Category: ceramics festival

The 72 day update

I’m not sure why, as I am not particularly looking forward to leaving Korea, but I installed a countdown app on my phone a few weeks ago, telling me exactly how many days I have left before I fly home to America.  Perhaps it’s because I wanted to be reminded not to waste the precious time that I have left.  Anyway, whatever the reason, it’s there, and since I cannot think of anything clever to call this particular blog entry, it will also have to serve as the inspiration for my title.

No reason for this picture.  It just reminded me of my sister 🙂

According to my little app, I have exactly 72 days left in Korea.  My goodness, how the time flies.  I mentioned that to my host sister yesterday, and she got all teared up.  We then had a very heartfelt conversation about family, in which my host sister started crying as she told about how lonely she was growing up, because her brothers were so much older than her, she was always in school, and her parents were always working.  “I have no memories with them,” she said on more than one occasion.  It about broke my heart….and also made me so incredibly grateful for the love of my own family. (on a side note….I met said brother this morning.  They came down from Seoul late last night to visit.  The sight of them stumbling out of their alcohol induced stupor to come out and give me a deep, solemn bow, and then go back to bed, was amusing to say the least, and it was all I could do to stifle a giggle.  Oh, Korea, there’s always some new charming little cultural oddity about you to discover….)  But anyway, back to In-suk…we’ve been having a lot of conversations like that lately.  I feel like we’ve grown really close, and I’m really going to miss her when I leave :(.

Not too much to report on the school front.  Last week was midterms, so I didn’t have school.  Rather than do more traveling, I elected to stay in town and work on my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification, as well as other sundry things that needed to get done.  Not the most glamorous way to spend a week off, but I got caught up on a lot of stuff, and that feels great, so I am happy.  I also was able to finish an astonishing SIX units in TEFL (my normal pace is 1 a week), so I’m almost done with that!  Only 3 more units and I’ll be finished for life – super psyched about that!!  There were a couple of interesting things at school recently.  Yesterday was the 63rd anniversary of my school.  There was a big presentation that included all of the students and teachers (both high school and middle school), and lots of award giving and clapping.  Apparently the English department received an award, and I was sent up to accept it, although I’m still not quite sure what it was for….welcome to my life in Korea.  Lol…

Yeah….that was me up there.  So awkward, lol…

I was chatting with one of my students from winter camp on Facebook last night.  I told her that I missed teaching her, and she told me this: “We also always talk about you, Lauren :).  Lauren’s class was everything what I remember during vacation!!!  We were very enjoyed about your class :D.”  To which I replied, “Oh that makes me so happy I almost want to cry!”  And then she said, “It’s really what I’m feeling, too!  Lauren is a really good teacher. As we (who Lauren taught English to students) know~~~~”  Needless to say, any residual grumpiness that I may have had about Korea evaporated in that moment :).

Other than that, I don’t have much to report.  I haven’t done any traveling – going on 3 months now in the same city, closing on a record for me! 😉 – although I have been making a big effort to spend time with my friends in Gyeongju.  Check out pictures from some of our escapades below.

Lin and her husband, Pan.  I guess he’s camera-shy, lol… 😉

A student from school, Jeong-min.  She comes to the English service at church, and we often hang out together on Sunday afternoons.  She’s super sweet 🙂

Recently an English teacher from school from school, Mrs. Oh, has taken an interest in befriending me.  I’m not sure why, it kind of happened out of the blue – last semester we hardly ever talked.  I have a suspicion that it’s because she thinks I’m lonely – she was very lonely during her time spent studying English in Canada, and so I imagine that she thinks I’m having a similar experience.  While I am not, I am more than happy to be her friend.  We went to a little ceramics festival and then dinner in Gyeongju a few weeks ago, and then to the Silla Millenium Park last week (a sort of cultural activity theme park), and we have plans to go out together again this weekend.  At the millenium park, she bought me a set of blown glass earrings and necklace, which are really lovely.  We also got to see a wild horseback riding performance (they were doing all sorts of crazy flips and stunts with the horses running full speed!), but my favorite part was when the security guard allowed us behind the restricted area of the set of Queen Seondeok (an epic drama about the famous Queen of Korea who, incidentally, my school is also named after) and took our picture sitting on Queen Seondeok’s throne.  It was awesome :).  And now you know almost everything happening in my life these days! 🙂

Some of my favorite pieces from the ceramics festival 

Dinner with Mrs. Oh – Japanese shabu-shabu.  Yummy!!!! 
Millenium park – love the waterfall!

The set of Queen Seondeok

Behind the scenes!  Look at us being rebels!! 🙂

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