In the U.S. I would get holidays off of school and work, like President’s Day, Independence Day and Christmas, but in Korea, Buddha’s Birthday and Children’s Day are nationally recognized as days where everyone gets work off and visits family.

When the mass exodus of Seoul happens—more on Chuseok, the Korean version of Thanksgiving than other holidays, the subways are empty, the streets are deserted and the shops close down.

Lotus lanterns are lit in honor of Buddha for a period of time before the actual day, and colorful lamps line the streets. The first time I noticed the lanterns along the main street outside I didn’t know it was Buddha’s birthday and thought they were just decorations, but when my friend said she wanted to steal one of Buddha’s lanterns I made the connection.

Don’t worry she didn’t take a lantern, because it would most likely be frowned upon by
Seoulites.

While Buddha’s Birthday is for Buddha, Children’s Day is specifically for children.

Even if I feel like going to a theme park or some place known to attract kids, I will avoid it at all costs on this day, because none of them have school and their parents will spoil them rotten, because it’s pretty much Christmas dedicated to hordes of half-grown people. Perhaps this is another message to parents to stop working 24/7 and spend time with their kids before they grow up.

Besides the holidays, another event has been in the news this weekend. The subway’s inner-circle line had a collision on Friday, but thankfully no one was badly injured.

I was sitting in my Korean class when the news came out, and my professor immediately called her mother who’d been on the train only an hour earlier. Then she flung her arm at us and motioned to the door with an animated expression and said in Korean, “Go back to America where it’s safe. I’ll come
with you.”

She laughed after that and said her mother wasn’t on the train when the collision happened, much to her relief. I’m pretty sure my Korean teachers think foreigners are adorable, especially when trying to speak Korean. One time my teacher asked the class, “Do you want ice cream?” We said yes, of course.

So she gave us a 10-minute break, bought us ice cream and told us to stay strong through exams. Buddha’s Birthday and Children’s Day, subway crashes and teachers who buy ice cream cones: just another week in Seoul, but next weekend I head to Jeju Island to see the Emerald Sea!