Celebrating Chuseok (추석) in Korea with my Host Family {09/24/18} NSLI-Y AY


I woke up this morning bright and early— if you can even call it that since I was up before the sun. I woke up at 5 am to leave for my host family’s relatives’ house at 6 am.

My host family decided it would be best to drop me off at the house of my host grandmother {mom’s side} for a few hours while the family visited the dad’s relatives. I didn’t really understand the explanation on why I wasn’t going but I think it was mostly because I wouldn’t understand all of them? My host mom said I could I could watch my host grandmother prepare and perform 차례 {ancestral rites} and then sleep a bit more as they have an empty room.

They dropped me off at 7 am and I was quite awkward with my host grandmother at first. She gave me some 식혜 {traditional Korean rice drink} while she finished cooking some of the food being offered to the ancestors. I also helped! She took out these round dishes and I plated them with a variety of things: 대추 (Jujube), 약과 (fried pastry), 성편 (filled rice cake), and other things I didn’t know the name of…

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식혜: traditional Korean sweet rice beverage

I watched as my host grandmother, host grandfather, and host uncle {I believe? He didn’t talk much. Stayed in his room mostly} bowed as they performed 차례.

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Afterward, I also helped clean up by putting the food back in their original bags and wiping down any of the wet dishes.

I ate breakfast with my host grandfather and grandmother. We ate 갈비탕 (short rib soup) and lots of 반찬 (side dishes) like 오이 김치 (cucumber kimchi), 전 {소고기, 김치, etc} (Korean style fried pancakes– beef, kimchi, etc), 생선 (fish). And to my surprise, I could actually hold a conversation with them despite my lack of Korean skills. They did not even use English at all! They asked me lots of questions about my life in America and why I wanted to come to Korea. My host grandmother also asked me what my favorite Korean food was. This is always a hard question to answer but I went with 잡채, a forever favorite. She told me that she would teach me how to make it later and I wanted to cry at how sweet that sentiment was. I also got to try 송편 finally! Ever since I learned about it in class (and did more research when creating my 추석 project, I have been yearning to try it! I had a yellow one and it had 팥 (red bean) inside. Very delicious!

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Rice cakes filled with a variety of fillings: red bean, sesame, chestnut, etc.

After breakfast, my host grandmother made me a place to crash in the empty storage room and I slept there for about 2 hours. I woke up to see my host grandmother preparing what seemed like 잡채. There was a large bowl on the floor with mixed vegetables inside. My host grandmother then poured see-through glass noodles into the bowl. It was around 11:30 am now and while she was cooking, my host family arrived. My host sisters, host mother, and I sat on the kitchen floor while my host grandmother mixed the 잡채 together. We used our hands to grab some noodles and veggies to eat. My host grandmother then grabbed a handful and fed it to my eldest host sister. The next thing that happened, which also took me by surprise, was that she did the very same thing to me! She grabbed a handful and told me to tilt my head back as she dropped the noodles into my mouth. At this moment, I felt so very grateful to this family for treating me like on their own (as best as they possibly can). I was so happy to be welcomed with open arms (or should I say with mouthfuls of noodles– and lots of other foods). But also at this moment, I felt a slight feeling of sadness. All I could think about was my mother and how much I missed her– her hugs, her comfort, her cooking, her presence, etc.

Shortly after my host family arrived, we sat down in the living room and ate a big lunch. My host dad taught me a fancy word to use for this meal: 진수성찬 (translates to a sumptuous feast). After dinner, all the kids now had tons of energy and we needed to burn it off somehow so we took a little walk! (But beforehand, we stopped at a shop near the apartment complex to pick up snacks. I just got the same chocolate bar my host sisters were getting.) While getting to the store, my eldest host sister and I missed the elevator. The others would not wait for us! Instead of waiting for it to go down and back up 20 something floors, we decided to run down the stairs. Wow, was I dizzy afterward. And then, as we walked to the store, my host sister and I walked with our arms hooked and we skipped a bit. This may sound silly, but it truly made me feel like a big sister~

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Our 추석 feast!

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The said chocolate bar– it tasted like a Crunch Bar

I know that I was in 서울, but to be honest I do not know where. But near where my host grandparents lived, there was a large river park. Along the river, there were walking and bicycle paths, basketball courts, and lots of open spaces. Across the river, there were stones so that you could walk across them. The weather was not too cold or too hot and the wind blowing off the water felt so good. I could have stayed there for hours.

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On our way back, we also took some time to play on the exercise machines. This park area had a bigger variety in comparison to the ones close to my host family’s home. It was entertaining to try out all the new structures. (And it was even funnier to watch my host brother be tilted to upside down. He was having a blast, though.)

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Upon returning back to the apartment, my host grandmother was already preparing bowls of 시계 for everyone. I sat at the kitchen table with my host mother and host grandmother and enjoyed the cooling effects of the sweet 시계 and some more 송편. We talked some more which was fun (and good practice for me).

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For dinner, we had 김치찌개 (kimchi stew), 잔치국수 (party noodles) and all the 반찬 (side dishes) from the previous meals. It was all very delicious. We all ate in the living room once again on the foldable table. And this time, my host uncle (possibly?) joined us, too. I do not know how every dish was able to fit on the table; it will forever be a mystery to me.

After dinner, we relaxed some more: watched tv, read books, studied a bit. When it was time to go, we all took a quick look outside to see the full moon from the balcony. It is part of a 추석 tradition to make a wish on the full moon (and I knew this from my Korean class!) I made a wish with my youngest host sister, and then we began the hour drive back home.

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Cannot tell you my wish or it will not come true!~

That is all for this blog post! This day was a really special day to me and I really hoped that it has helped me move along the relationship I have with my host family. Additionally, in my NSLI-Y essays, I wrote about getting to experience more of Korean culture and society, like through their holidays. I could not have asked for a better day. I am so thankful. Also, this is my 100th blog post! I cannot believe I have written that many… I wonder how many words that comes out to be?

오늘 저는 제 호스트 가족들이랑 추석 잘 보내니까 너무 감사했어요~

  • Emma 엠마

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