담양 죽녹원 ; Damyang Juknokwon

Explored on July 25, 2015

Vibrant blue skies and bamboo trees full of strong green hues make up the wonderful place of Damyang Juknokwon. My family and I have been wanting to visit this very celebrated bamboo forest. As we walked up the long steps, I couldn’t help but think – wow, this is a painting. It was beautiful. There was a traditional gate at the entrance to welcome guests from everywhere and a long hiking path surrounded by tall, graceful bamboos. I kid you not, the trees looked like they were dancing. Besides the elegance of the bamboo trees, I saw families and couples walking in front of us, behind us, next to us, basically all around us. It was touching to see the old couple take a selfie or a baby pose with the panda figurines as his parents called after him to look at the camera.

Family is a very important part of Korean culture, especially in mine. Families  – nuclear and extended – most definitely get together during Chuseok, the mid-autumn harvest festival (it’s similar to Thanksgiving in the States) and Lunar New Year. There are always plates of food overlapping each other on the table because there isn’t enough space to fit all the delicacies! The living room is crowded and filled with voices and laughter. The traffic to get to the family 고향/gohyang, the hometown, during these holidays are crazy. There really isn’t a time where it isn’t rush hour. Everyone tries to leave as early as possible, assuming they’ll avoid traffic – it doesn’t really work out. Yet despite all this chaos, once you get there, you know you’re in for some good family love. You’ll get to eat great  food, first of all, play some traditional games (like 윷놀이/yutnori, a traditional Korean board game where you throw sticks – how they are laid out determine how much you go forward or if you go backwards on the cloth board – and aim to reach the “finish point” as quick as possible. Each team is given four tokens/chips that they must get to the finish point), and maybe even get a little allowance to buy snacks from your grandparents!

          

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