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.