So much has gone on in May that I cannot possibly fit it all into one post! So, this post will be the first of several to come over the next few days (hopefully, if I can stay motivated) detailing some of the adventures that May has brought.
There are many holidays in May. May 5 is Children's Day, in which kids get off of school, receive gifts, and hang out with their families. May 8 is Parent's Day--here Mother's Day and Father's Day are combined into one holiday. May 10 is Buddha's Birthday. Lantern parades and festivals are held throughout the week, and temples are lavishly covered in colorful lanterns. Even though the day was rainy and overcast, it was still pleasant to visit a temple and stroll around.
May 15 is Teacher's Day. I received some mud facial treatments. Other days in May commemorate the anniversaries of important events in Korean history. So, I wasn't the only one busy this May!
But, I did take some time on my own to explore a really wonderful park called Ppuri Park, curiously nicknamed "Filial Piety Theme Park." It was more amazing than the name gives it credit for. This park is dedicated to providing the history of family names in Korea, and the park has 136 sculptures representing different family names.
There are currently 286 surnames in Korea (the Big Three being Kim, Park, and Lee), with 4,179 family origins (called Bongwan). Together, the surname and Bongwan represent a family. A person's given name is composed of one character (syllable) that specifies which generation of a family the name holder belongs to, and another character for identifying the individual. Thus, every single Korean name has 3 characters (syllables)--two for the first name and one for the family name, which is actually put first. Aside from that genealogical lesson, the park was also just simply exceedingly beautiful.
To switch gears and focus on something not at all intellectual, some friends and I visited an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant earlier in the month. The food came around on a conveyor belt that you could just grab things off of. There was a super wide variety of foods that came by--even ice cream--but this roll was the most interesting: imitation crab meat and cucumber surrounded by seaweed and rice, topped with a slice of processed cheese, colored sprinkles, and sweet sauces. Bona Appetit!
I went to Daejeon's NGO Festival. It was interesting, though I couldn't understand most of what the NGOs were supporting. But it was fun to be asked to pose with these very handsome South Korean soldiers.
"Which of these ones is not like the other one..."
The final entry for this post is about my trip to the Damyang Bamboo Forest--the Bamboo Culture Experience. Damyang is a pretty small city/village outside of Gwangju that is the northernmost point on the peninsula where bamboo grows in abundance. Bamboo is its thing. I ate bamboo ice cream and bamboo hotteok (sweet pancakes), went to the Bamboo Culture Experience Village and walked on Confucian Scholar's Road and Philosophers' Way, among other equally serene experiences. Here's a fun fact: "While walking around [the bamboo forest], negative ions (anions) are released from the bamboo that will ease the mind dramatically. The temperature in the bamboo forest is 4 to 7 degrees (Celsius) cooler, because of the elevated levels of oxygen."
So that was fun!
That's only scratching the surface of what has happened so far in May. Whew. Stay tuned.