In January, I began my two-month break from school. Last column, I summarized what happened during the first few weeks of break. During these weeks, I celebrated New Year's Day, went skating, visited my extended host family in Gwangju and attended my school's English Camp. After the English Camp, I went to visit Sejin, one of my counselors from Korean Camp, in Suwon. In this column, I will instead talk about the things following the trip to Suwon in more detail.
One of the major Korean holidays during this month was Seolnal, the Lunar New Year, which was celebrated Jan. 23. During this holiday, much like Chuseok, which is a holiday I experienced earlier in my year here, Korean families go to the towns that their ancestors are from. Unfortunately, my new host family could not bring me with them because of a space issue, but I was able to spend the week surrounding the holiday at my first host family's house instead. During this holiday, I was able to participate in Sebae, a traditional activity during which the children of a family bow to their elders, receiving money in return. We also visited their ancestor's graves and went on a hike during the holiday, along with eating the traditional soup, Tteokguk. During the holiday, everyone advances in age by the Korean system of age, which makes me 20 years old here, even though I am still only 18 in the system used elsewhere. Jjonggu, my first host family's dog and my exchange mascot, was happy to see me again.
The other major event that happened was that we went on our Rotary trip to Seoul. To do this, we five exchange students took the train from Seocheon to meet with Ji-won and Hyo-rim, two past outbound students from Donggang Junior High School who were showing us around the first day. The first place we went was to Gyeonbukgung Palace and Gwanghwamun. Although I visited some of the complex around these when I was here before with Sejin, this time I was able to see more of the attraction, which was very interesting to see.
After seeing the palace grounds, we went to Insadong and had tea, following which we shopped a little bit in the market. After being here, we went to a department store and spent our evening walking along Cheong-gye-cheon, a reclaimed stream that goes through part of the city. That night, we stayed at a place called Rainbow Guest, which was a nice bed and breakfast sort of place.
The next day, we met up with another past exchange student, Yea-eun, and went to the Korean Basketball League All-Star Game, which was a very unique and interesting experience. There were actually a lot of similarities to sporting events that I have seen in the U.S., but it seemed mainly to me as if the Korean style was more focused on making a show of the experience, while in the U.S., it would be more about the game. After the game, I was able to go up Namsan Mountain again to see N Seoul Tower. From there we walked to Seoul Myeongdong House, which was our place to stay for the night. At this house, we got to know one of the other guests, Richelle, who was visiting Seoul for a few days before embarking on an adventure to study in China. It was interesting to talk with someone who was just embarking on her adventure from the position at the midpoint of mine.
On the last day of the trip, we went to the theme park Lotte World, which was a fun way of ending the trip. After we finished there, we went back to the train station to take our train back home. Originally, we were supposed to go on to have three more days in Daejeon, but those plans fell through. I was not too upset though, because I found myself rather exhausted by the intense trip that we had taken to see the city of Seoul.
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.