Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dongshin Festival

Last week was the Dongshin festival at the local university. It was the closest thing to a college experience I've gotten since I left school, and that's including the two months spent living at Jungwon University. All of the students congregate on a giant field outdoors. There was a large stage set up, complete with enormous speakers and lighting, at the front of the field. All around the perimeter are tents hosted by each of the college's different majors, some of the two lines thick.

Each tent was selling makgeoli, beer, and some were even spinning homemade cotton candy. There was jewerly for sale and one of the majors, which we're assuming was Music, had a full on dance party happening. We (the Naju crew- Linda) spent most of our time in the Physical Education tent. It was one of my favorite nights in Naju so far. I think all of us really needed the chance just to relax and forget that we were supposed to be cultural ambassadors and semi-adults.

Instead we jumped up and down and giggled like teenagers when Beast, an all guy K-pop group whose members went to Dongshin University, took the stage. We oohed and ahhed at the fireworks display come 4 months after our own missed Fourth of July, and made hurried trips to the bathroom, whooping as we ran through the cold.

All in All, victorious night.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Calm After the Storm?

So things were not great for a while. Meaning I woke up basically to the litany of F*** F*** F*** and sang the chorus all day until drifting off into the expletive lullaby at night.

However, in the last couple days things have started taking a turn for the better. I've accepted the 15 hour online English teacher class. I've wrapped my head around the 30 lesson plans for my Winter Break Class (less now because a friend has offered to teach 2 days--> I LOVE him) and I now have HEAT in my bedroom and no longer have to sleep in two sweaters, a hat, and watch my breath float in train sized clouds away from my mouth.

Walking away from my school yesterday, at a beautiful 3:30pm (much different than 5pm), I was able to appreciate the literal ducks lined up in a row on the bank of the sludgy river by my school. I could laugh at the little boys riding their bicycles, each one totally decked out in catalogue worthy outfits (leather jackets included), and calling out Korean taunts at the slow one in the back of the line. I now can successfully navigate out tiny Naju shinae (downtown) and was able to yell at the taxi driver enough that he drove me to my house through the directions I knew (it only took a ten minute wrong turn).

Maybe things are on an upswing? It's less than two months until I go home. I'm looking forward to it so much. Less than two months until I can sit in a warmth bath and bath in the english language and eat a tuna melt in Blairstown's own scrappy little diner. I think I can manage the 7 weeks (30 lessons) until then.

Tonight I have the Dongshin Festival to look forward to. Imagine a bunch of tailgating Korean adolescents with tents according to their college major, selling makgeoli (rice liquor) and beer. Beast, a famous Korean singer, is performing tonight and I'm planning on living up Thirsty Thursday with the Naju Crew before going back to my heated room and getting ready for another day by indulging in my stash of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Monday, October 18, 2010

OH Yeah, I'm in Korea

I've recently been traveling all over Korea. Thank god for midterm exams and school camping trips. However, much to my surprise, this trip has not been simply the carthartic break I was expecting.

After my classes on Monday, I hopped a bus to Busan, which quickly became one of my favorite Korean cities. The second biggest city in South Korea, Busan is located on the east coast towards the southern part of the country. I was hailed to Busan by the week long film festival. For a week, the biggest movie theaters in the city dedicate themselves to the showing of Korean and foreign films. The tickets can be purchased either in advance (over the internet or phone I believe)) or the day of the movies in person. Each ticket is an unbeatable five dollars. Five bucks buys you an assigned seat in some of the most moving and momentous movies of this year and the past. On Tuesday, I had one of my most wonderful days since arriving in Korea. Clint and I woke up early to purchase tickets. We had breakfast in a local coffee shop with two other friends and then promptly headed out to the beach, where I collected seashells while walking in water whose temperature rivaled that of Jersey waves in the height of summer. After the beach, Clint went back to the motel (haeinsa style--> sleeping on mats on the floor) to shower and I went off to buy new jeans. **fun fact- korean stores will hem your jeans for you in about thirty minutes right there in the store for free or for the nominal price of less than 2$.

We spent the rest of the day watching foreign films: Red Eagle: Thai Action film (we saw the main actor outside of the theater after the movie.
Rondo: German film set during the Holucaust about the relationship between a boy and his grandfather and the idea of the dead being restored to you and the idea of faith
State of Violence: South African film set in Johannesburg about the idea of revenge.

Finished up the night in the same coffee shop we started it in.

Wednesday found me in Jeonju. Had a picnic in the lotus garden with Yoon-Chan. **Fun Fact two: music comes out of unseen speakers and the fountains put on a show in time to the music.

Thursday I was back in Naju for a bit due to a lost cell phone.

Friday back to Kwangju where we went to a Jazz club that night.

Saturday--> off to Jeju, one of the most beautiful islands off the coast of South Korea. Stayed with my friend Shreya and her lovely host family and visited a beach and some beautiful waterfalls.

The traveling was amazing, but this was also some of my first time to come up for air since this whole Korea adventure started. I had more instances of forgetting I was actually in Korea than I could count during the last week...and I'm sad to say that the experience was a little relieving. Sometimes I was sad to come back to reality. It's strange this sense of limbo I feel here. I behave in ways I wouldn't in the states because I feel no allegiance to my life here or to the culture (weighed down by seven bags, standing by the gargage can, systematically squeezing ketchup into my mouth from the package while popping fries one by one). Even the way I dress and put myself together reflects my nonchalance within the Korean culture. I know it's only for a year, I've decided not to hold myself accountable by Korean standards (almost in defiance of the wide-held perception that my countenance marks me as Korean and therefore I should conform) and thus I stand apart, secure within a bubble of my own self-assured Americaness.

I've spent such a long time simply trying to get through that I haven't had much time for reflection or to take stock of where I've actually gotten in these last three months. Although there are certainly things I'm proud of; learning a modicrum of Korean language, the ability to scream a taxi into submission and make it to my host family's front door, being a part of a Glee club with students from the local University, there's still so much I have yet to do.

I sent in the first probing emails in the search for my family today. Sometimes, its easy to forget that that's the real reason why I'm here in the first place. However, with every big purchase I justify (sheets because after all I am LIVING here for a year), it becomes harder to ignore the fact that no matter how displaced I feel, this is both my life and my reality for the next 9 months. I think I need to start living it.