“In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly, that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the 1st place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby.”

This quote seemed perfect in light of the recent stuff going on between the North and South, the fact that I am enjoying every minute of my time spent here, incredible friends, the World Cup hitting of soccer balls, and the time I’m spending bouncing other people’s babies in the name of  “work.” Here’s a rundown of the latest- and it might be long since it’s been a while.

In April the whole school (inc a few Korean teachers) and some friends headed down to the beach town of Busan, the 2nd largest city in Korea, for Annie’s birthday. This was made even better because my best buddy from college, Jeff was visiting for 2 weeks from SF. Being Korean American, he’d been wanting to come back and see the family but I provided added incentive. This trip was excellent bonding for everyone. Highlights included eating bugs, hiking to a lighthouse, eating the most amazing seafood lunch ever on the beach, dancing on stage at a club, and later- a random Korean tag-a-long lighting off our bottle rockets inside a bar before a sunrise heart to heart on the beach with Annie and Brandon. Note: The bottle rocket incident proved to us there is NOTHING you can do to get kicked out of a bar in Korea.

Later that month (April), Annie, Caitlin, Christy, Becky and I all ran a 1/2 marathon outside of Seoul. It was hot, hilly and miserable-but we were super proud of ourselves. This also began the first of the Sunday Fundays at the rooftop bar, Nashvilles.

May brought all kinds of random fun! First there was the Scavenger Hunt for foreigners with Caitlin, Brandon, and some other friends. We did everything from swim in the Han River to this:

Cinco De Mayo is celebrated in Korea by calling it Children’s Day. On this holiday, the children of Korea are given the day off from Korean school, homework, private tutors, Taekwondo, piano, English school, and everything else they go through. But only for the one day every year. Then it’s BACK TO WORK!

As Annie’s days in Korea were dwindling down, her “bucket list” became more urgent so we decided to hit the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ. This is the line between North and South, where it is actually more of a buffer zone with a cease fire agreement than it is an actual border. We were able to see an area where the people of the South can go to pray for their loved ones in the North, who they are not allowed to be in contact with. It’s sad to hear about how families were literally torn apart and aren’t able to be together, like our tour guide whose Uncle lived in the North during the treaty and hasn’t been heard from since. We wandered tunnels the North had been making headed toward Seoul for a future invasion (there are 4 tunnels that we know of and a reward of several million dollars if you find another one). It was also pretty chilling seeing how serious the North was about privacy- no cameras at ALL allowed anywhere near the boarder, and a city built in view from binoculars to make it look like they were prosperous, but in reality no one lives or works there. Heartbreaking stuff that made me learn a lot about the situation here and finally explained why South Koreans don’t view the North and South as 2 separate countries.

Buddha had his birthday in the 4th month of the Lunar New Year so we got a 3 day weekend. The whole country celebrated all month long by hanging millions of lanterns along the streets, and having a major blow out festival the weekend before his birthday. This was my favorite festival so far (since Mudfest hasn’t happened yet) because we got to make paper lotus flowers, write wishes on paper tied to a balloon that was released, wander the streets with fire hazard candle lanterns, eat awesome food, take amazing pictures, see the biggest, longest, and most amazing parade, and walk along the Cheonggyecheon River surrounded by giant lanterns of all kinds of animals. I liked to call this the “Thanksgivings Day Parade with Lanterns.”

For the 3 day weekend, a few of us headed to the east coast to a small town called Samcheok for some exploring and beach time. Samcheok is known for it’s massive old caves, hiking, and Haeshindang Park, which I will let you google on your own. More interested in the beach and caves than the latter, it turned out the most fun was with the people we met- which is no surprise since I love people, travel, and people who travel.  Here’s the best picture of the cave:

When I spoke to my mom on Skype this morning, she told me I tell her that EVERY weekend was the best weekend yet. It made me laugh because it’s true! The last weekend of May was one I thought would be hard to beat. My new partner in crime, Sara, and I hit up a group trip to the south west to Seounyudo, where there was a series of beautiful, tiny islands connected only by foot and bike bridges. The group we hung out with was awesome. It boiled down to only a few who rented bikes and hiked the islands, played on the beach, combed it for shells, ran into the warm water with our clothes on, and met back up with the group in time for dinner and a sunset on the beach. That night we headed back to the beach for a bit and drank beer with a huge group of South Africans. The next day we hiked to the highest point with an incredible view of the blue waters, then headed down to wander the part of the ocean that had parted, Moses style, in the low tide. It was a beautiful thing to see and made better only by the funky shellfish we collected and BBQed before heading to the ferry again.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and Annie really did have to leave. We stayed up all night long at one last Wing Night before sending her off to catch her 8am flight back to NC. We pinky-swore we’d see each other again and got matching necklaces with our names in Korean on them.