Thursday, November 1, 2012

Festivals, Spectacles, and Testicles

           Semi-unsurprisingly I have not been diligent in keeping up with this blog.  Throughout my time in Guatemala I typically posted at least once a month; this has not been the case in Korea.  Needless to say, time is flying.  I am quickly approaching four months in country.  A third of my year-long contract is nearly completed!  My time has been filled with plenty of teaching, culture, hilarity, and a plethora of delicious and interesting foods.  I have used my first boudee, eaten pig intestine and fish cake, survived a local chemical explosion, and heard Gangnam Style more times than the Macarena.  Luis has an embarrassing video of the boudee experience from afar, which I’m sure will be posted on the internet and haunt me sometime down the road.  It involves a loud shriek and Caroline (college friend living outside Seoul) laughing uncontrollably.

The academic side of my experience continues to be a positive one.  My classroom management skills have gradually improved and I genuinely enjoy my job and seeing my students improve their language and equally important creative abilities.  My favorite group is my advanced class.  They push me to prepare more thoroughly and offer that I’m-a-teenager attitude.   During an exam week, one of my students played “corm” in a game of Scrabble.  You know, corm- an enlarged, fleshy, bulblike base of a stem, as in the crocus.  He is the smallest student and they call him boy genius.  As you can see below, a few of my students need to start taking steroid tests along with their vocabulary exams.  They are huge for Koreans!

Festivals are commonplace here. You’ll hear about a major one happening nearly every week.  In fact, according to this article there are over two-thousand planned this year alone.  I was fortunate enough to attend both the number #1 and #5 on this CNN list.  Jess, Luis, and I headed to the Andong to the International Maskdance Festival with my boss earlier this month.  We witnessed a traditional mask dance, released burning lanterns into the sky, and watched traditional Korean fireworks.  (See pictures of this and the Jinju Lantern Festival in my F’book album)  

Festivals are convenient ways to try new foods, travel the country, and take in some of the traditional culture.  Nonetheless, before this past weekend I can’t say I’d be compelled to recommend one over another.  The Busan Fireworks Festival (#1) was a breathtaking spectacle- hence the title.  I am talking a literal jaw-dropping experience.  The kind of thing that I can only remember happening when the WTC towers fell, the day I found out Santa wasn’t real, and the moment I knew I had shit my pants during a Peace Corps meeting. The lights in the sky were so intense and magical that I fell back into Caroline’s lap, jaw hanging, as we watched from the beach.  

The festival took place in Busan (2nd largest city in Korea) this past weekend, a weekend that was incontestably my favorite of my experience thus far.  The weekend included the festival, a visit to the aquarium to see sharks, beach time, and nudity, as the usage of the third puzzling and inappropriate word in the title alludes to.  Hey, it kind of rhymed?  In honor of Caroline’s birthday we got into our birthday suits.  Ok, ok we went to our respective saunas in the hotel and got full body massages.  As a fledgling to the Korean sauna world, stripping down and parading around the sauna, the showers, the pools, the beach chairs —the entire facility- was initially a bit overwhelming.  Sure, I’ve showered in the men’s locker room stateside, but this was a new level of free. 
My initial nerves wore off and by the second day my Superman briefs were off quicker than the 2012 World Series. Relaxing in the hot, cold, and mineral pools, experiencing the wet and dry saunas, and lounging in a beach chair overlooking the ocean were a perfect part of a rejuvenating weekend. Check out Luis’ more detailed comical summary.   Who would have thought a sense of comfort with my body would be something I’d take from this experience?  

Happy Halloween to everyone back home and feliz cumpleaños to Aunt Maureen!   My positive thoughts are with all friends and loved ones affected by Sandy.  Miss you all

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