October 9-11: Visiting My Host Family in Gimhae
Since I returned to Korea, my previous host family has been telling me to visit or, directly translated from Korean, to come over and play. Finally, the weekend after both host sisters finished their midterms, I made good on my promise. I headed over Friday morning, since it was a Hangul Day, a national holiday.
It was nostalgic taking my all-too-familiar route to the Gimhae light rail. Upon getting off at my stop, I even ran into two of my former students! This resulted in a million double takes before excitement. We were going the same way for a short time, so we chatted before they left to watch a movie. Miss these kids.
Back at my host family’s apartment, it was like things had hardly changed. My eye caught minute details; I noted that they’d shifted the placement of this or that piece of furniture and were using different dishes. While I placed my backpack in the living room instead of “my” old room, there is a certain ease that comes in simply knowing how things work in a place – and knowing that you are loved and welcome here. However I didn’t have long to reflect, as we soon headed out for lunch at Byeol Mi/별미, a noodle restaurant that in my opinion, is the best in Gimhae (and maybe Busan too). After a very filling lunch, where for once, I didn’t take pictures, we headed over to the Gimhae Amusement Park. This is something I’d didn’t get to all year, but I suppose it is more geared towards kids. My host family and I rushed over with the hopes of catching a musical, but we were a little too late. So instead we explored the park which was filled with Gaya Dynasty replicas, since Gimhae is where the Gaya dynasty was once located.
Above you can see an traditional house, dress – modeled by creepy mannequins that were surprisingly delicate – and wooden scrolls. But the second theme of the park seemed to be turtles. Gimhae’s city mascot is a turtle, so I guess that’s also the reason for things like these:
Note the little girl impatiently waiting for me to just leave already. We also caught a parade before leaving, with participants dressed up in Gaya historical outfits and random things, like clowns. My host family knew two of the participants and thought it was hilarious to see them in costume. That night we were joined by my host dad and had dinner at Su Son Jjajangmyeon/수손짜장면, a (Korean-)Chinese restaurant. We knocked out my Gimhae food bucket list in one day.
The next day I got my hair cut, half-straight permed, and half-regular permed. But in Korea, they’re called “magic straight” and “S-curl”; it’s a good thing my host sister helped me plan it out and explain it to the hairdresser. The whole process took three hours, but I’d wanted to have my hair cut here in Gimhae because the two times I went last year, this hairdresser cut my hair for free! This time, with a really complicated and labor-intensive style, of course it wasn’t free, but she still gave me a significant discount on the price…which my host mom then promptly jumped in and paid. I protested, but to no avail.
In progress, and after:
After dwaejigukbap /돼지국밥 for lunch (see delicious pot of food above), we drove to Masan about an hour away to visit DotSeom Island. The island’s name means something like “pig island,” apparently named for its shape.
It was a 10 minute ferry ride away and the island itself was very small as well. It didn’t take us long to walk the entire coast. But the scenery was beautiful and so peaceful, the name of the path we took is the Korean onomatopoeia for the sound of soft waves hitting the shore…which I’ve forgotten. Pook pook, maybe? Of course we also took tons of pictures together, but had a hard time finding ones where everyone agreed that they looked good enough to share. So I leave you with a sunset instead:
Oh! And when I left, my host family insisted that I take the Cocomong light rail (a popular Korean cartoon), only available in Gimhae for a limited time. Cocomong is a monkey combined with a sausage. Apparently there is also a robot Cocomong. An adorable ending to my weekend.