Almost Passing Out, Skipping School, & Conducting an Interview in Korean (04/11-04/12/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/11/19 Thursday

sick day 14

Cute lil playground with cherry blossoms in the background

I woke up Thursday morning not feeling better at all but I didn’t really think much of it; I just carried on with my morning. I took the train to school as usual but today as I was riding the train, I got light headed and hot all of a sudden. I was standing next to the door, so I was able to lean against the door and put my face down on the pole but the feeling would not go away—it only got worse so I ended up literally collapsing on the ground to sit on the floor of the train with my head buried in my lap trying to find darkness and silence so that my head would give me a break.

I sat on the ground for a bit until my head got clear again and we arrived at my transfer stop. I walked to the line I would normally transfer to but missed my usual train because I wobbled over to the correct platform rather my than doing my usual half jog/half walk to make it to the train on time. I sat on the farthest bench from the escalators and called 민정쌤–almost on the verge of tears–explaining to her my situation. I really did not think that I had it in me to go to school but I could not form those words in my mouth to tell her just that. I just kept breathing heavily and fighting back my tears. I was really relieved when she told me that I could rest a bit on the bench and then go home instead of going to school, which is exactly what I did. I told her I had enough energy to take the train back home and so after literally laying on the bench for around 10 minutes, I headed back home. I arrived back at my host family’s apartment around 7:30 am and immediately hopped back into bed. My host family was still not awake yet so I did not even know if they realized that I came home. I was too tired to contact them or write a note.

I stayed in bed till literally 11 am! So on top of sleeping from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am (7 hours–more than I usually get on an average school day), I slept an extra 3 hours which was so nice~ It was definitely what I needed to help get me over this fever. I decided that I was still able to attend Korean class, so I ended up leaving the house and heading to 홍대 an hour early so I could go to the 약국 (pharmacy) with 소영쌤 (not for my fever though… she did not even know that I did not go to school… I wanted to get bandages for my foot!).

sick day 1

On my way to Korean class after my phat nap.

Korean class was tough because I was not in the right mindset or state of health to be focusing on learning Korean. My head hurt the entire time and I kept coughing to the point that it seemed that I would hack up a lung. We were supposed to give our presentations today but because I did not go to school (and I instead spent my morning sleeping in), I ended up not memorizing my speech which is a first for me! I have never given a speech without memorizing the script beforehand. I was able to convince my teacher to let me give the presentation on Monday instead, however. She definitely took pity on me. (Oh, she also gave us these really delicious squeezy jelly fruit drinks that she ordered by bulk online from Japan. I know that the amount of real fruit in those drinks were minimum to none but nonetheless, I really enjoyed them–and pretended that they were healing me.

After Korean class, I went with Mckenzie to the 편의점 (convenience store) to buy snacks for me (Hey… gotta feed a cold right?) and then Blanc Bakery so I could buy a macaroon for my host sister (On Saturday, she is taking the Korean version of the GED exam. I thought I would buy her something to give her extra energy on the day of her exam.) When we went to the convenience store, the usual really friendly old man was there and he gave Mckenzie and me free chocolate bars! When he put it in our hands, I got so happy– and not only because all chocolate is great–but because free chocolate is especially so!!!)

I came home and my host family bought me 죽 (porridge) for dinner and throughout the entire meal time, they kept asking me how I was feeling. It was sweet to see how worried they were about me (Probably a bit more worried than they usually would be because we always talked about how strong my immune system is. I mean, I have been with this host family for almost 4 whole months now and this is the first time I have gotten sick.)

I spent the rest of the night just resting in bed, watching Netflix and random Youtube videos. I also did translate interview questions from English to Korean for my field learning project that I would be going on tomorrow morning (yup, I was skipping school–again!) It was a chill Thursday night~

04/12/19 Friday

On Friday, I got to sleep in a whole extra hour till 7 am because I was not going to school!! (At least for the first half of the day) I would instead be visiting the Seoul Welfare Foundation in order to conduct an interview about being disabled (and the societal perception of disabilities–specifically mental disabilities) in Korea with one of the lawyers there who often undertakes court cases on discrimination against disabled individuals.

So I ended up arriving at 공덕역 about an hour early even though the walk to the center was only supposed to take 15 minutes but I was really paranoid about being late or getting lost and therefore to prevent that, I showed up an hour early. At the subway station, I ended up passing by a Paris Baguette and so I bought Katie a macaroon (I feel bad that she has had to go to school by herself two days in a row now~) and then I used Kakao maps to figure out where I needed to go for my interview.

sick day 5

I used this feature on the app that allows you to use a street view camera so I was literally able to find landmarks to figure out how to get to the building while I was still in the subway station (since I did not have service to be able to use the app while I was on my walk.) Although Maps said that it would take 15 minutes to walk there, I made it in about 5 and so I sat outside waiting for 10 am to roll around which felt like it took forever. Outside of the building was a pretty pagoda and lots of cherry blossoms so I had some nice scenery (plus the weather was amazing) to keep me company. 

(Me freaking out in the elevator as the floor levels increase and I get closer and closer to getting off at my destination… I was so nervous! *panic panic*)

I got up to the 10th floor of the building and waited around for a minute before mustering up the courage to ask a random employee about my interview. This one lady came out to meet me and we talked together for about 20 minutes while waiting for the actual lady I was supposed to interview to show up (She suddenly got called into an important meeting and had to be late meeting me.) She was actually really interesting to talk to and apparently she lived in New York for most of her 20s (She attended college there) so it was nice talking about that with her. She apparently also knows the president of KUMPA, so when I mentioned my last research project being on 미혼모 (unwed single mothers) in Korea, she had a lot to say–especially about the adoption side of things.

The interview actually went a lot smoother than I had expected. The lady which kept me company until the other woman arrived ended up staying for my interview too. They were able to understand most of my interview questions (except one that I literally had to rephrase and then say a word in English… oof) and I was able to understand the main points of all of their answers. To be honest it was really difficult to take notes on what they were saying because I had to focus enough on the Korean to be able to comprehend it in my brain in English and then I had to shorthand that information into notes on my computer–oftentimes while they were still talking. I learned a lot through the interview and their answers are going to help me with my final project for sure. When I said goodbye to them, they wished me good luck on my project and my Korean studies and they also gave me a box of stationary (handmade wooden stationary like colored pencils, rulers, etc–very nice quality!) as a parting gift. I felt bad for not preparing a gift…but I ended up not getting any money for that in my stipend for this field trip. When I finally left the building and made it down the hill, I was feeling so refreshed! Health wise, my head felt clear for the first time in a long while and I was ready to go back to school and continue the day. Did this feeling of success truly change my mood?

sick day 10

Walk back to the subway station~

I got to school and met up with Katie at our lockers. I changed into my 생활복 (walking into school with actual clothes on was a whole different experience… the stares!!!) and we went off to have lunch with our friends. Today’s lunch menu was very very filling and we even got a melon slice for dessert! And because I was feeling better, I was able to goof off with our friends and enjoy some fun conversations. 

sick day 11

When you see that you need gloves to eat the meal for lunch, you know it is going to be delicious! We love messily eating meat in this cafeteria 😛

After lunch, I was productive for the rest of the school day as I did Korean homework during my free study period and I had self-study time all during my AP economics class. I reviewed all the grammar that we learned in class on Thursday and I even started learning a new point that could come in handy for my Topik writings. 

Katie had plans to visit a cherry blossom festival with Josh after school today, so I ended up just going home right away. It was my first time going straight home from school on a Friday in such a long time! I got home and it was only 5 pm so I relaxed in my room (Watched a recently released new teen romance movie–A Perfect Date–on Netflix) until my host sisters came home and we went to a barbecue place near our apartment to eat meat for dinner. My host mom told me that if I really wanted to get better quickly, I had to eat meat! And I was okay with that!

Throughout our entire dinner, my host mom and both of my sisters were grilling meat and then placing it in my bowl–I could feel the warmth in this gesture. This was definitely what the Koreans call 정 for sure. The food was all delicious but I will have to admit that the 된장찌개 was ten times better than the grilled meat we ate–no tea, no shade. 

For the rest of the night, I just rested and studied Korean. My host sister kept telling me that I should not got out this weekend but… I did already make plans for early Saturday afternoon so oh well… It is okay, besides that… I will rest fully this weekend! I will fully heal this weekend!

That is all for this post~ I hope you enjoyed! Till next time.. Do not forget to subscribe~

  • Emma 엠마

Sinchon Study Cafe, Express Bus Terminal Shopping, and Cherry Blossom Viewing (04/06-07/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/06/19 Saturday

Katie and I met up early Saturday morning at a study cafe in 신촌 that I found by scrolling through blog upon blog on Naver trying to find a cafe with a nice atmosphere to study at (besides the main cafe chains). Katie and I both wanted to explore more cute cafes as well but at the same time, the goal this morning was to focus more on being productive rather than the aestheticism of our chosen cafe. In the end, we ultimately decided to leave the cute cafe exploration for a later date. Also, I had never been to a proper study cafe so this would be an arguably exciting endeavor.

We came to this cafe called Meeple Cafe (I went to a board game cafe the other day which also utilized the word ‘meeple’ in the name…what is the background for this word? I am confusion.} that actually has more than one floor so it is quite large. The facility also offers multiple rooms that can be rented for study groups or meetings if reserved before hand. (Actually, apparently, as long as you order a drink that is more than $3, you can rent a small room for a couple hours for free.) I ordered 유자차 (Citron tea) and got straight to work.

After Katie and I studied for a couple hours, we were about to leave and just walk around 신촌 for a bit to enjoy the beautiful weather and the pretty cherry blossom trees until we saw a random sign for macaroons at the entrance way of the study cafe. The sign had nothing but an arrow pointing down some pretty sketchy hallway and so…of course, we followed it.

After a few twists and turns, we came across this tiny tiny little shop selling even smaller macaroons. (I guess their size matched quite well with where they were being sold.) We opened the door to enter the store and both Katie and I could barely stand in the room together at one time. Katie was so sweet and bought me a macaroon which was called ‘Elder Flower,’ do not ask me what that flavor is…it was just unique so I wanted to try it…it tasted like grape. Kind of anticlimactic but they were really cute. My eyes were satisfied.

I walked around with Katie for awhile before eating some street food (We tried those peanut/walnut shaped breads at one of the many vendors near the subway station) and dropping her off at another cafe as she was meeting someone else for a late lunch. I left to meet up with June (and eventually Kaitlyn) at the Express Bus Terminal for some shopping. My morning was productive and then my afternoon/evening was planned to be fun! It was the weekend after all.

express bus 6

View from the subway as we crossed the river. Kinda gloomy outside today

I met up with June and we did the usual walk through all the shopping stalls/stores once before making selections and going back to our favorite places to buy those items. (This is the strategy we have come up with to make sure that we are sure to snag those deals and not make any mistakes in regards to multiple vendors selling the same things for varying prices.) While we were doing the first glance through everything, I hear someone call my name and I turn around to see 윤지!  One of the girls that I met at the 한미 camp with the all female Korean high school students back in December. We got pretty close at the event (she was my partner!) and we have hung out two or three times since that day–with the rest of our group too! We talked really quickly then and promised to meet up once more before Kaitlyn and I leave for America–Once the girls finish their midterms, we will meet up once again!

express bus 7

express bus 10

Kaitlyn eventually arrived and once we fueled up on energy from bubble tea (Of course, Gongcha for the win!), we went back to shopping–searching for the best, cheap deals. I planned to go to a cherry blossom festival viewing on Sunday so I wanted to buy a spring outfit that would look good in pictures with all the cherry blossoms. I ended up buying some beige strappy shoes, three pairs of earrings, and a white floral blouse. The shops were very very crowded since it was the weekend but even though that was the case, I enjoyed being almost trampled over multiple time with both June and Kaitlyn. We also had really fun conversations which is always a must for a good shopping buddy. June and I also bought matching dresses (in two different colors) which we will be wearing together soon!

We ended up all leaving early so that we could get to our night plans or for me, head back home (It takes me almost an hour and a half to get home from the Express Bus Terminal since it is so close to 강남.) for dinner with my host family. I knew all of my siblings and my host mom would be present for our dinner and I did not not want to miss out on such a rare event (especially on the weekend!) 

express bus 13

Fried Chicken and Cheese Balls? (후라이 치킨과 치즈볼) The cheese balls were kind of how I expected? I believe macaroni cheese bites are better!

I came home and had a little fashion show in my room with all my new pieces before eating fried chicken with my host family and calling it a night after I finished my remaining homework. I wanted to have a free and relaxing Sunday with no homework so I finished it all Saturday night. So would you take a look at that, my day started and ended in a good amount of productivity!

04/07/19 Sunday

On Sunday I met up with a Korean friend to attend a cherry blossom festival close to 국회의사당 (Korea National Assembly Proceeding Hall) so we got off at that station and walked around this very long road that was lined with cherry blossom trees. There were also many vendors selling cherry blossom memorabilia like hair pins, flower crowns,  and even caricatures with cherry blossom backgrounds. There were also professional photo taking zones with cherry blossom picture frames! This festival was no joke for sure.

We walked around enjoying the cherry blossoms and took some photos of ourselves before leaving and heading over to the 한강 river park to just lay out on the grass for a bit. We rented a 돗자리 (a type of picnic blanket) and spent a couple hours talking about everything and anything. At first, we went to a special store that sold tents and things but apparently, on the weekend, those things are important to reserve beforehand! There was a huge line to get inside but everything had basically already been rented.

The weather was really nice and although there were a lot of people, we were able to find a nice place to sit that was not too close to the water so that it would be too cold and we were not directly in the sun either so it was perfect! We also stopped at the convenience store on the way there to pick up some cola and kimbap just to tie us over.

국제시장 1

Eventually, we got too hungry and headed back to 홍대 to find something to eat. My friend had a couple of restaurants in mind so we tried a couple only to see that there were long wait times so we kept searching for a place to eat at until we finally stumbled upon a place called 국제시장 which was a barbecue place named after the Korean movie with the same name. (We–the NSLI-Y cohort and I– watched it at our spring orientation! I was excited to have understood the connection and I immediately let my friend know that very fact.) We ordered a set of different meats and a side of 김치찌개 and although there was a lot of food, we were able to finish everything. It was all very delicious!

(Also, I suck at grilling meat. I am always happier to go to barbecue places with people that enjoy taking charge of the meat grilling. Maybe it is because I am (secretly) lazy? I guess that is why I tend not to suggest to eat at these places on a regular basis in the first place. 

국제시장 7

We ended the night going to a 노래방. We sang some of my usual go to songs by Ailee and from the Frozen soundtrack but then we also sang some old school Korean rap songs and ballads which definitely switched things up but in a really fun way. So even though I did not know every song, I had fun learning!

I do not understand how some people will refuse to sing songs in karaoke that they do not know well. I am always like… there are lyrics for a reason! Just follow along! Even if I do not know the song in its entirety–melody too–I follow along and eventually I get it. Songs are repetitive for a reason. I just think it makes it more fun for everyone. And it always everyone to sing their favorite songs despite not everyone in the room knowing them. (It also helps prevent that awkward silence when choosing songs) We also were really feeling girl groups songs because we sang quite a few Miss A and Apink songs (This is not me complaining though! I love their songs.) I can always get down to cheery girl-group tracks.

Well, that is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed this post! Subscribe to my blog by plugging in your email to the right side of this post. Thanks for reading~ Till next time.

  • Emma 엠마

Visiting a Traditional Tea House (찻집) and Funny Phone Cases (04/02-04/03/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/02/19 Tuesday

skool 5

This week I am sporting my school uniform tie! Hehe

School. School. School. School. During my morning English mentorship, the girls and I discussed our respective school cultures and rules and even though I heard most if not all of the things they talked about already, I still enjoyed hearing from them—especially when they talked about the aspects they liked. For example, 수빈 dances for her 1인2기 and so I got to watch one of her videos with a choreographed dance she did to Arianna Grande’s song 7 Rings! It was really really good! They were most excited to hear about prom and school dances from my perspective. (A lot of 하나고 students (and Koreans in general? seem to call Prom “Prom Party” which is interesting because I feel like most American movies just say prom so where they got the added party from beats me…)

During music class, Katie and I just goofed off while trying to work on our music assignment. (I say we but she was the one doing all the work on the song…) Either way, we were not doing what we were supposed to be doing fully. 

During 한국사, I just worked on my Korean homework and only paid enough attention in class to be able to fill out the note sheet along with the rest of the students. But I didn’t even try to learn any of the material that he went over during class. 

Honestly when it comes to my second English mentorship class of the day, I can’t even remember what we talked about. The only thing I remember was this one incident that will forever be recorded because of the photos in my camera roll. One of the girls in my group—서영—has a phone case of some famous rapper in Korea. But his face is plastered on the case in a certain way that if you put the case up to your face, it almost looks as if you are the person. She was demonstrating this to me while 기준 walks into the room and I was able to capture this photo of his face being absolutely confused. (I later sent this photo in our 동아리 group chat for the laughs) 

Skool 2

But what did my group talk about? Beats me… 

For lunch… Katie and I once again yeeted out of 하나고 early and went to 연서시장 to get 분식 for lunch. Now that we are pros at ordering here, we have the whole system down and I bet we impress the Koreans that see us *flashes a sly smile.* Also, the same workers are always there so hopefully they will start to recognize us (if they haven’t already). I know we will start making this place a regular 단골집. Too bad we didn’t find this place before now… before the end if the program became so close…

skool 3

Never said the market looked the fanciest… but the food was always delicious!

Since I am like a week and a couple days behind on writing blog posts, I don’t remember what we did in Korean class at all.. Didn’t do anything out of the ordinary after class, just went home right afterward. 

For dinner, my host sisters and I went out to the 24 hour restaurant near the apartment and got some 콩나물국밥 (Bean sprout rice porridge) and 야채파전 (Korean vegetable and onion savory pancake). I updated them on all the drama that I knew was happening on the NSLI-Y program.

We also talked about random topics like bitcoin and stocks? My host sister and I discussed how hard it is to make money selling bitcoin and how her boyfriend is doing it. She also kept saying that it was a shame that her family did not invest in stocks or anything of that sort. I told them that at my high school, all the students hypothetically buy and sell stock in this stock market game as a way to sort of dip students’ toes into the territory that is investment (During our required Personal Finance Class). She thought that this class was very useful and wished Korean high schools could be more inclusive to ideas that are beyond plain old test preparation. We walked over and picked up some 죽 (porridge) for my host mom–who is currently sick– and then went home.

04/03/19 Wednesday

skool 8

Today was the last day that the Japanese exchange students would be at 하나고 so in the morning during homeroom, we watched a short little video that included clips of every single exchange student giving thanks to the student body for allowing them to make such good memories during the short two weeks as well as clips from the student helpers (the students that were decent enough at Japanese to help host the students like 서린). It was a really cute little sentimental video and it definitely made me think about my last day at 하나고. Right now I cannot even imagine it but my calendar and the world knows that I literally only have a little bit more than a month left here. 

skool 10

One of my classmates gave me this HUGE golden pig gummy (Because it is the Year of the Pig, there are so many cute pig-themed memorabilia. On the wrapper it roughly says “Dream a pig dream” because Koreans believe dreaming about pigs is lucky. In specific, golden pig dreams mean money!! 

The school day itself was mediocre. There ended up being no seats at the front of the class for 국어 again so I ended up just sitting in the back and nodding off (not trying very hard to pay attention to what the teacher was saying). During 세계사 I just did my writing homework and finished up my workbook pages so that I could spend the rest of the night focusing on my presentation for Thursday’s Korean class. And even though I have three good friends in my politics class, lately we just spend the periods having discussions and then a lecture, so I just kept to myself and did Korean homework. (Wednesdays are actually great because I can be so productive during my classes!)

Katie and I ate lunch with our friends today. Today’s lunch menu was foreign food which consisted of spaghetti, really sweet fries (I am talking potatoes covered in a sticky, sweet sauce), and some chicken wings. Usually Katie and I am disappointed by the meals that are not Korean but this one was okay. I did miss eating pasta and the chicken was really good. (I do still prefer normal fries, however.)

skool 11

Wednesdays after school usually comprise of Katie and me going to a cafe near our school (usually Twosome Place) and studying but this week I made plans with Jessica (NSLI-Y Korea Summer 2016 alumna and current Yonsei full-time student) to go to a cafe together back in 홍대 to just chill and catch up. She had plans with a language exchange partner later in the night (for dinner) so we just planned to hang for a couple hours at a tea shop that she recommended. 

To save time, I did not even change out of my school uniform! Jessica took me to this really cute tea shop that she first stumbled upon when she was going on a date and has come back often because the interior is really pretty and they offer a very large variety of tea served in really pretty cups and tea pots. I ended up ordering a cup of my favorite tea: 유자차 (Citron Tea) and we also shared a side menu item of green tea rice cakes which we dipped in this sweet honey like sauce. It was very delicious! The lady of the place was really nice to us and complimented our Korean which of course brought a smile to our faces.

skool 16

Jessica 언니 ㅎㅎㅎ

The two hours passed really quickly as we just chatted away. I updated her on the start of my new semester and the newfound stresses over test scores and my lack of Korean improvement (and related lack of motivation to study more to fix the issue…) I also talked to her about boy issues. She opened up to me about her recent breakup and how she was trying to date around to find someone new. She literally is living inside of a romantic drama as her love life is very complicated! But I wish her the best with the current boy she is chasing. It seems that he will treat her better than the last one. We finished up our tea talk and headed for our respective plans– mine being a nice dinner with my host family (and studying into the night).

skool 4

Andy ❤

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Do not forget to follow for more!

  • Emma 엠마

Starting our English Mentorship Program & Cafe Study Date (03/25-26/2019)

AN: I am writing all of these blog posts almost two weeks after they happened so most of them will just be the bare bones of what I did during the day and a few random really clear and detailed moments. I am kinda upset that I have been slacking on blog posts but hopefully I can catch up more!

03/25/19 Monday

Random Class 12

LoL This sign was on the back of the door of some bathroom stall. It is about not flushing the toilet after you use it

My morning started off with my lovely Politics and Law class which was just consisted of debates for two hours…at first I tried to actually pay attention but then it all became too much and I ended up taking out my workbook and doing that secretly. The teacher might have noticed? But then again, I was not in the mood to feel guilty for doing other work during class. The Korean students were not missing out on much by me not listening to them.

My second (and last) class of the day was English with the third years. Today Andrew was counseling with them about their argumentative essay topics while the rest of the students were put into groups and discussed a chapter out of the book they are reading: They Say I Say. I was put into a group with one girl and guy but I can only remember the guys name– 인규 (I only remember his because I kept saying 인구 at first which is not his name. It instead means population). Because I was in their group, I actually made them talk with me and communicate in order to answer the questions. They were actually both students that never participate in class (or at least not on the days that I am in class with them) so I was half expecting their English to not be very good, but I was wrong. They both spoke very well. I apologized for making them do work because the other groups were practically silent the whole time–not discussing anything– while we were going down the entire list of questions together. It was also just fun chatting with them. From 인규, I learned about the grading system here at 하나고. Like at American schools, teachers do get evaluated by their students’ test scores, class grades, and with random observers that come in during class time but one difference is that at 하나고, the students also get to grade the teacher. They get to anonymously fill out a report on all their teachers and these reports do affect the teachers (income and and what classes they teach, etc). I found this to be really interesting but also somewhat problematic? Wouldn’t the students be quite subjective with their answers and hurt the teacher just because they gave them a bad grade or something? I could imagine that being a case that would occur… Maybe Koreans respect the institution of education or their teachers enough to not partake in any “foul play” if you will–in regards to their evaluations.

I also showed 인규 and the girl my Korean textbook as they were really excited to see how their language would be taught as a foreign language to others. 인규 actually plans on majoring in Korean because he really has pride for the language; he thinks it is very beautiful. Though, he is not quite sure yet on if he wants to study in order to teach a subject like 국어 in the future or if he wants to teach Korean to foreigners.

Random Class 1

Bus Stop Views

I cannot remember what happened during Korean class (yay for writing these posts so late!) but afterwards we had our Bi-weekly meeting which we talked about when our templestay reflections were due as well checking up on our field trip plans for the individual research projects. I believe I will try to interview some employees at a special education school near Gangnam. Now I just have work that out and set up an interview date!

Also, I forgot why Shada and Jenna were being punished by 민정쌤 but they were the only two students that had forgotten to send her something so she made them stand in front of the room during the meeting and in traditional classroom punishment style–they had to raise their arms above their heads. It may not seem like this punishment would be bad but… your arms DO get tired! It is intense.

Random Class 4

Yup… not sure why I have this random photo of Liam and Jacq from our meeting

03/26/19 Tuesday

I was excited to get up early this morning and go to school (what a shocking turn of events!) because I knew that my English mentorship program was starting today! Like last semester, I had it during my first period class, and I would also have another period of it later in the day right before lunch period. 

For my first mentorship 공강, I was with three second year girls: 은서, 수빈, and 지연. This was my first time meeting 지연 but both 은서 and 수빈 were in my politics class so I knew them well. (수빈 was also elected to be the school’s president alongside another second year. He’s in my Economics class) For our first meeting, we just talked about yourselves and did some icebreakers because we really hadn’t had the chance to speak to each other that much before our meeting. They were all at a good enough level of English that conversation was easy. After our long introductions, we started to talk about the topic of the meeting which was food. We started out with Korean food and talked about all the most delicious and famous ones out there. We also discussed what was good around 연신내역 and concluded that we had to make a trip there altogether to eat meat and get some bubble tea! I brought out the google doc that I made last year (for my 공강 with 호영, 근영, and 건우) that had photos of all different kinds of American foods like Thanksgiving foods, biscuits & gravy, Chicago deep dish pizza to things on the sweeter side like funnel cake and S’mores. I also introduced them to Cuban food! (Since that is mostly what I eat at home anyways)

Music class was not the most fun since we spent the whole period making a song on this one computer program. Since I know nothing about music, this assignment was put all on Katie so bless her for 1. Being good at music and 2. Being chill with me literally doing nothing.

Random Class 5

Afterwards, I had my 한국사 class with the third years. I talked a bit to the girl next to me and the usual candy given to the students by the teacher made me enjoy the class more than I would otherwise. I was going to focus during the class content this time but I gave up halfway through and started doing Korean class homework. 

The last class I had for the day before lunch was another English mentorship. In my group I had two second year girls: 세연 (who happens to have been in both my homeroom last year and my current homeroom) and 서영 who is in my AP Economics class! We started off by introducing ourselves and doing some small ice breakers but then we moved to playing games rather than actually having conversations in English. We played “I am Grounded” (in English) which I was very very bad at. I had to play a couple rounds to regain my rhythm and to remember the point of the game. I was not the worst player though! Out of Katie’s two students (first years 민화 and 재훈) 재훈 was terrible. We would give out punishments which involved bending over on the table and then being slapped by everyone else on the back. This punishment was dealt to 재훈 so many times! I felt so bad!

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After playing a few rounds of that, I taught everyone this elephant game that I played in ASL (American Sign Language) often during my senior year of high school. Basically someone stands in the middle of the circle and points to one person. That person has to quickly form an elephant nose with their hands and the two people next to them have to create ears with their hands. Usually you have a big group and you keep going around until the last person not disqualified is standing (you get kicked out for missing your job, being too slow, or making a weird shape) but we only had 6 people so we just kept switching being the person in the middle. It was definitely so much fun!

Katie and I had lunch at school and I am disappointed to admit that they have been serving such good lunches lately probably due to the fact that the Japanese exchange students are visiting. Today we had some really delicious chicken legs and even had a dessert of two cream puffs!

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Korean class was a blur…. I have no idea what we did.. It has been way too long. We were trying to hurry up and finish our last chapter in the fourth textbook of the Ewha University Series so the class was really fast paced for sure. (Though, of course, we did go off on tangents and talk about random things like we always do.)

After class on Tuesday, I had plans to go to a cafe with Shada to study so we ended up heading over to our long time favorite Blanc Bakery (So we could have bread for dinner and so I could buy cake for 혜지 and 도윤…long story short… Katie and I found out at lunch today that it was 혜지s birthday and that 도윤s was Saturday!! No one told us anything!) We bought some tasty savory pastries and studied for about two and half hours–I studied Korean while Shada focused on her online high school math class. I also caught up Shada with how I am doing as of late (and she did the same with me). We have not gotten the chance to just talk lately and I really miss hanging out with her! Shada is the sweetest and is a lot of fun to hang out with so I hope we can continue to hang out more for the rest of the program.

Before I bought the expensive slices of cake, Shada told me about this place that sells full (small but still bigger than a slice) cakes for only 10,000 won (less than $10!) I ended up buying a 10 dollar banana and chocolate cake! I was so excited for the girls to see it tomorrow (and enjoy it!) Of course they would much rather enjoy a full birthday cake than just a slice or two of cakes.

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Look! New flavor: Cherry Blossom!!! Will try them later 😛

I got home a little bit later than usual and chilled at home–did some Korean class work for good measure…

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ Thanks for reading! And also quick note because I have received some confused comments about the timing of my posts. So yes, in accordance to the dates of my blogs, these posts were all written last year. I am not writing these posts now. I wrote all of these blog posts like my own diary in separate Google Docs while I was studying abroad in Korea and then as I have had time (whilst in Korea and as I have been home), I have been editing them (for clarity! My English increasingly worsened while I was in Korea), adding photos, and then posting them. I hope this makes more sense! I definitely could not remember this much stuff in this much detail if I was writing them all present day. Anyways, tangent aside.. Have a great day!

  • Emma 엠마

TempleStay in South Korea (2 Days & 1 Night) (3/23-24/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

3/23/19 Saturday 

Katie and I woke up around 8:30 am today to start getting ready to spend the weekend outside of our homes. She ended up basically not packing any clothes so she borrowed a T-shirt, some sweatpants, and even socks from me. (Which, while writing this, have still not been returned to me… Katie!!!!) We had to meet the rest of the NSLI-Y program at the subway station around 12 so we needed up heading to a bakery in the shopping mall next to my train station for some starchy breakfast. I didn’t end up taking a photos of the bread we ended up sharing but here are some really cute croque monsieurs (Shoutout to Kaitlyn for sharing my first one with me a while ago and bestowing upon me knowledge of such a great French carb!) that have heart cut outs in the bread! 

Apparently when we got to the station, it was raining really hard and only one NSLI-Yian brought an umbrella so 민정쌤 ran out to the closest convenience store and bought us all rain ponchos. All the students were wearing rainbow colored plastic coats that highly resembled gummy bears… you could say we came in an assorted batch of colors and flavors. What made this really funny was that when we made our way outside once the final student was accounted for, it was basically not raining at all—if anything it was just a light drizzle. But hey, at least we looked ridiculous all together! 

We took this one tiny bus where we all almost didn’t even have room to stand let alone breath but after a quick ten minutes, we arrived at the temple: 길상사. We were not allowed to have our phones out during the program because they were locked up during the duration of our stay so the photos that I took last up until this point. (Though I will scatter them throughout this blog post so photos are not only concentrated on one part.) Plus, there was a professional photographer that took photos of us, so I have those shots as well! 

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On the walk there, we passed a famous statue of Korean comfort women from the Japanese occupation of the peninsula. The community (?) dressed the women up warmly for the cold winter weather with hats and scarves.

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The first order of business was giving up our most worldly possessions (cell phones and wallets) and then we went and changed into our Buddhist attire which consisted of these really baggy sweatpants type bottoms and then a corduroy vest that went over whatever top we were already wearing. 

During the beginning of the templestay, we met the main workers and volunteers for the day and the monk that would be taking us through our journey of experiencing Buddhism. We started off learning about the rules of the temple aka the rules we also must abide by while we are here. Most of them were common knowledge like being respectful, peaceful, no phones, etc but others were new to me. I knew that many Buddhists didn’t eat meat (so we would be eating vegetarian all weekend) but I didn’t know that you were required to finish everything that you put on your plate. Also, during the duration of the stay, we were supposed to try our best to be silent but that didn’t last very long…

We were doing the program along with another group of foreigners (a couple European exchange students from SNU) and then several other native Koreans; although, foreigners definitely outnumbered the Koreans. 

It was at this time that we also learned how to properly bow like a Buddhist would in a temple and also how to create the 합창 pose– which is just the post of putting your hands in a prayer-like formation.

The first activity of the day was to take a tour of the temple grounds. We provided our own interpreter aka 소영쌤 for our programming but for the tour part, we switched her out with one the of the volunteers whose English was fluent and almost 100% natural. She was definitely thankful about that because earlier the Monk was being quite a savage to her when she couldn’t quite translate everything (Especially when Josh would shout things out from the crowd to help her out). The volunteer actually attended 대원외교 and so he bonded over that with the rest of the NSLI-Y kids attending that school. 

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One of the more interesting parts of the tour was when we found out that this temple actually started out as a high class restaurant/ alcohol joint for rich men and politicians. There were also usually female performers to entertain the men that came to drink. The lady that ran the place was very rich as the place brought in a lot of revenue but she ended up giving it to one of the monks at the temple, after begging them for years to take the location.

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This unique characteristic is why some of the buildings and the makeup of grounds is not exactly representation of most Buddhist temples. When 소영쌤 was translating this fact earlier, she called the place a high-class bar. Everyone was a bit confused so when we actually got to see where people would drink (and where the females would change), the volunteer rephrased the explanation of the place so we wouldn’t be confused. (So, in conclusion, the place was not as seedy as a normal bar.)

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We walked around a bit more to see the rooms in which the monks sleep in and mediate in and the main temple where the monks (and visitors to the place) can go and pray. We also were showed two statues that our tour guide really made sure to emphasize that they symbolized religious harmony. One of them was donated by a rich white Christian to the temple while the other depicted Mary. 

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After our tour, we learned how to mediate like a monk. This involved a demonstration of hand positions and breathing techniques and then all of us trying out meditation for ourselves. The monk walked around us carrying this large wild stick (Don’t you love my descriptions?) and showed us how he would hit people if they fell asleep during mediation time. He ended up showing off the stick’s power (it sounded like it hurt badly but apparently it was not that hard) on Alix, Jacquelyn (good foreshadowing) and 민정쌤. I am going to be honest, it was really difficult for me not to fall asleep while sitting there. I was tired and toasty from wearing so many layers and so I definitely felt myself nodding off at times. (Luckily, he never caught me) Although I will say even when I wasn’t fighting with sleep, I couldn’t mediate very well.. I kept the thinking of other things—my mind was racing with thoughts about everything and anything. I wouldn’t be a good monk for sure. 

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Picture of me meditating…or was I dozing off at this point?

Eventually dinner time rolled around and it was time for us to experience Buddhist food—very simple ingredients, no meat, not much seasoning, and very healthy. In Buddhism there are actually a lot of different words for things that differ from plain-spoken Korean. For example, meal time is called 공약. And like I mentioned previously, the food you take is all the food that you need to eat! Monks do NOT waste food. 

Unfortunately, since there was no cameras or phones allowed, I can’t exactly remember what we were given to eat… what I can remember was that there was soup, different types of 김치 and vegetable 반찬, batter covered mushrooms and other root vegetables, rice, watermelon, and traditional rice cakes. Every single person had to wash their own plate and silverware at the end of the meal. 

After dinner, we had an evening Buddhist service in which we got to bow along with the monks at the temple as they had their nightly pray session. We were given pamphlets to follow along with what they were chanting but regardless of the fact that I can read Korean, I was confused at what page to be looking at. Either way, we all got to participate by bowing along with the monks.

We also did walking meditation after this which although it was very cold, I really enjoyed just mindlessly walking around the temple grounds. Compared to sitting meditation, I was able to let loose of more my thoughts during this exercise—maybe because I wasn’t as tired and because I had just eaten and was in a very calm and satisfied mood. 

We got the chance to talk with a different monk and ask him all his questions during a tea time session. We were given plum tea and a bunch of 약과 and assorted nuts. I was able to understand a lot more of what the monk said (before the volunteer translated) which made me quite proud. I could not imagine how I much I would have understood after only being here for a little while (say back during first semester).

We finished off the night with a movie documentary on a famous monk: 법정스님. It was interesting seeing how he lived his life as a monk. One thing that I thought was interesting was that he was highly judged by his parents. They had paid so much money for him to get a college education (not an easy feat now and not an easy feat then either) and he decided to leave the academic world behind and become a monk. But because of this tension, he did not help his family at all once he started earning money from the royalties off of his bestselling books. He had some ask for help but he basically cut them off completely. Instead, he would donate a lot of money to students who were struggling to pay for their college tuition and were near having to drop out. 

We all got ready ready for bed and slept on mats on top of the heated floor. I was expecting it to be rather uncomfortable but honestly, it was one of the best rests I have had in awhile. I think that sleeping on the floor is really good every once in awhile! I definitely do not mind it. I fell asleep right away and the next thing I knew… it was three in the morning.

3/24/19 Sunday

The lights slowly turned on and a bell began to sound. I looked around the room and watched everyone stir awake. No one had their phones so we could not tell that it was 3 in the morning but our bodies definitely were aware of this fact. We got up, changed, washed up a little, and then headed out for the early morning Buddhist service in the temple. Like the evening service, we got our own mats at the side of the temples and were given pamphlets to follow along with the monks. We finished off the service with another round of walking meditation around the temple grounds. This one, in comparison to the last, was actually very relaxing for me. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was the morning and I was too tired to think of anything else but I was able to just watch my feet while I walked and forget about the world around me. It was very nice.

The next program on our schedule had been highly anticipated since the beginning. We would be doing 108 prostrations or bows. This involved bowing in the right way that was taught to us during the temple etiquette presentation and with every time we came down to the floor, we strung a brown bead (handmade, completely unique bead! You cannot find them/buy them anywhere else. You can only obtain them by doing a templestay!) on a string that would later become a necklace. We were told that with every bead strung onto the string, we were saying goodbye to a temptation, something bad in our lives, worries, etc. I found this activity very peaceful and I actually enjoyed being able to count out everything that had been consuming my mind recently. I metaphorically imagined myself saying goodbye to all my worries: not reaching my desired Korean level, confidence issues, not making friends in college, struggling with grades in college, homesickness, trust issues, my friends moving on without me in their lives, not being able to find true love, negative body image, missing out on a dream job of mine, etc. (Was that information too intimate? Oh well…)

It felt good feeling like I was releasing them into something else. I also figured that the 108 bows would be more tiresome than they were. I felt wobbly by the end (my legs) for sure but I did not really break a sweat. By the end of the activity, I was able to look at my necklace, and its 108 beads, with pride. I had done that. I had made this with my own hands and it definitely was not easy. When I got home, I hung it on my vanity mirror and I cannot help but smile when I look at it every day.

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The finished product!~

We had breakfast after which consisted of 죽 (porridge), 잡체, spicy tofu, salad, lots of 반찬, and apples. It was all very clean tasting~ The next activity of the day was community work. For this part of the morning, we returned to the temple that we prayed at earlier and “cleaned” the mats that you kneel on while bowing. This process involved taking the mats out of the temple (assembly line style) and patting/smacking the dust off of them outside and then placing them back into stacks inside the temple against the wall. 

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Smiling faces after accomplishing the task!

To work off some of the breakfast, we did temple yoga next which was not exactly like my yoga classes in high school; this yoga was definitely centered more on stretching and breathing. It  was a nice final session to end this program before we wrote our reflections and got ready to leave the temple. 

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Last Photo of our TempleStay experience!

Katie and I went back to my house together so that she could pick up her bags. We ate lunch together at the shopping mall near my apartment– at 홍익 돈까스 to be exact, sharing 돈까스 and tomato pasta.

We also dropped by a cafe where I bought Katie bread for getting into UCLA!!! Congratulations Katie! ❤ We hung out there to study and chat for a bit before we both returned to our respective homes for dinner.

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This bread’s name was 남편보다 더 달콤한 빵 (Sweeter than your husband bread)

My host mom was not feeling well and my sisters were out so I ended up eating dinner by myself in my room that night while I was studying. It was a very chill Sunday night. Although I did no actual work or studying during the templestay, it was still quite draining yet rejuvenating at the same time. Probably one of the biggest examples of something contradicting itself but hey that is how the world works sometimes!

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That is all for this blog post! It is a very long one… more than 2,500 words yikes! If you got through all of it then… thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it! I really had an amazing experience doing the templestay. I am so glad that we were able to get approved by Better World as it truly was such a unique and eye-opening experience. Especially because a lot of Buddhist values can be seen in aspects of the Korean culture even to this day! 여러분 기회가 있으시면 꼭 템플스테이를 해보세용~ Alright BYE!

  • Emma 엠마

Visiting the DMZ, Dorasan Observatory, and a Secret North Korean Tunnel (02/20/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/20/19 Wednesday

Today was our first cultural excursion of Culture Week (or of all of February as a matter of fact)! We would be visiting the area around the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone–border zone that divides both halves of the Korean peninsula) with a pre-orchestrated tour that had planned stops throughout the day. To start off our day, we all met at 시청역 (City Hall Station). This stop was about an hour away from my home station which was a little bit annoying seeing that we would need to go up to 파주시 (just south of the 38th parallel) anyway… which is actually close to me! I live literally two stops away from the city! For once, we would be going somewhere close to my home and yet I had to meet everyone somewhere else… Oh well, I was able to write some blog posts during the hour train ride.

We took a shuttle bus to our first location which was also being shared with several other English speaking foreigners who booked our same tour guide and then another separate group of Japanese tourists that had their own tour guide. We ate breakfast on the shuttle bus and then mostly tried to sleep till we arrived at the first place: 임진각 (Imjingak). 임진각 is the last settlement in the city of Paju right before the DMZ. Most tours make this place a pit-stop because it has a lot of famous statues and monuments from the Korean War.

임진각 has the bridge of freedom (a bridge that South Koreans used to return after the signing of the armistice agreement), a peace bell, a pool shaped like the Korean peninsula, observation deck/lookout, and a bombed-out steam locomotive still standing on its original tracks. Also… a bit more on the touristy side… this area also includes gift shops, a convenience store, fast food places (like a Popeyes!), and even an amusement park called Peace Land! I mean I guess that is Capitalism for you… I could never imagine why anyone would want to build a theme park near a zone brewing with so much tension and memories of pain and anguish… it really beats me… 

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View of the said amusement park. You can see a couple of rides. 

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I think my favorite place of the large settlement was the barbed wire with all of the colorful prayer ribbons tied on. These ribbons had messages of hope and reunification on them–many were written by individuals with family members or loved ones still living in the North. It brought up images of hope but also sadness as no one knows how long it will take for these people, these two counties, to be united once again.

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The next place on our itinerary was 도라산역 (Dorasan Station) on the 경의중앙 subway line (The one I take from Korean classes back home!) This is the train station that is the closest to the border of North Korea (about 17Km I do believe… according to our tour guide!) Currently (as you could probably guess), this train station is not in use. A train does come into the station about twice a day but this train is the DMZ tour train (owned by the Korean Government) and is not actually public transportation. You cannot take a train on the 경의중앙 line and end up at this station.

At the station, we were able to pay for a fake ticket and gain access to the station platform (which was called 통일–unification–platform) for about $1. The air felt kinda eerie as it looked just like any other outdoor train station platform except for the fact that there was no one there.

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Our next stop was 도라산전망대 (Dorasan Observatory) which looks out across the demilitarized zone. On the very top floor, there are special viewing areas but because the dust was really bad today (or maybe it was actually fog this time; I have no clue) it was pretty hard to see anything. All of the photos we took up there literally looked like they were taken in front of white backgrounds but nope… that is the color of the sky!

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I also took some time to go to the gift shop and buy some products only available at the DMZ tourist stops–and that would be all food products of course. I bought these DMZ soybean chocolate and chocolate eggs as well as this special Choco Pie (famous Korean snack) that is made with ingredients grown around the DMZ. The reason that the choco pie became a famous snack to buy at the DMZ is because there is one famous North Korean refugee that escaped North Korea by car by crossing the 72 hour bridge (or also known as the Bridge of No Return– it is named the 72 hour bridge because it was only built in 72 hours). He was shot countless times while crossing the bridge but still happened to make it to the other side alive. When he made it to South Korea, the first thing he wanted to eat was Choco Pie and so the CEO of the snack brand vowed to give him free Choco Pies for his entire life! It was a really interesting story. 

The last thing we did for the day was going underground and walk through the Third Tunnel which was a secret tunnel that the North Koreans built trying to find a secret passage from North Korea to Seoul for sudden sneak attacks. We were not allowed to take our phones inside to take any pictures so I have nothing to share besides my words! We had to wear yellow hard hats and walk down to get to the tunnel. The ceiling and the walls were quite moist and the tunnel was quite low. I was able to stand up straight most of the time (without any worry of hitting my head) but I am only five foot three or so…anyone taller than me probably had a sore neck after walking through the tunnel. At the end, there was a sign and viewing area for looking into the North Korean side of the tunnel. Something that we noticed which was interesting was that we could see an actual plant growing on the other side! There was life! Walking down to get to the tunnel was not too difficult (besides the fact that it kinda hurt my knees…I love having weak joints!) but walking back up was pretty exhausting. 

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Once we finished exploring the tunnel, we walked around the area and took lots of group photos (We had to take a banner photo in front of the iconic DMZ letter sign.) before heading back into the bus for our return back to 시청역. I was able to pretty much sleep the entire way back which was much needed seeing that I could not go home right after we arrived… I was going to do community service!

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Usually, the Wednesday squad consists of Shada, Kaitlyn, and I but Josh had nothing to do for the rest of the day so he decided to join us. We had about three hours to kill before community service so we chilled at this cafe in the subway station called Tammy’s House or something like that. While we were there… I tried finishing my workbook but it was hard. I just wanted to hang out and talk with the others. While we were there, Josh and Kaitlyn were getting really existential and asking really deep philosophical answers and it was interesting to see how their answers more often than not differed. Today, I learned, that Kaitlyn is such a nihilist at times! One of the questions that I remember vividly was “Are Humans or Animals More Free?” Kaitlyn was on team animals since they are not constrained by society and its rules/standard while Josh argued that they cannot even understand the concept of freedom with their small brains. It was such a fun conversation! I love hanging with them two!

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We did our community service which ended up probably being the last one for a while (We could not go the following week because of orientation and now that school is starting soon… I do not know if I will have the energy to do community service every week.) I really enjoyed spending the time helping out with my fellow NSLI-Yians and the kids have really begun to open up to us~ It was fun being able to have more conversations with them today. It was probably the best service yet! I will definitely miss it…

That is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed~ I put in a lot of effort into this blog post to make it interesting and educational at the same time. Honestly, it is probably one of my favorite ones. Well, until next time!

  • Emma 엠마

 

ZooLung: Fish Eat Dead Skin off My Hands?!? {11/25-26/18} NSLI-Y AY

11/25/18 Sunday

I really do enjoy Sundays. It is so nice to just have a day to lounge around at home: chilling or doing work that needs to be done in preparation for the week to come. It’s a well-deserved break from a hectic life.

This morning was no exception. I spent the morning hanging out in my room doing homework and then playing with my host sisters. They recently took out {or bought?} this clay set so we have had fun playing around with the clay in the living room. I got a lot of work done and was feeling very productive to start the week.

After we had dinner, we all drove for a bit to go to what I can only describe as a Zoo Park? But even then… that sounds wrong… the place was called ZooLung {in Korean 주렁주렁} which honestly is a weird name? I still don’t know why it’s called that? This place is basically like a more interactive zoo!

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There were lots of animals behind cases and in cages but there were parts that would allow the guests to be hands on. For example, we got to pet rabbits and some lizards, feed a hawk type bird, give treats to these small baby birds, and the best part… have fish eat the dead skin off of our hands!! In the underwater section of the place, they had a tank of 닥터피쉬 {닥달이}. These fish are famous for {usually} sucking off the dead skin off of your feet. It was such an interesting feeling. When I first put my hand in the water, I couldn’t help but laugh since I’m so ticklish. Also, so many more fish came to me than any other person so I guess I have gross dead hands? My host sisters were making fun of me, so I joked back and told them if they keep eating like this, my hand will disappear.

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It was a really fun afternoon; we spent a good amount of hours there. We also stopped by a TOYsRUs since Christmas is coming up soon. I was outright shook seeing one of those stores since they all closed in America. I told my host dad this and he explained why this one exists but, to be honest, I didn’t understand…

The rest of the night was pretty chill. I was able to relax a lot because I got most of my work done that morning. I focused on studying vocab because our monthly unit test is on Thursday… I really want to utilize more elevated vocabulary in both my writing and my speaking test.

11/26/18 Monday

Monday was another basic day of school except… I had another GREAT morning commuting to school (If you could not already tell, I am being very sarcastic.) When I went out on Saturday night with some of the others from the NSLI-Y squad (I apologize for using that word un-ironically), I used my last 5 dollars (in cash) on dessert because Josh and Liam told me to. They said I should just use it instead of my card because we would be receiving our stipend on Monday. And, I listened to them– my first mistake.

On Monday morning, I got to the subway station kind of earlier than normal which actually was a blessing in disguise! When I tried going through the turnstile, the machines beeped at me because I had insufficient funds on my card. I only had 50 cents on it! I went to refill and realized I had no cash on me! I definitely could not go back home… what would I do? Wake my host mom up and ask for cash? That was not the move. The bank across the street from the subway station does not accept foreign card at the ATMS (already tried the week before). I was literally about to cry in the middle of the subway station until I realized that I was wearing my school uniform; therefore, I had emergency blazer money! For a couple of weeks, I have kept 5 dollars in the inside pocket of my blazer in case of an emergency (I was thinking it would be more for an “I am hungry at school and want to get a snack from the 매점 (school store) but forgot my wallet in the classroom” moment but this worked too). I whipped out that money so fast to charge my card and went on my way to just make the subway.

School was pretty good. In English, we started talking about the Civil Rights Movement in America and in particular, talked a lot about Martin Luther King Jr. Before we did anything academic in class, Andrew (our 영미문학–American & British Literature–teacher) asked about the students’ weekends because they got to go home the prior weekend. One of the students (I think her English name is Diane) said that she went to an aquarium and it reminded her of her youth. Andrew then quickly adds to her sentence (in truly dad joke fashion) “When you were a fish?” Everyone in the class erupted in laughter for a solid few minutes. Andrew kept apologizing for making such a bad joke which it was… but it was so terrible that it was hilarious!

My AP Statistics class was as usual… I only really enjoyed talking to 세림. She makes me not 100% dread that class. When lunchtime rolled around, Katie and I left the school right away to get lunch near the youth center at a 편의점. We chilled outside while eating our 김밥 and fruity drinks.

Korean class was pretty good today (compared to last class when I literally left the building and cried in public… it can only get better?) We took a quiz and I, unfortunately, got more wrong than I wanted to… for one of the questions I got wrong, it was because I used the wrong verb. I knew I could have answered the question with a simpler verb like “to be fast” or something of that nature but I wanted to really challenge myself so I put “to be on schedule exactly” which I conjugated a bit wrong. The other question I got wrong was because I really had no idea what it was asking, so I expected that to be a point off. The grammar points we learned in class were a bit tricky at first, but I caught on after several example sentences. I was actually really happy because I felt that one of them was very useful and that I would be applying that to conversations a lot soon (and hopefully naturally).

After class, I waited for some of the other students at Better World because they were coming to pick up their stipends. Our RD also prepared little gifts bags for us to prevent us from catching colds during the winter. These bags included vitamin c tablets, fuzzy socks, a mask, and hot packs. It was honestly very adorable. I walked back to the station with Shannon and Katie to go home early for dinner.

When I got home, my host mom gave me this strange look bread type thing? She told me that it was homemade by her mother perhaps? I ended up eating the whole thing as it was pretty good. I am not 100% sure what it was but I have concluded that it is some type of 떡 with red bean and peas in it.

I ate dinner with the rest of the family after my host sisters were done with their Chinese lessons. I talked to them all about my Christmas. My host dad asked me if I kept getting presents even in high school {and if that’s normal} and when I told him yes, he immediately shushed me! Oops.. my sisters started screaming and I’m sorry that I may have just started something…

I spent the rest of Monday studying lots and lots of vocabulary, finishing up my workbook and a writing assignment due the next day.

That’s all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed!

  • Emma 엠마

Visiting a Confucian Private Academy {11/18/18} NSLI-Y Korea AY

11/18/18 Sunday

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View from the shuttle bus: goodbye 시골 한옥!

We woke up early Sunday morning in order to enjoy a homemade breakfast made by the 한옥 아줌마 (The owner of the traditional house we were staying at!). She prepared an entire spread! We had the fish that we prepared yesterday in the form of fine fish powder? {I’m sorry… I really don’t know what it actually was…} And we also ate some actual 생선 (fish), 멸치 (anchovies), 계란찜 (steamed eggs), 사과하고 복숭아 살라드 (peach and apple salad), 미역국 (seaweed soup), 김치 (kimchi), quail eggs, and of course 밥 (rice). It was so very delicious! After stuffing our faces and tidying up our rooms, we left the lovely 한옥. {Not before taking A LOT of pictures.} We got back on the bus, ready for our next adventure.

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Look at all this food! My mouth is watering just seeing it all again!

40 minutes later, we arrived at our destination for the day where we could learn more about the history of Confucianism in Korea: 도산서원.

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도산서원 (Dosanseowon) is a Confucian Academy that was established by the disciples and others who revered Yi Hwang, one of the most prominent Korean Confucian scholars. (He also commonly went by his pen name: Toegye.)

We had another nice tour guide take us around the different buildings and sections of the area and explain the background in English. We got to see a school room for the boys attending the Confucian school {only boys were allowed to attend}, the dormitories, and even a publishing room that was used to print books. Our tour guide told us that it would take a week just to make one page of a book; therefore, it could take years to make just one novel.

She also showed us the front of a shrine made for Yi Hwang (Also–fun fact– the man on the 1,000 Won bill.) It’s not open to visitors until the anniversary of his death. On that day, they have a memorial service where they offer food and allow visitors to come inside and pay respects. The building has three walkways to enter/exit. One way was for the teachers, another was for students, and the last one is the path that humans are not allowed to use: the middle walkway was and is only for spirits.

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The shrine and the three entrances/exits mentioned above

We went through a museum after checking out all the traditional buildings before wrapping our visit with simply enjoying the scenery surrounding the private academy. 민정쌤 and 소영쌤 also bought us all cups of hot chocolate {or some other coffee drink of our choosing} which was really nice and refreshing in the cold weather. It was nearing 12 pm as we got back on the bus to head back to 홍대. For some reason, there was a lot of traffic which made the trip back longer than the expected 3 hours. We were all pretty exhausted from the weekend of activities, so most of us immediately fell asleep when we sat down on the bus.

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About an hour and a half into the ride home, we stopped at a rest stop for like 20 minutes to eat lunch. We all ordered and were able to literally get our food in less than 5 minutes; I was surprised by how fast everything came out. I ordered 짜장면 and enjoyed that while talking to some of the others. We got back on the bus shortly after quickly stuffing our faces to finish the rest of the trip. I tried playing SpyFall for a bit with Jacquelyn, Josh, Liam, Jack, and June for a bit but data charges are wild and many of us were tired too, so we only played two games. Though, the second game was so much fun because I was the spy and I did a great job of leading them off of me. So by the end of the game, everyone was guessing jack and Liam and no one even considered me.

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Once we arrived, we said our goodbyes at the Better World Office and separated to head back home. We were all exhausted and most of us still had homework to do for the following day.

I came home and talked to my host family about the trip over dinner. They also told me about the camping trip they went on. It was a nice chill evening. I finished all my Korean homework on Friday night, so I just studied vocab and posted a blog post. It was a nice night~

That’s all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! This was the completion of our first far away, overnight cultural excursion! It definitely has left me with unforgettable memories!

  • Emma 엠마

 

Overnight Trip to Andong {안동} 11/17/18 {NSLI-Y Korea AY}

11/17/18 Saturday

I dreaded having to wake up at 6:15 am to get ready to report to the Better World Office at 8:30 am. But when I actually did wake up, my tiredness quickly turned into excitement and anticipation. I was ready to take our first ever weekend trip with my NSLI-Y cohort: this was going to be so much fun!

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I got to the subway station around 8 am to meet with Kaitlyn to buy snacks for the two-day adventure. We bought so many things: chips, cookies, bread, drinks—the works basically. When we got to Better World, we were the first ones there… we even beat our RD 민정쌤! We hung out there for a while until everyone finally arrived. Also, many of the other students brought lots of snacks to share… but it turns out that we didn’t need any of that! 민정쌤 and 소영쌤 brought out this HUGE box filled to the top with snacks! They even had this huge bag of bread to give us for breakfast. It was crazy! We knew we would be eating well during these two days!

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We set out on the bus a little after 9 am. We got to take a big party-like shuttle bus (similar to the one we used when coming from the airport to our guesthouse on the very first day in Korea). It will probably be the same type of bus we will be taking back to the airport on our last day in Korea… BUT LET’S NOT THINK ABOUT THAT!} I sat at the very back of the bus with Jenna and Katie. The ride to the village was three hours. For the first two hours or so, I worked on my blog posts—trying to catch up with all this extra time! I also played this really fun game with several other NSLI-Yians: Josh, Jack, Liam, Harmony, Katie, and Jenna. The game was called Contact and Katie introduced it to us. Basically, it was a mix of the game Taboo and simply trying to think of the same word as someone else? I don’t know… it’s complicated to explain the rules in person let alone through writing. While we were on our way to 안동, we stopped at a rest stop to use the facilities and such. I think I tried sleeping after we made this stop? I’m not sure. The bus was really comfortable, though. You could recline the seats all the way back which made it seem like you were sleeping in a bed.

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Katie & Me ❤

Eventually, we arrived and it was nearing lunch time so we ate at a restaurant right outside of the village. For lunch, we had fish {mackerel???} and a variety of side dishes. I ate a fish eyeball !!! Yes, I did. Honestly, there was no taste. The texture was very hard at first like I was biting into a marble but then it turned squishy like the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. That’s what it felt like I was eating… a weird small egg. But the actual fish itself was delicious! And there was no lack of 멸치 (Anchovy) as a side dish so I was very happy.

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The  진수성찬 (Feast)

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Do you see that eyeball?

After we finished up lunch together, we took a bus into 하회마을 {Hahoe Traditional Village} to watch a 탈춤 {Mask Dance Performance}. 민정쌤 gave us these handouts so that we could read up on the performance and the scenes of the story because it would all be in Korean— with some “old timey” language and accents at that. The performance had this huge screen which displayed subtitles in English, Chinese, and Japanese which was nice. Sometimes the translations were very wrong and confusing, but they did help me follow along with the story pretty well.

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The play was a bit strange in some aspects… kind of suggestive in a way at the time too… especially since kids were there… I felt awkward. But since it was a display of traditional history, it needs to be showcased in its true form. I’m glad there were no major alterations to the storyline because that’s what makes the story what it is! Though, watching the monk sniff a pee puddle was a bit much… I found the bull peeing on the audience really funny!!!

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Shada being handed the bulls…private part…

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Also, during one of the scenes, they picked a woman from the crowd and had her pick two guys? She ended up choosing westerners and the actor was like “don’t mess anything up for the westerners.” She picked our lovely friend Liam!!! It was so funny seeing her pull him up out of the crowd. If we were not already recording the performance then, we definitely were now. Everyone pulled out their phone to record this interaction. Another foreign guy was pulled out of the crowd and they were both asked where they were from. The other guy replied with “USA” while Liam said 미국. We all cheered! He’s repping NSLI-Y with those language skills!!! Then, music started playing and they all started dancing. Watching Liam’s lanky body trying to dance in a somewhat “traditional” way with flowy/breezy body movements made me laugh–I could not help it.

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Liam is the one in the yellow sweatshirt!

Once the performance was over, we took a group photo and left the area for our tour of the 한옥마을. We had a tour guide walk us around with some microphone audio set and he told us all about the most famous places. He described to us the architecture of the houses as well as the social classes that lived in each one. We got lucky because one house was recently moved out of so we were free to look inside! We took many photos in front of the beautiful scenery and the houses. Every time we took out our large banner, everyone’s eyes turned towards us as they stared and read what the banner said: it was quite embarrassing at times.

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Traditional Korean Snacks: 한과

There was also this large tree that we got to tie a white ribbon around. On the ribbon, we wrote a wish we wanted to come true~

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Our Resident Directors~ ❤

At the end of the tour, we found these three large rope swings and took turns swinging on them. At first, I was really afraid because it went really high up and my stomach already cannot handle normal swings… but I sucked it up for the experience. {and the cute pictures~}

We also found this cliff off of a river and took some photos there. Everyone kept pretending to fall off which made 민정쌤’s face red every single time. It was priceless.

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The last thing on the agenda was visiting a mask museum that was also on the site of the traditional village. The mask museum not only featured Korean made masks but traditional masks from all over the world! I’m serious; every continent was covered and there were a lot of countries represented: Italy, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, The Congo, etc. They had American masks too. This included both Native American masks and … Halloween masks. I’m not kidding. They had werewolves, goblins, zombies, etc.

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After the mask museum, we were all hungry and ready for a delicious dinner of an 안동 specialty: 찜닭! Ooooo boy was it delicious. While eating I sat with 민정쌤, Liam, Harmony, and Katie, and we talked about our thoughts on the trip so far but to be honest because we were so hungry, we were pretty quiet while scarfing down the food. At the end of our meal, we started talking about the differences between Korean and American education systems which was interesting because we got to hear from 민정쌤 about her experience. {Especially seeing that she has studied in both Korea and America.} She talked a bit about low-income students at the school she attended and how they are treated in Korea which made me feel quite sad… understanding what it’s like to be in their position. On a lighter note, we found out that Harmony is the best at (fake) reading palms. She can’t actually do it but wow is it believable when she tries!

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Me full beyond belief!

Dinner made us all so very sleepy. Our bus ride to our accommodation felt so short as we all fell asleep. 민정쌤 screaming “얘들아! Wake up!” was the lovely way in which we all awoke from our slumber. The walk from our bus to the traditional house was quite sketchy. It was already 7 pm so everything was dark and because we were also in the countryside, there were no street lamps to be seen.

The traditional house was just what I expected. When you walked through the main gate or front door, you were still outside. There was a little courtyard in the middle of the house and all the rooms surrounding it. There were a lot of sliding doors and windows to keep the house cool in the summer; however, they definitely keep the house colder in the winter. How did the Koreans combat this? With floor heating known as Ondol (온돌). Underneath the house, there were places for coal which would burn and keep the floors nice and toasty. At first, I doubted how warm this would keep us but it got so hot! Even before we were sleeping, the room was pretty warm. If I stayed on an uncovered part of the floor for too long, I would literally get hot and feel slight burning sensations. Besides my makeshift pillow {a combination of my NSLI-Y jacket and my winter hat}, I slept like a baby.

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When we first got to the house, we split everyone up into their rooms. I would be staying with Jacquelyn, Jenna, Katie, June, and Shada in the biggest room {with a connected bathroom}. Then we all piled into our room to have a discussion on today’s occurrences. We had slips of paper with discussion questions and we just answered them one by one hearing from the individuals in the group that had things to share.

Eventually, it was 8:30 and they let us go. But before we did our own things {like stay up all night}, the 아줌마 of the 한옥 wanted our help in preparing food for tomorrow’s breakfast. We all came out to this room on the edge of the courtyard. Those that were participating sat on these little mats and we were given the job of ripping the flesh off of dry fish skin. {that’s the best way I can possibly describe it} It was quite cold outside too so we drank some tea while doing the peeling. {I’m not sure what type of tea… but to me, it tasted like uncooked popcorn kernels.} The 아줌마 told us that she would use what we prepared just then for breakfast the next morning. She finely shredded the fish with a food processor and that was somehow going to end up in our breakfast? I was excited to see what would come out of it!

The rest of the night was just a bunch of shenanigans {and a lot of shushing because the walls are PAPER thin}. We played a couple rounds of Uno, Spot it, and this game called SpyFall online. We also just talked and chilled and got to hang out with each other because for many of us, our daily routine limits who we get to see on a daily or frequent basis. At one point in the night, Kaitlyn, Josh, and I got bored so we decided to literally leave the house and walk around. I’m not sure if we were told not to do that… but we only walked down to where the bus dropped us off and back. We found out that there were chickens on the property too! We tried walking up a bit behind the house but there was this dog that started going crazy which freaked everyone out. When we were walking by this stream, we saw an animal get startled and run away. We were shocked because it wasn’t obvious what the animal was right away. I thought it was the size of a cat but pranced like a deer, so for the rest of the night, we called that mysterious creature a deer cat.

It was like a giant sleepover for the rest of the night. I really enjoyed hanging out with everyone. Although I was trying to live in the moment, it was so easy for my mind to wander and think about the end of the program. How am I going to survive without my fellow NSLI-Yians? My literal soul mate Katie? Kaitlyn who literally never fails to make me laugh? The fearless Shada? Harmony who gives the best hugs? Liam whom, although I can practically never understand him, is such a good person to be around? Josh who if it were not for him in my Korean class I would die!!?? Jenna the little savage? And Jacquelyn who’s laugh makes my day? This isn’t everyone but they are the ones that really stick out in my brain when I think of this particular trip. I’m so thankful for them!! Maybe since it’s so close to Thanksgiving… that I feel like I need to share all my emotions!!! 

I drifted off to sleep a bit after 12:30. It was easier than I expected. Don’t knock using an 온돌 instead of normal heating until you try it! Seriously!

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the first day of our first overnight trip together~ I hope there’s more where that came from~ Thanks for reading!

  • Emma 엠마