Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Smiths in Korea

Hi everyone!

I know it's been a while since I last posted. Time is something I always think I have a lot of, until Friday comes and I sit back and realise just how much I didn't get done during the week. The internet is bad for my procrastination problem - I do not have the willpower to fight the temptations I find on stumble, pinterest, imgur etc. But this week I vow to be more productive and so here goes ;)

I cannot believe it's been almost a week since my family left. They've come, they've gone, and we've created some amazing memories! It was the most special time having them here and being able to share with them a part of the craziness I now call my life. We all agree that it's really great for them to have seen where I am and experienced a bit of what I do everyday because no amount of explanation can truly convey what it's like to live here. I have posted a number of pictures on Facebook but thought it would be nice to write a little about their stay here too, as photos can only say so much.

At Gyeongbuk Palace, Seoul
They (my mom, dad and brother) arrived here on June 22. I took the day off school and met them at one of Korea's biggest airports - Incheon. I sat at the arrivals gate for a good 2 hours before they were even due to arrive, but I just couldn't contain my excitement. When I finally saw them walk through the gates and got to have real life hugs from them, I was over the moon. Mom cried a bit, we went and had some coffee to let them catch their breath before heading to Seoul, and I introduced myself to a girl they had met on the plane who was also coming over to teach. I tried my best to convince her that the daunting journey she was about to embark upon was going to be well worth it! Laden with luggage, we caught the subway into Seoul and to our hostel for the weekend - Choi's guesthouse. To try and summarise as best I can, the weekend was a whirlwind of Insadong, Gyeongbuk Palace, the Trick Eye Museum, Itaewon, Scrooges SA pub, N-Tower and Myeongdong. I tried to fit in a bit of everything and although they were low on sleep and high on culture shock, they pushed through until we could collapse on a bus to Jecheon. The heat was something else and I think we were all relieved to be leaving the smog of Seoul and headed towards the calmer vibes of Jecheon.I think they found Seoul hot, busy and overwhelming but also exciting and different in the best ways. 

Jecheon was not what they were expecting. I think they had heard me say the words 'small' and 'rural' and pictured me in a South African dorpie. So when they saw how relatively big Jecheon is, they were surprised. Like I told them - this is rural...Korean style! They stayed at a lovely little hotel 5 minutes from my apartment and their stay in town was very relaxed. They spent their days exploring, sleeping, reading and doing lots of walking. They left once to go to Danyang but other than that they were content in my little town. The locals were so amazing to them and that's one of the things that has stuck out most - just how kind and warm and welcoming Koreans can be. In the evenings we went for dinner to some of my favourite places where they were able to experience real Korean cuisine. They got to meet a lot of my friends here and it was really awesome being able to  spend quality time with them. Knowing they were waiting for me when I came home from school made everyday that much better.

On the Friday, a special effort was made by some of my teachers to bring my family to school. I had no idea what to expect, but my school really went all out. They were taken on a tour of the school, allowed to sit in on one of my lessons, taken to a nearby monastery which they said was an incredible experience and then to top it all off, we were allowed to leave after lunch so we could see some of Jecheon before heading to Busan for the weekend. It was a really special time for all of us and I'm really happy they got to see exactly where I work now. It has made me appreciate my school and my role here so much more. I feel genuinely cared for and accepted.

The weekend in Busan was awesome. We got there via 1 normal train and 1 ride on the KTX - Korea's speed train. We arrived around 9, made our way to our hotel in Haeundae and then enjoyed a dinner at a local Irish pub. The Busan weekend was much more relaxed than Seoul; we went on a Busan City tour, met up with some Saffa friends, watched a 'surfing' contest (there were no waves so I'm not sure how it was judged) and sat at Gwangali Beach, watching the sunset and bridge light up over beer and good food. Sunday we went to Beomeosa temple which was beautiful!! We came back feeling well rested and happy, and I'm pleased the bad weather didn't do anything to ruin out time at the coast!

Beomeosa Temple

The time they had with me was coming to an end, and the last 2 days were spent packing and shopping and making the most of their company. I was given Tuesday off to take them to the airport. I was dreading the goodbyes and when the time came it did suck as much as I thought it would. I tried as hard as I could to keep it together until I got home; I was semi-successful ;) I allowed myself to have a cry when I was in my apartment, get all the emotions out, but then knew I had to move on. Luckily I have the amazing support of friends here and back home and settling back into life without my family has gone smoothly. I miss them already and can't wait for the time to come where I can see them again and not have to say goodbye 10 days later but until then, I plan to make the most of the time I have left here.

My parents and brother got to see and experience things that I could never have properly explained. They are more aware of the challenges I face, the culture I'm confronted with and the daily routines of life in Korea. When I say "Oh so an ajumma burped in my face today while giving me change" (true story), they can laugh along with me and understand what ajumma's and ajoshi's are like here. They understand better when I complain about my apartment or the heat, or get excited about wonderful things this country has to offer. The first hand experience they gained here was priceless.

I know a lot of other teachers are having their parents or family or whoever coming over in the next little while - enjoy it!!! It is really special sharing this place with them and it broke up the long year with no family time. You will find that the Korean people are particularly sympathetic and open to families, and your loved ones will be very well looked after. 

Thank you Korea, for treating my family so well. 

In Busan with some other South African friends

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