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Goodbye, Korea.

This week has been crazy. Absolutely, mind-numbingly crazy. I worked Monday and Tuesday, saying goodbye to my students, all those little energetic bodies, and I dealt with it. I didn’t want the kids to be upset, so I didn’t make a big deal out of going. If I saw tears, I immediately launched into a fast-paced game to make them disappear. I could handle it.

kate n me

I also said goodbye to my co-workers and my director, or my “Korean mother” as she styled herself. I hugged Jenny and wished her luck and gave congratulations on her wedding I’ll be missing. I saw Rachel for the last time, my closest American friend while abroad, and she was super sweet and gave me an “Airport Survival Gift,” complete with a book I’ve really wanted to read for a while! The last person I saw was Kate, one of my best friends of all time. I really don’t know what kind of year it would have been without her, and I’m going to miss that woman like crazy.

But again, I could handle it.

I can handle all the stress in front of people. It’s the weird, by myself moments when I fall apart. I never cried or got upset until I was cleaning my classroom for the last time. That’s when it started. I mean, really?

On Wednesday, I left early in the morning and began my 26-hour travel itinerary. The flight time itself was, in total, only 16 1/2 hours, but with layovers and all that, I was all sorts of messed up. I didn’t really sleep too much, so I was a bloodshot mess when my family and a friend showed up to meet me at the airport.

And I really do love my family. They’re so strange. Sitting in the car on the way home from the airport, we didn’t fill each other in on what’s been going on with us this year. They didn’t ask me about Asia, and we didn’t get into who got married/divorced/pregnant, etc. at home. Nope.

We talked about how they treat the cows that are made into kobe beef. What a weird little family I have. 🙂

So now I’m home. And I’m a MESS. Like, take a shower and end up crouched in the tub, crying my eyes out. I can’t have a lick of alcohol because, as I found out last night, every single thing rises to the surface and I do that choking/crying thing. It’s horrible.

Yes, I miss Korea. I do. And I really love my family, and it’s making me freak out to know I only have such a short time with them before I leave next week to move to the South to be with my boyfriend. Because I love him, and I want to be with him, but I am already missing my family and I just got here. I will never see all the people I want to see while I’m here, I’ll always feel guilty for disappointing people, but I’m just freaking out right now.

Add to the fact that I just found out my boyfriend is most likely deploying again in February.

I won’t lie. I’m a downright lunatic right now. But, I’m going to try and “pull myself up by my bra straps”, as my grandmother would say, and enjoy every minute with them, and try not to be such a wretch. And then, I’ll get to see my boyfriend, where he promised to take me to see buffalo. And that’s something I can really get into.

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Homework

On Monday, I had my 7A class of middle schoolers. The topic was music genres, including Irish step, hip hop, country, swing, etc.

For homework, I told them to visit youtube to research Irish step dancing and American country music, using the search terms “Lord of the Dance” and “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” The assignment is to describe either of the videos and discuss in a larger cultural context.

Bwa ha ha hahhah ha. I really love my job.

Korean Folk Village

chili & kimchiI really love the Korean Folk Village.

I’ve been there once before, last September when I was still completely new to Korea. It was somewhat of a work trip, with my director driving my coworkers and me in her gray minivan one Saturday morning. I felt like, since this is really my last free weekend in the country, I wanted to round it out by going back to the beginning.

So, it was hot as all get out Sunday, but I braved it and “ate the heat” as my Korean co-teacher taught me, and took the bus to Suwon where I caught the free shuttle to the Korean Folk Village in Yongin.  If you go to the Suwon train station and find the Tourist Information building, you can buy your ticket right there and they provide transportation, which is great. It takes about a 1/2 hour to get there and it was air conditioned, so I was thrilled with life.

After the drive, I stepped off the bus and walked by street vendor shops overflowing with foreign tourists and Korean nationals banging drums or fanning one another. After buying my ticket at the window and immediately giving it back to them as I walked through the gates, I was in.

The Korean Folk Village is amazing. Walking in, there is a large, shaded and cool area where people meander through boutique restaurants and talk with the polite shop women in their hanbok. There always seem to be lots of elementary school groups. I love them in their matching t-shirts and little backpacks- they always yell hello to me, which cracks me up.

Then, distinct paths become apparent as thatched roofs line each side of a packed earth road. The houses are representatives of a previous era, and as a foreigner, I assumed that they must have been built to simulate the experience of Koreans hundreds of years ago. The homes were often made of dried clay, and stiff hay and grasses made up the roofs. The homes are very open, as there are few rooms but many uncovered windows and doors. Husks of gourds were strung together along the ceilings, and kimchi pots took up an entire room. Signs of agricultural life were everywhere. The first time I had been here, my director had surprised me by saying the “Blacksmith’s Home” reminded her of her grandmother’s. I realized that, for a lot of people, this was not some distant historical field trip. It was nostalgic, bringing up memories from within their own lifetimes.

It really is an entire village, too; women weave garments and gossip, sharing an orange as they try to keep themselves cool; one man walks with measured steps to gather tools he needs to work the soil in his vegetable garden. I’ve been to a few of these historical villages back home, but it wasn’t like this. These people weren’t acting. It looked natural, as if they had been doing it every day of their lives.

But, then, of course, there are the shows! Towards the center of the Village, there is an area designated just for entertainment. There, you can watch a Horse Show, where professional riders perform tricks. Next to that, they reenact a traditional marriage ceremony and I love the costumes. Across from that, there is what looks like a big wooden seesaw. That is actually host to my second favorite show. Women come out in colorful acrobatic costumes and stand on each end. Then, they begin jumping alternately, sending each other higher and higher. They must reach 40 feet before they start performing tricks in the air. (Kate told me that this game originated during a time when wealthy daughters were kept behind the protective walls of their homes. In order to see outside, they started jumping on makeshift seesaws to get a glimpse of the city.)

But then there’s my favorite show: The Folk Dance. It’s a large group of guys who wear these crazy colorful outfits. They bring their own music, as the dancers beat drums and bang cymbals to make a rhythm. Then, they use the ribbons and material on their own clothing to create this big choreographed display. It’s really well done, and I think everyone should see it once.

NOT ONLY do they have a full-sized replica of a traditional village and shows to please even the most discriminating tourist, but then they top it all off with an amusement park! Granted, we’re not talking anything close to Disney proportions. I’d call it quaint.

I mean, where else would you expect to find affectionate fungi?