Month: October 2011

Masquerades and fireworks

Well, I’m in rather better spirits than I was in my last blog, although far more sleep deprived.  Let me explain… :)So my voice finally came back on Thursday, and I taught my four classes.  I did a lesson on Halloween and my girls LOVED it.  And me?  Well I was just happy to be teaching (and therefore talking) again.  Their gasps of wonder at the pictures in my slideshow and sighs of understandment during the lesson was just icing on the cake :).  On Friday I didn’t have class, although no one told me that until I actually got to school, which was a bit frustrating.  So I edited some students’ papers and did administrative / emaili stuff for most of the day, and then went home early.

That night there was a masquerade party for another one of the English teachers in town.  I hadn’t planned on going, so instead I went home and ensconced myself in a blanket and watched the Chronicles of Narnia – love that movie :).  But around 11:00 pm, my friend texted me and said that I should come to the party – I would really enjoy it.  It was already so late, and it really took some convincing to persuade me to leave my warm little bubble, but I finally did, and was happy that I did.  There was dancing, I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in a while, and overall it was lots of fun.

Harry all dressed up for the masquerade

On Saturday I went with 4 guys from church to Busan, to see the fireworks.  Busan is renowned for their incredible fireworks shows on one of their many beaches; they had such a big turnout last year, in fact, that this year they stretched the event into 2 weekends instead of just 1.  I wasn’t able to go last weekend because of my Fulbright conference, so instead I went to the finale show.

What a trip that was!  We got there early, to stake out our spot.  The fireworks weren’t supposed to start until 8, but by the time we got there around 4, the beach was already almost full of people.  We just randomly happened to come across Lorna and a few other people that I had met at the Kyrios church retreat (it’s a small world!), and so we set up our blankets with them for the afternoon.  We played card games – I taught the South Africans how to play Apples to Apples, gotta love being a cultural ambassador! – sang songs, reminisced and caught up, ate lots of food, and overall had a great time.  I was glad to have some female companionship :).

On our way to Busan!!
Our friends from Kyrios 🙂
I stole Anthony’s hat!!! 🙂
Norman….I don’t know, lol

About an hour before the fireworks started, however, it started raining – hard. But we had come all this way to see the fireworks, I was darned if I was going to go home now!  So we got out our rain jackets and umbrellas, and hunkered down to wait out the rain.  It was still raining when the fireworks finally started, but you know what they say – the show must go on!  And what a show it was!!  An hour of nonstop lights, lasers, flying fiery kites, and fireworks synched perfectly to music – made the trip and waiting in the rain completely worth it.

Sitting out the rain….
Me and Lorna <3

We didn’t want to stay the night in Busan, though, so after the fireworks ended we headed back to the train station to catch a late train back – us and all the other 3 million people in attendance.  I have never seen such a crush of humanity in my life.  We had to fight for every inch we got, and there were times when I was being squished on all sides so hard that I literally couldn’t breathe.  I was glad when we finally made it to the train station.  We had about an hour to kill before our train left, so we went and got hamburgers (and randomly ran into Megan, my friend from Andong!), and then got on the train.  More people.  In fact, it was standing room only for most of the hour and a half ride back to Gyeongju.  I finally fell into bed, completely spent, around 2 am.  It was sooo worth it, though – check out my pictures below :). The last one is a video!!

So yeah, Sunday came, I dragged myself to church – found out about 45 second before the service started, in fact, that I would be leading it (gotta love Korea!) – came home and took a nap.  I’m finally feeling human again :).  Please continue to keep my homestay situation in your prayers, I’m hoping by next week to have a definitive answer.  Au revior!

Some of the night shots before the rain started
Isn’t that an awesome picture??  I love my camera.  I would marry it it I could…. 😉

Make sure you watch the video directly above!! 🙂

Fulbright conference

So I got back from Hwacheon last Tuesday, had a few days to rest, and then was off again for the bi-annual Fulbright conference on Friday.  This is a big conference that Fulbright does every semester – every single Fulbright teacher in the country, plus the entire Fulbright staff, all congregate in one place to swap teaching and traveling tips.  Because Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient Silla dynasty for the entire 1000+ years of the dynasty, the fall conference is always held in Gyeongju.  Gyeongju is kind of a big deal :).  Which was nice for me, because I didn’t have to travel anywhere – while other people were coming in from buses, trains, and even planes, all I had to do was hop on a bus for 10 minutes and I was there.

My beautiful city 🙂

Friday night was pretty awesome.  I had been soooo excited to see everyone – most of them I hadn’t seen or even spoke with at all since departure day 2 months earlier.  So we all had a big reunion, started the conference workshops, and overall had a splendid time – I did, at least.  In addition to that, there was another open mic night on Friday in downtown Gyeongju.  I had signed up to recite a poem – IF, by Rudyard Kipling, a poem about what it takes to be a man – one of my all-time favorites.  I was planning on going by myself after the workshops finished for the night.  However, because everyone else was in a strange city with a free evening, I became the resident expert, and about ten other Fulbrighters ended up coming to the open mic with me.  It was alot of fun – I was nervous about reciting (I had never done anything like that before), but being there with my dear friends made it all worth it.

Saturday, though, was not quite as awesome.  I woke up with my voice sounding like a scratched up record.  I felt fine – didn’t have a sniffle, a sneeze, or even the smallest trace of a sore throat – but my voice sounded awful.  By Sunday morning it was completely gone.  I could not utter a sound above a whisper.  And, in the midst of an excited reunion over 100 people strong, that basically meant that I could not say anything, period.  No one could hear me when I tried, anyway.  Somehow I kept ending up next to another Fulrbighter who is partially deaf and mostly blind.  My inability to speak loudly and his inability to read my lips left us completely unable to communicate anything, try as hard as we might.  It felt like salt was bring rubbed in my wound, just adding insult to injury.

We went to a Russian restaurant on Saturday night
I loved playing tour guide for all of my friends 🙂
On the walk back from the restaurant

All day on Sunday throughout the cultural tour around Gyeongju, I felt more and more invisible.  It was even worse because this weekend was supposed to be my respite.  I had soooo been looking forward to having a weekend to just relax and not worry about the stresses of my homestay – the weekend was finally here, and I was forced to sit on the sidelines, unable to participate in any of the conversations.  By Sunday afternoon I couldn’t take it anymore.  I slipped away from the tour (it was optional, anyway), and had a picnic with some second-year teachers who had also opted to not go on the tour, since they had gone last year.  I still felt mostly invisible, but in the smaller group I was able to get some points across if I really tried.

Seokuram grotto
Bulguska temple
Wishing stones
A good luck pig
This random old Korean lady who decided to give us a tour.  It was awesome.
Fulbright picnic

Sunday night there was a goodbye dinner.  There was a wonderful meal, a beautiful venue, and sparkling conversation – and I was still mute.  It was unbearable.  I never realized how important it is to me to be heard until I wasn’t anymore.  I slipped away early and just started wandering.  I heard music somewhere in the city, and followed my ears (at least those still worked!) until I found a traditional dance performance of some kind.  I sat in the back and watched for a while.  Then I happened to glance over to my left, and lo and behold, there was Adam, my friend from Hwacheon!  He had gotten restless too, apparently.  He came over and asked if I was ok – I wasn’t, not at all – and so he suggested that we go on a walk.

Gyeongju at night….it’s pretty at any time of day!

There in the still night, with no huge crowd to drown out my whispers, was the first time I had been heard all weekend.  And I just let it out.  Adam’s a good listener, and if felt so good to release all of my frustrations that had been pent up over the course of the weekend.  When we came back I went to an informal Bible study that the Christians in the group had quickly organized by word of mouth.  I was so grateful to have my friends there around me, particularly Dianna, the teacher who was at my school last year.  She had come to Gyeongju early to visit, and we had spent the day together on Thursday.  I told her all of my frustrations with my homestay, my excitement about the upcoming conference, yada yada yada.  Well, at the Bible study she was able to relay those sentiments to the group so that they could pray for me.  My inability to do so myself frustrated me to no end, but I was so grateful that I had shared with her while I was able to, and that she was willing to be my voice when I had none.

Tuesday I woke up still voiceless, and with a migraine to boot.  Needless to say, that was a longggg day.  Although I must say, if I HAD to have a migraine, that was a good day to have it – since I also had no voice, I didn’t really teach, just showed a movie in class.  It’s killing me, though, because I really WANT to teach – I love it, it’s the whole reason I came to Korea in the first place!  And all of my students want to say hello and talk to me, and I can’t say anything to them!  It’s really quite depressing.  My co-teachers actually sent me home early today, telling me to rest.  Super sweet of them, but I don’t think they realized how very much I WANTED to be there.  Oh well, such is Korea – always trying to help :).  Anyway, that’s my life right now.  Voiceless and banished from school.  I’m sorry this wasn’t a happier post.  I’m one sad puppy right now :(.

Rice cake festival, Seoul, and Hwacheon

Whew!  What a whirlwind weekend I’ve had!!  I’m grateful for the opportunities to see so many things, but MAN I’m looking forward to not traveling every weekend!  I’m sooo tired….but let’s start at the beginning, shall we?Last week was fairly uneventful.  Classes and study went by as usual, with nothing particularly exciting to report.  The one exception to that would be Wednesday.  A bee got into the classroom in the middle of my lesson, and I quickly realized that ignoring it, my preferred choice, was not an option.  The girls were screaming and running away from it, and there was absolutely no way I was going to get them to pay attention to the lesson.  So I intended to just shoo it out of the classroom, but he wasn’t cooperating and time was a-wasting.  So I must admit, I was forced to sacrifice the poor bee in the name of education.  The response I got from my girls, however, was quite amusing.  I got a standing ovation, a chorus of “We love you, teacher!” and even “Teacher, you’re my hero!” a few times.  Almost makes me want to let bees run loose in the classroom just so I can kill them, lol…

The other excitement on Wednesday happened after school.  Songi, my host sister, had a test, so she got out of school early.  She actually asked me to walk home with her – at which I jumped at the opportunity – and then I suggested that we go to the Rice Cake and Wine Festival, which was happening in Gyeongju at the time.  She agreed, and we spent the whole afternoon hanging out together at the festival, even making rice cakes and eating dinner together.  With all of the stress and tension that’s been happening in my homestay lately, it was so wonderful to just be able to enjoy her company for a while.

Songi convinced me to dress up like the ancient Queen Seondeok (who my school is named after)
Making 똑 (rice cakes)!
Apparently she WAS smiling!  Lol…

I also have a newfound respect for her.  On our way back we decided to take a taxi, and long story short he basically totally ripped us off.  He went the ABSOLUTE longest way back home that he could, and our fare was about 3 times longer than it should have been.  Well, I knew what was going on but wasn’t really able to do anything about it.  But Songi?  She would have none of it.  First she called her mother (while still in the taxi) and starts complaining about how the taxi driver’s ripping us off, so that he could hear her.  Then she hung up and starting laying into him.  Then she called the taxi company and complained about him to them.  And THEN, when we finally got out of the cab, she warned the people getting in after us to find a different taxi!  This coming from the girl who’s normally so shy she won’t even let me put the camera on her face when we skype with friends back home!  I was so proud of her!!!!

So anyway, that was my week’s worth of excitement…now on to the weekend!  On Friday night, after my dance class, I went up to Seoul on the KTX (Korea’s super-fast bullet train) with my friend Harry.  THAT was an adventure before we even got to the train station!  My school took me out for dinner after dance class, but I had to leave early to make my train, so I took a taxi back home….and then I realized that I had forgotten my credit cards at school, so I had to take a taxi there to get them, and then another one back home; I got into my fourth taxi of the night to FINALLY head to the KTX, but then we had to turn around again because Harry thought he had forgotten something (which it turns out that he hadn’t).  So by the time my FIFTH taxi of the night brought me to the KTX station, we had to run to make our train – we did make it, but it was tight!  Not the way I would have wanted my weekend to start, but I guess it makes for a good story, right? 🙂

My first KTX ride ever!!

So Saturday we spent milling around Seoul.  There was an expat festival that we went to in the morning.  I met some cool people there, but the festival was all outside and they weren’t prepared to handle the rain that came, so we left a little bit after lunch.  We were contemplating going to Lotte World, which is like the Disney World of Korea, but the torrential rains kind of killed those plans.  So instead, we decided to go see…Cats!  Yes, the award-winning dancing and singing extravaganza has made it all the way to Korea!  And, while I’m sure some of the brilliance was lost on me, since it was all in Korean, I was still definitely able to appreciate the fabulous sets, talented singers, and incredible dancing.  Add to the mix smart phones, with which we could look up the synopsis of Cats during intermission, and we got along just fine :).

One of the performances at the expat festival
Left to right – Tony from Sweden, Yu from China, me, Harry, and Fabriccio from Italy.  I love traveling…….but man, I’m tiny!! 😀

Our evening was spent in the rain in Itaewon, the foreign district in Seoul.  We went to a Jordanian restaurant called Petra Palace and got hummus and falafel for dinner, and I was super happy :). Sunday morning we found an early English speaking church service, and went there together before we parted ways – he went back to Gyeongju, and I went up…to Hwacheon!!

The Petra Palace 🙂
Hummus…..yummm

My dear friend Sarah’s 21st birthday was this weekend.  And, it just so happened that I don’t have school this week, and I was already in Seoul, so all I had to do was go a little farther north and I was there!  She had a party on Sunday night with her host family, Leora’s host family, her co-teacher, and Adam, another Fulbrighter.  I stayed with her in her homestay both Sunday and Monday night, and went to school with them on Monday.  I got to observe some of both her and Leora’s classes, as well as be there for the party that Sarah’s co-teachers threw for her.  Her family took me on a walk around the town on Sunday night, and out for dinner on Monday night.  They were so amazingly loving and wonderful…her host brother, Eun-chan, who speaks near perfect English, took a liking to me.  We when on a walk after he finished school on Monday, while we were waiting for Sarah and Leora to finish.  Her host sister, Eun-song, is in high school.  So I didn’t get to see as much of her, but she’s super sweet (and also speaks English really well), so when she was around we had fun.  Her parents don’t speak much English, but they try, and you don’t have to speak the same language to see the love exuding from their pores.  They are all Christians, so I even got to read the Bible with them both mornings that I was there.  It’s a daily tradition that they have now – Sarah and the kids take turns reading, first in English, then in Korean.  It was so cool to be able to share our love of Jesus together :).

Beautiful Hwacheon

It was so hard to leave them, and the ride back to Gyeongju was very long, but I’m sooo glad that I went up there.  Meeting these wonderful people, getting to see Sarah and Leora and Adam, seeing what a real homestay family should be like…it was just so refreshing!  But now, I fear that I shall have to cut this short – this blog is getting long, and lessons for next week must me made!  I’m sure you’ll hear from me again soon… 🙂  Check out pictures from Hwacheon below!

Leora’s host sister
Sarah and Eun-chan, her host brother
Leora and co-teacher
Fulbrighters reunited!!
Eun-song (Sarah’s host sister), me, Leora, and Eun-chan
Leora’s host brother
Eating cake with chopsticks, gotta love it <3
Happy birthday, Sarah!!
Cuddling in the park….man it’s cold up there!!
Sarah’s host parents and Eun-chan
Me and the whole family.  I love them….. 🙂

Kyrios church retreat

This weekend I went on a retreat with some members of my Gyeongju church.  Myself, Anthony, and Harry left early Friday evening for Daegu, about an hour away by bus.  Because we left so late and I didn’t have school during the day, I had time to get a massage, study some Korean and Spanish with Shi-yeon, and overall just have a relaxing day.So around six, we left for Daegu.  We grabbed some dinner – I hadn’t eaten anything all day, I had kind of just forgotten about it – and then met the bus that would take us to the retreat center.  It was a rather secluded place, about 45 minutes away from Daegu – although I must admit, I haven’t a clue which direction it was in relation to Daegu, lol….I just kind of went with the flow.  Seems to be my life in Korea these days…

The 3 of us eating dinner

But anyway ya, the retreat was awesome.  Friday night, after we got there, there was a big campfire.  We talked, and toasted marshmallows, and made s’mores, and sang worship music accompanied only by a guitar and our voices.  Our sleeping arrangements were a mixture of Korean style and high school camps – we slept on the floor, but crammed as many people into a room as we could.  Our room had 10 women sleeping in an area hardly bigger than my bedroom in the States.  Needless to say, we all got to know each other reallyyyy well this weekend, lol.

Our bedroom!  Picture 10 women stuffed in there, lol…

The next day, Saturday, there were 4 sessions, 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.  In the middle of the day, there was a rugby match, which of course I participated in.  I was the only girl for most of the game, and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but it was fun, anyway.  I’m pretty sore today, though…. =/.  There was one more session on Sunday morning, and then we all loaded the buses and headed back to Daegu.  The retreat was sponsored by a church in Daegu, Dongshin, and their English service is held on Sunday afternoons at 2.  So I hung around in Daegu for a bit and then went to the Dongshin service, as well.  But by that time I could barely keep my eyes open due to lack of sleep, and I was glad when I finally got back home to Gyeongju.

Some of my rugby buddies 🙂

But what a weekend it was.  I learned so much – I’m still trying to process it at the moment, but it was really quite incredible.  Being able to worship God, to listen to Him, to take time away from the business and stress of the world and just focus on Him for a while, to meet and be encouraged by other believers, to hear their stories and share my struggles with them….it was so amazingly refreshing.  Exactly what I needed in the middle of a crazy month and stressful homestay :).  Next stop: Seoul and Hwacheon!!

Some of my new friends…
The worship team – they came all the way down from Onnuri church in Seoul!!
Hello, I’m Lauren….I can’t ever stop dancing 🙂
Brittney – my long-lost sister – and the retreat speaker, Pastor Lee

Andong maskdance festival

I have decided that a trip with Elizabeth can never occur without some sort of unexpected thing happening.  Jinju was insane, the Hallyu concert was convoluted, and now Andong, too, was no exception.  Or maybe it just comes with the territory of traveling in Korea, in general.  But whatever the reason, she’s so fun to travel with, it’s always enjoyable no matter what happens. So anyway, I did my homework and found a bus to Andong that left at 10:00 on Wednesday morning (I don’t have classes this week, so I’m doing alot of traveling).  To try to avoid sitting on the floor like we did to Jinju, we decided to get there early, around 9:00.  So we get to  the bus station – and there is no 10:00 bus.  The next one is at 11:40, almost 3 hours from now.  Yuck.  But we were all set to sit down and wait, when suddenly I remembered that the trains go to Andong, too!  I looked up the time table, and there was one leaving in 15 minutes.  So we rushed to a cab – Elizabeth following behind somewhat dubiously – went to the train station, and bought our tickets with 5 minutes to spare.  The spontanaeity was exhilarating :).  It was also the first real train ride I’ve ever been on, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Me on my first train ride


Once in Andong, we met our friend Meghan at her house, and she played hostess for the rest of the day.  I’m completely competent to figure out travel plans by myself, but it was really nice NOT to have to do that for a while.  She lives in Andong, so she knew all the best places to go, and made sure to show us all of them.  It was great.

 

Our first stop was, of course, the maskdance festival, the reason why we had come.  We got yummy Turkish wraps (or maybe they were just wraps with turkey in them?  I’m not sure…) and walked around for a bit.  Elizabeth and I made our own masks with Hanji (Korean paper art) – I think they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.  While we were working, a woman from Mynamar came up and asked if she could interview us about the festival – they were trying to find out how to make it more foreigner-friendly.  I’m getting used to sticking out – random people saying “hello” and “I love you!” has become the norm – so it was no problem, and we just talked while we worked.

Making masks!!

 

After making our masks, we watched a few performances.  The first one was a play, which I obviously didn’t understand.  But the second one was a dance, and that’s something that I DO understand.  There were 3 groups, from Thailand, the Phillipines, and Israel.  They were all soooo different.  Thailand was a very traditional thai dance; the Phillipines was a modern ballet; and Israel?  That was the trippiest, wierdest, closest thing to doing drugs that I’ve ever experienced.  That’s the extent of my ability to explain it.  Check out the pictures below.

The play
Thailand
The Phillipines
Israel….trippy stuff
Yes, there are people inside those things

 

So after that, Meghan took us to one of her favorite places to eat (Italian, yummm).  There were children performing different acts as a part of the festival right outside the restaraunt, so we stopped and watched for a while.  We left when the baby bellydancers came out, though.  There’s something about seeing such young girls move their bodies like that that was really disturbing…I didn’t like it at all :(.

It was a very girly Italian restaurant, lol
Taekwondo performance
K-pop performance
Bellydancers….they couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 years old 🙁

 

OK so, our day’s almost over, we’re in the apartment building heading to her place, and the man in the elevator starts talking to us in (very!) broken English.  Eventually we figured out that he’s seen Meghan around alot, and wants to talk to her about doing a homestay.  But since we can’t really talk to each other, he wanted us to come to his house (one floor up from ours) to talk to his children, who speak English.  We were all really uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do, but we reluctantly followed him.  I think we felt safety in numbers.  Even so, though, Elizabeth and I wouldn’t go in until we verified that there actually were, indeed, children inside.

But it turned out to be great.  We sat and talked with the kids for a while…tried to piece together some sort of Konglish with the parents, who don’t really speak English.  The mom told me my Korean was good, which made me happy :).  She made us tea and cut up an apple for us to munch on.  It was really nice – and the randomness of it all just made it even better, despite the initial awkwardness.  At the same time, though, it made me rather sad.  These people are wonderful, they live in a lovely apartment (Meghan’s apartment building is quite aptly named Lotte Castle), and they really want to do a homestay.  I, on the other hand, will start the process of looking for a new homestay next week – I talked to my program coordinator again while we were on the train to Andong, and he agree that things have gotten way out of hand, and I needed to move.  It just doesn’t seem fair….why can’t that wonderful family live in Gyeongju??  Or I live in Andong??  **sigh**

The whole crew <3


But anyway, this was a good trip, so I shall move on from my pity party.  Meghan’s parents had reserved a room for us in a hotel, so after we got to her house we said our goodbyes and they took us to the hotel.  The hotel was really nice, and only a 5-minute walk from the train station.  Elizabeth and I were super giddy.  Seriously.  Check out our photos.  This is what happens when you get 2 girls together after a long, happy day :).

Our lovely hotel room
Elizabeth: “Look, I’m a Philippine dancer!!”  I told you we were giddy :).

Lantern festival and Hallyu Concert

What an introduction I had to Korean festivals this weekend.  Elizabeth and I left midday on Saturday for Jinju, to see the lantern festival, and it was an adventure from the start.  We were going to leave earlier, but I had a “cultural trip” with my school in the morning, so we decided to leave a bit later.  I went to a pottery maker’s place with about 70 of my students.  We made pottery and had snacks and took pictures with each other and overall had a lovely time.  It was fun :).  The girls all seemed in total shock to see Teacher outside of class, lol :D.  After we finished, a few of my co-teachers took me out to lunch, so by the time Elizabeth and I left Gyeongju for Jinju it was well after noon.

Me and my girls at the pottery place

So anyway, we got to the bus station, bought our tickets, and were all set to get on the bus as it pulled into the station.  But then we noticed that something was wrong.  The bus was there, but no one was getting off, and the people waiting to get on outside were getting into an argument with the bus driver.  Well, apparently, the Korean bus system doesn’t believe in limiting ticket sales.  Even when the seats are all filled, they keep selling them.  The next bus wasn’t coming for another 2 hours, and we didn’t want to wait, so we boarded anyway, and sat on the floor in the aisle of the bus – for 3 hours.  It was the longest bus ride of my life.  I’m all for new experiences, but that’s one that I hope to never repeat.

Once in Jinju, we realized that apparently no taxi driver in the city knew where our hotel was location.  After asking close to half a dozen drivers, and wandering around some on our own, we finally found our friend Frank, who lives in Jinju, who guided us to the hotel.  But apparently, our hotel is super anal about only letting 2 people stay in a room, and we were planning on putting 3 in the girls’ room – Sarah and Adam came down from Hwacheon and met us :).  The hotel employee actually chased us into our room when he saw three people go up the stairs and told us that we could only have 2.  Everyone was stressed and on edge at this point, so I went in and talked to the guy (who mercifully spoke English!), and explained the situation.  He finally allowed us to pay a little bit extra (about $10) to have a third person stay.  I was glad that it worked out so easily; it could have been a pretty bad situation.  So the first night I slept on the floor and Sarah and Elizabeth in the bed, and the second night Sarah elected to sleep in the tub.  Ahhh, Korea, never a dull moment.

So buses and hotels finally figured out, we at last were able to enjoy the festival.  And what a festival it was!  Unless you’ve been to the lantern festival in Jinju, you’ve never seen real lanterns before.  These lanterns tower over people, depicting enormous scenes and animals with incredible detail.  When the lights turned on during the opening ceremony I literally lost my breath.  They looked like something from another world.  The lights reflecting in the water, the floating bridges bobbing gently between the lanterns, the fireworks and sparklers punctuating the air…the entire scene was simply magical.

Some pictures from the festival….

The next day was spent just relaxing and walking around Jinju.  We looked at the booths and tents that were set up, found a grove of bamboo to hide from the sun for a while (I love bamboo!!!), ate chicken on a stick and drank green tea lattes.  After the sun set, we went back to the lanterns that were floating on the river.  We bought pre-made “wishing lanterns” and set them out on the river, singing songs from the Tangled soundtrack the whole time.  I was feeling just like Rapunzel – if you haven’t seen the movie, check out the link below to see what I’m talking about.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD_IEqxp-e0&feature=related

Me in the bamboo grove
Me setting my wishing lantern afloat

After setting our lanterns afloat, we were actually able to make our own.  We made a turtle, and named him Frederico.  Unfortunately, the lantern making booth closed at 11:00, far before we were finished, so the last 30 minutes of the creation of Frederico were a little rushed, and our poor baby was finally hung up for display leg-less and face-less :(.  But oh well, he knows we love him :).

Making Frederico 🙂
Giving Frederico a kiss 🙂

We got back from Jinju just after lunch on Monday, and I spent the afternoon watching Tangled.  A fitting ending, I think, to the Jinju lantern festival :).

Monday night was another new adventure – my first live K-pop experience!  The Hallyu Dream Concert is the biggest concert in Korea, and music lovers fly in from all over the world to see their favorite Korean pop stars perform live.  They line up to enter the stadium hours and hours before the shows starts, and decked out in their best fan attire – I’m talking balloons, signs, shirts, headbands, even full-body animal suits (I’m assuming  they were Beast fans).  It was a great concert, but I was glad to finally be home – Jinju wore me out.  I also was able to spend some time talking and watching YouTube videos with my host sister after I got back, which was nice.  I’ve been having host family issues for the past few weeks, so it was great to be able to spend some amicable time with her.  All in all, a lovely weekend – I got to see Sarah, got to be Rapunzel, got to hear some great music and see some pretty amusing costumes, and got to spend time with Elizabeth and my host sister.  Next up: Andong and the Maskdance festival!!

THRONGS of people…..I’ve never seen so many screaming teenagers at once