Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Art and Entertainment

So that Wednesday we finally, finally, went on our culture trip. The students were given three choices and we got to pick which trip we would go on but they were all in Seoul so I was pretty disappointed. All of the trips had two locations, with one interesting and one uninteresting in my opinion, so I would have been okay with all of them. The trip I ended up with was the Seoul Museum of Contemporary and Modern Arts and the Seoul Grand Park. The museum was extremely interesting and I wasn't ready to leave after the hour and a half they gave us to explore ran out. I'm not usually into art museums but this one had a couple very interesting exhibits and I especially appreciated the sculptures. The Grand Park was pretty boring in comparison because it was mostly a zoo and since it was November, all the animals were either sleeping, hiding, or shaking. And, as I said previously, the conditions for the animals are absolutely terrible here. We spent most of our time in the botanical gardens because it was warm and there weren't sad animals. I would definitely recommend the museum, however; it was very beautiful. 

This honey sculpture was Lena's favorite.

There were a lot of hidden details in there. 

This was one of my favorites just because it brightened the room. 

This was another favorite of mine. It's difficult to see in the picture but this entire thing is made up of Korean papers folded into triangles.

Twisted Furniture. 

I'm not even sure what this is but I like it. 

The beautiful botanical gardens.

That Friday, a couple of the people I met on the cruise, Soojung, and I all went out. Before meeting the others, Soojung and I went shopping in Myungdong and got me a winter coat for $50. Winning. After connecting with the others, we went to a Japanese bento place for supper, which was alright but not worth the hype. Then we went to Kim Jaejoong (of JYJ)'s cafe J Holic. All the tables were shaped like J's and the drinks weren't ridiculously priced, which was a surprise. It was actually a pretty comfortable cafe and I really enjoyed the styling and their music. After the cafe, we went to karaoke. Honestly, noraebang (karaoke) is one of my favorite things here. It's just so much fun! 

The next day, a Chinese friend, Summer, and I went to go visit some entertainment companies. Actually, four of the big companies in Korea are all in the same area so they were pretty easy to find. Cube Entertainment also has a cafe so the fangirls and fanboys can drink something warm inside while they wait for their celebrities, which is an incredibly intelligent decision on their part. They must be racking in the dough while the other companies just leave the fans outside, or in an unrelated cafe. We didn't see any celebrities but I wasn't really set on it anyway so I just had fun seeing the different companies.  

J Holic's symbol.

The receipts come with Jaejoong's signature. 

Cube Entertainment (Beast, 4Minute, BTOB, A-Pink, G.Na, etc)
Mr. Chu~ by A-Pink

The best cafe mocha I have ever had in my life. Like, I might go back to this cafe just for the drinks and be that one person not facing the windows. 

The Cube Cafe had a bunch of signed merchandise and hand prints of all their artists. 

JYP Entertainment (2PM, Wonder Girls, Miss A, Got7, etc)

10 Points Out of 10! by 2PM

SM Entertainment (TVXQ, Super Junior, SNSD, SHINee, f(x), EXO, etc)
Sorry, Sorry by Super Junior 

Gee by SNSD

FNC Entertainment (FT Island, CNBlue, AOA, etc)

The next week I made homemade Mac n Cheese for my friends at my goshiwon. It's pretty difficult to make recipes from home here because the ingredients just aren't in Korea. I couldn't even find butter so I had to use margarine instead. There's probably butter somewhere but all I could find was margarine and I Just Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Despite the hiccups in ingredients, the pasta turned out pretty well and my friends liked it so hey, success!

That Wednesday, I went to Interstellar with Soojung at the Lotte Cinema. Korean movie theatres aren't that different to be honest but I enjoyed the movie although Soojung liked it much more than me. The music was composed by Hans Zimmer so it was outstanding of course. I cried three times and Soojung cried four times so it's a bit of a tear-jerking. I regret that I didn't get squid there (the one snack at the theatre unique to Korea) but I had some at Caribbean Bay so it's not a big deal. 

On Friday, we had a class field trip for my globalization class to Arirang Tower. Arirang tries to spread Korean culture to the rest of the world through TV shows and radio stations broadcasted to 55 different countries. The tower was pretty cool to look through as people are still working during the tour. I also got to meet Sam Carter from LunaFly! He was there recording his radio show and I had to get a picture with him because my best friend back home loves him. A couple of us are going to try and win tickets to be in the live audience so we can see the recordings live. After the tour, Ana, Stephanie and I went to the Seoul Arts Center, which was pretty much across the street. It wasn't that interesting in comparison to the Seoul Museum of Contemporary and Modern Arts but the complex was just huge. After returning to the university, I went to my second movie in three days as part of a program put together by our university and the Korean Movie Administration or something like that. It was a big deal and the point was to spread Korean movies to the international audience. So we saw "We Are Brothers" with English subtitles. It was actually super funny and I would really recommend it. 

That Saturday, Sonnet, Stephanie, and I went shopping at Gangnam Station and the Express Bus Terminal. I got a couple souvenirs, including a sweatshirt I had been looking for since I got here. It was pretty fun and both of those stations have huge underground shopping centers that were just never ending. And the Express Bus Terminal is uber cheap. 
Lunch with an off campus friend, Byul.

Arirang Radio in the Arirang Tower.

Sam Carter!

Random Thoughts

I do get pretty homesick actually. Now that I know I'm coming back for the second semester, it's like I feel free to miss home, like I don't have to be guilty. I have four weeks and on one hand that scares me because times flies so fast but I'm happy on the other hand because I miss my family, my friends, my pets, my bed, and most importantly, food. I miss food from home so, so much. I love Korean food, I really do, but I also have a list of food I need to eat while I'm home, Cereal is on the top of the list <3

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Home

So in Korea, they sort of celebrate Halloween. They don't do trick-or-treating or make Jack-O-Lanterns but the clubs and amusement parks still have Halloween themes and some people do dress up, especially in Itaewon. Because we're foreigners, Sonnet's Korean friend, Sofia, asked us over to her house for dinner. It was the first time in two months I had eaten a home-cooked meal and it was absolutely amazing. Her mother made us pumpkin porridge, bulgogi, don katsu, chapchae, and tteokbeokki. I can't even write about it without salivating, it was that good. The conversation was a little awkward at times because it was the first time most of us were meeting them and their mother didn't speak any English, but it was still a ton of food. We had great food and good company so it was a good Halloween. Sofia's mom was super funny (she compensated by using a lot of body language) and her brother was also pretty fun to hang around. After we were done eating one of the best meals I've had in Korea, we played a couple Korean drinking games and then a couple traditional Korean games as well. All in all, an amazing night. Their whole family came with us to the bus stop and we actually almost cried leaving them because they were so affectionate and kind to complete strangers. Her mom even told us that we could come crash any time we wanted to. I totally plan on taking her up on that.
Sofia's family and the foreigners eating our feast. :)

The next day was Saturday and also the day I moved out! It took me a couple hours to completely pack everything and transport it to the goshiwon but I did it all myself. A ton of couple offered their help but I didn't want to make it a big thing so I could carried everything. My room is super tiny but I kind of love it. Like, it's so tiny it can't help but be adorable. My dad said it would be a good exercise to see just how little room I truly need and I like to think of it in that positive way. I get my own room and then we all share one kitchen, one bathroom, and one shower. But if the bathroom is full, then there are two more right outside the goshiwon doors. So it's actually pretty good. I got to know some of the girls here and we cook together sometimes so it's really fun. I don't regret my decision. :)

My little room. Isn't it just the cutest?

The day after I moved, a Korean friend and a Chinese friend and I all went to Gangnam for the Gangnam Tourist Center. We also went to the Hyundai department store and the Apgujeong Rodeo Street. Now, the GTC was supposed to be like an interactive K-Pop museum but that's a lie. It was super tiny and not very fun, to be honest. I didn't tell my Korean friend that because she was the one who suggested it but it was very disappointing. The Hyundai department store was absolutely huge and mostly filled with designer brands. But there's an entire floor dedicated to food! It was amazing; I only took pictures of all the food that day, Apgujeong Rodeo Street wasn't very interesting either because it was all designer brands too and I'm just not rich enough to afford that. So it was a rather boring day but it was still fun to hang out with my friends. No time is wasted when it's spent with good people.

After that came the school week and that just sucked. Let me say that we're all working hard here. College is just as challenging as always. However, on Thursday my Korean Culture Club went out on a cruise on the Han River. It was actually super boring because after about ten minutes of excitement you realize that you're on a really slow boat on a river for another hour and a half. But the KCC has members from all over Seoul so I got to meet some brand new people and we went out for dinner afterwards which was wonderful. We're actually going out this weekend too (with those new people) so I can't regret the boring, and freezing, cruise road.

Then, on Friday, Soojung and I went to My Chi Chi, Hong Seok Cheon's Italian restaurant. Hong Seok Cheon is pretty much the only gay celebrity out in Korea right now and he has done so much in the past ten years to change Korea's opinion of homosexuality. Most celebrities trust him with their deepest secrets and he hasn't done anything to betray that trust. He's just a man to admire and he also happens to own like eight restaurants all in the same strip of Itaewon. The food was rather expensive, as it always is with celebrity restaurants, but it was really good too and we now have a map of his restaurants if we want to try them all. If I have the money, I'd like to go to all of them but we'll see. Twelve dollars for a cone from his ice cream shop (his newest addition) just seems like a bit much to me.  Still, the Margarita pizza and Bacon Gorgonzola Pasta was amazing. I definitely recommend trying it out. In fact, just go to Itaewon to eat. They have so many unique, delicious restaurants there, it makes you want to eat there for hours.

That Saturday, I left on a trip to Pyeongchang with the UNESCO branch in Seoul, called Heritage in Korea. I didn't think I would make the application process because I was only a student (and their goal group is ambassadors and teachers) but I did and I'm so happy about it. Forty foreigners total went on the trip and I made a ton of new friends. The goal of this program is to provide foreigners with a FREE opportunity to experience Korean culture and at the same time, add to their network of people. I love it and I'm so glad they're continuing it next year (and one of the destinations for 2015 is Jeju Island! For free! I can't even hold in my excitement and now I have more of an opportunity to get in because I'll be returning as an invitee). Anyway, the goal of this trip was to participate in kimjang, which is making enough kimchi for the winter. We went all the way to Pyeongchang for this trip, which took about five hours by bus. Pyeongchang is supposed to host the Olympics in 2018 but I'm worried about them. The whole area is just little country towns and there isn't any construction going on. But who knows, if anyone can get it done that fast, it's Korea. The first day, we went to a temple in Pyeongchang, made our own kimchi under the guidance of a strict ajumma in hanbok, and had a bonfire. The second day we went to a market that's been on that street since the Joseon Era and also explored a nearby park before returning to Seoul. It was all very amazing and the food was delicious. I can honestly say I look forward to all the programs after this and I'm so glad to have met so many new and amazing people.

New friends!

This pagoda was in the temple we visited and is the only thing there that wasn't burnt down during the Korean War and then rebuilt. It's actually rather amazing because the pagoda is from the Goryeo Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Era, making it almost a thousand years old. The temple was actually built around the pagoda and the pagoda was the only thing left standing. 

We also stayed in a traditional Korean house, called a Hanok. It was awesome! The whole resort was absolutely stunning. The hanoks didn't have Western style beds, only Korean mats and blankets, but it was so comfortable, I slept the best I had in like two weeks. 

The whole group together. I couldn't tell you everyone's name (I'm terrible with foreign names unless they're Korean or Japanese) but I could tell you their nationality and I also talked to each and every one of them. 

Look at my awesome kimchi! Our teacher came over to yell at me multiple times about me making my kimchi so spicy but in the end, mine was the prettiest and best shaped. So there! It's in the fridge in my goshiwon right now and I hope the others help me eat it because I can't possibly finish all that by myself. 

Today's Wednesday and I actually finally went on my culture trip with the International House here but I think I'll talk about that next time. My friend had a better camera so I let her take all the pictures and she hasn't uploaded them online yet. And I'll like to have pictures to illustrate, especially so we went to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts. Til next time~

Random Thoughts:

Autumn on campus is absolutely lovely. However, the reason it's lovely is because of these stupid ginkgo trees. Apparently, there are two different types of ginkgo tree and one if going extinct so Konkuk University is trying to save them by planting them everywhere on campus. I honestly couldn't care less if these trees died out. The reason they're endangered is because the two kinds look exactly the same but one kind has these horrible stinky berries. You might think I'm exaggerating but these berries literally smell like dog poop and they fall from the trees for almost eight weeks straight. It's absolutely horrid. I'd just prefer the other kind please.

The pretty yellow trees are the ginkgo trees. Unfortunately, their pretty autumn colors aren't enough to make me forgive them for their berries. Dreadful things, I tell you.

Secondly, Korean teachers are scary. I think this is just an Oriental thing but in Korea, teachers are right. Always and absolutely. If you have a different opinion or a contradicting question, you keep it to yourself or the teacher will destroy you. As an American student who has always been taught to question knowledge and that debate is one of the best tools of knowledge and perspective, this is incredibly difficult for me at times. However, I keep telling myself that it's just their culture and that it's a good thing to experience new ways of life. This was one of my biggest examples of culture shock for me and it's still ongoing.