Category: Busan

Baseball games and jjimjilbangs

The last time I went to a baseball game was 2 years ago, in Atlanta.  I remember being impressed back then with the “culture of the Braves,” as I put it.  The crowds, the advertisements, the entertainment….it was all quite an experience (you can read about that day here).  Definitely not something that you see on an average day in America.

But America has nothing on Korea.  A baseball game in Korea….is truly unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  I’m not really sure where to start.  I suppose I could start with the scalpers that swarm you when you try to buy your ticket.  Literally – they swarm you.  Like, so thick that you can’t even get to the vendors.  But then, I suppose there are scalpers in America, too, so that’s not such a huge deal.

Ok, well then maybe I could tell you about the cheerleaders.  About their cute little Korean dances that they perform in between every inning, or the mascot break-dancing competition that they had instead of the 7th-inning stretch.  But then, I suppose American mascots do silly things too, so many that’s not so impressive, either.

Of course, the way that they bring in their relief pitchers is pretty special – escorted onto the field in a souped-up mini cooper.  But even with that, the argument may be made that it can be found in other places.

The really unique part of a Korean baseball game would have to be the fans.  Like, when they did the wave – in super slow motion.  And it still made it around the stadium 3 times.  Or, how every player on the home team has a theme song that is played when they come up to bat – and the fans know  And they cheer, and clap, and sing along with  Or how they sing for their home team (the Lotte Giants), to the tune of the most random American songs.  Think along the lines of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” – Lotte, Lotte, Lotte Looooooootte!  It’s hilarious.  Oh, and those songs are also usually sung with the entire stadium standing with arms linked and swaying back and forth in unison to the music.  

And they bring handmade pom-poms and wave them with enthusiastic vigor….pretty much always.  The entire 3 hour game.  But my favorite part, by far, of a Korean baseball game, was the bags.  Yes, the bags.  Around the end of the 7th inning, park employees start walking around handing out orange plastic bags.  And people put them on their heads.  They do bowties, or headbands, or sometimes belts; but the most common adornment was simply a big ball of air that is then tied to one’s ears.  Bizarre, right?  Wrong.  Here in Korea, it’s….totally….normal.  And that, my friends, is why I love Korea…and why a Korean baseball game is an event that simply cannot be missed.

Following the game, I had another cultural experience.  I went to a…..drumroll, please…..jjimjilbang!!  A jjimjilbang is essentially a sauna and a cheap place to sleep.  There are usually 3 floors – 2 for the saunas (gender-segregated), and 1 common area for sleeping and relaxing.  But oh no.  A jjimjilbang is so, so much more than that.  

When I got there, I was given a locker key and a pair of unisex pajamas – nothing more.  I made my way to the women’s sauna, and found the lockers.  Into these lockers go all of your stuff.  And I mean everything.  Including all of your  clothes.  Every.last.stitch.  After you get good and naked, you head into the sauna part.  First, there are scrubbing stations.  And I mean that in a very literal sense of the word.  There were walls about 4 feet high, with faucets coming out of them, buckets in front of them, and mirrors on the walls in front of the buckets.  So you found a bucket, sat down, and scrubbed.  You scrubbed until you were squeaky clean, until you couldn’t scrub anymore.  After you had made sure that you wouldn’t contaminate the public pools, you could choose a pool to soak in as long as you wanted.  There were several pools, each of varying temperature – the hottest was like 56 degrees C, although I was only able to handle up to 40 degrees.  There were also showers of varying pressure and temperature that you could soak under.  

There was a pair of girls who unknowingly became my heroes that night at the jjimjilbang.  I had never been, so I had no idea what to do, and you can bet your boots that I’m not going to walk up to someone and fumble around in Korean asking them what I should do when we’re both stark naked.  So I just watched the girls out of the corner of my eye and did whatever they were doing.  I’m not a creeper at all…haha :).

Anyway, once you were tired of getting shriveled up like a raisin, you put on your stylish PJs (boys got blue, girls got pink; that was the only difference in them), and made your way to the common area.  There were no beds – just a big open floor, and piles of incredibly thin mats and strange brick-shaped pillows. When you got tired, you got a mat and a brick and set up camp in whatever area of the floor suited your fancy.  Until you got tired, however, there were plenty of other things to keep you occupied.  They had big TVs blaring – which was nice, until it got to be around 1:00 am, and then it got a little annoying.  There was also a restaurant with a simple menu, and massage chairs – although they were about as relaxing as a massage with a jackhammer – and actual masseuses, as well.  

My favorite part, however, were the sauna rooms.  There were 5 separate sauna rooms in the common area, in addition to the pools on the men’s and women’s floors.  These rooms, however, had no water in them.  They were heated rooms made entirely of different materials – the different materials were supposed to give out different medicinal effects.  There was a natural salt room, a wooden room, a rock room, a crystal room, and a coal room (that was the hottest), and also an ice room, as well.  It was pretty cool…no pun intended…haha :).

So the sauna part of the jjimjilbang was nice, but not much of the actual sleeping part really happened, so by the next morning I was pretty tired.  But, there is no rest for the weary!  I had promised Jeanine, my pastor’s wife, that I would help her that day.  She’s teaching an intensive summer course at the university, and also taking care of a newborn, and was feeling a bit overstretched, so I told her I’d come help with some of her grading.  So early Wednesday morning, I took a train from the jjimjilbang to Gyeongju; then from there, took a bus to Pohang, and arrived at her university around lunchtime.  I helped her with her grading, then had dinner at their house, and pastor Mario then drove me back to Gyeongju, where I was just in time to catch the Wednesday night Bible study at church.  Needless to say, by the time I finally fell into my bed that night, I was more than ready for a good night’s sleep.  Overall, it was definitely worth it, though :).  I had a blast, and I feel so much more Korean after having experienced both a baseball game and a jjimjilbang – on the same day, no less!!

The only picture I was allowed to take of the jjimjilbang 🙂

At the beginning of the game….they didn’t seem too crazy….

Me and my friend Jae

The cheerleaders strutting their stuff

OK, now it’s getting a little crazy….teenage guys bringing homemade pom-poms….

wait….EVERYONE has homemade pom-poms!!

The entire stadium with linked arms, lustily singing at every opportunity….
ok, now it’s getting really weird….
Just a shot of the moon and the stadium lights that I thought was cool…

Battle of the mascots 🙂

Korean relief pitchers come on in STYLE! 🙂

Oh yes….you are seeing this picture correctly

Here’s a few videos showing you the progression of the fans’ frenzied excitement as the game progressed:

Sand ‘n sun in Busan

Last weekend was so much fun!  ALMOST as good as the paragliding weekend with Sarah the week before :).  Saturday afternoon I had practice with the worship team at church, and then we all headed out for dinner together afterwards.  It was literally 5 Philippinos….and me.  It was great, I loved it :).  We had a really precious time of worship and fellowship together, and plus I always love meeting and interacting with people from different cultures.

But the “main attraction” of the weekend, as it were, was Sunday.  I went to Haeundae beach, in Busan.  There was a sand festival at the beach, and so after church I headed down there for the afternoon.  It was originally supposed to just be me and a few friends from church, but I mentioned it to a student, and so it morphed into more of an outing with students, with a few church friends along for the ride.  But it was such a blast!!

We were supposed to meet at the train station at 11:30 to catch the 11:48 train, but church ran long.  So 11:46 saw us literally sprinting from church to the train station….we made it with about a minute to spare. Quite an inauspicious start to the day….

But we finally made it to Busan and got set up on the beach with our snacks and blankets.  The rest of the afternoon was spent playing in the sand, swimming, admiring the sand art, burying people in sand, looking at the vendors who had set up their booths, and just overall having fun.  The highlight of the day for me (or at least, one of the many highlights), was when my students gave me a Korean name, 태희 (Tae-hee).  In many cultures, giving a foreigner a native name means that the people there have truly accepted you into their culture.  While I’m not positive that it’s the same way in Korea, I do know that I’ve never met a foreigner with a Korean name, and I was very honored and happy to have been given one :).

So anyway, we had KFC for dinner (my students said it was expensive, but worth it, lol), and then headed back to Gyeongju.  I felt slightly chagrined, because we didn’t get back until after 10:00, and had to buy standing seats, so everyone was really tired in school the next day….but only slightly chagrined.  As one of my students said, it was worth it :).

Alexander the Great

Little Korean cuties!!

Some of my students – from left to right, Chae-yeon, Ye-bin, Na-yeong, and Yun-hyeon.  I’m a fan… <3 :)

One of the artisans plying her trade – woodcarving!

They buried me!!  Haha 😀

The whole gang (Minus Lin and Pan, who had to leave early).  From left to right: Henly, Chae-yeon, Ye-bin, me, Yun-hyeon, Su-min, Na-yeong, and Elizabeth

Catching up

It’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve written anything…I’ve been so busy I’ve barely had time to think, let alone breathe.  I should have more time next week, but rather than make you wait another week I’ve uploaded some pictures with captions under them, to give you an idea of what I’ve been up to.  Enjoy!!

I went to a Beethoven concert with Anthony and Yu-gyeong

Dinner and girl time with Nia

The cake that my lunch class surprised me with on our last day of class

My lunch class <3 
Going to Busan with Anthony to see a musical review

Killing time in the world’s biggest department store….

Musical review – “Love…hurts”

Lucy and Schroeder, from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”  Love it! 🙂

Host family threw me a “one-month” party, to celebrate me living with them for a full month 🙂

Host papa making kimchi….in his business suit.  Gotta love Korea!

A Christmas concert with Anthony.  There was something completely beautiful about hearing the old classics sung in a different language….
Decorating my church for Christmas.  We had so much loot!!

The whole decorating gang 🙂

My Christmas presents for my host family – their names are at the bottom.  Took me almost 4 weeks to make!!

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!! 🙂