I’ve been in Korea just shy of 2 months now, and I’m turning 26 next week. These are some experiences and moments in time that really make you stop and think some profoundly beautiful thoughts. Like, the person you used to be and the person you’re becoming. Where you were, where you think you’re going and where you’re ultimately going to end up. But there are a special few moments in time that breathe new air and life into a once, seemly mundane and routine existence. I can count on one hand the moments that have stopped me in my tracks, to ponder such beautiful thoughts. Because everything about that moment are simply and purely perfect. In the short 2 months I’ve been in Korea I’ve felt more alive than I ever have before. I do what I want when I want, and the best thing is that I can reinvent myself into anyone I want, because guess what? No one knows anything about me other than what I put out into the world at this very moment. It’s a liberating and freeing feeling comparable to nothing else I’ve experienced. I’m living for me, and I’m doing things I only imagined and I cannot seem to get enough. I thought my addiction to coffee was borderline problematic, but my addiction to traveling and being in Korea is all consuming. I love every single moment; from aimlessly wandering an unchartered area to navigating the complex subway system which was been trodden upon countless times. There are things I don’t love about the country, but the good heavily outweighs the bad. I think the thing I love the most about Korea is how safe it is. Guns are extremely illegal here which makes crime far less common, and not nearly as dangerous as crime in the US. On the flip side, big brother is always watching here. Everywhere you go- from the classroom to an outdoor public temple- plus everything you do and say is being recorded in Korea, on CCTV. Even despite this unsettling thought, the people are actually trusted by their government to not do horrible things. Before you enter an arena your belongings aren’t checked, and you’re actually allowed to carry in a bag! People are so much nicer here, and actually try to help you despite the language barrier. Most importantly, as a solo female traveler I don’t get harassed on a daily basis like I would at home…or maybe I am and I just can’t understand what men are saying. Either way, I prefer it because people don’t bother me and I actually feel safe wandering around alone. Men don’t feel compelled to bark at me here, I’m not stared at like a piece of meat- I’m just left alone. I wouldn’t do it, nor would I recommend it, but if you found yourself having consumed too much alcohol, and missed the last train I would be willing to bet no one- not even the police!- would bother to give a second look. Every one consumes excessive amounts of soju on the reg, who are they to judge?! This weekend I went to Boseong Tea farm which is one of, if not the top tourist attractions in Korea. Boseong county is the largest provider of green tea in Korea, and has been growing it for nearly 1600 years. Sooo… I guess what I’m trying to say, is that the tea isn’t really THAT great when you think about it. I went with the meet-up group called Climbing in Korea along with 70 people. I have to hand it to Mr. Kim, it was such a great experience! I think we all had a blast and it was the most well-organized trip I’ve been on, yet. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, we made our way through a forrest obstacle course, and then zip lined over a beautiful river to the finish line.
The obstacle course was fun but it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. The zip lining was cool and provided such beautiful views of the area. I just wish there was a little more thought put into the harness design because it sure wasn’t the most comfortable experience I’ve had haha. I have to say, my favorite part of the day was the chimac (chi-ken and macju which is Korean for beer) party! As we waited for our food to be delivered, a pretty serious game of frisbee football broke out. And it was amazing! The sun was setting against a picture perfect backdrop, and just lit up the field with a luminous glow; hinting at the first sign of a summer haze. I don’t recall the exact songs that were playing, but I remember stopping in the middle of the field to really take in how perfect the scene was. Complete strangers were bonding and creating memories together- because of an airborne plastic disk. On a lush green field, during the most magical time of day amid beautiful scenery…words can’t describe the feelings of peace and pure joy I felt at that moment. When the food arrived on the field, it was truly a sight for sore eyes and an empty bellies. The spread was amazing and there was even RAW VEGETABLES! That means, like, they WEREN’T fermented! You don’t understand how big a deal this is! A Koreans’ favorite thing to do is ferment every.single.thing that grows in the ground. If it has a root it’s fermented. If it has a leaf it’s fermented. If it’s a vegetable it’s fermented. Ferment EVERYTHING! I’m salivating because I remember that wonderful crunch too well. But alas, they were gone as quickly and mysteriously as they had arrived. Soon, the sky became dark and the stars lit up the sky- so we danced the night away.
The next day was spent frolicking and playing in the fields which seemed to continue forever. I was a little bummed because we only had and hour to explore the vastness during the biggest tea festival of the year, but that just means I will just have to come back again someday. The fields were spectacular, continuing farther than you can see and over mountain peaks. Everything was in technicolor, and it actually smelled like real green tea!
The pictures don’t do it justice! After the hour was up, we were taught how to pick the leaves and turn them into tea. We were instructed by an ahjussi (ah-jessy)- the male equivalent of an ajumma- who said I should forgo my teaching job to live in the fields because he’s “never seen an American with tea hands.” At last, my life calling has been revealed! I shall grow a hump and forever be the weird American living off tea, photobombing all the people taking pictures in my fields. The process of turning leaves into tea is actually very long and repetitive- we weren’t done after an hour! You steam the leaves in a big vat constantly flipping them over so they don’t burn, and then transfer them onto a big sheet to cool and then transfer back into the vat etc. You do this a million times while standing over a open flames, until the leaves shrivel up and turn a deep dark green color. We actually got to take home the tea that we made- even though it wasn’t completed it was still a really cool experience which I recommend to all! After that we got to eat our way through the festival and onto the bus. My favorite thing was actually a revolutionary idea! It’s a cup filled with your drink of choice (I chose tea, because hello, tea festival) and then chicken bits on top! So you only carry around one cup but you can walk while eating and drinking at the same time. Mind = blown. This guy is a game changer, I’m telling you!
I have to say, the funnest part of the day by far was the mud fight on the way home. Which was surprising because I was really bummed that we had such limited time to frolic in the tea fields. The mud wasn’t just regular dirt mud you’re thinking. It was clay-like: very wet, heavy, dense, and deep gray in color. Playing in the mud I felt like I was about 3 or 4 years old again. Imagine fully grown 20, 30, or 40 something year old adults running through, tackling, and hurling mud at everyone for hours! People who are important in their careers- scientists, college professors, MBA students etc without any inhibitions, just pure animalistic mud fights. It was glorious! You couldn’t stand too long in the same spot or else you would sink down with only your thighs above the surface. So, we devolved to crawling our way through the battlefield. I felt like a zombie in the walking dead and kept yelling “carl!!” as I shot green tea at people through squirt guns. See below for reference, you uncultured swine! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uZPSGYq4ic
Here is a before picture:
And the after:
Despite some things not going according to plan, I have to admit that this was one of the most fun and best experiences I’ve ever had. Nothing in life ever goes to plan, all you have is a rough outline. Live every day to the fullest and without inhibitions! XoXo