13 October 2006


At the begining of this month Korea had a holiday (Chusok)...a well-deserved holiday. This meant that I had 6 days of relaxation and recouperation, ready for the next haul until Christmas. I spent it on the east coast with Seongsu, seeing as we failed again to get plane tickets to China, even though we were trying to book 2 1/2 months in advance. Even my colleague was lucky to get his flight to Thailand around the same time. It seems that Koreans are no longer concerned about keeping traditions, and simply want to enjoy one of the few chances in a year(perhaps the only chance) for a holiday. Afterall, it is rare that Koreans get enough days strung together to allow them to travel. Even taking more than a few days off from work using their allocated vacation time is like pulling teeth out of the boss's mouth.

It was not the first time we have been there. We went there last January (see previous archived posts in January) and we went to the top of Seorak mountain via cable car due to the snow. That day we could not see more than a few metres in front of us, so we went back to see the view, and the leaves changing colour (for which Seoraksan is famous). We had a really good day, and saw some magnificent views. The next day Songsu took me to a spa, where there were small pools of different kinds of mountain mineral water, saunas and so forth. After about three hours there I got bored; I don't understand how anyone between the ages of 20-50 can spend all day there.

The rest of the time was spent sleeping, shopping, and reading "Hymn of the Spirit", a Korean novel that has been translated into English. I find it so difficult to find English translations so I whisked it off the shelf as soon as I clapped eyes on it. I cannot find a picture of it on the web, so maybe I should take a photo myself and post it later.

Songsu's parents invited me to their home for Chusok, but there was nowhere for me to sleep. Instead Songsu drove me from Seoul to Incheon (where they live), but what is normally an hour's journey turned out to be 4 hour one due to traffic jams. So we both missed the traditional breakfast and lunch, and met his parents at the hospital instead. Seongsu's younger brother (Yeongsu, 29) has been in hopital for two weeks with Hepatitis, brought on by stress from his impending marriage. Nonetheless he was in good spirits when we arrived, nattering to me in English, and feeling proud that he was able to. He told me that the week before a 42 year old foreigner, a public school teacher was in the same ward as a result of alcohol intoxication. I wonder how this kind of man can be a public school teacher. Anyway, he told me that he had to translate what the doctor said to the foreigner, which boosted his confidence about talking to me. The doctor said "don't drink like this again, it is really bad for your health" and Yeongsu translated it as "if you drink like this again, YOU WILL DIE!!!" Perhaps a better warning than the original.

After our visit to the hospital, Seongsu's father paid for everyone (father, mother, Songsu, auntie, cousin and myself) to eat in a restaurant. I complemented him on his choice in restaurant, which I thought would be a boost to his confidence, after a history of failures in regards to wining and dining Seongsu's mother. Songsu's mother brought up the issue about my Christmas present, an issue that has been kicking around for a couple of weeks. She had her heart set on buying me a hanbok, but even though I would like one, there is no opportunity for me to wear one. Songsu's family is not traditional enough for me to wear it at Chusok or Solal (Chinese New Year), thus I felt that she would be wasting her money. Afterall, she was ready to fork out a lot of money for it. After some persuasion from myself, Songsu, and Seongsu's father she finally conceded.

Anyway, see below for the photographs from Seorak mountain (서락산).


At 10/15/2006 9:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story, and some fantastic pictures! Oh, so you met his parents. Do they speak any English, and how good is your formal Korean? :)


At 10/17/2006 9:31 am, Blogger Louise said...

Hey Pete,

Mother doesn't speak English, Father can a little and falteringly. He used to speak it perfectly but he hasn't spoken it in 20 years.

As for me, his parents are comfortable with me using Chongdaemal (polite but informal). I can use the formal style but his parents are really friendly and comfortable to hang out with, so I just use Chongdaemal, except when saying 'thankyou', and 'sorry' etc, and when refering to their titles.

His parents are lovely, and his mother wants us to get married...she always spoils me with presents!

I'm so lucky compared with others in an international relationship with a Korean.

At 10/19/2006 6:46 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, you are really lucky for your boyfriend to have such open-minded, warm parents! Your Korean must be really coming along to able to talk comfortably. Can I ask how much Korean you knew before you came to Korea? Since I'm going there next year, I've been "kind of" learning it since last year when I've had time. Most of it I've just picked up from watching dramas and movies, but I can understand some sentences and pick out words from almost every other sentence that is spoken now. I have to admit, I haven't dived into my reading material yet, I've got some phrasebooks, a dictionary and a full Mastering Korean CD set, also some Let's Learn Korean episodes from Arirang TV. :)

I hope to get myself into a daily routine of learning to be honest...While my listening is ok when I'm paying attention, my pronounciation isn't up to scratch yet. It'd be great to be prepared with a whole selection of the language when I arrive.



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