Last weekend, I had a chance to experience two activities I hadn’t tried out in Korea: doing a voluntary work and joining a home-stay program. Let me start with the volunteering first.
I applied for this program through a link shared by a Korean friend about a week before, yet I only got the confirmation mail a night before d-day. The mail said we had to be at Digital Media City station at 2 p.m. I arrived there and met some other foreigners before the committee came and brought us to Eunpyeong district office. There, they already prepared raincoats, gloves, and other necessary tools for our activity. We basically just had to distribute briquettes to Korean poor families. None of us expected that the work would end in 15 minutes. According to the committee, they already distributed around 2000 briquettes earlier that day, leaving us with only 200 briquettes. Oh, by the way, there were 7 other foreigners and around 10 Koreans volunteering that afternoon.
After the short work, the committee brought us to Jingwansa, a temple in the middle of mountains and hanoks (Korean traditional houses). One of the monks of the temple guided us around and explained the history of the temple, which was build over 1000 years ago. Surprisingly, she spoke really good English. She said, prior to being a monk, she was once a busy researcher on Indian philosophy.
We were then brought to one hanok where food and snacks were ready for us to eat. I personally felt bad because the amount of services we got was a lot more than what we did. Well, anyways, I ate a lot LOL. While eating we were shown a Chinese song and a Russian song sang by two housewives who married to Korean men.
After the party, we were introduced to the president of Homestay in Korea, a volunteer association which organizes home-stay activities throughout the country. It turned out that I, along with one girl and one guy from Portugal, got her house as the home-stay place.
Our host mother was an energetic middle-aged woman. Her son was a second year university student who was part of the volunteers too. They could barely speak English, and the two Portuguese could not speak Korean, so I tried my best translating for them. My poor Korean was definitely not enough but I was pretty satisfied for trying my best.
It was already 11 p.m. when the mother brought us out to the World Cup Stadium. This is one of the stadiums where the 2012 Korea-Japan World Cup took place. The sky was not clear that night, so we couldn’t see the pretty night sky of Seoul from the stadium, so the host mother took us to the park at the back of the stadium. After that we went to Hongdae for a while then went to sleep. I tried the Korean-style sleeping mat for the first time. I thought it would be thicker, like Japanese futon, but it apparently was just a piece of cloth. It was find, though, because the floor has a unique heating system which kept it warm.
The next day, before the three of us left the house, our host mother prepared us a set of Korean meal for breakfast. We had tofu with chilli sauce, kimchi stew, fried fish, and of course the kimchi itself. As expected, the homemade food was very delicious. As a spicy-food lover, I felt really good that morning.
Alhamdulillah, the weekend was full of new experiences to me and other foreigners. I’m now hoping for another chance before leaving Seoul next month. (yes, I only have a month left)