Global Youth Service Day: Making Korean Masks at Youth Center & Eating REAL Pie (04/27-04/28/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/27/19 Saturday 

Today was Global Youth Service Day! And if you don’t know what that is, it is an international day recognizing youths’ contribution to their communities. It calls upon the youth of the world to also complete community service on the day in honor of what it stands for. Because of this, Better World organized us to do an extra community service event at the youth center in 마포구 which I did service at throughout the duration of our winter break. 

Today we prepared presentations for the children on Korean traditional mask dance (since we did see one in 안동, we are basically experts—just joking…) Each Korean class had a more specific topic under the branch if mask dance to focus on and present about. My class focused on the history although in my part, I talked about the present usage/application of mask dances (tourism mostly) and then ended off the presentation with a cheesy “If you get the chance to see a mask dance, don’t miss the opportunity and make sure to grab it.” Everyone loved it, though!

After our presentation, we all got matched up with one Korean student (well except me and Addie but we ended up stealing other people’s kids instead) and we made Korean masks! We were given a plain white shell/mold of one of two types traditional masks (One was the bride and the other was the nobleman I believe? Or maybe the fool?) Then to decorate them, we had this textured puffy/slime colored clay? I really don’t know how to describe it! It was like using textured foam and clay at the same time! We used that to cover our masks and decorate them. 

Making the masks was actually fun and kind of calming, stress-relieving even. It was also really nice getting to talk to the kids about a lot of things from their trials making homemade slime to BTS—a room favorite it seemed. We also ate lunch with the kids. Better World and the youth center bought us all burgers from McDonald’s.

This was my first time ever having a shrimp burger!! I remember opening the wrapping and expecting to see a beef patty (as I did not read the label when grabbing my food) and was extremely shook to see a pretty much pink/beige patty. It was good though. I will admit.

We ended off the event by all cleaning up together, taking a group photo, and dancing? We played this one girl group song which has a pretty provocative dance and these two little boys danced along with it so well! I haven’t seen the original but I would bet tons of money that it is definitely not as entertaining as the version we saw today. 

Afterward, I didn’t want to go home right away, so Kaitlyn and I made plans to visit a cafe together and get some work done (Korean studies or our individual research projects). It was kind of a last minute decision to go so I just hopped on Mango plate and looked for a cafe that seemed pretty and I found this one that seemed to serve real, authentic looking pie! Most places in Korea that claim to sell pie really just sell fruit tarts. (This was first learned when searching for pie to eat on pie day last month…)

The name of the cafe was 오늘의 위로

But these looked like the real deal. Real slices of American-style pie! I pulled it up on Kakao maps and somehow, with my mediocre navigational skills in tow, we were able to find the cafe! It was actually extremely small with only about 4 tables to sit at so we decided not to stay that long as courtesy to the other guests that would want to eat here. We left after a short line formed outside. Kaitlyn ordered a strawberry cake while I went for a slice of warm apple pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream–which was extra but worth it. It was honestly so delicious! Tasted like Thanksgiving! I was in love! (And in addition to the amazing taste, everything looked so aesthetically pleasing!)

We were pretty productive in between the random spurts of us just having fun conversation. We left the cafe before dinner time, both returning to our respective homes for the night. Originally I wanted to go out but since I had already done the most this midterms week (basically going out and having fun every single day for the whole week), I needed some rest. 

Lazy Dinner = Ramen

4/28/19 Sunday

Today was a very chill Sunday. I did nothing. I stayed at home all day and worked on my Korean homework and created the outline for my individual project (which was due at 11:59 pm that night).

앤디야~ 왤케 귀여워??

I’m also writing this blog post more than two weeks after this day happened so a lot has left my memory unfortunately… additionally, the lack of pictures does not help but I am assuming it wasn’t too eventful. 

Sometime in the afternoon, my host mom bought croquettes from the little shop within the train station that sells them for like 1,000 to 2,000 won or less. I had never really eaten a croquette before (or the particular ones at that shop although I pass it every time I use the subway and usually always consider buying something but talk myself out of it every time). For those who don’t know what a croquette is, it is basically a fried pastry (kinda like a fritter type thing?) filled with something.

The ones my host mom bought were filled with vegetables, sweet potato, cream cheese, and red bean. (There was one with corn salad but y’all know I did NOT touch that beast…) My favorite ones from the bunch were the 찹쌀도넛 which were these circular donuts (honestly like munchkins) that were filled with red bean and had mochi-like texture. They differ from traditional donut holes;however, because they are made with rice flour rather than being yeast donuts. It was chewy and soft at the same time!! My host mom and I just ate them and talked for a bit before I returned to my room to attempt to be more productive. (I do believe I finished a movie on Netflix this day as well…) 

I was doing homework and then got so confused by this passage. We are currently learning about recent innovations and high-tech products and this particular line brings up a fridge with a screen that allows for its users to check where certain things are inside. I was like what? Are we really becoming this dependent on technology? We can just OPEN the door!

Well that is all for this blog post~~ I hope you enjoyed reading! I’m really behind on these posts but life has gotten so hectic here since it is the end of my time in Korea (10 days left exactly!) so I’m trying to make the most of everything and that does not mean spending hours on my computer writing and editing blog posts…only downside is I forget a lot when I don’t write them soon after… *sigh* Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마 

Asia Philanthropy Awards & Hanging Out with Korean Friend in 서촌 (04/24/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/24/19 Wednesday 

My school uniform had to go and mess up my plans for this morning. I was originally planning on going to 경복궁 with Katie this morning to wear pastel colored premium 한복 (Korean traditional dress) and take photos but my uniform (or the lack of one) stopped me from following through on that plan. After 경복궁, we had to meet at 을지로입구역 at 12:05 pm to attend a mandatory NSLI-Y obligation, so we were only going to be walking around the palace grounds for about an hour and a half.

I woke up at 7 am and got ready by 8 am because it takes me about an hour to get to 경복궁 from where I currently live (west side of 고양시). While getting ready, I proceed to pack my bag with my school uniform (We had to wear our high school uniforms to the event– It was mandatory), only to realize that everything was in the wash.

Because I was not attending school this week, I put all of my uniform in my hamper to be washed without even considering the fact that it would not be dry in time for Wednesday. I started to freak out but I assumed I could just dress formally–in a dress– and then wear my school blazer (the one part of my school uniform, besides my bow or tie, that was not in the wash). I texted 소영쌤 about the situation and assumed that it was already solved and that this would be the end of that but… unfortunately, I was wrong. I was on the train–about 30 minutes from my house– and 소영쌤 tells me that I need to wear my uniform no matter what. Even if it is just my skirt and blazer but with a different top. But she stressed that I needed my skirt.

So I had to turn around to get home and wait an hour until my host mom woke up so that I could ask her to get my uniform (because it was hanging up to dry on the balcony attached to her room). My vest and dress shirt were soaked so I ditched those and just wore my wet skirt to appease 소영쌤 and the other 쌤s. I was back on the train before I knew it on the way to the ceremony…low key wishing that I did have the chance to go to 경복궁 with Katie.

I ended up getting to the meeting location about 20 minutes early and so did Alice so we ended up just walking around the area nearby. It reminded me of the main shopping streets of 명동 but way less touristy. It was definitely a place I could see a lot of college students going. Alix and I stumbled upon an earring shop with a lot of sales so we looked around and both bought something. (Since coming to Korea, I have fallen in love with earrings! I used to wear the same earrings every single day for basically all of high school.)

Eventually, we all met up with each other and made our way to the banquet hall that would be holding the APA: Asian Philanthropy Awards. (Did I mention earlier that this was what we would be doing?) Our group included all of the 대원외고 students, Katie and me, and the couple of others who wanted to skip school to attend this event: Hunter, Alix, June, and Jacquelyn. 

We ate some 김밥 that they prepared for us for lunch and then we pretty much sat there for the next hour. Jacquelyn was the only one really doing stuff as she had to practice for her co-host position. (She translated what the host said into English throughout the award ceremony. She was given a script before the event.)

Look at us ❤

About an hour before the start of the awards, June and I were delegated the task of standing in front of the second set of elevators (and the bathroom) to direct people coming off of the elevators to the check-in as well as direct people looking for the bathroom in the right direction. So we stood near the doors awkwardly yet boldly telling people where to go with Korean phrases we practiced with each other several times before we got the first chance to use them. Some people were really impressed with us and I really appreciated the people that would still greet us and ask us questions in Korean, it was validating. There were plenty of people that tried to shake our hands and only greeted us with “Hello” did it for us, but I tried my best to not take the comfortable route and go along with the ‘foreigner’ treatment. (plus I speak Korean so !! it was strange to suddenly switch to English.)

As expected… the group photo! 역시 그룹 사진을 찍었죸ㅋㅋ

The awards started at 2 pm and you best know that I raided the dessert and refreshment table before it began—one plastic cup filled with butter cookies and chocolate wafers. The people winning awards were from all around Asia including a Vietnamese Non-Profit Organization, a Japanese businessman, and an Indian man who won philanthropist of the year. There was also an award that went out to this high school student for developing music therapy programs at her school and others in the nearby area. She actually goes to an international school here in Korea and speaks perfect English! 

They even had a performance! This group did a lively tap dance routine!

Once the award ceremony was over, Katie, Mackenzie, and I convinced 주연쌤 and 소영쌤 to have individual meetings with us so we could talk about our stresses and how we are feeling about the end of the program being so soon. (This involved convincing them not to return to the Better World Office after the event).

❤ 우리 사랑하는 소영쌤과 주연쌤 ❤
벚꽃아이스크림

They said yes and so we went to a cafe and all had ice cream! Most of us tried their seasonal flavor of cherry blossom but honestly the flavor was really weak, which actually turned out to be a good thing since the after taste was reminiscent of cherry kid’s cough medicine. But still, I ate all of it and felt very grateful to 주연쌤 for buying it all for us! ❤

After that, Katie and I made our way to the 서촌 area near 경복궁 (made it here eventually ;”) in order to meet our supporter 혜린언니 for dinner and a cafe date! She had finished midterms that day (and had stayed up all night to study), so she ended up falling asleep right before we met up and woke up right at our meeting time. We waited about half an hour for her to arrive and she could not stop apologizing to us! But we wholeheartedly understood! We had no problem waiting for one of our favorite people! 

Two of my favorite things in this one photo: 혜린언니 & 떡볶이! hehe

For dinner, we decided to go to 통인시장 but by the time we got there, pretty much every stall was closed or starting to close so our options were very limited. We found this one small place that had some indoor seating near the exit of the market and we shared some 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), 순대 (blood sausage), and 튀김 (fried veggies like sweet potato and seaweed). 혜린언니 did not think the food tasted that good and wished we could have ate something better but Katie and I kept reassuring her that we enjoyed the meal! And regardless of the taste, we were not here for the food but for her! It really touches me that she cares so much about us. How did we get so lucky to have been basically placed with the best supporter?

We went to a cute cafe after dinner and shared a lava cake and a strawberry and blueberry late which were way too expensive but nonetheless very delicious! We spent the next couple of hours just talking and laughing the night away. The previous times we have met, we talked in a lot of mixed English and Korean but this time it was almost all in Korean! I could not believe how much we have improved to talk about all that we did! A lot of dating talk went down? Comparing relationships in America and Korea. It was quite fun. We also high key talked about people and things they do that annoy us– AKA pet peeves!

I really enjoyed this night with 혜린언니 and Katie and my heart truly aches when I think about our last meeting before we return to America (because this will not be our last!) I am going to miss her so much! It has been great having an older sister that I am so close with! Luckily, I know she will always be here for me to hang out whenever I do return. For that, I am grateful!

  • Emma 엠마

After Class Karaoke, Supporter Meeting, & Dinner with Yonsei Students (02/11-13/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/11/19 Monday

I am so utterly behind on blog posts… so these combined blog posts are going to be quite all over the place because my mind can only patch together the days’ activities. Especially for the days when I barely took any photos… Well, enough of that, let us get on with this blog post!

On Monday, I went to a cafe in the morning by myself–just to do some studying before class because I was not being productive at home at all. I ended up going to a bakery with Kaitlyn for lunch rather than getting our usual 편의점 lunch… just to shake things up! I ate a Croque monsieur or something like that? Some fancy french sandwich of some kind which Kaitlyn made me feel bad for not knowing the name! 

After Korean class (look at me high key ignoring what happened during class since I cannot remember), I went to a 노래방 for about an hour with Liam, Kaitlyn, and Josh which was super fun. I will never truly learn to appreciate the amazing feeling it is to sing your heart out (good mood, bad mood, frustrations, worries, anything) with your favorite songs. I know I am probably the worst singer on this planet! Regardless, I still enjoy singing karaoke. After that, I went to some interesting language exchange group meeting… would not recommend. I am all for language exchange so maybe I will try again another time but right now, not for me.

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02/12/19 Tuesday

Tuesday was our second to last supporter meeting before the big Cultural Explorers Presentation on Friday! There was a lot to get done! We met up at Blanc (the OG meeting spot) and just focused on preparing for the presentation. I edited the video for the presentation (which included all the statistics and background information of the financial situation and government policies regarding single mothers.)

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The BEST Supporter Group!<3

Korean class was pretty chill today. The break times between classes were a lot of fun as the 1반 students kept coming into our classroom to hang out and chat with our teacher which was fun. At one point, Kaitlyn and June kept making fun of Josh for walking like the walking man emoji? Josh actually became worried after this–worried about his posture. It was also McKenzie’s birthday so I bought her some jelly beans with adorable pig wrapping because well, that is my brand. Our teacher had us sing to her when she entered our room after I made it known that it was, in fact, her birthday.

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Today we finally learned the rules for how to pronounce 의. There are situations in which you can pronounce it in three different ways: 의, 이, and 에.

I went home right after class today because I knew the rest of the week would be a lot of late nights–definitely fun nights but nights without a lot of interaction with my host family in turn. I had a delicious dinner with my host family and then I also went on a walk with my older host sister and Andy. We just walked around the mall connected to the subway station for a while and talked about a lot of things. One thing was going back to school… oh, how I am dreading that… Especially now that I have a longer commute! Oh well, that cannot be helped. I guess I will just have to become a normal person and develop healthy sleeping habits! What a concept!

02/13/19 Wednesday

Wednesday was a jam-packed day indeed! It felt like at every moment I was busy doing something or on my way to get to the next thing. I started off the morning visiting my old subway station 화정역 with Katie. We walked around and reminisced together and I realized how much I missed the area near the station! It is so lively~ We ate at our usual 편의점, bought some really cheap macaroons at my favorite place next to Daiso, and then just strolled around until it was time to meet Josh at the station. I, of course, took them to my favorite cafe near the station called Dodori Cafe! We ended up studying there for 4 hours together! And I will say that it was pretty much all productive work time with a few chatty distractions. Practically the whole time I was editing the video for our presentation on Friday rather than doing any actual Korean studying. I forgot how tedious video editing can be! And I am not even any good at it~ All my edits were beginner level (this-would-never-actually-look-professional-type edits) but hey, I was trying! 

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One of my favorite pictures I found about single mothers while editing the video. Translation: Going out into the world is scary. Clearly, it would be painful. However, for the child, (she) must face it (stand it).

Seeing the owner of the cafe was nice~ She seemed happy to see us and said that it had been a long time since we last came in and it definitely had! I believe the last time I was there was when I went by myself on a Friday. But that was back with my old family, I have now been moved in with this one for more than a month! Oh, how time flies! I ordered my usual green tea latte and we all split one of the delicious (and cheap) chocolate muffins too. 

After dropping off Katie at the train station (Josh and I decided to study a bit more) this group of male high school students stopped me and asked if I could take a survey. The survey was targeted to only foreigners living in 고양시. The boys were from the foreign language high school nearby. I answered the questions that just asked about the beauty of 고양, the people, and the smoking on the street. The last question asked about working conditions so I told them that I was a student. I also talked to them for a little bit about how many foreigners they were able to find for the survey. I was not surprised that I was their first one of the day. I’ve definitely seen foreigners around the train station but I can definitely count those experiences on just one of my hands. 

By 6 pm, I made my way to the youth community center in 마포 for 급식 봉사 활동 (Community service serving meals). As always, although I don’t feel that we are the most needed when we are there, it was still some good fun: interacting with the kids and of course, being a part of the best 급식 gang {Shada & Kaitlyn!} 

After finishing up community service a bit after 7 pm, I made my way over to 신촌 to meet up with Jessica! {Korea Summer 2016 alumna and current student at 연세대학교} We were originally just meeting to have dinner and spill some tea at a cafe but she ended up inviting me to hang out with all of her friends?!? First, while she found me on the road, she was like “My friends are here and they want to meet you.” I assumed they were foreigners as exchange students that come to Korea usually have bad luck with making actual Korean friends. But then a part of my mind had this -it-is-Jessica-so-these-friends-may-be-Korean feeling so I asked… if you could see the look on my face when she told me that they were indeed Korean and from her unification club at school. Once I greeted them and we all relished in the awkward atmosphere for a while, she asked me if we wanted to all go and have dinner together—and that is what we ended up doing! 

We went out to this Indian restaurant which made my second time having Indian food that week! {Which is crazy seeing that before Sunday, I had never eaten Indian food before!} Conversation with everyone was really awkward at first… they all expected me to just be confident and really good at Korean because of what Jessica told them. They had a lot of questions for me—mostly about the fact that I’m attending a Korean high school right now. I spoke Korean to all of them while Jessica and I would talk to the side in English. It was an interesting night … I was glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone to have dinner with strangers and use my Korean skills. {Also found out that Jessica and I were born in the same year! I was so shook! I always thought that she seemed so much older than me! Her friends made jokes about us not really being friends since we did not know we were born in the same year but in America, it’s not like that—age really isn’t important in relationships.}

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Once dinner was finished, Jessica took me to this cafe called Pie Hole which is a pretty trendy place in 신촌. We just hung out and shared a slice of pie {though I ate most of it} while updating each other on what has been happening. Jessica had just come back from her winter break in America and I was telling her about our research projects, any NSLI-Y tea I had to spill, and how I felt about the impending doom of returning to high school in March!! Looking back, I still had so much time left on this day. As I’m writing this now {… two weeks later… I only have 4 days left of freedom!!} 

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ I definitely did! It was such a jam-packed day! I did so much! This is the kind of day I really enjoy~ Everything is chill cause nothing is really mandatory or holding any weight (since it is winter break) but I am still busy doing fun things! Till next time!

  • Emma 엠마

Running in to a Youtuber, Visiting a Shelter for Single Mothers in Korea, and Studying at a Comic Book Cafe (01/24-25/19) NSLI-Y AY

01/24/19 Thursday

We had no project meeting today, so the morning was free for every NSLI-Yian to spend it however they liked it. I decided to wake up early and work on my presentation for Korean class at a cafe, so I ended up at The Coffee Bean (and Tea Leaf). To be honest, I really dislike going to cafes alone; I really do prefer being able to study with friends! Though this is the case, I will say that I got a lot done at the cafe by myself! I was able to make my powerpoint for the presentation and memorize all my lines. Usually–because of a lack time–I only memorize lines well enough to recite some off the top of my head and the rest come to me after reading the first couple of words on my presentation slides. But this time, I was able to memorize it fully. I also think that it helped that I knew exactly what I was saying. I used complex grammar and advanced vocabulary but I made sure I knew how to use them rather than just writing things that would sound good to my teacher. While I was at the cafe, a YouTuber named Sissel (A model from Denmark) showed up. At first, I did not notice it was her. I was very concentrated on what I was doing, so I never looked up from my laptop. The thing that made me finally look in her direction was when I heard her open her mouth– her lovely accent gave her away! She was there meeting someone and I did not want to be rude so I did not approach her to say hi. I will say she is far prettier in person! I don’t even know why… but I was starstruck! (I later DMd her on Instagram to tell her that I saw her at the cafe and she responded telling me that she also noticed me because of my hair. It was a sweet interaction). I literally watched one of her videos the day prior, so running into her was such a coincidence.

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Anyway, after finishing up my presentation (and memorizing a new chapter of vocab words on Quizlet) I went to the center where my classes are held and grabbed some lunch from the 편의점 with Shada and Kaitlyn (That 김밥 life though…) I just chilled there and reviewed some grammar while Kaitlyn taught Shada a dance to some Jay Park. It was really funny to watch. (Though, they were actually pretty good! Especially Kaitlyn, she is actually a dancer.)

Korean class went really well today. We had four hours today so we were able to learn two grammar points and do some reading and listening passages in our textbook. The grammar points were really not that difficult and I can see myself using them frequently which makes me happy. But, I think the best part of the class was the presentations for this week. I did a really great job presenting. I did not forget anything that I was supposed to say and I kept a good pace and even did a good job with inflections and expressing emotions. At the end of my presentation, we had a short discussion on the topic: lookism. It was really interesting to hear from the teacher and what she thought about everything.

After class, I just came home right away and had dinner with my host family– black bean noodles were on the menu. I did not do too much homework because I was tired and since tomorrow was Friday, I knew there was no rush to finish anything. 

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But looooook at this! When I got out of the bathroom after taking a shower, my host dog Andy was waiting for me!! This was too adorable for me not to take a photo of! Anyway…

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01/25/19 Friday

Katie and I met up early at 홍대 with the goal of withdrawing some money because we both have officially accepted the fact that it is winter break and we will have to spend more money than our stipend no matter how much it hurts our cheap hearts. Katie met up with me a little late so we did not have time to take our usual 10 ish minute trek to the Citibank ATM. Instead, we wandered around hoping to see a non-sketchy looking ATM closer to the subway station and we did! This whole time there has been a 신한은행 (Shinhan Bank, my favorite bank might I add…sorry 하나은행… I have no experience with your ATMs so….) right by exit 3! And we had no idea! Well, next time, we will know! Now we can more easily get cash to feed our poor spending habits.

Anyway, we met up with our supporter 혜린언니 and walked to the Hmart Express near the Better World office in order to buy daily supplies for the single mothers and children we would be visiting at the shelter the very same day. We ended up buying two shampoo bottles, six adult tubes of toothpaste, 3 children tubes of toothpaste, and a couple bars of soap. After purchasing everything, we left to go have lunch at this ramen place we tried going to the other day when Josh joined us for lunch.

Luckily, this time, it was open! We all ordered the same thing and got to enjoy some really high-quality ramen while enjoying each other’s company. Katie and I have been speaking more Korean with our supporter which is always good. This lunch was a really good example of it because I noticed the times when Katie and I would switch back and forth between the two languages depending on the subject at hand. I also found myself saying some things just to be able to use recently studied grammar points so go me for putting what I learn into my daily conversations!

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We walked from the ramen shop to the shelter for single mothers which was only a 10-minute walk from exit 4 of the subway station. We originally planned to do some actual volunteering there but that is going to be rescheduled for another day and possibly a different shelter that needs more help. At this place, we were just brought into the office by one of the women that ran the shelter and we had a casual interview type conversation about single mothers in Korea and their lives. She basically restated many of the same points that our interviewee on Wednesday said but with a bit more detail on different subjects (Also, her Korean was a bit more manageable to understand I will say). One thing that she talked about more was the psychological support the women and children get at the shelter which really interested me because I also know that mental health can be a bit of a taboo and really personal topic in Korea (while it feels a bit more accepted by western countries specifically America).

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We were then given a tour of the shelter and I was a bit surprised by how nice it was. It kind of reminded me of a college dorm with a common eating area, shared bathrooms on each floor, and separate single rooms for the mothers and their children. There is a kitchen but meals are not provided at the shelter. The moms are given that space to cook for themselves and their children with the food they purchase with their own working money. While we were there, most of the single moms were at work or out while the kids were at 학원 or daycare (어린이집). There was one mother and daughter who popped their heads out of their doorways and said hello to us. The daughter was not feeling well so they stayed home that day. At this shelter, the maximum amount of time they can stay is one year.

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After our visit concluded, Katie and I said goodbye to 혜린언니 and went to go hang out at this book/cartoon cafe that I found on a Youtube video. The place is called 놀숲 (I guess it kind of translates to “play forest”) and you pay by the hour to stay and the drink is included in the price. Katie and I both paid for 3 hours (and a drink) which came out to be about 10 dollars per person. The place is really cute because there are cubbies with blankets and pillows and even tents up on this lofted area. Around the bookcases, there are also normal desks with comfy seats in case you want to read or study (sitting up). The place also sells snacks (like chips, candy, etc) and actual food (떡볶이, 라면, 파스타, etc) and has a PC room in the back– which I would prob never use but it is cool that this place offers so much!

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We were productive with our time for almost two hours and then we started watching a very interesting movie… we had to shut it off about 50 minutes in because it was too much for one sitting aha maybe we will finish it another day? We walked around 홍대 for a bit (Katie and I shared some of those candied strawberries. They seem to be very popular lately! I guess strawberries are in season now~). Also, something a bit strange happened. These guys stopped us both and asked if they could interview us about cultural differences between America and Korea. We concluded that they were not a part of a cult so we went for it; it was a good experience to practice Korean at least.

I came home early to have dinner with my host family and we talked about some pretty serious topics? It was pretty interesting… For example, my host sister was showing me the world map they have in the living room with stickers and writing on places that they have been to and want to go to. They have written the names of people they have met on their respective hometowns too which was really cute. After showing me everything, my older host sister even put my name up on the map! She circled Chicago and wrote my hometown–Lemont– on it and my name with a heart next to it ❤ When we were looking at the American part of the map, my host sister told me she wanted to go to the Grand Canyon but is scared to go because of the recent news. I was shocked and was like “What news?” 

Apparently, there was a Korean exchange student that went to the Grand Canyon and actually fell off. He did not die but is only alive due to life support–brain dead. He broke like almost all of his limbs and the fact that he is staying in an American hospital for an extended period of time means that his family is racking up the medical bills…. I can imagine how crazy the costs seem to Koreans because people literally go to hospitals here for the common cold (I am not kidding) and the costs for visiting a doctor are next to nothing (in comparison to American healthcare). This family needs to pay about 3,000,000,000 dollars to be able to bring their son back to South Korea from America… you can see how that is not an easy thing to do. There is also a lot of controversy about this situation in the nation because the family is trying to raise money to bring their son back home. My host sister told me that some people believe that it was the boy’s fault for taking that risk to go to such a ‘dangerous’ place.

We also talked about allergies and the deaths that have come about because of that (I know… some very strange things to bring up in a conversation during/after dinner.) My host sisters found it pretty funny that I had a lot of experiences having certain nuts for the first time here in Korea because both my mom and twin brother are allergic (very badly) to all nuts. So I was never exposed to them at home (and did not really have any desire to eat them outside).

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What was this pastry my host mom gave me? I have no idea…

After dinner, I worked on my workbook and wrote some blog posts. I gave up on doing any other studying to allow myself some time to relax and binge watch tons of Youtube videos. I had plans to visit my old host family the next day so I went to bed early to have the energy to deal with my energetic siblings!

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

 

Research Project Interview, Community Service, and (Real?) Tacos in Korea {01/23/19} NSLIY Korea AY

01/23/19 Wednesday

We needed to record our interview today with KUMFA {한국미혼모가족협회} for our research project but we were not given a camera. To add on to that, the tripod that 더나은세상 gave us wasn’t compatible with our phones. Later, 혜린언니 found us one that she had at her home but it only filmed things vertically which made the videos not come out so nice… therefore, Katie and I went on a hunt to buy binder clips and rubber bands to somehow attach her phone to the borrowed tripod—horizontally. While we were at Morning Glory trying to search for some thick rubber bands, I found this weird phone mount for a table top which led us to find the actual tripods! They were kind of expensive but Katie took one for the team and used her parent’s credit card to pay for it. 필요한 것이라서 괜찮은 것 같은데요 ㅋㅋ

While we were messing with the tripod, Katie accidentally left her wallet on the bench we were sitting at. She didn’t realize until we were at a 편의점 about an 8 min walk away. We hurried back and returned to the same bench to see no wallet. I noticed some guys surrounding the area and saw one holding a wallet that seemed pretty similar to Katie’s—as you guessed it, it was hers! Those men were just holding it and waiting for her to return and were leaving the area as we approached. They were so kind to wait and we got there at a good time because who knows where they would have brought it. After that, we went to meet our supporter at the subway exit to head over to the location of our interview. We took a quick bus ride and then waited at a Paris Baguette. There, we practiced our interview questions and bought a cake for the workers at KUMFA. 

The office was on the 5th floor of this building and they were getting a lot of shipments the day we were there so there were boxes everywhere. We were taken to the children’s playroom in order to conduct the interview because there was no free room anywhere else. We were allowed to record ourselves and the content of the interview but we were not allowed to record the face of the man we were interviewing. 

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Fun Storytime: We got to the interview location early so we just waited in the elevator on the 5th floor for several minutes. Until we saw a delivery man try to use the elevator and then we scrammed.

The interview ended up being almost an hour long! We had 52 minutes of footage! And I did understand the vast majority of what was said; I will admit! I also kept getting distracted with other things in my mind because I couldn’t always understand him… the content was quite difficult. We left after the interview and giving the present. He asked us how much the cake was and I was so confused??? 혜린언니 later told me that government officials {I think?} aren’t allowed to receive gifts from the public that are more than $10 or something along the lines of that. It was pretty interesting.

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Also…take a look here! Better World used a picture of me and my former two host sisters for host family recruitment!

After the interview, we ran to find a place to have lunch because I needed to use the bathroom so badly—plus we were hungry. So, we ended up at Burger King, with some delicious chicken tenders & fries. 

We separated at this point with 혜린언니 going home and Katie going to meet Josh at a cafe. I was heading over to 마포구어린이수련관 early because Kaitlyn had gotten out of community service and wanted someone to chill with her until we both did the nighttime community service. June and Jacquelyn {and Shada} eventually joined us so we all hung out at a Twosome Place for a little more than an hour. We also ordered three pieces of cake because we wanted to live it big!!! Not mad about it…

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Out of the three cake slices, the raspberry cheesecake was the best!

I tried doing some studying at the cafe… but that did not go too well if I am being honest… but anyway, eventually 6 pm rolled around and we met the director of the center to hear about what we had to do for the community service. We were just going to go get the food for the dinner, set it up on this table outside of the classroom, eat with the kids, and then lastly, clean up. It was fun serving the children {I was on rice duty} although I was pretty bad at giving them all a good amount of rice. We ended up not eating with them because I had plans with Kaitlyn to get pasta after the service so we just sat in the rooms and tried to speak with the children… they were shy so it was a lot of silent whispers and awkward conversations. Hopefully, next time {when we actually eat with them} it will be less weird? I do think it will get better! 

After service ended, Kaitlyn and I headed back to 홍대 to visit this restaurant known for really pretty pasta ice cream??? {Don’t worry it’s real pasta and fake ice cream!} Unfortunately, with our luck, it ended up being closed. Apparently, on weekdays the place closes at 6 pm while it stays open to 8 pm on the weekends. We were there at around 7:30… it was quite sad. We decided, instead, that we would go either after class on Monday or before community service on Wednesday. 

Instead, we went on a hunt for tacos! Kaitlyn found this one place on the main bustling street on her phone maps but we could not actually find it. We walked down the street twice before she finally accepted the fact that it no longer exists! I remembered seeing a place near exit three that Liam pointed out a while ago and we were able to successfully find that and eat there. 

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We shared a plate of nachos and I ate quesadillas! I was so happy to have somewhat of a familiar taste of Hispanic food! Like there was salsa! I haven’t had salsa since America and I love salsa! It was pretty pricey not gonna lie but definitely worth it. 

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We ate too many of the nachos before I was able to snap a picture…

I came home pretty late and immediately got on the grind because I had a presentation to do for Thursday!!! And I hadn’t even decided on a topic yet!!! Our teacher told us to do cultural differences between America and Korea but I really wanted to try something else so… I decided to be wild and do the concept of Lookism—the obsession of physical beauty or discrimination against others for the way they look {these two definitions exist}.

I spent so much time researching the topic because I knew it was sensitive and I wanted to represent it correctly. Since it took a lot of research time, it also took a long time to write. I finished writing the script— getting it to three minutes— at 2 am! But it was okay, I did this to myself~ I had time to start it earlier… I just didn’t. I planned to get up early and go to a cafe to make my PowerPoint. And that was the end of my day~ 

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My host mom brought strawberries to my room~ ❤

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! Till the next one~~ 

  • Emma 엠마

Community Service in Korea: 밥퍼 (Preparing Food for The Poor Elderly) 01/16/19 (NSLI-Y AY)

01/16/19 Wednesday

Today would be our first time during community service as a full NSLI-Y Group. We had to meet at 청량리역 bright and early so I had to wake up before 6 am–something I have not done in a very long time (since I got out for winter break from 하나고, to be honest). The station we were going to was very confusing so 민정쌤 told us to not come in on any line but line 1, that it would be easier to find the exit since it is not connected to the same building of the other two lines. However, this transfer caused me a lot of stress and ended up making me late since the trains seemed to all be late today. My first train on the 경의중앙 line was late and so I ended up missing my transfer train and then my next transfer train was late so overall I ended up being about 5 minutes late to the meeting time. (Though I will argue that I am one of the individuals that lives the farthest from this station!)

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Anyways, we walked to the location of the community service together and piled into the church to hear about their purpose, the origins of the organization, as well as to hear the instructions of what we would be doing for them today. The Dail Community (다일공동체) works to provide lunch for the poor elderly in the surrounding area. The elderly may be homeless or living alone, or just not receiving enough wages to afford to eat for 3 meals a day. Some of them have disabilities or mental health issues. Some younger adults will come through but we were informed that they often are ridiculed by the others (because they are still young and able to go out and get a job) and so they will try to make themselves look older so no one knows. Hearing this, made me feel pretty sad… I would hope that if someone needs help, they would not feel embarrassed to seek the help they so desperately need. We got to watch a short video about the work that 밥퍼 also does abroad in countries like Tanzania and The Philippines to help feed hungry kids. It was all very touching and it made me excited to lend my hands to this organization today.

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Hunter, me and June!

After discussing all that we did, we got to ready to perform the community service. We put on aprons, rain boots, and tied up our hair and were led to the kitchen where we would first prepare the food and then later serve it. For the 45 minutes or so, I was on chicken duty: peeling the skin off and deboning the chicken before shredding it in order for it be made into soup. Once we finished all of that, the elderly started piling into the dining area. We were given new jobs that involved either helping pass out food, collecting money, or actually serving the food. I was on rice duty at first, meaning I served the rice onto the lunch trays. After about 5 minutes, this old man switched with me and I later found out it was probably because he could not do more of the laborious tasks–which I was given instead.

I was on dishwashing duty with Josh and we focused on washing bigger dishes in a large sink with hoses. We cleaned the large pots that had rice cooked in them and we also cleaned the pots that contained the soup, meat, and the side dishes. This involved scrubbing the remnants of food off before using soap and water to finish the job off. While I was cleaning, my back began to hurt and I accidentally got my left arm soaked with dirty dishwater which made me wish that time would go by faster or that I was doing something else. But from the station I was at washing the dishes, I could look out the door and see a long winding line of old people–hungry for nutrition. Seeing all these people out there reminded me how much all of this food meant to them. They needed our help. I saw those people waiting outside and realized that the faster I cleaned these pots, the sooner they could be used to make more food. We were helping these people. It felt good providing them with our time to help out.

We served lunch for the elderly for two hours. Once 1pm came around, we started cleaning up for a little bit before stopping for lunch. We ate the same things that were served to the elderly with some extra beef added in just for us. We ate the chicken, potato, onion soup (It tasted so much like the chicken noodle soup my mom makes! At that moment, I really missed her) with beef, seaweed and anchovies, kimchi, rice, and a tangerine. Everything was very delicious. We had to eat our lunch in less than 20 minutes and then hurry back to the kitchen to finish cleaning.

I returned to the large sinks in the back with Josh and we cleaned the rest of the big pots and bowls. Eventually, we were told to put away our aprons and gloves and head outside for a group photo as we were done with our community service. I could not figure out where to put my gloves so I asked one of the older ladies still washing some utensils. She showed me how to turn the rubber glove inside out using this method that involved twisting the glove until air collected in the palm area and then squeezing the end which caused the fingers to pop out. It actually was really fun. After I finished my two gloves, I realized that there was a pile of gloves from the other students so I proceeded to do those too. I asked the lady once again to show me and I was able to do them faster and with more success the more I went on. The lady told me that I could bring this skill back to America and show my mom. It was a very cute interaction.

After taking photos and taking off our rain boots, we had time to fill out a reflection about our time volunteering. I really enjoyed thinking about everything and I even wrote my reflection in Korean just because I wanted to try. I think it was not too bad…

I originally planned on going home and studying at a cafe for a bit in order to get a start on my homework and presentation but when I was with everyone, I had the urge to hang out with them. Katie, Shannon, and Kaitlyn were planning on visiting a healing cafe in 신촌 and I decided to tag along (and convince June to come with us). I had the goal to study while there but if I am being honest… I was only able to study one grammar point. But looking back, I am not mad about it! This cafe was so cool and I am glad I took advantage of it!

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When we first arrived, we took off our shoes and put them in lockers. We went to go and talk to the cafe employee to pay for how many hours we wanted as well as to order our drinks. (Guess what I got? I know that you are probably right–it was a hot green tea latte.) We paid about 9,900 Won (less than $10) for two hours at the cafe (with a 30-minute massage). After dropping off our coats and bags in the little cubbies, we went to get massaged. I have sat in a massage chair before but these were like on another level! I picked the massage type that focused on the back, shoulder, hips, and butt for total refreshment. It was so good but also so painful! If I come back, I am going to have to try another one–maybe the deep sleep one.

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View from the cafe–at sunset

At the cafe, I goofed around with June and Kaitlyn who were in the same cubby hole as me. After the time was up, I took the train back home with June because she only lives two stops away from me. We had to transfer at 홍대 and would be transferring onto the 경의중앙 line which were both nonideal situations. When getting on the train, we realized–via subway announcement–that we were on an express train which explained why we were packed into the car like sardines! I was in front of June so I could rest my head on her but she was squished in between these two men and could not even move her head to fully look at me. It was very uncomfortable until the last possible stop when everyone cleared out.

I came home and ate dinner with my host sisters which was a lot of fun. We ate this spicy beef stew type thing (maybe 매운갈비찜 but I am not sure). Again, they were surprised I could eat it so well because even my older sister kept breathing in and out harshly as she drank the soup. We had a lot of fun conversation again about office life, our least favorite foods, spicy food, nicknames for different countries (For example, 스시국 is Japan– translates to Sushi Country), as well as this really funny story my older sister had on a plane ride. She was taking a flight from one American state to another with a friend and this man sat in between them. She explained to me how smelly this man was. She even wanted to switch seats because of it. She explained that she never thought that Americans were smellier than Koreans (since that is a stereotype and one that can be true if you think about deodorant) but that was the one time she experienced something like that, something that made her consider the stereotype. After dinner, I zoomed to my room to work on my project on the differences between work life in America and Korea. My older host sister helped me with the conversation we had over dinner and she even gave me some data to use! It was very helpful. I ended up going to bed after 1am because of the project and studying grammar for the quiz.

That was my blog post for the day! It was a very long and tiring day, but it was also a lot of fun and very rewarding. These 빨리 빨리 (fast fast) days keep me on my toes!! I hope you enjoyed reading! Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마