Upon pondering the topic of culture and how to best experience it, I've decided that I like home-stays the best. I've had the opportunity to home-stay in Germany, (kind of) China and Korea. And in Thailand was able to meet up with a local friend as well. It's hands down the best way to fully immerse yourself and take in all that you wouldn't otherwise be able to see or do simply as a tourist.
This summer I've had the pleasure of staying with two very different families. My first stop was Jeju Island, the "Hawaii of Korea." I would quite compare it to Hawaii or other tropical places I've visited but it certainly was beautiful.
From waterfalls, caves and inappropriate statue parks to beaches. Lots and lots of beaches! I'm talking white sand to black sand and everything in between.
This beach was lovely, with very shallow water from the road, reaching to the sea. That was my lovely host for the week.
Iho Taewoo Beach at night.
This one is PG.
Waterfall going into the sea.
This is (kind of) black sand. It mixes with white sand to create a marble-type effect.
My next stop was to the country. Nestled in a valley, between beautiful green mountains, one of my favorite students' grandmother's lives in a quaint little house with a vast garden. I got to visit overnight and go river rafting. (Not quite white water rafting but still rafting...)
Washing chili peppers.
White water creek from the mountain minerals.
Me and mom!
Pretty Korean mountains.
One thing I love the most about living with the locals is the food! They know the best dishes and where to get them or how to make it! Even while eating "at home" in Jeju, I had delicious fish and traditional Korean side dishes. During my weekend with Grandma, we never ate anything that wasn't fresh from the garden. (Well, fresh from the garden then pickled, the typical Korean way!) I definitely ate better and healthier with Koreans than I do on my own, hands down!
I made American style homemade spaghetti!
I helped Grandma pick and clean these delicious greens!
... the beef wasn't... it was from a Korean cow. Korean beef is actually way more expensive and (believed to be...) more delicious than beef from elsewhere such as America or Australia.
The moral of the story is to stay with the locals to get the most culture out of your experiences. Sure, my idea of a vacation is only beaches and relaxing but I know I can gain so much more knowledge of the place I'm visiting while off the beach and in the house!