Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Valentines in Korea

I need to apologize for the lack of posts this past six weeks or so. Since I am approaching the end of my Master's program, January and February included  my Master 1 Presentation, and the end of my fall semester of classes. So, needless to say, I have been very busy studying and making presentations. Probably by May I will start writing my Master's Thesis, so right now I have a little break from work and school.

Normally, most students have spring break during this time period, but none of my lab  members, including myself, have missed a day of coming to school. We are a biological lab, after all, and need to maintain living things... so if we were to be absent more than two days in a row some poor creature (or cells) would most likely die.

However, I got extremely lucky due to the kindness of a friend to be able to travel for at least one weekend. My friend is a native Korean who also is at Kyushu University in a neighboring lab. She told me she originally wanted to go home to celebrate the Lunar New Years (celebrated in Korea, China, Vietnam, etc.) but do to the hectic timing of the school's schedule (as I mentioned above many people are doing presentations/taking final exams) she was unable to do so at the end of January. Instead, she decided to go in early February, and asked me if I was interested in joining her. This was an opportunity I could not refuse, since I have not been to Korea in 21 years... for those of you who don't know this, I lived in Korea when I was a baby. Since I was too young to have any memories of living there, I jumped on the chance to go to Korea again.

So sure enough, the day before Valentine's day I went on a 30 minute flight from Fukuoka to Korea. Busan is closer to Fukuoka, than Tokyo but the atmosphere and culture are so totally different. It really is amazing how different the Japanese and Koreans are. I could tell as soon as I got off the plane it was indeed, a different world.

The very first thing we did when arriving in Korea was to go eat. We went to go eat my most favorite type of Korean food, gamjatang. It is a pork-bone soup with various vegetables and served super hot. Even though I almost choked to death on some radish-greens, the soup was delicious. The owner was so nice to even give us extra sides, even though we did not order any.Afterwards it was already quite late, so we went to my friends home to rest.

The next day we went shopping in the downtown area of Busan. Since it was Valentine's Day the streets were pretty crowded with couples shopping, but it was a long and tiring day. If you are a person who likes to go shopping, Korea is the place for you. They have many shops packed together, and you can buy just about anything you can think of. I went to one of my favorites stores of all... Dunkin Donuts! You may think I am crazy, but Japan only has Mister Donuts, not Dunkin Donuts, so I was quite happy to be able to eat and drink at Dunkin Donuts for a change.

We also ate some great food in the shopping area; homemade noodles and kimbap. My friend said her Dad once ate four bowls from this shop, and that it is very famous and old established noodle shop in Busan. At night we met her friend who she has not seen in nearly four years. It was a fun reunion for them, and we were able to enjoy dinner and coffee together late into the night.

The following day, we were pretty tired from staying out the night before, so we decided just to have a relaxing day of sight seeing. Going to one of the more well-known beaches in Busan, we had lunch in a scenic restaurant, went to the Busan aquarium, and then toured an island famous for it's view and camellia trees. It was fairly crowded that day, and sadly the camellia tress were mostly finished blooming, but the view was spectacular.

Korea was a really wonderful place, but after two days of non-stop walking and shopping we were ready to come back to Japan. Koreans certainly live a high-pace life, and I am not sure how some people are able to live like that everyday. I can say though, that now I definitely have some good memories of Korea and the bright and fascinating culture it owns.

I also need to thank my friend and her parents who were so kind to host me during that time. I am not sure if I would have been able to get around Korea so easily, without having a native Busan person with me. Thank you so much!