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Overnight in Yeongju

I knew we would be staying in traditional housing, but I apparently didn’t actually think that through.

Let me start at the beginning.

Saturday morning the whole crew of us woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel, then hopped on the bus and drove for maybe an hour to our second location of the trip: Yeongju. According to our orientation schedule, as soon as we got to the Seonbicheon Village we were going to be doing “cultural activities.”

I was a little unsure what “cultural activities” would mean….especially that it might mean sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture about culture. However I was pleasantly surprised to find out that not only was Seonbicheon a village built to look like bygone Korea, the activities would be dying fabric with natural dyes and learning drumming patterns–both of which might have been taught and learned centuries ago.

Because we had such a large group, we had to split up into two groups. My group started out with dying handkerchiefs. An ajumma explained the entire process to us in Korean, and step by step led us through the process (which was similar to homemade tie-dye) of crumpling up the fabric in strategic ways, tying it up, making the dye (which smelled like cow poop), dying the fabric and hanging up our handkerchiefs to dry.

Halfway through the process these two old Korean men wearing matching outfits came and observed the process, clearly amused by all the Americans attempting to do traditional arts and crafts.

After my group finished with the cloth dying, we went to another building where we learned some traditional drumming. I thought that would be the least fun of the activities, but it was actually super fun and the old guy who was attempting to teach us was hilarious. Later on we would see our teachers performing in some sort of dance/music/theater show on the main stage of the little village.

After a tasty but not incredibly filling lunch of bibimbap and a surprise performance by some of the elders in the area and a college theater troop, we hopped back on our bus and drove a little way to a mountain/Buddhist temple. Somewhere along the way we picked up an American tour guide named Mr. David, and he told us elaborate stories about the area, historical figures, and religion. At the base of the mountain on the trail up to the temple, he began telling us a story. When he got to the end of the story (and remember that it is 90 degrees and humid) he said that the portion of the story he just finished telling us was part one of twelve.

The 70 of us shared a collective meaningful glance, communicating our exasperation and heat exhaustion, as he then told us that it would take us an hour to get up the mountain. It actually took about 90 minutes…and later we discovered that it should only take about 20 minutes…but we kept stopping to hear more stories about the temple’s founding fathers so it took much longer.

The temple was beautiful and peaceful. I am in love with any place that is surrounded with mountains, nature and historic buildings, but by this point in the day we were all so tired it was hard to fully take in all the beauty. We had to be back down the mountain at a certain time for dinner, so after a little bit of wandering around at the top, we meandered our way back down and to a restaurant where we were fed boiled chicken, rice porridge, and the most disgusting alcohol I have ever tasted in my entire life. Oh, and an apple for dessert. Yeah. (I am not kidding about the alcohol, it was supposed to be similar to makgoli, but it was sour and had chunks of we are not quite sure what floating in it…definitely homemade… T_T)

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By the time we returned back to our lodging it was completely dark outside. We separated into smaller groups and played follow the leader through the now completely dark Seonbicheon village to find the houses we would be staying in. We didn’t get to choose our roommates, but luckily for me I was paired up with my friend Makie (as you can tell it was assigned alphabetically) and we were put into the closet sized room on the outside of our housing complex entitled the 작은 사랑방, or small love room. Yep.

To get into our room you had to go up some stairs, take off your shoes, go up another few stairs, and semi-crawl your way into the room as the door was only about 3 feet tall. Once you were in the room, there was a fan, a little chest, a window, and enough floor space to put down about one and a half pallets to sleep on.

Because we are super cool (and definitely adults) Makie and a few other girls and I went into the regular sized 사랑방 and played Uno while eating cookies and gossiping before returning to our respective rooms and completely crashing for the night.

The room was actually surprisingly comfortable, but I must say, waking up at 2am and needing to go to the bathroom was a struggle. I laid awake considering whether I actually needed to go for a solid five minutes before sighing, crawling out the door, feeling around for my shoes in the dark, crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t die going down the stairs and crossing the courtyard and making my way to the sole light which was coming from a bulb above the bathroom door. Don’t worry guys, I made it there and back without injury.

After waking up at 7am, we all made our way across the village to yet another restaurant to eat a quick breakfast before touring the Confucian Academy across the road from Seonbicheon Village. Again, the academy was interesting…but trying to keep 70 hot and tired Americans to follow along to one tour guide after two days of constant travel and new places and new information….needless to say we were basically all mentally checked out.

And despite all of us huddling together in little patches of shade, I did manage to (in the end) have a good time and take some good pictures.

I made a 10 minute video about the weekend, so if you don’t feel like reading this post, or if you skipped to the bottom mostly just looking at the pictures, check out my video! I just filmed it on my iPhone, so the quality is not fantastic, but thats okay. You get the idea 😉

Thanks for reading! Sorry I have been MIA for the last week, it was the first week of classes and life got a little hectic trying to adjust to my new schedule. I have lots of things to say about other adventures and experiences though, so come back soon for more posts, pictures and videos! ^_^

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