After a day in Busan, I headed back to Seoul by train (three and a half hours across the country). This time I was staying with a friend I met in High School, Cindy. When I was a Freshman, she came to study for a year. She went back to Korea and then completed her undergraduate in Austria studying Account. I haven't seen her since she left, so it was really nice to spend some time again. When I decided for sure I was going on this trip I messaged her and told her I was coming to Korea. I think she was as excited as I was, and offered for me to stay at her home a few days if I was able to extend my trip. Thanks to Jeff and Boyoung I stayed an extra three full days, leaving on Tuesday instead of Saturday. I arrived at Cindy's on Sunday right after lunch time, and we spent the entire day in Seoul. We visited the N Seoul Tower, had dinner and took a boat ride. The next few days we spent shopping around Seoul. We went back to Insa-dong because my first trip there with the group was really short. We visited City Hall and went in the buildings. After our day out-and-about in Seoul, some of Cindy's friends came over and we cooked dinner and ordered delivery fried chicken. Apparently, it's really common in Korea - I wish we had it in America! We spent the night talking and enjoying her family and friend's company. One of her friends had just finished cosmetology school and wanted to paint my nails. She did such a great job!! The next day we went to the supermarket (kind of like Walmart) and loaded me up with all kinds of snacks and candies to bring home. I was sad to leave but we had to head to the airport as my plane was leaving around 7 pm. I loved Korea - more so I love the culture and the people of both Korea and China. This trip has giving me the desire to travel more. I hope to return to Korea and travel to more South Asian countries.
Angela, myself, and Eric, also a Lander student who is teaching English in Korea. He is doing the TaLK program. It is similar EPIK that Corbin is doing but he works part-time and attends Yeungnam University. We grabbed a cab to the train station and headed to Busan, Angela's home town. After arriving at the train station in Busan we grabbed a bite to eat and said by to Eric as he headed on the subway to meet some friends. Angela called for a cab that took us to her home. As we winded up hills we arrived at her building. I had perviously heard that most Koreans live in apartment building so I was anxious to see. My home-stay family lives in a house so I had not had the opportunity to experience the commonality of Korean homes. Angela's home is absolutely gorgeous in every aspect. We caught a quick nap and got ready to visit some of her friends. Angela and I made our way to Haeundae Beach, one of the most popular beaches in Korea. We had dinner with a friend and then grab some dessert (Cheese cake and
Today was our last full day in Korea as a group. We had breakfast down stairs in our guest house and then a short, on-campus walk to an area where a lady showed us how to wear traditional korean clothing. She taught us how to dow and kneel. We took tons of pictures, of course, and killed a little time before lunch by taking turns swinging on a rather large swing! After lunch some of the korean students taught us how to pay a few rhythms on different drums. I stuck with the simple bass drum whiles others enjoyed more complete instruments. After awhile attempting to play instruments we headed to dinner at a near-by resturant across the street from the campus. The meal we were having for dinner was delicious! I had it previously in Gangnam when I met my friend, Cindy. It was a bed of noodles topped with chicken, potatoes, and other vegetables, and smoothered in cheese. Koreans do not indulge in cheese like Americans normally do, so we rarely have had any the entire trip. That meal was one of my favorites from Korea! After dinner, I met up with Angela. She use to be a Lander student the previous year. We then went and met Corbin and a few of her friends who are also EPIK teachers. Corbin is a Lander graduate who now teaches English in Korea to elementary children. Corbin lives near by so she took the subway to met up with us. We enjoyed the festival for awhile and then headed to downtown Daegu to checkout the night life.
After returning from our home-stay, we loaded up and headed to the train station. We took the bullet train to Daegu, located towards the southern tip of Korea. It took about two and a half hours to get there. We were greeted at the station and taken to Yeungnam University. The campus is gigantic!! We were blown away. After placing our items in the guest house, we headed over to meet the student ambassadors . They were dressed so professionally and were so kind. After a quick tour of campus, we had dinner at a nearby restaurant and then enjoyed some free time at their festival. It was similar to Incheon's but much larger. One of the ambassadors lead us to a tent where we hung out for a bit. They let us play of our music and we showed them how to do some american style dances. We all had a great time
After our free day in Incheon it was time to meet our host family. We, the students, were to stay with a host family for one night. We were all anxious and a bit nervous. Lucky, to calm my nervous, Keira was assigned to stay at the same host family. "Mom" greeted us at the school and lead us back to their home. As we came closer, we stared to notice a familiar site; they live in an area where we visited just days before. Their home was a cute little home that sat on top on a hill. We had to take the stairs to get up there. On top, there were numerous flower gardens and a few tables and chairs. After hearing so much about the typical apartment life-style of Koreans, I was surprised by their home. Inside it lacked the many amenities that americans enjoy. The simplicity of the home was beautiful. Keira and I were beat, and "Mom" could tell. She told us to take a nap until "Dad" arrived home. We had dinner with the "Mom" and "Dad" and then their daughter, Julie, arrived home. Julie is a Senior in High School who is preparing to go to college. We were told she normally stays at school until 11pm studying for their big test that they take to go to College. Keira and I were in totally shock when we heard 11pm. After dinner we played a few games and shared pictures of our families. The next morning we had breakfast, took a few pictures and loaded up to head back to Incheon University.
Today we had a full itinerary planned. We started the day by cooking traditional korean food. A famous Korean chef taught us how to make two main dishes and one dessert. It was the first time we were taught to make Korean food. As I have came to notice, almost every dish includes some kind of rice. It seems as though, everything is made from rice. Even the colorful desserts that we made were rice - yep, rice that had been colored. After we were stuffed, we got to dress as korean princesses and princes. We then enjoyed a walked around to see the beautiful scenery of the gardens.We didn't stay too long before we headed over to China Town. It wasn't quite the same as China, and by far a lot less people. Afterwards, we headed to Jayu Park where there was a huge statue of General McAurthur. A short distance from China town is Shinpo Street Market. We were told it was a market (kind of like a small fee market) where locals come to get produce, seafood, and other necessities. As we were walking, we noticed a large line of people standing by one booth. As we came closer we noticed people were lined up to get fried chicken.. Yes, fried chicken!! To make it even better, it was honey-chipotle, and we were in heaven!! We rarely had chicken since before we left ATL, and definitely not fried chicken. Right down from Shinpo Street was the Fish Market. The market was.. well, interesting. There was anything and everything imaginable that lived under the sea at the market. It reeked of a strong fish smell. It was neat to see all of the animals. After our eventful day, we headed back to Incheon to enjoy the Festival.
Today was the first day of their festival. Incheon's school festival was nothing like a festival that would be at Lander. There were numerous tents of student organizations, grilling food, drinking, and having a good time. They also had a huge stage with different performers. It was so much fun! After hanging out, Leo and I got to talking about the Incheon bridge. It connects Yeongjong Island (where the airport is) and the mainland of Incheon. After landing in Korea, we took it to get to Incheon University. It is by far the longest bridge I have ever been on - 13.28 miles. It lights up at night and so Leo told me he would take me there. Unfortunately, after getting there it was a little too foggy to see much of anything. ((I found some pictures on Google and posted below to show the bridge.))
On Sunday we had a free day. We gotta a little sleep and got up to find something to do. My korean friend from High school, Cindy, lives not far from incheon but wanted to meet in Gangnam so I got ready and adventured to Gangnam by bus and a couple of subway transfers. It was really easy to get there. Thankfully the subway system is in English and I had a paper map to make sure I was going the right way. We met and grabbed some dinner. Between eating Chinese, Popeyes, Dominos, Taco Bell, and KFC, I had not had much Korean food so we went to a Korean chicken place. It was so good! We walked around for a bit and did some shopping in the subway. There are tons and tons of shops in the subway that has so much cute stuff for only $5 - $10 USD.
Our Saturday, we were able to visit the Demilitarized Zone of North and South Korea. Not exactly the prime opportunity to visit, but we couldn't come all the way to Korea and not tour. Prior to going, I heard so much about the “intensity”, but in my opinion, it wasn’t that intense. It was crazy, however, to find out later that day that North Korea fired test missiles into the ocean. It is difficult to put into perspective that I am in Korea while this situation is occurring. It’s hard to put in persecutive because no one (Koreans) make it known that it is effecting them, that is if it really is at all. Everyone that has said anything to me about it says they’re not worried at all.
It was a long ride, about 2.5 hours there. I wasn't felling too well. I woke up with a headache and sinus pressure behind my eyes so I slept the entire way there and the entire way back. After a couple Tylenol I was feeling up to par and we head to Seoul to experience Korea nightlife we had heard so much about.
On Thursday we headed to Seoul to see the Blue House. The Blue House is similar to our White House in which their president also resides. We then visited Gyeonbok Palace, a folk museum, Insa-dong (shopping area) and back to the guest house for some Dominos Pizza. Again, similar to our pizza in China, it was quit different and unique from American pizza. One pizza had potato wedges and another had something similar to icing as the sauce. It was different, but really yummy!
While we were in Seoul, Jinny, also a former Lander exchange student, told me about the Lantern Festival that was going on in celebration of Budda's birthday. After dinner, several of us headed back to Seoul to see the Lanterns. I was amazed by all the Lanterns in the stream. They were nothing shy from simple - all complex. I could tell each played a significant role in the celebration. It was a fun little night ou