Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Article!

As most of you know, this summer I have been working as an editor for The College Tourist, gathering our weekly writer's roundup. But I've also had the opportunity to work on articles. My newest one went up earlier this week, and it's all about my trip to Korea! If you're not already sick and tired of me constantly talking about it, showing you pictures, or creating endless blog posts, then take a look!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Perot

After months of driving past and saying, "I want to go to the Perot museum!" (because I do say that), we finally visited! For those of you who don't live in Dallas, the Perot, or Perot Museum of Nature and Science, opened in 2012 and has become one of the most popular museums in town. Probably because it houses a lot of exhibits that you can touch, which is a draw for both small children and a group of rowdy college kids.

The view from the museum.

We stopped for lunch before heading to the museum, and since we all share a mutual obsession with Mexican food (we're Texans, it's required) we headed to Velvet Taco's Dallas location; I have already blogged about my love for Velvet Taco so I had to introduce everyone else.  

Reece sat across from me in the 3rd grade and we've been friends ever since!

The beautiful Allie (her tacos don't look too bad either).

SO glad Jessi is finally back in America after living in Peru for 2 years!

In the Earth exhibit you could go through this little tunnel and pretend to be a prairie dog- we were waaayyy too big to fit but that's never stopped us before!

Channeling my inner weather girl. 

Whaddup, buddy?

Aaaand the frogs. There are a bunch of 'leapfrogs' set up right outside the museum in a sort of park, so naturally we had to climb on top of them. It makes for a great photo op and gives us all an excuse to act like little kids. 

You gotta kiss a few frogs to find your prince, right? Unfortunately this little rascal was just a regular old frog!

Outfit details: Dress, bought in Korea. Sandals, Tommy Hilfiger. Sunglasses, Urban Outfitters. Bracelets, all Charming Charlie

I had a blast in Dallas for the day with the crew, as we have taken to calling ourselves (even though some of the crew is missing!). I could not have survived high school without these crazy people, and I'm so glad we have all stayed friends. 

The Perot is a blast, especially if you have kids, or you can be like us and act like kids! It's fun to be able to play around for a day and pretend we're not almost-adults in the real world. I'd love to head back to the Perot and explore a little more!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

South Korea Part 7

When I was thinking about blogging about our trip to the DMZ, I wanted to title this post "Run DMZ," in an attempt to be clever (get it? get it!?). But this ended up being a pretty serious trip. The DMZ wasn't something I had planned on visiting when I arrived but when the opportunity came around I couldn't say no.

North and South Korea have been divided since a cease-fire ended the Korean War in 1953. If you don't know much about the conflict (or just need to brush up on your history) you can find more information here. I'll skip the long history lecture here (I did, in fact, lecture to AP World History classes on both the Korean and Vietnam Wars in high school because I'm a nerd) and fill you in with a quick summary, and then move on to pictures!

The Demilitarized Zone was established after the war, and extends for 2 kilometers on either side of the border, or military demarcation line. The dark orange part on the map is the DMZ, with the gray line being the border. The little dots are the known tunnels dug under the border by North Korea to reach South Korea.

Within the DMZ is the JSA, or Joint Security Area, where the buildings used for negotiations are located. Soldiers from both sides used to be able to walk around the JSA freely but that has since changed.

The entrance to the DMZ. This was after we had gone through the 2nd tunnel- if you are fairly tall like me, watch your head, they give you helmets for a reason!

The abandoned train station- the platform sign reads, "To Pyeongyang."

This is inside the Joint Security Area, a special zone within the DMZ. See where it's gravel and then suddenly changes to concrete between the blue buildings? That is the actual border between North and South Korea, or the Military Demarcation Line. If you cross over the big white line, you're in North Korea. The big concrete building is where North Korea sits and watches all the tourists, there are cameras all over the building and sometimes they come and take pictures! The soldiers standing are South Korean, and they have to stand in that position for hours at a time. 

The tour is very strict and guided, so you can only take pictures at certain times in certain places. After standing outside, we were lead into the main blue building, which is used for negotiations between the two countries. Since the building is built over the military demarcation line, when you stand in one half of the building you're technically in North Korea! Luckily there are only South Korean soldiers in the building, and it is not an official border crossing. But technically, I have stood in North Korea- now I certainly have a story to tell!

This is fake propaganda village just over the border, built by North Korea and completely uninhabited. 

The Bridge of No Return that runs over the border- this was used to swap prisoners at the end of the Korean War, and earned its name because once you crossed over to your side, you could never go back.

Selfies from North Korea! Sorry, we had to. 

While it takes almost an entire day and is very strict, the DMZ tour is worth it if you are in Korea for more than a week. You learn a lot about the history of conflict between the two countries, and it is more sad than scary. The entire Korean peninsula was cut in half over half a century ago after a bloody war, and many families were separated by the border. Reunions are rare, and getting a quick glimpse into a country as secretive as North Korea- even if that glimpse is through a telescope at a fake village and a barren countryside- is worth it for anyone who is interested in history, politics, or the conflict between the two Koreas.

While I was still in Korea for a few more days, I don't have many blog-worthy pictures. Needless to say, I absolutely LOVED my two and a half weeks in Korea. I am forever grateful to Lydia and her family for letting me tag along and see this beautiful and fascinating country. I really thought that I would never visit Asia, and now I can't wait to return.

Well, that concludes my Korean posts. I hope everyone enjoyed this little glimpse into my trip. I only shared probably a fraction of my photos and experiences, but I simply did and saw too much to write it all down in just a few blog posts. Just know that I had the most incredible and life-changing experience of my life thus far; I was placed into an entirely new culture, and while I was traveling with an American there were many times where I was a little lost because I couldn't speak Korean or I had to learn new customs. I believe everyone should spend time in a completely foreign country, learning new traditions and cultures. It gives you an entirely new perspective on life and I wouldn't trade this trip for anything!

My time in Korea has made me even more excited for Amsterdam. While The Netherlands isn't quite as exotic as South Korea, they still speak a different language and have many practices that are vastly different from the United States. But I am ready for this new experience and I can't wait, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

South Korea Part 6

I know, I know, I've been home for two weeks and I haven't finished my Korea posts. Summer makes me super lazy/a bad blogger but I'm getting through it!

Like I said last time, week 2 was a little less stressful (and I got lazy with my picture taking) so posts are getting shorter.

We left Seoul and headed out to Oak Valley resort, which coincidentally is near where the Winter Olympics will be held in 2018! The resort is home to a museum that hosts a really impressive art collection (but Lydia and I will take any excuse to visit a museum!), where some of James Turrell's artwork was exhibited (it's completely sold out in L.A. even after it ends!). I had never heard of Turrell, but let's just say, it was AMAZING. Since no pictures were allowed inside, here's a few shots of the museum grounds, which are equally impressive.

My view for lunch. Can you believe this??

Remember those mounds from Gyeongju? These stone sculptures are inspired by the ancient graves, and wind down the path that leads to the Turrell exhibit. 

I really loved visiting the museum, even if we did have to sprint back to Seoul as soon as we were finished. Sorry for the quick post, next we'll head up to the border for our trip to the Demilitarized Zone!

Monday, July 14, 2014

South Korea Part 5

Our second weekend we were back in Suwon, and decided to visit Minsokchon, a Korean folk village on the outskirts of the city. It's sort of like a Korean version of colonial Williamsburg, with people dressed up in period outfits, traditional demonstrations and performances, and loads of touristy souvenirs. 

I'm not really cut out for farm work. Also note my Lilly shorts, I had to celebrate National Wear Your Lilly Day all the way from Korea!

This man was making shoes out of straw! You can see a few examples of this work on the shelves behind him. I have no idea how he did it, but we watched him for a good five minutes or so as he wound pieces of straw around these three poles that were attached by a bigger rope around his waist. 

Lydia and I happened to stumble across these guys while trying to find our way to the Nobleman's Palace. Lydia has been an equestrian for a long time so we had to stop and watch. These performers were insane. They jumped from galloping horse to galloping horse like it was nothing, doing flips and tricks the entire time.  Then...

There were five guys on two horses. I got nervous just watching, expecting someone to fall off, but they went through the entire show without a problem. 

Someone bail me out!

This was really cool: the village puts on a traditional wedding every afternoon. It was interesting to see what a wedding from another culture looks like, even though weddings like this aren't as common nowadays. The bride and groom never spoke, and the bride kept her eyes lowered for most of the ceremony. The first ten minutes was just the groom performing ceremonial duties, until the bride comes out covered by her attendants. Lydia told me the two attendants were originally placed into the ceremony in case the bride fainted, and they stayed by her side the entire time. 

At the end, the bride is carried out in a little sedan while the groom rides in front on a horse. The entire crowd followed the wedding procession, which coincidentally ended right in the middle of all the souvenir shops. Well played, guys, well played. It worked, however, as I ended up buying several souvenirs, including one of the little hats worn above as a present for my brother. 

Apparently I'm 5 years old and had to jump on the swing. It's harder than it looks!

Don't fall in!

We had a pretty fun day at the village, if you like history, culture, or just people dressed up in period costume it's worth a visit if you're in Korea!