Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Korea 2011 Summer Fellows: The Sauna

Yes, I did it. There was one outing that I needed to cross off my list of things to do in Korea, and that was to spend the night in a sauna as if I had no other place to go. In many Korean dramas you will often come across themes of poverty and families or people being evicted from their homes.

It was a Friday night, and I was bored with nothing to do at home. ---so I called up a friend of mine and decided to spend the night in a sauna nearby. This was no fancy sauna, I walked in and paid 9,000won which is the equivalent to about $8.50 or something. And for 9,000won I was given a pair of overused clothes, two lockers (one for my shoes and one for my things), and two small towels. (Most people in Korea do not use large towels to dry themselves off).

I am not sure if this is appropriate to share with you all, but I have never been so shocked. (Men and women have separate washrooms) Maybe I have just never been in a public sauna before, but I have never seen so many people walking around naked freely in my life. Most of them were old grandmas but there were a few women that were ranged from ages 18-40 years old.

I spoke with a couple of people in the sauna as we were all sitting in an icebox, and they said that many of the older people here (at the sauna I was at) can not afford to pay for their own place, so they make just enough money during the day to eat and wash up and sleep in the sauna. They said that every once in a while they will come across foreigners like me, who are excited and curious to stay in a sauna.

It was a lot of fun; I really enjoyed my time there. Though it was no fancy high-end sauna, it was just exciting to be there.

On another note: My language program, it ends in about two weeks. :] And of course wherever I go I bring along with me a piece of Hawaii. So I taught all the women in my class—a hula dance that we performed last Thursday in front of everyone that works and studies at SNU’s KLEI.

It was hard teaching these girls because they have never danced before and they were extremely stiff and shy but after long practices and a few words of encouragement, they went on stage and killed it! Everyone loved our performance and I have never been so proud.

Julianna Ngo

BA International Affairs and Asian Studies 2013

Sigur Center 2011--Korean Language Fellow

Seoul National University, South Korea

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