Tuesday, June 9, 2015

May Adventures!

Is it REALLY June already?! Wow! The month of May flew by! But time can do that when you have many things on the calendar! We had a few cultural experiences in May as well as an amazing visit from one of our friends, Matt, and we wanted to share all about it!

On May 16th we ran a 5.18K race in Gwangju! We are specific to say 5.18K rather than the normal 5K because this was a special race in memorial of the May 18th Democratization Movement in Gwangju. So this race was actually 5.18K, not a huge difference at all, but we’ll take every extra step we can get! ;)

Memorial statue

Many runners warming up on the field. 

Natasha and Nick! 

The race was a lot of fun! It was a very early morning for us as we had to get from Hwasun to the middle of Gwangju by 8am. When we arrived we mingled about and watched the many Koreans of all ages warming up. There was the 5.18K, the 10K, and the Half Marathon so there were many levels of runners there! We even found our friends Natasha and Nick as we walked around. Natasha was running the 10K that day and it was fun getting to see them again.

When it was finally our turn to start the run we were surrounded by a few hundred other people. It took a while for us to actually get moving and set a pace. It was interesting to see lots of mostly* boys sprint pass us every few minutes just to end up passing them again a few minutes later. Apparently they don’t set a pace. ;)

Took a while to get out of the stadium area...look at all the people! 

We ran threw the streets of Gwangju and they even blocked off the intersections with Police to allow for a smoother run. Not many non-runners were very happy with this situation though. ;) Once we finally finished we were greeted with cold mini water bottles and as we walked towards the entrance we were given goodie bags! Inside were some Korean snacks (shrimp chips, soybean milk, a bakery bun, and our medal! We had no idea we were being given medals for participating in this race, but it was a fun surprise and a little memento to remember the race by! Overall it was a fun experience running with hundreds of other Koreans (and a few foreigners!) through the streets of Korea!

Tyler: 32:08 Val: 32:30   Not amazing, but good enough! :)
The next day after church we walked across the street to the Gwangju World Cup Stadium and bought tickets to watch a soccer game! We were able to watch the Gwangju Football Club play against some other team (no idea who they were). We went to the stadium with only half filled water bottles, expecting it to be like American stadiums with many food stands and snacks available. We were very wrong! Unlike American stadiums, there was 1 food “set up” at the entrance that sold water bottles, soda, chips, and ramen. We love ramen, but we have never ate ramen at a sports game before….however, we were starving and ramen was our only choice! So we bought our $2 ramen bowls, filled them up with hot water (provided by the man running the table) and went back to our seats. As we watched the soccer game we enjoyed  our spicy ramen (eaten with chopsticks of course!) and laughed at how silly, and yet how normal, this situation was. There were 2 groups of very loud fans, doing all the chants and cheers, but the rest of the small crowd was pretty quiet. The game was fun to watch but ended in a 0-0 tie.

Our favorite picture of the day! Ramen and a soccer game! :)

The next week we met our friend Matt up in Seoul on a Friday evening! Our schools were kind enough to let us take the afternoon off to bus up to Incheon Airport! We had a jam packed 2 days in Seoul! On Saturday we took Matt to the DMZ just as we had done in January with my parents! It was another interesting experience with a few new things that happened (explained in the photos below). It was cool seeing the difference between winter and spring in that area and we all came away learning more and appreciating our freedoms in the US!

Standing in N.Korea...again! 

One of the 2 civilians actually cleaning the stairs of the N.Korean side. We never expected to see civilians on that side, especially during our tour. We heard that is rare. 

Actual music was being played from the loud speakers of this fake city. I've heard about this through documentaries, but it was really interesting being there and hearing it in person! 

Painted on windows and doors....

That evening we went to Jogyesa Temple, the temple in the middle of Seoul, to see the beautiful lanterns celebrating Buddha's birthday! We knew there were going to be some lanterns, but we didn’t realize how many lanterns there would be! It was amazing! We couldn’t stop taking photos we just wanted to document it all! We even got to watch some of the performances going on in front of the temple. On our way back to the hotel, we walked by the Cheonggyecheon stream and noticed beautiful lanterns there as well. It was a great experience to see all of those and see how Buddha’s birthday is celebrated in Korea!

The colors were so vibrant! 

We were surrounded by beautiful lanterns! 

On Sunday we went to the Seoul Tower early to get in line for a cable car to get up to the top! It was a good thing, because by the time we left that afternoon the lines were incredibly long! Matt put a lock on one of the lock trees and we enjoyed our time at the top of the tower taking lots of pictures of the view! We realized that there was an “Alive Museum” (a trick art museum) located in the lower half of the Tower and after failing at finding one the day before we decided it would be a perfect opportunity to try it there! We had a lot of fun exploring the different exhibits and taking tons of photos, that’s the most fun part of course! We were glad we got to experience that together!

Matt secured his lock on one of the lock "trees"! 

The Alive Museum is very fun! 

We also took Matt to Gyeongbok Palace and explored the many buildings. We even caught the end of the Changing of the Guards ceremony. After that we walked down to Insadong shopping area. With a mission to find a specific store that personalizes Korean stamps called “Dojangs” we started walking up and down the main street with our eyes open! After a long time of that, and with no luck, we finally found the Insadong Visitors Center and they very kindly (and quickly!) showed us exactly where the store was located. A dojang is a traditional korean stamp that was used in lieu of a signature. First, we chose the marble block that would be carved. Then, you write what you want to be engraved. Tyler and I went with “Mr. & Mrs. Mansour”! Matt wrote “M.C. Haylock”. The engraver sands down the end of the dojang and carefully maps out where each letter will be placed by drawing on the marble with a pencil, making a grid. After approving of the design, he carves out the letters (or carves out the background). When he is completely finished carving, he tests the stamp using the traditional red wax ink and makes sure it looks nice! We were given a beautiful box to take it home in, as well as a certificate and a sample of what our stamp looks like with the traditional ink. For all of that, we paid only $50 for our dojangs and got to take home a amazing souvenir from Korea!

Many pieces to choose from!  

Matt's stamp! See the difference in how it was carved? Half and half! So cool!
Our stamp! 
After 2 days in Seoul we brought Matt down to our home in Hwasun. We spent Monday (Buddahs birthday-no school!) walking around Hwasun, exploring the Cat Cafe in Gwangju, and eating Korean BBQ! On Tuesday and Wednesday it was back to school for us, but Matt kept himself entertained by hiking in Hwasun and even going to see a 4D movie in Gwangju! For someone who’s never been out of the Northwestern part of the US, we were proud that he was able to venture out on his own. 

Hwasun reservoir! 

A cafe filled with many cats! A dream come true! ;)

Tyler was so kind and suffered through his allergies so Matt and I could play with cats! 

Korean BBQ! 
We were so grateful that Matt was so willing to come visit us in Korea and we had such an amazing time creating memories together! :) Thank you Matt!

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