I was visiting Leslie at her homestay in Cheonan and her host mom was like "ok my sister and her daughter will be here soon then we will all go to jimjilbang" and Leslie and I were like uhhhh what. excuse me? Leslie was horrified and looked at me when the mom left the room and said "I'm going to tell her that because you are an American you are not ok with this jimjilbang thing" and I started laughing really hard because the thought of being naked in a sauna with Leslie and her host female family members was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. I therefore refused to let Leslie use me as an excuse. (In case you were wondering about why she was allowed to use ME as the AMERICAN it's because Korean's don't understand that Korean-American's are American and may know little to nothing about Korean culture which gets them into some uncomfortable situations but that's not important right now)
So anyway, Leslie, her host mom, her host aunt, her host cousin (girl in middle school) and host brother (boy in middle school) and I all get in a car to experience our first (well, Leslie and I's first) jimjilbang experience.
Once we get to the sauna which we almost didn't find but then I saw a sign that pointed in the direction of the sauna and Leslie's aunt was pissed because she didn't see it and I did which was funny and Leslie and I probably laughed harder than was necessary because then she got more mad (ok, I understand this writing isn't the best but I'm just trying to get it on here.). Anyway, we got to the sauna and were each given a key to the lockers. We put our shoes in one locker then headed off into different [un]dressing rooms (boys and girls) We walked into the girls room and were immediately welcomed with lots of naked middle aged women walking around. There were mirrors everywhere that people were supposed to do their hair in ??? there were also hair dryers and sprays and stuff. So we went to our lockers and then... the clothes came off.
Leslie and I were like, well, I guess this is a bonding experience. So after we were all naked we went into the showering room where we had to shower and sit on these little plastic stools. Leslie was horrified at the idea of how many butts had been on them and I was being straight up stared at because I was the ONLY WHITE GIRL in the room. After the shower the host cousin told us to sit in the jacuzzi. I promptly got my backed sucked into one of the drains creating a large red circle where a tramp stamp would go on my lower back. THEN we had to go under this shower thing in the middle of the room and pull a string that poured freezing cold water on you. (I think the point of this was to make my cold worse.) After the shower room Leslie and I were allowed to put on this baggy pink uniform and go into the common area that had a tv with some mats lying around, a snack bar, a place with exercise machines and a computer room. I thought that was completely random.
There were three different Sauna rooms in this area. One that had a cold room (11 degrees Celsius) one with a sort of hot room and one room that literally looked like an oven. So the cousin made us go into the cold room for a little while but then the host mom found us and told us we had to go into the warm room then the hot room. The warm room was hot but not too bad and we were told that Koreans sleep for 1 or 2 hours there. That seemed a little excessive. Then we were forced to go into the oven for "three minutes" and I wish I could have taken pictures but we really looked like we were entering a pizza oven. Picture a pizza oven. Ok, that's what I was in only it was human sized. I was ready for the Koreans to lock us in and say "ha, ha you're toast!" but that actually didn't happen. It was HOT in there though. We were all sweaty and gross. Then the mom wanted us to go back into the cold room and I said, "listen host mom. you got me naked, I have a red circle on my back, all the old women are staring at me and I have a cold. I can't go into the cold room." Actually, I didn't say that, but Leslie and I did decline. The host aunt decided I was going to drink beer with her which seemed like a terrible idea because we were so dehydrated but ok whatever. Then Leslie and I fell asleep on the mats for an hour while everyone else sweated some more.
Finally at 11pm we were woken then told to shower and change back into our regular clothes. So we had to take off the uniform, go back into the other room and shower. Putting on clothes was really nice though.
We got home and I settled down to sleep on Leslie's floor. Leslie's host mom (let's call her mama bear) came in and told us to get ready to leave for the MOUNTAIN that we were going to climb at 5am. Not a problem.
We set our alarm for 4:50 and when it went off we didn't hear anyone moving so we went back to sleep. Host mom comes in at 6pm and tells us that we will leave in 10 minutes. After everyone gets into the car we embark on our 2 hour long car ride to NeyJangSan mountain. Ok, the thing about Korea is that it is 70% mountainous so when they told me we were driving 2 hours to get there I was a little sad. There are mountains about 30 minutes away from I live that I'm sure are just as tall as the one we were going to.
The car arrived at 8am and we parked and set out for our walk to the peak. It was supposed to take 3 hours. Let me tell you something, this was not an easy hike and Leslie is not an outdoors person. Actually, that's the whole reason I said I would come was because I wanted to watch Leslie struggle up a mountain but it turns out that mama bear and host aunt weren't too good at hiking either. Leslie's host dad aka papa bear and I forged ahead and climbed up the mountain a lot faster than everyone else (my gut told me it was the right thing to do to impress the dad). He made me stop periodically to yell "American things" to make an echo... (I never heard an echo). If you were wondering what I was yelling it was things like "My stomach hurts!" because the air was thin and I was having a hard time BREATHING. Anyway, we got to the peak and sat at the very top, at that point I was too tired to be afraid but once I started resting I also started shaking a little because I think I'm afraid of heights. We took some pictures then waited for Leslie, her brothers, her cousin, her mom and her aunt to get there. Once we were all at the top we took some more pictures then headed down.
The journey down was more pleasant but Leslie still fell a bunch of times so that was funny. (She was also wearing converse). At the end of the climb we all got into the car exhausted and then drove to a restaurant that had the freshest beef for 30,000 won a person. Papa bear was so happy with the climb that he made me drink with him which I didn't really want to do because I knew I would be car sick later but I got through what he wanted me to and I felt like it was a good decision. After dinner the family dropped off Leslie and I at the bus station so we could head back earlier. (they were off to see a baby in a hospital or something...)
At Leslie's house we got ready for Halloween in Seoul then took the KTX train into the city to the Fulbright building where our friend's apartment was that everyone was staying at. We got there and the room was decorated for halloween then we all went out to the clubs. Leslie and I were exhausted and we ended up going back at 1:30am but it was still fun seeing everyone.
The next morning we went out to have brunch in Itaewon and people watch (there were about 11 of us there for halloween). After brunch a couple people headed out but then the rest of us stayed and lazied around, watching movies then getting dinner. I got back to Cheongju around 11pm and I was so exhausted!!! Ahhhh.
School today was fun because it was Halloween and the host parents are out right now so it's just Sol and I for dinner. When I came home from school I saw that Sol had let ALL THE CHICKENS out of the coop! So I decided to document that in this movie:
Also, if you want to see another movie I made about one of the chickens here is the url: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=2272288047408&set=t.1254840026&type=3&theater