When I was at high school one of my friends told me that she would be working on Christmas Day in a cafe at the Antarctic Center. This blew my mind, people worked on Christmas! The fact that there were even places like that open seemed crazy. But she worked and said it was one of the busiest days of the years, due to the tourists who were in the city and had no attachment to the holiday. This was basically what it was like for us the past two days.
Koreans have been busy buying gift boxes for one another, cooking traditional food and traveling to their families homes. Foreigners are either flying to Japan for the short break or working out how much sleep and drinking they can get in during this time. It feels so strange to have zero care for what is such a huge holiday. While I do appreciate the significance of this week, for me all it represents is a few days off work where everything is closed. Being on the other side of those tourists who my friend served coffee to all those years ago is an odd feeling.
Anyway we wanted to do something for the break so picked a random city and traveled there for the day. This is why I love Korea, exploring the country is so easy!
We chose Daejeon which is a small city about an hour away by train.
It was really nice to just plan a trip with zero expectations. Usually I find myself googling the best sites and planning out all these subway and bus routes so we can really see the city. This time, neither of us had quite recovered from the hectic summer vacation, so we just turned up and walked around.
Daejeon is beautiful, just small and one of those places you can only describe as being ‘really nice.’ The downtown area was smaller then we were used to, but they did have an amazing sun shade which played images of space at night time. After walking around and eating lunch (kimchi fried rice with olives and pickles on it, say what Korea!) we headed back to the hotel for an epic two hour nap.
The evening was spent just having a drink in a casual bar, and the next day we woke up to a ghost town. Seriously, the only thing open was Starbucks.
Traveling on Chuseok does have its downfalls I suppose. Anyway we had seen enough of the city and came home to Daegu where things were equally shut down. The only thing open was the corner store and the nice old couple who sell fruit on the side of the road. I ended up buying some nectarines and tomatoes from them because I was sure no one would be visiting them on the holiday. I also felt bad that they weren’t spending the day with family.
Sometimes I feel totally comfortable in Korea, I truly love living here and have easily slipped into the culture and customs. However, a holiday like Chuseok is a reminder that I really am a visitor here. There are parts of this country which I will never be able to relate to, and at Christmas time I will feel confused and sad as to why they don’t care much about the holiday.
Living overseas had definitely opened up my mind foods, people and holiday that I never knew existed. This week had made me happy to be here, or should I say thankful – it is Korean thanksgiving after all!
Happy Chuseok 😀