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Published: July 19th 2006
The Back Gate at Night
Picture of the back gate (just outside the university property-- where all the food, cafes, and patbingu is) (Photo courtesy of Steph Dodson)
It is officially monsoon season here. Today is the first sun I've seen since the first couple days after I arrived. I think we were nicked by a couple typhoons, and there's been flooding throughout this area. Here at the university, it's just been very wet, but I saw pictures in the newspaper of other parts of town that had accumulated quite a bit of water.
Needless to say, I've been indoors a lot. In fact, the camping trip I planned on going on this past weekend was cancelled due to the rain. However, I did venture out to the local Korean bathhouse on Saturday night (largely because the power was out throughout campus for the weekend-- supposedly, they were installing a new power grid or something). So, a substantial group of us made an outing to the jim-jil-bang.
A Korean bathhouse is quite an experience. It cost 6000 Won (about $6) for pajama-type clothes, two small towels, overnight stay, and access to all the pools (there were about 5, ranging from ice cold to really hot), two saunas (different temperatures again), steam rooms, sleep rooms, exercise rooms, etc. The only catch-- you had to be naked.
At the bathhouse
Showing off the provided PJs! (Photo courtesy of Steph Dodson)
there we were, a bunch of Fulbrighters (most of us newbies to the bathhouse experience, though this bathhouse concept is not limited to Korea), separated via elevator onto the separate male and female floors (yes, women had their entire own floor with their own pools and saunas, of course). The first step, once we got to our floor, was to take off our shoes (which had their own locker outside of the bathhouse rooms/locker room), and then we got a locker for our belongings. And then, we were to shower and avail ourselves of the hot tubs, cold pools, and saunas, which were all in one room. (Massages and full body exfoliation were also available at an added cost.)
So, a bit shy at first but taking cues from all the Korean women around us (and those Fulbrighters who'd been to places like this before), we all stripped down, showered up, and started relaxing.
It was a bit odd at first, largely based on my American notions of modesty, etc., etc., but after a little bit of an adjustment time, we all just sat around like it was a normal evening and enjoyed the experience. After about two
Fulbrighters at the Bathhouse
(Photo courtesy of Lindsay Horst)
hours or so in the pools/saunas, we dressed and went up to the coed "resting room," where people read, talked, slept, and watched TV in our PJ outfits (girls in pink, boys in blue).
There, we started speaking to a middle school-aged Korean girl who spoke excellent English (and comprehended well). She, her mom (a Korean teacher and a piano teacher, I gathered), and her little brother sat with three or four of us, the girl asking and answering questions in English about Korea, the US, etc. In return, her Mom bought us ice cream (we tried to turn down her offers, but she just went and got us ice cream anyway), and they helped us with some of our Korean (we were all studying for a quiz that we took Monday). Finally, I decided to go to the quiet room to sleep (with a blanket, my towel for a pillow, and a hardwood floor for my bed). Suprisingly, I slept very well.
Yesterday, I had my first day of calligraphy class (one of the extra-curriculars offered by my program). It was quite fun, and though my Korean letters aren't that pretty yet, they might get there after
Typical Cafeteria Food
Kangwon National University's typical fare...
(Photo courtesy of Steph Dodson)
a few lessons (I have one per week). Besides, it was a nice change of pace.
So, overall, a great weekend, a nice sunny day (today), and hoping for more sun in the future. This weekend is a trip to the mountains with the Fulbright Program (replete with a dinner with the Fulbright Korea director, Mrs. Shim). We'll be told our school placements on July 27th, and we're currently filling out surveys for our preferences, so I'll be sure to update when I find out about that-- and hopefully I'll update again much sooner!
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