Thursday, February 26, 2015

Day 7: Don't Protest in Korea

Oh boy, this was a long and eventful day.

Got up earlier than I wanted, chilled, got some breakfast from the convenience store, and then went to the bus stop.  Today was the "city tour" put on by KUBA, meaning lots of exploring and talking to exchange students.  We split into multiple buses and then got put in smaller groups on the bus, and off we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is the Royal Palace.  It's incredibly beautiful, but with the strong winds today most students were incredibly cold.  It was quite fun, especially because my group kept going off in all different directions and our poor buddy had to keep rounding us up like little kids, before someone wandered off again.  We gave him a hard time about it, but our buddy did a good job making sure no one got left behind.

We also went to a museum that is inside of the palace area, which was super interactive and just really fun.  Then, we started back to the bus to continue onto lunch.

Before I continue, let me explain how the KUBA groups operate.  Each group has a picket sign that has that group's slogan on it, and the KUBA members hold it up so all of the exchange students can follow and find their group.  Well, as we were separated by buses today, each bus had one of those signs.  I was in bus 1 (which had the same leader as group 1, which I am also in).  The leader is super fun and has a mini megaphone he uses to call us over (saying "One night, this way", as "one night" is our slogan).  He then holds up the sign and a large horde of foreign students flocks to him.

Well, as we were walking to the bus, following his calls of "one night", we were stopped by the police and not allowed to go to the buses.  Apparently, they thought that we were protesters.  And protesting the government is a big no-no.  So, we all had to stand outside in the horrid wind with the bus right beside us while the KUBA members tried to explain that no, we're not protesting, we're just foreigners.  They finally agreed and let us on the bus, but then a policeman came onto the bus!  We were all super surprised and just confused before he smiled and just took a picture of us before heading off :P

After that fiasco, we bused down to Insa-dong for lunch.  We had a traditional Korean meal, so we sat on the (heated) floor on mats, and we all ate communally.  So we each had a small bowl of rice of our own, but otherwise everything else was shared and you'd just grab a piece to eat.  It was just fun reaching over everyone and having a meal like that.

Shared between four people
After lunch, we went off with our buddies to explore Insa-dong.  There was an old shopping area which was just super cool, like a wrap around mall that went up 4 stories.  At the top there was a "couples area", where couples would tie little trinkets or things to the wall - I don't know why but it seemed super popular.  Everything in that area was coupled themed with hearts everywhere, which was pretty interesting to see.

Part of the wall
Our group then went to get tea, which was crazy expensive and we had to buy it or we couldn't sit there, though to be fair we did take up like half the shop so I understand making us buy things.  We then went back to the bus and went to the last part of our program, "Nanta".

Oh, how to explain Nanta.  It's like Blue Man Group meets comedy meets cooking show meets audience participation meets traditional Korean drum beats meets drama.  It felt like a 1.5 hour long Aimachi show that involved real cooking, it was so great.  Like, if I ever wanted to make a career out of drumming, that is how I would do it.  It was so much fun, they rocked the audience and played some super clean beats (with knives! and pans! and everything!) and actually had food on the stage and cut it up to the beat and cooked things and had people come on stage.  It was just so wonderful and so much fun, I'm really happy I went to it.

After that, we were herded back onto the buses to go home.  I was so tired, I practically fell asleep on the bus.  I went back to my room, stopping only to get some snacks and drinks to settle my stomach - Korean food hasn't been sitting too well, and usually by the end of the day I feel a bit sick until I get something relatively tasteless and dry to just sit in there.  Most exchange students went off to a giant club party in a different suburb, but knowing me and knowing how I don't enjoy things like clubs or loud music or super crowded rooms (all of which are main parts of that party!) I decided to stay in and just relax.  Super tired, going to just sleep and enjoy not having any solid plans until school starts Monday!

Also, I can't believe it was only a week ago that I left the US for Korea.  In a few ways it feels shorter, but in most ways it feels like it was so long ago!

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