Wednesday was the last day of our 설날 break before returning to Korean classes and program activities on Thursday. Josh, June, and I convinced Jenna and Kaitlyn to come up and visit us in 파주시 for the day. (Although, June is the only one of us that lives in 파주시. I am only two stops away, however.) We planned to all grab a nice lunch and then study together (be all productive) at this really adorable cafe that June found–It also happens to be literally right outside of her apartment.
After arriving at June’s station, I waited there with Kaitlyn until the rest of the group arrived. We had to take a 20-minute bus to get to the neighborhood that June lives in. I figured that the bus we would take would be one of the normal buses I have ridden in Seoul with the other NSLI-Y students or like the one I rode to school every single day back and forth. In case you could not guess…it was not! This bus was really just a glorified huge van with buslike qualities. It was so weird getting inside as I was confused as to whether or not I was riding a bus or not. We all piled into the back and joked around until we got to our stop.
June took us to this 부대찌개 restaurant. It was the first time I have ever had the dish. Not only did I get to enjoy the delicious tastes that accompany this unique food, I also received a history from the lovely Kaitlyn and Josh.
Apparently, 부대찌개 literally translates to “corps stew” and was created during the Korean War. Leftover military rations from the American soldiers (mostly including sausages and spam) were taken and thrown into a huge stew with whatever other vegetables and ingredients were laying around by poor Korean families. That is how this dish came about! The meal was very very filling and I really was craving some spicy soup recently so this 부대찌개 really hit the spot. Also, Kaitlyn kept making the joke about 부대찌개 making the booty do a jiggy (If you can read Korean– this joke makes sense because it fits with the pronunciation of the dish).
Once we finished all the food (basically scraping the dishes clean with our spoons), we left to head to the tea cafe by June’s house. It had this huge table in the back which we took over and used it as our headquarters for the next couple hours we all did our own thing: winter break homework, TOPIK practice tests, scholarships, CEP project, etc. I ordered royal milk tea (which I usually dislike but this place served a good one!) and this cheesecake covered in a white chocolate casing that resembled a block of yellow cheese! It really did resemble a cartoon block of cheese you would see Tom and Jerry fighting over on Saturday mornings. At the cafe, we were all… sort of productive. I was able to do a couple workbook pages, memorize some vocab, and get started on my practice Topik listening test but we mostly just shared interesting stories.
After we separated in the mid-afternoon, because most other people had plans for the night time, I went back home and found myself in another cafe trying to finish the listening test. I wanted to be able to show something for my studying efforts after spending such a long time at a cafe rather than accepting the fact that I could have done more. While I was at Twosome Place taking the test, the last two fingers on my right hand became numb all of a sudden. I assumed it was just because I had my hand on my ears for a long while as I was trying to block out some of the music playing at the cafe; however, the numbness would not go away as quickly as it usually does. I kept moving them around and flexing the muscles but the feeling would not go away. I just accepted it as fact for now and left after finishing the 50 question test.
Upon returning home, my fingers were not better and an hour had already passed. I was beginning to get a bit worried. My host mom served me 자짱면 for dinner and I ate by myself since she and my host sister had had a really late lunch and were not ready for dinner quite yet. I tried really hard to eat the noodles with the chopsticks but my numb fingers were inhibiting me from even getting one noodle into my mouth. They were not only numb but I had no strength in those fingers and soon even holding a pencil proved to be quite tedious.
By the time I went to bed (a bit past midnight) my fingers were still very numb. Kaitlyn told me that I might have damaged my ulnar nerve somehow which connects to the last three fingers of the hand. She told me that it could result in irreversible nerve damage soon since it has been so long since it has started which only freaked me out more! I went to bed with a lot of worries… not the best sign of optimal health I will admit.
On Thursday both Korean classes and our research project meetings started back up after the three-day holiday break because of 설날 (Lunar New Year). I met up with Katie and 혜린언니 at Hollys Cafe and there, we really set the plan for our final week of the project. We spent half of the meeting writing our final report (after splitting up who was doing what) and then we spent the rest of the time discussing how to then split up our content for both the presentation and the video.
After our meeting, I went off with Kaitlyn to have a good ole 편의점 (convenience store) lunch at the youth center in order to get some cheap food and have time to study before class. There is this one older 아저씨 that works at the GS25 by the center and we always end up there at least once a day it seems. We bought our lunch and he ended up giving us these free Hershey chocolate bars as a service! It was the sweetest thing! I could not believe it~
During Korean class, we got our January monthly tests back and I did really well! I was so happy when I saw the scores on the top of both of my tests. I do know that the test overall was easier than the last one (Our teacher was probably trying to better our damaged confidence from the last test….) but seeing that I only got three wrong on the reading portion and received a pretty decent essay score truly lightened up my mood by ten folds. At the start of class, we realized that we would be starting our new book (Book 4!), but none of us had copies… so Jacquelyn, Josh, and I all made our way to the Better World Office and back which took some time off of class but it was a fun little break and the walk was dearly missed. We had not been at the building for so long! (Altogether at least.)
Our teacher also just came back from Guam so she brought us back some snacks and tea from her trip which was very thoughtful of her. She did not have to think of us at all!
After class, I did not go home right away but instead, I went out for dinner with Liam, Josh, and Kaitlyn! The Quater squad took on a pizza dinner!! We went back to this one restaurant–called New Order Club)–to stuff our faces with pizza. We ended up ordering a small pizza that had 4 different types of cheeses and then a Quater which is a pizza that allows for each quarter of the pizza to be a different flavor. We all shared a chicken tender pizza, french fries pizza, arugula pizza, and lastly macaroni pizza.
Everything was honestly really delicious but my love still goes out to the macaroni and cheese flavor. It was our OG flavor and there is a reason! Besides the food, hanging out with everyone was a lot of fun. I hang out with Kaitlyn and Josh a lot (recently more so it seems) but I barely ever get to hang out with Liam. But the four of us together is always a good time!!!
While we were walking through the area around the pizza restaurant, we went up these sketchy looking stairs to this rooftop cafe. It was a part of a cafe which seemed to be closed (or maybe out of business?) but that did not stop us from taking some photos on this fancy chair they had. We also took some photos at one of those random photo booths they have throughout the streets of Seoul (Honestly, one of the things I am going to miss about Korea!) I will say that the best amount of people for these booths (if they are a normal size) is about two people. Three people are okay–but anything more than that can be kind of awkward. We proved that today.
At the pizza restaurant, we started this conversation about our first impressions of all the NSLI-Yians and then what we think now. Basically, how our perceptions has changed (for the better or worse). It was really interesting to see what everyone had to stay and I was able to compare my thoughts with their own experiences too. Once we finished eating, we went off to another place to continue our conversation. We ended up at 망원동 티라미수 and shared some cake with each other. Here, at this cafe, is where we discussed ourselves. I am not sure if everyone was being nice since they were talking about me in front of my face, but I was pretty happy with what they had to say–it was all very nice.
(BTW on Thursday, my fingers were still not normal. They were no longer completely numb but they were still hard to control and my fingers would tingle randomly throughout the night. I still could not use chopsticks (One of the reasons we went to get pizza!)
That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading. I am very very behind on blog posts… I blame my Korean studies and the research project (and honestly, my own laziness) for making my time kind of limited. But I am catching up right now! I gotta get back on track before school starts!
- Emma 엠마