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Journals from Yonsei University, Korea

2009-11-18 Chuseok-Korean Thanksgiving

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Our I-House group at sunrise of the first day of the trip

Chuseok is the Korean form of Thanksgiving where they return to their family's homes to share time with one another and visit ancestors' graves. What it means for us international students is the only official school break during the semester. As with holidays everywhere, the roads are packed and alternative travel options are expensive. With a week to go, eleven of us from the I-House signed up for an Adventure Korea trip to Ulleungdo and Dokdo Islands. I don't know why I was expecting the trip to be more college students, but it quickly became apparent that our group were the youngest in the bunch. The tour group is more geared towards English teachers, who generally range from late 20's all the way up to the late 60's. The trip left from Hongdae, one stop away, at about 11pm. We rode about 4 hours to watch the sunrise on some beach. This being Korea, it is famous for having been the set for some drama or other. It was kind of disappointing, though, as the cloudy weather meant no glimpse of the sun rising. So off we went to board the 2.5 hour ferry out to Ulleungdo. The ferry wasn't too shabby; seats were better than on an airplane. So it was a nice relaxing nap on the way there. Once there we took about a 4-hour bus ride around the island, stopping at different points to take pictures. Since this trip was mostly school teachers, it was also mostly American. I met a bunch of people from places like Indiana (2 of them!), South Carolina, and New Jersey. You know, all of the beautiful places in the US that you wouldn't want to leave! The only down side that most of these people were the whiny Ugly American types who acted like they were on Spring Break. So while there were some really great people, there were also others that remind me of why some people should really be more prepared for living in a foreign country (e.g., at least learn how to say "thank you" after you've been here for almost a year...). On the second day we went to Dokdo, a disputed rock in the middle of rough seas that really only means something to the Koreans and Japanese who fight over it. Beyond the nationalism issues I think it has a lot to do with fishing waters. The thing is that I paid about $40 to get on a ferry for 2 hours, step onto the island (which is rare with the weather) where you had less than 2 blocks worth of area where you could walk for 2 minutes, and then do the 2-hour ride on rough seas back. Thankfully I was able to sleep on the way back, otherwise it would have been very unpleasant. Later in the day we all walked down to the bridge so that everyone (other than me) could go jumping. Of 11 people I am the only one who didn't jump. I wouldn't do it in the US, so why start there? I know that I can answer the question of "If your friends were all to jump off a bridge would you?" easily. I would not, but I will of course take pictures! That night we went walking by the fish market and came across some of the group guides. The guides bought a fish to eat raw and wanted to share with us. The huge thing was normally about 120,000W but they talked them down to 60,000W since we were students. They told us we could all go sit down and wait for it to be brought to us, but we decided to watch the process. I have video of the head still beating after being cut off and of their crazy knife skills skinning everything. And after watching the thing be butchered, of course I had to try it. Later in the night I broke off from the group and hung out with some of the English teachers. Love the I-House folks as I do, it was a great chance to get to know some other people. I always love hearing people's stories of how they have come to be in Korea. Some of my favorites were a group of three women (on each from South Carolina, Kentucky and New Jersey). We were sitting on the steps in front of the hotel talking when the guy who had been following people around came over to take pictures. We called him Captain Jack, and he kindly offered to take me on a motorcycle ride. Of course, I politely declined. We were all having fun when he sat next to me and got a bit too friendly... A word of warning to any females who ever go to Korea. Ladies, there is a stereotype of an "ajashi", or an old Korean man who thinks foreign women are loose and that there are no physical boundaries. Our Captain Jack fit neatly into that category, and let's just say that his hand wasn't on my shoulder in the last picture he got near enough to me to pose in... The last activity before leaving Ulleungdo was a hike/cable car ride to what was I think the highest point on the island. Right before boarding the ferry we all went to grab lunch. I split a bulgogi pizza with two of the guys, a decision that would soon come back to haunt all of us...As we were coming back a huge storm was coming in. Something about typhoon weather. Anyways, what was supposed to be a 2.5 hour ride turned into over 3.5 hours of non-stop up and down, side to side thrashing that left 2/3 of our group seasick. And I don't mean just once, I mean 6-14 times for some people. I didn't get sick, but it probably would have been better if I had. I couldn't sleep so spent the entire time with my iPod blaring so I couldn't hear people and with my eyes closed. I have never been soo happy to have reached land in my life! Traffic made for an excruciating trip back, especially as everyone was still sickly from the ferry ride from hell. But all in all, it was an awesome long weekend away from Seoul. Ashley Price Yonsei, Fall 2009

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