My Travels

My Travels
Koh Phangan, Thailand

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Korean Thanksgiving, Monsoons (or the lack thereof) and Magic

I apologize, my dearests, for not writing for so long.

I love to write, as you know and I see writing as magical. At least I hope it to be so. That may be one of the reasons why I put off writing for Monsoon Mind. (Lack of monsoons? Lack of "magical" things to share?)

 I hope it to be magical. If not magical, at least to have a little uniqueness and pizazz. I wish it to be even the slightest inspiring or at least to make you think.

I would like to share my journey, though, every step of the way. And so, as we all know, everything is not magical. This is not Disney, after all. (I do not know if everything is really magical all the time there either...the last I heard about Cinderella's stepsisters...but I digress, that is another story.)

So I will continue this blog and I will try to post at least every other week for now with the hope of writing a little more often in the near future, after I finish my online class.

But as I was saying, I will be real and will share my journey with you each step of the way, whether it is magical or ordinary.

This week will be is the third week of the new curriculm program that our school has implented. It is going very well so far. It was definitely a slight process to say the least to switch over. I like it better though, for the most part.

The program has the students watch animated stories online and practice speaking the dialouge. It is kind of like a power point program and a movie blended together. For the younger kids, it works really well. They enjoy watching for the most part and it helps them to understand the words more by seeing them firsthand instead of just using a book and pictures. They are able to see actions and then practice on their own.

On Teaching Teenage Boys and Kings (Or the teenage version of Where the Wild Things are)

The older kids, in particular the older boys class, does not enjoy it so much. They are very hard to motivate.Nothing seems to motivate them. The King of England couldn't motivate them. The King of France couldn't either. (Why the royal references? I am watching The Other Boleyn Girl- I read the book- very thrilling and is what got me more interested in historical fiction! It's based on Ann Boleyn (and her sister Mary's) relationships with King Henry VIII(also a wild thing in his own right) who has always fascinated/horrified me. He killed two out of six wives. How did he get 4 more wives after he killed his second wife? How did he get his last wife after he killed 2 of his wives? She almost got beheaded too. Curious on more King Henry the 8th history? Find out more about his wives here. )

On Giving Thanks, Contests, Ancestors, Sweetness and Wrestling

Last weekend, as you may or may not know, was the Korean "Thanksgiving" called Chuseok (see picture above for how to pronounce it). There are several theories for the origins of the holiday including a month long weaving contest in which the one who weaved more cloth would be treated to a feast. It is also said that it was the day of a great victory of the Silla kingdom over their rival kingdom of Balhae. For the original celebration of this victory, there were weaving contests, archery competitions and martial arts demonstrations.

The main reason for the holiday though is to pay respect to their ancestors for the abundant harvest (this is where the Thanksgiving feast comes in-the most told about food to eat for their thanksgiving is a type of rice cake with a sweet filling served on steam pine needles) and so it is tradition to travel to the husband's hometown to pay respects there. They go there to clean the area around the tomb, decorate and plant, as well as to offer food and drink to their ancestors, as the crops (and what they have today) are seen as being a blessing from their ancestors. That is a good way to see things, I think. Would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!

There also is wrestling involved with this holiday season (or there was). It was custom for villages to wrestle to see who was the strongest man of their town and then they would win cotton rice or a calf as the take home prize. This led to the modern version of wrestling competitons taking place close to Chuseok to determine the strongest man in Korea. However, this is no longer as big a part of the celebrations as it once was.

A big part of Chuseok tradition was also Ganggangsullae or the Korean circle dance. This dates all the way back to 1392 (the Joseon dynasty) until 1910. The Korean army would have the women of the village dress up in military gear (where the trend of those army pants may have come from) and circle the mountain to make it appear that their army was that much bigger and scarier and thus, unbeatable. This method worked very well for them, as they are reported to have won lots of battles with the army getup!

While I was not able to go to my own hometown, I decided to go to the country's "hometown".  I traveled to Seoul, being sure to plan my trip to avoid the mass exodus and return of people traveling back and forth from their hometowns. Success on that! I was just there for one night and went to Itaewon, the city for foreigners with food and shopping reminiscient of home so much so that it seems almost like New York City, although on a smaller and safer scale. I am glad I got to visit the city that never sleeps (SIDENOTE: this title is being contended for by major cities in Korea, as it is quite common to never sleep and I for one, have taken up the trend as well, so this nickname for NYC is currently under investigation) one more time before I left for Korea and it is a nice memory of spending time with friends.  ~Shoutout to southern gentlemen! JK ;)

So that is my not so magical  update on my life in South Korea.  I am enjoying my time here though and I like to see the magic in the small and seemingly unimportant things as well as things that are larger than life. It can be a once in a lifetime opportunity everyday, right? Not just here, either. Wherever you are. It's what you make it.

In honor of Chuseok, a list of things I am thankful for:

  • sunshine
  • coffee
  • water
  • ocean waves
  • the kids' smiles
  • my coworkers kindness
  • not having to wake up early
  • walking 1 minute to work
  • going on the roof above the school to get some sun and look at the city
  • learning something new everyday
  • korean/english translation on the internet/people's phones
  • the super sweet deal this is to be here and get this great opportunity
  • kids greeting me and hugging me and saying they love me
  • how the kids make me smile and laugh
  • my family and friends and how much they encourage me
  • the opportunity to travel here (that I will definitely take advantage of!) and see beautiful nature- mountains, ocean, waterfalls, here I come!

I look forward to finding the magic throughout South Korea, in the land and in the people. 

I challenge you to make your own list of things you are thankful for in honor of Chuseok.

Where do you find the "magic" in your own life?

And would like to hear what you think about what I posted about Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving. If you are Korean, how do you celebrate or is there any insight/comments you would like to add?

Also, for anyone reading this, I would love to hear about where have you traveled or lived that you especially loved (or hated)? Would love to hear your thoughts on this and anything related. (Or unrelated of course!)

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