Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Seoul Weekend

Okay so this weekend, I headed up to Seoul with the Fulbright crew to do some official type things and have a mini-vacation/finale as an ETA class.  It was our last weekend all together because we leave tomorrow for our placements!!!  I am super pumped about it but admittedly nervous being far away from all of my new buddies (the closest is like 45-60 min away).  We finally learned about our host families yesterday so that was pretty exciting.  I am going to be staying with a family of five.  The dad is a police officer, I think, and the mom is an educator.  There are three children and all of them are in elementary school.  The oldest is a girl in 5th grade and there are two boys in the 3rd grade and I presume that they are twins.  It will definitely be different having such young siblings but I am pretty excited about it.  Also, the family lives in Suncheon, which is the city right next to Gwangyang where my school is.  Suncheon has about 250,000 people or so and is considered the ecological capital of Korea since there is so much nature around it.  It has everything from mountains to reef beds so I was stoked to see that.

But before all of that, I ventured into Seoul.  It was a pretty nifty city if I do say so myself.  Really big with lots of people but it wasn't too terribly crowded since it wasn't really the best weather outside when we were there. 

We left Goesan at 3:30am in order to be there on time for all of the events that we were doing.  It was literally a jam-packed day and they had us moving from 3:15am to 9:30pm.

This photo explains how the vast majority of us felt.  I am the very last one in the back with the contorted neck.

Believe it or not, that was not a posed photo.  After our little rest on the bus, we did a great tour of the DMZ (conducted partially by US soldiers and the USO).  We were able to go around the different buildings they used for negotiations and look around at what of North Korea we could see (which was a pretty good amount).  I technically set foot in NK since the one building was half South and half North Korea.  Here is a photo of me in both SK and NK at the same time.

I'm pretty cool aren't I?  Anyways we went to a few different sights and had a mini bus tour of the area and it was pretty interesting.  I also went into this underground tunnel that some North Korean defectors dug underneath the DMZ.  It was really intense because we all had to crouch down really low to get through parts of it and the tunnel was also very narrow.  Only two people could be side by side at a time so it was pretty much single file the whole way as one group of people were heading up and the other was going down at the same time.

After our DMZ excursion, we went to the Ambassador's house were we had a nice little pool party with the Fulbright Office Staff and the Embassy staff.  The ambassador was initially supposed to be in America still but I guess he flew back early or something, so he was there to give a nice little welcome.  And they had great food!  It was all delicious American food like hot dogs and cheeseburgers.  It was the first American food I have had since I have been here.  It was great, especially the cheese. 

We did a few other things and then went back to the hotel.  I got up the next day and a few of us strolled along the man-made stream called Cheonggyecheon.  Rachel, another ETA was telling me the story behind it.  So Korea has undergone a massive urbanization over the past 50 years.  Of all of the other countries in the world right now, Korea looks the most different today than it did 50 years ago.  There used to be a large highway that ran through the city that helped with transportation and all of that.  However, in this flurry of industrialization, there were some that forgot about nature and the natural resources that Korea offers.  10 years ago, the mayor of Seoul decided that the highway should be removed and a stream built where the highway once stood.  There were other things motivating the project such as a mini stimulus to the local economy and so on, but the main premiss behind it is interesting.

What else did I do?  Well I went to the lovely Trick Eye Museum which is basically an optical illusion museum.  I'll post pics later because I am running out of time!   I went to Hongdae later that night but left early because it's just not really my scene with the whole crowded bars and clubs and stuff.  The next day, I went to a University district and walked around and then went to the park along the Han river to walk around solo for a couple of hours.  It was really great.  Oh then graduation!  I will have to talk about that later because it deserves more time than I can give it right now.  Alright I have to go to dinner so peace out!

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