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I was going to post about packing and my last few days in Korea, but I honestly can’t remember enough about those events to justify their own blog posts. But I will say, when moving to another country, pack early. Also, be careful where you leave your Spacebags. They can develop holes.
On the last day I worked, I went down to April to say good-bye to Karen. It was kind of sad; since I had a half day on Friday but just about no one else did, I couldn’t say good-bye to anyone in CDI. While waiting for her, I saw something I had never seen before: a western child speaking Korean.
He was waiting outside the glass doors talking to a Korean man and I didn’t think much of it. Then he walked inside and up to the Korean counselors and started talking to them. IN KOREAN! I hadn’t even seen an adult westerner speaking Korean with remote accuracy, let alone a child. But children have a way of picking these things up quickly. I have to admit, I’m somewhat jealous. Still not even close to being able to speak Korean well. And since I upgraded my laptop to Vista, I lost my Rosetta Stone progress *tear*.
I’d really like to know that kid’s story too. How did he learn such good Korean?
Next up: My Last Blog entry. I need to give this one some thought, as it will be reflecting on my time in Korea.
Before I left for Korea, I celebrated my 22nd birthday and my dad took me to go see Cirque du Soliel’s Kooza in Washington DC. It was a pretty amazing show. So when I found out Varekai was playing in Jamsil for almost the entire month of May, I decided to had to go. It had been a while since I had been able to any kind of show or big entertainment so this would be a nice farewell to Korea.
I ended up going with Karen, a friend I trained with who had recently returned to Korea to teach at Yeongtong’s April branch, her boyfriend, Brandon and a Korean friend of theirs (who bought the tickets for us). Karen had seen Cirque du Soliel before but Brandon had missed it and I don’t think their friend had seen it either.
Even if circus or performance art isn’t your thing, Cirque is a pretty unique experience. The tents (at least in my two experiences) are small so even if you have seats in the back you can still see everything. The performances are like a mixture of classic circus acts and these crazy acrobatic stunts. It’s very impressive and seeing the more dangerous ones really do take your breath away. And the costumes are pretty crazy. The ones for Kooza were a little more traditional and clown-like but the Varekai costumes were just amazingly over the top. The performance we saw (apparently there are differnet versions) is a retelling of the story of Icarus where he crashes into an enchanted forest, so the costumes of the different creatures were really like something out of the imagination.
And luckily for us we were only four rows from the stage so we really got to see all the details. Probably the most amazing part of being that close, as Brandon pointed out, is that you can see what the performers doing the more intense acts go through. With so much going on during a performance, it’s guaranteed that they won’t do everything with 100% accuracy and when you’re really close you can see as performers start to get strained or loose their footing. But then you also get to see how the correct themselves.
And after that we meet up with another group of fellow teachers and went to get some Coldstone ice cream. All in all, it was a fantastic last weekend in South Korea.
Aside from getting to see a piece of Korean culture and tradition, another reason to go see the local festivals is that they only happen once a year. And if you’re only there for a year, you basically only get one chance to see them. Obviously. Luckily, since I stayed for year and a half, I got to see the Lotus Lantern Festival twice. This is probably my second favorite Korean festival after Mud Fest. Naturally (seriously, go to Mud Fest if you can!).
I wish this time around, I had also been able to go to some of the other, smaller festivals that celebrate Buddha’s birthday and lead up to the lantern festival. Unfortunately, this time around I was also quite busy, and therefore I wasn’t able to help continue the AWESOME scavenger hunt from the year before. But at least I got to see the lanterns again. A bunch of (wise) co-workers went too.
Last time around, I had tried to take pictures which failed miserably. This time I took videos. MUCH more successful. So if you go to this festival, record it with videos.
One funny thing happened at the festival. I was standing up against the barrier between the onlookers and the parade. Next to me was a family who spoke French. The daughter was sitting up close to the barrier and, being a cute foreign child, a woman in the parade came by and gave her a lantern and everyone was delighted. Not sure what to do with it, she gave it to her parents who were sitting behind her and they put it on the floor. So then another woman gave her another lantern and she passed that back to her parents who put it down. Then the girl was given a pikachu lantern (which I have to admit was super cool). This continued until everyone in her family, which was about six or seven people, had a lantern. It was cute the first couple of times but… there were other people who wanted lanterns (like me!). Share your lanterns, French-speaking people.
Anyway, lanterns are pretty cool souvenirs to get from Korean, but difficult to take home as they are made of paper. I had gotten a lantern from an AMAZING Tibetan restaurant in Dongdaemuncalled Everest and only managed to get it home because it could be folded up. And even then, it still got a tear on one of the paper panes.
I mentioned in an earlier blog post about the importance of getting out and seeing the different Korean festivals. There are a lot to see and, aside from being fun, they’re a great opportunity to experience aspects of Korean culture that you don’t normally have access to.
On April 16th, I stumbled onto the Yeouido Flower Festival (여의도 봄꽃축제). I overheard some coworkers talking about going to a “cherry blossom festival” and decided to see if there wasn’t something like that going on in Seoul. I had been planning to go to Yeouido that weekend anyway, since I hadn’t been there for a while and it turned out there was a flower festival there. The festival was started in 2005 to celebrate the couple of days in spring when the cherry trees along the Han River are in bloom.
The prime place to see the flowers are along Yeoiseo-ro (여의서로), a street that has a fantastic view of the Han, the trees and also the business buildings of Yeouido, including the famous 63 Building. It was pretty crowded there, even for Korea. I was basically sandwiched between people for about an hour until I got to a slightly less crowded street. Where I found a delightful art display. The street was lined with artwork from university students that were using flowers to make sculptures. They were probably the highlight of the trip, actually. Enjoy!
I really have to make sure I finish up this blog quickly because I was looking back at my Laundry List of Blog Posts post and realized that, in addition to NOT finishing a post a day like I said I would, I’m starting to forget exactly what I wanted to write about in the first place. So, I’m going to be a good blogger and try and get them all written down this weekend. I’d hate to look back at this in a few years and see some line about how I wanted to write about something but couldn’t remember it, because if I can’t remember it now, I’m certainly not going to be remembering it in a few years.
Anyway, procrastinating some more, I’ve recently been introduced to a website called Quizlet , which basically lets you upload, download and study flashcards for different subjects. It also has a “learn” and “test” program set up to help you along. And of course, now I’m using it to help learn more Korean. For Korean, the flash cards are written in Hangul with the English below them. However, if you don’t yet know how to read Hangul, there’s audio for the cards (or at least the ones I’ve been using) to hear what the Hangul sounds like. So you can use them to learn Hangul too, yay!
I stumbled onto to it because my sister had been making flashcards (by hand, not by computer) to study for her college final in a Japanese course. Unfortunately for her, they ended up being basically useless. But it did remind me of how nice it is to carry around cards that you can just whip out and begin studying if you have random free time, like while riding on the subway or waiting to me up with someone. Some people play Angry Birds on their iPhone, I study vocabulary! Of course, unless I’m using a smart phone, I can’t really carry Quizlet’s flashcards around with me, but whatever. It’s another free resource to use.