So the Seoul International Fireworks Festival was absolutely amazing. Soojung and I got there about three and a half hours early (only) and we still got really good seats in front of the fireworks stations out on the river. There were a ton of people there and it was just insane but I loved every minute of it. I waited in line for the ladies room for over an hour, that's how many people there were there, to give you a hint. I almost missed the start of the fireworks because while I was in line, literally all of the empty spaces between the blankets on the ground had been filled up by other people. We were all squished in there pretty tight. I made it back to Soojung in time though and then we watched the most amazing fireworks for over two hours. There were four teams there; Japan, China, Italy, and Korea. I expected China to dominate since they invented fireworks after all but it was Italy and Korea that truly impressed. Japan and China were good, for sure, but the ones following them showed them up. The Italian team was very impressive with their coordination of their music (which was mostly classic American rock and K-pop) and their fireworks while the Korean team won on their sheer scale.
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10205478957680475&l=6875058511780652683 Just two minutes of the Italian Fireworks Team.
The day after that, I went to a free JYJ concert. I repeat. Free. JYJ. Concert. It was amazing. We waited for over six hours and I could still barely see the boys but I'm so glad I went. This concert was their last before they all three enlist (as Yoochun revealed) and Junsu started crying. I was trying not to cry too. I bought their new album and I have been listening to it constantly for over a month to prepare for this concert. It's super great; I would really recommend giving the entire album a listen. The concert organizers had predicted that 33,000 people would show up and over 50,000 people came so it quickly got crazy. JYJ fans are nuts. And I say that with love in my heart. But anywhoo, I saw JYJ live. Just saying.
My JYJ wristband. :) They sold out of official merchandise before I could get to the stand so this is all I have left.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q3k-96dqRM Busan Vacance by Skull & Haha
We had a planning day on Tuesday and then we left campus for Busan Thursday morning at 5:00 AM via a taxi and then the KTX. The KTX is pretty nice and before we knew it, we were in Busan at 9:30. We went straight to Jagalchi, the largest seafood market in Korea, and ate lunch there after wandering around. I've never seen so much seafood in my lunch but the image that stuck with me the most is that of the live eels that had been skinned before they were killed. They were squirming around and in pretty obvious pain. I'm not sure how that's not animal cruelty but it was disgustingly fascinating. After lunch, we went to the Trick Eye Museum. After about an hour or so of taking awesome pictures, we looked around one of the displays for the Busan International Film Festival and ate hotteok. Hotteok is available in Seoul as well but it's famous in Busan, plus the Busan version has nuts. Hotteok is delicious. I may or may not have gotten it three different times in so many days. Then we went to go check into our guesthouse, the Cube Guesthouse, which had an amazing location and was super cheap. That whole process took a while and then we headed over to Dadaepo Beach. Dadaepo Beach itself isn't famous (but it should be because it's stunning) but it is famous for it's fountain; the Daedaepo Sunset Fountain of Dreams, which is the largest flat fountain in the world. This fountain show, complete with music and lights is gorgeous. It went for twenty minutes and I could honestly see myself going there every other night if I lived in the area. After the show, we ate at Lotteria to save money and headed home.
Jagalchi Market sign.
Soojung and I as angels.
Dadaepo Beach at sunset.
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10205571010421736&l=578194062715789422 Just three minutes of the Dadaepo Sunset Fountain of Dreams.
On the second day, we spent most of the day in the cliffs. We started the day at the Haedongyonggung Temple, which is a Buddhist temple located in the cliffs. It was just gorgeous and I loved the architecture. I'm not religious myself, but I think Buddhism is a really interesting religion. We also ate lunch there after exploring the temple and drinking water for the mountain. There was an area to make a wish to Buddha and if you could throw the coin in Buddha's bowl from the bridge, then it was granted. I actually hit the bowl but didn't make it in so every time something little went our way after that, we said it was Buddha helping out where he could. There were many sculptures and statures and also the twelve zodiac animals had majestic statues. After the temple, we went to Taejongdae, which is another cliff area known for it's lighthouse, dinosaur discovery site, and the fact that Japan can sometimes be seen from there. Taejongdae was just gorgeous and we went down the cliffs to the area where dinosaur fossils were discovered too. I have never gone up and down so many stairs in my life. At the bottom, though, the wind was ridiculously strong and we had to hold each others' hand to keep from blowing over. Literally. I was afraid one of us would blow over and then trip on the rocks. After we went along the 4.3 kilometer path at Taejongdae, we headed over to Nampodong to eat and shop a little before going to a tower nearby that lets you look out over Busan. It was super beautiful but we were happy to get back that night and just sleep.
A pure gold Buddha.
Me down by the sea near the dinosaur site. It reminded me of the Bad Hills, with how careful you had to place your feet, but I'd done that before so it was a lot of fun for me.
On our last full day in Busan, we mostly stuck to the Haeundae area. There was actually some drama because one of the girls was upset with our planning although she was there when we planned, so she left a day earlier. The last day was the best though, in my opinion, so she missed out. There were things I loved about the first and second day but the third one was the best as a whole. First, we went to the Busan Aquarium, which is just an aquarium to be honest but it's the biggest one in Korea so it's still a big deal. Afterwards, we walked along Haeundae, which is the most famous beach in all of Korea. When it's summer, you can't even see the sand from above because there are so many umbrellas. Right next to Haeundae is Dongbaekseom, which is called an island but is actually a peninsula. From Dongbaekseom, you have a perfect view of Haeundae. Dongbaekseom also has small cliffs, walking paths, a temple, many statues, and the APEC building. It was super pretty and I would want to exercise there every day if I lived in Busan. The APEC building was interesting in a political way, plus the building itself is unique. After Dongbaekseom, we went to Spa Land, which is a spa/sauna in Busan that's pretty famous. It's amazing. I can't even stress how much fun it is. There were over twenty different themed sauna rooms, outdoor foot baths, massage areas, naked baths for each gender individually, both indoor and outdoor, and so much more. We had a bunch of fun playing games to escape the hotter sauna rooms and just relaxing. It's Korean tradition to eat eggs and bingsoo in saunas so we did that too but it was super delicious, despite its less than pretty appearance. I had to leave my phone in my locker, which I super regret, but my friend made a video so hopefully she'll send me that soon. After four perfect hours of greatness, we went to check out the main building for the Busan International Film Festival. It was a building, not going to lie. But hey, famous people had been there. We then headed back to Haeundae for supper and to walk in the ocean. Meat is cheaper in Busan and I had the best meal I've had since I came to Korea in a little place where we got three different kinds of meat and a billion side dishes for only $7 each. I can't even think about it without my mouth watering. When we could walk again, we wandered along the full stretch of Haeundae. The others wouldn't go in but I rolled up my pants and walked in the ocean. Waves are a problem. I don't get how anyone can swim in the ocean. Reluctantly, we went home the latest that night and tried to get some sleep for our trip home.
A cut off view of Haeundae from Dongbaekseom.
Sunday morning, we took the slow train (Mugunghwa) home and watched the countryside go by for about five and a half hours. I've never seen so many rice fields in my life but it was lovely. As a whole, Busan reminded me a lot of Duluth, with its cliffs and beaches. I adore Duluth so I had a lot of fun in Busan and I honestly wouldn't mind going back at all. Like now. I want to go back now.
Next week is mid-terms so it's been pretty busy since I got back. Today's Friday but I had an extra make up session for Korean class today and this weekend won't be much fun either since I'll be studying so much. Mid terms are more serious here because they use a different grading system. Grades here are competitive. You can get a 94% and still not get an A because if 40% of your classmates did better than you, you get a B. Personally, I think that's ridiculous but there's nothing I can do about it but study harder and hope I'm in that top 40%. We'll see how this goes. My scholarship is GPA-dependent so I can't do poorly.
I made my decision. I am officially staying for another semester. It was a really difficult decision and I spoke with all of my friends and loved ones, and made two pros and cons charts before I decided. It pretty much came down to money, which is what made my decision for me. I'm going to be in debt anyway, why not be in even more debt? I freaked out about it for a bit after I sent my adviser the email but I'm happy about it now. This decision aligns more with my future goals. However, now I have to try and find housing for next semester because I refuse to stay in the dorms again. No. Just no. I've been looking into staying at a 고시원 (study room that's super small and pretty cheap) or a 하숙집 (pretty much the same but with food included) but all of the sites are in Korean so I'm having a little bit of trouble. I think I'm going to have to ask a Korean friend for help but my friends all don't want me to do it because the rooms are so small. Oh well. At least it would be my own and I could do what I want.
Oh, I also got my alien registration card on Wednesday. I road the subway for about two and a half hours in total and was in the Seoul Immigration Office for less than two minutes. No joke. I walked in, they didn't even look at my passport, they took my fingerprints, and gave me my card. That was it. And guess what! It expires next year before I leave so I get to do it all over again next semester. That's what I get from deciding so late. On the plus side though, I can go to the DMZ and variety shows now! I've already signed up for Inkigayo so hopefully I'll win tickets.