Hello everyone! This is Kelsey here and I'm one of this week's bloggers.
This has been a very busy week for me and several of the other NSLI-Y kids not only because we had an important Korean test yesterday to study for but also because this weekend is Chuseok (추석), a major Korean holiday similar to Thanksgiving in the States. Many of us are heading off with our host families to the homes of extended family to cook traditional foods and pay respect to deceased members. Shoutout to DiMitri whose birthday unfortunately falls during this holiday. 생일 축 하해!
For me personally, daily life hasn't been all fun and games as the majority of my time is taken up by school and Korean class, commuting, working on homework and sleeping. However, I'll tell you about last Sunday when I spent the day out with my host family as it was a fairly eventful day.
We left home at about 9:30am to catch the bus to Sinjeong-Negeori station (신정네거리역). What followed was a 40 minute plus ride during which each of my family members fiddled with their respective smartphones (my host father and sister played the immensely popular game Anipang (애니팡) for the entire time - if you don't know what 애니팡 is, you are missing out on a major component of 2012 Korean culture) while I kind of just sat there sans Wi-Fi and glanced around the train.
We finally arrived in Insadong (인사동), one of our stops for the day, and bought some ice cream before walking along the street. 인사동 is a somewhat traditional area of Seoul where a variety of cultural festivals are held and handcrafted goods are sold. We first headed to Ssamziegil (쌈지길), a small outdoor shopping complex, and window-shopped for a short time. I'm not terribly interested in touristy items so I didn't buy anything, but I did see a few unique items that I may go back for eventually. That day there was also an event going on which comprised of the streets being packed full of cows and people dressed up in hanbok (한복) handing out a Korean rice wine known as makgeolli (막걸 리). The atmosphere was very energetic and it was interesting to watch the progression of the festival despite not knowing its purpose. While watching the event I was stopped by a group of three college students who wanted to interview me for an assignment of theirs. They asked only basic questions (in English, of course), but it was awkward because the first time they tried to film it something went wrong, so we had to redo the whole thing and pretend like we hadn't already asked and answered these same questions. Oh well! Before leaving 인사동 we stopped by a batting cage for a minute while my host father and brother tried and failed to hit any of the balls. It was pretty hilarious, to be honest.
We were already hungry at this point so we set out on a hunt for somewhere to eat. We ended up walking a length of the Cheonggyecheon (청계천), a famous restored river running through the middle of Seoul, before arriving at an open-air marketplace. There were merchandise and foodstuff of all kinds being sold by hundreds of vendors all cramed into a very tight space. There were unexpectedly a lot of other foreigners wandering around here and 인사동, too. We settled on a meal of kimbap (김밥), ddeokbokki (떡볶이) and soondae (순대), or Korean blood sausage, with cups of mysteriously yellow-tinged water to drink. It wasn't the best Korean food I've ever eaten but it filled me up nonetheless! As we were leaving my family also bought me a red bean-filled rice pancake thing and a sweet and delicious rice drink despite my already extreme fullness.
Our final stop for the day was Changgyeonggung (창경궁), one of the many historic palaces interspersed around Seoul. When I visited Korea last year I had the opportunity to see Gyeongbokgung (경복궁), argueably the most well-known out of all the Seoul palaces, but I was rushed and didn't have the time to actually soak up my surroundings. It was really nice this time to be able to wander slowly and aimlessly as I explored the complex with my family. My host father using his broken English to explain things to me was adorable. It also wasn't too busy there that day so it w-as a relaxing experience as well, especially as I haven't left Seoul since I arrived a month ago and you can only endure the city for so long.
After we had all finished looking around it was finally time to go, so we caught the nearest bus and endured the nearly two hour long trip (I'm not exaggerating) back home. While my family slept beside me I watched out the window as we passed by several landmarks such as the National Assembly building and the KBS Broadcast station. It was both an interesting and grueling ride as the weather is still hot and sticky this late in September and I lived for each gust of cool air that blew through the window. We arrived back home around 5:00pm and my host brother and I, both exhausted, watched TV and worked on homework for the rest of the night.
I hope you've enjoyed hearing about what has been one of the more eventful days of my exchange so far. More to come!
P.S. 한국어로 쓰고 싶는데 이 블러그를 읽는 많은 사람이 한국어를 이해할 수 없어요 ㅠㅠ