Annyeonghaseyo! Things have finally settled down for me and I've managed to develop a fairly consistent routine. I've still been extremely busy.
Everland Amusement Park: This was incredible! Everland is South Korea's version of Disneyland. Rollercoasters, thrill rides, stage shows, a waterpark, haunted houses, and a zoo. Our day was packed and fun-filled (despite long lines). The best part is foreigners get a 20% discount on ticket price.
Sky Festival: Every year the Incheon Airport Sky Festival hosts two large music events. The first day is classical Korean music. The second day is Korean pop (K-pop). We went to the second day. Though I did not relish standing in line for 7 hours, foreigners got free tickets and I got to see 17 of Korea's top K-pop artists.
Chuseok: The Korean Thanksgiving holiday (Chuseok) is a time when Koreans remember their ancestors and eat a lot. It also used to be the best time to sight-see in Seoul, because everyone left town. This was partially true. On the first day of Chuseok I did some shopping in Itaewon. Itaewon is the foreigner district in Seoul and is the best place to find clothes that will fit Western bodies. The stores in Itaewon were dead and the vendors were desperate to sell, so I got some really great deals.
The second day of Chuseok, I decided to take on the Five Grand Palaces of Seoul all in one day. They are all within about 4 miles of each other and are beautiful. They were packed with visitors, but it was nice to see the Koreans acknowledging their Joseon ancestors. I still intend to go back to Changdeok Palace to see the "Secret Garden" (the line was way too long). Also, entrance into the palaces and the Korean Folk Museum (which I also visited) was free because of Chuseok!
The last day of Chuseok I went to Bukhan Mountain National Park. This was the most intense and fulfilling hike I've ever been on. The mountains outside Seoul are beautiful, but hiking up steep walkways for 6 hours was murder on my legs. I was literally soaked with sweat when I got off the mountain. However, I met some really friendly people along the way. Many of the Koreans I encountered were eager to strike up a conversation with me (even if we couldn't understand one another). Along the trails were nestled several Buddhist temples with incredible views.
Korean Folk Village: The week after Chuseok, the international exchange group on campus arranged for a trip to the Korean Folk Village and the national museum. The folk village reminded me of a Korean Renaissance festival. They have a completely restored Joseon era village with actors in traditional Korean clothes. We participated in traditional pottery making, watched folk dances, tight-rope walkers, and an equestrian show. Afterwords, we visited some incredible exhibits at the national museum.
Busan: After the folk village, the study abroad agency took us across Korea to the ocean-side city of Busan. They shacked us up in a very nice hotel for the weekend and took us on a two-day tour of the city. We enjoyed a ferry ride, Chinatown, a world famous fish market (where we ate delicious sea eel), swam on the beach, visited a beautiful seaside temple, and visited the APEC House where the 2005 APEC summit was held. Busan is an incredible city.
It has been a very busy three weeks and things do not appear to be slowing down!
Update: Almost forgot! Thanks Dr. Jerry Richardson at UMKC/SCE/CME, I was able to visit the Korea Institute of Construction Technology (KICT). KICT helps manage the infrastructure of Korea and does the majority of water resources and building fire research in Korea. I was able to meet the president of KICT, Dr. Hyoseop Woo, and go on a tour of KICT's labs here in Seoul. The visit was incredible! KICT's labs are world class and heaven to an engineering nerd like me.