Getting to South Korea from Iowa is not a small matter. It took me three flights to get to the Incheon Airport and from there a four hour bus and a very long taxi ride to the hotel where my orientation would take place.
Being at orientation was like putting training wheels on or dipping your toe into the water to test the temperature. In between teaching seminars to prepare myself and the other future English teachers for our new jobs we were taken on cultural experiences to learn more about the country and culture we were going to be living in. It was a great way to be introduced to a new country which I at the time knew very little about.
Korean Music, Performing Arts, and a Wedding
We got to take a traditional Korean drum lesson at one of the places they took us to during orientation. It is a two sided drum that sits on the floor in front of you. Many traditional instruments are played while sitting on the floor. When playing this type of drum only one hand has a drum stick. The patterns to play on this drum were tricky at first but the more we practiced the easier it got.
After the drum lesson we watched a Pansori performance which is traditional Korean theater. This type of theater is very different from anything I’m used to and not just because it’s all in a different language. The style was very unique with both the singing and the dancing. The dancing was very slow and in the Korean style clothing there was more focus on arm movements. It was very simple and because of this you know that they performer put a lot of work into making sure each small movement was timed to perfection. While this is not my favorite type of performance I still enjoyed the experience.
On a different day we got to try on traditional clothing and even learn about a traditional Korean wedding. The traditional dress for woman was made of two main garments. The first being a dress that wraps around your chest. It is a bell shaped dress with little need for tailoring so size was not an issue for anyone. Over the dress was a small crop jacket. The jacket was usually in a contrasting color and some of them had beautiful embroidery.
One of the married couples in my orientation group were chosen to help demonstrate a traditional Korean wedding. The clothing for the wedding was beautiful and colorful. The bride wears a special hat and little red circles on her cheeks. The hair is also styled with a special hair pin with ribbons draped over the pin. She also carries a shawl that covers her arms. The groom wears blue robes and an embroidered belt.
The ceremony has many different steps that are performed in order and I could easily see it taking all day. While they still do some of the traditional weddings now days, Korea has westernized their wedding ceremonies. Many times they will have two ceremonies, a western style wedding for friends and a Korean style wedding for close family.
The traditional wedding starts with formal bows performed by the bride and the groom. The bride has to do three formal bows while the man only has to do two. Some parts of the wedding ceremony I found to be quite funny. One part of the ceremony has a friend of the groom hit the grooms feet with a stick, then the groom has to give the bride a piggy-back-ride around the room to prove that he is strong enough to take care of the bride. It was a lot of fun to watch.
Bamboo and Baseball
One of the trips they took us on was to a bamboo forest. It was nice to finally get out and see nature after being stuck in the hotel for a week. I had never seen that much bamboo in once place before. My only experience with bamboo before this was the small bamboo plant I had in college named Effie. I had it all four years before it finally died. What can I say, I’m terrible with plants.
It was amazing to see how tall the bamboo grows and the path that you walked through in the bamboo forest was beautiful. They even had bamboo ice cream that you could try. It was pretty good, it has a nice fresh taste to it that reminds me a bit of green tea.
While baseball isn’t an interest of mine it was really cool to go and see one in South Korea. Going to a base ball game in Korea is similar to a game in the US I would imagine. The game itself is played exactly the same but the cheerleaders in the stands were something that I was not expecting to see. It was fun to go with the new friends I had made in orientation and I really had a good time talking with them. To be honest I talked to my friends more than I watched the game. I have never been a fan of baseball. Had we gone to a soccer game I would have been way more interested.
노리방 (Singing Room)
One of our free nights lead us to a 노리방 or singing room. It’s a private room for you and your friends to go and sing karaoke in. It’s a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. What I think is best about these singing rooms is that you don’t have to sing in front of strangers. It’s just you and your friends. The staff will also bring you drinks and snacks while you’re there.
And so continues Danni’s Travels.