I had GEPIK training last Wednesday. GEPIK is the program in charge of native English teachers in the Gyeonggi public schools. Periodically they hold training sessions and I make faces and complain because I'm a bitter cynic, but last week's training was a Korean Culture Tour, so I was marginally interested. It was suppose to be for new GEPIK teachers - most of the other teachers had only been in Korea for a month or two, and one girl had only been here for five days - and I'm not quite sure why I was included, since I'm new to neither Korea nor GEPIK. There had been a cold snap the day before and I got to play the part of grizzled veteran as the newer teachers asked about the weather. No, your school isn't going to start heating the hallways, and yes, the windows will stay open all winter. Just wait until January when you have students wearing six layers asking you to open the window because they're so hot. On the plus side, it only took me a year to start eating kimchi and K-pop is actually quite catchy. WELCOME TO KOREA!
We went to Gyeongbokgung, the Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven, the largest and most important of the Five Grand Palaces of Seoul. I visited last year, but I hadn't been back since the restorations of the main gate were completed and I had wanted to visit at least one of the palaces this fall when the leaves were changing, just to take pictures. We arrived just as the changing of the guard ceremony started and once we started the tour, we immediately ran into a royal procession near Gyeonghoeru Pavilion. The royal procession included Korean and English narration and my favorite part of the day was the poor man, dressed in the traditional jeonbok, draped with speakers for the guide's PA system. I laughed and laughed, although I waited until after I look the photo to do it because, dude, embarrassing historical costumes and the long suffering faces of those wearing them, I know thee well.
We were taken on a guided tour of the palace, which was actually pretty great because it meant I could ask question - my geekiness, let me show it to you - and I finally, after two years here, learned the named of the traditional eaves painting that I've seen at every temple, palace and gate I've visited in this country. (Dancheong (단청), by the way, and since I didn't write it down, I still had to spend a solid half hour Googling to find it again once I was home.) The last stop was the National Folk Museum of Korea, which we didn't actually visit. Instead we huddled by a group of twelve statues, each one representing one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. It also listed the dates of each animal, which is how I learned that the placemats at every Chinese buffet I've ever been to were LYING TO ME and thanks to discrepancies between the solar and lunar new years, I was actually born in the year of the rat, not the year of the ox. Quite a blow for a girl to find out she's forthright, tenacious and intense instead of dependable, ambitious, calm as this point in her life.
Dancheong painting on the upturned eaves of the Gyotaejeon.
Bridge to Hyangwonjeong Pavilion
The rest of the photos are here.