Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mid Terms

So that weekend was just as boring as I expected it to be. I spent both Saturday and Sunday in a study cafe, desperately attempting not to fail my classes. Remember when I talked about how Korea has this obsession with themed cafes? Well, this is what I'm talking about. A study cafe is a cafe where you buy ridiculously expensive drinks and then you get to study. No joke. Depending on the study cafe, sometimes there is an hour limit you can be there. Also, the accommodations change depending on the cafe; the first one I went to had a talking floor and a non-talking floor and a smoking floor. In the non-talking floor, where I was, there were at least four different types of sitting areas so you can be the most comfortable while you study. There was normal tables, individual desks set into the wall so you won't get distracted, couch like seats down below the floor and then a little raised area where you had to talk off your shoes and sit on the ground. It was very interesting, overall. That cafe was in Gangnam though and had been recommended to me for being very diverse. On Sunday, I went to one closer to my university and the drinks were cheaper, there wasn't a time limit, but it was smaller. The second study cafe only had one floor and there were much fewer seats, if you didn't buy extra for a study room. Either way, I studied my butt off. Oh, and I was the only foreigner both days.

Mayville Cafe. This one was in Gangnam and I really enjoyed the various places to sit. 

Pobu Cafe. This one is super close to my university and I think I'll stick with this one because it was much cheaper. 

After all that studying, you'd think I would ace the exams but no, no, no. I had a tough time with three of my exams because the teachers told us what to study and then they put other stuff on the tests. Not cool. I actually don't know my scores yet because they have until midnight tomorrow to upload them. So here's hoping~ Honestly, most people were pretty stressed but it's not like there was anything we could do about it so I don't worry about things like that. Why invite stress into your life? But when Friday came, a couple of the Americans decided to celebrate by going to a noraebang (karaoke room) and I was really looking forward to it. We drank a bit (the drinking age here is 19, and the 19 is in Korean age) and then went to karaoke and drank some more. I didn't get drunk but everyone else did so I tried to get everyone home in time for curfew but three of them really wanted tteokbeokki so I just let them go. They're adults, they can take care of themselves. Honestly, noraebang wasn't that fun because a couple people hogged the book and kept playing songs only they knew. Whatever. Saturday, my roommate was supposed to go to Everland with a big group but she got too drunk the night before and accidentally slept it. I almost cried. I had looked forward to that Saturday for weeks because I could just have a me day and write if I wanted to (it's my hobby) but then she was in the room and it messed with my concentration. Oh, and I didn't go to Everland because it was a Halloween special and we have Valleyscare like twenty minutes from my house. 

Sunday, I was supposed to go hiking with a group of four but then one of them got sick and the other two had gone to Everland the day before so they said they were too tired to go hiking for three hours. So I went by myself. It was such a beautiful day, I couldn't give up the opportunity. It was absolutely amazing. I went to Bugaksan, which is actually a military zone because of it's proximity to the Blue House. Because it's a military zone, you have to register to be allowed in and in the fall, registration ends at 15:00. So I gave myself two hours and fifteen minutes to get there and still almost didn't make it. Why? Because the tourist information lady gave me incorrect directions and I ended up on the wrong mountain! Instead of Bugaksan, I hiked the mountain next to it, in Samcheong Park, for an hour and a half before I finally made it to Bugaksan at 14:57. The registration people almost didn't let me because I didn't have a Korean phone number but I think I looked pretty pathetic (I was drenched in sweat and desperate to get in) so they let it pass. The soldiers laughed at me as I skipped up the stairs but I didn't care; I made it. Again, because it is a military zone, there are soldiers in look-outs along the Seoul Fortress Wall and then there are even more soldiers to make sure you don't take any pictures facing the direction of the Blue House. It's super funny though because the soldiers that watch for cameras don't wear uniforms. They all wear the same sweatpants, Columbia orange and purple jacket, purple hat, and goggles. It's kind of hilarious. Because they're all dressed the same and look similar with their goggles covering half of their face, I actually thought the first three soldiers were the same guy. 'I must look suspicious or something' I thought to myself while I tried to figure out how he always got ahead of me. I felt so stupid when I finally figured it out that I burst out laughing. Now, most people take between two and threes hours to hike Bugaksan (and it is NOT an easy hike) but I did it in an hour exactly. This is because I was so excited from finally making it that I pretty much jogged up the mountain, which turned out to be a terrible idea from my sweat. I looked so terrible but I was smiling the whole time. By the end, my knees were actually shaking when I stopped moving because the stairs going down (and the whole way down is stairs) were steep and uneven so I literally had to jump from stair to stair and then stop myself from falling forward. And there was no railing. Honestly, it was just awesome, even though I looked nasty and I couldn't take many pictures. There's so much history in the location; from the 1.21 Incident Pine Tree, to the North Gate that goes back to Joseon times, to the Seoul Fortress Wall. It was amazing to take it all in and I can't wait for my next hiking adventure. 

 One of the few areas I could take pictures in,

 Here's my pass! "I Made It" was pretty much my theme song for the day.

Here's part of the Seoul Fortress Wall!

After Sunday, my first week of classes after mid-terms started, although I did actually have my last mid-term yesterday. Today's Thursday and the day before Halloween and I can't wait for the weekend. I'm moving out of the dorms this weekend into a goshiwon. My roommate and I have been having a lot of problems lately and I just don't want to deal with it anymore. So I'm out. Of course, this means I can't live in the dorms next semester and I lose a lot of money but I'm alright with that. Packing didn't actually take that long and I'm ready. My goshiwon is pretty cheap because I lost so much money from moving mid-semester but I can deal with it for two months. Next semester I'll get a more expensive one that will be bigger. :) 

Random Thoughts

I got TVXQ tickets! I'm so excited it's ridiculous. I still haven't won any Inkigayo tickets but I'm going to so many concerts, it should make up for it. TVXQ is one of my two favorite Korean groups so I'm pretty much dancing with happiness every time I think about it. 

The international house also hasn't told us when our field trip will be or where to but I really hope it's to the DMZ. I'm going to the DMZ no matter what but it would be nice if someone else organized it since it might have to be an overnight trip. 

Korean McDonald's taste almost exactly the same as American McDonald's. It's great. I've been missing food from home lately (not that I eat McDonald's that much at home anyway) and McDonald's is the cheapest option out there. Keep in mind that I can't cook in the dorms and the ingredients would be incredibly expensive here anyway. The biggest difference I noticed wasn't in the way the food tasted but in the service. In Korea, you can't get your own refills, ketchup, or napkins: you have to ask for everything, which is kind of annoying. But hey, McDonald's delivers here so that's something. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Busan Vacance~

So the Seoul International Fireworks Festival was absolutely amazing. Soojung and I got there about three and a half hours early (only) and we still got really good seats in front of the fireworks stations out on the river. There were a ton of people there and it was just insane but I loved every minute of it. I waited in line for the ladies room for over an hour, that's how many people there were there, to give you a hint. I almost missed the start of the fireworks because while I was in line, literally all of the empty spaces between the blankets on the ground had been filled up by other people. We were all squished in there pretty tight. I made it back to Soojung in time though and then we watched the most amazing fireworks for over two hours. There were four teams there; Japan, China, Italy, and Korea. I expected China to dominate since they invented fireworks after all but it was Italy and Korea that truly impressed. Japan and China were good, for sure, but the ones following them showed them up. The Italian team was very impressive with their coordination of their music (which was mostly classic American rock and K-pop) and their fireworks while the Korean team won on their sheer scale. Just two minutes of the Italian Fireworks Team.

The day after that, I went to a free JYJ concert. I repeat. Free. JYJ. Concert. It was amazing. We waited for over six hours and I could still barely see the boys but I'm so glad I went. This concert was their last before they all three enlist (as Yoochun revealed) and Junsu started crying. I was trying not to cry too. I bought their new album and I have been listening to it constantly for over a month to prepare for this concert. It's super great; I would really recommend giving the entire album a listen. The concert organizers had predicted that 33,000 people would show up and over 50,000 people came so it quickly got crazy. JYJ fans are nuts. And I say that with love in my heart. But anywhoo, I saw JYJ live. Just saying.

 My JYJ wristband. :) They sold out of official merchandise before I could get to the stand so this is all I have left. 

So the concert was Sunday and then came the school week. Fortunately, we had Thursday off for Hangul Day and we decided to skip Friday to go on a trip. Which leads me to the title of today's post: Busan Vacance! That's right, Soojung, Ting Ting, Reyhan, and I went to Busan! Busan is the second largest city in Korea and it's a port city so it's known for it's beaches and seafood. If you don't understand the reference I'm making, there's a Korean song called Busan Vacance that pretty much talks about the scenic areas of Busan. The music video is pretty lame but the song was super popular and I love it. I'm including the link here. Busan Vacance by Skull & Haha

We had a planning day on Tuesday and then we left campus for Busan Thursday morning at 5:00 AM via a taxi and then the KTX. The KTX is pretty nice and before we knew it, we were in Busan at 9:30. We went straight to Jagalchi, the largest seafood market in Korea, and ate lunch there after wandering around. I've never seen so much seafood in my lunch but the image that stuck with me the most is that of the live eels that had been skinned before they were killed. They were squirming around and in pretty obvious pain. I'm not sure how that's not animal cruelty but it was disgustingly fascinating. After lunch, we went to the Trick Eye Museum. After about an hour or so of taking awesome pictures, we looked around one of the displays for the Busan International Film Festival and ate hotteok. Hotteok is available in Seoul as well but it's famous in Busan, plus the Busan version has nuts. Hotteok is delicious. I may or may not have gotten it three different times in so many days. Then we went to go check into our guesthouse, the Cube Guesthouse, which had an amazing location and was super cheap. That whole process took a while and then we headed over to Dadaepo Beach. Dadaepo Beach itself isn't famous (but it should be because it's stunning) but it is famous for it's fountain; the Daedaepo Sunset Fountain of Dreams, which is the largest flat fountain in the world. This fountain show, complete with music and lights is gorgeous. It went for twenty minutes and I could honestly see myself going there every other night if I lived in the area. After the show, we ate at Lotteria to save money and headed home.
Jagalchi Market sign.

 Soojung and I as angels. 


Dadaepo Beach at sunset. Just three minutes of the Dadaepo Sunset Fountain of Dreams. 

On the second day, we spent most of the day in the cliffs. We started the day at the Haedongyonggung Temple, which is a Buddhist temple located in the cliffs. It was just gorgeous and I loved the architecture. I'm not religious myself, but I think Buddhism is a really interesting religion. We also ate lunch there after exploring the temple and drinking water for the mountain. There was an area to make a wish to Buddha and if you could throw the coin in Buddha's bowl from the bridge, then it was granted. I actually hit the bowl but didn't make it in so every time something little went our way after that, we said it was Buddha helping out where he could. There were many sculptures and statures and also the twelve zodiac animals had majestic statues. After the temple, we went to Taejongdae, which is another cliff area known for it's lighthouse, dinosaur discovery site, and the fact that Japan can sometimes be seen from there. Taejongdae was just gorgeous and we went down the cliffs to the area where dinosaur fossils were discovered too. I have never gone up and down so many stairs in my life. At the bottom, though, the wind was ridiculously strong and we had to hold each others' hand to keep from blowing over. Literally. I was afraid one of us would blow over and then trip on the rocks. After we went along the 4.3 kilometer path at Taejongdae, we headed over to Nampodong to eat and shop a little before going to a tower nearby that lets you look out over Busan. It was super beautiful but we were happy to get back that night and just sleep. 

The temple.

A pure gold Buddha.

 Taejongdae Lighthouse.

Me down by the sea near the dinosaur site. It reminded me of the Bad Hills, with how careful you had to place your feet, but I'd done that before so it was a lot of fun for me. 

On our last full day in Busan, we mostly stuck to the Haeundae area. There was actually some drama because one of the girls was upset with our planning although she was there when we planned, so she left a day earlier. The last day was the best though, in my opinion, so she missed out. There were things I loved about the first and second day but the third one was the best as a whole. First, we went to the Busan Aquarium, which is just an aquarium to be honest but it's the biggest one in Korea so it's still a big deal. Afterwards, we walked along Haeundae, which is the most famous beach in all of Korea. When it's summer, you can't even see the sand from above because there are so many umbrellas. Right next to Haeundae is Dongbaekseom, which is called an island but is actually a peninsula. From Dongbaekseom, you have a perfect view of Haeundae. Dongbaekseom also has small cliffs, walking paths, a temple, many statues, and the APEC building. It was super pretty and I would want to exercise there every day if I lived in Busan. The APEC building was interesting in a political way, plus the building itself is unique. After Dongbaekseom, we went to Spa Land, which is a spa/sauna in Busan that's pretty famous. It's amazing. I can't even stress how much fun it is. There were over twenty different themed sauna rooms, outdoor foot baths, massage areas, naked baths for each gender individually, both indoor and outdoor, and so much more. We had a bunch of fun playing games to escape the hotter sauna rooms and just relaxing. It's Korean tradition to eat eggs and bingsoo in saunas so we did that too but it was super delicious, despite its less than pretty appearance. I had to leave my phone in my locker, which I super regret, but my friend made a video so hopefully she'll send me that soon. After four perfect hours of greatness, we went to check out the main building for the Busan International Film Festival. It was a building, not going to lie. But hey, famous people had been there. We then headed back to Haeundae for supper and to walk in the ocean. Meat is cheaper in Busan and I had the best meal I've had since I came to Korea in a little place where we got three different kinds of meat and a billion side dishes for only $7 each. I can't even think about it without my mouth watering. When we could walk again, we wandered along the full stretch of Haeundae. The others wouldn't go in but I rolled up my pants and walked in the ocean. Waves are a problem. I don't get how anyone can swim in the ocean. Reluctantly, we went home the latest that night and tried to get some sleep for our trip home. 
A cut off view of Haeundae from Dongbaekseom. 

Sunday morning, we took the slow train (Mugunghwa) home and watched the countryside go by for about five and a half hours. I've never seen so many rice fields in my life but it was lovely. As a whole, Busan reminded me a lot of Duluth, with its cliffs and beaches. I adore Duluth so I had a lot of fun in Busan and I honestly wouldn't mind going back at all. Like now. I want to go back now.

Next week is mid-terms so it's been pretty busy since I got back. Today's Friday but I had an extra make up session for Korean class today and this weekend won't be much fun either since I'll be studying so much. Mid terms are more serious here because they use a different grading system. Grades here are competitive. You can get a 94% and still not get an A because if 40% of your classmates did better than you, you get a B. Personally, I think that's ridiculous but there's nothing I can do about it but study harder and hope I'm in that top 40%. We'll see how this goes. My scholarship is GPA-dependent so I can't do poorly. 

Random Thoughts

I made my decision. I am officially staying for another semester. It was a really difficult decision and I spoke with all of my friends and loved ones, and made two pros and cons charts before I decided. It pretty much came down to money, which is what made my decision for me. I'm going to be in debt anyway, why not be in even more debt? I freaked out about it for a bit after I sent my adviser the email but I'm happy about it now. This decision aligns more with my future goals. However, now I have to try and find housing for next semester because I refuse to stay in the dorms again. No. Just no. I've been looking into staying at a 고시원 (study room that's super small and pretty cheap) or a 하숙집 (pretty much the same but with food included) but all of the sites are in Korean so I'm having a little bit of trouble. I think I'm going to have to ask a Korean friend for help but my friends all don't want me to do it because the rooms are so small. Oh well. At least it would be my own and I could do what I want. 

Oh, I also got my alien registration card on Wednesday. I road the subway for about two and a half hours in total and was in the Seoul Immigration Office for less than two minutes. No joke. I walked in, they didn't even look at my passport, they took my fingerprints, and gave me my card. That was it. And guess what! It expires next year before I leave so I get to do it all over again next semester. That's what I get from deciding so late. On the plus side though, I can go to the DMZ and variety shows now! I've already signed up for Inkigayo so hopefully I'll win tickets. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Picturesque Scenes and Poop Bread

Remember the WAPOP concert I went to a couple weeks back with the dance crews, Nu'Est, and Seventeen? Well, that was held in the Seoul Children's Park, which is actually only a couple minutes from campus. It has it's own personal subway station but it's faster to just walk from Konkuk. Now, this park is not just a park; it's freaking huge and has not only an amusement park in it but also a zoo, a botanical garden, a creative museum, acupuncture paths, and a rainbow water fountain show. I'm super disappointed that I couldn't get pictures of the fountain for you guys. I was just really amazed the first time I saw it and then it shut down the next day for the change in season, despite the fact that it was still 80 degrees out. I went back to the park to explore some more and was just amazed at how far the darn thing went. 

Acupuncture path, You're supposed to just walk on the rocks with only socks and it'll improve your circulation or something. I just think they're pretty.

Amusement park. It's more aimed towards children but it's still rather large.

Elephants! Now, the zoo was a full-on zoo but it was really depressing to me because the conditions for the animals were terrible. No zoo is good for animals but these ones had tiny little rooms to live in, The lions maybe had 1,000 square feet, which is just no big enough.

Botanic gardens! I actually wasn't super impressed with this one because I'm used to the one at Komo but it was still rather lovely.

Little path outside the botanic gardens. Now, this would have been super pretty if it weren't for the smell of manure coming from the ponies right behind it. 

Most tourists are told that Insa-dong is the place to go for traditional wares. A Korean friend of mine and I went together and, while it was interesting, I think this place is a tourist trap now. There were some traditional things but a lot of it was the same generic crap over and over again. I don't regret going because the traditional Korean restaurants were very interesting to see, but the area as a whole is not as traditional as I was lead to believe. There are other areas of Seoul, like a lot of the markets, that are much more traditional than this.
Open air mall. It was super cool because there weren't stairs, you just kept walking up in a progressive circle.

Ddong bbang, literally poop bread. I was fooled yet again though. Anything you think is chocolate is probably red bean in Korea.

Traditional masks and such. This store was the most traditional looking out of all of them, along with the calligraphy stores. 

There was a pathway lined with these cute little circles that couples wrote their messages to each other on. My friend and I were having fun guessing who was still with each other.

Sonnet and Serena also had their birthdays last week so we went to the Han River and bought them cake to celebrate. The Han River is super beautiful at night, especially with the city lights, but it's also lovely during the day if you bike along the multiple bike paths,
 Han River with the bridge.

Sonnet and Serena's birthday cake from Baskin Robins. Those things are everywhere here!

I also went to my first Korean Noraebang (karaoke) with my friend Yosung. She and I each had an hour before our next appointments so we ran to a noraebang. Our room was super awesome and had laser lights along with a disco ball. We didn't get any service (free things, which are super common in Korean and especially noraebangs) but the photo booth was super cheap. Oh, and you couldn't wear shoes in there, you had to put slippers on.
 The photo booths here are so epic; you get to edit your pictures and add stamps and words and frames.

I also joined a new club, the Korean Culture Club. It's super fun because each week we get a mission, like visit this monument or eat this food, that we have to fulfill in teams and take a proof picture. I'm still in ECC though so I'm making a lot of new friends and trying a bunch of new things. In KCC this week, we just ate together then played traditional Korean games together. In ECC, we played the mafia game, which is super fun when you understand the rules. I won on my first game :) 

 After ECC, a group of us went out to eat and then we got lemon ice cream beer afterwards. Yep, you read that right; lemon ice cream beer. It was weird but surprisingly good. 

Yesterday, I went to Cheonggyecheon, which is a man-made stream that runs for a couple kilometers through Seoul. It's absolutely beautiful and filled with people constantly. It's a very popular dating place but there were a lot of families and friends there as well. It seems like the perfect place to sit down and have a picnic. We also went to the Kwangjang Market nearby which is both huge and very traditional. This was the first time since I've been in Korea that I said "How can they eat that?" It was an interesting experience and the Hanbok section was absolutely stunning. 
 This is near the start of the stream, which flows out of fountains. There was some charity event going on so the stream was covered by "floating" umbrellas.

Further down the stream is more nature; less concrete and more plants.

There are multiple places to cross the stream via rocks along the way. These areas are popular for picture taking and kids. I don't think it had any particular meaning, it's just fun.

Today's Saturday and I'm going to the Seoul International Fireworks Festival later so I'm super excited about that. 

Random Thoughts

So there are two programs here right? The exchange program then the ISA program where their school doesn't have the exchange system up. I'm in the exchange but the ISA program is so much better. They pay more but they have organized trips to Busan, Jeju, and the DMZ, their program took care of the paperwork, and not only do they have internships here but they also have a volunteer English teaching program. I'm so jealous, it's ridiculous. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cafes, Concerts, and Chocolate (Or Not)

 A lot of foreigners who come to Korea have at least heard of EatYourKimchi, which is a business and YouTube channel run by two Canadians who live in Seoul. Their segments include Wonderful Treasure Find (strange products of Korea), TL:DR (discussions on different topics), Food Program For Awesome People (pretty self explanatory), and Wonderful Adventure Now Korea (exploratory field trips to sites in Korea) as well as many others. While they weren't detrimental to my personal desire to go to Korea, a lot of their tips were helpful and they seem like cool people so a couple friends of mine and I decided to go to their recently opened cafe in collaboration with Talk To Me in Korean, the You Are Here cafe. Simon and Martina weren't actually there, which was rather disappointing, but the atmosphere was very fun. Most of the customers were foreigners, some even studying, but there was also a decent amount of Koreans present. I was a bit frustrated with their pricey drinks. They must know that most of their audience is college students but I paid 7,000 won for a small Oreo milk shake. It was delicious, no doubt, but 7,000 was a bit much.

A mural outside.

While we were inside, I spotted a girl sitting by herself and decided to be my nosy self and walked over to make friends. She was from Brazil and we hit it off pretty quickly. After we left the cafe, we decided to just walk around Hongdae a bit, which is where the cafe is located. As we were casually shopping, we happened to pass a lady selling Bobbki. Now, this is ridiculously exciting because I was literally just reading about how difficult these were to find nowadays. Bobbki, which is just made up of burnt starch, used to be incredibly popular but they've been dying out as old-fashioned lately. There was no lady there, just the Bobbki and a box to leave your 1,000 won for one cookie in. I thought that was incredibly trusting. I bought one with a ducky on it and went home that night happy. The taste was very similar to that of a burnt s'more, which I like, so that was a pleasant surprise. 
Bobbki! (Oh, by the way, I do write and read Korean but it's a huge hassle to switch my keyboard every time I want to write a Korean word, so I've just been romanizing it.)

The Chuseok holiday ended that Wednesday and Thursday we had to go back to school. The two days quickly passed, though, and then it was the weekend. That Saturday, I went to the Brave Concert, which had Jay Park, MBLAQ, Nu'Est, Halo, Crispy Crunch, Dynamic Duo, Orange Caramel, Teen Top, 4Minute, AOA, Topp Dogg, San E, Girls' Day, BTS, IU, MC the Max, Baechigi, Dick Punks, Geeks, DJ Chunja, DJ Hanmin, and the Brave Concert people. It was possibly one of the best nights of my life because I absolutely adore Jay Park, MBLAQ, and BTS, and I'm a casual fan of most of the rest of them. Getting to the concert venue, Yonsei University, was a fiasco however. First, one of our friends was 45 minutes late, then we got off at the wrong Shinchon station (why are there two in the first place?!), and lastly, we were almost killed by the subway doors. It was pretty funny, both then and now. After the subway doors, the three of us just stood there hugging each other for about two minutes while all the Koreans laughed at our silliness. As for the concert, a lot of the people were surprise guests (including Jay Park and MBLAQ) so every time someone's music started that we didn't know, we screamed like banshees. Oh, and Mir and Thunder of MBLAQ waved at me and Jay Park was less than ten feet from me, But whatever. No big deal.
None of the pictures of the artists on stage turned out well but I really like this picture of the audience during a slow song by MC the Max. 

Sunday was a pretty chill day but we did go get bingsu at night. Bingsu is a Korean desert that has cream or ice cream on bottom, then a ton of shaved ice, then whatever topping your order had, which you then mix together with condensed milk. It's absolutely delicious. Expensive, but delicious. The most popular/common bingsu is pat bingsu, which means red bean bingsu. Korea loves their red bean. I finally broke down yesterday and went to buy some super expensive Korean chocolate to fulfill my craving but when I opened the package, it was literally bars of red bean jelly. It ruined my whole life. So be careful because the package didn't even say red bean on it!
Berry yogurt bingsu. Ridiculously delicious. No regrets. 

The next week had the Konkuk Fall Festival on Wednesday and Thursday. Honestly, most of it was eating and drinking but there were some really fun parts. I had my face painted, eat cotton candy, a waffle, and a chicken shish kebab, and watched a ton of performances. I saw a historical reenactment fight mixed with modern movie references, an amateur rock band competition, a concert by Wamma Family (the Konkuk hip hop dance group), and stages by Park Myung Soo, Nine Muses, and NS Yoon Ji. Of all of those, Wamma Family was my absolute favorite because each number was different and all the dance crews were very impressive. It made me miss dancing. 
My Totoro face paint. Try not to be too jealous.
A green tea waffle with apple honey and whipped cream inside. 

Both Friday and Saturday I just hung out with my friends here and we ate out, shopped, and played card games. Saturday, though, Sonnet and I tried to go out on eat and ended up wondering around for an hour and a half. It's amazing the things you'll find when you have no place to go.
The Norunsan Market. No one knew this was here and yet it was less than a fifteen minute walk from campus. 
 A store that makes homemade Hanbok, tailored for each customer. If I had the money, I so would have bought one.

Our first market purchase completely in Korean! Now, of course we've bought things before but the vendors always try to use their limited English. This one didn't so we can finally say we spoke entirely in Korean. Yay for songpyeon~ I wanted to buy some delicious bread too but we decided to actually eat supper first. 

Today is Sunday and I just got back from a dog cafe. Korea has this interesting cafe culture where many of their cafes are themed and both cat and dog cafes exist where you can play with the animals. Admission is usually free but you have to buy an over priced drink. Totally worth it. The one we went to was only 10 minutes from campus and there were about 20 dogs there the whole time. Now, these cafes often double as doggy day care, so there was some changing of pets. I really enjoyed it though and I can totally see myself going back in the future. 

View of the cafe.
This little guy just climbed up unto our table and fell asleep on top of it. 
The one behind me was my baby the whole night :)
There was a special section for the little dogs only because some Koreans have a fear of big dogs. 

Random Thoughts

I've actually been sick the past three days and it totally sucks. I have a cold here and it's still 80 degrees outside. How is this even possible? 

I haven't actually decided yet if I'm going to stay for a semester or a year yet and I only have until October 8th to decide. I can't believe I've been here for four weeks already but now I have about two weeks left to choose. On one hand, Korea is amazing but on the other, study abroad is super expensive and I do get pretty homesick. I don't know what to do but by my next blog, I should make a decision. 

The college books are much cheaper. Like super cheap. I'm used to spending about five hundred a semester on books and I haven't even hit a hundred dollars yet. It's amazing. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Couple Weeks In

Holy crap I've done a ton since I last blogged. I'm not even sure what all I want to talk about. Let's just follow the pictures because hopefully they'll help me remember.


Let's see... the last time I blogged was Wednesday so we'll pick up on Thursday. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were our last days before school started. Mostly, we explored the area around our campus. We found the busiest street alleys and tried street food. Nothing too exciting happened that weekend, excluding Friday. We mostly just tried to familiarize ourselves with the area and wandered around. It was a ton of fun simply stumbling into restaurants. We don't usually know what we're ordering, we just pick and then see if it works out.
Alleyway businesses
Fruit market! Korea is lacking in a couple food groups in their diet; I'm mostly missing meat and fruit. Meat is easier to find, although in little quantities, than fruit so we were really excited to find these vendors. The ladies were super nice and taught us the Korean word for all the fruits they sold. I got six nectarines for 3,000 won, which is much cheaper than at the stores where they sell three apples for 12,000 won and six kiwis for 19,000 won. 
We also tried Korean fast food that weekend, at Lotteria. It was actually pretty similar to American fast food. The fries tasted pretty much the same. The only differences I noticed, was that the ketchup was more tomato-y and the spicy chicken burger was much hotter than in Minnesota. Oh, and there was a shrimp burger on the menu. Like, a patty made of shrimp. It was actually really good. 
Friday night, some of us went to Hongdae to club. We got free Mageolli, Korean rice wine, and danced a ton. It was actually super fun but, due to our curfew, we had to leave at 11:30. The curfew is one of the worst things about living in the dorms. We have to be back by 1 AM or we get penalty points. Each student is only allowed 10 penalty points per semester. Of course, you can apply for a night out but then you can't return to the dorms until 5 AM. It also took us forever to catch a taxi, which we needed because the subway stops around 11:30. Overall, really fun night. 


On Monday, our classes started, which was a big mess. Some of our classes were only taught in Korean, despite their listing as English, some were only for seniors, and some had pre-requisites that weren't listed. It was all incredibly frustrating. I ended up with Theories of Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Teaching English Reading & Writing, Korean Language, Understanding of Global Cultures, British Novel, and Japanese Politics (which was actually listed as Main Diplomatic Figures in History but they changed it with no notification). I'm thinking about dropping one of the last two, though, because I don't really need or want either of them; they were just the only classes left. The Korean students are incredibly nice, though, and are always trying to help out. 
The Konkuk Language Institute. This is where I will learn Korean. I haven't had class so far because we had a placement test on Wednesday. They asked you if you could read Korean and if you said yes then you were supposed to take the test. When I got the packet however, it was entire passages in Korean and then you had to answer the Korean  comprehension questions about the Korean passages in Korean. It went from zero to sixty in ten seconds and I ended up just turning the test back in. 
We also joined a couple clubs from the Club Fair. The English Speaking Club meets every Wednesday and Thursday and is made up of about 50% foreigners and 50% Koreans that want to practice their English. We went both nights and it was actually a ton of fun and we met a lot of new people. After the club meeting, the whole club goes out to eat. I'm definitely going to stay in that one because the people were super nice. 


After a long week of rearranging classes and getting paperwork filled out, the weekend finally came and it was pure awesome. Today's actually Monday but I'm including it in this section because this week is Chuseok. Chuseok is Korean Thanksgiving and, because of it, we get Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week off. I'ts great but mot of the businesses are also closed for Chuseok. We stocked up on ramen and rice to make it through. 
Friday night, Soojung (a Korean friend), two Chinese foreign exchange students, and I all went to a free concert in the Seoul Children's Park. First off, the park is absolutely beautiful. It has a colorful water fountain show, a stadium, and a petting zoo.Secondly, the concert was absolutely amazing. I just can't even describe how cool it was. There were two dance crews, a vocal duo, Seventeen, Topp Dogg, and Nu'Est. The dance crews combined special effects and dancing to make an incredible combination. Seventeen was a group I'd heard of before but never paid attention to but after their covers of Mirotic and Sorry, Sorry, I can say they have a new fan. Topp Dogg was also pretty good and what I expected. Nu'Est closed the night and I just died. They were so good. I learned that JR wears red boxers and Minhyun waved at me. But after the concert, Ren stuck his head out of their van as they were leaving to look me in the eye and say "I love you" in English because I was the only obviously foreign person there. I almost died it was so great.  
Sometimes we hang out with EXO. Whatever, no big deal. 
Nu'Est on stage.
And after the concert, when we went out to eat, the restaurant owner asked if he could take our picture and have us sign it. Then, he put it up on the wall. That was the first, and probably the last, time I have been asked for my autograph. It was awesome. 
 Saturday was actually pretty tame. We went to Itaewon (the foreigners area) but it was pretty empty. We did get Turkish ice cream, which came with an awesome show. We then went to Hongdae afterwards and watched a couple buskers. Buskers are always so interesting. I could just camp out at the park in Hongdae and watch them perform all day. 
Sunday was absolutely amazing. Soojung, Stephanie (American exchange), and I went to Caribbean Bay, which is the world's largest indoor-outdoor water park in the world. We went on a bunch of rides and swam a ton. The prices for food weren't ridiculous like they are at parks in America so we had peanut butter fried squid for snack. My first culture shock moment happened in the locker rooms when we were done. All the women just walked around naked. Not just in the showers (which are completely public), everywhere in the locker room area. I saw more female body parts yesterday than I had before in my entire life. Not that that's a bad thing but it was for sure different. Oh, and a lot of Koreans wore clothes over their swimsuits in the park; not that it mattered, since Caribbean Bay requires you to wear a life jacket. Super awesome day, all in all, even though the ride there and back took about two and a half hours. 
 Today we went to Gyeongbok Palace for the first day of Chuseok. Because it was Chuseok, there were a ton of activities going on and admission was free. I wasn't sure I wanted to go because I was so tired from the water park but I'm glad I did. The palace itself isn't all that interesting but it's one of those places you should go while you're in Seoul. It's about the history. That palace was built in the 14th century. Just thinking about all the people who've passed through there can give you chills. We also made poop-shaped soap (I don't know why that is considered Korean), watched a children's puppet show, and tried on Hanbok. Hanbok is traditional Korean dress and it was one of the things on my to-do list that I wasn't sure I'd get to. Normally, Hanbok is incredibly expensive but it was free to try on because it was Chuseok. Yay!


 Random Thoughts:

 Korea is super duper hot. Maybe it's because I'm used to Minnesota having just one week that's super hot and humid but this is ridiculous. Korea isn't hotter or more humid than Minnesota gets, but it stays there longer. My hair has been up every single day.

Everyone always says that Korean don't show public displays of affection. That's a total and complete lie. Koreans may not kiss as much in public but couples are literally constantly touching each other. And if they aren't touching each other, they're probably wearing couple items so you still know they're together. I have seen the most unique positions in Seoul; like, how are they even walking? And why must you always touch each other?! It's actually a little ridiculous.

The spiders here are ginormous. Enough said. They scare the crap out of me.

I was told before I got here that my study abroad experience would be an emotional roller coaster. I thought I would have good days and bad days. While that can be true, I've also experienced days where my emotions have drastically changed moment to moment. It's rather exhausting actually. Sometimes I'm fine, sometimes I think Korea is the coolest place ever, and sometimes I just want to go home.