Monday, August 16, 2010

I heard the quote once that the "best and worst trait of humanity is their unflappable ability to adapt." Recently I've been taken aback by how even the most obscene situations are eventually normalized.

When telling friends back home about my weekend, indeed about this entire experience, I'm jolted into realizing how extraordinary this year has truly been. However, on a day to day basis, this is merely my life, complete with all the typical ups and downs that make it reality and not a made for TV movie.

This weekend we left at the crack of dawn from Jungwon University. We checked into our hotel, a Best Western in Seoul. That night we went to the US Ambassadors house for a reception and pool party. Yes, I swam in the US Ambassador's pool. It was awesome.

That night I went out with a couple people to a small bar in the wall on a random street in Seoul. A friend of mine continuously commented that he expected Seoul to be full of skyscrapers and hovercrafts. I'm sad to report that there were neither. However, in general I found it a much less imposing city than NYC. Although there is definitely a surplus of people, the streets are wider, the buildings shorter, and the subway cleaner than many of the other metropolises I've stayed within.

The next day we were given a private tour of the DMZ. At one point during the tour I was actually standing in North Korea; a building both North and South Korea use for tours straddles the two countries. I was awed and impressed by the gravity of the separation; the North Korean guard stood a mere 100 meters away (nicknamed Bob by our American soldier tour guide.) However, a lot of the other parts of the DMZ seemed to undermine the somberness of the location. There was a gift store where you could purchase North American goods, a museum and propaganda video where goats were touted as the "great living fossil" and the DMZ was said to be a nature preserve and a symbol of everlasting peace, and giant cartoonish figures of a South Korean solider. There were also big letters of the DMZ for photo opportunities. We got to walk all the way down one of the four tunnels that was created during the Korean War. However, I think many of us were more impressed by the blatant capitalization on commercialism by providing overpriced snacks and bottles of water at the top of the tunnel.

Saturday night found me and several friends at Chunnyun, a famous Jazz Club in Seoul. We sat in the upstairs area, drinking overpriced cocktails and watching as the rain beat down outside the two sides glass walls. Through one of the walls, a Charlie Chaplin movie was being projected on a nearby building, and living music serenaded us throughout the night.

The next day, Sunday, I navigated the subway system (ridiculously clean and efficient compared to those back home), with a friend to have a nutritious lunch of Pizza Hut and go see the American movie Salt. That night I ordered room service and happily ate a late dinner of a burger and french fries. Yea American day.

On Monday, my six weeks of Korean class officially came to a close. At Seoul University, we performed skits showcasing our Korean linguistic skills, and were presented graduation certificates by Mrs. Shim (the director of Fulbright Korea) and the President of Seoul University.

On Thursday I will be leaving my social support network and Jungwon University, and travelling to Naju. My host mom is a lecturer, my host dad, a businessman. I have an 18 year old host sister and a 6 year old host brother. I live in the same neighborhood as a friend from the program and I'm a 10 minute walk and 15 mnute bus ride from my school. I have a female co-teacher and I'm teaching grades 1 and 2 (out of 3) in high school. There's still so much here I feel like I want to hold on to...

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