A Day in Mungyeong-si
One of my first excursions with CIEE consisted of taking a day-long trip in September to the popular city Mungyoung, which exists as a tourist attraction only a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride away from Seoul. Here, we participated in a couple of tours and traditional Korean activities to learn more about some of Korea’s historical background.
When we first arrived we were introduced to Baeksan and his family. Baeksan is a master ceramist from a long line of ancestors who made ceramic pieces during the Joseon Era. He also has a son and grandson who work alongside him in making pottery as well. We were then able to tour his exhibit showcasing the multiple pieces he has created over the years. Here are some of my favorite pieces, as well as pieces previous ancestors have made that have survived for decades.
After touring, we were led to a large room with drying pottery and were given a demonstration on how to make it. Instead of using an electric wheel, he showed us a traditional manual wheel where he had to use his leg to continuously kick the wheel to spin it around. And that is exactly what we had to do. Each student took a turn putting an apron on and sitting at the chair, spinning the wheel with their leg as either Baeksan’s grandson or son guided their hands to form a bowl. A lot of the bowls turned out amazing, and I was on the side where Baeksan would watch and yell “박수!” (Clap!) every time a student finished their piece. Mine was a little messy, but I had fun regardless.
What cracked me up the most was Baeksan’s stance every time he took a picture with someone. This man is a legend.
When our ceramic-making was finished, we headed out for lunch to get samgyeopsal and then made our way to Mungyeong’s Provincial Park which led up to a traditional village. The village has been used time and time again for historical dramas such as The Red Sleeve, The King’s Affection, and my FAVORITE show of all time, Kingdom (watch it. Please).
Unfortunately, this was when it started raining extremely hard causing one of our mini-hikes to be canceled so I went with the group who painted the cups first. We received a cute little ceramic cup and a small paintbrush to dip in cobalt paint to decorate the cups. Blue and white porcelain started in the Yuan Dynasty in China and spread to Korea during the Joseon Dynasty, mainly possessed by the royal court and has a lot of cultural significance. Because my mom and grandmother like hummingbirds, I painted one on the cup and can’t wait to get it mailed to me.
Once the cup decorating was finished, we went to try traditional Korean tea. We learned the proper way of drinking the tea and had 꿀떡, a rice cake ball with honey inside of it, as a complementary dessert. The ajumma sitting next to me in a hanbok was very sweet and a blast to be around.
We then had an opportunity to go around and explore. I had previously explored a Hanok village, but never a folk village, so I took quite a bit of pictures. The scenery was gorgeous and very relaxing to walk around. I feel like I could spend my entire day in an area like this.
Once all of the activities were done, we headed back to the ceramics area to watch Baeksan’s grandson make the LARGEST moon jar (one of BTS RM’s favorites, as the tour guide emphasized). We were then shown the kilns they fired everything in, which they had built from scratch. The kilns were giant enough for me and one other person to fit in.
Minus the gloomy weather, I had an amazing time and will definitely be going on more out-of-city excursions if CIEE offers again.
Today I want to speak on the Topik Test--(the only official) Korean language proficiency exam administered by the Korean government. Taking the Topik exam is a great way to gain a formal gauge of one’s Korean language abilities since it is standardized, although the score is only valid for two years after taking the exam.
Today I will be recounting a little trip to Damyang Bamboo Forest in South Korea! For one weekend in early December, a couple friends and I took a short trip to Gwangju City--leaving Seoul for the last time before the weather got too cold!