This weekend I had my first experience with a homestay family. I was very excited about it; so excited I was counting the minutes until 6 o'clock in class on Friday. Once class was over I raced to my room to pick up my packed bag and headed outside to meet my homestay mom and sister.
Mi Seon (my homestay mom) and Se Heon (my homestay sister) picked me up at Yonsei. We introduced ourselves and were on our way. Se Heon asked me about my age and my family in the car. Her English is so good! I was very surprised at her level at only eight years old. She's a lively, energetic little girl. She immediately decided she would touch me Korean this weekend; needless to say, I did not have a dull moment the entire weekend!
Once we got home I put my things away, Mi Seon began to make dinner and I began to explore the house. Their home is quite gorgeous; it's very spacious and simple. We had Chicken Japchae noodles with a lot of banchan on the side! We then tried on some hanboks and chatted about our lives while Se Heon drew on her whiteboard. A little while later Ji Hyun (my homestay dad) came home. We ended up talking about business for almost two hours! He sarted his own business and me being a business student, I was extremly interested in finding out more about it. A short while later we said goodnight and I slept like a baby in my sister's room.
The next day was spent at Insadong with my mom and sister (after my mom made Kimchi Jiggae, which is my favorite, for breakfast). We visited many shops, ate fish and kimchi soup for lunch and visited some traditional Korean homes. Once we came back home my dad and I chatted for a few more hours and had ddokbokki for dinner. It was so good! My mom is such a great cook!
Overall, I had a great experience. My homestay family was very kind and caring toward me. During our conversations they provided a lot of insight into what Korean culture is and I feel I learned a lot just by observing them too. They also said I am welcome back anytime and I am very much looking forward to another experience where I will get to know them even more!
We have been long awaiting the famous cherry blossoms and light jacket weather. The city is at full bloom and the smell from the blossoms fills Yonsei University campus.
Seoul is a great place to find beautiful hiking trails since the city lays in a valley surrounded by mountains. Every semester, CIEE takes a half day trip up to the summits of Inwangsan to look over Seoul. We were lucky enough to have an amazing, clear day for our hike this semester!
Every year, the Han River Park hosts Seoul's Cherry Blossom Festival. The park is filled with families, couples, and friends enjoying the flowers, green grass, and bike paths along the river. It is so much fun to watch everyone (including natives to Seoul) appreciate the beauty of the city.
Midterms are coming up next week and CIEE and other Yonsei students are studying hard to prepare the the exams. This is always a stressful time no matter where you are in the world. Everyone back home, wish us luck!
CIEE students on Inwangsan looking over the city of Seoul
CIEE students enjoying the Cherry Blossom Festival
We've landed, we've explored, we've started to learn. Us CIEE
students have been dropped into the heart of Seoul, South Korea and have
already experienced quite the culture shock. From the work ethic, to
couple outfits, the Korean people have thrown us some curve balls in the
game of cultural immersion.
My name is Elizabeth Held and I am a third year photojournalism and anthropology major at Ohio University. Studying abroad is a big dream come true and I am so happy to have picked such a great city to live in. CIEE fit all of the requirements nicely and helped my spring semester get onto the right foot. Yonsei University is an amazing place and I am so honored to be able to say I attend one of Korea's top university's.
Just so you know who's blogging, this is me while volunteering at the Sarang School for the disabled in Seoul.
Right from the start the students participating in this year's CIEE spring semester in Korea had the motivation and spirit to throw themselves into the culture. While some students already knew the Korean language from past study, or family ties, others walked in with no experience (a.k.a. me). Nonetheless we started small, and continue to learn and build are confidence with the language with the help of our native speaking friends, as well as all the kind and patient Koreans that have to deal with our fumbling words.
Students with a few CIEE Seoul Mates. The Seoul Mates program is an
internship opportunity for Korean students to interact with CIEE
participants throughout the semester.
CIEE during a Seoul Mates activity at Yonsei University.
CIEE students playing a game in a traditional Korean village during their trip to Gyeongju.
So far this last month and a half has flown by and though I wish I could, I can't share everything I love and experience on this blog, but I will try my best to give potential applicants to CIEE South Korea a well rounded idea of what Seoul and CIEE has to offer!
I might have finished up my semester abroad and left Korea but that doesn't mean I shouldn't blog about the things I did during those last few days.
During those last few weeks, CIEE tried to pack a few more events/treats in for us to enjoy before leaving.
The first event was the Thanksgiving dinner, held in the basement of our dorm building. Although there was a modest amount of food, it was more than enough for all of us. There was so much leftover food too! After spending a semester eating mostly Korean food, a taste of home was something I think we all missed. After dinner, several of the more musically-talented students also sang for us. Here's the recording from all the performances that night.
Yes, we certainly have several people in CIEE this semester that are able to sing and play guitar rather well. One of them even won a prize at a competition held for the foreign students at Yonsei!
The next event was the farewell dinner, where Suzanne and Clara managed to reserve a room in Sinchon for us to spend part of the night eating and dancing (we even got a DJ!). It started off pretty slow, since as many people know, students aren't always the most punctual people. The food was pretty good, though because it was gourmet-styled, it didn't really seem Korean at all. Then there was a round of Yankee swap/white elephant gifting. The best part came when a Beast CD and SNSD CD got stolen about four times in a row, with it returning to its originally holder briefly during an intermediate steal. I didn't manage to record that, but I got one of the later scenes.
The Hmong girls also put together a farewell song for everyone. It might be a little tough to hear the lyrics through all the laughter and other noises, but they basically said a little something about everyone.
During the weeks between the two dinners, CIEE also arranged three other events for us. The first was a Korean cooking class, where we learned how to make kimchi and something else at a North Korean cooking center in Jongno (in downtown Seoul). You can tell I didn't stay for the entire cooking class because I had to leave early to make a presentation back at Yonsei that day. However, making kimchi myself did make me appreciate the kimchi that's always served to us during almost every meal. It actually takes quite a bit of effort and mixing to get the right taste in.
Of course, there's also the reverse culture shock workshop stuck in between all the events. Personally, I didn't enjoy it too much since it just reminds me that I'm returning to the US soon. We were essentially prepped on what to expect when we finally returned to the United States. However, we were treated to a small song when the speakers asked Clara (our assistant director) to sing the Choco Pie jingle. I have a sound clip of her singing, but I think she'd probably die of embarassment if I put it online.
CIEE also put together a trip for us to go watch MISO, a traditional Korean performance. I had originally intended not to go because of schedule conflicts, but I was eventually persuaded to go after our director asked me repeatedly to take one of the spots. I thought the best part of the entire performance was the pungmul section, partly because I had played some of the instruments and performed myself just a few weeks prior. If you're into topics in traditional Korean culture or folklore, MISO is definitely something you should go watch. If I remember correctly, it's about an hour and a half long and it's close to Yonsei (about a 5 minute bus ride followed by 5-10 minutes on foot). It snowed that night too, so we were greeted by a thin layer of snow when we left the theater that night!
Next up, a summary of my random wanderings around Seoul. As some of you may have noticed, I tend to travel around Seoul a lot on foot just because I'm bored and I think it's the best way to see the city (how much of the city can you see when you're stuck in a subway?). Seoul has a lot of random sites to see, but one of the most interesting places I think people should visit is Bukchon. Bukchon is a hanok styled area within downtown Seoul where there are several traditional styled Korean houses. If that isn't enough for you, how about the fact that one of these houses was used in the recent drama Personal Preference? Of course, the giant sign with Hanja/Chinese characters on it isn't there in real life, but the front of the house is.
But what of the special things in Seoul to see? Well, there's one sight that won't be here when the next batch of CIEE study abroad students come to Seoul, and that's the box that's been replacing the admiral's statue in Gwanghwamun. Admiral Yi's statue was taken down in November for cleaning, and in it's place, a "changing room" was installed. By popular vote, the Seoul city government decided to keep it there instead of replacing it with a photo of the statue while the real one was being repaired. The statue will be back in its original place by the end of December.
Keep in mind that at this time, the weather was still relatively cool but still pleasant. It was nothing like the frigid weather we're having right now. Before the cold weather set in, I also made a trip to the Seoul zoo over in Seoul Grand Park at the southern end of Seoul.
There were various animals at the zoo, some that you might have expected to see and some that you might not. The usual animals, such as lions, tigers, wolves, rhinos, elephants, were all there. There were also various marine life, insects, and birds. However, the most surprising thing I saw was a skunk on display, especially since back home, skunks tend to be pests that sprayed my dog at least once a month.
That last picture is just one of the many scenes that could been seen around Seoul Zoo. The zoo is built into the side of a mountain and has so many areas with nice sceneries. I think I went at the right time since the winter was about to set in but a lot of the trees still had the red leaves hanging on.
The fun part about that day was on my way back, I met one of the 떼 members on the subway. It was interesting since we were about an hour's ride away from Sinchon, and yet we somehow found each other on the subway. Actually, I saw him on the subway as it pulled into the station but I wasn't sure if it was him. I had to call a few of my friends to get his number, and then I called him to make sure I wasn't going to make a fool of myself on the subway. Turned out it WAS him, so I sat talking to him for most of the trip back to Sinchon.
The next post will be about the Thanksgiving dinner that CIEE put together for us. I have several videos from that day, so I will attempt to upload them onto Youtube before posting the next blog entry. Please stay tuned!
So I guess life caught up with me again and I haven't found time to update this blog for the last month or so. Oddly enough, I'm finding that I have the most free time during finals week. I think something's not right...maybe I'm not studying enough? Anyways, let's continue from where I left off last.
I had promised some pictures from our drama cafe trip, so let's start there. CIEE paid for a whole group of us to have our photos taken at a professional photoshoot, with all of us in drama costumes. Supposedly, we were to have researched our costumes, which was one of the reasons that I didn't sign up at first (I'm a little lazy when it comes to research). However, I saw the first day's pictures and just had to sign up, so I managed to text Clara (our assistant director) and she got me a spot for the next day's photoshoot. It was so much fun! I chose a costume with armor on it, so it was quite heavy. However, everyone had so much fun posing in random (and sometimes weird) stances all around the photoshoot area. *Hint* Try and spot our assistant director in these photos.
Since there's so many pictures in this post, I think I'll continue my summary on my next blog post. Did you see our assistant director on the laps of four CIEE guys?!
Maybe not the best of news, but I guess the incident yesterday is an example of the situation South Korea has been in since the Korean War (even if it doesn't feel like so). So, for those of you following the news recently, you probably heard that North Korea had fired artillery at Yeonpyeong Island (an island far off the coast of Incheon, along the western side of South Korea). Before anyone starts to fret, I think this is a perfect situation that demonstrates how the people of South Korea are dealing with it.
First, I think we should start with the facts in chronological order. South Korea held military exercises in the disputed waters near the island (North Korea believes the western naval border is farther south than what the UN had drawn following the armistice). North Korea sends a warning letter but South Korea continues to hold military exercises (though all live firings were towards the southern direction). North Korea begins firing rounds at the military base at Yeonpyeong Island, killing 2 marines and 2 civilians and setting areas of the island on fire. After South Korea fired back several rounds, the crossfire stopped. And now the global community is talking about politics.
Anyways, even though most of us students have been getting numerous phone calls and Facebook messages from friends and family asking how we are and sometimes going as far as telling us to get on the first flight out of here, there is a general feeling of safety here still. It seems that sometimes, the media (especially foreign media) tend to blow the situation out of proportions. For us students, we have more of this mindset: "Yes, we understand there has been fatal firings between the two nations. Yes, we know that we are all still in a war zone. However, we also know that North Korea is known to make these sorts of provocations and usually doesn't follow up on it." CIEE had elaborated on this during a North Korea lecture about a month ago, which provided us with an insight into the workings of the North Korean government.
Essentially, we know that North Korea cannot afford to fight a war because it will definitely lose. Why would the dictators of North Korea fight a losing battle when they can at least keep the status quo and hold onto their power for a little longer? In order to do so, they just need to make a threat every now and then to keep foreign aid coming in exchange for "promises." The nuclear tests, the sinking of the Cheonan, and the occasional cross-border firings all seem to just be ways of reminding the world that North Korea still exists.
To give an insight into the situation among Yonsei students, I can say that everyone is going about their daily activities as usual. The conversations going on typically do not wander towards the firings, but just towards normal things in our everyday lives. I almost didn't find out about the firings until someone else had brought it up in Korean language class. I guess after living here for several months, most of the international students have also begun to realize the reality behind the war situation.
I guess I should just end with this, we are safe here in Seoul. If the above argument was not convincing enough, then here's a more material argument. We have the protection of South Korean and the United States forces in the immediate area (specifically, about 10-15 minutes away at the Yongsan military base). We also have an alert CIEE director and assistant that notify us of any occurrences. We have also all been briefed by the US Embassy upon arrival in Seoul on the procedures in the unlikely event of any dangers. But these are all precautionary measures. It is highly unlikely that anything will happen.
Now that I'm done with this, I have several reports to write and homework to finish. At the current moment, I'm behind on reports to hand in to my home university and also to the CIEE office for cultural reimbursements. I am also trying to write my final paper for one class ahead of time so as to free up my last weekend in Korea for a trip to Busan. I also need to do some more online shopping on Gmarket. For those of you coming to South Korea, you should get introduced to Gmarket as soon as possible. It's like the Korean version of Amazon, where you can buy all sorts of clothing and concert tickets (among other things). Shipping is usually free and you don't have to deal with the stress of shopping at Dongdaemun (you'll know what I mean when you go shopping there for the first time). Anyways, I'm just trying to take advantage of my remaining time in Seoul. I have concerts scheduled to go to every remaining weekend (JYJ, YG, and Beast concerts), I have pending trips to Incheon and Busan, and I have a few more shopping trips planned. MUST GET EVERYTHING DONE!!!
It's been a while since I last blogged. It's mostly because during the last two weeks, I've basically dedicated my entire free time to a club called 떼 (pronounced "tte"), but I'll go into that later. Since I last blogged, a lot of other stuff happened as well. Starting off, events related to the G20 Seoul Summit.
As some of you in tune with politics may know, Seoul was selected as the sight of the G20 Summit (which was held just last week). Along with all the heads of state and the increased police presence in the Seoul area, there were several special events planned for people in Seoul.The most interesting one for students studying abroad might be the annual Asia Song Festival held in Seoul (named the G20 Concert this year). Performing artists included BoA, Rain, Kara, 2AM, Beast, 4Minute, Nine Muses, Teen Top, Rainbow, Lee Seung Chul, E.via, Bie the Star (from Thailand), Jane Zhang (from China), Joe Cheng (from Taiwan), AKB48 (from Japan), and Michael Wong (from Malaysia). The energy at Jamsil Olympic Stadium that night was just amazing! So many international stars brought to one location; of course this was going to be a concert to remember! To make it even better, the entire concert was free for foreigners. A donation of 1000 won (less than $1) nets you a Let's Go music single CD, a G20 branded blanket, and a glow-stick. Not bad considering the CD itself was sold later on in stores for over an equivalent of $5. All the lighting, music, fireworks, and crowd spirit made this a memorable night. Imagine when each artist came up to sing, and everyone in the stadium were waving glow-sticks to the music!
The following is just the music video for the theme song for the concert, entitled "Let's Go."
Towards the end of October and the beginning of November, Yonsei University's image changes dramatically as the seasons change. Walking through a majority of Yonsei University is basically like walking on a nature hike. Yonsei University has so many trees lining almost every road, with even a park set in the middle of the school.
Here's another image of a spot in Yonsei University a few weeks later, when the different shades of autumn have begun to set in.
Every semester, CIEE joins together with one of the clubs on campus in order to hold a Habitats for Humanity event together, where CIEE students go with Yonsei students to the countryside and help build houses. This time around, we went to a building site in Daejeon (대전). The first night was basically a bonding night where we huddled around a campfire with the Yonsei students, talking about random things and getting to know each other. The most interesting person that night was a Yonsei student whom some of his friends called "the drunken one" or the "firefighter" (or "fire maniac") because he loves to drink and was also playing with the bonfire a lot. The night ended with the telling of scary stories. We noticed that only CIEE students were left by 3 in the morning since all the other students had gone to sleep. Haha, so our stamina for staying up at night outlasts theirs!
That night was freezing, and to make it worse, the house we stayed out ran out of blankets. Because I was out with the other CIEE students listening to stories, some of us had to sleep with just our jackets to keep us warm. The morning wasn't any better, since it was essentially freezing. Once we got to the work site, we were given breakfast and then put off to work. Our job was to cut boards to cover the insulation, plaster over nails and holes, and install the frames lining the walls. Although it was a bit boring, having other people doing the same job you were doing helped a lot. When I talked to some of the Yonsei students afterwards, I found out that some of them had slacked off and gone to a secret resting place to nap. No wonder some of them were never found around the house at times. Anyways, the amusing part was when we were supposed to leave. The supervisor refused to let us leave until we finished the day's work, but after going through the house for 10 minutes, we reported that they hadn't bought enough materials for us to continue building anyways. Needless to say, he finally let us head back to Yonsei University (which was a couple hours' drive away).
Of course, I don't think Yonsei students were the only ones messing around...
Here's an interesting way of working around the building site.
Here's the only group picture of that day. The person that took this picture also had to take pictures using other cameras as well, so he just kept tossing them into the brush behind them when he was done in order to free his hand for another camera. I got lucky since my camera was the last one he used, so he didn't toss mine into the brush.
As I had mentioned before, the last two weeks were extremely busy for me (and 5 other CIEE students) since we had joined a club called 떼 that performs a Korean traditional dance and instrument set called pungmul (풍물, I hope I got that right). Normally, practices are two hours long on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but for the two weeks before the performance (last Saturday), we had 3 hours of practices daily and at least 4 hours on weekends. All this led up to us knowing nothing about the four instruments (kkwaenggwari, jangu, buk, and sogo) to us knowing how to play each somewhat well. Although it was tough work, I think it was worth it in the end. Our performance went off well and we got to make tons of Korean friends within the club too.
Here's essentially what we had to do, without the singing. The following video is of the seniors performing their dance, which is very similar to what the rest of us had to do. The overall performance consisted of the seniors' act, a long skit, and individual performances from each of the four different instruments. I was playing 소고 (sogo), so I had to perform in the last two acts consecutively (SO TIRING!!!).
Here's a group picture that Tte took right after the conclusion of our performance, after we had changed out of our costumes.
Here's a few of us with the Korean students partially dressed up in our performance costumes.
Try to spot the 6 CIEE students in this picture.
Here are links to the videos taken by the Tte club during our performance:
Part 1: https://tvpot.daum.net/v/28350653?lu=flvPlayer_in
Part 2: https://tvpot.daum.net/v/28351024?lu=flvPlayer_in
Part 3: https://tvpot.daum.net/v/28376354?lu=flvPlayer_in
I did, however, take one day off from practice in order to go to a football (soccer) game in Suwon. Thanks to CIEE's cultural reimbursement program, CIEE was able to cover the cost of the football game ticket for me. Suwon's about an hour outside of Seoul by subway, but I had been planning on attending this game with my friend for a while already. The game itself was fun, but sort of disappointing since the Suwon Blue Wings lost with a final score of 1 to 5.
The day after our Tte performance, I decided to climb the tallest peak at 북한산 (Mt. Bukhan). It a chilly day, but I figured I should do it soon since I was worried snow would soon start falling in Seoul. Seoul is surrounded by mountains in the four cardinal directions, and I've already climbed three of the four mountains (South, East, and West). Bukhansan (the northern mountain) was all that was left to climb. It took over 2 hours of nature trails and climbing along steel cables to get to the top of the tallest peak (about 836 meters above sea level). The view at the top was spectacular! You could even see as far as Incheon and the ocean. Another peak blocked most of Seoul, but I could still make out Seoul Tower on 남산 (Namsan or the southern mountain). A rescue helicopter was also performing periodic drills around the mountain too by the time I got to the peak.
This is the row of people climbing up the final several meters to reach the tallest peak.
From the top, hikers had a great view of part of the Seoul metropolitan area as well as seeing as far as Incheon and the ocean (which you can see at the horizon in this picture).
At that point, I was a little bored so I decided to text two people from the top of the peak: the CIEE assistant director and my language exchange partner. Getting those texts sent out was difficult since there wasn't much cell phone signal at the top of the peak. Heading down, I decided to be lazy and chose a shorter path to an information center (which happened to be on the other side of the mountain range). I thought that walking 1.8 km was better than walking 3.8 km back the way I came. Bad mistake. It turns out the information center was in the middle of the mountain range and I had to run for about twenty minutes down a paved road that started at the center in order to get to a bus stop. I found out later that I had essentially crossed the entire mountain range on foot from west (북한산성입구) to east (우이동), which according to Google Earth was at least 5 miles of mountain roads. My tip to future hikers, NEVER take the shortest way out if you don't know where it goes. I was walking lost for another 2 hours down the mountain, hoping to find some sort of bus stop. Of course, I've realized that if you really want to have fun in South Korea, you have to get yourself lost. Your explorations while you're lost may turn out to be the best experience you've had. I've gotten myself lost so many times before in Seoul that it's let me be able to navigate the roads of Seoul even without a map or GPS.
After heading back into the city, I decided to visit the Seoul Lanturn Festival. This was another event designed for the G20 Seoul Summit and was being held at 청겨천 (Cheonggye River) by City Hall. It consisted of several lanturns built domestically as well as internationally, placed along the river running through the heart of Seoul. I had chosen a bad day to go though, since it was supposedly the last day of the event (before they announced the week extension on the day after). So many people were lined up to walk down to the riverside that I had to wait 20 minutes. The weather was at about 0 degrees Celsius (freezing point) and I only had on a thin jacket because of my afternoon mountain hike. I was basically freezing the entire night. The lanturns themselves were well designed, especially some of the G20 themed ones near the beginning of the river and also the pungmul performer lanturns near the middle (especially since we had just finished our pungmul performance). However, by the end of the hour walk along the river, I literally could not control my hands because they were so cold, so pictures I took then ended up shaky.
The fun part about being in Korea is all the random activities that we can do as well. Remember the video of my Korean class? Well, we invited our teacher to go to 노래방 (noraebang/karaoke) and dinner and she accepted. I couldn't go to noraebang because I had a group meeting to go to, but dinner was interesting. We ate at an all-you-can-eat meat place that was really cheap considering the amount of meat we got. Just look at the meat we have cooking (well, I think we finished most of it by the time this picture was taken)!
To wrap it up, I think I'll leave everyone with a teaser about what the next post will be (as long as Courtney doesn't beat me to it): Drama Cafe! CIEE took two groups of students to a drama cafe for a photoshoot, where we got to wear costumes from various historical dramas. I was part of the second group, and we had only gotten back a few hours ago. However, drama cafe deserves its own post since there are a ton of pictures to post for that, so I'll try to blog on it later. Stay tuned everyone!
So, I am admittedly a little late in joining this party - my bad! Halfway through the semester... I might do a recap post of the first half at some later point! I should probably start with an introduction: Hi! I am Courtney! I am a Junior majoring in Asian Studies (specifically Korean Studies) from Massachusetts. I love Korean pop culture, so my posts will often have information about concerts and other fan events that I have attended. If you ever have any questions about Korea, CIEE, or concerts (anything, really) just let me know!
So I am also blogging for my family, and I will probably be adapting those posts to work into this blog. Since I hadn't updated that blog since... October 9th, I just updated with a quick rundown of the past month. So, here it is. Daily life in Korea. Although - please be aware that due to midterms and club activities my daily life has become less touristy than it was the first half of the semester. See for yourself!
(Oct 3-9) Week 7: Being Crazy
Saturday October 9th, I was given the opportunity to go to the live recording of one of the many music programs gracing Korean airwaves. Since you may not know about them, here is a little introduction. The programs are aired on the 4 major TV networks in Korea (Thursday-Sunday). Each show includes performances by the artists that are currently promoting a song (artists usually perform their song on each program for over a month - it doesn't get old though). At the end of three of the programs the number of album sales, popular votes, and other things are tallied and the singer/group with the most points wins the title of Number 1 for the show. Tears ensue, very touching.
Anyway, it has been my dream to go to one of these recordings because you are RIGHT near the stage and you get to see all the newest songs being performed for free (and inside!). Well, since B2ST had just released their album, they were doing a special comeback performance which was to be pre-recorded before the actual live broadcast of the show. Because I had bought their album, I could go to the studio (at 7AM), wait in line, and hopefully be able to go in with their fanclub to see their performance that morning. It worked! I was able to see them perform their song FIVE times (funny) and then they talked to the audience in between performances. I have never been so close to celebrities~
The Network Building! Unfortunately, it was impossible to take pictures inside the recording auditorium :(
Unfortunately, I am now spoiled and believe that I should ALWAYS be that close hahahaha. After the performance, we ran into a fan-signing for a suddenly really popular Korean actor Yoon Shi Yoon. He stars in a drama that ended a few weeks ago and it was so random. I have learned that if there is a big crowd with excited squeals to just jump right in because there is definitely a celebrity there. Got a picture of him - he is very,very handsome in person.
That night there was also the Seoul International Fireworks Festival. It occurred along the Han River and ran from 7:30pm to 9PM. Korea, China, and Canada put on shows. It was fun, but OH MY GOD I have never seen so many people in my life - literally. Not a single patch of ground ALL ALONG the Han River was bare. Crazy. Also, during the show one of my friends made us move from our cozy spot to stand by the river... which halfway through the last performance began rising. I now know that the Han River has tides. And afterwards, the mass exodus away from the river was pretty awesome (not). We ended up hanging out in a cafe for a few hours and then taking the still-crowded subway home. A long, crazy day but definitely worth the trip!
WEEK 8: Being Lazy
And then the next week was pre-midterm week. Sunday I did homework and throughout the week I began re-reading my textbooks (or sometimes reading for the first time, just a little belatedly, oops) and going over notes and such. Nothing from that week really sticks out in my mind.... it was all a blur of studying and being lazy I think.
But, that Saturday I had to do a picture taking assignment for one of my classes - to take pictures of things that are familiar and things that are (to me) curious. I went with my friend Emelie and we wandered around Town Hall, Kyungbok Palace, and the surrounding alleys all the way to the Blue House (the Korean President's House). Unfortunately, we did not get to see Lee Myung-bak.
It was fabulous to get out and take a study break and to just wander around, which I admit I have not done nearly enough of. Here are a few of my pictures.
We also went to a huge bookstore, Kyobo Books, and I bought some books in Korean to try to start reading and expanding my vocabulary with. One of these books is "Le Petit Prince" which I own and have read in English and French, so I figure adding Korean in the mix is a pretty good idea.
I later found out that we had wandered the WRONG area, since a boy in my class had wandered around Hongdae that evening and RAN DIRECTLY INTO one of the members of B2ST. He, of course, had no idea who it was until someone else recognized him and started a crowd. I hate when such encounters are wasted on other people, hahaha. But seriously, Seoul is small enough that you will without a doubt see at least one famous person while you are here. In fact, the Japanese pop singer Crystal Kay studies Korean at Yonsei's Korean Language Institute (where we all take Korean as well). I have yet to see her, but a lot of other people have!
Anyway, the rest of the day was studying and laundry. Despite the fact that there was a free concert (in celebration of the upcoming G20 conference). I played a good student and skipped the show. (I lie, I didn't go because I refused to sit all the way in the back hahaha)
Week 8: Celebrities and Exams Week 8 (Oct 17-23) was my actual exam week. I basically studied, took tests, and that is it.
Although, there is one high point to that week! Tuesday morning, I had an exam at 11. So, I wandered down to my dorm lobby and took the underground connector to the exam hall. And, halfway there I notice a small crowd of people outside the Caribou Coffee located in the connector. I then notice TV cameras. I am intrigued. So, naturally, I hop right into the crowd and peer into the cafe to find... TWO RANDOM MEN!
No, I kid, they were actually two huge celebrity comedians here (Park Myung-Soo and Gil), in the midst of filming for their program "Infinite Challenge." Funny enough, they were interviewing one of my program-mates who speaks no Korean and knows nothing about Korean pop culture. SO FUNNY! She later told me she didn't even know they were celebrities! But she laughed about it - she was basically accosted while trying to study! I have a photo, but it is on my phone and I have NO IDEA how to get it off... bummer.
While it was disappointing that it was only them, it was still so crazy to just walk right into the filming of a TV show on my campus. Apparently when Korean shows want to include foreigners they film here, so I suspect I will see a lot more celebrities before I leave :) So, not only may you see celebrities, you may also be interviewed by them and show up on Korean TV!
Week 9: More Celebrities and Practice Begins
That Sunday I had another celebrity encounter. This time it was at a fan-signing that one of my Korean friends had tried to get me into. It was for the group SHINee whom I like, but do not super love like she does (her name is MK). Anyway, MK called to let me know they were having a fan-signing, but to be chosen for the sign you had to buy a bunch of their albums (kind of silly). I had her buy me two and just hoped I would be chosen. I was not, but she was (she bought 7 albums!!!).
I went all the way to the mall (Times Square) for the fan-signing to see my friend and, to my complete surprise, the signing was right out in the open! I could see the boys perfectly, I was even closer that I was at the B2ST performance. So crazy! After MK got her album signed, took me down the hallway they would be exiting and the boys walked RIGHT BY US! I literally could have touched them (and been tackled by guards/fangirls). I wish they had been B2ST, but it was still cool to have such a close encounter!
This is only half the group, but you can see how close I was!!
And then that evening I stayed up until 2:30 to do last minute study for my exam that morning, which went pretty well - although I haven't received my grade yet.
And then that Wednesday began my three weeks of NO LIFE. (which I am currently in the middle of). Why no life? Because in a week from Saturday (this saturday) I have a performance for my club - the Traditional Korean Music club. So, we are practicing every night from 7-10 and then weekends from 1-6. So, I have class all day and then practice ALL NIGHT. And, this isn't just drumming. This is dancing WHILE drumming. IT IS SO HARD.
However, despite SUCKING hardcore, I am having a TON of fun. The Korean members are being SO NICE and I am practicing my Korean (some of the members are too shy to use English) and feeling like a member of the group. I play the So-Go (소고) and the leader of my group, Ddaji (her club nickname - 따지), is younger than me and she lets me use informal language with her AND she calls me "unni" (언니) which means like "older sister" in Korean. (It does not imply that I am her sister, but it is a term of respect and also of closeness - she is the first Korean to call me it!). I am loving it! But, it is seriously SO TIRING and frustrating since they have to teach us EVERYTHING in only 2.5 weeks so they are stressed, we are stressed, they are frustrated, and we kind of feel bad. But, still, looking back I have been having a lot of fun.
So, I have been doing that.... ALL THE TIME.
Except Friday-Saturday of this past week when I participated in a Korean Habitat for Humanity build in Daejeon. The club invited 20 CIEE members to join them in the overnight excursion and I decided to go.
It was fun! The first night we stayed in a countryside inn and had a barbeque (Korean-style) and bonfire. Unfortunately, it was cold so a lot of people went to bed early. But the CIEE people and a few of the Yonsei students stayed up until 4:30 talking and having fun! It was awesome!
Until the next morning. At 7 AM, when we were forced up and out into the cold.
We boarded a bus to the build site and basically worked until 5:30PM. It was, overall, fun because I got to bond with CIEE people I hadn't seen in a REALLY long time. And the Yonsei tudents were hilarious and let me speak a little Korean with them. I plastered the walls, kind of a fun job! Here are pictures that I have stolen from other people - I'll let those speak for themselves!
Our accommodation for the evening!
The group! The only picture I am in without my mask.... oops!
Week 10: Practice Will (Hopefully) Make Perfect
And now on to the current week, which has been a blur of practiceschoolpracticepracticepractice.
I am not all that good at So-Go and it is still stressful, but the bonding is totally worth the pain/embarrassment/frustration. Nothing like standing outside in 0-degree Celsius weather for three hours to bring people together.
The only tough thing is the time commitment - I have never been so committed to something. Every night I get back to the room at 11:30PM, followed by a shower to relax my aching muscles and then, only then, do I have free time. And, no offense, but sleep is kind of my priority at that point. So... blog updating time is SERIOUSLY limited. BUT, I will be trying hard to continue to update!!
Despite my lack of a social life, I HIGHLY HIGHLY reccommend joining a club here at Yonsei! Naturally, not all the clubs involve such a huge time commitment as mine does, but they are all really nice to exchange students. One of my friends is planning on joining the hiking club next semester, and another friend is in the art club. They are all very fun and a great way to really get to know some Korean Yonsei students. A few days after classes start there is a club fair on the main campus road - be sure to check it out with some friends!
And, finally this Thursday morning I had a field trip for one of my classes. It involved a ten-minute bus ride to Seodaemun Prison - a prison built by the Japanese during the colonial period to house Korean nationalists and communists (and also used by Koreans during the Korean War). Very, very eery to see. First of all, the building are made out of a very pretty, red brick so at first glance, it looks like an old school. Secondly, it is located not far from City Hall and is surrounded by apartment buildings and high-rises. It looks so out of place.
Here is the monument to the fallen Koreans. Their names are written on the inside of the dish, very touching.
By far the creepiest part however, was a building that was used for executions. The ORIGINAL building. It was a small wooden building off to the side of the prison where people were brought before judges (and found guilty) and then hung right in the very same building. We were also brought to the tunnel right next to the building used to sneak the dead bodies out. SO CREEPY.
So, that is a quick update on my life in Korea. Please look forward to more updates and maybe even some entries about things like our trip to Japan back at the end of September, our trip to the DMZ, and other fun past events.
It's almost 2 AM here, so I'll leave a quick post. Hilarious stuff happens in class every day, especially in Korean class if you have a funny class and teachers that go along with it. On Tuesday, our teacher tried to show us what the difference between an orange and a tangerine was (we had just learned the word for "tangerine"). During our 10 minute break soon afterwards, she left the class and we got bored. A few of us decided to draw pictures of fruits on the board for fun and then label them using their Korean names (we found translations for fruit names in our cell phone dictionaries). The result? The teacher came back to a board covered with fruits and a few scattered vegetables.
We have two different teachers for Korean language class, one for Monday/Wednesday/Friday and one for Tuesday/Thursday. Our Tuesday/Thursday teacher goes along with some of our jokes and our playfulness, which you can sort of see in this video. Soon after I stopped recording, she was talking about how she wasn't able to teach class anymore because the board was covered with drawings. I don't think she ever erased the pictures, but just wrote around them.
Here's the board before our artistic explosion:
Here's the board after the break:
The classes are split semi-randomly, but somehow I got placed into a class with three other CIEE students, one of which led the drawing expedition.
On Wednesday, our other teacher was telling us how to propose to someone over text messages because we learned the grammatical structure for "shall we ____?" and "let's ____". So, she also taught us extra vocabulary that we needed to form those sentences, so now we're able to say "shall we live together?" and "let's marry". She was also making heart shapes while saying it too, which cracked us all up.
Since these random moments happen all the time in class, hopefully I'll have my camera ready to capture more of it. My club practice just started on Wednesday, so I don't think I'll be blogging often. I joined a traditional Korean drum club back in September but we only just started our formal practice for the performance in three weeks. Interestingly enough, half the club (so 6 of us) are from CIEE while the other half are regular Yonsei students. They try so hard to help us out, especially with the language barriers between us. In a way, that makes us appreciate the club members so much more too. They make the atmosphere enjoyable and interesting, though the president often seems like he'll have a heart attack because he has stuff he wants to say but can't in English.