"I'm sitting on the highest point of the tallest mountain in sight, at the edge of the South Sea in Korea. The water in the sea is the same color as the clear sky above me and the sun seems to be reflecting off of them both, setting the landscape on fire. Old Man Winter has set up camp inside my bones, but that's okay. Some things need to be seen, need to be experienced. And besides, it's not as cold as it was two days ago. Two days ago was really cold.
It was five o'clock in the morning, and I had stayed up the whole night in anticipation. I began walking to my friend Song Young-jin's house while it was still dark outside, which only added to the feeling I have that my neighborhood was designed by a comic book artist. Song Young-jin lives in a home older than the United States of America situated in the middle of a park surrounded by apartments as tall as skyscrapers. He traces his family lineage back not to grand-fathers and great grand-fathers, but 16 generations back, to Song Shi-Yeol. A famous advisor to a famous King.
Why get up at five in the morning on New Years? Who is even conscious at five o'clock on New Years? Apparently a couple thousand South Koreans are and they all flock to whatever mountain is closest to celebrate and say, "Hello!" to the first sunrise of the year. After all, if you don't make him welcome he might not want to come back.
The night started off unpleasantly cold and just got colder. Oh, when you hike up a mountain at about a 50° incline you start to sweat and begin to feel quite nice. But as soon as you stop the sweat freezes to your skin and you just want to cry at the irony.
And ironic it was, because the weather just kept getting colder, and colder and me, Song Young-jin and about 300 other Koreans atop a 1500 year old mountain fortress were reminded just how much we love the warmth of the sun. So an hour after the suns first rays began to burn off the morning fog around the mountains, hundreds of voices bellowed out a roar of excitement at first sight of that shining ball of fire in the sky. Song Young-jin told me, "Koreans call this a difficult experience. Beautiful."
I couldn't agree more.
There are a lot of things that I learned at Stetson. I added a bit more to that in Gainesville before coming back to Deland and learning how to make sushi at Oudum's Thai. I learned a lot about school and academic pursuit. Even more about friendship and falling in love. But in Korea, I'm learning a lot about who I am as a person. Sometimes it can be quite difficult. But most of the time it's just beautiful."