Published: August 3rd 2008August 3rd 2008
Since it is now my summer vacation (last Thursday until Tuesday), I had the opportunity to visit Danyang, a town in the center of South Korea in Chungcheongbuk-do (do is province). My bosses invited me to go with their family on vacation since they knew that otherwise I would be alone here while almost everyone else I knew would be leaving the country for the break.
Danyang was a lot of fun. It is a beautiful area in the mountains. There are lots of trees and rich green fields. Danyang also has beautiful caves that were discovered as recently as the late 1970s.
We arrived in Danyang on Friday evening, had a gigantic and wonderful meal (two of them, actually!) one at a restaurant and a later meal that the Shins barbequed at our pension (like a small condo). Their daughter, Tess (17, by Korean age), had recently returned from a two week school trip to China where she'd been studying Chinese, and I met her for the first time right before the trip. She's a sweet girl who helped me learn my Korean letters that first night of vacation. I have been trying to practice reading since.
*A quick sidenote about Korean before I continue with writing about my vacation. For those who don't already know, Korean written language, Hangul, is a VERY practical written language. It puts English to shame with its user-friendliness and simplicity. I haven't quite figured out all the sounds and pronunciations yet, but that is because I haven't studied it rigorously. If I wanted to, though, I could be reading Hangul right now. It is my goal to be recognizing all the letters and their pronunciations by the end of the break. If that doesn't happen though, I still have the long-term goal of being able to read fluently by the end of this month. Once I have the reading down, I can start learning the meanings of the words that I'm reading. I might not be fully settled into living in Korea, and I may still be missing home, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't be making the most of this year. I still love learning, and I want to know as much as I can about my where I'm living so that I can start really feeling comfortable here. Okay, maybe that wasn't such a quick sidenote.*
Saturday turned out to be a chill day. We went on a ferry ride around the lake and we were planning on seeing one of the caves, but it started raining, so we put that off until today. We ended up staying in and watching rejected American movies that unfortunately made it over to Korean television. But it was nice to be chill.
Unfortunately, that day I was really homesick though. I think I started feeling a bit of culture shock being the only foreigner in the area. One thing I know about myself from past traveling experiences is that I also get culture shocked by 1. crowded areas and getting nearly run over by people bumping into me and 2. excessive garbage in beautiful areas. The lake we went to was spoiled by all the garbage in it. It was unnatural and upsetting to me and it made me homesick for the Northwest, where it is commonly considered a great sin to litter and pollute. This is not to say Koreans are irresponsible, they recycle more things than we do, but that doesn't mean that more trash doesn't get left in the streets and in the lake.
Anyway, today was really nice. We did more sight-seeing today. We checked out of our pension and visited a cave, then a television drama set, and then another cave. I really enjoyed all of it. I enjoyed walking through caves that were unlike any that I'd been in at home. The first cave was an adventure. It was very long, but a lot of it was very narrow and low--any claustrophobic's nightmare! I, however, really liked all the climbing and variety found in that cave--all the windiness and the variance in the amount of space. It was great fun, and now I want to go spelunking more often! The second cave was more beautiful than the first, with a large stream running out of it. It also had some climbing and ducking that had to be done, but it was less intense than the first cave. I really liked it in there, though. It made me want to camp out there.
In between the cave visits, we visited the set of a popular Korean television drama. The buildings on the set were all in the traditional Korean style and it was fun to walk around and take pictures and feel nostalgic for a time that I never experienced and have no connection with other than the fact that I am now living in Korea.
I'm glad I was invited to go to Danyang with the Shins. Though I did get homesick and culture shocked, it was a good experience, and today was great! I am happy to be home now, though, and be able to communicate with everyone at home.