Lunar New Year’s in Busan

Monday 23 Jan

Currently aboard the KTX bullet train on my way back to Seoul after spending Lunar New Year’s in Busan with the family. Spending time with my family in Busan is… interesting — I feel so grateful to have a big extended family and that I’m able to spend quality time with my grandma, but there were times when I just wanted to be back at the dorm by myself. I’ve found myself being more introverted since coming to Korea. It was also a bit stressful because it was the first time that my family had celebrated jaesa/charae (a traditional ceremony honouring bereaved family members) for my grandad on Lunar New Year’s, and no one knew exactly how to do things properly. It’s also difficult because when I’m with my family, it’s hard to ignore the entrenched gender roles and sexism in Korean culture — the women prepare the food in the kitchen while the men carry out the practical tasks such as driving and carrying heavy things. 

I feel guilty complaining about such things because my family are loving towards me; I love Busan and its vibrancy, the people’s brashness, loudness, sass and sense of community, and I am so lucky to have a piece of home here. Being able to see the ocean in Busan makes me feel at ease, and I love that people are walking along the beaches at any given time of the day. I love that my auntie and cousin, and it seems most people in Busan, have a wicked sense of humour; I love that you call waiters “auntie” or “boss;” I love that people in Busan aren’t fussed about what they look like or how they walk or present themselves – Busan has a very different energy to Seoul.

It’s just past midnight. I had to get a late slot because train tickets sell out quickly around Lunar New Year’s time — it’s the biggest holiday here, and millions of people return to their hometowns to celebrate the new year with their families. It’s odd spending so much time alone, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I don’t know if I would’ve had the chance to practice being alone if it weren’t for trips like this, where I’m forced to. Sometimes I feel lonely, but I’ve actually quite enjoyed it.

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