Wednesday, September 26, 2007

First Korean Chuseok

I have no words to express the gratitude I am feeling for Se Jin's family right now. Not in Korean or in English. I just kept repeating kamsa hamnida (감사합니다) making gestures and noises that attempted to convey my happiness and pleading with Se Jin to translate my immense pleasure with my experiences the last two days.

Me with my adopted Korean family, the Kwons

The two most important holidays in Korea--Lunar New Year and Chuseok, a harvest festival likened to Thanksgiving in the US--are both based on the lunar calendar (meaning according to standard calendars, they vary each year, like Easter or Jewish holidays). Yesterday was the 15th of August by the lunar calendar, which meant that it was Chuseok. A few weeks ago my Korean friend Se Jin invited me to spend this family-oriented holiday with her family in their hometown, Yeongchon. Yeongchon is a small town about 45 minutes outside of Daegu where the farms are known for their purple grapes (podo--포도). Se Jin's parents have a very small farm well outside the town center so I got to experience genuine Korean country living, squat toilet outhouse and all!

I'm thinking of turning my story about this Chuseok into an essay that I'll submit to some travel journals, so I will offer you the Reader's Digest version of the last couple days, with awesome pictures I cannot possibly put all in this post (I took almost 180, which I have culled through to put my favorites in a Picasa album that you can click on the link to below for your own viewing pleasure).

Offerings for the ancestors at Se Jin's uncle's house in Daegu

We went to the more formal gathering with Se Jin's extended family in the morning. I spent most of the time talking to Se Jin's genius cousin--who learned English from watching American films--about set theory. Seriously, this kid is mega awesome. I think he's in his last year at a really prestigious tech school here (kinda like the Korean MIT). Also her cousin and uncle who could speak a little English had me pull up Mom & Dad's house in Damascus on Google earth. It was surreal to see Dad's car parked in the driveway on ol' Grace Court while I'm half a world away. A sort of homesickness hit part way through the celebrations, but it was the kind that reminds me of the happy home holiday memories and the people I love back in Maryland without really making you feel like you need to be there. I like being in Korea a lot.

Scenic Yeongchon on one of the walks Se Jin and I took after stuffing our faces so full it hurt.

After breakfast and such at the posh Daegu apartment, it was out to farmlands in the Korean countryside. We all changed from our Sunday best to more comfortable gear while two of Se Jin's three sisters and their husbands joined her brother, parents, and us on the farm.

This is the 400 year old building I slept in.

Lord of the Flies, Korean style. This thing freaked the crap out of Se Jin and I--she ran away, I got closer for a picture; you decide which of us is insane.

Se Jin's niece and nephews at the weird super-cool Korean art museum we visited.

One final thing to add (even there though is so much I need to add to this story), is that Se Jin did not bother to tell me that her incredibly hot, recently single, 28 year old (American years) brother Se Hyun would be in attendance, so I was out in the country without any make up or cute-yet-casual attire, drooling over a super hunky Korean man who kept trying to teach me new Korean words and complimenting my photography, which you can see in the album below. Sigh. I'm going to have to teach that girl the American tradition among female friends of "fair warning."

I think I have a new crush. I'm such a dork.

Chuseok 2007 with Se Jin's Family (Yeongchon, South Korea)

I didn't even take any pictures of the incredible food that Se Jin's mom cooked for us. Korean food in restaurants doesn't even begin to compare to the feasting that I've done this weekend. Now to stretch and practice the one form I know in preparation for going back to taekwondo tomorrow. And study my Korean, of course.


  1. I totally would have taken pics of the pig's head.

  2. Yeah, so apparently my little brother set the pig picture as his friend's desktop background at work and made the guy jump three feet in the air when he got in that day.

    Gwen said it was probably part of some kind of country house blessing ritual or something. I just was glad it seemed only maybe a day or two old.



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