This month, I have felt myself move from being a foreigner here to really beginning to feel like life here is normal for me. I've really settled into my routine with going to school and my culture classes afterwards. This month I was also able to take my first trips outside of the Seocheon area.
The first weekend this month, we did our first volunteering work in our Saturday school classes. During this, we cleaned a public bathroom and picked up trash in the area. It was not too difficult, and it was good to do for the community here. Also on the first weekend of this month, I was able to do a few things with the Taiwanese exchange student, Josh, and his host family. On the Sunday, I helped with cooking at his house and played badminton with his family and on the Monday that we had off for school, I went on a hike up a nearby mountain with him and his host mother.
During the following week, the Korean students had exams, which are very stressful for them. For us, though, it was rather boring, because we had to stay in the school library while they took them. On one of the days, our Rotary Youth Exchange Counselor, Mrs. Kim, took us to Gunsan, where we got to go to E-Mart, which is like the Korean equivalent of Walmart. While we were there, the Mexican students, Danna and Aldo, had to get winter jackets. Our rotary club offered to by us all winter jackets, but I had brought one, so I was given money instead, which I put aside for my trip to Busan later in the month.
The next weekend there was the holiday, Hangul Day, to celebrate the Korean alphabet. One of my major plans for the day was to find the documentary on Sup Sogui Hosu, the Korean camp I attended before I came to Korea, which was supposed to air on television sometime during the day. Sadly, although I put out a lot of effort, I was unable to find it.
The next weekend after Hangul Day was the third Saturday of the month, so I had Saturday school again, this time with my ceramics class. The last time I had the class, I finished early and wasn't able to do anything else. This time, I made sure to set aside half of my clay for a second project. It was a good idea, because it gave me something to do for the rest of the time, even if I still ended up with only one piece that I kept.
On Thursday of the following week, we had our School Festival, which was a very fun occasion, because I got to participate in activities with my whole school. I also got to show off some American food when I baked chocolate chip cookies as part of a baking competition that they held. The following weekend, I went to Gunsan with my host family to get a ticket for the trip I planned to go to Busan, where all the other students from Central States were staying. I also purchased a cell phone and an electronic dictionary on this weekend, which have been very helpful to me.
The last week of October, I went on two trips during the week, then went on my planned trip to Busan on the weekend. The first trip was with my Rotary club on the Tuesday to Geumsan where we went on a hike to pick up trash, had a meeting with the club there, and went to a Ginseng Festival. On Wednesday, my school did a trip to Suncheon, where there is a large tideland with reed beds, and Boseong, which has famous Green Tea fields. My trip to Busan was very exciting too, as it was the first time for me to see the other Rotary exchange students that I had met at the Central States Grand Rapids Conference along with Hwa, who was an exchange student in my area last year.
During October, I became more comfortable with being in Korea and really began to understand why I had been placed in my small town instead of in a large city. I think it has benefited me a lot being in Seocheon, which has already become my second home.
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.