Friday, June 7, 2013


Today, at approximately 6:20 AM, I woke up after languishing in bed for a whole 20 minutes after my alarm to an e-mail from EPIK...

An e-mail stating I have been successfully placed in Gangwon-do, South Korea.  I spun around, shed a few tears, posted on Facebook, called my parents, twirled around some more, and then set straight into the, "Oh my gosh, is this happening, what am I doing, and am I really this crazy and am I physically/mentally capable of moving halfway across the world to live in a country where I don't speak the language, am not part of the culture, and will be isolated from familiar family, friends, and cultural norms for an entire year?"

Basically, pre-move culture shock.

This is exhilaration: total excitement and total fear.  Two conflicting emotions that combine effortlessly to create one very unique human emotional experience.  One of my wiser (and more-traveled) friends says that exhilaration is the feeling you get when "you know something great is going to happen."

Gangwon-do, South Korea is arguably the most beautiful/scenic part of Korea. (Three national parks!)  It was one of the Eight Provinces during the Joseon Dynasty.  The northeastern-most province of South Korea, it shares a border with the North, is four fifths woodland, and is dominated by the Taebaek Mountains.  Interesting tidbit: the 3rd Dan Tae Kwon Do poomse (a.k.a. "Taebaek") according to the Kukkiwon, refers to the "bright mountain".  I must visit.

From Wikipedia (Author: Dmthoth - CC).
In addition to its scenery, it is known for its agriculture, tender beef ribs - 소갈비! or sogalbi! -, and a great number of opportunities for adventure sports.  Skiing, hiking, mountain/rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and beaches are just a few things to do in Gangwon-do.  According to one of the EPIK Coordinators, Gangwon-do is the place Seoulites go on the weekends.  There's more info here about specific attractions, including natural (e.g. Ulsan Rock) and man-made (e.g. Sangwonsa Temple).

Because I'm a science nerd, let it be known that tungsten is identified as a mineral resource of Gangwon-do, there are hydroelectric and thermoelectric power plants, and it hosts Korea's largest limestone cave, Hwanseongul.

Festivals in Gangwon-do include ones like the Coffee Festival (커비 = coffee, pronounced koe-pi), the Buddha Festival in May, the Taebaeksan Snow Flake Festival, Gangneung Danoje, Donghae Cuttlefish Festival (apparently they're known for their cuttlefish?), and the Jeongseon Arirang Festival.  The Jeongseon Arirang are the group of Korean folk songs.  Listen to the instrumental below.  It is GORGEOUS.

There are also apparently tons of places to learn Tae Kwon Do in Gangwon-do which is beyond awesome.

Since public transportation is apparently ubiquitous in South Korea, it takes only about three hours to get to Seoul despite being a rural area that I think I will affectionately call the "boonies" until I actually get there.  From what I have gathered from blogs and websites, Gangwon-do is a province that really allows one to experience authentic Korean culture.  I am certain I will pick up the language and culture quickly being so totally immersed.

Hopefully this will delay the culture shock or somehow make it less severe.  From the other EPIK blogs I have read, culture shock sounds horrifying, but everyone seems to grow from it despite how agonizingly painful it is.  But after all, this blog was named after a story all about growth, right?

And finally, I found out today that the first Korean band I liked (five years ago? six?) just released a come-back song.  Shinhwa... look what you started for me oh-so-long ago, and now look at the amazingly awesome vogue-ing that you do in this song.  I must thank you.

Now it's time for bed so that I can really quick-start this whole learning-enough-Korean-to-survive plan that I have.  I'll post more about what I've been doing on that front later.

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