Summer Vacation and Korean Hospitality
This week I’m on my summer break, along with the rest of the foreign teaching populace of Korea. And while the majority of my friends are off enjoying tropical paradise, I’m making my apartment feel like home. Pictures will come eventually, as soon as my laundry isn’t hanging about to dry. I’d like to think things are settling down now into a more manageable pace. I don’t feel like everything needs to happen now, now, now, bali, bali, bali, and that’s very good. I have recently acquired a toaster oven, a coffee table, and two additional wooden cubbies. My first box of cookie mix is sitting in the pantry waiting to be baked. Soon enough I will be rid of this desk and my final computer chair, which will hopefully be replaced by a small table and two chairs. All in all, the place is starting to feel lived in.
As I mentioned in my previous entry, Mud Fest 2013 was brilliant. Jess and I ended up sitting next to each other on the ride down to Daecheon and we had some good times catching up. Since I was staying for the whole weekend this year, I chipped in for a pension and we all got ready to soak up some mud and sun. I met one Australian fellow who said Mud Fest is what he believed Spring Break to be like in the US. I had to tell him I honestly didn’t know, but he was probably right. Let me just say the Korean paparazzi at Mud Fest are ridiculous. Not only will they non-stop photograph you from every angle at any given time, they also think getting eyelashes stuck in your eye is newsworthy. (Yes, it happened, and we all had muddy fingers. It was a mess.) Our group eventually split up, and I wandered over to the body paint stand to find they had all but run out of paint. A last lucky streak of red painted down my middle and it was off to the massive dance fest on the beach where they hose you down with water. Some new friends later, we regroup for dinner and head down to the beach to enjoy the fireworks. All in all, I was glad to stay the extra day and catch some Boryeong nightlife (as well as some strawberry makgeoli smoothies!).
Monday, I took the majority of the new teachers into Seoul to visit Insadong and Gyeongbokung palace. If you remember, Insadong is my absolute favorite place in Seoul, so I was a little biased when deciding which area to visit. Everyone seemed to enjoy their first jaunt down the street, though it was absent the usual street stalls and peddlers. We picked up a few items and made our way to the palace. I’ve only ever been in the winter, so exploring the full extent of the grounds while they were green was quite a different experience. When we had finished our explorations, we returned to Insadong and I introduced them to Little India, a fun little place with decent Indian cuisine. While I don’t doubt you could probably find better in Itaewon, Little India is pretty good for being located where it is. After a delicious lunch with quips about the taste and texture of yoghurt, we returned to Bundang and went our separate ways.
Now, something I’ve been noticing about Koreans is that they are entirely and wonderfully hospitable and caring. (Adjummas tend to be a different breed.) Several weekends ago when I was in Hongdae, it was pouring down rain and I was on my own trying to find the subway. Someone had taken my umbrella, I had lost my bank card, and I had been wearing heels for more than eight hours. Suffice to say I was not having a pleasant evening. This lovely, older gentleman comes up to me and offers to share his umbrella. He then pulls out his cell phone, and we manage to communicate in gestures and basic Korean that I need to go to Jeongja. He finds the nearest subway and then makes sure I know which way to go and when to transfer. At the end of all this, we part ways and he gives me his umbrella. Just like that. Is it any wonder I feel safer in this country when there are people like that who restore my faith in humanity?
My second story took place the day I picked up my toaster oven and coffee table. I bought them from a couple living in Sunae and had planned on transporting everything via taxi. Their building’s security guard called a few companies, but they refused to take the load. So after about twenty minutes of us trying to decide what to do and how to handle the situation, he said he would put everything in his car and take it to my place. He took a break at 5:00, put everything in his car, followed my directions to the apartment, and when I offered him a beer for his help, he gratefully turned it down twice saying he needed to get back to work. It was amazing and so unexpectedly generous of this complete stranger who had no reason to help us out. It’s just astonishing, in the absolute best way. Yet another reason to love Korea.