Monday, August 18, 2014

Cultural experiences!

Hello again!

After 6 days in Korea, we are still here in Gwangju for orientation! We’ve left the hotel a grand total of 3 times, one of those being a visit to the hospital (for drug/HIV testing), so no…we have not experienced culture shock yet. ;) But we are really excited to leave the hotel this Thursday and depart for our new apartment and start living on our own! We’ve been in this giant hotel bubble, surrounded by other English speaking foreigners, only eating Korean meals twice a day, and being kept completely busy doing orientation things for about 12 hours a day…so needless to say it will be a great transition getting out into real Korea.

Orientation has been very helpful though! We’ve covered all sorts of things from how to get a bank account in Korea all the way to how to teach English to our students and everything in between. We’ve learned all about K-Pop (there’s a video below just to show you a glimpse!) and even some Korean History. We took a 3 hour language class on Hangul, but that didn’t help very much. We even got to take a cooking class last night! Which is why we are writing! Today we wanted to talk about all the cultural activities we’ve participated in thus far!

Catchy huh? This is just one of thousands.....

On our first orientation day a group of older Korean women (and one man!) came to us with tons of Hanbok (Korean Traditional cloths). The theme was “A Traditional Korean Wedding,” They dressed two people up as the bride and groom and then invited everyone else to dress up in other traditional clothing.

Most of us in our Hanbok!

After everyone was dressed and taking pictures the older Korean women started choosing the “family members” of the wedding. Val was chosen as the “sister or mother of the groom” and Tyler was chosen as the “officiant or father of the wedding.” We didn’t really know. We were dragged to the back of the room for the processional with the rest of the wedding party to demonstrate to everyone else a Korean Traditional Wedding! It was interesting and hilarious all at the same time because these women spoke no English and were trying really hard to show us what to do at what moment. They are very touchy and aren’t afraid to literally move your arm if needed! Haha! We enjoyed the experience and it was fun getting to participate in something so different!

The next day we had an all day cultural field trip. The first stop was the Damyang Bamboo Forest. It’s a beautiful little area that visitors can walk through and enjoy. After bussing us there, they just let us free, so it was nice to just explore. We got some strawberry ice cream too!

Our next stop was lunch in a very rural and beautiful town! We have absolutely no idea where it was or what it was called (they don’t tell us much) but it was great! All 90 of us filled up the entire restaurant! Some food was already placed on the table. We never know what anything is here, but we try to taste everything. In Korea, meals are a community thing. Little bowls of side dishes and the larger bowl of the main course is set in the middle of the table. You use your chopsticks to get whatever you want and it’s not rude to reach over the table to get something. Everyone get’s their own bowl of rice (and soup bowel, if served) so that’s nice. The waiters kept brining out more and more plates of various food on carts to serve. Some was good and some was not so good but we left feeling satisfied! J We even got to keep our bamboo bowl that had rice in it! J

So pretty! 

Tyler and I both tried the tiny whole fish! 

Bamboo bowls! 

After lunch we went back to Gwangju to some sort of museum/cultural center. After a very hot tour of the museum and some history given by a very nice little Korean man, we went into another room and watched a performance. It was a mixture of acting, singing, and dancing and again, we have no idea what the story line was, but it was very interesting! It was a mixture between traditional and very, very modern music! You can imagine our surprise when a group of teenagers dressed in traditional cloths started busting out in dance to DMX’s “Party up in here.” For those of you who don’t know, it’s kinda a vulgar song. But it definitely was entertaining!

Traditional dancers 

Not so traditional dancers! 

 We went back to the hotel to quickly change and then got back on the bus to downtown Gwangju where we all went to dinner at a great Korean BBQ place! It was buffet style, which was even better! Tyler was in charge of getting the raw meat and Val was in charge of getting the side dishes! Along with lots of meat, we had glass noodles, some sort of fried chickenish thing, and some awesome fried bread with sugar! It was fun bbqing our own meat and eating it fresh off the grill! We sat with a couple from Florida who taught in a Hagwon (private English school) in Gwangju that last year. They we’re pro’s at bbqing so it was fun to chat and eat together!

This is going to sound silly, but after doing lots of research about Korea, reading blogs, and watching lots of youtube videos, one thing we were super excited about was these certain “mega” stores called E-mart, Lotte Mart, or Home Plus. These stores are giant (like 4 floors in a building worth) and have literally everything! We thought this was great! So after dinner we split a cab with some other teachers to go to Home Plus! We we’re just going to tour though…we had a list! But it was fun all the same. So fun we didn’t even see all the different floors! Next time!

Our last cultural even we had was cooking class! This was led by our leader of the program (who is Canadian but has a great Irish accent!). Together in groups we made Dalk Beokkeum Tang. It’s basically chicken, onions, potatoes, and carrots cooked in red pepper paste, red pepper powder, water, chili pepper, garlic, and ginger. We were told it was going to be super spicy, but it wasn’t too bad! It was really delicious, however we had just eaten dinner, so we couldn’t eat much. The experience was really fun and now we are not so afraid to use red pepper paste or powder in our cooking in the future! 

Well, we basically wrote a book…sorry for that! Gotta keep up on our stories otherwise they might not be written! Hope everyone back home is doing well! We love you all!

~Ty and Val 

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