Monday, April 19, 2010

It's been a while...

So, here's the skinny with what's new in my life:

April 2-5: Fulbright ETA conference in Seogwipo (sounds like soggy-po) on Jeju island.
Jeju is kind of the "Hawaii" of Korea. It's famous for Mt. Halla, the tallest mountain in South Korea. It's a big, inactive volcano. Jeju is also famous for oranges. They produce enough to feed the entire country full of oranges and tangerines for the entire year. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries, so I had very few shots.

We climbed "Sunset Peak," meaning the rim of an inactive volcano that looks out over the western ocean. Here I am at the top!

April 8: Teacher's Half-Day
Basically, classes were shortened so that class ended at 3pm (which is usually ends at 10pm) and all but a few teachers got to go look at cherry blossoms. Sounds crazy, right? Let me explain.

Gurye is covered in two types of plants: cherry blossom trees and sansu-you bushes. Both produce this sour berry used for both kid and adult juice. And, what a coincidence! They both bloom at the same time. So, for a window of about 10 days, I looked out my window at home to see a sea of pink and yellow set against endless mountains and blue skies.

That said, April 8th was about day 5 of blooming; the height of the blooming season. So, all the teachers (except for the unlucky few...) piled into cars to seek out the most scenic views.

My homegirls: They make working in Gurye bearable. They are Gee-Hae (ethics), Eun-Jang (Chinese language), me (English!) and Mi-Young (English language). They made me bend over so I wouldn't be taller than them. ^^

Cherry blossoms take #2 (again, I had to bend my knees)

Ever wonder what an ahjummah looks like? I mean, I mention them in my posts a lot...

Making acorn jello (it's as gross as it sounds) in her spring outfit. See? How can you look at her an NOT smile??

April 14: 2nd Grade Field Trip to Gwangju

Gwangju is that big city near me (about 90 minutes west). "Gwang" is Chinese for "Light" and "Ju" means city. Therefore, Gwangju is the "City of Lights." Which is very symbolic, given that Gwangju is the birthplace of democracy in South Korea. In the spring of 1980, students and civilians protested the current government of Korea. (There was a great government cover-up of civilian murders [also in Gwangju] to suppress political resistance). The result of the coup was a massive massacre of unarmed civilian protesters by a fully-armed military. From this tragedy emerged democracy and modern government in Korea.

Anyways, I'm getting passionate. Our first stop was the massacre memorial museum, where over 600 civilians are buried.

We watched a video of the massacre. When the movie ended and the lights came on, I was surprised to see everyone crying. Even the "bad boys" were less-rowdy than usual. I was quickly reminded of the exact young age of this country. This happened 30 years ago. Some of my teachers were living in Gwangju! Some parents of my students attended the university where the massacre occurred. Korea as I know it is still a baby.

Don't worry, the trip wasn't a total downer. After the museum, we went to the Gwangju light festival! It was really cold, but fun. They had a bunch of tents that had sciency and techy stuff about lights. Cooler than it sounds, I promise.

Me, Gee-Hae, In-ho and "Jae" in front of the entrance to the light festival.

Gee-Hae and Mi-Young playing some Wii baseball

April ???: Bowling!

My Gurye friends, Matt and Rob, and I often go bowling. Well. Matt usually bowls about 150, Rob about 130. I average 100 on good days. Anyways, this one time Matt and I both bowled terrible games and, for the first (and probably last) time ever, I beat him without a handicap. So, I had to take a picture. (note my first frame....yikes!)

So, that's my life. Exciting as always! Next weekend is my first homestay's grandfather's 70th birthday party (70 is a big 50 is for us).

Also, I accepted a job as activity director for Camp Fulbright - a two-week English camp in July. Which means, I will be coming home August 1 or 2. Mark you calendars! ;)


  1. Fun post. Happy to have a homecoming date. Thanks. Mom

  2. Thanks for the update, and really glad to hear from you again. I understand you have been having computer problems, so I will start the morning (your evening) calls again. I know for me, you coming home around my birthday, will be the best present I could have. We are all anxious to have you back.

    Love you.

    AS and UJ

  3. Congrats on getting the camp job Amy ^^


  4. I actually like acorn jelly. If made right, cooled and with the right sauce, it is good summer food. Definitely an acquired taste.

    I think the "modern" government has been there longer than 30 years. The dictatorship and corruption marked many of the years that Korea had "democracy" and the KwangJu massacre was definitely a turning point in Korea's modern history. Here's a wikipedia entry on the first president of Korea.

    Syngman Rhee or Yi Seungman (March 26, 1875 – July 19, 1965; Korean pronunciation: [i sɯŋman]) was the first president of South Korea. His presidency, from August 1948 to April 1960, remains controversial, affected by Cold War tensions on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere. Rhee was regarded as an anti-Communist and a strongman, and led South Korea through the Korean War. His presidency ended in resignation following popular protests against a disputed election. He died in exile in Hawaii.

    Korea has a pretty full history of resistance movements against Japanese occupation as well as the corrupt government. Much blood has been shed there as all around the world, like in Thailand today. Usually the movement was started and led by university students, but when things got really bad, ordinary citizens joined in and that's when the real change happened.

    Closing down the universities due to demonstrations was a regular part of our college experience. It was really not an environment/atmosphere conducive to learning.

  5. This all makes some sense now. Lol. It was nice meeting you, Rob, and Matt yesterday. We'll have to get together again soon. Jen has your email addresses and she is hiking with her school today but we'll shoot you and Rob an email soon. Have a fun hike tomorrow!