On the first weekend of September, we had school on Saturday, but for school that day, we went on a hike. During the hike, we went up nearby Wolmyeong Mountain. The trail that we took was about 6 miles and went up one side, across the top, then back down on the other side. I had a lot of fun on this hike, because I got to see so much from the top and get some exercise.
After the hike, I met up with Josh (the Taiwanese Exchange Student), my host sister and some of my host sister's friends for pizza. It was a bit like pizza in the United States, but it had some strange ingredients, such as corn and shrimp. I liked it, even though the taste was very different.
After lunch, I was able to try Korea's version of karaoke at a Noraebang (translated: Singing Room). This way of doing karaoke is different in that instead of being out in front of a crowd, you pay to use one of the small rooms for you and your friends. There is an entertainment system in each room with choices of thousands of available songs in many languages. I really enjoyed the experience, so I'm looking forward to trying it again, perhaps after learning a few Korean songs.
When I got back from playing soccer that weekend, my host family had brought home a puppy that they had received from a friend. They named her Jjong-gu, which means cute. She has developed a liking for my shoes.
The weekend of Sept. 10, Korea celebrated Chuseok, which is a type of Thanksgiving. For the holiday, we got three days off of school. During Chuseok, Koreans go to the place their ancestors lived, which results in a large movement of the population from the cities to the small towns. While the other exchange students I know had to travel to get to their families' ancestors, my host family gathered here in Seocheon.
I was able to help out with some of the preparations for the arrival of family. One of these activities was making Songpyeon, which is a form of rice cake. While they can be filled with many different things, ours were filled with a type of bean. After wrapping the rice dough around the filling, they are steamed. I thought that they tasted very good, so I look forward to trying to remake them next year in the U.S.
On Monday morning, the extended family came for breakfast. This was one of the major differences between Chuseok and Thanksgiving, since I'm used to having the major meal for Thanksgiving as dinner. Here, they had two major meals: breakfast and lunch. I was surprised when dinner came around and everyone had already left.
In the afternoon, we visited the graves of my host family's ancestors. Koreans visit these graves at least twice a year, during Chuseok and on New Year's Day. The organization of graves in Korea is much different from the way it is done in the U.S. In Korea, the graves are on hillsides, and the organization of graves is based mainly on the position of the man in his family. While here, the male descendants of these ancestors pray at the grave site.
During the rest of my break from school, I relaxed a bit. One of the other things I was able to do was play the Korean version of Monopoly, the Blue Marble Game, with my host brother and some friends. I lost the first game we played, but dominated in the second game, getting almost the entire side of the board with the most expensive properties.
On Sept. 15, I got my school uniform. The next day, the exchange students went to Daejeon, which is the nearest major city, to let the Korean government know that we were here on our visa. I thought that we would get to see a bit of the city while we were there, but we were brought back right after we submitted the forms. I hope that we have a chance to go back soon.
Editor's note: P.J.?Sproule is a Rotary Youth Exchange student from the Houghton Rotary Club living near Seocheon, South Korea, for a year.