we woke up early and took the 7:20am bus from seoul to jinju. my aunt and uncle live in jinju, which is south of seoul. the bus ride is about 4 hours. it makes one stop and costs less than $20. it's very convenient. there are a lot things that are set up really well here.
my aunt teaches english in jinju. she is one of 5 sisters (including my mother). the other 4 sisters live in the u.s. and my aunt is the only one in korea but her english is the best. this is because when she was about 7 or 8 years old she came to the u.s. to study for a year and a half. she has very good pronunciation and speaks better than most korean people her age whom i know in the u.s. it amazes me how much a child can pick up when it comes to language. 30 years in the u.s. at an older age can't beat 1.5 years at an early age. i keep this in mind when i think about my future (god willing) kids.
we visited two of my aunts english classes and the students conversed with us by asking us questions in english. it was fun. she teaches at a community center for women. her students are wives and mothers who want to learn english for fun or to teach their kids. it's really big here for kids to learn english. school and career are very competitive and kids are driven big time. they study all the time and all get tutoring or go to some after school programs in addition to school, which is very demanding. if a kid lives in another country for a few years and comes back to korea, it is very difficult for them to keep up, and they may have to attend international school, which is easier. one of my cousins is sending his son to boarding school in massachusetts to attend high school next year.
anyways, it was fun to participate in the class and her students are of all ages and very fun. we also ate lunch across the street. jinju is known for really good food. being 4 hours south of seoul, it feels very different in jinju. it's not as high tech and developed, and it feels like how seoul was 10-15 years ago. it's a slower pace of life, which was a nice change from seoul (even though i love seoul).
we picked up some stuff from my aunts, went to the grocery store together and then visited my uncle at the hospital. he's a urologist. we chatted with my uncle and then took off for another road trip. my aunt and uncle actually have a place in namhae, which is a small island off the southern coast of seoul. it's about an hour drive from jinju.
abouy 5 years ago, during a leisure trip to namhae, my aunt and uncle saw a sign saying that the government wanted to create and american village in namhae, and were selling land. at that time, there was already a german village on the island, and now they wanted to make an american village. they called the number and land was still available. they thought about it for 6 months and then bought the land. they were going to just put up a pre-made house on the property because they couldn't afford to build, but the gov't wouldn't allow it. then they submitted a design for a small home but there was a minimum square footage that the government required. so they added a loft to the home and it got approved.
so w actually drove and we went to namhae. on the way we went to a local fish market and saw the lady pick out and then kill the fish that we were going to eat. she gave us eel, flounder, crabs, halibut, sea squirt (conches) and some other stuff we'd never seen before. it was super fresh. we got fish to eat raw (hwe), and also fish for maeuntang (stew).
so i have to explain more about this american village. there's huge sign saying "american village" in front of it. you have to have lived in the u.s. for a certain number of years to be accepted. so some of her neighbors are actually americans who married a korean, or koreans who married americans and use it as their vacation home, a b&b or retire there. originally, once you got accepted into the village, the government wanted you to change your citizenship to korean, but they changed that because most people want to keep their u.s. citizenship.
anyways, we got there (i'm actually here now) and it's pretty awesome. it's a quaint little house which is pretty new and clean. she has a little garden where we picked lettuce and peppers for dinner. she also has a blueberry bush where we picked some blueberries and ate right off of. i'd never seen a blueberry bush before. in her garden are also tomatoes, an apple tree, mint, peppermint, rosemary and a bunch of flowers. i freakin loved it. then we went across the street to her friend's house (they also built a house after seeing my aunt's, and of course they are friends from high school and their husbands both teach at the same university; the friend's husband teaches asian history). her friend has a bigger garden so we got some ggeneep (another lettuce leaf we like to eat) and garlic. and she gave us lots of red leaf and romain lettuce leaves too. we sat down and had some drinks with them. oh, she also cut off a branch of a plant to ward off mosquitos for me.
my uncle arrived and we all had dinner together, of raw fish and the lettuce we picked. it was pretty awesome. my aunt and uncle took off and left their car here for us. we're spending 2 nights here and then heading back to seoul so we'll look around the island. i'll tell you more later, if you're still following.