A Spring Morning Walk in Korea

Korean empty market

I ran this morning and caught a beautiful sunrise on an empty market street. Few people are awake this early. Usually it’s the older people – some choosing to get up to exercise along with me. Others wake up to begin their workday – picking up garbage, preparing their market stall, etc. It’s in these moments, where there is calm and nothing else is in focus, where I feel so foreign and outside of myself. I have those moments where I think, “Oh man, I am in Korea!”. It still is a shock, two and a half years later. Because nothing can really prepare you for the first country you live abroad in.

After getting ready, I start walking to school. It’s a speed walk really, because of course I wait to the last-minute to leave. Abruptly, I am stopped at the corner by this guy yelling something happily at me and thrusting a warm cup into my hands. I automatically grab it and thank him with the usual sweet “Kamsahamnida!” I’ve grown accustomed to saying. On this chilly spring morning where I didn’t have breakfast, I am thankful for this random Korea moment.

Cereal drink - Korea

A Korean Hot Cereal Drink

This morning I also passed by the old man who stands outside an elementary school on my way to work, volunteering his time by directing traffic. He grins at me and with a boisterous voice, greets me with a sincere, “Good morning!” This old man and I cross path almost every morning, on days I decide to not be lazy and splurge on a bus ride. This morning for some reason, his morning greeting just made me smile from cheek to cheek. He reminded me of people back home. He reminded me of those immigrants who are so thankful they have come to the land of the free that they are overflowing with joy. He reminds me of my parents. And my neighbors, and your friends mom who couldn’t speak a lick of English but would bring extra snacks on school trips so her son could share with others.

I say this because next year, he tells me, he will be joining his daughter in America. He is so excited and I tell him he will fit right in. A smile goes a long way after all. A smile has gotten me through two and a half years, you would be surprised at the interactions I’ve had just by simply being in the moment and reacting to someone. A smile, eye contact. Whatever it is, another human being and I share a moment, making our way through language barriers and learning to communicate in other ways. It is easy being the foreigner, the strange one, and it’s as easy as being invisible in the background  surrounded by people who you cannot fully communicate with. But when you take that chance, you meet the sweetest people – the lady selling you cookies, the traffic volunteer guiding your students, the woman selling you tea. These moments change you for the better somehow.

Today is just one of those mornings where you feel light, and ready for a day that can bring any possibility. It’s what every day should feel like, where things align perfectly. The flowers are blooming and of course, we do what we must to motivate ourselves and take it as a metaphor for our own lives. A mental spring cleaning, a start to a new lifestyle , or just a moment to spiritually breathe and gather your thoughts on things too big to mull over when winter was nipping at your behind and all you cared about was warming your fingers and toes. We are waking up, with the morning sun and the flowers pushing to burst into color. This is spring. This is a new moment in my year. I lean in and embrace it tenderly.

 

 
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Spring is finally here!

Cherry Blossom Marathon Season

Training

You know what that means! I am challenging myself this year and trying out my first 10K. If anyone knows me, you know I hate exercise. I just never liked it. The closest I get to it is through salsa and other forms of dancing. But Dave and Matt are runners, and like to push me sometimes which is what I need. So the challenge is outdoing myself, since last year I ran the 5 k, got a medal and all (everyone did lol), and was proud of myself! On the other hand, running a 5K here is like a joke, because old ladies and children do it like it’s nothing. So though I was having my own Rocky Balboa moment in my head, so many people were horsing around while they ran. Which is great for them, but not so much for my self esteem lol.

Running Track in Korea

So I’ve been running morning or afternoons, at a track which makes it easier to figure out just how much I’m running. I feel slightly beat up from all this, and the lack of sleep is mostly from going to sleep late and not necessarily getting up in the morning. Seeing ajossis and ajummas running around the track faster then me, pushes me to keep going.

Gyeongju

I’m super excited to be heading to Gyeongju for the race. It will be around the lake and of course be filled with cherry blossom trees. It can’t get better then this! :

Gyeongju Marathon Start

maps

Click here for English info on Marathons in Korea: Waeguks got Runs 

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Spring Festivals

I really enjoyed the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival last year. It was so beautiful and the stream just made the site so special! Spring is really short in Korea, especially in Daegu. You have to enjoy it fully before it disappears in a blink of an eye.There are various festivals to be checking out this spring. I hope to at least make 2, but unfortunately my schedule always seems to filling up with one thing or another. Here are links on more info:

Official Korea website – Korea Tourism Information

Korea Travel Notes : Offers Festival and Exhibits Information

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

International Women’s Day and Korea

International Women's Day

Today is 100th International Women’s Day. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women (its roots in primarily Eastern Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet bloc) to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements (the United Nations sets a theme each year to raise awareness about certain issues). I asked my students who they thought was an important women in South Korean history, and these are who they chose:

Famous Women in South Korea

Shin Saimdang 신사임당 (1504-1551) was a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist, noted poet, and the mother of the Korean Confucian scholar Yulgok. She is seen as a model of Confucian ideals, her respectful nickname was Eojin Eomeoni (어진 어머니; “Wise Mother”). As she was raised in a son-less household, she spent much time at her parents’ house even after her marriage to Commander Yi Won-su at the age of 19. Having had no brothers, she received an education that would have only been bequeathed to a son, and this background greatly influenced the way she educated her children. Saimdang was able to cultivate her talents thanks to an unconventional household and understanding husband, in a rigid Confucian society. [Wikipedia]

In 2009, South Korea’s central bank chose the face of Korean motherhood, Saimdang, as the first woman to be featured on its banknotes, but women’s rights groups said the selection only reinforces sexist stereotypes. A paper on a government Web site describes Shin as “the best example of motherhood in Korean history,” while the central bank said she was selected “to promote gender equality and women’s participation in society.” [source]

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Daegu’s Affordable Fun Dress-Up Photo Studio

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Mihwa, Yeonjung and I were in need of a girl’s time. We wanted to dress up and have the stereotypical romantic-comedy cue music sequence scene. No midnight margaritas were involved. Instead we went to this awesome studio to dress up in gowns and take pictures!

We headed to Dress Hyang ( 드레스향 ), a great place to go if you are on a tight budget. I spent about $18 for the whole thing (drink included!). It is right near the heart of downtown Daegu. It is so cheap because it is not a professional taking the pics, but you yourself! So take an extra friend, a tripod and a DSLR for the best experience.

Dress Hyang 드레스향 1

We got complimentary toast covered in syrup with whip cream in the center, and I ordered an iced lavender tea. We felt like princesses as we perused through the album, searching for the ideal dress.

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There were many! Though most looked like wedding dresses, there were some colorful ones we liked. To rent them for 30 minutes we paid about 5-8,000 WON each.

Dress Hyang 드레스향 4There were variety of shoes and tiaras to choose from. We couldn’t bring our own. Thankfully I had a brand new pair so I was able to wear them with my dress ^_^

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1It was soooo much fun!

DSC_0141And for an extra 2,000 WON we got to wear our own dresses and play around for another 30 minutes. It was well worth the trip and I would definitely do it again for some special occasion ❤

Dress Hyang Map