In Korea, winter/spring vacation is similar to summer vacation in America. Two blissful months off from school (though Korean students and some teachers are often required to come in anyway!). In the middle of the vacation, usually the second week of February, all the students and teachers return to school for the final few days of classes and graduation. Today was Su Bin’s graduation from high school and the end of my first semester as an ETA.

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Lunar New Year

The weekend after I came back from my winter break travels, my host family celebrated the Lunar New Year, or Seollal. Along with Chuseok, Seollal is one of the most important holidays in Korea. I’ve mentioned before that my host family is always busy and does not spend a lot of time together, but this weekend was a brief time for them to take a break and enjoy each other’s company.

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Honja: Backpacking Through Asia, Part II



When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was The King and I. It’s been many years since I’ve seen it, but I loved the story of the British governess, the king of Siam, and the intrigues of the royal court. I knew fairly little about Thai history other than the events and historical figures in the musical, so I was eager to learn more about a country that had always held a special place in my imagination.

Continue reading “Honja: Backpacking Through Asia, Part II”

Honja: Backpacking Through Asia, Part I


On January 8th, I sat with Host Mom and Ye Bin at the kitchen table, reviewing my itinerary for my winter break trip. I will be in this city, in this country, on this day, I said, pointing at the organized spreadsheet I had printed for them. These are my flights, these are my planes, these are my ferries. This is how you can contact me because I don’t have an international phone plan. Ye Bin nodded, listening intently, then looked in the living room.

“Where is your suitcase?”

I picked up a small hiking backpack that fit within AirAsia’s 7 kg carry-on limit. Ye Bin raised her eyebrows, probably thinking about the two oversized suitcases I had brought with me to Korea. But I decided to pack sparingly for my 27-day journey, hoping I would have just enough room for souvenirs.

Host Mom asked me in Korean when I was meeting my friends.

“No friends, just me.”

HONJA?!”  Alone?!

Maybe I shouldn’t have waited until the last minute to mention that. I could almost see Host Mom’s thoughts. She’s lucky she can get by in Korea–what’s she going to do by herself in southeast Asia?!

I’ll be fiiiiine, I assured her. Enjoy having some time away from me.

So I left. Honja.

Continue reading “Honja: Backpacking Through Asia, Part I”