This weekend sees the start of the Korean New Year (Lunar New Year), or 설날 (Seollal) as its called. As it starts over the weekend we get only two days holiday but that means a four day weekend and time for fellow foreigners in Korea to travel. I know people who are going to Japan and some going to Taiwan but I'll be going to Seoul for three days for three reasons. Firstly, the Korean economy is not doing well so the exchange rate to most Asian countries is currently very poor and you won't get great value for your money. Secondly, My girlfriend and I are both trying to save money. And Thirdly, in just four weeks I'll be going back home for a week anyway, so I'm calling that my proper holiday.
Despite not going to warmer climbs, we are both greatly looking forward to our break and are looking for relaxation, some shopping, good food, plenty of beer and anything else we can get. Before getting onto the KTX train I have a hapkido test in the morning. Right now I have a damaged toe and an aching shoulder/arm. These won't greatly affect my test performance as adrenalin will see me through but mean leading up to the test I can't practice very intensely. Perhaps that's a good thing. It's best to think positively anyway. The test shouldn't be too difficult as I have prepared and haven't had to learn many new manoeuvres but on a more serious side, my technique on a few things still disappoints me. Will it ever improve to the level I want it to? I'm getting better, but I know my level and am frustrated with my limitations on a few things.
So what do Koreans do at New Year. Well I can tell you that so far none of my students has admitted to liking the holiday and none of them sound excited at all, apart from it meaning they don't have to go to any academies. Random yet popular answers to "What will you be doing?" include "Visiting grandparents", "Staying at home" and "Playing with my cousin". It seems like they (students) really don't care at all about the holiday, though they should be receiving money from their family (they have to bow, seriously, in front of some their elders and give new year greetings I think). Perhaps some will dress up in the traditional clothes of Korea, the hanbok. I know that some of the teachers at work will be helping their families/mothers prepare food or something like that. It all sounds not particularly enjoyable and is perhaps more of a traditional holiday than a favourite one of people. I think some Koreans don't enjoy much at all (aside from saying "I'm cold" or "I'm hungry"), or perhaps that's just some of the people I've worked with. This is of course an over simplification based one what I can remember being told. Christmas seems to be a million times more enjoyable.