As you can imagine, one of the hardest things about being abroad is missing the yearly traditions of friends and family, the sorts of things you look forward to all year, every year. The Christmas and New Year's holidays here could have been really tough. We didn't have much going on for either holiday--no tree, only paper stockings, very sparse gifts mailed from overseas, and nary a Christmas light to be found. New Year's was even less of a celebration, as it is the lunar New Year (in February) that is heartily celebrated.
Fear not, though, the holidays turned out not to be a gloomy affair after all, because of one huge factor: Brandon came to visit! I had not seen my boyfriend for four months, so this was a very very welcome treat. He stayed for three weeks, and we had a wonderful time. In just this short time, he traveled up and down the peninsula, met dozens of people, and very impressively sampled an astonishing array of Korean foods...some that I had not even tried (nor did I want to, like chicken feet and pig's feet.)
We did too many things to go into detail here, so I will just put up some photos that highlight Brandon's time in South Korea. Now all we have to do is make it another seven months before we see each other again...
Brandon had been dreaming about Korean dumplings for months, so on his first night in the country we ate these monstrous, delicious, meat-filled steamed dumplings.
We visited Gyeongbuk palace, the main palace from the 600-year Joseon dynasty, where Brandon got to dress up like a historical Korean gent. I think he looks dashing.
We got into the holiday spirit more when we found this outdoor ice skating rink in the heart of downtown Seoul.
Brandon helped me to celebrate my graduation from Korean language class. Do I still deserve to graduate even if I can't read what my diploma says?
This is us at Cheomsongdae, an ancient astronomical observatory, in Kyongju, the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom.
The most impressive part of Kyongju was seeing Bulguksa temple (pictured) and Seokguram grotto.
In Busan, we saw some awesome ocean views!
We also hiked around an ancient fortress.
Eventually we made our way back to Seoul, and saw some interesting sights, including National Treasure No. 2, this ancient pagoda.
And we enjoyed a bit more Korea cuisine.
All in all, we had an amazing experience. It was great for Brandon and I to be able to enjoy each other's company, and having shared this time together will help us to get through the next seven months apart. We were able to take in so much of the Korean culture and take in a lot of sightseeing that I don't get to do here normally. So, thanks, Brandon for an awesome trip. Go Korea!