This morning, the host family--even the dad!, the random little girl we sometimes hang out with (pictured in an earlier post), two other random children, and I went hiking at an awesome Modern Art "Mountain" (it was really more of a large hill, but in Korea they rate it a mountain). There were large modern art installations all along the paths up the mountain, with little plaques in Korean and in Engrishy describing each artists "emotings" about his/her piece. Some family favorites were a large boxlike structure made out of rough-hewn logs with rusted horns sticking out in random places, a long narrow house-like thing made out of yarn, and a giant wicker either-egg-or-avocado. There was a platform at the very top of the "mountain" that looked out over all of Gongju. It's really a pretty little city: split in half by a little river (kum gang or silk river) and surrounded by light and dark green fields of crops (mainly rice) and tree-covered "mountains." I live to the south of the river, while most of the city is on the north side, so it was really easy to spot our apartment, my school, the track that I ran on once, and the library that we sometimes go to for 10 hours at a time. For most of the hike, especially on the way down, Kiyeong and the random little girl both insisted on holding my hand. This meant both that I had to explore every single modern art sculpture verrrry thoroughly and that I had a difficult time getting down the mountain. The mountain paths themselves were (amazingly, for Asia) not paved, and both kids had a lot of trouble staying on their feet on the dusty steep parts, so they dragged and slid me down the whole thing.
At almost every modern art sculpture, the family wanted to take a picture of me, just me, in front of it. Then we would take one of me, Kiyeong, and Kibeom, one of me and all the kids, one of me and the parents, and one of everyone together. This made the hike take quite a while without any of us actually having to get any exercise. Another time-consumer was the fact that for some reason or another, finding an acorn in Korea is a wicked exciting event. Anytime someone spotted one, they would hold it up and shout, "totori!" (presumably Korean for 'acorn') and then everyone would come over and exclaim over it. The things didn't seem particularly rare, so I have absolutely no idea why they are so interesting. Even better than the acorns was our lone squirrel sighting. We were all checking out a roughly 2 square foot opening in som rocks labeled on the map as "The Bear Cave," when I saw a little black squirrel running across a rock and pointed it out to the random little girl. She immediately pointed at it and screamed [Korean word meaning squirrel] and everyone went crazy. The boys all lept up on a rock and pointed at it and yelled at the dad to take a picture of it, even though by that point the poor terrified thing was just a little black dot running away up the mountain. Other Korean families came scrambling up to see it, and my host mom grabbed my arm, laughed, and excitedly said, "sonsaengnim, squirrel" many, many times. Very strange. I wish they could come see our back yard, although maybe it would be too many squirrels and acorns to handle.
After the hike, we all had some preem pomegranate popsicles and then went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. In Korea, Chinese food means some combination of four items: jiazhang mian (noodles in a thick, dark sauce with onions and a few other veggies), noodle soup with seafood, fried dumplings, and/or sweet-and-sour pork. It's all pretty good, although I don't really like sweet-and-sour pork (mainly on account of the pork, but also because that sweet-and-sour goop is kind of sick) and today's was definitely a bit underdone. Kiyeong and the random little girl both insisted on sitting next to me, so that made me happy. We played rock paper scissors about a billion times.
After lunch we went to a weird model home thing and looked at models of really nice apartments...with furniture...and real showers...and multiple beds. One even had an oven in the giant kitchen area. We had to take our shoes off at the door and carry them around in little tote bags. There was a raffle and free carnival-like food, all of which the boys raced to bring me--making me feel kind of sick. We hung out there for a while and then went home, where I helped Kiyeong study English for a while and then the two of us split an ice cream (coffee-flavored of course) and read (me: Persuasion--thanks Jenny!--and him: comic book) together on my "bed" for an hour or so. All in all, good day so far...although I have still have to do all my lesson plan stuff for tomorrow.