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.
For two years I lived in Korea, teaching English was my main pursuit, but in my free time I worked to learn the language, culture and traditions. Living somewhere as an expat though creates some limitations. You don't have an immediate family to spend weekends away with, nor are the holidays quite the same. Chuseok, one of the largest holidays in Korea, is often spent with family, a time to spend together while remembering those who came before you. As the holiday is three days long and is often coupled with a weekend, foreigners take this opportunity to travel. During both of my first two Chuseok holiday's I took the opportunity to jump across the sea to Japan. Not having a family to spend this time with it seemed like the most logical alternative. This year though things would be a bit different, my friend Pete (a Korean/American adoptee) would be visiting. Knowing that most everything shuts down during the holiday I planned a few simple days for us, traditional village, hiking and temple exploration. I dreamed of being able to show him a real Chuseok but couldn't imagine how this would be possible, but remember: anything is possible.
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.