Oct 01

A Chuseok Stay-Cation with the Sis and Only One Disaster

While everyone and their mom were off in Japan acquiring radioactive super powers during the five-day Korean holiday of Chuseok, my sister and I were rocking a stay-cation in the good ol’ ROK.

Sister visits Korea

I suppose it wasn’t quite a stay-cation for my sister, considering it took her a 13 hour flight to get here. But in a way it was a “return home” for her because, if you didn’t already know, my little sister was adopted from South Korea. That’s right–I still remember showing up at the airport, all excited to pick up my eight-month-old baby sister and then staring at her strange little face in horror as she screamed bloody murder the whole drive home.


Having been born six weeks premature her development skills were a bit delayed and our family was actually concerned for a while that she had developmental disabilities. And to top it off–even she will admit this!–she wasn’t exactly the cutest baby. Needless to say, four-year-old Kaleena was having second thoughts about this whole Korean baby in the house thing. Thankfully, my sister eventually grew out of it all and turned out to be quite a bright girl and the most adorable little toddler ever (well, after me, of course).

Sister and me in Korean hanboks

I’d been planning her visit for months, but the trip would not have been on par with my life had it not started out with a moderate disaster. Upon arrival she got stuck in a long immigration line and by the time she reached baggage claim her suitcase was gone. She went in search of it and meanwhile I sat outside her arrival gate panicking that she’d been held up in customs because of the large amount of food I’d asked her to bring from home. Could tortillas, salsa, chocolate, and some cans of vegetarian chili really get you arrested? What a strange charge that would be.


Finally she made it out and heaved the duffel bag filled with my goodies and my winter wool coats at me. As we made our way out of the airport, I felt a damp trickle on the side of my leg. My heart sank as I realized, but tried to deny, the inevitable truth. Something had spilled. Something wet. Something that smelled remarkably like salsa. I gingerly unzipped the bag and found my food and wool coats swimming in a pool of chunky tomatillo sauce. The most heartbreaking thing about it wasn’t that my coats were potentially ruined; it was that it had been the only jar of salsa. My favorite kind of salsa. And I had been waiting for that salsa for 6 months. I was ready to get a bag of chips and dip them straight into the bottom of that duffel bag.

Fan painter in Insadong, Seoul
Once we overcame that little hurdle, though, we had a fantastic time. We spent a weekend in Seoul visiting tourist sites like Gyungbuk Palace and Insadong. We returned to Daegu where I had to work for two days and she came to school and met my students and coworkers; we even had coffee with the Principal, who proceeded to impress upon her how proud she should be to be Korean because, as we all know, Korea-is-the-best-country-in-Asia-even-though-people-might-try-to-tell-you-Japan-is.

Sister admiring a wall at Gyungbuk palace

Sister admiring a wall at Gyungbuk palace

Temples in Korea during Chuseok


Roofs of Beomo Temple, Busan KoreaBiking by the river in Daegu

Buddha head at Yongung Temple, Busan

Hiking Apsan, Daegu


We spent two days in Busan and drank beers on the beach under a full moon, checked out some famous temples and fought the massive crowds that no one warned us would be descending upon them, and then returned to Daegu to hike a mountain (read: hike up a gentle paved slope, and then take a cable car to the top), ride bikes by the river, eat a ton of food, buy some really awesome Konglish shirts, and drink booze in a bag at a norebang (karaoke room).  All in all, an amazing holiday!

Korean food


Yongung Temple, Busan Korea

Door at Yongung Temple, Busan

Berry Patbingsu


Yongung Temple, Busan Korea

  • ksommerkamp

    Stay-cations are the best…. even more when you’re sister joins you from the other side of the Earth!

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Totally! Although I promptly ordered a bottle of consolation salsa after she left. haha