Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chuseok Weekend




This weekend John and I have been working on un-jetlagging ourselves and discovering our neighbourhood. This weekend was Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, so we had a few days off work to hang out and explore. On Thursday night after work we went out with all of the teacher's from our school. Soju and Beer was had by all...except the foreigners, we had to get our invasive government testing at the hospital the following day. That was definitely eventful. We had to follow a nurse around Seoul National University Hospital and she was walking so fast that we could hardly keep up, not to mention the fact that the hospital was crowded so we almost lost her a few times. There were four of us together, including the two Irish girls from work and none of us really knew what we were getting into. We gave some blood and some urine, got weighed and our eyes tested (with my contacts in, which I thought was really weird...). Anyway, we will find out our results on Tuesday. The only troubling thing is that we didn't know that we were going for testing until the night before, so about 24h before the test, John popped a Benadryl, so hopefully he doesn't test a false positive!

After our hospital testing John and I visited Changdeok Palace. I had been there in 2005 with Rob and we had ditched the Korean tour and snuck off and done our own thing, this time I showed up for the English tour and stayed with the group because there were security guards everywhere. John has a magical way of taking photos like there's no one else there but us, so by looking at our pictures you'd never know that there were about 60 people in our English tour group. After that we took a walk through Insadong and bought some postcards and then made our way to Hyehwa for Chinese Korean food and then went straight to the bathhouse for some relaxation.

We went to World Sauna in Changdong and we walked past my old school and my old apartment which was really cool. Compared to my apartment now my old neighbourhood is so lifeless. I'm much happier in the buzzing neighbourhood that I'm in at the moment. Anyway, at the sauna we made our way through many of the same saunas as I had been to before. The massage tables were replaced by "Chi balancing tables" which kinda massage, but more or less just wiggle your feet left and right while you lie there. The best part was that John was too tall for the bed and his feet just hit the wall and didn't wiggle, so the table didn't get him as "balanced" as it should have.

The best part of our sauna night was definitely a new experience for me. We noticed that one of the old saunas had been converted into a giant fish pool with real fish in it. You pay about $3 to have these tiny fish nibble at your feet for 20 minutes. Now, since I'm scared of fish, this was TERRIFYING! At first I couldn't put my feet in, John did and he was laughing uncontrollably. Finally he had to take my right leg and force it into the pool cause I really couldn't bring myself to do it. At this point the Korean woman in charge of the fish pool was telling me (in Korean) to do it and she was even talking to the fish telling them to be nice to me so that I woudln't be scared (she must have thought I was an idiot). The Korean woman ended up forcing my left leg into the pool and i seriously screamed when the fish started nibbling...John had advised me to shove my towel into my mouth to muffle the sound because he knew that it was going to happen. Anyway, after the 20 minutes we got outta there and I"m not sure if I'll do it again, although John seems to think I will.

We woke up this morning after our sauna experience and hopped on the train to a station called Omokgyo to meet a Korean coworker of ours. He had invited us to his grandmothers house for a Chuseok lunch. First of all, she lives in the tallest apartment building in Seoul and has an incredible view and then they served us a ton of Korean dishes from Kimchi to the traditional Chuseok seongpyeon, which is like a rice cake dessert. It was amazing and I was feeling quite blessed to have been invited into a Korean home for the holidays.

We still have one more day of our long weekend before heading back to work and we may go to check out one of the many parks in the city just to chill out and relax. It's been a whirlwind of a first week in Seoul and we are in need of some chill time. I can't wait until we get paid and I can let the shopping extravaganza begin!

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