20190409 – The Renaissance

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In reference to the featured image this time around…

You all know I love the Korean subway system, right? But, you know, I just can’t figure out for the life of me how to buy a train ticket for this particular subway!

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안녕하세요 얘들아!

It’s definitely been awhile. Hasn’t it? Do I have an excuse? Most definitely not. Whoops? A lot has happened since my last update. In fact, so much has happened I probably won’t get to it all in this post, and I will have to split it into two!

First – Cultural Explorer’s Project

Second – Community Service (급식 1, 연탄, 급식 2)

Third – Cultural Experience Week (점심, 한반도 비무장 지대, 김밥, 장구)

Fourth – Life In General (생일, Gotcha Day, 시험 x3, OPIc, SMTOWN)

Fifth – New Host Family

Sixth – College/University (University of Pennsylvania)

So, as stated above, first is the Cultural Explorer’s Project. The Cultural Explorer’s Project is a thing the NSLI-Y Korean Academic Year students always do. Let me explain to you the process of how it went. First, all the way back in December or maybe even November, we had to submit two topics pertaining to Korea that we would like to further research and do an actual project on. From that, the staff at Better World compiled everybody’s answers and put us in groups of people who had submitted relatively the same interests. Then, to help us research, we had Korean college students paired with each group to help us research information that might initially be in Korean or something. From then on, we met every Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00am to 12:00pm at a cafe to discuss our research that we had done individually at home.

My group’s topic was economics. I know. I know. Sounds riveting, right?

I’m being sarcastic of course. I know economics isn’t usually considered one of the most exciting topics, and I will admit that there are certain aspects of it that I would rather pass on too, but I do enjoy certain realms of economics.  So, I would’ve been enthralled to do a project on economics IF it was about what I liked in economics.

However, that didn’t happen. Simply put, because they put a bunch of people together who had showed a little interest in economics – no matter where on the spectrum – we all had different ideas of the direction of the project. So, we ended up doing a topic that was lackluster to me. I did enjoy the topic, but it definitely wasn’t what I would’ve chosen had I been given the choice.

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Our group giving our mid-project presentation.

We ended up studying the IMF Crisis of 1997. In 1990s, Korea’s economy plummeted because of too many investments, bad loans, yada yada yada. You know what usually leads to an economic crash.

In order to save their economy, Korea’s government took a loan from the IMF (International Monetary Fund). However, there’s a reason it’s called “the IMF Crisis.” Taking a loan from the IMF requires certain policies to be implemented, and these required policies caused Korea’s unemployment rate to skyrocket. Even though the IMF loan helped Korea save its economy and has been paid back, the aftereffects still hurt Koreans today.

And before any of you say anything, no, I am not happy with the final outcome of the project. Many of you who know me know I’m nothing short of a perfectionist, so while the project might be satisfactory for others, it wasn’t for me. I will elaborate more on my true feelings in another post sometime in the future. Oh well. There’s nothing I can do about it now.

To finish the Cultural Explorer’s Project, we had to give a final presentation, which included a PowerPoint and video, and I guess it went fine? Once again, like I said, I’m a perfectionist. All in all, I’m just glad it is over. I’m just dreading the individual project we have coming up.

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This is one of the slides from our final presentation for the Cultural Explorers Project.

 

Next we have community service. So, over winter break, we had two required community service activities. The first was 급식 (keup-sik – food distribution community service). We worked in a soup kitchen, and I spent the first portion literally ripping bones and skin off of boiled chicken that had been roughly chopped. I mean, there was full necks still there when I was working. Next, I was assigned to bid the people goodbye as they were leaving while also quickly rinsing their trays before they went back to the kitchen for a thorough wash.

I won’t lie; I was not overly fond of the day. It wasn’t that I minded volunteering, but I wish I had been assigned a different role or at least asked which role I would have preferred. I mean, they stressed that you needed to smile as big as possible when bidding them farewell, and they still gave the job to me, who is literally one of the least expressive people ever. Also, my Korean is far from being one of the better ones in the program, and I really only knew one or two phrases to say to the people as they left, so I sounded like a broken tape after awhile. I just felt like somebody else could’ve most definitely done my job better, and I would’ve been best suited in the kitchen.

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Yes, that is a giant vat of boiled chicken, pretty much including all parts of the chicken.

The second community service activity we had was 연탄 (yeontan), which are these blocks of coal that some people still use to heat their houses in Korea if their houses are old. I actually really enjoyed this community service activity because I got to talk with and joke around with my fellow NSLI-Y students while doing it. For the 급식, I was isolated, so it was hours of kinda loneliness, but I didn’t feel lonely during 연탄. The entire community service activity was carrying the 연탄 to these people’s houses, so it was fairly simple; all we had to do was make sure not to drop them (and thus break them) and not get hit by a car when crossing the street.

As it was coal we dealt with, you can imagine it was messy, but we were given like special arm coverings and gloves and aprons, so that our clothes wouldn’t be permanently stained by the 연탄. Nevertheless, we were told to wear dark clothing anyways.

When we finished, we were given these adorable key chains that had like cartoon 연탄 on them and ginseng health drinks. The drink… let’s just say I kinda downed it all in one go because it was not exactly what I would call delicious. I was ecstatic over the cute key chains. Ever since coming to Korea, I’ve become obsessed with cute things.

Fun fact! V (from BTS) has a dog named 연탄.

The last community service was not required but it was highly suggested, aka do it. The last community service was once again 급식, but it was in a little less of a harsh situation. This time, it was at a Community Youth Center where we just served dinner but didn’t help prepare it at all. I only did it twice for about an hour and a half on Monday nights. Once again, I don’t mind community service, but I want to feel like what I’m doing is important when I do it. While serving dinner at the Youth Center, I didn’t feel like I was really needed? In fact, I felt like I was more of an inconvenience than anything – like they had to find something for me to do since I was there, not because they really needed me to do it. That was my issue with 급식 2.

Third, we had Cultural Experience Week. Here, we are supposed to have one cultural activity per month. So far, as I’ve already written about and posted, we have gone to Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seodaemun Prison, and Andong. January, we didn’t have a cultural activity, but that’s because after our final presentation of our Cultural Explorer’s Project, we would have an entire week of cultural activities.

To kick off the week, we had 점심 (jeom-sim – lunch) with the Better World staff. While Better World implements NSLI-Y here in Korea, Better World does other things as well. In reality, only a few people at Better World directly work with us NSLI-Y students, so in reality, most of us don’t know the majority of the Better World staff.

So, in order for us to meet more of the Better World staff and practice our Korean, we each got paired with a staff member and had lunch with them. The person I was paired with and the person Liam was paired with decided we should all get lunch together, so I ended up having lunch with Liam and his paired staff member as well as mine.

We ate 곱창 (gop-chang), which is the small intestines of either pig or cattle. I’m not sure which one we ended up eating, but it was delicious nonetheless, and I’m sure a lot of you are probably thinking, “that sounds disgusting!”

Eh. Like I’ve said before, I’ll eat about anything. I mean, compared to 번데기 (beon-de-gi – silkworm pupae?), I think 곱창 is pretty tame. I will just leave it at this, if you don’t like chewy textures, it isn’t for you.

But you know, now that I think about it, a lot of Korean foods wouldn’t be for you then.

In addition to the 곱창, we also had either 해장국 or 선지국 (I think???)… um…

Either way, there was congealed blood in it, so there was that.

Once again, I’m going to stress that it was pretty good. I mean, it didn’t make in into my ‘favorite foods of all time’ list, but it was good.

Next on the list is our trip to the 한반도 비무장 지대, or as most of you probably know it as, the DMZ.

Our trip to the DMZ occurred on quite the foggy day, so we couldn’t actually see that far into North Korea sadly. However, we didn’t let that deter us and still enjoyed the trip immensely. On the way to the DMZ, our tour guide was informing us of the current situation and history regarding North Korea.

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Everybody, smile at the DMZ!

For instance, here’s some of the information that particularly stood out to me, and let me apologize in advance if some of it is wrong because keep in mind this occurred in February, and it is currently April 8th.

Okay, so apparently there was this competition between South and North Korea back in the 80s about who could have the tallest flagpole? Yeah. I know. It already sounds childish. But anyways, South Korea built this super tall flagpole, and North Korea responded by building an even taller flagpole, which actually held the title of the tallest flagpole in the world for like a decade or so?

And the other thing that really stood out to me was this this:

So, one thing that North Korea does is lie to its people, and one of its most well known lies is that it tries to convince its people that South Korea is poorer and not as good as North Korea to deter them from wanting to leave. In order to disprove this lie, South Korea blasted K-pop from a tower for North Koreans, which I thought was pretty funny because out of all the things South Korea could’ve done, they blasted K-pop, and I love knowing that now.

First at the DMZ was Freedom Bridge in 임지각, which connects South and North Korea across the 임진강 (Imjin River), which separates the two countries. It is called Freedom Bridge or the Bridge of Freedom because its sole purpose was to trade prisoners of war at the end of the war.

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This was near Freedom Bridge.

At the DMZ, we visited Dora Station. I know I’ve already bragged about Seoul’s subway system – it’s amazing. Dora Station is practically a mock train station that one day hopes to actually be able to transfer people from South Korea to North Korea. There is a completed train line that actually goes to Pyeongyang, but it has never been used. In addition to Dora Station, we went to Dora Observatory, where we could’ve gotten the best view into North Korea, but alas, fog always has to strike at the most inconvenient times.

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It was very windy and very foggy, so please excuse my hair tragedy.

And finally, the most interesting and my favorite part from that day was the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel. The infiltration tunnels are exactly what they sound like – infiltration tunnels. After the armistice that paused the Korean War, South Korea discovered infiltration tunnels heading toward Seoul from North Korea. North Korea has denied all these accusations, instead claiming they were coal mining tunnels and even planted evidence to help support this alibi, but we all know the truth. Either way, if I remember correctly, four infiltration tunnels have been discovered, but who knows how many more there are?

The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel is the closest to Seoul of the four discovered, and at the end of the tunnel is North Korea. Of course, they don’t let you walk to the end of the tunnel. South Korea had installed three concrete barricades in the tunnel, a little bit before the North Korean border, and you can’t go past them obviously. In addition to the barbed wire surrounding the first concrete barrier, there is a small rectangular hole that lets you peek to the second concrete barrier. At these concrete barriers, this is said to be the closest you can get to North Korea without going on a tour at the JSA, where you can technically step into North Korea in one of the blue buildings. Of course, I’d really like to do that, but perhaps when I return to South Korea. On the NSLI-Y program, I have too many restrictions that would complicate that.

And here is the quirkiest part. The DMZ is considered perhaps the tensest place on Earth currently, yet, not even the tensest place on Earth can escape capitalism, and by capitalism I mean that there were gift shops at the DMZ along with a Popeyes????? I’m not kidding. Did I happen to support South Korea’s economy by buying something from the gift shops  there?

Yes.

Moving on!

Next, we had a 김밥 cooking class. 김밥 (kimbap) is the Korean equivalent of sushi, and as for its relevance in culture, I would compare it to a sandwich in American culture. You can buy them almost anywhere here, and it’s quick and clean to eat. I’d like to think I’m DECENT at cooking. Like, I’m not horrible, but I never cook, so I don’t really have any experience.

For those of you who do know me well though, you know that I bake, and “bake” might be putting it lightly. I obsessively bake, so I think that helped me during the class, but compared to others’ 김밥, mine was middle of the road.

It tasted better than any other 김밥 I’ve had since I’ve gotten here, and that’s not just me bragging about my cooking skills. There’s an actual reason why. You see, here, 김밥 is typically made with this sweet, pickled radish thing called 단무지 (dan muji), and I HATE it. Bleh. So, as I was the one making the 김밥, I opted out to add the 단무지, and another thing is that Korean food typically isn’t very salty, and coming from America, I love salt, so… I might’ve added a little extra.

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I miss baking so much.

But moving on from Americanizing my 김밥, after the class, we had a 장구 (janggu) class. 장구 is the Korean traditional hourglass-shaped drum.

I.

Cannot.

Play.

Drums.

It was fun, and let’s just leave it at that.

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You know how in yearbooks they always make up captions to fit the situation? I’ll do that here. “Here, McKenzie is paying extreme attention to the drum class and TOTALLY understands what is happening.”

And now we can move onto part four, which is life in general. First, my birthday was back in February, and I officially became an “adult” in Korea, yet that comes with no benefits really. It was a lonely birthday; I won’t lie, yet I guess that was sort of my fault. I didn’t tell anybody about my birthday because I didn’t want attention drawn to it. All I really wanted was the same small, family birthday party I have had for my birthday every year since I was a child without fail. However, clearly, that was not possible. It’s okay though because I have all the holidays planned for when I get back.

In addition to my birthday, I also celebrate something we call “Gotcha Day.” If you don’t already know, I was adopted from China when I was a baby, and that is what Gotcha Day celebrates. Typically for that day, we go out and eat Chinese-American food, and sadly, I didn’t get to do that either, but it is okay because like I said, I will celebrate it when I get home.

Next, since I haven’t updated since December, that means I will have taken three end of month tests since then, and if you must know, I still hate tests, and there’s really nothing to report on there. I am scoring consistently on all sections of my test, so it might seem as though I am not improving, but keep in mind that even though I am getting about the same score on my test each month, the tests are getting harder each month, so I take that in stride.

But the end of month tests are nothing new. What IS new is the OPIc test I took this March. So, OPI stands for Oral Proficiency Interview, and it is typically a phone call conducted by a real person and simulates a conversation, but an OPI costs A LOT. I had to take one before I came to Korea, and I will take one when I return back to the US. The OPIc stands for Oral Proficiency Interview by Computer, and it’s cheaper because instead of it being a real conversation, you are just asked a question and recorded, and the recordings are sent to someone to evaluate. The OPIc took up a Saturday of mine, and it wasn’t worth it. I just believe the end of month tests that have a reading, writing, and speaking components are a better evaluation of what we’ve learned overall.

Another thing that has actually become a pretty big part of my life here in South Korea is SMTOWN. So, I can’t remember if I’ve already mentioned SMTOWN before, but as a quick recap, SMTOWN is SM Entertainment’s genius creation for their fans. I had been before (I actually went within my first month or so here), but I really took advantage of winter break and went an unhealthy amount of times. In fact, one of my favorite conversations about this went something like this:

“Yeah. I went to SMTOWN twice this weekend.”
“But McKenzie, there are only two days in the weekend.”
“Exactly. Do you get it?”

Yep. I did that.

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My happy place in Seoul.

What did I do there? Well, as much as I would love to go just for the gift shop everyday, I am not able to do that. In fact, I actually went because SMTOWN has a theater on its fifth floor, and the theater shows SM artists’ previously recorded concerts.

Listen, if I can’t actually see EXO in concert, SMTOWN Theatre is the next best thing, which along the same notes, I’ve seen 4/5 EXO concerts SMTOWN shows, and I plan on seeing the last one too, but with each passing day I check SMTOWN’ Theatre’s schedule and don’t see it, I think they probably discontinued it. I sure hope not.

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This. This wasn’t just a concert movie. It was ART.

In addition to EXO’s concert movies, I also want to see SHINee’s and SUPER JUNIOR’s! Speaking of which, let me get off topic a little bit here.

As many of you probably are not aware of, South Korea has mandatory military conscription for all its males for around two years depending on which branch you serve in. Well, SUPER JUNIOR is old for a K-pop group, and like when I say old, I mean that the oldest member is 35 and the youngest is 31. Due to military enlistment, SUPER JUNIOR hasn’t been whole since 2010, but finally, FINALLY, this May, Kyuhyun (my favorite member) will finish his requirement, and all the SUPER JUNIOR members will have completed theirs, thus marking it the first time in almost a decade that SUJU will be reunited.

While that is joyous news, when SUJU is finishing up their military service, a lot of groups are now just starting to send their members (ie SHINee, VIXX, etc.), so it is a double edged sword.

Next, my new host family. So, let me clear up some confusion before you all get worried. It is normal on the NSLI-Y Korean Academic Year program to switch host families; in fact, it is rarer to stay with one host family the entire year. The program is broken into three semesters: fall, winter, and spring. Between each semester, we have a new semester orientation, and during these orientations we switch host families if applicable.

There are many reasons why you might switch host families. You might not get along so well with your current host family and would like to switch. Host families only sign up for a semester at a time, and your host family might have other obligations that would prevent them from being able to continue hosting the next semester.

For me, it was the latter (although I didn’t really get along that well with my last host family either) that pushed me to move. So, at the end of February, I switched host families. With my last host family, I lived in Hongdae in Seoul, which was extremely convenient as it was located close to almost anything I needed.

Now?

I live in Hanam, which is a satellite city of Seoul, so, I don’t even live in Seoul anymore really. I went from being able to walk almost anywhere to having to take a bus just to get to the subway station, which from there, I still have to ride to get anywhere in Seoul. Not exactly my favorite situation, but I love my new host family and their apartment, so the distance can be ignored.

Last but not least is college/university. So, very recently, I announced some very exciting news about my future plans for when I return back home.

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You might’ve seen this in another post of mine. 😉

 

Yes, I will be attending the University of Pennsylvania (also referred to as Penn or UPenn) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this fall as part of their class of 2023. It is official. I already committed and submitted my deposit.

The University of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest universities, if not the oldest, in the United States (please refer to this link for more clarification on the debate – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_university_in_the_United_States#Claimants_and_potential_claimants). It was founded by Benjamin Franklin (yes, THE Benjamin Franklin) and is part of the Ivy League. It is often confused with Pennsylvania State University for obvious reasons.

No, I had not intended to attend UPenn before NSLI-Y. In fact, if you check my post when I announced my NSLI-Y acceptance, I planned on attending the University of Georgia when I returned, but things have changed.

My senior year, I will admit that I didn’t take college seriously. I barely put any work into my college applications, and I didn’t do much research about different possible universities. I was so focused on NSLI-Y, and I hate to think about what would’ve happened had I not gotten NSLI-Y and didn’t realize the possible consequences of my laziness.

It was over the summer as I was preparing for NSLI-Y that I realized that I had been given a second opportunity – another chance at the college application cycle. While having been accepted to UGA and having deferred my accepted until the next year, I was not committed or binded anywhere. I had the freedom to go anywhere I wanted, and take advantage of my second chance I did. If I hadn’t been accepted into UPenn, I probably would’ve attended Georgia Tech.

Please don’t ask me what I plan on majoring in – I don’t know. Oh goodness do I not know. International relations? Economics? English? Earth science? Yes, I am considering all of those and many others, so I think I’ll just see where my first year takes me and go from there.

In fact, college applications was one of the reasons my first few months here were so stressful because I was juggling writing essays that I hoped would be good enough to get me into schools like the Ivies or Duke while also trying to deal with culture shock.

It’s surreal really. While scrolling through the 400+ GB of memories I’ve taken since I’ve gotten here (I’m not exaggerating) to find pictures to put on this blog post, I realized that having not updated since December, I went through almost the entire college process before updating again.

I applied in December, underwent interviews (via FaceTime and Google Duo despite very inconvenient timezone differences) in January and February, played the waiting game while submitting every government mandated document known to mankind for financial aid during March, and read (and subsequently cried) all my college application statuses (the majority being rejection letters) that I received, and that brings us to where we are now.

It’s been crazy. So much has happened within the span of three-ish months, and it’s hard to believe that NSLI-Y is almost over , and I will soon be closing this chapter of my life and moving onto the next phase. Before I know it, I will be moving into a dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania this August and embarking on my first year of college at one of the top universities of the world.

I sometimes feel like there’s so much, and there’s no possible way I can get it all done, but I have managed so far, so let’s hope for the best, shall we?

Well, I guess that is it for this post. I didn’t include some very important information from March, so that’ll be my next post. Please look forward to it!

Until next time.

20181223 – I’m Not Dead, Just ̶L̶a̶z̶y̶ Busy

 

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This one’s kinda dark, but the mountains are beautiful…
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This one is brighter, but I like the mountains better…

Quick question before we get into things: which picture do you like more out of the two above? The first or the second? I can’t decide, and I would like to put one of them as the featured image for this post, but since I can’t decide, I’ll probably put neither. Drop your opinions below!

But back to the post!

HIYA!

It certainly has been awhile, hasn’t it? As you can probably guess, I’m super tired, but it’s not the tired of, “go take a nap;” you know? I think I’m just mentally exhausted, but that is actually about right I think – the mental state I should be in right now. I know that if I were in college right now (as I technically should be), I would’ve been where the rest of my graduating class was, cramming for finals like there’s no tomorrow.

Which reminds me. To all my fellow college/university students out there that are about to take their finals…

화이팅!

파이팅!

할 수 있어!

Although, I doubt many people my age read my blog, so take it as you will.

I’m trying to think of what has happened since my last post. It’s been so long… Let’s see. In order of what I will discuss, I think there was 빼빼로데이 (Peppero Day), 추수감사절 (Thanksgiving), 안동시 – 안동하회마을 and 도산서원 (Hahoe Village and Dosan Seowon), my end of monthly test, 선정관광고등학교 (Sunjung Tourism High School), and December’s cultural activity!

First, 빼뺴로 데이, which literally translates to Peppero Day. It’s always November 11th, aka 11.11, because it looks like 빼빼로 sticks. Peppero is this biscuit dipped in a variety of coatings, with flavors from chocolate to white cookie and to cafe latte and so on. They are very delicious and addictive. They are like popcorn. You can just keep snacking on them without realizing it… those are the most dangerous types of snacks.

If you know what Pocky is, it’s basically the same thing, just the Korean equivalent. 빼빼로 데이 was on a Sunday this year, and while I would typically have that day off and be resting, I unusually had Korean class that day (because we had to makeup a class that was cancelled). I’d never celebrate 빼빼로 데이 alone, but seeing as my class was getting together that day, let’s just say that over ten boxes of 빼빼로/Pocky were consumed that day…

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Okay, so while it was technically Peppero Day, a few boxes of Pocky slipped their way in. They’re basically the same thing. I assume November 11th is Pocky Day in Japan honestly.

As if that wasn’t unhealthy enough, we also had to have Korean class at a different location than usual because our usual building is closed on Sundays. And at this new place, they had a little break area with free drinks…

Me alone, about seven cups of mango juice and green grape juice were downed… plus all the Peppero… I felt like I was dying if I’m being honest.

But the day was very fun overall. I love my Korean class – the beginners’ class – and especially our Korean teacher. She is one of my favorite teachers that I’ve ever had, and that’s pretty impressive honestly considering I only understand like 15% of what she says during class (and that’s on a good day). Plus, she has some stiff competition. Shoutout to all my teachers back in Union County! Amazingly, I miss American high school…

I mean, from my salutatorian speech, I knew I would, but I didn’t think it’d happen this soon. I suspect though that if I was at university in America right now, it wouldn’t have happened so soon. It’s the culture shock I’m telling you.

Next! 추수감사절! Thanksgiving!

So, as it is now December, it is official. I missed my first Thanksgiving at home, and that makes me super sad just even just thinking that, and it’s been WEEKS.

But anyways, if you are friends with me on Facebook, you already know this, but us NSLI-Yians celebrated Thanksgiving all the way over here in South Korea. How?

AMERICAN STYLE.

With REAL, AMERICAN food.

You know it.

Turkey. Dressing. Cranberry sauce. Green beans. Mashed potatoes. Gravy. Rolls. Pumpkin pie. Apple pie. Pecan pie (in tartlet form).

And not American, but there was also mini egg tarts as well. Most of you have probably never had egg tarts, but I like them, and when I get back, I can make them for people who have never tried them.

Anyways, back to Thanksgiving. So, we celebrated with a Thanksgiving dinner, but it was more than just that. Each NSLI-Y student was able to invite a classmate from their high school, so they could experience American Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

And while food is great and all, we can’t forget the real reason for Thanksgiving – giving thanks.

And never have I realized how thankful I should be/am toward my family back home.

Personally, I like to think I’ve always been a good child. I realized the amazing life I had been given thanks to my amazing parents adopting me from China. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am, and I’ve always known that and never taken that for granted.

However, I overestimated myself. I knew I’d get homesick, but I never could’ve predicted just how homesick I really would be.

I miss my house, Blairsville, my dogs, and everything. Of course I do, but what I miss the most is being able to talk to my mom and family and friends all the time.

As many of you who know my mom, I’m sure you can all agree that she is an AMAZING woman. So happy, nice, kind, giving, and any other positive attribute you can think of, she probably is (she got it from my grandmother, who I could also go on about, but I’ll just say she is just the same).

And while I am still able to communicate with her while I’m here, a 14 hour time difference makes it hard. It means the hours we are awake line up horribly, and if we ever talk, it is always cut short and rushed, but I cherish the short, brief chats we have. She still makes the effort to always be there for me, even thousands miles apart, getting up early to talk or staying up late.

Could I ask for a better mother? Nobody could or will replace her. In fact, as I write this, I’m looking at this small plastic pumpkin she sent me, to give me a piece of home this past fall.

Literally, I couldn’t ask for more.

If you take anything from my rambling, it should be this: appreciate your family. Even if you do, appreciate them more because you don’t know how important family really is.

So this Thanksgiving, while I am thankful for many things – this NSLI-Y scholarship, my best friends (who put up with me somehow), a supportive staff, a kind host family – I am most thankful for my family.

To them (because I know they will read this), I just want you guys to know that I miss you more than you can ever know, and I can’t wait to see you at Hartsfield Jackson when I get back. I believe the biggest hug will be in order!

But now moving on from that (I need to stop or else I’ll start crying), it’s 안동시 (Andong)!

In 안동시, we visited 안동하회마을 (Hahoe Village) and 도산서원 (Dosan Seowon). We visited 안동시 to learn about Confucianism. Why? Well, Confucianism is one of the biggest – if not the biggest – influences on Korea. I didn’t realize this until somebody else on the program mentioned it, but out of the “Big Three Asian Countries (China, Japan, and Korea),” Korea is the most influenced by Confucianism.

And it is at this point that some of you (if you know at least) will say, “but Confucianism originated in China!”

True. But then again, didn’t a lot of things? Lol.

No but seriously, all these three Asian countries have been influenced by Confuciansim, but China is most influenced by Taoism or Daoism while Japan is Shinto. You can see Confucianism’s influence in Korea everyday solely because of the Korean language with its honorific system, but I won’t get too deep into that. It’s hard to explain. Anyways, that is the reason we went to 안동시.

First is 안동하회마을. 안동하회마을 (Hahoe Village) is a traditional village from the Joseon Dynasty of Korea and is even recognized as a World Heritage site by South Korea’s government and UNESCO.

Lunch was right after we arrived. For lunch? Mackerel. I love seafood. However, I will admit I would’ve preferred to have the fish de-boned before hand, not because I find it disgusting or anything but because I’m too lazy to have to pick out the microscopic bones myself.

The fish was delicious. However, the eyeball was just okay. Flavor was fine, but the texture was not my favorite. I expected it to be kinda (fair warning, this might be too gross for some of you, so feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph) like a grape if I’m honest. You know, for it to “pop” or “burst,” and I guess that might be true it it was raw, but the cooked eyeball was surprisingly hard and kinda chalky. Not my favorite.

Yes, you read that right. I ate the eyeball. Honestly, I don’t think I’m scared to try any food. Put it in front of me, and I’ll try it.

Mackerel album (please don’t look if you are easily grossed out): https://photos.app.goo.gl/TMV8g16YAxpJZphz5

To really start off November’s cultural activity, we watched 탈춤 (Korean traditional mask dance). Before watching the performance, we were handed a paper with information about the performance, but I’ll admit, even going into the performance knowing what it was about beforehand, I still felt lost and shocked at points. Definitely different than what would’ve happened back home.

I’m still being surprised everyday about the cultural differences, both old and modern, between America and Korea. By no means am I saying one is better than the other. No. Definitely no.

If anything, it makes me realize just how narrow minded, isolated we all really are and will always be. I say this because even if I become so adverse with Korean culture (unlikely), there are thousands, millions, of other cultures I will not be adverse with and could never hope to ever accomplish.

 

 

 

A video from part of the performance: https://photos.app.goo.gl/5xY7m4TSh7CurPb47

한옥 (hanok) are traditional Korean houses, and they are in abundance in 안동하회마을. The coolest part about 안동하회마을 though? Is that people still live in these 한옥, and you can even buy 한옥 there if you wanted to live there! So, it is out of the goodness of their hearts and the generosity of the residents of 안동하회마을 that we (tourists) are allowed to walk into their yards, take pictures, and look into some of their houses.

 

 

 

Here are some more pictures and a video of me floundering swinging on a really giant swing there: https://photos.app.goo.gl/wAwNGGm1m8Xz3LAb7

After that, we went to a Mask Museum, where it displayed masks from all over the world, even Halloween masks!

Link for the masks here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/C2rA5SQvupNxerc48

And finally it was time for dinner! The place? Same restaurant we ate at earlier for mackerel. The menu this time though? 닭찜 – braised chicken with vegetables.

Check out the food pics from dinner here! And pay close attention to the giant pile of chicken bones. Yes, those were just from what I ate. What can I say? I love chicken?: https://photos.app.goo.gl/5C682vEe7zQNYUB19

After eating dinner, we moved to out accommodation for the night, and what more appropriate than spending the night in an actual 한옥?

한옥 traditionally have 온돌 (heated floors), and the tradition even survives today as most modern Korean homes still have heated floors! That’s why Koreans don’t mind sitting or sleeping on the floor! In fact, some actually prefer it!

All I’ll just say is that I have never felt warmer than I had sleeping on that 온돌 since coming to Korea.

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Our crib for the night.

And here’s more pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/u9X3w7Yi6phQYtdS8

Then before we knew it, it was the next day! And what did the next day have in store for us? It was 도산서원 (Dosan Seowon), mainly for Dosan Confucian Academy. Gee. I wonder how that connects to Confucianism. Ha.

However, as I have a horrible memory for anything of importance, please refer to this link to learn more about this place: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264141

But what I lack in ability to remember things, I make up for in pictures!

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Pretty much what you see right after you enter.

Please enjoy some more pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/VxCAjoADxjL1B96QA

And finally, it was time to go home, and thus concludes November’s cultural excursion.

But this blog post is nowhere near done!

Because I am the worst and literally have not updated in forever and need to catch you all up on what has been happening! So what’s next?

Oh. Well I put my end of month test, but honestly, I don’t really have much to say about that. I mean, my score stayed basically the same? I mean, I guess that’s good. Consistency. I won’t release my ACTUAL scores because I never did before and won’t start now. Honestly, I’ll admit. If I had gotten the scores I’ve been getting here on tests back home, I wouldn’t be content, but here, I am not upset over them. Why? I guess it’s because I know I’m a beginner and have a lot to learn. I’m strangely at peace with my lower than satisfactory (at least by my standards back home) scores here. I will say this though, I am improving, and to me, that is all that matters.

Moving on!

(Wow, what a great transition…)

(I’ll let you in on a little secret. Obviously, I can’t Korean since I am a beginner, but since I’ve been here, I can no longer English as well! Lol. It’s pretty horrible actually.)

The next big thing we did was visit 선정관광고등학교 (Sunjung Tourism High School). What is a “Tourism High School” you may ask? I don’t blame you. I didn’t know either until I got there. Basically, it is a high school focused on training its students to enter jobs that have to do with “tourism.” For example, where Daewon is a specialized foreign languages high school with an English department, French department, Chinese department, and etc., Sunjung has a department specifically for students who want to be flight attendants, a department for students who want to work in the hotel business, and etc.

The purpose of our trip there was a “Youth Exchange Event,” which is where we did presentations and an ice-breaking activity, ate lunch, and visited 은평역사한옥박물관 (a museum about 한옥) together.

Before the actual day, we had formed groups amongst ourselves and made presentations about American holidays, “A-pop” (aka, K-pop but American), and American school life. In return, they made presentations about Korean superstitions, spicy Korean food, and K-pop! (I may or may not have totally embarrassed myself during the K-pop presentation by yelling out the answer to a question WAY too enthusiastically… whoops?)

We were paired in groups that we stayed with the entire time. After the scheduled activities ended, we were free to do whatever we wanted, but of course, we all wanted to hang out with our new friends some more, so that’s exactly what we did!

Liam and I went out with our group and had some 빙수 (Korean shaved ice) and just walked around awhile and talked. It was great Korean speaking practice!

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Our totally awesome group at the 한옥 museum!

As expected, more pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/hGdeFm2Kd7Rf1bvT8

And now we have finally arrived at our last momentous activity since my last blog post update, December’s cultural activity! I don’t even know what to say though… it was our shortest cultural activity, and we didn’t get much information about it prior.

We went to a performance, about an hour and a half long, and watched/listened to some traditional Korean folk music. I am sad to inform you all that I don’t even know the place we went to watch the performance. I did have a program from the performance that I probably could look up the name on, but I had to throw it away after a mishap with my water bottle in my backpack…

Also, there was no photography allowed during the performance except at the very end, so I don’t have as much to show for this cultural excursion. Sorry.

I will admit, the music wasn’t really my taste. Nothing wrong with it, but I don’t think it was my style. I think I might’ve fallen asleep at one point during the performance…

But after it was over, we went out to celebrate Liam’s birthday after our schedule ended, so that was fun!

So, not much material from that day, but here’s what I did get: https://photos.app.goo.gl/mroxwffUjkaM9KUd7

And I guess that’s what’s happened since I last updated. A lot, huh? I’d say.

Christmas is in two days, and it doesn’t really feel like Christmas here, but there’s nothing I can do about that. While we all have our favorite Christmas songs, please let me share mine with you all…

Fair warning, I’m not much of a fan of Mariah Carey.

I know. Shoot me.

#sorrynotsorry

All my favorite Christmas songs usually are the classics along with the songs from the movies I always watched during and now associate with Christmas. So, here are a few to help you get into the Christmas spirit (and if you want to know the real reason, moreso to really help me get into the Christmas spirit…)!

And last but not least, my absolute, FAVORITE, Christmas movie and song…

Ah. The classics.

Here’s another secret: I haven’t seen a lot of Christmas movies besides stop-motion ones and similar ones. For example, Elf? Never seen. Idk, I guess I’m not much of a comedy person.

And on that note, I guess it’s time to end this blog post. Consider this my Christmas gift, and I’m going to go ahead and apologize in advance because I will probably be MIA (for those of you who don’t know, MIA means “missing in action”) for awhile again, but I am determined to keep this blog going for the entirety of my time here and not abandon it, so be rest assured I will update eventually even if it doesn’t seem like it!

To everybody back home, I miss you all terribly and can’t wait to see you all again! If you ever want to send me a card, it’s possible! All you need is just ask! And it can be for anything! My birthday, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day, your dog’s birthday, anything! I’m not picky, lol.

And seeing how it is currently 3:05 AM, I should probably wrap this up soon…

I wish you all a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

See you all soon!

OH! And I almost forgot to mention, today (or I guess yesterday now…) is/was a very special day! “What day was it?” you may ask. Well, ask, and you shall receive!

As many of you know, I passed my three month mark a little while ago, but yesterday was my 100th day since I left home!

I know! I can’t believe it either! I almost kinda want to wear one of those tacky, cheap, Gildan shirts you can buy in the craft section of Walmart with 100 of those puff-ball things hot-glued to it to celebrate 100 days like I did back in primary school!

But anyways, just thought I’d let you all know!

Time is flying by!

Until next time!

20181103 – Winter Is Rapidly Approaching And I Am Not Ready

Well, did you guys miss me? I certainly missed all of you. It’s been quite awhile since my last post, hasn’t it? I can’t even remember which one was my last post. Was it the palace? And my K-pop dream come to life? I think so. Wow, that does seem like forever ago.

As I write this, it is currently 16:39 on a Saturday afternoon in a dead silent house. I have no idea where two of my host sisters are… whoops? But one of my host sisters, my host mom, and my host father are currently 낮잠을 자요, and honestly, I would be doing the same thing if I was back home and if I hadn’t slept in til 12:00 today. So, only being awake for less than five hours, I’m not that tired yet.

As a result, the house is dead silent, and I decided to write this post as it will probably be the only time I have to write one for awhile. Why do I all of a sudden have time to write another blog post? Well, it’s because October has passed, and November is here!

However, that probably doesn’t explain much, so I will explain. At the end of every month, I have a big 한국어 시험 that has 읽기, 쓰기, and 말하기 components. It incorporates everything we have learned up until that point. So, there I am, studying like crazy. In addition to that, don’t forget that I attend Korean high school as well, which by no means is difficult, but with a commute of about an hour every morning for a school that starts at 7:50 am, you can imagine that I have to get up quite early. Combined with 한국어 수업 and 한국어 숙제, I find myself wanting to sleep at all moments of the day, but hey, I’m improving.

So, as it is currently November 3rd, it means I just took my big 한국어 시험 and have this weekend free! And 저는 쉬고 싶어요.

Let me reminisce over what has happened since my last post…

Ah yes. Now I remember. So, every month, the NSLI-Y cohort has a cultural activity to help teach us about Korean history as on a daily basis, we mainly focus on language and modern societal norms. So, September’s was 경복궁, and this month’s was Seodaemun Prison.

Seodaemun Prison was a prison used by the Japanese during Japanese Colonization of Korea. I don’t know exactly all the details behind the prison, but I gave you all the name in English if you want to research it more in-depth. 🙂 You are welcome. Be warned, the history is sad. Not surprising though considering it was a prison.

Unlike 경복궁, while I had came prepared to take a ton of pictures at Seodaemun Prison, I didn’t actually take as many as I had expected I would, and this is due to many different factors.

1) It was absolutely freezing, and I am not kidding when I said I didn’t want to have to take my hands out of my pockets to take pictures.

2) The time we had at the prison was short, and unlike 경복궁, I couldn’t go back alone afterwards (you’ll see why later in this post).

3) It didn’t feel right.

And it’s the third point I want to elaborate on more.

It didn’t feel right because when in a place like that, a place that represents so much sadness, tragedy, and cruelty, it doesn’t feel right to walk around like an absolute tourist and take pictures of everything.

I won’t say I didn’t take any pictures. I did. In fact, I did take quite a bit, but unlike the museums prior, I didn’t take a picture of everything, and I didn’t take a picture of the same thing multiple times to make sure I got the right angle.

Like when we toured the execution building, I took a picture of the outside of the building and the entrance. Didn’t take a picture of the inside though. Like I said, it didn’t feel right to play the tourist, and I think there are many places that are similar.

But enough of that. I will post a few pictures from the Seodaemun Prison that I did take.

Okay, the last photo I actually want to talk about more. When we have these cultural activities, we aren’t just wondering around like idiots. We have our RD (resident director) with us, and she tells us information and the history behind these places while we are there.

So, before going into the execution building, she told us to notice the door/entrance to the execution building and then compare it to the door on the way out of the building. While I don’t have a picture of the door leading out (I might actually, but I can’t find it at the moment), the main difference was that it was smaller – much smaller.

Why?

My RD’s words in summary, “It’s because going in, you had more people. You had the prisoner with a guard on each side, so the door is wider. Leaving, you didn’t need the door to be as wide because guards weren’t needed when they left the execution building.”

An obvious observation definitely but not one most would have thought of, but I think that accurately describes the type of vibe the prison gave me while I was there.

But moving away from Seodaemun Prison, we then proceeded to have lunch, and lunch was 돌솥 비빔밥, a personal 한국 음식 favorite of mother’s and my sister’s actually. 비빔밥 is “Korean mixed rice.” It has rice, multiple vegetables, meat, egg yolk, and a sauce, and then you mix it all together. So, initially the presentation is gorgeous. Afterwards… not so much.

돌솥 is a stone bowl which can be heated up to extreme temperatures (and will totally burn you if you touch it too early). 비빔밥 isn’t always served hot. It can come in a plain metal bowl in a market, but 돌솥 비빔밥 is served hot.

And after a FREEZING day outside touring the prison, it was greatly appreciated.

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THE COLORS. Also, not necessarily a big fan of runny egg yolks (or yolks in general), but I didn’t mind it in the 돌솥 비빔밥.

So, all of this was over with by 1:00 pm or so. Yay! I could go home and warm up!

Wrong.

I had volunteered to help at this Halloween festival thing afterwards. We thought it was going to be indoors.

It wasn’t.

And thus, cue me dying of the cold for the next however many hours. However, we did get our makeup done, and it was pretty legit. Check it.

I washed it all off in the subway bathroom before I went home. I didn’t feel like being stared at on the subway or being bombarded with questions when I went home.

And that was like the only thing I did to celebrate Halloween, and I’m not going to lie. That makes me really sad. Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays despite me being the absolute biggest wimp in the history of the entire world when it comes to scary stuff, and the fact that it has come and passed already with barely any acknowledgement from me makes me very sad.

I had school on the day of Halloween, and the only Halloween that day was some students (probably like the student council or something) handing out some candy and snacks at the entrance to the school that morning. That was it. Nothing else. Oh well. It’s fine. I’ll just celebrate twice as hard next year.

But guys. When Thanksgiving hits, then that’s really when sad times will hit. No Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade? I can’t watch the National Dog Show? I’m literally making myself sad writing those two sentences, so I’ll stop.

Let’s see… anything else?

I didn’t go to school this past Thursday (November 1st) because I had to register for an alien registration card. In essence, with my Visa, I can stay here for six months, and that’s good and all except for the fact that I’m staying here for nine months, so thus, the alien registration card is needed.

The office where we had to get the registration cards made me have immediate flashbacks to the DDS. However, registering was quick and efficient surprisingly. I won’t lie though. Unlike most people, my experience with the DDS has always been relatively good and fast. However, I probably just jinxed myself by saying that. Great.

And I also got my Chinese varsity jacket for Daewon yesterday!

As Daewon is a foreign language high school, each student is part of a language department, and each year, the 1년 design a varsity jacket for their class. I chose Chinese, and this isn’t opinion. It is fact. The 1년 Chinese department’s varsity jackets are the best of all the 1년’s. Even the other NSLI-Y students agree. It’s just because the design is so much more intricate and bolder than the other jackets.

And I guess that really concludes all the big things that have happened since my last post. Yes, there are a lot of things that I didn’t include. Why? Because I’m tired and don’t want to write about them, but I will give you quick summaries.

My Florida presentation went great by the way. Didn’t turn anything in for it, just gave it. Totally winged it and like wrote the actual speech like 30 mins before giving it.

I’m making a lot of new friends at Daewon. Everybody is really nice.

I joined badminton and got to play last Wednesday and this Wednesday, but as it is getting colder, Daewon is no longer going to do sports because some sports are outside, so I got to enjoy it while it lasted. 😦 Many of you might not know this about me, but badminton is my favorite sport, and I actually genuinely enjoyed playing it. I’m sad it ended.

I’ve almost passed out at my computer from finishing financial aid stuff for college, but I think I have it all under control now.

I have developed an unhealthy addiction to 고구마. Like, I know they are healthy and everything, but I still don’t think I’m supposed to be eating them EVERYDAY. And it’s not even that. I don’t just eat like one a day. Yesterday, I ate FOUR, and as I write this, my total count for today alone is three. However, I cannot be blamed solely for my unnerving consumption of 고구마 when my host mom knows I love them because I’ve told her, and I come home to this waiting for me on the dining table.

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This was yesterday. Just sitting there. Waiting for me.

I swear. I’m going to turn orange, and then my classmates are going to point it out to me because Koreans are very blunt people about appearance. They don’t mean it in an offensive way by any means, but it’s just as Americans, we aren’t used to it and definitely don’t expect it.

Wow. It is super dark right now. I am forgetting how early night comes nowadays. It is almost pitch black in the kitchen where I am sitting and writing this. Guys, we are getting into winter, and I’m not ready.

Speaking of seasons though. I miss the North Georgia Mountain’s fall, but I won’t say that fall isn’t beautiful here either.

And I guess that concludes it guys. What am I gonna do now you might ask? Idk. I might watch YouTube for a bit. Do some picture uploading and backing up. The usual. I feel at peace right now? I feel at peace for the first time in a long time because of all the obligations I’ve had recently, and I want to hold onto that feeling for as long as I can.

Btw, EXO just had their comeback yesterday, and I am LIVING. It definitely was such a nice ending to the end of October. After having froze outside for cultural activities, getting up way too early to go to school, and taking a Korean test that I totally bombed the speaking section of, seeing EXO comeback full swing certainly perked me up. It was like the universe granting me a gift, as if to say, “You’ve had a tough month. Here’s something to make it better. EXO.”

And make me better it did indeed.

Check it out if you’d like.

 

Okay. It is currently 18:25, and I would like to stop writing now.

Until next time!

20181014 – Exploring Alone: Pathetic or Liberating?

Why hello there.

I currently write this at 15:04 while finally getting around to listening to NCT 127’s Regular-Irregular album. If any of you care, it’s pretty great so far.

Honestly, I’d prefer nothing more than to take a nap right now, but I have my first full week of school starting tomorrow (first week – there was a holiday and last week – I only had to go on Monday due to a school field trip us NSLI-Yians weren’t allowed to go on), and I’m trying to get my sleep schedule at least sort of okay. Thus, I decided to go ahead and write this blog instead of studying or working on homework.

Lmao. I haven’t even started on that Florida presentation. Then again, I am not really worried about it nor care that much about it. I have no respect for a rubric that tells me to have: an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion anymore.

Anyways, I guess I’ll give you a quick summary of what this post will be about. When I first sat down, I had planned on this post being solely about my day yesterday at 경복궁 , 통인시장, and 국립고궁박물관, but I am feeling particularly in a sharing mood right now, so I will also give you the deets from 20181010 as well, aka my favorite day in Seoul so far.

I know a lot of you who read this blog don’t follow me on Instagram, so many of you probably don’t know what’s coming, but if you do, then just allow me this moment to be my totally-cringey-K-pop-fangirl. I try not to show it often, and I believe I do a good job most of the time, so I think I deserve to rant every once in awhile.

Anyways, this past 수요일 I didn’t have school, and I decided to indulge my K-pop loving self. The itinerary? K-Star Road, K-pop entertainment building hunting, and SMTOWN. I had spent hours the day before planning everything out and looking up directions and maps and so on, and on 수요일, I set off.

First stop was K-Star Road. In essence, K-Star road is a road in 강남 that has these life-size “Gangnamdols” for some of the most legendary or influential K-pop groups. Yes, many of you are probably thinking, “Gangnam? As in Gangnam Style?”

Yes, you are correct. However, 강남 is more than just that song. It is a district in Seoul and not just any district. It’s known as the upscale, designer, wealthy district in Seoul. It’s where all the designer brands have shops and where many businesses decide to make their headquarters. I passed by a Gucci store, Prada store, Burberry store, Omega store, Cartier store, Rolls Royce dealership, and a lot of other brand-name stores while walking K-Star Road.

But back to K-Star Road.

K-Star Road is pretty straight forward. Just keep walking straight along the road after coming out of 압구정 로데오 역 (Apgujeong-Rodeo Station) Exit 2, and you are immediately on K-Star Road. Here are some of my pictures of K-Star Road (in the order you will encounter the Gangnamdols) even though you could probably look up better pictures on Google. Warning: there are many selfies with my signature pose. I took selfies with every Gangnamdol, but I’ll only post the selfies for the groups I stan (that means “am a fan of”).

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This is still in the subway station. You can definitely tell you’re in 강남.
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Let’s go. It was super cold and windy, but I was determined.
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4Minute’s Gangnamdol.
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SUPER JUNIOR’s Gangnamdol.
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Group one of many that I stan.

I just decided to do this. For every group that I stan, I’ll recommend a few songs. I’ll try to give a variety of songs for each group as well as my favorites, only songs with music videos though. If I were to put my favorite B-side tracks, I’d spend way too much time trying to think which songs are my favorite. Also, since I don’t really stan girl groups, don’t expect any.

Also, please excuse the music videos. Some are definitley cringey, but that’s what makes them lovable!

SUPER JUNIOR – SUPER JUNIOR Playlist

If you actually watched any of the music videos on that playlist, give them a break. They’ve been around for so long. Everybody had bad hair back in the day, and this also applies to all the following playlist I’m about to make.

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2PM’s Gangnamdol.
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FT Island’s Gangnamdol.
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SHINee’s Gangnamdol.
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SHINee has the prettiest Gangnamdol, no question.

SHINee – SHINee Playlist

Personally, I think SHINee has one of the most diverse discographies of any K-pop group.

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Miss A’s Gangnamdol.
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CNBLUE’s Gangnamdol.
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TVXQ!’s Gangnamdol.
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Girls’ Generation Gangnamdol.
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EXO’s Gangnamdol.
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I was willing to brave standing in the road for these backside shots.
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One of my favorite groups out of the many I stan.

EXO – EXO Playlist

Okay. I’m not gonna lie. Since EXO is like one of my all time favorite groups, I just put all their Korean MVs on there. Super hype for their comeback in November. It’s one of the thoughts getting me through the hard times I go through here.

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AOA’s Gangnamdol.
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BTS’ Gangnamdol.
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I have way too many photos of this particular Gangnamdol.
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My ultimate bias group.

BTS – BTS Playlist

Once again, like EXO’s, I put all their MVs on here. However, contrary to recent happenings, I stanned BTS before they made it huge in the US. You might’ve heard of them recently. They are kinda a big deal right now.

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B1A4’s Gangnamdol.
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VIXX’s Gangnamdol.
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After SHINee’s, VIXX’s Gangnamdol is definitely my favorite.

VIXX – VIXX Playlist

A totally underappreciated group. Also like SHINee, their music is super diverse. Although, what makes them special are their MVs’ stark contrasts to one another. Known as the “Concept Kings,” they go from vampires, to cyborgs, to angels, and so much more! I’ll put all their Korean MVs as well because there actually isn’t that many, so it won’t be so hard to put together. I didn’t for SHINee and SUPER JUNIOR because since both groups are so old, they have way too many MVs to put, and I’m lazy.

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Infinite’s Gangnamdol.
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KARA’s Gangnamdol.
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Block B’s Gangnamdol.
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The actual “Gangnamdol.”
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If the others were life size, this one was at least five times their size.
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They sell figurines of the Gangnamdols (but only for certain groups, not all the ones represented on K-Star Road). I only bought EXO’s that day, but if you want to contribute to my Gangnamdol collection, hit me up. I still need SHINee’s and SUPER JUNIOR’s. Lmao.

And that ends the spam of K-Star Road, which was only 1/3 of my day…

And I still have to do 경복궁 after this…

This is going to be a long post you guys. But luckily, most of it will be pictures, so that’s good for you all! After all, “a picture speaks a thousands words,” does it not?

Onto pt. 2 of 20181010! Entertainment company building hunting! This will be short though, so don’t worry.

After K-Star Road, I ventured off the main road onto a lot of the small roads and alleys to find these buildings. Not gonna lie. I was SUPER SCARED because with no Internet, I couldn’t just pull up a map to find out where I was. Thus, a lot of preplanning and screenshots of directions the day before, I set off.

However, even though I call it “entertainment building hunting,” only two out of the four I was looking for could qualify as that. Cube Entertainment’s and JYP Entertainment’s headquarters used to be where I visited but have since relocated. SM Entertainment still owned the building I found, but they use it as a “Global Artist Training Center” now. You still have a chance to see your favorite idols there though because they use it to train and practice. FNC Entertainment’s headquarter’s were there though, so I can say I did go to one headquarters building that day. Either way, it was still cool to get to see where these companies used to be headquartered.

Btw, please make sure to actually click on the pictures from now on. Since this post is going to be so long, I’m going to post the remaining pictures in groups. There are captions for some of them, so be sure to click on them!

 

 

 

 

I’m still determined to go to the actual headquarters of SM, BigHit, JYP, Starship, YG, and Stone Music’s headquarters, but those can be other days. Afterall, I am here for nine months.

OH! Before I forget to mention this! The 11th officially marked one month since I left for New York, so I’m 1/9 of the way through! Can you believe it? It feels like it has flown by, maybe because I still haven’t gotten into a routine yet.

Onto the main event of the day, SMTOWN. So, what is SMTOWN? SMTOWN is what I guess you would call a dream for any SM fan (like me). However, it is NOT SM’s headquarters. Moreso, it is combination of five floors: a welcome floor (1F), an SM gift shop (2F), a museum of SM’s artists and history (3F), a cafe/market (4F), and a theatre (5F). For me that day, I only went to two out of the five floors that day. Not because I only cared for two floors but because I only had time for those two floors.

https://www.smtownland.com/

http://english.visitseoul.net/Hallyu/SMTOWN-Coex-Artium_/15904

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=2503837

Having spent the morning at K-Star Road and hunting buildings, I got to SMTOWN in the afternoon. I decided to go to the museum first. Little did I know that I would spend over four hours in there. You know how Google gives you that information like “people usually spend 2 hours here” when you look up places? Yeah, well that may be for normal people, but for me, I apparently take a lot of pictures. I even made a joke with my friend saying that she didn’t even have to go to SMTOWN because I had taken enough photos for her to see everything and read everything that was there. No kidding. For all the SM groups I stan (EXO, NCT, SHINee, and SUPER JUNIOR), I have it all documented. Every picture. Every exhibit. Every plaque. That’s why I had over 2,500+ photos from that day and over 10 GB of new memories to keep forever. I don’t think the employees knew the extent of me asking if it was okay to take pictures and videos. I made sure to get my money’s worth from the museum ticket fee. Here are just a “few” of my favorites from SMTOWN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time I finished the museum, cafe, and market, it had been over four hours, and while I would’ve loved to stay longer, it was 여섯시 삼십분 something, and I had like a 사십오 분 지하철 ride ahead of me, and curfew was 아홉시 반에, so I needed to leave. That means I didn’t get to go to the gift shop or theater. It’s fine though. I’ll just go back one day and do those two floors only because I’m sure I probably can spend all day on those two floors alone, especially if I get to see a recorded concert in the theatre…

EXO in surround view…

YES.

Overall, a very successful day. If you want more pics, trust me; I have more pics.

But while the day was fun, there was an actual positive effect besides making me extremely happy. The overall day gave me a MAJOR confidence boost. Wondering around one of the biggest cities in the world and not getting lost does things to your confidence. It also has made me more careless, which probably isn’t a good thing, but you win some you lose some.

And now let’s move onto 20181014, aka 경복궁. For NSLI-Y, we are supposed to have “cultural activities” every month. September’s was supposed to be 경복궁, the main palace during the Joseon Dynasty. However, due to rain the first time, it was rescheduled. Then, due to a hurricane and its weather, it was rescheduled again. So, third time’s a charm, right?

We got to wear 한복, the traditional Korean dress and take pictures at the palace. We were allowed to choose the tops and bottoms of our 한복, and anybody who knows me knew I just had to choose blue, black, gold, and white. Then, our hair was put in a braid with the traditional adornments. Not gonna lie, I really loved my hair like that. I just wish my hair was longer because I feel like it would’ve looked better if I had had longer hair, but short hair is great. In fact, it was one of the best decisions I made before coming here because it 1) is faster to wash, 2) dries faster, and 3) uses less hair products, which makes shampoo and conditioner last much faster than they would’ve with long hair.

 

Yes, I am very vain.

JK.

I don’t like to think of it as vain. I like to think of it as memories, which is why I got so many photos taken. I probably won’t wear 한복 again, so I had to get as many photos as I could that day.

 

We didn’t spend much time at the palace. In fact, it kinda felt rushed in my opinion. After getting un-한복ed, we went to 통인시장, a traditional Korea market. There, you paid 5,000 원, and in exchange, you got 10 엽전, which are traditional Korean brass coins used way  back in the day. You walked the market with a tray and chose food you wanted and paid with the 엽전. It was definitely something different.

 

For 5,000 원,  you actually got a lot of food if you chose correctly. Most of the foods were 2 엽전, so that means five items. Although multiple stalls were selling the same thing, there was no shortage of variety. The same food usually cost the same at different stalls though, so it was up to you to choose whose looked the best.

 

Here’s what I got:

 

Btw, the 돼지 껍데기 was not my thing, and while I understand that others like it, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. The fried cheese was fine, although I wish it was more melted, and fried foods aren’t really my thing. In my defense, I didn’t know if was going to be fried. I thought it was just cheese on a stick, but when I asked for one, they quickly fried it, and that was that. The 떡복이 was good, but it’s kinda a standard. Haven’t had bad 떡볶이 yet, but none of it has wowed me either. The grilled chicken… I questioned if it was grilled chicken? Idk. Nothing particularly impressed me, and street food really isn’t my thing, but I enjoyed the experience more than the actual food, which makes it all worth it.

However, I am notorious for eating slow. So, I was left at the market when everybody else left, which is fine. I told them to go ahead. We were going to be dismissed after the market anyways; it was the last component of the cultural activity. Before, I would’ve been terrified to be left alone. How would I get back home? We walked kinda far from the subway station we initially came out of, but remember that confidence boost I got from my K-pop day? Yeah. I was still high off it since I was able to find my way back from building hunting without using a map that day, just from memory of how I initially got that, so I felt confident enough to be left alone.

After being left alone, I walked back to the initial exit we came out of and went to Daiso to pick up a few things, including some face masks, and not the kind that re-hydrates your skin. I think I’m getting a bit sick here. Lmao. Send me sugar-free Halls dietary supplement drops please.

Jk. But I will admit to having been popping those like crazy and am almost out.

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Don’t you love my new fashion?

But I decided that I wanted to go back to the palace and take pictures to my heart’s content without feeling rushed, so I did exactly that. Granted, I wasn’t able to go back into the palace without buying a ticket (you get in for free if you wear 한복), so I just got pictures of the outside, but I was happy enough with that alone.

Here are the pictures from before with NSLI-Y, so some of these are inside the palace.

 

And here are the ones I took when I went back by myself.

 

Notice the lack of 한복 and abundance of selfies after I went back alone. I would like to point out that 경복궁 is like in the middle of Seoul, and I just find that so cool – that you can see a skyscraper in the background.

Finally, last but not least, I decided to go to 국립고궁박물관 since we didn’t get to with the group. I guess me and museums just don’t get along? Or I guess you could say we get along too well. Like SMTOWN, I took a picture of like EVERYTHNG. Don’t worry if you can’t make it to Korea to visit 국립고궁박물관. You can just look at all my photos and get the full experience. At the end of the day, I was up 1,800+ photos and videos. Let’s not forget that just three days earlier I had added 2,500+ photos and videos to my memories. My phone and computer hate me.

Let us dive into some of those memories.

 

However, unlike SMTOWN, visiting 국립고궁박물관 wasn’t planned, so I did not bring my portable charger with me. Taking a lot of photos and videos KILLS your phone’s battery, so by the time I left 국립고궁박물관, my phone was at 6%. I could’ve stayed longer, but my 핸드폰 couldn’t stay any longer, and thus my day ended.

But to address the title of this post, exploring alone has its merits. Nobody would’ve wanted to spend over four hours with me at SMTOWN while I took a picture of every plaque, every picture of EXO and NCT and SHINee and SUPER JUNIOR. Nobody would’ve wanted to stand there with me as I waited for hours to get clear photos of all the artifacts at the museum. I’d feel bad because I would be making somebody else wait for me, yet at the same time, I don’t want to be rushed. I want to get the full experience, and if that means spending my entire day, so be it.

So exploring alone? Not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t have to be a burden to others, and I don’t miss out on what I want to do. It’s a win-win (haha, that’s a reference nobody but one person will get) situation.

Well, I guess that ends this post. I started it at what? 15:04? Well, now it’s 23:35. Wow. I put way too much time into this.

I guess I did go a little more in-depth than I had initially planned to, but in the end, I guess it was worth it. I hope you all enjoyed it!

Until next time.

20181005 – Oh High School… Again

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Aren’t I cute in my school uniform?

Ah, finally. It’s here… my blog post about my uniform, but more importantly my experience of Korean high school after one week.

But yes. First, the uniform.

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Frick, I love the way it looks.
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My NSLI-Y Daewon 친구 on our first day of school.
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Liam, aka, my travel buddy. Also, the girls at Daewon love him.

So, if you didn’t know already, I will be attending Korean high school for the majority of the NSLI-Y program. I say majority because I get around two months off (January-February) because Korean high schools follow a different schedule than American high schools. In America, the first semester usually starts in the August-September area and goes til December. Then, second semester starts again in January and ends somewhere around May-June, and it is at this time that people graduate. Then, the main break is summer break.

Here, there’s still two semesters, but they are quite different. Their first semester starts in March and goes to late August. Then they have a short break followed by second semester, September through December. Then, they have their main break, winter break, of January-February. Students graduate after or near the end of winter break in February, and then the new school year starts.

From my Korean textbook, “The Korean school system is comprised of six years of elementary school, three years of junior high school, three years of senior high school, and four years of university. These days most children attend kindergarten for one or two years before starting school. Students attend elementary school from the ages of 7-12, junior high from 13-15, senior high from 16-18, and then go on to university or enter workforce. Those who wish to study further after graduating from university go on to graduate school. The academic year has two semesters, which begin in March and September, as well as summer and winter holidays” (이). Lmao at my attempt to cite in Korean.

One thing you should know about Korean high school is that not only are the semesters different, but the way the school works is too. So like, in America, once you reach middle school (or junior high), you start switching classes for subjects. However, in Korea, this change does not happen as you get older. You are in the same classroom with the same people everyday. While the teachers become specific per subject (like a science teacher in high school rather than a second grade teacher who teaches all the subjects), rather than the teacher be stationed in a classroom and the students go to them, the students are assigned a room, and the teachers come to them.

Anyways, onto more specifics. I attend Daewon Foreign Language High School. I know I am not supposed to disclose personal information, but I think letting you all know what school I go to is fine. I mean, if you guys want to come all the way to South Korea and kidnap me, I gotta give you props for dedication.

But sarcasm aside, I won’t go into SUPER specifics because 1) I’m too tired to and 2) I will coincide with NSLI-Y’s privacy advice to some extent.

Anyways, at my high school, students have to choose a foreign language major. So, while all the students there speak English decently, they have to learn ANOTHER language in addition to already speaking Korean and English (unless they are an English major, and then they are just EXTRA good at English).

Moving on, us Daewon NSLI-Y kids were allowed to choose which major we wanted. I chose Chinese.

Before you ask. No, I don’t know how to speak Chinese.

I did take Chinese I once upon a time in the summer for three weeks between freshman and sophomore year, but you try remembering something you learned four years ago after having not studied it any past those three weeks.

I digress.

Like I said, I won’t go into specifics, but I’ll say that in my Chinese major class, out of all their classes, they have Chinese class the most, followed by English, then math, then science, and all the other subjects can be considered moot.

Not gonna lie, sitting in on their English classes are #great. Why?

Because I have to stifle laughing at what they are reading.

Long story short, they are learning vocabulary and reading passages that American high schools would never incorporate into their curriculum. Legit, after the first English class I sat through, some of my classmates asked me what I thought of it, and I straight up told them that they were learning vocabulary and information that you would never hear or use on a daily basis. Like, one of the vocab words was “necessitate.”

Necessitate.

Who the frick says necessitate?

How about “needs?”

I told them I’d help them learn American-English vernacular (<– one of my favorite words) if they beared with my horrible Korean. Also, when I asked, most responded with an affirmative that they planned on taking TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), so I of course offered to help them study for TOEFL if they helped me with my Korean for the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korea). It’s a win-win situation.

A quick run down of the classes:

Math.

I don’t understand a single thing that goes on in that class. Yes, I have done the math they are currently doing before. I took AP Calculus AB and BC for goodness sakes, but I always forget math over the summer, and whenever you can’t even read the question and what it’s asking you to answer, you just zone out.

Social Studies.

I don’t even know if what I sat through was. Social Studies is a broad term. Was the class today history? Economics? Business? A combination of all three? Who knows.

Science.

Okay. Listen. Science is my least favorite subject in general to begin with, so I don’t think I’m really the best person to ask about this class. I’m just lucky that with my Korean class schedule, I only have to sit through one once a week.

Chinese.

Ah yes. I don’t understand anything…

BUT.

I do have to memorize a song in Chinese, so that’s fun.

Backstory time. Each class at Daewon has to learn a song in their major’s language, and the classes compete against each other. Even though I don’t speak Chinese, if you listen to a song enough, you’ll memorize the lyrics eventually.

I mean, I once had the entirety of Beijing Huan Ying Ni memorized, and that song’s like seven minutes.

***Fun McKenzie fact: “Beijing Huan Ying Ni” (translated to “Beijing Welcomes You” or “Welcome to Beijing”) is my favorite song… okay, either that or “Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas. What? Judge me harder. Anyways, it’s a song that was made for the Beijing 2008 Olympics, with its purpose being to welcome the world to Beijing and China. The video (linked here – you’re welcome) shows a plethora of famous or iconic Chinese people, landmarks, cultural traditions, amongst other things. Honestly, one of my favorite videos ever.

But back to Chinese at Daewon. Yeah, I recognize some things – a character or word here and there – but let’s be real, I’m just there for the ride. It’s chill though.

And last but not least, we have the class we all really want my opinion of.

English.

Okay, so, they have two types of English classes – English and English Conversation. In both classes, they read the most obscure and random things. However, the difference is that “English” is taught in Korean, and in that class, they read passages and diagram them. You guys like grammar? Subject, verb, prepositions? Yeah, that’s what that class is.

The other is English Conversation, which is taught entirely in English, and it is taught by the most “famous teacher at Daewon,” not my words, my classmate’s. Why is she the most famous teacher at Daewon? Because she loves hip hop and rap music and apparently makes her students rap.

What a great way to learn English.

I mean, it’s certainly different. I’ll give her that.

And one last thing that makes that class stand out from all the rest is the fact that I am actually acknowledged in that class? So, in math, science, Chinese, and so on, I’m ignored. Well, I guess not really ignored, but the teachers know if I can’t even speak Korean, I definitely can’t participate in discussion of the subject.

In English, they sometimes ask me my opinion or the occasional question.

But in the English Conversation class, I was straight up told to give a presentation.

WHY.

I mean, it isn’t that bad if I’m being honest. A three minute speech on an American state. It can’t be Georgia (sad days man) or like the most popular states – New York, California, and Texas.

So guess who’s doing her’s on Florida?

Why Florida?

Why NOT Florida?

Plus, I like Florida. I have good memories there.

Man I wish I was in Florida right now. I’m #추워요.

I legit almost snorted (very thankful I did not) when I read what I had to turn in. It is the classic, 5 paragraph speech with an introduction (with a hook!), 3 body paragraphs, and conclusion.

Kill me.

I literally just spent four years of high school trying to stay away from that.

Also, I have to cite for that.

I almost snorted (I really need to watch myself) when the English conversation teacher was like, “you know MLA?”

Oh.

Do I know MLA?

Please.

Honey, you don’t know who you are talking to.

Not gonna lie, MLA is hard. It’s hard for American students who already speak English fluently, so I felt bad for my Korean classmates when they were telling me how they thought MLA was hard.

And then I hated telling them that while yes, MLA is hard, it’s only one type of citation. The look of horror on their faces.

Terrible, but funny nonetheless.

Chicago style citation represent!

Oh yeah, and there’s APA too, for all you science nerds out there.

And yes, I know there are others, but do I really have to list them all?

Hmm. Now that the subjects have been discussed, let’s talk in general.

My class is great. I like them a lot. Everybody is really friendly, and they all speak English decently. That’s probably not good for my Korean personally, but I can improve my speaking and listening with my host family and in Korean class. I just want to make friends and experience the culture at school.

They are also kinda loud, which is fine. I myself just am not a loud person.

At the beginning of class everyday, they turn in their hand phones (I swear. When I come back, I will be calling “cellphones” “hand phones” just because I hear it so often. I already do it without meaning to here!). So, this would lead you to believe that they are focused the entirety of class, right?

Wrong.

Honestly, you think sneaking a hand phone would be easier than an ENTIRE HUGE, FREAKING LAPTOP, but what do I know?

Lmao. It’s actually kinda funny and endearing if I’m being honest.

I had planned on teaching them ERS (Egyptian Rat Slap) today, but I didn’t find the courage to get up and approach people to. I still plan on it, but it’ll have to be this Monday or next week because I only have to go on Monday this week. #dope

Another endearing quality of Daewon (because I’m sure this probably doesn’t apply to all Korean high schools) is that their “bells” (aka, the noise that signals when class starts and ends) is classical music, and I love it.

Contrary to popular belief, I DO like other music besides K-pop (but I did connect with some girls in my class through K-pop. I plan on following up on those conversations soon as well). I mean, emo-McKenzie was and still is a thing. Linkin Park? Yes. Three Days Grace?

Haha. I always remember people’s faces when they find out that I like that kind of music, and it gets me every time. Since I’m feeling particularly playful and in a good mood right now (idk why, probably sleep deprivation and where I’m going crazy), I’m even going to provide you guys some links to some of my favorite emo songs.

Linkin Park

NumbNew DivideWhat I’ve DoneFinal Masqueradeand many, many others

Three Days Grace

Never Too LateGet Out AliveAnimal I Have Become

Lmao. Please enjoy my emo playlist.

Man, I must really be tired to be revealing all my secrets so easily. Who knows what’ll happen next? I might even make a K-pop playlist for you all.

Anyways, classical music is a fond memory for me.

Many of you might not know this of me, but I love classical music. My sister plays the piano, quite well if I do say so myself (I like bragging on her, and it kills me to admit that because I know she’s going to read this). Some of the fondest memories I look back on are me sitting on the couch at home, listening to my sister practice the same song over and over and over. While at the time I found it annoying because I couldn’t hear the TV, and I got sick of the same song over and over (I heard it so many times I had it memorized to a T and noticed when she messed up and could point out exactly when and where she messed up), but the absence of Beethoven, Debussy, Mozart, and others felt wrong for a long time after she left for college. Wow. How nostalgic and sappy of me. Time to move away from that.

I can’t tell you the names of the songs they play for their bells; I forget. Although, I do know them. I promise, but I’m crap with names. I’ll send them to my sister for her to tell me.

Speaking of names, I also am having a hard time remembering my classmates’ names, and while I feel bad, I don’t at the same time because I couldn’t even remember everybody’s name in my AP Calc BC class even by the end of the semester. I’ve come to accept it by now.

Okay, so TECHNICALLY, I am not supposed to have my cellphone with me during class, but I keep it anyways…

What?

Give me a break. I have to leave early some days, and it’d be a pain to track down my homeroom teacher to get my phone on the days I do, and plus, I have schedules that need to be followed. I can’t risk not being able to find him for my phone and being late.

Anyways, I’m not supposed to post any pictures of students or my host family without their permission, and it’s not that they said no, but it’s that I haven’t asked yet…

And I actually agree with this, so I will abide by this until I work up the nerve (and Korean) to ask if I can post their pictures.

But this also means no super detailed pics from Daewon.

😦

Sorry.

Here are some pictures I took from my classroom window.

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Ah. Look at the urban-ness.
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This was today. There’s a typhoon coming. LMAO.
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That’s why it looks so dark and depressing. Trust me, it was. Stupid Typhoon Kong-rey.
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Ah, the iconic Daewon arch/gate. Also, you can’t see it from this pic, but Daewon legit has the steepest hill. Like, I’d consider myself in really good shape, but what the heck?

But!

All is not lost! Here’s a link that tells you all about Daewon and even gives you a virtual tour! Look at me being all helpful.

 

 

Works Cited

이, 미혜, et al.  이화 한국어.  이화여자대학교출판부, 2010.

 

 

There is no way this is right. I don’t even think MLA applies to languages outside of English, or does it? Well, anyways, that’s MLA citation order but in Korean.

And random, but after looking up those emo songs for you guys, I started listening to this song, and I thought I’d share my favorite Nickelback song with you all because Nickelback’s cool, no matter what all the memes say.

If Today Was Your Last Day

Well, until next time.

20180929 – Picture Spam (N Seoul Tower)

Hello again. I’m back with another update because I really don’t want to study right now, and I’m using this as a good excuse.

But unlike most of you probably expected, this post is not about my school uniform, as you could’ve probably guessed from the title. Yes, I did have my school orientation Thursday morning, and yes, I did do my uniform fitting. However, I didn’t bring any clothes home with me that Thursday because of reasons I shall now explain.

Korea takes its academics seriously, VERY seriously. I won’t go into details; I’ll just say hagwon (학원). Look those up, and that should explain everything.

Well, this focused mindset also affects the NSLI-Y program. How? Well, NSLI-Y students aren’t placed in the upperclassmen classes because of possible distractions to these upperclassmen, who are studying for their college entrance exams, which are a BIG deal. Once again, I won’t go into details, but if you are interested in some of the stuff I mention, you should totally do more research on it. It’s really interesting stuff!

Anyways, it may seem like I just went off on a tangent there, but it does come full circle; I promise.

So, me and my fellow NSLI-Yians (at least the ones going to Daewon) will be placed in a freshmen class. Yay! Here I am, 18 and graduated, and I’ll be sitting amongst 14 and 15 year olds. Great. Regardless, I’m still excited, and since age is a huge aspect of Korean (and Asian in general) culture, my age gives me some authority.

But, this all relates to the uniform situation as part of the uniform has the school’s crest on it, and the crest has a stripe of color on it. The color corresponds to what grade you are in high school, and even though I got all the right sizes Thursday, they needed to put the correct color for freshmen on some of them, and consequently, I returned home that day with no uniform.

Honestly, I’m not that upset about that. What I’m upset about though is the fact that I still start school Monday, and I have to stop by the uniform store BEFORE school to pick up my uniform and change into it. So, I have to wear regular clothing to the store, change into my uniform, and carry around an extra set of clothes for no reason on Monday, as if my bookbag already didn’t weigh enough.

Oh? How could I almost forget the best part? Yeah. My commute to school is about an hour, 45ish minutes of which is by subway, with the rest walking. Daewon starts at 7:50 am.

So on a regular day, I’d probably need to leave my house at around 6:30 am, so I can leave myself 20 mins of leeway, in case of subway delays and such. Yes, that is horrible.

BUT.

As horrible as that is, Monday, I have to leave at like 6:10 am or so because I have to stop and pick up my stupid uniform. UGH. Plus, I want cute pictures of me in it, and I wanted to allow time for that.

And thus ends my explanation of why I didn’t post uniform pics the other day. Totally random and off topic but entertaining I hope.

Now, I’ll just jump straight into it.

Today, I visited N Seoul Tower, also known as Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower, and I went alone. Why did I go alone? Well, I like traveling alone as I don’t feel rushed. I got to stop multiple times up Namsan (남산) to take pictures and just stop and take in the views. Also, I like revisiting places, even if I’ve already seen them, and I feel like that’d be annoying to others if I kept making them come back with me to something we already saw. Thus, traveling alone sometimes really is the way to go – not always, but it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t.

And it’s a good thing I went alone today because I took like 800+ photos and videos today, and that is not an exaggeration. Anybody who traveled with me would’ve been at their limit with me after the 50th selfie. Also, don’t be surprised that this post will be mainly pictures. I’m going to get the most of my 800+ pictures.

One of my biggest fears still is getting lost, and thus I always do some hardcore planning before hand. So, prior to today, I spent hours scouring the Internet to look up how to get to Namsan Tower. There was ample information regarding how to get to the tower, but most did not apply to my situation however. Because the kicker here is that taking the cable car up to and down from the tower is the most popular mode of transportation, but I wanted to walk up Namsan Mountain (남산). I know. Why do that when I could take the cable car?

Well, walking provides a good opportunity to take pictures.

And plus, the cable car costs $$$.

There’s so much I want to see, do, and buy in Seoul, and I don’t have the cash to be taking leisurely shortcuts like a the cable car.

LMAO.

But in all seriousness, I did want to actually walk up, so it wasn’t bad at all. I got some awesome pics from the walk up that I wouldn’t have gotten in a five minute cable car ride, although that would’ve been fun I must admit.

Anyways, I had to find directions to get from the subway exit to the most popular path up the mountain. Long story now coming to an end, I found really clear directions (with pictures!) after spending hours researching. If you travel with me, I’ll make sure to always get us where we need to go because I’m too much of a nervous wreck to not research beforehand. I made it safely to the beginning of the “trail,” if it could really even be called that. It was really more like stairs on stairs on stairs.

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The beginning of the path.
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Hey. At least it’s a pretty nice staircase.
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My first glimpse of Seoul Tower while on the path.
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And a clearer view a few meters later.
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Even without being close to the top of 남산, the view was already amazing.

On my way up, I took a quick snack break. The snack?

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What is that?
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It can’t be.
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It is!

Yeah. You saw that right. That’s three hard boiled eggs in a plastic bag. My host mom left my breakfast on the dining table this morning, and I just wrapped it all up to take with me. At least you guys now know the story. The people that passed by me while I was sitting on the side of the path, HORRIBLY peeling the hard boiled eggs, will never know and only remember me as that “weird girl eating hard boiled eggs on a ‘hike.'”

On a completely different but sort of related note, you guys, I’ve had so many eggs since I’ve gotten here; my cholesterol is going to be through the roof. So. Many. Eggs. But, I guess one positive thing that has come from eating so many eggs is that I can now tolerate the yolk. I actually sort of like it, although I would still prefer more egg whites than full eggs.

After my quick snack, it was time to finish the rest of the walk to the top, stopping many times for more pictures of course. Here are some from close yet not quite at the top of 남산.

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I always love using the nature and the scenery to give my pictures perspective and depth.
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We were entering the home stretch.

Finally, I knew I was almost at the top because the stairs changed. They changed from stone to wood, and I found the corresponding cable car station, so I knew the top had to be close. Although, there was plenty to see before you ever even got to Seoul Tower. For example:

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These are locks that people (mainly couples) write on.
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There’s so many.
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And then there was this thing. I have a picture of the sign beside it, but I’m too lazy to find it.
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These things are so cool. Spiraled potatoes. I didn’t get one, but they just look cool.
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There was this beautiful pavilion.
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And here’s another picture of it.
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The tower right before getting to the Tower Plaza.

And then finally, I reached it.

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Glorious.

The plaza is where most of the action happens. There are vendors there selling everything from perfumes to jewelry to handbags to figurines. In addition to them, there are a lot of restaurants inside the base of the tower along with a Hanbok culture experience on the bottom most floor, an arcade, a lot of virtual reality stuff, and some shops. There’s also cultural performances that go on. Let me link those for you guys. Hopefully, they’ll work. On the different floors of the plaza, there’s no shortage of photo opportunities.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/WAvHeyzYcLW88jNq7

https://photos.app.goo.gl/iNWU8XKfVbT1NniYA

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Hey look. More locks. Trust me when I say there was even more, but I won’t post all of them.
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There was this cool heart sculpture thing.
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Korean hanboks on display.
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More stairs, but they are pretty, so they get a pass.

And finally, it was time to go up to the observatory. While the plaza itself provided amazing views, the observatory at the top of the tower was the main goal. You had to pay to go up, of course. Was it worth the 10,000 won? I guess so. I mean, if I hadn’t paid it, then I wouldn’t be able to share these photos with you all.

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The iPhone 8 takes some pretty dang good pictures, even through the glass windows of the observatory with kids’ hand prints smeared on them.

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Some of the windows of the observatory had facts and information like this on them.

Okay, here me out before judging me for these next two pictures.

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This is a really nice sink that was in the bathroom.
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And yes, this is a picture taken in the stall of the observatory’s bathroom.

But it’s okay! The bathrooms located on the observatory are called “Sky Restroom,” and each stall has floor to ceiling windows that allow you to appreciate the view at all times!

Moving on though, I found an empty chair and table and happily sat down after nonstop stairs and standing for hours to eat the rest of what my host mom had left me for breakfast.

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Not a bad view, and I was just glad that I could finally take off all my bags.
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Gross! What are those?!

Relax. It’s three sweet potatoes that I wrapped individually in saran wrap. I never really liked sweet potatoes before, and now they have got to be one of my favorite things to eat here. Odd. Just cooked sweet potatoes, plain. I’m addicted, but even three all at once was a lot, so only two were consumed at the observatory.

But finally, it was time to go, and these were some of the last selfies I took with the actual Tower that didn’t turn out like crap due to the sun and light exposure and shadows and all that good ol’ stuff.

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And then my trek down began. Actually, the trek down was really short because I only stopped for a few selfies here and there, unlike the way up. Plus, I just really wanted to be done by that point. I was TIRED.

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The last sweet potato. It looks rough. It took a beating in my backpack all day.
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I’ve always eaten baked potatoes plain and with the skin, even white potatoes. Call me weird.
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맛있다.

You know what I find funny? The fact that the subway is now what I call comforting. Like, if I can find my way to a subway station, I know I’ll be fine. It’s funny because the subway was the most daunting thing for me before I came here. Because I took an alternate route once I got back to the road on a whim, I wasn’t sure I knew exactly where I was going or if I was going the right way back to the subway station, but seeing an entrance to the Seoul subway system warmed my heart when I saw it returning from Seoul Tower.

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Ugh. More stairs. However, even the sight of Seoul’s subway system stairs is comforting.

And this is what I see when I finally emerge from my base subway exit.

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I mean, when you live in one of Seoul’s nighttime hot spots and it’s Saturday evening… what else would you expect?

As I emerged from the exit, I was like, “Ah, finally. Home. I can rest,” and it’s crazy to think that this is my home now for at least the next four months, possibly longer. I mean, just look at how many people there are! Granted, nothing can ever replace my real home, but this is my home for now, whether I want to call it that or not.

Well, I have to be up early tomorrow (actually today – it’s 01:05… whoops) because my host family now thinks I love hiking and suggested we go on a short “hike” tomorrow (today) morning.

I hate hiking.

*sighs*

What have I gotten myself into?

Until next time, which will hopefully be Monday? Unlikely, but you never know.

 

20180926 – Subway Conquered

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Well guys. I’ve had quite the day. My feet ache like they never have before. So much walking. Then again, I guess I could’ve sat down on the subway or taken the escalator rather than standing the entire time and always taking the stairs…

However, I’d like to think that even if I had, my feet would still hurt because there was a lot of walking and standing outside the subway. I mean, guys, look at these stairs.

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Yeah. So like, imagine these stairs, repeatedly. Over and over and over.
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The lighting in this picture makes this set of stairs look particularly daunting.
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Okay, I won’t lie. I took this picture moreso for the Kang Daniel ad, but the stair thing is applicable here too.

To quickly sum up my day before I go into details, here’s a list of my subway destinations: Hongik (홍대입구) – Noryangjin (노량진) – Myeongdong (명동) – Itaewon (이태원) – Hongik (홍대입구).

Now, I know for most of you, that means absolutely nothing, and that’s understandable. A quick Korean lesson: Seoul boasts one of the biggest, cleanest, and most efficient subway systems in the world. It spans the Seoul (서울), Incheon (인천), and parts of the Gyeonggi province area. Now, that still might not mean anything to you, so let me give you a comparison.

Image result for washington dc subway map

This is a subway map of Washington, D.C.

Seoul Subway Map

And this is Seoul’s subway map.

See the difference?

While definitely massive and intimidating, Seoul has mastered the subway. With clearly marked signs EVERYWHERE, you won’t get lost. Can’t read Korean? That’s fine. English might as well be made a second official language. Not only English, but at each stop, the station name is announced in Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese. There’s probably more honestly. Worried about a rat running across your foot like in New York? I’ve seen dirtier floors in convenience stores than in those subway terminals. They sparkle.

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I mean, just look at how pretty the subway doors are.
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That design though. It’s so pretty.

Either way, my point is that before today, I was super worried about getting lost in the subway and not knowing how to navigate it. However, Seoul has done a fantastic job and made it so easy and accessible, so efficient; I had no problem. Getting onto the subway for the first time today since orientation, I was hesitant. I double checked everything. I made sure I was at the right gate… 

…So many transfers and stops later and as the day got longer, I was still double checking which subway line on my phone, but I found myself hopping on trains without a second thought because I got to them just as they were about to leave, and I did NOT want to have to wait for the next one. My mindset had changed from, “Okay. I’m sure this is the right one, but let me check one more time before I get on,” to, “Idk if this is the right one, but I think it’s the right one, and screw it. If it’s not, I’ll fix it later, but I’m NOT going to miss this one and have to wait for the next one if this is right.”

Yeah. I feel pretty confident about the subway now. Buses? Haven’t ridden one, and I don’t really plan to? Idk. That might change eventually, but as of right now, I don’t think I have a need for buses. Also, I still feel a little uneasy about the bus system.

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My 친구.

Onto details for today though.

Actually, let me just show you this. It will speak for itself. Also, watch the links before scrolling. It’s a certain order.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/KWbeoZuMfQqHdNxk9

https://photos.app.goo.gl/LeNRmyumaHq9yHoNA

https://photos.app.goo.gl/xpRdm5QK3HyVKWcH6

https://photos.app.goo.gl/o2aSeXUNBWKMsM2w8

https://photos.app.goo.gl/LBnw4zC6rngmwPCL8

https://photos.app.goo.gl/V7b6DH9SW5XTYMAv5

https://photos.app.goo.gl/LQJkoqYyQ81uYvYs9

https://photos.app.goo.gl/kp67ooG4CevEBKn49

https://photos.app.goo.gl/As88ySKbuNJPCWMP9

Hopefully those links work. I can’t post videos on here with my plan (aka, the free one), so that’s the best I can do.

Okay. So now that the surprise reveal is over, I can post these.

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Yeah. It was about to go down. Also, if you can’t stand the smell of fish…
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Thanks, Addie, for this picture of me and Josh looking way too happy about 산낙지.
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This is my signature pose. I will never not do this.
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These crabs were huge. You could say they were fit for… royalty. *drum sound* … I will see myself out.
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Look at them glisten.
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How appetizing.
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We got a small octopus for the 산낙지, but we saw this. LOOK AT HOW BIG THOSE TENTACLES ARE.

So, for specifics, we ate sannakji (산낙지), also known as live octopus. The octopus is alive. You choose the one you want. Then, the octopus isn’t alive a minute later, but it still looks like it is.

Please refer to:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sannakji

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San-nakji

As for the other thing we ate that most people would not, that would be gaebul (개불). I won’t explicitly state what it is also called, but I’m sure you can guess. Also, if not, let me provide these helpful links as well.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=gaebul

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urechis_unicinctus

You’re welcome.

Also, for a certain somebody out there, you know who you are, please forgive me for the 개불. I didn’t know what it was when I ate it, and while I am down to try anything, knowing EXACTLY what it is now after reading Wikipedia doesn’t sit well with me either.

But I like seafood, so it’s all good. Hopefully, there will be no adverse effects from the raw seafood…

I mean, you couldn’t get any fresher than that…

Anyways, moving on!

Afterwards, I went shopping by myself, which has its own pros and cons. Like for example, con: I have nobody to take pictures of me. However, at the same time, pro: I was forced to use my amazing (limited) Korean to ask random strangers to take pictures of me, and they understood me. So, I guess it’s a trade off.

I also was forced to use my above average (barely understandable) Korean to ask a store employee for the specific thing I was looking for, aka, the whole reason I went all around Seoul today.

Okay. Quick back story. The fish market was a spur of the moment activity. I had already planned to go shopping, and I just pushed back my shopping plans to go to the fish market first. I was looking for two items today, and I had already planned to go all over Seoul to find them.

Sadly, out of the two items I was looking for, I only found one, and this is where I can resume my story.

Let me set the scene. It’s me, in a store, staring longingly at the display of the items I want yet are sold out. It was my third store. The first two were sold out of both items.

*cue me pointing at the items I wanted on display and saying “없어요 (Do you have)?” in a really sad way*

Then, all of a sudden, I see an employee holding one of the items I want, and it isn’t the one on display. Listen, I know my Korean sucks right now, and I hate asking for things because I’m shy, but I made the decision right then and there. That was the only one I’ve seen all day, and I was at least going to ask. Also, I was super scared that somebody was going to approach him first for it, so I made sure to go straight up to him as soon as he finished talking to some woman.

So, what followed was a very confusing and awkward conversation. I was asking if they had the items I wanted in stock. They were saying no–that they didn’t–that they were sold out of all of them. Then, I pointed at the one he was holding in his hands, and he was like, “yes, last one.”

I was like, “Well, can I have it?”

He looked surprised. He was like, “this one?” while pointing to it, and I was like, “yeah…”

So then he was like, “yeah…” and slowly handed it to me.

Then, I made sure as soon as it was in my grasp to hold it tight and not let a single soul touch it in fear of it being taken away from me.

I then proceeded to book it down the stairs to the register and immediately pay before anything else could prevent me from obtaining 1/2 of my day’s goal.

End of story.

Sorry for that horrible storytelling, but I can’t think of how else to describe it.

However, while I didn’t find 1/2 of what I was looking for, I did find an item today that I had always wanted but didn’t expect to actually ever get, so you win some you lose some I guess?

Well, I guess that’s was a good summary of my day. Tomorrow I have school orientation. We’ll see how that goes…

I’ll know if I got food poisoning by tomorrow at least. Yeah, maybe the raw seafood right before orientation wasn’t the best idea… probably should’ve done it when I had nothing the next day.

Hopefully I can post again for my school uniform! I love shopping and clothing and getting clothes, so it’s exciting. It just depends on how busy I am!

Until next time!

20180919 – Settling In

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Arrival Orientation

Ah. It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Well, I told you that the startling frequency from earlier wasn’t going to last, and it proved to be true. Honestly, the only reason I’m writing this right now is because I know things are about to get even more crazy, and I would like to write one more post before I just go MIA on you guys for like way too long. Also, I might just be tired of studying right now and want to put it off… yeah. You already know it’s a bad sign when I’ve only had two days of Korean class, and I’m already tired of studying. I wonder what that foreshadows… eh. Let’s not think too hard about that.

But for the basic information. I spent two nights in a guest house when I arrived in Korea. During those two days, we had “learned” how to use Seoul’s subway system. I put “learn” in quotation marks because since my host family is lucky enough to live in like the most desirable location, I haven’t had to use the subway ever since that day. So, I’m sure I am not near as well-versed in using public transportation as the other people in the program. While I’m fortunate that I live so close to many things, it’s going to bite me in the butt I can already tell because I won’t be as street smart.

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Subway adventures. At least we had a guide… I’m still terrified of getting lost.
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Exploring the streets after learning the subway.
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Naengmyeon (Korean cold noodles)

Speaking of street smart, I got lost yesterday with a friend from the program and thus am definitely not smart with streets. So many turns and blocks and buildings that look the exact same. I literally almost started crying. I can’t handle being lost. So, the lesson I learned from yesterday? Don’t go exploring unless you know for sure where you are going or if you’re with somebody who for sure knows where they are going.

Anyways, back to chronological order. After two nights in the guest house, it was Saturday. That Saturday morning, we had host-family orientation, and then we went back to the guest house and played the waiting game. Mixed emotions. Excitement. Anxiousness. Nervousness. All of those feelings were fighting for dominance.

And eventually the moment came. “McKenzie! Your family’s here.” Oh gosh, my heart stopped when I heard that announcement. My first thought? “Well, time to make a fool of myself. Initiate awkward pantomiming and cringe worthy Korean.”

My host family is definitely different from what I’m used to, and I’m not even referring to the whole Korean culture aspect thing yet. I’m just talking about the family as a whole. As somebody who lives in a house of three people, all girls, adjusting to a house of six people (including myself) is definitely… interesting. At home, I’m the youngest in the family, and here, I am the oldest with three younger sisters…

Listen. I’ll be honest here. I’m not much a kids person. Never have been. Never will be. But it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Yeah, I get annoyed occasionally, but that’s life. If I wanted everything to be perfect, I would’ve stayed home where I knew everything was exactly how I liked it.

My mom can attest to this. I like peace. A peaceful environment. Peace between people. Peace. I usually had the TV so low at home you could barely hear it. I sat in silence for hours alone at night.

She can also attest to the fact that I am very peculiar when it comes to “germs.” I hate touching money. I detest people touching my stuff. If I went out of my house or something, I couldn’t sit on the couch or bed or anything at home until I had a shower. I know. Odd.

So, I think you can understand when I say that I’m having a bit of a hard time adjusting to having two young siblings yelling very loudly in Korean, playfully fighting with each other, throwing slime everywhere, and wanting to touch everything…

It’s a learning experience. I’m sure I’ll not only come to adjust but find their antics (albeit loud) endearing eventually. It’s all still so new. Soon, everything will become normal.

My host parents though are so sweet. My homework from my first day of Korean class was to record a conversation in Korean, and I asked my host mom for help, and she was so eager even though she speaks the least English in the house. So sweet. My host father is so adorable, and I know that sounds weird to be calling a guy over double my age, but I don’t know how else to describe him. I brought him a Blairsville shirt and hat and UGA socks as host family gifts, and when he saw them, he was so excited and immediately went to put them on. It was so endearing. Also, seeing my host mom use the Georgia mug I got her from the Starbucks in Ingles every morning gives me some odd sense of validation.

One specific thing I love about my host family is that they are pretty chill. You guys who know me, you know I don’t like going out or staying out late. I was worried that I would be thrown into this absolutely hectic lifestyle with no breaks ever, but my host family likes to spend a lot of time at home, and it’s great.

Oh. I should mention this. It’s one bathroom for six people. I’ll just leave it at that.

My days here have actually been pretty mellow so far, but I don’t expect it to stay that way. Yes, it is true that I will be attending Korean high school while I am here, but I don’t start school until October 1st. Why? It’s because these first two weeks are for adjustment. We have pretty much every morning free to spend with our host families, and every afternoon, we have Korean class. All of this is to prepare us before we go to Korean high school. When school starts, Korean class will only be a few days a week rather than everyday. That’s understandable. Now, we have relaxed mornings with Korean class in the afternoon. After October 1st, some of us have a commute of over an hour. It’s just not practical.

Korean class is good. The teacher doesn’t speak any English during class. That’s fun. However, here’s the thing. I KNOW she can speak fluent English. In fact, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even have an accent. I’m just waiting for the last day of the program when we are all saying goodbye for her to speak English.

Something you all probably don’t care about knowing but I want to share is that I feel like I’ve been pretty restrained since I arrived. Being in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, there’s stores. A lot of them. Everywhere.

But despite the temptations surrounding me, I believe I’ve been pretty restrained. I’m actually quite proud of myself. I did splurge on two things (not to be disclosed) Monday, but before I came, I only had three things I knew for sure I had to buy. Everything else I buy is dependent on situations, mood, and many other factors. So, I bought two of the three items I was determined to get, but other than that? I’ve been good.

But I look. I look A LOT. If I can spend two hours browsing and walking around Ingles back home, you better believe I can spend so much more time here browsing.

Seoul also feel safe. I feel safe here. Many of you didn’t know this, but my biggest fear (besides getting lost) was not feeling safe. All I’ve ever known is Blairsville, Georgia. I had ridden the subway once on vacation in Washington DC. Now I’m expected to just walk places by myself and be out way later than I was at home? Yeah, not really comforting.

But Seoul feels safe, and I can’t explain it. I spent two days in New York City before flying over here, and the auras each of these cities emit are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Not what I was expecting, but I’m very pleasantly surprised nonetheless.

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This park is great.
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How beautiful. I just had to take a picture.

Hmm… let me think. Here’s some random stuff I guess. My school’s orientation isn’t until next week, and I’ll get my uniform and my schedule that day. I’m super excited. I love clothes and getting new clothes. I seem to drink like ten times more water since I came here for some reason. I finished all my college essays. GO ME! Next week is Chuseok – Korean Thanksgiving Day – from Monday (09/24) to Wednesday (09/26), and I have those days off. If you wanna know more about Chuseok, Google it. It’s interesting, and who knows if you’ll ever need that knowledge?

Well, I guess that’s all for now. I should probably get back to studying… *sighs*

Here’s some last images.

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Of course, there has to be a picture of me with something cute.
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They told us to go upstairs… and this seating area was what greeted us. Hey, they make the most of their space. Gotta give them that.
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Extra studying I’ve been doing. I’m putting in a lot of work now, but I know that motivation is going to die soon. Translate it if you want, but all you’re going to get is me talking about how I’m tired from class. It was just for grammar and conjugation practice. If you didn’t already know, I LOVE grammar.

20180914 – Jet Lag Is Real

Am I on a roll? Why, yes. I guess you could say that I am.

Don’t expect this to be a regular thing.

It’s just because I’m super sleep deprived at this point but running off pure adrenaline at this point. I’m sure once things settle down, I’ll quickly become infrequent and inconsistent. That might actually happen before things start settling down, so…

Moving on! Let me tell you how my day went. So, it started with arrival orientation, which was cute— a feel-good start to the day, and it’s good they started with that because our placement test was right after it. That test caused so much stress. It was broken into two parts, the written section (multiple choice and free response) and the oral interview (with two Korean teachers). So much stress.

Since I’m suffering from jet lag and feel like death, I woke up every hour last night. That was great. Eventually, after the fourth or fifth time waking up that night, I just said, “screw it” at 6:00 am and stayed up. So, no surprise I was kinda delirious when taking my placement test earlier today.

No addition to the placement test, we did a bit called, “Survival in Korea,” where these “supporters” (people who speak Korean and guide us) took us to the 서울 지하철 (Seoul Subway) and taught us how to load out T-money cards (turansportation cards), read the subway map, and transfer stations. It was so informative and so much information to take in all at once. I’m sure I’m still gonna get lost. I know it, but hey, you live you learn, right?

After that, our supporter took us out to 노래방 (noraebang), pretty much Korean karaoke. While karaoke is not necessarily rare but more uncommon back home, 노래방 are everywhere in Seoul. It’s a good place for friends to hang out together at and wreck their voices for the next day.

And lastly, we eventually got our program phones. It’s a flip phone and so cute. I’ve never had a flip phone— whoops? I know, spoiled teenager, but hey, it’s what I am, and nothing can be done about it now.

Anyways, that was my day. I feel like I could fall asleep any second.

Goodnight!

It’s host family day tomorrow!

안녕!

P.S. Keep in mind, no editing or proof.

20180914 – Stepping Foot Into South Korea

Guess who’s in South Korea?

The correct answer’s me, and if you guessed anybody else…

Anyways, moving on from that. Today’s been a long day. I am absolutely exhausted, and I’m not even joking because as I type this exact sentence, my eyes are starting to close, and I’m going to turn in for the night soon. However, first, I want to give you all a quick run down of my day.

We took our first NSLI-Y group picture at Columbia University. A BEAUTIFUL campus. Everybody needs to check it out.

We packed everything up from our hotel the next day in Manhattan and took a shuttle to JFK, where we ended up getting to way too early, which let us have some free time until we had to board the flight. From there, I proceeded to fast walk around the international terminal because I was NOT going to stay seated if I was about to get on a plane to sit for over 13 hours.

We thought we’d be flying Delta, but we flew with Korean Air (which I actually wanted to).

Yeah, baby! A double-decker! This plane was MASSIVE.

The plane ride itself was exactly how you’d expect it to be, long, boring, and seemingly endless. I watched two movies, slept a tiny fraction, listened to music, and studied vocabulary. I also had to get up to pee two times during the flight even though I felt like I was going to die of dehydration. Overall, it was about 13 1/2 hour flight. However, stepping into Incheon airport was a mind blowing experience. Finally getting to step foot into Korea and our RD saying, “Welcome to Korea” really was the moment I was like, “I’m really here.”

So, after that, we got our luggage and all rode this charter bus back to our accommodations for the night. We’re staying in this really cool room that has like a loft area and bunk beds and a Korean bathroom (it’s different but still cool) that I’ll definitely have to get used to.

I am actually currently laying in bed writing this post because while I’m tired, I know if I don’t do it right now, I know I won’t be able to these upcoming days, and if I do get a chance, I want those posts to be about what happens on those days.

So, a quick overview of the next few days. It’s currently 10:16 pm here, which means for those of you reading this back home in Georgia, it’s 9:16 am there. Korea’s 13 hours ahead. So, I actually think I’m going to adapt to the sleep schedule here really well because I’m sort of already on it?

But back to the overview. Tomorrow I have In-Country Orientation and then another placement test for my Korean language classes. The test is what is making me a nervous wreck right now, but I’m too tired to study anymore. On Saturday, we meet our host families and go home with them. Sunday, we spend the entire day with our host families, and on Monday, we start language classes. We don’t start Korean high school until October, but that’s because they want to make sure we know how to get to our schools and such before making us go as well as teaching us a little before we step foot into total immersion.

But yeah. That’s the quick update. Like I said, my eyes keep closing when I’m typing this, so I probably need to go to bed. A busy day tomorrow… and many following soon after it…

GOODNIGHT.

안녕!