In July of 2006, I had my first trip to the Republic of Korea (more commonly known as South Korea) where I was without my mother. When I had traveled to Korea before, my mother and little brother had accompanied me. But this time I was going alone and would be there for one month.
During this trip I stayed with my family and attended a Korean camp. I was scared when I was on the airplane because I did not know how to speak Korean. I was unsure as to how I was going to survive. The experience of being there on my own, allowed me to learn Korean.
When I was younger my mother had always translated what was being said to me, but this time I had to rely on my own knowledge of reading another person’s body language and of what I had experienced from the Korean community that I was involved in. I stayed with my family for the first two weeks of my trip. My family took me to visit the museums that were close to their homes. This included some of the villages that have been around for a thousand years.
I was able to experience the old Korean ways because at the villages the people work and dress as if they were from that time period. After experiencing the old villages my family took me to Seoul, which is the capital of South Korea. In Seoul, I experienced the modern aspects of Korean life. I was able to go to the technology market that is in Seoul.
At this market they have the modernist technology available on the market. The market contains different types and brands of the same equipment. There were whole floors dedicated to computers and cell phones.
After staying in Seoul with my family, I went to my Korean camp in Aunsung. This camp was like a Korean heritage camp. My fellow campers were also Korean teens that had grown up in the United States.
We were all there to learn more about our heritage. In camp we learned how to speak, write, and read the Korean characters. This was exceptionally hard for me compared to the other campers because I was not used to Korean.
The other campers’ parents were from Korea; but my mom was my only parent from Korea; my father is an American. It was difficult because when I was younger, my mother never spoke Korean to me, so when I went to camp I was starting my Korean skills from the very beginning. At camp we went to the War Memorial, which is a museum that is dedicated to the war history of Korea.
The artifacts date back to the ancient times, the Ante Christum Natum time period. This was interesting because we were able to see the weapons and shields that were created by our ancestors. There was also a model of a wall that would surround the cities and were used as protection. This model was open to the public to climb on and see how well protected the city would be.
The museum went from the Ante Christum Natum period to the Korean War. The artifacts present for the Korean War included uniforms and weapons of its allies.The last day of camp we went to a city that had this great big Buddhist temple. In the olden days, a majority of the Korean population was Buddhists. The temple was fascinating because there were trees and ponds that were believed to grant peoples wishes. So people would write prayers on little slips of paper and stick the paper to the tree or put it in the pond.
I had started my trip frightened, but I ended my trip with a new sense of my heritage and a new love for my family’s past. I now have a strong desire to visit Korea more often and plan to do so. Since the trip I have started to practice my Korean more and have even made friends with the teenagers in my Korean community, whom I had previously not associated with.
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