Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Second Final Dinner

One year ago, Fulbright held the closing ceremony for the 2012-2013 grant year. I wrote in my blog then that the event was nice, but didn't feel so much like the end of everything for a few reasons: it was still a few weeks before the actual end of the grant, the programming was filled with talks and performances, which left little time to reminisce with friends, and, most importantly, it wasn't actually the end. Last year's "final dinner" was actually just the midpoint of my Fulbright grant period. I left the event knowing that although I was saying goodbye to some of my friends, I certainly wasn't leaving Korea: this country and I still had a whole entire year ahead of us

And now that year is over.

This past weekend was my second Fulbright Final Dinner, and it was also the last. Was it different? Surprisingly, I think it was a bit less nostalgic and emotional. I mean, it was largely the same as last year's ceremony, but I knew even fewer people. Still, as always, I enjoyed seeing my friends and having a blast in Seoul for a short weekend.

I was foolish enough to bring my camera but not my battery, so I couldn't take any nice photos over the weekend! I guess I'll have to use thousands of words instead. Haha, kidding, here are some highlights:

1. Volume 7, issue 2 of the Fulbright Infusion was released at the dinner! It is a beautiful magazine, and I'm excited to share it with my students and colleagues. Check out the website, too, to see some of my photos and pieces that were published!

2. A Fulbright Korea alumnus who did his grant year about twenty years ago was a guest at the final dinner, and even though he is a complete stranger, he came up to me and asked, "Hey, you write a blog, don't you?" Apparently, I have some dedicated readers who aren't just my Facebook friends! This little surprise made me very happy.

3. I went back to Acousticholic! Unfortunately, we only caught the tail end of my friend's performance that night, but it was great to catch up with him afterward. This guy is working for JYP Entertainment as a songwriter. I swear he's going to be really big one day...
Food from The Beastro in Hongdae (#6). Also, I'm about to stab my 삼겹살 sliders. Photo courtesy Neal Singleton!
4. A fundraising organization called Running 4 Resettlement, which was founded by a group of current Fulbrighters, held an event at a new restaurant in Hongdae called The Beastro. Donating money to help North Korean defectors adjust comfortably to life in South Korea? Check. Good drinks and company? Check. Chilling in on an open rooftop terrace in Hongdae on a cool summer night? Check.

5. That night, I stayed at a 24-hour sauna called Siloam (신로암), near Seoul Station. It's an amazing sauna, far better than any I've been to (though I haven't yet paid a visit to SpaLand in Busan...). I tried all the different hot baths and steam rooms, including one with walls made of charcoal and one that was like a pit of heated salt rocks. My friends and I chatted in the steam rooms and played Contact until three in the morning! (I may write more about this sauna at a later date, although it's too bad I didn't take any pictures!)

6. Lunch at The Beastro on Sunday morning. This restaurant is amazing! Need proof? Check hungryinhongdae. Also, more ice cream at Fell+Cole, where I finally redeemed the stamp card I've been using for a whole year. 
Katelyn, Clara, and me at Fell+Cole.
7. Followed by shopping -- I got a new shirt (and am now worried about what I'm going to do with all the clothes I've accumulated in this country over the past two years) and a nice afternoon 노래방 (karaoke room) session with friends.

And just like that, a too-short weekend came to an end. Final exams at my school begin tomorrow, which means I will still have nothing to do all day besides input grades, take care of administrative stuff, and... get things ready for the Fulbright teacher who will replace me next semester. Whoever they are, they will say hello to South Korea in one week. (Orientation begins for the new Fulbright class next Monday.) And one month after that, I will say goodbye!

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