Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chuseok Festivities

This past week has been filled with so many awesome experiences! Here's a run-down of the happenings!

I successfully completed my second week of classes. We covered American Thanksgiving because Korean Thanksgiving was this past weekend. I showed my students some clips from Friends and The Simpsons that showed how Americans celebrated. I never grew tired of the Friends clips, but after watching the one from The Simpsons 30 times, I'm OK if I never see that again.

Saturday marked the beginning of the Chuseok holiday, meaning a glorious 5 day weekend! A group of us decided to attend a Korean baseball game. I was so excited because when I was in Japan, we went to a game in Hiroshima and had an amazing time! Korea did not disappoint. So Rachel, Sam, Emma, Rich, Emma, Andy, Steve, Katie, and myself all met up at the Jamsil Baseball stadium around 3/3:30, got out tickets then went and had a few drinks before heading into the game. We purchased seats along the 3rd base line, second level, 1st row. These ended up being amazing seats...with a bit of a twist.

Unlike American baseball games, Koreans get into the game so much! Outside of the stadium they were selling thundersticks for both teams, the Doosan Bears (home team) and the KIA Tigers (away team). In Korea, all of the professional sports teams are called by the company that owns them, not the city that they are from. So most of us purchased white, Doosan Bears thundersticks, as we were there to support the home team. The thundersticks for the KIA Tigers were yellow and we really didn't think anything about the difference until we went to go find our seats. Turns out that we had purchased seats in the heart of the KIA Tigers section.

We walked into the stadium to find the stands literally split in half. Along the 1st base line and into right field was where all of the Doosan Bears fans sat. Along the 3rd base line and into left field was where all of the KIA Tigers fans sat. We walked right into the KIA Tigers section with our white thundersticks and got heckled by a few of the fans. So after quickly deflating our thundersticks and stowing them away before starting a riot, we found our seats. Only problem was that there were two Korean gentlemen sitting in them. So after some exaggerated hand gestures and stern negotiating, they moved and we took our seats. They could not have been better! We eventually were able to attain the correct thundersticks, allowing us to join in on the cheers and excitement of the game. In the end, the Doosan Bears were victorious, 6-3.

R to L: Andy, Emma, Steve, Katie

R to L: Sam, Rachel, Rich, Emma

The view of the field from our seats

The KIA Tigers fans and their thundersticks
Showing my support for both teams!

After the game, Andy, Emma, Katie, Steve, and I headed out to Hongdae to grab some food. We ate at a very good chicken restaurant that had some very interesting artwork. See below:

Following dinner, we met back up with Rachel, Sam, and our other friend Rob and spent the night dancing and having a merry old time in Hongdae.

Sunday we decided to take advantage of our extra time and slept in for one of the first times since we have been here in Korea. We decided to meet up later that night to go and check out the Seoul Tower. So about 16 of us met up around 5:30 in downtown Seoul, just below the Seoul Tower. We went on a hunt for food, which proved to be a bit difficult because:

1. Lots of restaurants in the area were closed due to Chuseok
2. We had an extremely large group.

We ended up having to split into two groups. So Sam, Rachel, Andy, Emma, Steve, Katie, Sian, Mimi, and myself all ended up at this traditional Korean BBQ place. This meant taking your shoes off at the door and sitting on the floor in whatever position you found comfortable. After about 20 minutes of trying to figure out what to order and how everything worked, we all ordered Bibmibap (so delicious!) and split a plate of meat. The meal was awesome and wel worth the language barrier confusion.

Following dinner, we met up with the rest of the group and made out way towards Seoul Tower. There are two ways to reach the tower: walking or cable car. Half of us decided to walk, while the other half took the cable car. The walk was about 25 minutes uphill with tons of stairs. Luckily we did this at night so it wasn't as hot and uncomfortable as it could've been. But I still worked up a pretty good sweat in the process. The view from the top of Namsan Mountain (where the tower is located) was absolutely breathtaking and well worth the hike! Sadly, I accidentally deleted my photos before successfully transferring them to my computer, but I will be returning to the tower before I leave. Photos are pending.

Monday was the actual Chuseok holiday. This means that pretty much all of the restaurants and stores are closed, except for things in Itaewon. Itaewon is the district that lies just outside of the American military base in Yongsan. It is a very Americanized area and I was told by my co-teachers that things would be open. So a group of us (11 in all) met in Itaewon and ended up eating at this really small, nice Mexican restaurant. The food was so delicious! I felt like I was back home at El Patio. It was a nice little taste from home and very cheap. We filled up the entire restaurant and kind of overwhelmed the poor women working there. But she was very good about getting our food ready and to us as quickly as she could.

After our scrumptious meal, we headed over to the Namsan Korean Village where there were traditional activities going on for Chuseok. We watched some awesome drummers perform a sick routine, observed small children playing traditional games, and touched probably one of the, if not the largest, time capsule in the world. The time capsule is slated to be opened in 2394 on the 1000th anniversary of Seoul being named capital of South Korea. There are 600 items in the capsule from 1994, covering things such as fashion, food, electronics, books, and many many many other items.

The next stop of the day was a visit to the Gyoungbokdung Palace. Sam, Rachel, Katie, Emma, Andy, and I headed over to this palace, which one of the 5 largest in all of Seoul. It was magnificent! Some highlights of the excursion:

1. Having our photos taken outside of the King's Palace with a random group of Koreans
2. Having one of the Koreans pull me aside, take a picture with me, and whisper in my ear "I love you"
3. Having this same Korean give me his facebook information so that we can become friends
4. Taking some epic jumping photos in front of some of the smaller buildings in the compound
5. Being able to sit and relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and great company

One of the entrance gates with the mountains

L to R: Sam, Rachel, Me, Emma, Katie


The King's Palace

Once we had worn out our welcome at the palace, we all headed back to Emma and Andy's apartment for some food, drinks, and socialization. We sat around and talked for about 4 hours. We also played cards and I learned a new card game which I will be bringing back to the states. All in all it was a great day filled with amazing people and some pretty awesome food!

Both days were used as days to get ready for the next week(s), so lots of lesson planning was completed. That does not mean that fun was not had later in the day. On Tuesday, Rachel, Sam, Katie, Emma, Andy, and I met up near Ewha Women's University, the area where Rachel lives, for some food and exploration. We ate at this little restaurant that served cheesy rice with various toppings. I had the rib cheesy rice and it was aboslutely amazing!

Afterwards, we headed to the Fun Cafe, this cafe where you can play pretty much any board game you could think of. We ended up playing Janga and Taboo for a good two hours. Following that, we found a bar called Mike's Cabin and decided to check it out. It was actually a really neat place. In the two hours that we were there, we played Foosball, darts, and enjoyed each other's company. We went to a few other places before ending the night at a Neorae Beong. A Norae Bong is a kareokee place, but unlike the states, you have your own rooms and drinks are included in the price of the room. We had so much fun singing the night away and making fools of ourselves in front of each other.

Today (Wednesday) has been spent relaxing and catching up on some much needed sleep. I'm planning on getting together with a group of people for dinner tonight in a new part of Seoul to see what there is. I've been surprised how much I have been eating out since I've been here, but the meals are not overly expensive and it beats cooking at home with ingredients or food that you really don't know what it is or how to cook it.

Tomorrow I head back to school for two days. We will be covering music and listening to Bruno Mars. Next week I think we will be covering superheroes and villians and the students will be able to make their own superhero or villian. That should be a great time! Well Chuseok has officially come to an end, as has this post! Until next time...