Saying goodbye to South Korea wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, because I was ready to see my niece and everyone else back home. I even missed feeding my horses, chickens, and emu. Something about those crowed cities, crazy motorcyclists passing through the crosswalk, and hearing so much around you and not understanding a single word, is something I could never get used too.
With a total of 30+ hours of traveling, my body had no idea what time zone to go off of. With all the naps throughout the trip, it made it even harder to go to sleep when I arrived home at 3 am. I have never experienced jetlag like this before. Not even the worst all-nighter during college could have prepared me for this.
Being back home now helps me realize how much of a difference the little things make in another country. For example, the language: you assume everyone speaks English but then when they don’t speak English and you don’t even know a single character in their language then it becomes more of a charades game. But honestly, in the end, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
The travel day back was full of exhaustion, sleepiness, and boredom. There was one point in time where most of us had fallen asleep on the floor of the airport in San Francisco, we had been huddled against the window for warmth from the sunny day.
We met at 6:00 AM in Busan, South Korea, in order to make our way to the airport around the Seoul area. We rode by subway, by train, by another train, took a 10 hour flight, played the waiting game, took another four hour flight, and then finally took our final car rides home. I have never felt such a strong love for the North American continent as I did the moment we arrived to California.
We each have our own story to tell when we are asked about our experiences. I saw beautiful scenery, observed a culture completely different than my own, and got lost more than once. Everything we learned over the course of the year made sense and I understood why they did things the way they did. I even made a new friend on the plane ride back to the U.S. Taking trains, subways, taxis, and planes were all new to me, but boy was I thrown in there. It took us 30+ hours of travel to get home, but South Korea was worth the swollen legs and the endless amount of stairs. In order to express the happiness and freedom I felt arriving home I shall quote the famous Harry Potter series, “Dobby is a free elf”.
Today is our free day as well as our last day in Korea before heading out early tomorrow morning. Sleeping in late and knowing it’s our last full day here is a little heartbreaking but at the same time I think I’m ready to head back to the States. Busan has definitely been my favorite so far because of the beach area and night life.
My feet are about to fall off from exhaustion, my skin is sunburned, I’m incredibly sleepy, and although I jammed my toe pretty bad to the point where we thought I would be leaving Korea with only 9 toes, I would do it all over again.
Whenever we first arrived it would weird us out a little bit how people would sneak around to take pictures of us because we’re foreigners here, but now we’ve embraced it and instead of looking away, we smile for them. Although I can’t say I’ll miss the Kimchi, I will miss the unexpected adventures of being in a foreign country. My favorite so far was definitely seeing the look on Jacob and Arturo’s faces as they ate a chopped up squid! The trip itself is only a couple of days but the memories will last a lifetime.
Today was not quite the day that we all had hoped for. It’s the first time since we’ve been in Korea that it has rained. Luckily, the place that we were staying at offered umbrellas to take with us. Although it may have been raining, we all still managed to stay semi dry and enjoy our visit to a couple museums.
The first museum we visited was over the history of Busan and how the city came to be the second most populous city in Korea. It was quite interesting and had artifacts dating all the way back to the neolithic era. Personally, my favorite part of the museum was a room that had 21 buttons showing various videos over traditions such as dancing, eating, and numerous festivals.
After the museum, we were faced with the tough question as to whether or not to go to the next museum in the rain. Thankfully, we all decided to brave the weather and take a trip to the trick eye museum. I think this was one of my favorite museums that I have ever been to! You walk around the museum and take pictures with numerous optical illusions. Illusions that you could only see by viewing them through the camera–it was amazing! It is very hard to explain in writing, but make sure you check out these photos! They were hilarious!!!
After the museum we split up and my group went shopping through the market. We spent a couple hours there, then decided to go back to the hostel to dry off and take a “quick” nap for for the night ahead. Unfortunately, we were all exhausted and slept until about 11 PM. Even so, we decided to go out and enjoy the night! We started by eating at a “Guess Who” restaurant where we ate some deliciously expensive traditional pizza. Afterwards, we went out and had a great night of singing and dancing to music that was all from the States. What was most interesting was the locals keen eyes to our dancing. They would look to us for how to dance to the song then dance accordingly. Overall, this day was a true test of our determination to experience Korea to its maximum potential and turned out to be one of the best days and nights that we have had.
Today was somewhat of a calm day compared to the other busy, chaotic days. Our day started at 8:30am as we left the hotel for an all-day tour with Kangsan Travel. Our travel guide, Jung, met us in the lobby of the hotel and showed us the way to our “VIP bus”. He said we were VIP guests for the day which I personally thought was pretty cool.
The tour consisted of visiting the Beomeosa Temple, Gamcheon Culture Village, Yongdusan Park, Busan Tower, lunch, Gukje Market, and the largest Fish Market (Jigalchi) in Korea. The place I enjoyed the most was the Village. Our tour guide insisted on how happy the village people were and how they felt they were in paradise because they have light, hot water, and water fountains. He went on to say how the more we have, the more we want, which I agree with and think is a small problem.
I think the funniest part of the day was when Jacob and Arturo decided to eat some squid at the fish market. At first I thought it was all talk but once the tour guide told the server, I knew it was no longer a joke. Watching them take their first bite was priceless, as both of them had the funniest reactions. I have no idea how they managed to continue eating it, I was grossed out just watching them.
Getting around Busan was amazing thanks to our VIP Bus. We walked so much less but for some odd reason I was exhausted, irritated and just wanted to rest. The more time that passes, the more sleep deprived I feel which is why I decided to stay in today. Aside from all the walking up and down the stairs, I’m tired of Korean food. I’m ready to go home to eat a nice home cooked meal.
After 5 full days of nonstop walking, I was a little too excited about getting to sit on a train for a few hours. The trip has been amazing so far, and we’ve all had a blast, but by the time this day rolled around, everyone’s face looked utterly exhausted. Once we finished hauling our heavy luggage up and down stairs and escalators all morning, every one was ready to get on the train. So surprisingly, the day spent traveling (which you would think we would be sick of by now) was a much needed relief from the constant running around (after the stairs, of course). I can’t speak for everyone, but by now I’m feeling a little homesick. Although, the sight of Busan and the excitement to be in a new city helped to stifle those feelings a little.
Our first excursion out in Busan was to a little slice of heaven: our first non-Korean meal so far. I got a burrito that did not contain any fermented ingredients, nor did it contain rice. Now I love Korean food, but it was nice to feel a little at home. We also got to see a light show on a massive bridge at the beach, which was really beautiful. I think the first day in Busan can best be summed up in one word: relief. Relief from excessive walking, relief from Korean food, and relief from the Seoul heat and chaos.
So far, this trip has been nothing like what I expected. Walking in the heat for several blocks, trying to catch subways, and losing people have all been some of the most frustrating things I’ve had to deal with.
Though my patience has truly been tested, all of this is nothing compared to the great things we’ve gotten to experience since being here. It took only the first day for us to realize that we would be getting really close to one another. Some of the highlights of the week for myself have been visiting some of the Korean markets, having an awesome adventure that ended at a cat cafe, (you literally go to pet cats), and teaching a nice older lady who spoke no English to play patty cake on the subway.
Today was our last day in Seoul, so naturally we spent it getting lost, getting frustrated, and getting to know things about each other we probably didn’t need to…it was kind of great. I am exhausted, my voice is almost completely gone, and my feet feel like they’re going to split, but we still have another 4 days left of our trip. I should probably be staying in to sleep every night, but I don’t want to miss anything on this once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m really excited to see what we will encounter in Busan. And I figure after 4 years of missing sleep during college, I can spare 10 more days. I can rub my feet and be sick when I’m back in the USA.