Wednesday was the official day of Chuseok. I was lucky enough to be invited to my co-teacher (Sonia’s) apartment to share a traditional Korean meal with her and her good friend. I met her at a subway station close by and then she drove me to her apartment. She had already met with her family that morning and because she is single, the tradition is a little different, and she was able to leave her family to spend some time with me. She had spent the day before cooking some delicious food with her mother and grandmother. Since her apartment is fairly new, there is no furniture, so we sat on the floor around a small table. When I walked into her apartment I saw the small table with the jar of jam that I brought her from Connecticut on the first week of school. (It is common to buy your co-teacher and principal a gift). It was so cute! I think she wanted me to feel like I took some part in the celebration. Her apartment has 3 rooms, a bathroom, and a porch and it is very nice. We sat down and enjoyed rice cakes and rice nectar to start. Her younger friend Jean also joined us. (In Korea, many English speakers give themselves English names or nicknames so Jean and Sonia are not their real names but it is what they prefer me to call them because it’s easier for me). We all sat down and ate all of the traditional food including vegetable pancakes, clear noodles, soup, rice, kimchi, etc. and ended with fresh fruit. We enjoyed good conversation throughout and I felt really happy that they would welcome me to celebrate such an important holiday with them. Sonia then took out the traditional Korean clothing that is typical for younger children to wear. Her outfit was from when she was in her 20s so she made me put it on! It was quite hilarious, and I am not sure the exact history of the garment, but as embarrassing as it was, I felt special that she would want me to try it on. After a filling meal we went for a nice long walk around her area. We planned to go hiking, but because of the rain the previous day it was not the best conditions. Sonia decided to take me to a walk around about 5 parks near her area. So we walked for a few hours and were able to burn off some of the calories. Jean is convinced that I look like Natalie Portman, so for the rest of the day, that became my nickname.
On Thursday, the weather was absolutely gorgeous so I decided to take the Han River Ferry Tour by myself. I took a dance class at around 2 and realized that I was fairly close to the river so I might as well check out the ferry tour. I chose a perfect time because I got to the river around 5 and was able to get a ticket for the 6-7 tour, which is at sunset. I enjoyed a romantic boat ride by myself, but actually ended up making quite a few friends. It all started when I asked someone to take a picture of me with my camera. Then a girl around my age asked me something in Korean and then proceeded to pull me over to her and she had her boyfriend take a picture of us together. I thought this was quite funny and laughed it off. I was one of the few Americans on the boat, so I figured I was a commodity of some sort. Then an entire family wanted their picture with me and it continued like that for some time. I now wonder if they think I was someone famous, or maybe just being foreign is enough to make celebrity status. Whatever the case, now many Korean families have pictures with me and they are probably telling their friends that I am Natalie Portman or something.