New Years in Gwangju, South Korea


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I feel like every year I skid over the finish line of the last year battered and bruised but eager for more. That statement was never more true than this year. Nicole and I found ourselves at First Alleyway, a foreigner bar downtown exhausted and worn out. Nicole couldn’t walk and I couldn’t talk, but how did this happen? Let’s Tarantino it…

It all began one week before…

I had a mandatory New Years party on Saturday for my work. I love New Years parties, but I like them because they’re fun and low stress. This New Years party was a bit different. No guests allowed, attendance is mandatory for the entire party (approx. 4 hours), we had to perform a skit, and assigned seating.

The party was at a local hotel ballroom and it was held by the owner of our school and several other schools. Each of the different schools put on a skit that we practiced for several weeks leading up to the party. My school did a parody of Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen about getting detention. It was pretty funny, although I must admit our dancing was terrible, mine especially.

Highlights from the party

[unordered_list style=”tick”]

  • Choi made a Christmas card advertising himself and looking for a girlfriend, awesome if you ask me
  • There was lots of seafood and delicious Korean food, it was some of the best food I’ve had here so far
  • The skits were hilarious, my school was horribly out of sync, but we’re teachers not performers so I’m not too beat up over it
  • All of the Koreans went all out with their outfits and many of them got fancy haircuts or extensions for the occasion


The After Party

After the New Years party, my coworkers and I met up with Nicole and her coworker, Will, at a foreigner bar downtown for drinks and dancing. Nicole and her friend Audrey were dancing on a little stage at the front having a good time, celebrating, and doing the running man.

[box type=”alert”]This is foreshadowing, remember these details.[/box]

The After After Party

Just kidding, Nicole and I aren’t that crazy. We came back home to the apartment and went to bed…when suddenly tragedy struck, or rather very gradually tragedy struck. Around 4am Nicole wakes up crying and in intense pain. I have no idea what’s happening and it takes me a second to figure out what’s happening, but Nicole suspects that she hurt her leg somehow doing the running man (remember that foreshadowing? I told you I would Tarantino it).

xray hospital gwangju snow

The cold weather and the snow must have numbed her leg long enough for us to get home and fall asleep, but after being asleep for a while her leg started to hurt. So here we are Saturday night, Nicole in pain and its well before dawn. Nicole and I get bundled up because its snowing outside. I carry Nicole down the 4 flights of stairs and help her limp around the corner to the main road to catch a cab. [divider_flat]

xray hospital leg midnight gwangju sprain

We take a cab to the hospital and bring Nicole inside. We have no idea where we’re going but a nice old lady who knows no English helps Nicole find a wheelchair and we navigate through the labyrinth of hallways and elevators until we get to the emergency room. In the ER we get a leg x-ray, see a doctor, get her a splint (her leg was sprained, but not broken), and several antibiotics, all without insurance mind you, for $170.

Say what you will about Korea’s often bizarre day-to-day happenings, but they sure know how to manage healthcare costs. Nicole, being the accident-prone lady that she is, has had several run-ins with Korean healthcare and it’s always been incredibly affordable and efficient. [divider_flat]

How did I lose my voice

So how did I end up losing my voice? I’ve only lost my voice a handful of times in my life, probably fewer than three times, but something about the dry winter air and having to teach for hours on end really takes it out of you. The day of New Years Eve, I lost my voice at the end of the day and could not talk at all. Even without my voice though New Years was fun. I got really good at miming and spent the evening basically playing one-man charades or typing things into my phone and Nicole explaining what I typed.

My first 6 months

My first 6 months in Korea have flown by. I moved here at the end of June and started my first week of school in July. I’ve been to baseball games, sunflower festivals, camped on the beach, and visited Japan. I’m looking forward to another exciting 6 months here and I can’t wait to see what the rest of Winter and Spring hold in store for me.




One response to “New Years in Gwangju, South Korea”

  1. Thailand Day One: The Adventure Begins | Austin GilmourAustin Gilmour

    […] Korea they celebrate two new years’: Solar New Year, the traditional western New Year, and Lunar New Year, an exciting double New Year you get to […]

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