Today was a special day at school. Given that tomorrow is Halloween and that GIS follows an American curriculum, our student council decided to have a candy gram fundraiser, trick-or-treating for the elementary students, and a costume contest. Thus, students were full of sugar-induced energy, and sporting all manners of costumes. Even the teachers were asked to wear costumes today. I didn't find out until too late that those teachers not wearing costumes would be forced to dance in front of the students.... How embarrassing!
Some highlights: one student's creative jellyfish costume, and a series of animal suits worn by some of our fellow teachers. Oh, and candy. Lots and lots of candy.
different types of kimchi, some of which do not have cabbage). Some form of kimchi appears at every meal, so its a very important side dish. In fact, kimchi is such a staple that pizza is served with pickles here. Every fall, families get together to make kimchi for the winter months, so today's volunteering was a reflection of this cultural tradition.
The kimchi making day was hosted by a particular company and was actually filmed by several different broadcasting companies, which was rather unfortunate. However, the students enjoyed the trip (and sneaking bites of fresh kimchi), and it seemed many students grew closer to each other, which is something that is needed at our school.
Today was a government holiday in Korea, also called a "Red Day." The cause for celebration? The creation of Hangeul, the Korean writing system.
Hangeul was invented by the Joseon era King Sejong. Before Hangeul was invented, Koreans used the Chinese writing system - some of which is still used today in formal settings and in newspapers. Because the Chinese writing system consisted of ideographs and did not match the grammar system of Korean, it was very difficult to learn. In fact, a scholar in the 7th century helped create a formal system that consisted of a mix of Chinese characters and special marking for Korean verbs called Idu.
Idu, however, was so complicated that only the ruling class with Confucian education could understand it (The Economist, "How was Hangul invented?"). King Sejong, being a king who loved his people, wanted his people to have a writing system that was easier to learn, so that everyone could read official decrees and laws. So, he invented Hangeul, which is a phonetic writing system (Korea Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Tourism). Today, every 9th of October Koreans celebrate this invention.
Since I had a day off from school, I took the opportunity to visit Cheongju. I hadn't been back since moving to Seoul, so I felt it was about time.
In Cheongju, I met up with a current Fulbright ETA, Abby, and we decided to take a trip over to Cheongnamdae. Cheongnamdae was once the Presidential Villa, where the President of Korea would spend vacations, and it is located just outside of Cheongju. It seemed absolutely fitting to be visiting this place on a Korean holiday.
The weather today was warm and pleasant, so Abby and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the grounds and touring the villa. We arrived around lunch, so we ate briefly in a cafeteria near the shuttle bus entrance, and then walked around the grounds. It was so nice to be out of the city smelling pine needles and listening to the sounds of Mother Nature. Seoul life really wears on you.
Since I am a bit of a fan of architecture, I have to say that the villa itself was the most interesting part to me. I love to see how architectural styles differ from country to country, and also how some elements overlap. I also enjoyed walking around the interior and imaging Presidents of the past and their families using the items in the rooms. I find these aspects of culture and history the most fascinating.
If you ever have a chance to visit Cheongju, I highly recommend stopping by Cheongnamdae. You can reach it by taking bus 311 from the Cheongju bus terminal and getting off at Munui. You will arrive at a shuttle bus station that will take you directly to Cheongnamdae.