Back in the land of kimchi I am. Last year when I left Korea, I knew I wanted to come back but wasn’t sure when I’d have the opportunity or time. The opportunity came sooner than expected. Now I’m back enjoying the humid air, soju, and endless rice. I’m so excited to get a deeper understanding of the culture, hopefully more than just the surface stuff that hits you the first time. So far, I’m really excited about the group I’ll be at camp with but I can’t help but compare it to my time here last year. I miss our group from Wando but I’m hoping to have just as great of an experience this year.
It all started on Monday morning at 4:45am making the rounds through Columbia and gathering 3 people plus luggage. A short flight to Chicago at 9am followed by the most epic ridiculous flight of my life. 14 hours nonstop from Chicago to Seoul. I hope I never have to sit through something like that again. Once in Seoul I realized one shoe didn’t make it to Korea (so far the only mishap of the trip…knock on wood). A 5 hour bus ride to Muan and we were finally free to shower. I fell asleep a little after midnight on Wednesday morning, I gave up trying to calculate the hours of travel in between.
Our training site this year is in a different location but the accommodations are great. We’re rooming with people from our camp, which is great because we’ve already gotten to know each other a bit. We have much more freedom this year considering we can leave the site and venture around the city on our own.
Yesterday (day 1) was a free day with a lunch and welcoming ceremony with the Governor of Jeollanam-do. I randomly got chosen to sit at the Governor’s table for lunch, much to my shock. I’m not very confident with my chopsticks skills and I’ve been told I eat like a child. Luckily I managed to get food from plate to mouth in the midst of making small talk with old Korean men whose English was limited. To be polite, I figured I had to eat everything in front of me, including a small helping of kimchi. Choking ensued and it was all I could do to not spit kimchi all over the Governor’s entourage. I survived the meal and conversation mostly unscathed so I’ll chalk it up to a success.
During our free time yesterday we mostly walked around the city. I completed a transaction with the help of a few fellow Americans and found some affordable tennis shoes to get me through the trip. 3 hours later and we made it to our final destination, a park along the water. We made a stop at the local LotteMart to stock up on some goods and took a cab back. I’m sure our cabbie probably hates foreigners even more if he didn’t already. Lots of hand gestures were required to make it back to the training facility. I love cab rides in foreign countries!
Last night we decided to go local with some somaek (soju + beer) outside a convenience store. Most of the convenience stores have plastic tables and chairs set up for Koreans to enjoy a can of Hite or Cass and occasionally some soju mixed in. Think of it as Korea’s version of a sidewalk cafe in Europe. Naturally since I was with 3 American girls, it didn’t take long for a nice Korean man to offer up some Cass and engage in a conversation of charades. Hilarity ensued as he insulted us multiple times and explained to us why we didn’t have boyfriends. We also got a few eager moms who forced their kids on us as they shyly tried to tell us their name and how old they were in English.
Today was a short tour of a few sites around Mokpo followed by an afternoon of introductions and orientation for camp. One of the guys leading it was at our camp last year so lots of pictures of Wando and our group were up for everyone to see. It got me really excited about doing this all again.
The next few days will be full of excitement…meeting our Korean co-teachers and hopefully having a few reunions with some friends from last year. More to come. 🙂