This was my first year in Korea without a solid plan for the Lunar New Year holiday. For the first three years I lived here, I took these days off as an opportunity to travel outside the country. The first coinciding with my winter vacation to Malaysia, Singapore and Bali, while the second year I celebrated in Hong Kong. Two years ago I had a completely different experience, celebrating family style with my ex-boyfriend, his parents and even an afternoon visit Grandma's house - my first and only 세뱃돈 (New Years Money). A few students asked me if I would go home to see my family during the new year, a question I've gotten in previous years as well, but one that still surprises me. Not only do Americans not really celebrate the Lunar New Year, but there was no way I was about to do a 15+ hour round trip for a four day weekend. Funny that most Koreans consider a weekend trip to Seoul (roughly 3 hours) too long, but my 15+ commute home would be understandable. Not wanting to stay home alone for the weekend, I decided to take the opportunity and head down to Busan.
My first home in Korea was, considered by my Korean friends, in the complete countryside. I lived in what we would refer to as a village, a quaint offering of stores on the main street to the north and a vast expanse of rice fields and farm land to the south. While living in a somewhat remote location came with its challenges; limited transportation and a decreased social life, there were also many advantages, most notably the nature I was surrounded by. Since moving from Buksam, I've continued to seek out the parks, river walks and mountains near my home, which thankfully in Korea, is not too hard to do. Even now, despite living in the "Gangnam" of Daegu, I've found two escapes from the busy streets and traffic of the blocks immediately surrounding my home. Unsurprisingly, my morning routine has often included walks down random back alleys and side streets, but more often than not I find myself at either 야시골 or 범어 공원.
It's kind of crazy how much of a contradiction I am to myself. While I'm viewed by many as a globe trotter, nomad or world explorer who can't sit still, I'm equal parts homebody, total hermit. Having been back in Daegu for a month I've done very little outside a few kilometer radius of my apartment. I work across the street and everything I need is within walking distance of home; shops, restaurants, parks and even the train station. I did get out a few times, visiting Gumi to volunteer at Samsungwon, but other than that winter has sent me into hibernation mode. Two weeks ago though, my co-worker Elizabeth asked for ideas of what to do in Daegu and where to go with her boyfriend, who'd be visiting from the States. I recommended Dongwhasa, one of my favorite temples in not only Daegu, but the whole of Korea. Seeing some hesitation I offered to tag along, playing tour guide for the day, making it the third time I did so, previously introducing my mom and Peter, on their visits in 2013 and 2016 respectively.
Where to start. After living in this country for three years I have memories, experiences and stories galore. I'll now always be a bit partial to the Land of the Morning Calm. Filled with delicious foods, beautiful nature and friendly people, I'm always happy to return.