This morning, for some reason, I really had an eye out for nature. Maybe because I didn’t have to sprint to the train station like I usually do?… But when I was walking there, I noticed that this one cherry blossom tree beautifully lined up with the sunrise. I took a snapshot to capture this moment.
(I looked at the same tree today as I was heading out—I’m writing this about three days later—and the majority of the pink petals had fallen off and only green leaves remained. It made me sad that the cherry blossoms were gone so fast. But, I also found comfort in the fact that they left behind a different kind of beauty in their wake: a green spring. As cheesy as it sounds, I related it to my experience here in Korea. I would be leaving something great and of course that is a shame, but hopefully this chapter of my life that I end will allow me to start a new one—renewal is what I’d like to think it is. Sorry for this long tangent! But future me will feel grateful that I wrote this. I know this for sure.) :”)
Also, while walking up to 하나고 this morning with Katie, I took a photo of a cherry blossom tree that perfectly lined up under the logo of the school on the side of the building. Wow, my school really is so beautiful.
School today was really uneventful. I literally just self-studied the entire day! During economics, I spent the first period reviewing grammar from the grammar book (ones we learned & a couple ones I’ve been interested about). Then during the second period, I did Quizlet. I mean, I did get lots of work done but I also spent quite a bit of time just silently dancing in my seat and mouthing words to old pop songs—I have suddenly got in the kick of listening to music!! Podcasts are out and music is in!
During 한국사, I switched between studying vocab words on Quizlet and memorizing my presentation for today’s class. While I was memorizing the script, the teacher came by and gave me a weird look for silently whispering something and I explained that I was memorizing. He wished me luck and told me to keep studying hard. Seeing him be so supportive really makes me want to try harder in paying attention to his class rather than doing my own work… when I get back after Midterm week, I will make sure to memorize my scripts in Economics (or on Wednesday like a good student would) so I can pay attention to his lectures.
Instead of going the 편의점 (convenience store) route for lunch today, Katie and I decided to get 만두 with Jenna before class at this place the other students frequent but I have yet to go to! Jenna was kind enough to buy our food while she was there earlier in the afternoon and then we met up with her on her way back to the youth center we have classes at. Katie and I got into a little fight on the way to class over something really silly which made us not speak for the rest of the time that we were physically together. I also refrained from texting her that night until I really had to regarding plans for tomorrow. She texted back and seemed like she had gotten over it or forgiven me. I was still mad about it but there was no way I was gonna not forgive her—I can’t go a whole day without talking to her, no way. She is my best friend. We were both probably stressed and we just let those emotions get the best of us.
Korean class today went by so fast even though we didn’t get much done. We just kept talking and talking which made us waste time. We didn’t even get through all the words in the workbook—we had to skip three and all the idioms. We hurried along and learned one grammar point but we had no time to do any of our presentations which if I am being honest, was relieving. I was fully prepared and had it memorized.. yes, but I still did not want to present. (When do I ever though?)
But class was also A LOT of fun as we got into this laughing fit because of Josh’s facial hair. Finally, the guy shaved his beard—we had all been pressuring him for awhile now. He came into class today and the teacher was shocked to see Josh looking so different. But it’s so true; he almost looks like a different person—he seriously gains back several years once he shaves his beard. Also, while he was in the process of doing that, he took a photo when the only hair on his face was a mustache and goatee. He literally looked crazy. He showed 민정쌤 before class started and she couldn’t stop laughing. She even took a photo of his phone! Our teacher also had such a hilarious reaction to that style.
Josh hates his face bare because he wants to look older even though everyone around him tells him that he looks better with no facial hair. Our teacher said that she doesn’t think he looks like an adult with the beard. She still thinks that he looks around his age. But she made a point to say that without his beard, he looks young and fresh like a high school or middle school student. Jacquelyn and I lost it at this point. Josh just sat in his chair looking dejected over being told he looks so young and says with no energy or emotion in his voice “수업 합시다” (Let’s start class). It was definitely a you-had-to-have-been-there-moment.
After class instead of going home right away, McKenzie came with me to buy macaroons for my close group of 하나고 friends as a gift for their midterm studying
and to bribe them to keep liking me… that’s a joke! I was feeling all confident all of a sudden when I was ordering so I asked the employee how many macaroons were in his smallest set and when he told me 6, I was like perfect, I’ll take it! Then, he told me that actually he only had boxes for 8, so would that be okay and because of who I am as a person, I did not decline and just spent more money on macaroons I didn’t need! (Also my favorite macaroons are still the ones from Blanc Bakery; however, the ones here were only 1,000 won each–less than one dollar–so they are better for buying in bulk.)
I spent the rest of the night studying vocabulary (in preparation for the Topik test on Sunday) and just relaxing. I ended up going to bed early for the first time in awhile. It felt good.
Friday morning, Katie and I snuck around the 5th floor (the grades are separated by floors so the 5th floor is reserved for the third years and their classes and lockers) trying to find my friend 세림’s locker. We literally had nothing to go by, not even the location of her homeroom. We just walked down both of the hallways scanning the names on the lockers for hers. Luckily her name isn’t common and because I knew her last name, we were able to successfully find her locker. I wrote her a quick note and then put two macaroons (the extra ones I bought from yesterday) in a little baggy and put them in her locker. (For those avid readers, 세림 was one of my first friends at 하나고–in my AP Stats and AP Economics class the previous semester)
Like yesterday, since all classes are basically 자습 (self-study) this week, there really wasn’t much to do. However in music class, Katie and I were given a project on 아리랑 (Arirang) to do during the two periods. We are expected to go all out and even make a poster!! Although we had no motivation to do any work, we were quite productive and were able to do all the research we needed and translate all of that into Korean. It took a lot of effort I will say!
In Public Speaking, we just had self-study time so I literally just memorized words on Quizlet for two hours—with the occasional break to check Kakao messages and what not. (Also to check in on 서린 sitting next to me who was switching between manic episodes of sighing and sleeping)
Lunch was fun today even though we failed to get everyone to come today (there’s always someone missing because they didn’t do their homework, they have a meeting, or they have to study for some test etc…) I had to give 혜지 her macaroon early because she was doing homework in one of the 움파s (the little pods in the hallways with tables) instead of coming to lunch.
Also, outside of the cafeteria today, there were a group of students (They seemed to be mostly third year students from the looks of it) singing with our coordinating teacher 경훈쌤. They were also passing out hard boiled eggs with religious phrases and sayings on them around to the students. I realized that they had set this all up because it was Easter on Sunday and that meant that today was Good Friday. I assume that maybe the songs they were singing had some religious undertones to them? It was nice to see them all singing though~ It made me really happy just to see that. Our teacher was also playing the guitar!
Lunch today was really delicious! They served tomato soup, a chicken leg, eggplant Parmesan, and sticks of garlic bread (Although, the garlic bread had sugar on it which was not the move…Why is Korean garlic bread always sweet???). And of course, all our friends got to have macaroons!
After lunch, Katie and I planned out what we were going to do all the following week for midterm week. We were of course going to schedule out some time to study but more importantly, we wanted to really use the time we had left in Korea to the best of our abilities and if that means playing rather than studying as much as we have been studying (and that’s a lot trust me) then so be it! This is a rough outline of our schedule:
Morning: Brunch in 홍대 (At Flapjack Pantry ❤ The OG)
Before Class: Black & White Cartoon Cafe (Study Time)
Lunch: (if hungry) Convenience Store Ramen
Dinner: With Host Family
Morning: Mail Package (by boat) Back to America (Post Office in 홍대)
Before Class: Josh’s Cafe Near Better World (To Study)
Lunch: Katie w/ 주연쌤 and Me w/ 소영쌤 (Being treated by our Resident Directors <3)
Dinner: Class Dinner with Josh and Jacquelyn
Morning: Wear Spring 한복 at 경복궁
Lunch: Food at 통인시장
Afternoon: APA awards Event
Dinner: Meet up with 혜린 언니 to have Dinner and Hang Out~
Morning: Cafe at 익선동 & Shopping
Before class: Above Continued
Lunch: Street Food (Something Easy)
Dinner: With Host Family
인천 Island Trip with the 대원 students!!!
Our economics teacher didn’t show up to class today so we ended up all having to go to the library and study there. I tried studying for the entire first period—I did like one grammar point and I studied some vocab but by break time… I got so tired. So during the second period… I just slept the entire time in the library. I had no shame (but neither did many of the other students there so it is what it is!)
After school, Katie and I were so elated at the fact that it was now the weekend and… we would be off for the next week from school!! (Because the 하나고 students would be taking midterms then) We were practically screaming while leaving the school building! (The security guards at the gate probably thought we were so weird…)
We went to a Paris Baguette near the subway station and shared a strawberry cream croissant and did our makeup (And when I say that I mean Katie did my makeup and her own!)
I had plans to hangout with a Korean friend in 홍대 afterwards while Katie was hanging out with some NSLI-Y friends around 마포구 as well.
Friday night was really nice~ The weather was so nice so I really enjoyed walking around the streets of 홍대, getting more of the inside scoop of the place from a local (because although I am here AT LEAST three times a week, I still seem to go to the same old couple of places and I don’t just explore random alley ways).
We walked around the 홍익대 (Hongik University) campus too which I had never actually seen. Mostly because I had no need to go up to their campus—I don’t know any students there—but it was interesting to see that Korean colleges looked really similar to American ones. They did have a smoking room which I thought was interesting. And, one of there streets was called “와우” street (Wow street) which made my day.
There is this place in 홍대 that once had this huge playground (according to my friend) but now it’s just an open area with a brick path that has a lot of benches (and I guess sometimes performers too?) People still call it 놀이터 (playground), however. Now, many people use it as a meeting spot. Though I heard it’s not the best place to go at night because of the bars and clubs that are such a close proximity—weird people fill up that area fast (again…according to my local friend).
For dinner we got pasta at this really small joint called Pasta Rico and we shared two plates of pasta. It was all really delicious! And the prices were not bad for pasta! My seafood tomato dish was less than $8–like would you look at that!
We went to a 노래방 (karaoke) after that and sang several songs—really off key and we even mumbled lyrics we didn’t know but it was fun nonetheless. I have realized that I will never be good at Korean rap, no matter how much effort I put in.
We finished off the night just going to a cafe to just chill and chat. We talked a lot and besides having a friend to hang out with, our friendship is truly helping me get better at Korean no doubt. Just tonight, we discussed Korea’s convoluted and tough-to-break-into job market and competition with college entrance exams and such. (Shoutout to my Korean class for making it possible for me discuss such complicated topics! Moments like these remind me how far I have come!)
Wow did not expect to make 2,000 words…let alone almost hitting 2,500. Sorry about that! I hope you enjoyed this exceptionally long blog post anyways! Thanks for reading!
- Emma 엠마