Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lazy days, good food, and the Crystal Universe

Last Saturday was a busy but good day. I woke up early (for me) so I could eat an early lunch and get to the SM Town concert area at a decent time. The arena was over an hour and a half away (which I didn’t know when I agreed to do this) so I left my goshiwon around noon and got there around 1:30, which was later than I wanted. Thankfully, none of the goods had sold out yet. I think SM figured that since all the goods they were selling were super cheap to produce, they would just make a ton and still have a huge profit. So I stood in line, which moved much faster than I expected, and got the DBSK light-stick and towel that Jihye’s friend wanted. There were tons of EXO fangirls there. I tried to find some DBSK fans giving out fan-goods but I only saw SHINee, Henry, and many EXO fan-goods. I left pretty quickly, having achieved my mission, and took the train to Jamsil, where I was meeting Soojung at 4.

I got to Jamsil about an hour early so I walked over to the Gyobo bookstore. I looked at some Korean books teaching English to compare to how I was tutoring. My way was much better; some of those worksheets in the books totally sucked. Then I looked at some books about teaching foreigners Korean and those looked much better. I can’t really afford to buy anything I don’t need (or really want) right now, so I determined to buy one of those books if/when I get a job here in Korea. I really want to improve my Korean. Next, I moved on to the point of this visit, which was to find Korean novels translated into English. I can’t really say that in Korean but I went to the information desk and asked for “Korean books but the language is English” and the guy understood what I meant. They only had two Korean translated novels; Please Look After Mother and some book about life advice from a Buddhist monk. I’ve heard good things about Please Look After Mother so I bought that one and left for my meeting place with Soojung.

Soojung and I met up a little late because she was waiting inside the station and I was outside but we figured it out eventually. After finding each other, we went through Lotte World to try and find the TeamLab interactive digital art exhibit. It took some searching but we finally found the darn thing. Admission was 16,000 won and they gave us each a pack of crayons. The first room we walked into was all flowers and butterflies. It was very pretty and you could scatter the flower petals or kill the butterflies if you really wanted to. The reaction time between your touch and the screen responding was a bit slow but it was still cool. The next room had an ocean scene showing on the wall. Visitors could color one of six water animals and, once you were done, the drawing would be scanned into the computer and the animal would show up on the display. This kind of activity was repeated twice more in the exhibit, with a jungle display of frogs, lizards, and flowers, and a city with buildings and cars. There was also a display with floating symbols that, if you touched them, would grow a plant or animal. That one was very interesting and was hard to walk away from. There were other displays, like a table with colored blocks which could make a city and fairways depending on how you arranged the blocks, and a digital hopscotch board that you got to create. It was all very cool.

Towards the end of the exhibit, was a more serious display that wasn’t interactive. There were two rooms where all the walls showed land masses and the ocean. The plaque said that it was based on the predictions of the ocean level rising over the next 10 years, due to global warming. It was actually a very serious and ominous display but most people didn’t read the sign so they were all talking about how pretty and romantic it was. There was a seating area where you could watch the 10 minute cycle so couples were sitting together like a picnic. I think the people who hadn’t read the signs finally understood that it was supposed to be meaningful and dangerous when the water reached the top of the screen, lightning flashed, and everything faded away. Lastly, there was the Crystal Universe room. It’s hard to describe just how beautiful this display is with pictures or words so you’ll just have to go. It’s literally just a bunch of lights on strings but it’s just stunning. Once you walked through the lights, you could use a website on your phone to send stars out into the universe that would change the color, patterns, and movement of the lights. This room really left a positive impression on me and I understand why it’s one of TeamLab’s signature displays.

Overall, I really enjoyed the exhibit. There were lots of kids there but it was equally enjoyable for adults and teens, I think. I was really touched by the message of the exhibit as well. Before we went in, there were signs (that few people read) explaining the goal of the artists. It talked about how, typically, other people are a hindrance when viewing art. Like, for example, if I went to see the Mona Lisa, I would want to go when as few people as possible would be there with me. So they wanted to make the presence of others a good, enjoyable thing, with their art. It would matter which people had been there before me and how long it had been since they had been there. I felt like they achieved their goal. In the displays where your drawings were scanned into the displays, I laughed at some creative drawings, smiled at the children’s scribbles, and “aww”ed at messages couples had written to each other. Like they wanted, my experience was enhanced by the presence of others, not hindered by it.
My colored seahorse

My seahorse on the screen by a silly squid

The symbol screen


My flower

My building drawing

My building in the town

The whole screen

Crystal Universe

After leaving TeamLab, Soojung and I went to a blind restaurant by Konkuk. Everyone else was in couples but this isn’t the first time I’ve done couple-y things with friends and it won’t be the last so I wasn’t affected. The staff walked us up to the room and then we put our hands on the shoulders of those in front of us and they lead us into the darkness. The waiters had night vision goggles on but we couldn’t see a darn thing. There was not a hint of light in there. I told Soojung right away, “I don’t think I like this.” It’s actually a very disturbing thing, not being able to see your surroundings even a little bit. I calmed down after a couple minutes but it was uncomfortable at first. We had a five course meal (for 35,000 won): there was a meat/salami appetizer, a salad with a fruity dressing, seafood fried rice, steak, and some sort of fancy ice cream. I couldn’t see any of it so I’m going entirely on my taste-buds here, for description. It was all very delicious. Before we had gone in, the host told us not to eat with our hands and we all laughed but I did actually touch my dishes with my hand to make sure I was finished. Cutting the steak was especially difficult. Soojung and I had some pretty deep conversations while we ate as well. I think it’s like when you talk at a sleepover when the lights are at; not being able to see each other’s face makes it easier to open up. Overall, it was a really interesting experience and I’m glad I went. We started dinner quite late so, afterwards, we split up for the night because Soojung had to get home.

Extremely blurry picture of us after being released from the dark room (feat. the note we wrote to each other in the dark)

Sunday, I skyped my parents and then lazed around the entire day. Like, I literally put on normal clothes at 7PM after debating if getting take out for dinner was worth taking off my pajamas. It was wonderful. I also started Please Look After Mother, which has four sections instead of chapters. I’m not sure I’m going to like it. It’s just not quite my style but I paid 7,000 won for it so I’m going to finish it.

Monday, I met up with Byul for dinner. We were originally going to go make cute phone cases at the Dongdaemun craft mall but we found out that day that the vendors close before Byul’s finished with work. So we decided to just get dinner in Gangnam instead. We went to a dakgalbi place named 장인닭갈비 that was fucking fantastic. Excuse my language but holy crap. We ordered the dakgalbi with cheese and added in rice cakes and sausages. So the chicken, cabbage, rice cake, and sausages were all mixed together in a sauce and then the mozzarella (?) cheese went in the center. They also had lettuce so you could make wraps if you wanted to. It was so, so good. I didn’t actually like dipping my other food in the cheese so I ate all that first and then ate the cheese separately, which ended up tasting amazing. I’m definitely going back to that restaurant.


Byul and I

After dinner, Byul and I went to Solbing for some dessert. I let Byul decide and paid because it was her birthday a couple days before. She wanted the green tea brownie bingsoo so we got that. I don’t much like green tea but it wasn’t too bad. It was definitely pretty, that’s for sure. We talked until we got kicked out because the store was closing. Byul, like Soojung, has a job with crappy conditions but Byul doesn’t want to quit for some reason that I don’t comprehend. I think she wants to stick with it for at least a full year (she’s at 8 months now). So she told me all about that and eventually we had to go home.
Green tea brownie bingsoo

Tuesday and Thursday I tutored, like usual. We just worked on essay writing those two days but I think we’re going to be doing more work on that. The security guy and I know each other so we just nod at each other and he lets me in. Oh, and the family’s nanny wanted to chat with me Thursday after the session when Sunny went to do her homework. It was extremely uncomfortable because she wanted to complain about the family and I didn’t really know what to say. I held my own on the Korean front, didn’t do too poorly, but it did remind me how much I still have to learn. I got out of there after about 15 minutes of chatting, as soon as there was an appropriate opportunity.

Wednesday, I had a sort of lazy day. I was originally going to go see the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain show that night by myself, because no one could hang out. However, Tuesday, my bathroom sink plugged up. It’s been slow to drain since I moved in but Tuesday, it completely plugged and refused to drain at all. So I spent most of Wednesday fixing that. I consulted everyone on the best equipment and products in Korea and made a list with the Hangul. Before I left for the store, though, I found some bleach in the goshiwon bathroom’s closet. So I took the water out of the sink as much as I could and then I just poured some bleach in the sink and down the shower drain. The sink still didn’t seem to be draining but I decided to go to the market closer to dinner so I went back to my laptop for an hour or so. After the time passed, I checked the sink again and the water was all gone! The bleach had eaten away whatever was clogging the sink enough to drain the water. So then I poured more bleach down both drains to try and make them completely clean. I did several rounds of this and now it drains right away, like it’s supposed to. I’m honestly really proud of myself. It’s such a simple thing but I figured it out on my own with minimal help and no purchases so I’m quite happy. If my efforts had failed, I was going to have to try and explain the problem in Korean to the landlord, which would have been a struggle. I also went to the market while the second or third round of bleach was sitting. So after all that, I honestly felt too tired to go out again. When I went to the market, it was extremely hot and humid, even more so than usual, so I decided to just stay home and continue with the bleach treatments for the night.

Friday, I went to a meetup through meetup.com. I’m trying to make some more friends, especially international friends, since my Korean friends all have jobs so meetup.com is perfect. I’m in three meetups that I’m really interested in; a book club, a women-only club, and a crafters club. However, none of those three have any events planned for this month yet. So I’m also in a volunteering club and several groups just for foreigners in Korea. Friday’s meetup was through one of those clubs, for an international group. Yeouido Hangang Park is doing an event this summer where there will be a dance team performance and movie every Friday and Saturday throughout the summer. So the meetup was to go to that. Of the 20 people signed up online, four of us showed up. The organizer had backed out because of a sudden work commitment and it was forecasted to rain, so I think that drove a lot of people away. It ended up being me, a French female translation student, a Korean female kindergarten teacher, and a Korean male baker. And get this; because it was forecasted to rain, even though it wasn’t raining, the performance and movie were cancelled without notice! I’ve had this happen in Seoul before, where things will be cancelled without any sort of notice for weather predictions, regardless of actual weather. So the four of us just sat at the venue and talked for like four hours. It was nice to talk to everyone from different walks of life and learn about them. The translator especially is in a field similar to mine, so that was cool. It was hard though because the three girls got talking about books and one point but the Korean guy kept saying he didn’t read so I had a hard time trying to include him in the conversation without completely changing the subject. At the end of the night, despite an enjoyable time, we all separated without exchanging contact information. I would have gotten the translator’s Kakao and maybe the kindergarten teacher’s too but I couldn’t do that in front of the baker without asking him too so I just didn’t. None of us super hit it off anyway. I’m looking forward to my next meetup; I want one of my favorite three but I might also volunteer.

Saturday I had, guess what, another lazy day! Because I didn’t go to the Banpo Bridge Wednesday, I was going to go Saturday but then it rained all day so I knew the Rainbow Fountain wouldn’t run. Since it was continuously raining, there wasn’t much else I could do either so I just stayed home. I tried a new place for dinner though. It was a bagel café that’s kind of far from my goshiwon. I ordered a hot chicken bagel sandwich. It wasn’t premade and they assembled and cooked it in front of my so that was impressive. The cashier guy was also very nice, although not as hot as the Subway guy, so that was a bonus. The sandwich was pretty good but it was expensive for what I got and farther away from my goshiwon so I probably won’t go back. I also read another section in Please Look After Mother so I’m more than halfway through now. I particularly didn’t care about this section but I heard from the kindergarten teacher at the meetup that the last section is especially good so I’m going to keep going.

Sunday was a good day. Through the prior events in my crafting meetup, I found a DIY pottery place in Insadong underneath the Ssamziegil mall so we were going to do that. Before pottery, we went to lunch at a place famous for Pyongyang naengmyun, which was on my list of foods to try. It’s so popular, when we got there, there was an hour wait and at least 100 people in the huge waiting area. We decided to wait and we were seated after about 30 minutes; I think a lot of people got discouraged and left after leaving their name but it worked for us. The Pyongyang naengmyun was alright. It’s North Korean naengmyun and the difference is supposed to be that it’s meatier and blander but I also found it sweeter. I wasn’t super impressed with the naengmyun for such a popular place but it just might not be my taste. The restaurant, Woo Lae Oak if anyone wants to try, has really good kimchi though! It was kimchi made the same day, not fermented, which is usually not to my liking but the cabbage was ridiculously fresh and tasty. I was very impressed. They also served us buckwheat tea, which I hadn’t had before, and it was very calming. I will probably be looking for that in stores and on menus in the future. So, even though I didn’t like the naengmyun, I was impressed by the restaurant.

Pyongyang naengmyun

After lunch, we walked through Insadong. We looked at the products and eventually made our way over to Ssamziegil. The pottery place was in the basement so we went there. You could pick your dish; they had all sorts of bowls, cups, plates, and platters. I went for a cereal bowl because it was big and I have too many mugs and Byul went with a tea cup. You then sketched your design in pencil and transferred any stamps you wanted. After that, you could begin painting. I decide on a love concept on put a heart with dots, the shape of Minnesota with dots, and Korea in Hangul on the outside. On the inside, I had my stamp in red and I wrote some of the things I love in Hangul. Byul painted a bunny with glasses (adorable!), a guitar, and some flowers. After painting, the owners will kiln the pottery again and glaze it. The finished works can be picked up in a couple weeks. Byul and I noticed a bunch of old pottery left behind from months ago. When Byul asked the owner, she said that when couples break up after making their pottery together, they don’t come and pick them up. Byul and I stayed much longer than anyone else; we took maybe three or four hours to finish the process and, by the time we were done, the basement was beginning to clear out and we were the last ones in the pottery station. As we left, Byul and I noticed that there were a ton of other stations like bracelet making, soap making, matryoshka doll painting, etc. It was really cool. I love crafting so this was right up my alley and Byul and I really enjoyed it.

Mid process




Top view



We then walked around Ssamziegil again. I honestly wasn’t too impressed with Insadong last time I was there, it felt like too much of a tourist trap, and, while it does still feel like that, I at least enjoyed the DIY basement and the atmosphere. Byul and I also had poop-shaped bread so there’s that. Oh, and I found a new Korean artist I really like at one of the shops. It was selling notebooks with her artwork so I wrote her name down. It’s Kim Minji and she works with fairy tales, which I love and have studied. I’m hoping to buy some of her products, like notebooks, somewhere cheaper. We had dinner after leaving the mall. I probably should have gone home to eat because it would have been so much cheaper (Insadong’s an expensive area) but it was late and I was having fun. We had seafood jeon and mackerel for dinner. It was nothing special but it was alright. After dinner, Byul and I went home.


Monday, I skyped my family again. There was a music fest in my hometown this past weekend that I have always gone to so I was super bummed to miss it. It sounds like they had a lot of fun though, so I’m glad. My little sister’s birthday is coming up too so I wished her happy birthday. My mother and brother basically shaved one of my dogs so he looks completely ridiculous but in an adorable way. I miss home still sometimes but I’ve adjusted so much the past three weeks or so. I also went to the market again but this time I tried the one across from the one I usually go to. It’s so much better! I can’t believe I never walked across the street before. It’s much bigger and cleaner and it has a wider variety of food. The only downside is that it doesn’t have the yogurt I like but I can still go to my old one sometimes. It was a good discovery.

That night, I went to dinner with Gilyoung. She’s pretty poor right not so there’s not too much we can do but we went to get seolleongtang which is A) on my list and B) cheapish. We went to a place in Anam, near Korea University, so there were a ton of foreigners there for the summer program. The seolleongtang itself was alright. Of the three foods I tried in this blog entry, it was the best. It basically comes without much seasoning and then the customer adds however much garlic, green onion, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as they want. So it just tasted like beef stock at first but once I added some pepper and garlic and a lot of salt, green onion, and red pepper flakes, it was actually pretty good. It was addictive. While I couldn’t say it was amazing, I found myself compelled to keep eating it. I finished the entire bowl, down to the last spoon of broth. I wouldn’t pay a lot for it but it was good.


After dinner, Gilyoung and I walked around the area a bit but my legs were chaffing so we took refuge at (where else?) Solbing! Gilyoung wanted me to try something new so we got the Mango/Cheesecake bingsoo. It was pretty good. I’m not huge on chunks of mango but the pureed mango was better and the cheesecake was delicious. Gilyoung and I ended up arguing about strawberries for a while lol. Apparently, strawberries are a winter fruit in Korea and Gilyoung just would not believe me that they’re a summer fruit in America. We ended on a tie because we accepted each other but we have no idea why it’s like that. It was good to see her and talk with her. Of my five mentees at UND, Gilyoung and I get along the best and she’s really easy to talk to. I was also blown away by the prices in the area. I expected it to be around the same price range as Konkuk because they’re both universities but it was super cheap! Apparently, Konkuk is just an expensive area; fuck my life.  Oh, and an old lady tried to compliment me on my subway ride home but I had major trouble trying to understand her pronunciation so it didn’t go too well.

Mango cheesecake bingsoo

Today’s Tuesday so I tutored again. Sunny leaves in less than a month now but it feels like we have so much left to do! She’s actually fun to talk to though because we’re interested in a lot of the same things. I’m going to miss her when she’s gone. Tomorrow, I have dance class so that’s exciting! I didn’t go to the one two weeks ago because I had plans with Jinseong and I didn’t go to last week’s because it was Mamamoo and A) I don’t like them much and B) they don’t dance anyway. But this week is Astro and I love them so I’m going. I don’t think this title track was their strongest but the album is golden and I’m excited to learn the dance anyway. We’ll see how it goes~ 

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