For me, Chuseok started on Monday when all the kids showed up to school wearing their Korean Hanbok, which is a really fancy, colourful, traditional clothing worn by both guys and girls. I didn't have my camera, so I didn't get any pictures, but my kids looked awesome. In the morning the whole school did some fun activities like making songpyeon - small rice cakes with red bean paste inside - and having a tug of war competition.
Our school had the rest of the week off, so Monday evening I took a bus to Seoul with Natasha and Luke and stayed with Brigette, a friend of Luke's, in her really small apartment. Then, in the morning, the four of us met up with five other friends and we took a bus to a place about 2 hours south of Seoul.
Let me tell you about this place. We stayed in a 'pension', a guest house (which was already cool because I haven't been in an actual house in a while). And we were right on the side of a mountain and surrounded by countless, beautiful, cloud filled, forested mountains - I've decided it's my favourite place in Korea. It was so nice to be outside the city in the trees and hills.
Now, the main reason that we went to this place was because nearby was a spot where we could go paragliding - and there was a lot of excitement about this opportunity, as you can imagine. But Tuesday was rainy which meant we couldn't go that afternoon. So instead we stayed around the pension instead. There they had this game called Nol-Ttwigi. It's basically a shallow see-saw, but instead of sitting on either side, you stand and jump. When you land you send your partner in the air, and when they land, you are sent up. It takes some practice and good timing to do it well, but I thought it was great because of how simple it is.
Then we cooked dinner outside, under a tent, amidst the pouring rain - it was pretty great. We made Samgyeopsal, which is thick slabs of pork fried (or in this case BBQed) and then usually eaten wrapped in a lettuce leaf with other possible toppings like onion, garlic, bean paste, and of course kimchi. I've had Samgyeopsal a number of times at restaurants (where they fry it up right in front of you), but this was the first time I've had a part in making it - it was a small part, but it was fun. Then we played some cards and got to bed with the hopes that Wednesday would be paragliding weather.
We wouldn't be disappointed. Wednesday was cloudy and cool but rainless. Yet, though some of us were anxious to get to paragliding as early as possible, our host - the really cool man who owned and ran the place with his wife - decided that first we needed to take part in making Duk, which is basically rice pounded into a paste. So we all took a turn swinging the hammer at this glob of rice, which eventually, when flavoured with peanut powder, tasted pretty good.
Then it was decided that we were going to take a trip through the mountain trails driving ATVs. This turned out to be a great idea. ATVs might not be the most environmentally friendly way of getting around, but they're pretty sweet, and it meant that we could go quite a ways and see more of the area. And the mountains were awesome - the pictures don't do the beauty of it justice.
Then, finally, when we got back, it was time to go paragliding. Our wonderful host drove us down our mountain, to the small town, and up another mountain to the paragliding spot. The view was fantastic and scary because in a short while we would be jumping into it. We were to be tandom paragliding - partnered with one of two guides - so when we got there I was expecting a long explanation about safety and what to do and what not to do. But this didn't really happen. In a short 3 minutes we were told the two rules - run when the guide says run, and sit when he says sit - and then they were already strapping in Zander, the courageous one for going first, into the parachute, running down the short ledge as the parachute caught the wind and lifted, and sailing off into mid-air. I was somewhat amazed by how simple jumping off a mountain could be. One-by-one we went, waiting in between pairs as the guides drove themselves, the parachutes, and us back up the mountain to do it again with the next pair. And I did it. It was pretty awesome - but mostly it made me nauseous. I don't know why, but I think the fact that I was out in the middle of nothing without control of what happened to me just didn't jive with my stomach. And it didn't help that we did a spiral trick where you spin around in circles on the way down. But I'm glad I did it.
Afterwards, we packed up our stuff, drove to the town, had a much needed supper of Bibimbap (a warm rice, vegetables, egg mixture), and took the bus back to Seoul.
On Thursday, Natasha and I spent the day walking around parts of Seoul, buying books at a sweet English book store, figuring out the Seoul Metro - which really is impressive, leaving the books that I bought on the Seoul Metro - which isn't impressive, visiting a cool museum on Korean palaces and royalty, meeting up with some of the others again, having dinner, and singing our throats sore at a Norebong. We wondered about if we'd rather live in Seoul than Pohang, and though I liked how Seoul has so many more options than Pohang, so many more foreigners and foreign stores, and a really great subway system, I think I like Pohang better for its size, and because it's sort of starting to feel like home. When we came back to Pohang in a bus yesterday, I noticed that I felt differently towards Pohang than I did when I first arrived. I'm getting to know the city and I'm happy to be here.
There are a lot of details about the trip that I didn't write about, and this is a bit more of a rambling blog than others. But hopefully this gives you an idea of what my trip was like. Here are some pictures (the rest will be on facebook), and a video of my paragliding adventure:
|The view from our pension.|
|The nine of us near our pension|
|Zander and Lay playing Nol-Ttwigi|
|Pounding the Duk|
|Luke the Kiwi - who grew up on these things, and who made the whole trip possible for me.|
|ATVing through beautiful but funny smelling flowers on the side of mountain.|
|A panaramic of the view at the top of our mountain.|
|The view that we jumped into.|
|We're not all there, and those who are there didn't all jump.|
|The palace that we didn't actually go into because the line was too long. But instead we went to the museum next to it.|
|Royal Hanboks that are really awesome and I think a bit scary.|
Thank you for reading.