and wanted to show us around. I have to say, those two days were probably the most fun I had the entire trip. The train ride was about three hours long, which was the lowest point of the trip. I didn't particularly mind, as I kept thinking about the fourteen hour hell hole my previous flight was. Anyways, when we arrived, my cousin and her beau first took us out to eat. I have to say: I'm officially in love with Korean BBQ. The dish we had was called kalbi, but it wasn't the traditional kind. Instead of beef, it was actually pork. It was cooked in a special oven that marinated it in a specific. It was apparently one of those restaurants featured in a travel guide. Needless to say, I ate my entire weight in the stuff. It was quite possibly the best tasting thing I had in Korea. I'm sure many are jealous, as I realize now that Korean BBQ is actually really popular among Americans. I'm salivating at the moment just thinking about it. Wow, I'm fat.

But after our scrumptious lunch, we set out to do anything and everything that we could possibly do as tourists. This involved driving around for two hours to every place we went. I felt bad for my cousin's husband's (is there a shorter term for that?) right foot. I feel the pain. But let's see... The first place we went to was a cute area in a quaint town. We went for a bike ride in these golf cart-like contraptions. They were quite adorable, and not nearly as exhausting as a tandem bike. I actually had a lot of fun riding around with my cousin in the beautiful weather. Although it was ridiculously hot. For the time I stayed in Korea, it was monsoon season and also the hottest summer of the past eighty years. I have the best timing, obviously.

But back to the trip. After enjoying some freshly baked goods and relaxing in the comforts of the air conditioned car, we set off to a bamboo forest. It's exactly what it sounds like, which is a bunch of bamboo stalks being everywhere. While this sounds boring, I think the place was absolutely gorgeous and that I got a couple of nice things out of it. I got this bracelet made of complete bamboo and I even got a stamp in my name, so I can look officially when sending out letters. Chyeah. I'll be sure to upload the photos within the next few days, but I doubt they're that interesting. It's really just ones of me. Being weird. Even I don't enjoy that.

Listing the things I did, it really doesn't seem like a lot, but I have to say that it sure felt like an eternity. I remember practically dying as soon as we reached the couple's apartment. But of course, with the wi-fi, I absolutely had to check my facebook. I showed my cousin what it was like, and she was surprised. I think that Koreans don't utilize facebook nearly as much as Americans do for social networking. Strangely, my cousin actually has a twitter and updates it constantly. I found that pretty odd to be honest. But she really liked everything I showed her, and I pointed out a few of my friends, my time at junior and senior prom, and my general time in America. My mother got mad, asking me why I never want to show her my facebook. I promptly ignored her. But she told me to go to sleep soon, as we had a long day ahead of us. We were only staying in Gwangju for two days and one night, but my cousin was determined to make sure we get the entire experience.

The next day, I woke up and got ready to go to a village completely overrun by green tea leaves. It was a mountain filled with just thousands upon thousands of the plants. I got to have some of the famous green tea products, like their ice cream and green tea latte. Of course, it was amazing. I wish I was a bit more of an actual tea connoisseur, so I could enjoy the tea my mother was going to bring back home, but I think I'm too much of a kid at heart. I'll stick to my water and hot chocolate for the most part >.< Again, it was a day with scalding temperatures, but I still had a pretty good time. Afterwards, we attempted to travel to the most southern part of South Korea. We did actually get there, but on the way back up the mountain, we got a flat. This definitely reminded me of the time Kevin and I hung out for the first time, and we had a flat in New Brunswick. While that's one of my most fondest memories now, it was fucking scary at the time. With a train to catch and no one to be seen, this seemed like a really bad time to get a flat on the tip of Korea. Luckily, the insurance covered things like that and we were able to get a technician to get down there and help us. However, the guy took more than ten minutes (what he had initially told us) to get there. Actually, he arrived forty five minutes later, just in time for another repairman to show up because he thought the first one had gotten lost. Because of the whole incident, the repair ended up being free, but the good part was that we were finally able to get into the car and drive back to the train station.

About halfway through our drive back to the station, my cousin starts to worry. It turns out that the station is about two hours away at the moment, and our train departs in an hour and thirty minutes. My cousin-in-law (yeah that's it) then proceeds to go at a whopping 130 km per hour *roughly HOLY FREAKING HECK THAT's RIDICULOUSLY FAST* and swivel around all of the other cars around us. It seemed like we weren't going to make it, but he managed to get us there just in time. He even ran and carried our heavy suitcase to where our train was. He honestly is one of the sweetest people I've ever met, and I definitely approve. I didn't know what kind of person he was before I came here, but now I know that my cousin was really lucky in meeting him.

And... that's when we came back to Seoul! I definitely have more to write but as of now, my hands are ridiculously tired as is my face. I shall continue this in another post! It will be the last one of my vacation. So, to be continued =)

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