An Adventure in Normalcy.

10:49 PM Jessica Montgomery 0 Comments

It's been a while since I've written a post about everyday life. But, if you can recall from any of my previous posts, life while living abroad can be called anything but "everyday". There's always something. Whether you seek it out or not. There's always something new, interesting, or down-right double-take worthy.

Where to start!? There's so much to catch up on... I'll try to paraphrase.


[Before I dive into my most recent happenings, I forgot to mention this a while back...but my last trip to Hongdae bestowed upon me and my group a little Korean-fandom. While walking the night streets of Hongdae we happened to run into (not once, but twice!) the lovely couple from the web series Eat Your Kimchi. Simon and Martina are an energetic Canadian couple that makes little viral videos on everything Korea. From K-Pop to cultural norms, every expat I know has seen at least one of their videos. (If you're unfamiliar, check out: http://www.eatyourkimchi.com/ and be sure to watch their YouTube channel. Good stuff!) Fan girl moment!]
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I've been trying to make the most of the inevitable loss of the lovely Fall weather and pack as much into every weekend as possible. Whether it's been rushing to catch a Friday train after work to a little town called Jeungpyeong or organizing meet-ups at Daejeon's International Wine Festival. My weekends have been busting at the seams. *cue Loverboy's Working For the Weekend*
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Weekend Adventures:
Jeungpyeong is a small little town about an hour train ride away from Daejeon. It's a strange little place set in the countryside full of half-completed apartment buildings, automotive repair shops, and enough spiders to cast Arachnophobia II. I've been spending a decent amount of time there recently not for the famed ginseng tea, but because my now-boyfriend lives out there. We split up our weekend time between there, Daejeon, or wherever else Korea takes us. It'd be nice if he did in fact live in Daejeon, but we've both come to the conclusion that living in separate towns allows for every weekend to be like a little mini-vacation.

A couple weekends ago I planned one such mini-vacation to Daecheon Beach. Daecheon, also know as Boryeong, is where the mud-festival is held; therefore, I felt comfortable showing us around town. This might be the last weekend trip that I plan for a while though because, I must say, it didn't go as well as planned. I wanted to sneak in one more beach trip before Korea shows it's winter snarl, but the weather didn't cooperate. Our beach day turned into a beach minute. We still went into the water because by our personalities combined there was little to keep us out. We both live for the ocean so a little cold, rain, and wind-breaker clad Koreans wasn't going to stop us. Diving in head first numbed us to the cold and gave a group of young Koreans the courage to join us: Wearing long sleeve shirts and jeans of course. The rest of the trip was full of not-so-welcome surprises similar to the shock of the cold water. When attempting to find a place to sit and watch the sunset on the water, we found ourselves climbing boulders covered in cockroaches, rats, and algae. Algae that led us to slip and fall. Multiple times. Some worse than others. After retreating to the beach we were invited to share a drink with a group of Koreans. This is a common occurrence here. Friendly and nothing out of the ordinary. What's not common is the fact that this group turned out to be a sect of the Korean mafia. Yep. You can take the girl outta Detroit but...
We slowly backed away once we found out that they were in fact serious and had the tattoos to prove it. It wasn't long after departing that we were once again approached to share drinks and conversation. With whom? You guessed it. Another Korean gang. Maybe there was some gang-convention in town that we were unaware of? (Like, I said...it may be a while before I attempt to plan another weekend.) Anyhoo. We were persuaded to go to a restaurant with them and sling back some soju. We ended up arm wrestling and exchanging nicknames. The smallest in the group claimed that he went by the name 'Smurf Devil'.

Can't even make this up if I tried...

Aside from the gritty bits mentioned above, the weekend did turn itself around and was salvaged. Just remind me to never open a travel agency.

The weekend of October 5th was the return of the infamous Daejeon International Food and Wine Festival. Held at Expo Park, this four day event attempts to answer the age old question: How many types of wine can you try before you forget what year it is? I love WineFest (as it has come to be dubbed). It brings old and new friends together in a haze of purple teeth and "I don't even know what a 'dry' is!" confessions.
I attended WineFest on both Thursday (public holiday) and Saturday. Saturday evening was another art opening of mine so it made for a well-rounded, "cultured", kind of day. The art opening went really well and, once again, I feel so honored to be a member of this collective. They push me to keep working and better myself as an artist amidst all the distractions that come with living abroad in a foreigner-community. They are truly a talented and driven group. We've currently set up a website and plan to grow and curate our group to the best of our ability. Check out our website here: Daejeon Arts Collective

This past weekend was another display of incredible organization, creativity, and drive. A collaboration between the expat community and Korean community welfare organizations, The 2013 Daejombie Runpocolypse was another event that made me proud to call myself a Daejeonite. This was a 5k race that was set up to mimic an actual "zombie apocalypse" and get everyone into the Halloween spirit. Runners had to register as either "humans" or "zombies" If you were a human, a "life belt" was worn with 5 ribbons that represented lives. Zombies were placed throughout the course and were set forth to claim the "lives" of the humans. I was a zombie, of course, and volunteered to help out with some of my fellow hoard's makeup. It was such a great event. It wasn't just a race. We had a Thriller dance performance, live music, food, beer..! The sense of whimsy, community, and athleticism was electrifying. The best part? All of the proceeds from the race went to the Daejeon Paws animal shelter. It's estimated that we raised over 5 million won! (Appx. $5,000) We even got some Korean news coverage! For more information, check out the event's website: Daejombie Runpocalypse

The next morning I had to do a complete zombie 180 and look very much alive for my co-teacher's baby's first birthday party. I made my way to the event hall and met Hyo and her baby Shiwan. They were both dressed in traditional hanbok and looked amazing.
Baby's First Birthday parties are a big deal in Korea. They are traditionally large celebrations but in modern times...they have put a bigger spin on them that is truly "Korean". After lunch, the lights dimmed and a projector screen was lowered. Music, a la Terminator II, was blasting from the speakers as baby pictures and text started flashing across the screen.  It was like... Shiwan: The Action Thriller. Coming soon November 2013. Then the real festivities began. The lights came up and an extremely energetic man, in an orange suit to match, came to the front with a microphone and took over the party like it was a Korean game show. A game show complete with K-Pop backup dancers (also clad in orange suits), impersonations, and prizes. I won a prize for being the person who travelled the farthest to get to the party. "USA". haha
It was an amazing way to end the weekend and every birthday I attend from now on will have to be compared to that. No K-pop chair dancing? Sorry, I can't make it.

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On the opposite end of this overall lovely life I lead...I had quite the reality-hiccup; err slap in the face if you will. I'll try not to be too invasive or personal on here, but anyone who reads this (man or woman) regardless of how comfortable you are in your area, should always be aware of your surroundings. Not too long ago I had a harassment problem with a Korean man by my building; verbally and physically. I first saw him by City Hall the day before Kate and I left for Australia. He followed me on my walk home. I saw him again one Sunday night a couple weeks later in the park across from my building. And then again one more time directly in front of my building. Each time he was closer and closer to where I lived and each time he engaged me more and more physically. He spoke English well and was well aware that his advances were not well received. Now, I feel like I'm a pretty strong woman. It takes a lot for me to feel threatened. It also takes a lot for me to ask for help. But there was something about this man that didn't feel right -more so than the physical contact and unwarranted advances. The fact that he knew where I lived was a big problem as well. So, I told Hyo about it and she took me to the police to file a report. And. I must say... opposite of what I've heard/what I was expecting, the Korean police were incredible. They were genuinely concerned. They took my statement, down to every detail and description, offered to patrol around my building, and set me up with an app. that uses GPS to send the closest police officer to my aide if I feel threatened. It was well worth swallowing my pride and going in. So. Long story short: If you feel threatened, don't wait. Say something.
I haven't seen him since I went in and made that report. *thumbs up*
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I can't believe October is already winding down. This weekend I will see the spooky-side of Seoul in search of Halloween festivities. And! I already have the first three weekends in November booked with a house-warming, teacher trip, and temple stay. I love you Fall. Stay classy.

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