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December 23, Day One

Michelle stayed over my house the night before and helped me last minute pack and clean as my Christmas present. Kumi picked us up around 11:30 that morning along with Kate, Mary, and Tony, since we were all flying out from Narita on the same day. Kate was going to New Jersey for Christmas and Mary and Tony to New Zealand. All the luggage just barely fit.

We had lunch with Kate while we waited for our flights since hers had been delayed again and got on our plane at 4:30 in the afternoon. Michelle and I didn’t have seats together so I took out all my books and got ready to be bored and restless for two hours, since that’s how I do on planes. However the girl sitting next to me and I somehow struck up a conversation. She was a Korean expat living in Japan going to visit her family for the first time in two years. She was really nice and taught me my favorite Korean phrase ‘ka ga juseyo’

).

The flight was only two hours but after customs it was already 8’o clock and we caught an airport limousine to the bus station. We were in Seoul and we had to take a three hour bus to the old city of Andong where Michelle’s friend lived and we would be staying through Christmas. Unfortunately by the time we got there we had missed the 8:30 bus. We didn’t get to Andong until almost 3 am and her friend had said it was impossible to find her apartment unless we already knew where it was. The kind hearted Katie came to pick us up in a cab.

Christmas Eve, Day Two

Our first full day in Andong we went downtown and had stone bowl bibimbap (rice with vegetables, eggs, meat, and spicy sauce still cooking in the bowl when it’s brought to you). Kevin, Michelle’s friend from Hiroshima arrived in Andong that morning and joined us. He was hungry so he picked up and ate the side dish of spicy worms that we had put to the side of the table so that no one would accidentally eat it.

Michelle was set on going shopping so Kevin and I tailed her while Katie went to a meeting with her teachers. Her school in Korea was only just going on Winter Break and she had to teach ‘English Camp’ through the vacation.

We met Katie and some of her coworkers for coffee afterwards and they informed us that we had been recruited to carol for EPIK (English something-or-other in Korea). It was Christmas Eve and they were trying to raise money through tips to help an orphanage, but the spectacle of so many foreigners together at once was the only thing people stayed to see. Our biggest fans were three kids around 11 years old that made us sing Rudolph four times.

After an hour and a half in the cold we finally called it quits and met in a bar called ‘Sweet Candy.’ Bars on Christmas Eve are such a classy way to celebrate.

Christmas Day, Day Three

Katie had to talk to her family on Christmas morning (their Christmas Eve) to open presents together over Skype. We stayed at her apartment until 2pm playing board games.

For lunch we had strips of pork cooked on a pan lid. I wasn’t sure what it was called because I had a lot of trouble with Korean pronunciation. After the pork cooked you put it on top of a large lettuce leave with sauce, a pickle, garlic, wrapped it in a ball and stuffed it whole into your mouth. It was pretty entertaining watching everyone try to chew.

We went to an arcade and then I forced us into an hour of karaoke since no one had wanted to go the night before. Afterward we met up with the EPIK choir again and saw “Sherlock Holmes.” I fell spectacularly in the theatre when I got up to use the bathroom but the movie was great.

Then we went to karaoke again with Alice and Andrew. For three hours it was only six dollars. We went to bed around 330AM and had to wake up and be ready for Katie at 9 for the bus tour of Andong she had booked for us. Merry Christmas!

Day Four

Bus Tour Stops:
Moonlight Bridge; the longest wooden footbridge in Korea
Andong Folk Museum
Hahoe Folk Village

It was too cold outside to really appreciate the folk village, which reminded me too much of Pilgrim Plantation in Plymouth, so we rode in a van part of the way through before some French people either paid the driver or said they wanted a turn being chauffeured and stole it.

We got back to our area of Andong and thawed out downtown. Once we were all settled in at Katie’s we made a game plan for Seoul the next day and played some Mad Gab.

Day Five ((written on day of))

I woke up cold and waited until the last minute to get up. Kevin, Michelle, and I are taking the three hour bus to Seoul together. After we get off, Kevin will go off to his hostel and we’ll be meeting Michelle’s friend Richard where he will lead us to our Christian “cult” dorm. Now I’m not sure if Michelle was joking or not when she said it was a cult but she is freaking me out.

I hope I love Richard. I’m nervous about staying at a church and I want to make sure we have fun but I’m a really cranky bunny when I have to wake up in the 6th hour for breakfast. It should be fine though. I feel worse that the Homestay was a bust since it kept rejecting my credit card and debit card and any card number I gave paypal. I was really excited about it and it pretty much means I fail at traveling. I’m sure I would survive traveling alone but I tend to take a backseat to planning and stuff.

Later: We met Richard and lugged our suitcases to the student dormitory where the kids were in the middle of a huge snowball fight. There were a lot of American kids at the “Brothers and Sisters of the something-or-other”. (No disrespect to them. I just never wrote down the name of the faith.)

We were exhausted from hauling suitcases so we decided to meet Kevin the next morning and went out for dinner, did a little shopping in the backroads (nice purses and dresses for $10), and watched a ton of Glee when we got back to the dorm. Early bedtime since lights out is at 10:30.

Day Six

Richard lied about breakfast time. Wake up was at 6:30AM and breakfast wasn’t until 7:30. Since it was prayer time and we had to meet Kevin at 830 we snuck out of the dorms and took the train from Achasan.

We had a little breakfast at Dunkin Donuts and I spilt coffee all over myself at the beginning of a travel day. It was freezing out but after we took a two hour walk around Deoksugung. Unfortunately everything was closed since it was a Monday so we saw some palace gates and closed museums.

Next we went to Lotte town. Lotte seems to be a company that owns half of Korea. They have fancy department stores, chocolate, fast food… Lotte was everywhere and their department store was really expensive so I sat in a café and wrote while the kids went shopping. I tried to tell them I like sitting by myself but I don’t think they believed me.

After that, more walking. Walking forever. My bones hurt. We found the “Great Market” but it was so spread out it was hard to do any shopping there. I should have bought sneakers but I wanted to save my money in case I needed it later. We paid 53000W for dinner because the waitress put in the wrong order. We still had to pay for it since we ate it though.

Day Seven

Tour of the DeMilitarized Zone. We had to wake up at 5 AM to get to Camp Kim (the USO) by 7AM. We saw the DMZ, 3rd tunnel, and a lookout point into North Korea. Our US Corporal tour guide looked about sixteen although he must have been at least 19. He seemed to really be annoyed with the North Koreans but he was a very polite boy in general. Calling us ladies and gentleman, Miss and Sir. “Ladies and Gentlemen feel free to take all the pictures you want of the North Koreans because they’re taking pictures of you.”

At the line between the bases there were soldiers lined up, a few in lookout points. All the soldiers made me nervous though, even the S.Koreans and the US soldiers. I didn’t want to go over an accidental line anywhere and put myself in danger because even though it’s been a long time, the tension between the North and South is still very thick.

The tunnel, which was discovered in the mid 90’s was a tunnel the North Koreans had dug towards Seoul. I believe it was the one that made it the furthest to Seoul. It was a long way down and a long way to climb back out again, it was so steep that I had to rest a few times on the way up because of my asthma and some Korean elementary students cheered me on shouting ‘fighting!’. The tunnel was interesting (the N.Korean’s claimed it was a coal mine and then that it was dug by S.Korean’s to infiltrate N.Korea) but I’m not sure if it was worth the many clocks on the head I got from ducking down. Definitely wear the helmet if you visit.

We met some nice Canadians that were on the tour with us and went out with them for coffee afterwards. I got sick though so I used it as an excuse to go back early and take a nap. Felt better but I missed Seoul’s Hooters.

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October 2011

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