Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Life In Seoul Continues... The April Edition

Saturday, April 4th: Now that the weather is warming up, it can mean only one thing: Back to doing touristy stuff! A group of us decided to go on a walking tour that follows this route: Dongdaemun (Honginjimun) → Seoul (Naksan) Fortress → Biu-dang → Naksan Park → Ihwajang. For your viewing pleasure, here's are a few pictures from that day (Check out my Facebook for a more thorough vieweing experience!):

Group shot overlooking smoggy Seoul
(Top: L-R): Dan, Jen, Meghan, Kelly, Amanda, Me, AJ, Kiki,
Bottom: Susie, Tara

"Built in a massive public project at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty (starting in 1390), this stone wall averaging about 20 feet (6 meters) high encircled the entire city, providing protection from thieves and wild animals as well as military attacks. This part of the wall belongs to the section that reached north and then west from Honginjimun to the northern city gates (which are no longer extant). This city has grown far beyond its original fortress walls and gates, but interest in them as important historical architecture has been revived by proud Seoul citizens, and they are progressively being restored to their original splendor."

"During the reign of Great King Sejong (early 15th Century; he is depicted on the 10,000 won bill) this was the residence of a notable Yangban (member of the aristocratic class) named Yu Gwan, known to history by his pen-name “Hajeong”. Serving as a State Minister in the royal court, he was a leading participant in the reformist Neo-Confucian movement of that time dubbed “the spirit of Chungbaek-ri.” Take a little time to look around this residence (restored in the late 20th Century) to get a good impression of Joseon Dynasty aristocratic architecture, and the lifestyle of its residents. Nearby this house there is a spring called “Jajudong” which was once famous for its clean and clear waters."

Funny story about this part of the tour: We were all sitting at this building listening to our tour guide and the security alarms kept going off. It was a high-pitched siren-type alarm, but while we all looked at each other nervously waiting for the police to show up, our tour guide just get chattering away as if nothing was going on. We assumed that this was a normal occurence, but it was funny all the same.

"This “Pear Blossom Manor” was the home of the first President of the Republic of Korea, named Lee (or Yi) Seung-man but best known to global history by his own adopted spelling Syngman Rhee. He was a dedicated fighter for Korean independence against the Japanese imperialists a century ago, and then spent decades in exile in the United States, diplomatically lobbying for American support for Korea's cause. Becoming a fervent Protestant Christian, he married the daughter of an Austrian Ambassador. When Korea was Liberated in 1945 he was able to return to this house in Seoul, and quickly became a leader of the conservative political forces. Upon the creation of the Republic of Korea under auspices of the United Nations, he was elected as its first President in August 1948. He led the nation bravely through the devastation of the 1950-53 Korean War and then the reconstruction era that followed it. Public discontent with the political and economic corruption of his administration led to his forced retirement in 1960, when he fled to exile in Hawaii. After his passing away in 1970 his wife returned to this residence and continued to live there until her own passing in 1992. Their home was restored as a public exhibition hall of artifacts related to his life and presidency in 1988, and is fascinating for all those interested in Korea's modern history."

Saturday, April 11th: Cherry Blossom Festival Time! My one word to describe this day: BEAUTIFUL!!! A group of us headed to The Yeouido Yunjungno Cherry Blossom Festival, which occurs every April and where you can take in more than 1 400 cherry trees.

Some of the girls: Lindsay, Jen, Kelly, Amanda, Me. If I remember correctly, Meghan took this picture, but Laura and Randy were also wandering nearby.

I'm not exagerating when I say that this area was jam-packed with cherry trees.

It seriously looked like something from a movie, with light pink and white blossoms everywhere. The best part was when there'd be a breeze and the blossom pedals would swirl around like snow. I've never seen anything quite that beautiful and feel so fortunate that I was here to experience it. I think it's safe to say that cherry blossoms are one of my new favourite flowers!

Friday, April 17th: First field trip of the year! In celebration of Easter, we brought the kiddies to a large park and had an Easter egg hunt. Alright, they only actually hunted for Easter eggs for about 10 minutes and they weren't even chocolate eggs. They each had to find an Easter egg that was a actually an egg-shaped contained full of bubbles and they loved it! After lunch and an exciting game of duck-duck-goose, we took a walk and found a large playground where the kids could let loose and run around like hummingbirds on speed. Introducing Banana and Cherry class being their silly selves.

Saturday, April 25th: Not that we ever need a reason to get dressed up and have a girls night, but this night was extra special because a bunch of us went to see the a bilingual performance of Vagina Monologues presented by V-Day Seoul 2009. As described in the
performance brochure, "V-DAY SEOUL is a dedicated group of foreign and Korean citizens who have come together for the third annual bilingual production of The Vagina Monologues. We are raising awareness, through the play, to prevent violence against women and to help shatter sex taboos in the Korean community." To say that the show was amazing would be an understatement. Acts such as "My Angry Vagina" and "Vagina Happy Facts" made me laugh out loud, while others such as "Say It" and "I Was There in the Room" made me cry and most importantly, made me think. A lot of the more intense ones had to do with Korean comfort women, women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese during WWII. It's painful thinking about what those women went through and what some women are still being forced to go through in this day and age, but I think it's important that we do think about it because as long as it's in our consciousness, those women won't be forgotten. I'm so happy that I was fortunate enough to see this performance and would recommend to all women (and men!) that if you get the chance, go see Vagina Monologues. I guarantee that you won't regret it!
May - to be continued...

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