Graduation Trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) Pt.2: Rainy Day Visit to Bulguksa Temple (불국사), Traditional Tea House (전통찻집), and Donggung Palace (동궁) 05/18/2019 (NSLI-Y Korea AY)

05/18/2019 Saturday

The rain did not let up as we ascended the mountain and continued on our path to visit Bulguksa Temple (불국사). Maybe because we were not so high up nor were we surrounded by such sigh trees and thick fog, the rain felt a lot calmer on the temple grounds. We walked around, ducking under anything to give a temporary refuge from the rain, and took lots of group photos because 민정쌤 was not going to let us get away with not taking any photos even with the weather conditions.

In front of the main hall of the temple, the two ‘hallways’ (if you can call them that) or more like open-air pathways with a overhead covering (Slowly forgetting how to sound coherent even in English…) that extended on either side of the main building had many many lanterns hanging above our heads. I believe there were so many because the Korean holiday of Buddha’s birthday was a few days earlier so usually there isn’t as much color as we saw.

One of our group photos was taken in front of the one of the twin pagodas that are considered national treasures. The specific one in these photos is called 다보탑 (Dabotap Pagoda) which is considered to be the more masculine one of the two? I am no expert in architecture and design but honestly… I do not really understand. Is it cause of the sharper angles? The shapes? Someone please explain…

We also visited the Hall of Supreme Hall of Bliss (극낙전) which is most famously known for the small golden pig statue that is resurrected in the front of the structure. I was really excited about this because as you may or may not know, my favorite animal is the pig and 2019 is actually the year of the pig! How fitting! 민정쌤 said that in Korean culture, pigs are seen as a creature that can bring good fortune and wealth and if you rub the statue (~superstition~), you too can become lucky! Do not doubt… I also rubbed the pig’s nose and behind his ears–I thought he’d like that.

After walking around and exploring for some time, we stumbled upon the souvenir store and right next to it, a traditional tea house (불국다원 전통찻집) which was halfway outdoors–not the best during this weather; however, I can only imagine how close to nature you would feel when drinking tea outside like that. I ended up ordering 냉오미자 (Cold Five Flavor Berry Tea) which is definitely one of the more traditional tea flavors, getting its name from the 5 different flavor profiles it apparently possesses. I cannot say that my tongue is skilled enough to distinguish such refined tastes but Kaitlyn (who brags about being a supertaster with more taste buds than the average person) agrees to its name.

The rain eventually came to a standstill and we got back on the bus and traveled to our accommodation so we could change out of our wet clothes and put our bags away and rest up a bit before leaving to have dinner which would be MEAT!!

For our only night in 경주, we would be staying in a traditional Korean style house (한옥) where we would also be sleeping on the floor in futon style mattress pads and blankets. The room the girls were staying in was quite big and even included a loft which Katie and I could not pass sleeping in (We love lofts! Always our first choice!) We hung up our wet clothes to dry around the room and sprawled across the floor to rest our tired, sore legs. I had gotten a hole in my poncho so I also gave it a farewell ceremony into the trash. 

When dinnertime rolled around, we all walked to the restaurant we would be eating at and Better World was gracious enough to buy us all meat! And not just any old meat, meat that we would be grilling ourselves. Once again we split up into three separate groups sitting at a long table with our respective grilling units. I sat with 민정쌤, 소영쌤, Addie, Jacquelyn, and Jenna. We ate so well and stuffed our faces with as much garlic lettuce wraps filled with meat as we possibly could. It was a nice way to end the night–or we thought. After eating, we were surprised with one more thing on our agenda for the day: visiting a palace!

By the time we arrived at the palace (동궁), the night was well set in so there was no light in the sky but luckily the castle grounds were open until late and there were lots of lights to illuminate all the structures and reflect on the pool surrounding the castle (월지) and the weather was only slightly chilly. It was a nice, early summer evening and lots of people were actually out and about too. I mostly stayed with Harmony and Kaitlyn as we hopped around to the buildings throughout the area. The palace ground was not actually that big (in comparison to other ones I have been to–in Seoul too) and that is because most of it was burnt to the ground. There was also a lot of natural bamboo growing alongside the perimeter which is always a plant I enjoy seeing up close.

At the end of the night, we took a group photo and then were told to all get in to taxis to make our way back to the house we were staying at because it was now pretty far from the palace and since it was late at night and dark, walking was not allowed. The 쌤s rode with some of us but others had to get in their own taxis and tell the driver the right directions. In my car, we put Liam in charge of this and well… lets just say we did have some walking to do back but we made it–on time too! There was a slight problem with two stragglers who became seemingly lost and would not pick up 민정쌤’s calls (nor mine as I was told to call them as well). It was probably the most drama we had had all program and it was not even anything too exciting.

Once everyone had gotten back to our 한옥, the 쌤s had us all gather into the main, biggest room and randomly turned off all the lights. We were all confused at first until she started pulling out plastic candles out of her bag. They were the small tea lights (perhaps that’s the name for them?) or the tiny candles often used for vigils I think. She instructed us to all light our own candles and sit in a circle around the perimeter of the room. In order to reflect on our time together and as an act of closing out our full year studying abroad in Korea. I would be shamefully lying if I said I did not cry multiple times throughout this little late night session.

We all went around the room and said whatever we were feeling and a lot of people found it very difficult to keep their emotions in check–including me. Literally, I found myself tearing up at every single person’s response and would try my best to stifle my sniffles and dry my tears but multiple times I was handed tissues from my fellow NSLI-Yians and Jacquelyn kept pointing out my inability to not be moved by the stories and sentiments being shared. When it came around to my turn to speak, I opened my mouth and all that came out was a depressing cry. I tried composing myself and basically discussed how besides for language improvement, the area I experienced the most growth in throughout this year was my confidence. I probably felt the most vulnerable in this moment but it felt nice being able to share this with the people who would probably understand my feelings the most in the entire world.

After we all shared our thoughts and said our goodbyes for the evening, I did feel a little empty. The little candle sharing session felt like an official end of a chapter and I was not ready for that. I was not ready to say goodbye. I thought I had been preparing myself to leave and I felt as ready as ever but now… I was not so sure. How can I say goodbye to all this? To all these people? To all these connections? At least this trip wasn’t over yet. We would have a great day tomorrow! That I could look forward to for sure~

And that is all for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading it~ I hope this one was a bit more interesting since we were bopping around a lot of different places in 경주. Till next time~

  • Emma 엠마

Graduation Trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) Pt 1: Rainy Visit to (석굴암 석굴) Seokguram Grotto (05/18/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/18/19 Saturday

How come it’s easier to wake up early in the morning when you are excited? I mean, I am not complaining but I always find myself practically springing up out of my bed when my neurons cannot stop firing with excitement (or nervousness for that matter) but then I’m literally the polar opposite of a morning person on every other day of a mundane week.

Today was an exciting day because it was day 1 of my graduation trip with my NSLI-Y Cohort! We were all a little bit disappointed at first because we would only be going on this trip for one night rather than going for 2박3일 (3 days and 2 nights) due to my class 3반 needing to be back Sunday night in order to take our Korean final Monday morning. And the reasoning behind our disappointment was plainly us wanting to spend more time together–especially as a group which always proves to be more difficult due to scheduling–which I find utterly wholesome. At this point of the year, we had exactly one week left in Korea and we all realized how precious each and every moment we had together truly was. (I am already tearing up just recollecting this trip!!!)

Anyways, on Saturday morning we all met up at the KTX station in 용산 which was luckily directly on my subway line so no need to transfer for me (celebrate the little victories aka having more uninterrupted naptime on the subway). There we embarked on our trip to 경주 (Gyeongju) which I had only read very little about in Korean class and from what I remembered, it was a very historical city seeing that it was the capital of the Silla Kingdom.

For breakfast, 민정쌤 and 소영쌤 prepared us all prepackaged boxed 김밥 (kimbap) in a variety of flavors: beef, tuna, etc and they bestowed the duty of carrying the box onto our lovely friend June. You may be questioning why I feel like this information is pertinent enough to be included in my telling of this trip as it seems like a very miniscule, easily overlooked detail and which, yes, it normally would be however this was not the case today. I had actually been filming us walking to the train platform and boarding the right train car for my 1 second a day video (I will make a separate post on this but it has been uploaded on Youtube already) and this clip included a blurb of June talking to me while holding the box of kimbaps BEFORE she dropped the box.

Seconds before disaster!! 😛

Yes, right before we got on the train, June tripped over herself or something and spilled the contents of the kimbap box on the floor. Luckily, only a few kimbaps exploded and were therefore inedible. So a major tragedy was avoided but Kaitlyn and I (the only ones behind June when this occurred) had to keep ourselves from peeing due to laughing so hard while helping pick everything up. And 민정쌤 of course also had some sassy remarks. But it all turned out okay! And definitely was not foreshadowing for a hectic trip! Not at all!

The train ride on the KTX (My first time riding it!! Next time, I will hopefully take it to Busan!!) took about 2 hours or so. I spent the majority of the time studying for my Korean final (as well as chatting with Kaitlyn, my seat buddy) which was a productive use of my time but it also made me quite anxious as I realized that I would have no time to adequately study during the trip–if I really wanted to enjoy myself with others. This made me worry about the impact this lack of time would have on my test performance. 소영쌤 saw me studying with all my colorful note-taking and praised me for still studying hard despite everything which did make me feel good. I decided to not let my anxieties ruin these final moments with the people I have grown to greatly cherish~

When we made it to the station, we exchanged our fast-moving silver power train for a classic Korean ‘party bus’ decorated with colorful fabrics and tassels and built-in karaoke mic set. For our trip, we would be having our own private bus driver take us to the sights because traveling with so many individuals could prove to be difficult and quite expensive.

Clouds foreshadowing some bad weather ahead…

Even though we had 김밥 for breakfast not too long ago, our first stop once we arrived to 경주 was to get some lunch. We came to a restaurant picked out by the 쌤s and we basically took up one entire half of the restaurant as we all sat at one long table. I sat with Harmony, Addie, and Jenna and we shared our own mini stove which kept our stew warm.

Honestly, I do not remember the name of anything we ate during that meal. There were a lot of side dishes and even this one plate of curious looking round patties of some kind. I cannot remember if they were made out of meat or vegetables… Despite the tastes not being too memorable, I know we devoured everything because we American teens can always eat and on vacation, anyone who is anyone develops a second or even third stomach. Addie, though, definitely fell into a food coma at the restaurant.

Addie down for the count!

 Back on the bus, I sat next to Harmony and with our full bellies, we both fell fast asleep when our heads hit the headrest. The sound of the rain’s pitter patter also did not help as its predictable rhythm lulled us, and many others, to sleep as our bus made its way through the heavily guarded forest and up a mountain towards our first historic site visit: 석굴암 석굴 (Seokguram Grotto).

Seokguram Grotto is an artificial, man-made grotto located on 토함산 (Mt. Toham) that makes up part of the temple complex of 불국사 (Bulguksa Temple) and is famous for being the home of a buddha statue. Getting up to this grotto is actually a little trek from the starting point (where the gate is and a few little shops at the entrance) as you literally do have to climb up the side of the mountain. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit when the weather was equally as nice as the view. Instead, it was practically downpouring! I have not seen it rain so hard like that in a long time. Some of us had brought umbrellas while others were very unprepared. There were other groups of people on the mountain too and they were all wearing colorful ponchos and still hiking up to the top of the mountain. So, we did what the locals do and bought our own ponchos for the day.

Honestly, the weather kind of added to a more mystical feeling or ambience behind the hike. I tried taking some photos of the forest surrounding us and the fog was very intense. I felt like I was walking through a fairytale forest. There were also a lot of colorful lanterns hanging around and they were violently shaking around in the wind because it was not only rainy, but windy too. Umbrellas were almost ripped out of people’s hands. At the top of the mountain was a bit smaller than expected structure in which you could look into to see the famous Buddha statue. And this historical site is considered a UNESCO world heritage site (along with the accompanying temple). Being respectful, I did not take any photos of the actual structure but if you google it, you can find professional shots of what it looks like inside. 

~ We did more this day but this post is already really long and the next few activities on the agenda have a lot of photos I have to go through so I am just gonna separate these posts for now. I hope you enjoyed this little rainy day travel blog post even though I feel like I literally documented nothing… But I promise the next one may be more informative with better (quality) photos as well. My phone was NOT waterproof, okay! Anyways, thanks for reading~

  • Emma 엠마

Korean Music Class Project, Favorite Cafe Owner, and Eating Intestines for the First Time (05/10/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/10/19 Friday

In music class today, we were just given the entire period to finish our projects that we started a couple weeks ago. Katie and I had already finished writing out what we wanted on our poster and simply added decorative touches to the page during the first period of class. Katie traced this really pretty image of women in 한복 dancing around in a circle from Google and colored everything in using colored pencils. I didn’t really help her with this (Though I did trace the writing I did with the poster in a darker marker since we agreed I had the nicer handwriting) because I had a different task: writing a goodbye letter to the café owner of the 한옥 Twosome Place across the street from our high school.

We practically visited that café every single week we were in school to study. The café owners were always so kind so us. They came to know that we were exchange students and always asked us questions about life at 하나고! They even remembered our orders!! After multiple visits ordering the same thing (green tea latte for me), the owner would ask me if that’s what I wanted before I could even open my mouth to order. They (Her and her husband) also always complimented our Korean even when we only said basic phrases—it was a nice ego boost from time to time. Today we had plans to visit the café after school and because it was quite possibly the last time we would visit (Next week is our final week at 하나고…), we needed to give them a letter and say goodbye today! Luckily, I was very productive with the letter writing and even impressed myself with how many (advanced)  grammar points I used, so I finished with time to spare. 

Reading this over…omg the spelling mistakes and the misuse of some of the grammar points..I cringe!! Maybe I changed things before writing it in the letter.

Katie and I spent the break time in one of the practice rooms (singing our anthem Country Road as per usual) and then completely goofed off second period after the poster and letter were complete. I drew Katie a little gift on her hand with some of the markers! 

Second to last Public Speaking class was so bittersweet. Who would have thought this class would become my favorite?? I love all my classmates and the extra time with 서린 is always fun! (Plus, Jason is such a great teacher. I really miss the American style of teaching while being here.)

Katie and I actually ate at school today! I’ve realized that we’ve been doing less and less of that lately just because of time. We’d rather eat out/on the way to class than alone in the lunch room if our friends aren’t available to eat… but today we got to eat with the whole big squad! And the food today was pretty good too: a chicken leg, waffle fries, fresh strawberries, and some weird cream soup. I enjoyed the meal—especially the fruit. I hid the leftovers in my pocket for later!

During 공강 I finished writing out the cafe owner’s letter onto and actual piece of paper and making it look pretty with stickers. AP 미시경제 just proved to be another lecture and I studied Korean instead of taking notes/paying attention. I did get a chance to talk to 서린 more (when she was not napping during break). She gave me some really cute heart-shaped mints! I think she was using them to try to keep herself awake!

After school ended, Katie and I went over to Twosome Place. We ordered our usual drinks and went to the second floor and changed clothes, did our makeup, etc. We both had Friday night plans after we separated once our café date was done so we decided to get ready there instead of the school bathroom. (It’s extremely weird putting on everyday/street clothes and hurrying out of the building when all the other students are dressed in their uniforms… we already stick out enough!) 

The café owner brought our drinks up to the second floor. (This café has those beepers that let you know when your order is ready to be picked up but it seemed that they always preferred to bring our order up to us.) So we drank those before working up the courage to give our letter to the café owner. We let them both know how much we appreciated their kind hospitality during the past 9 months and that when (not if) we return to Korea, we will make sure to come back to this café. We also asked the female manager to take a photo with us for memory sake. She was so against taking the photo at first but we were able to convince her!! Aren’t these such cute shots?

After the sad goodbye, I made my way over to 홍대 to meet a friend that I met off of a language exchange app. We didn’t have many plans for how to spend he night besides karaoke and exactly what we were going to have for dinner: intestines. Last time we met up, they brought up that they ate intestines with their sister and I was intrigued from there on out. I remember during the beginning of the program (and throughout winter break to be honest) how often Liam and Josh would ask me to go eat intestines with them. We’d be looking for something to eat and we’d always seem to pass a place selling intestines and they would go crazy. I was really against it earlier but I suddenly had the urge to try it! Maybe because it was the end of the program? That could be it.

We went to this place that apparently is well known in 홍대. A lot of Koreans go after work and eat intestines as it supposedly pairs well with alcohol—Korea’s version of bar food perhaps? The worker basically cooked the food for us and then I watched my friend eat every different type of intestine first before consuming it myself (Yes, there were several different parts of intestines and each part had a different flavor and texture.) I thought that most of it tasted fine but sometimes the texture was just off-putting. It was similar to straight up eating the fat off of meat or bacon, for example. I do not think I would have it again myself but it definitely wasn’t bad–and really not that gross. You just have to eat it without having any thoughts about what exactly you are eating.

We finished the night off watching a movie and then that was it. A nice ending to a pretty great week. I cannot believe that next week is my last week of high school… where does the time go?

  • Emma 엠마

Vietnamese Food in Sinchon and Parent’s Day in Korea (05/06-07/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/06/19 Monday

A/N: I am writing about these days quite a bit after they actually happened and my lack of pictures and a photographic memory means that this won’t be the most detailed blog, unfortunately. It’s more of a bummer for me than for you all, though.

Because I had no school today, I was finally able to spend time with my host family during a weekday for breakfast. My host mom made these deliciously healthy omelets and although my younger host sister complained, I found them tasty. I left after breakfast and met up with Katie and Jenna at 이대. We wanted to go out for lunch together and help refrain each other from buying any clothes that we see on the way. We walked around the 이대 area for a little bit and nothing really stood out to us for lunch. Eventually Jenna recommended us a couple places near 연세대 so we made the short trek to the area around that university instead.

Katie brought us Macaroons! ❤

Jenna took us to this Vietnamese place called (Emoi?) which she had been the day previous with her church friends. She promised that the food was so good that she didn’t mind coming with us again. We all ordered the cheapest pho dish on the menu (of course, stipend does not stretch that much!) and some fried roll to share. The service was fast and everything was delicious! The portion was huge so I couldn’t even finish all of my noodles even though I tried my very best. 

After eating, we went over to a cafe in order to get some work done and apparently every other college student in the area had the same idea. We passed by our first choice (Twosome) and there were literally no seats for us. We turned down a few alleys until we stumbled upon a place that was almost hidden and took the last big 4-seater-table. 

Katie and I were still on a 제주도 high so we decided to order a 한라봉 latte because it sounded fancy and I thought it would take us back. I should have taken a guess after seeing the several hundred strawberry lattes that Katie has ordered that this fruity drink would not be an actual latte but alas I was fooled. (spoiler alert: strawberry lattes are just cups of milk with pieces of strawberry in it). So that is what we got: a cup of milk with 한라봉. I was able to be pretty productive for around 2 hours so it was not a waste by any means. Plus, it was nice hanging out with the girls. Especially Jenna, I haven’t really hung out with her that often. 

My host family had eaten by the time I came home so I just had instant black bean noodles and some strawberries to end the night before tucking in to more homework.

5/07/19 Tuesday

Back to School! I don’t remember much of this day… in the morning I had my English conversation period with the three second year girls. Instead of speaking in English about a certain topic chosen beforehand, we ended up just planning out what we would be doing when we met up on Saturday in 홍대. We planned to make perfume or jewelry at this one place that 수빈 found on some list on Naver and we decided to eat at this pretty cheap chicken place—again due to another recommendation from 수빈. (She is definitely the one that plans within the friend group) We also would go to a 노래방 (Karaoke) and buy any street foods that the girls were craving. It looked like it was going to be a really fun day. Jam packed into only 3 hours—the girls had to be back at the school—but fun nonetheless. 

In music class Katie and I finished researching and writing out info for our presentation. We would not have to present them aloud to the class because the entire class was behind (Our teacher did not show up for a class period) so we would just be hanging up our posters in the hallway outside of the classroom. 한국사 (Korean History) was another lecture that I didn’t understand well (Though I also didn’t try hard to pay attention today.. I wanted to do my Korean homework instead…) 

My last class of the day was another English conversation class and the two girls and I just spent the whole time talking about how our class trips went. They all went to different places (강화도 and 부산). And let me just say they got away with a lot! 😉 I will not detail anything else because…a girls gotta have their secrets!

After school was of course Korean class but I don’t remember anything that we did. Since today was Parent’s day, I asked my teacher what to get my host mom and she told me that the most iconic gift for parents is the flower carnation. I realized that she was spot on when I left the center and saw that there were now flower carts on many of the street corners selling little bouquets of carnations. Kaitlyn and I ended up buying just one single carnation flower for our host parents (BIG shoutout to us for being able to use the counter for flowers when asking how much one single flower would cost!) 

After that, June, Kaitlyn, and I went to 노래방. I have been telling everyone that I needed a buddy to go with me as I really needed to sing some old Justin Bieber songs and so we did just that. Do not ask me why I was in the mood to sing such songs… I was just ready to be hit with a wave of nostalgia from middle school. Also, you would have to be lying if you disagreed with and said that Baby is not an iconic karaoke song. Like, come on. And, to top it all off, we were able to snag a score of 100 on Never Say Never by Justin Bieber. We truly sang our little hearts out. 

I went home after the hour of karaoke and had dinner with my host family. My host mom was on the phone for business when I tried to give her the carnation I bought her for Parent’s Day and so I awkwardly stood outside her bedroom door until my younger host sister noticed. They all started shouting at my host mom when I explained to them what the flower was for because they were so touched by my action. They had not even gotten anything for their mother so it was a surprise to see me following tradition for this holiday. My host mom was very grateful for the small act of kindness I showed her and she even set a photo of my carnation as her profile picture on Kakao Talk (The true Medal of Honor).

Well that is all I have for this blog post~~ It is kind of a bit everywhere because I had to combine so many days but it’s my fault for falling behind on writing!! Don’t get your hopes up though… my next post will probably also be a combination of a couple days with photos being few and far between. I’m sorry!! I’m hoping to up the quality of these posts soon but hey, that is life sometimes! I’m having a blast in Korea and the times are busy and hectic so my blog is taking a back seat. Hope you all understand ^^ Thanks for reading !!

  • Emma 엠마

Celebrating Children’s Day (어린이날) with a Parade (05/05/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/05/19 Sunday

Today was Children’s day which is basically what it sounds like: a day to celebrate children just like Mother’s and Father’s Day (except in Korea the two are not on separate days but on one collective Parent’s Day.) A lot of events for children are held during this weekend and of course kids are showered with gifts. 

My current host family consists of two older daughters so they had nothing planned for the occasion. I ended up getting in touch with my previous host family again and we planned to get dinner together and attend a parade! My host mom messaged me all the information for the location and time of the event and eventually the day rolled around. 

To be honest, I was kind of nervous about meeting my host family again. We had talked very frequently about meeting up more after we made gingerbread houses (that blog —> linked here) but they always seemed to be free when I had program obligations or school activities. Because of our uncooperative schedules, I hadn’t seen them in more than three months. I was nervous that they wouldn’t be impressed by my progress in Korean (or that they wouldn’t even notice that there was a difference). I was afraid that my siblings would be awkward with me and that things wouldn’t feel the same. 

I also had no idea where we were meeting so I loaded up the address on my Kakaomaps app and took lots and lots of screenshots. I also took advantage of street view to figure out how I would get from the subway station to the meeting spot. (I had to do this because there would be no wifi to help me out once I left the station and I had no international data and usually relied on free wifi sources). Luckily, it was only a 5 minute walk and there were even signs on my way there advertising the Children’s Day event. Turned out, I was entering the outdoor mall through the back entrance—where the parking garage was at. 

I walked into the mall and it reminded me a lot of a promenade shopping mall back in America. Besides Lafesta, this was my first time going to such a place in Korea. However, unlike Lafesta Mall, Bella Citta (the name of this mall) had a lawn and lots of green places. I called my host mom and she told me where they were but I had trouble finding it from just looking around. I tried walking around for a bit in search of the said section she told me she was at, but no luck. I also began getting more nervous as it seemed that all the families and children were staring at me as I surely looked confused walking around the perimeter of the mall. Eventually, I stopped to look at a directory when I felt two pairs of small hands tap me on the back. I whip around to see my three host siblings all wearing costumes and smiling widely at me. I immediately shrieked and grabbed them all for a tight hug. 

They took me back to where their mom was sitting and we caught up for a bit before grabbing something to eat. We knew that it might be one of the last times we would be seeing each other before I left so wanted to make the most of it. 

For dinner we ate at the food court of the mall which not only had a large outside area but the inside was just as impressive. The top floor even had a movie theater! We ate 떡국 (rice cake soup) and chicken skewers. After we quickly ate our food, we had to go get ready for the parade we would be walking in. Basically, the event was that the kids would get to dress up in fun costumes and walk behind a marching band that would play fun tunes. My sisters were dressed up as a witch and perhaps a lady attending a masquerade ball (?) while my brother was some sort of super hero.

With the band, we walked around the inside of the mall and then went outside and walked around the courtyard part before stopping at the main square for a full on performance by the marching band. It was a lot of fun dancing around with my host siblings. At one point, the band played YMCA and one of the drummers would do the arm movements along with the chorus when you are supposed to spell out YMCA. No one else (kids and the parents in the parade) would do the dance, though! It seemed that no one knew the song well enough and definitely not the hand movements. I was, for some reason, feeling myself so I started doing it by myself which only prompted double the stares (Let’s just say I was the only foreigner in the parade). I also tried reaching my siblings but they were just not catching on. My host mom was laughing at me but the band member made eye contact with me and gave me a thumbs up. Eventually, the younger of the two of my host siblings started copying me and we got a whole wave going of a bunch of small Korean children dancing to YMCA.

The best part of the parade was when we made our way outside and since the sky was darkening since we were approaching the cooler night, the view of the dark sky against the string lights hanging from around the outside was really pretty. At the end the band also played their own rendition of Baby Shark (That really popular children’s song from Korea that also made its way to other countries as well.)

After the parade, they collected their free movie vouchers (for participating) and we hung around the mall for a bit. Looking at the different stores (our favorite being the stationary stores) and even stopped at the theater. We did not watch a movie but we did wait in the lobby area and eat popcorn and peppero. 

Eventually, my host family brought me back to their place and I hung out with the kids for a bit longer. They gave me a package that was received a little after we met up in January which included my Christmas gift from my friend Jazmin from back home (My friend group did secret Santa! I had finally gotten it!) The gift was a little book filled with 500 reasons to be happy. It was the cutest thing! 

Eventually curfew rolled around and I had to make my way home. I said goodbye to my host siblings and my host sisters whined about me leaving. My host brother grabbed onto my legs and tried keeping me inside because he did not want me to leave. It made me so emotional seeing them like that. I know I’m going to miss them an insanely amount. It hurts me to think about it. 

We promised to meet up one more time before I leave so today would not be the last meeting. I left the apartment and made the very familiar walk back to the station. I don’t know but I cried the whole way back. Luckily it was really dark (besides the couple of street lamps) and no one else was walking in my direction so I was free to ugly cry as much as I needed.

I just could not help but think that this would be my last walk from their house to the station. A walk that I dreaded sometimes when it was cold and in the early mornings on school commutes but it was also a walk I grew to love as it meant getting on a train and having an adventure or doing something fun at the end of it. I thought back to my first ever walk to the station with my host dad and, along for the ride, my little host sister in tow. I was so excited then. A whole year of memories waiting to enfold in front of me.

I rode the train back in silence. 

I came home and couldn’t stay in that negative (albeit sentimental) mood as I was greeted by my adorable host dog. I did some Korean studying before calling it a night. We had no school or Korean class tomorrow as it was a public holiday for Children’s Day. I would get to sleep in~ And NOT wake up early for a long commute to school.

That is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed! It is kind of weird reading these posts over again because in light of the world today, these experiences seem like a lifetime ago–a normal that almost feels surreal. I am currently at home taking a medical leave of absence rather than attending my university in New York which definitely shakes up my life even more. But here we are, living day by day like everyone else. Well, thanks for reading.

  • Emma 엠마 

Goyangshi International Flower Festival // 고양국제꽃박람회 (05/04/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/04/19 Saturday

I had just gotten back from my 수학여행 (school trip) to Jeju Island with my high school classmates the night before and was so tired that I slept about 12 hours but my host mom did not even question me not leaving my room till 11 am. Luckily, Sunday always consists of a late breakfast, or brunch if you will. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to spend my weekend having fun!! Time was passing by as quick as ever and I wanted to make sure that I was making all my last moments count. Because of the hectic schedule on our school trip, I didn’t really do a good job at making plans with anyone for the rest of the weekend but luckily Alix and June were down for some last minute, spontaneous plans after I reached out on our Kakao group chat.

We decided to go to the 고양시국제꽃바람회 (Goyangshi International Flower Festival) because I was geeking out about it earlier on during the week and bombarded our NSLI-Y group chat with all the photos of the pretty flower sculptures and photo zones. I had known about this spring tradition in my city (If it is not already known, I am one of the few NSLI-Yians that got the opportunity to live in 고양시 rather than Seoul. In fact, I was the only student on my program that lived in 고양시 for the entire 9 months!) After researching cool events for one of my Korean class presentations during the fall semester, I learned about this particular festival. I had the desire to go ever since! 

The festival takes places at the 일산호수공원 (Ilsan Lake Park) and so we met up at the nearest subway station and bought our tickets down there. (There was actually a small discount for taking the subway to the festival and buying tickets underground! Yay for saving the environment! (and money!)) 

Before entering the festival, there seemed to be section with food trucks and mostly things relating to farming and organic fruits and vegetables. There was also a trot singer? Everything was set up in a parking lot so we walked through it, took some photos next to the big entrance sculpture, and then proceeded to actually enter the festival. 

There was a stall near the ticket collecting/selling booths that sold flower festival souvenirs and 고양시 memorabilia with their white cat mascot. I caved in and had to buy something to showcase my love for 고양시!! (Don’t judge me but I feel such pride for my host city!) I ended up buying a bouquet of flower shaped soap (as a gift for my former host family) and a key chain with the city mascot holding a red heart with 고양 written across it— in English funny enough. If I have not explained this before, Goyang (고양) is one syllable short of the word 고양이 which is the Korean word for cat. So in order to use the play on words, the mascot for the city is a cat! How clever.

While Alix and June were encouraging my bad spending habits, this old man (probably around 60-70 years old) came up to us and tried handing us packets of free 물티슈 or wet wipes (directly translates to water tissues). He kept trying to shove them in our hands but we continued to duck around him and shake off the tissues. I usually do take flyers or free things that people hand out on the street but I had no room for a packet of wet wipes. I looked at the man and told him that I didn’t need the wipes in Korean. The 아주씨 literally gasped (probably because I spoke in Korean) and then in a whiny voice, similar to that of a toddler, he replied “Nooooo, you neeeed this.” The girls and I just passed by him and when we were a good distance away we started laughing so hard and repeating “필요하잖아아아!” This became an inside joke after today. 

We entered the festival and walked through such a pretty area that consisted of square plots in a row that all had different themes that were expressed through sculptures made out of flowers. There were scenes of weddings, outdoor fairy gardens, tea parties, and just nature set ups. There was even a scene set up for the character Moomin that is popular in Korea. (He’s actually a Swedish character but I’m not sure of what animal…) 

We also walked down to the lake and admired its beauty. I always like to marvel at these kind of parks that are in the middle of the city but are still able to give off the vibe that you are actually surrounded fully by nature. We saw duck paddle boats but were too broke to pay to ride them. One day! Maybe not during this program… but I will be back Korea! 

We continued through the park and saw more of the really pretty exhibitions made completely out of flowers. At the entrance of one of the sections of the park, there was a gazebo type structure with flowers hanging from the ceiling—all different colors and types.

There were also these people in furry animal costumes walking around and they started following June and me. We were shocked and then I (with a random wave of confidence) started speaking in Korean to the stranger; I asked him “Is it not hot?” You could tell he was shocked. He started fanning himself with his arms and we could not help but laugh. He started following us around which was hilarious albeit a bit creepy since well… the face reminded me of those scary Halloween masks sold at the pop-up Halloween stores during the month of October in the states. In order to commemorate this interesting encounter, we asked for a photo and that’s where this iconic photo came from. 

I mean look at those beady eyessss lol

We continued to walk around the park and took lots and lots of photos. We used June’s phone because she had a filter provided with her camera that had a good setting—basically it just highlighted the main focus of the photo and blurred the background.

We also caved in and bought really overpriced ice cream but it was extremely hot outside (probably the hottest day since the weather started warming up) and we were hungry. The ice cream was milk flavored ice cream which is one interesting unique-to-Korea flavor. You would think you wouldn’t need a flavor of milk since you now… ice cream is mostly comprised of milk. Nevertheless, it’s delicious.

We also passed by a magician with the scariest mask on and I was okay with just going on our merry way but both June and Alix wanted to stop by. We chatting with the magician for a bit and he kept asking us questions about Korea while going through with the card trick. It was a pretty neat trick and we were all surprised at what he was able to guess. He asked if I wanted to do one more so I agreed and at the end of that trick, my remaining card said “I love you” on it. We all screamed at the cringyness of the situation. It was all too much but insanely funny. I replied with “Isn’t this relationship going a little fast?” which was met with a string of laughter from the crowd that formed to see how the magician was shocking a group of foreign girls.

After taking advantage of all the photo zones possible (Except this one set up with two hearts covered in flowers. The line for the self proclaimed best-photo-op-for-couples was winding around the food stand.), we ended the trip at the park walking around an exhibition hall of scenes set up by different organizations or even countries. It was interesting to see what flowers were native to where or what colors the countries wanted to focus on with their showcases (A lot of places used colors from their flags.) We left the park after wandering around a market set up with little tents selling flowers and flower themed gifts. Our ticket gave us a dollar off coupon for any plants and we were able to find a section with succulents that only cost one dollar—so we got them for free.

I also found this one tent that sold hand painted signs with sayings and 3D flowers made out of craft supplies. I bought one for my mother back in the states. It will be her main souvenir from Korea! 

Lastly, there was this little area that had a box with a clear window which had the appearance of a magazine cover; however, the kick was that there was a giant cat head inside. There was a chair to the side that I believe might have belonged to an attendant of the photo zone that perhaps took a break? I told Alix to run in there and try on the head and she so gladly obliged (Alix is the epitome of a cat person and the whole cohort knows this.) June went in as well and they all danced around a bit. I had a good laugh and took a video clip for my 1 second a day video.

We said goodbye at the subway (but not before buying more ice cream at the 7/11… when your diet of the day mainly comprises of ice cream… it has been a good day) and that was the end of a flower-filled day. It was so fun getting to spend the day with Alix and June because I haven’t had much time otherwise to hang out with them. They were both really fun and we laughed together so often throughout the day. I caught myself smiling so often because I was genuinely happy living in the present with them. 

I got a Melona Bar (melon-flavored) and June got an ice cream with shark packaging? I think the inside was strawberry-flavored.

Thanks for reading this blog post~ It has been um… more than half a year since I have last posted and 2 years since first arriving in Korea. Wow, has time flown by. I still have blog posts from the rest of May to upload so hopefully I can get those out over the next few weeks.

  • Emma 엠마 

Outside Class (야외수업), Travel Maker Brunch in Hongdae, and Korean Monthly Exam (04/30/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

04/30/19 Tuesday

Since Katie and I stayed up really late the previous night studying, we were both practically dead in the morning. We even went to the convenience store to buy coffee before school started because I knew that there was no way I would be able to sit awake during my classes today without some assistance from caffeine.

Morning selfie before we have to be in our homerooms

During first period, I had my English conversation class with three 2nd year students and instead of having any conversation on intellectual topics, we rather planned what we would be do in two weeks time when meeting up in 홍대 to hang out! The girls were going to be able to get permission to leave school to hang with me for a couple hours, so we spent our hour in the library picking where to eat and deciding what we could do to fill up the time. 수빈 recommended this really good (and cheap) chicken place that she had been to in 부산 (it was a chain) so were going to eat there and then most likely go to 노래방 (karaoke) and make perfume or macaroons or something crafty–we wanted to do something hands on! It was a lot of fun planning out our day!

My 한국사 (Korean History) teacher switched things up for today’s class and allowed us to have class outside which we call 야외수업! We left the classroom and walked down this really nice, scenic path past the 한옥 (Korean traditional house) museum and neighborhood almost towards the nearby Buddhist temple.

On our way there, we passed by these birds fighting on the sidewalk and one of the birds became injured and was struggling to flap its wings while it was down on the ground. A lot of the girls were scared of it although it was harmless so they kept shrieking every time it gained enough momentum to get a little bit off the ground. It was really sad to see it in so much pain, struggling to survive and get back up. One of the students called someone (maybe some type of Animal control?) so when we did walk back to the school, that bird was gone.

The teacher talked to us a little bit about the history of the area before letting us go free and visit either the Twosome Place Cafe or the convenience store. (He turned a blind eye away from those students who were buying ramen to stockpile reserves in the dorm.) During the entire duration of our outdoor class, I hung out and chatted with my friend 정민. She actually is close friends with my other third year friends (세림, 지은, and 지연) but this was the first class I was able to have with her.

She was so sweet with me that she even bought me a drink from the cafe–an iced chocolate (basically just the cold version of the hot chocolate). We talked all about our school lives and a bit about our past. Apparently, 정민 spent some time in America when she was young because her aunt lives in the US. That was interesting to hear about.

After Katie and I finished our second exchange student conversation class of the day before lunch time, we immediately booked it off of school grounds to try to get to 홍대 as fast as we possibly could. All the other NSLI-Y students had no school today so they planned to all go out for a traditional American brunch at a famous place in 홍대 called Travel Maker.

Katie and I were able to make it to the restaurant just around the time that everyone else was receiving their food. We were able to just sneak into the booths they were already at and order some pancakes. Luckily, even though we did have school, we were able to make in enough time to eat with everyone for a little while. After we finished eating, we wanted to take a group photo so I (with some random confidence) ran up to a complete stranger walking in the park across the street and asked them to take a photo for us. I was glad that we were able to put this little brunch date together!

Blueberry Pancakes ❤ My favorite food = pancakes

Afterward, we all had to go and take our monthly tests for April… what a downer to a great first half of the day. I walked to the Better World Office with Josh and Jacquelyn and we passed by his cafe that day and there was a really cute sign out front. It made me smile.

Translation: Difficult days also pass by. Waiting for a happy tomorrow.

Our test this month was extremely difficult. We expected it, though. Our teacher warned us about it. The passages in this test seemed a lot more complicated than the ones in past tests and they were so much longer too! I barely had enough time to read through all of the reading passages and answer all the questions. I had to pick my best guess for a couple questions. I was also super tired from staying up late studying (and the coffee in the morning already wore off), so I started nodding off during the test too which is never good! After we all finished the reading test, we made a stop at the closest convenience store during break time to pick up some pick-me-ups including coffee and gummy geckos.

Usually my blog posts about the unit/monthly tests tend to be a bit more negative because more often than not I feel mildly incompetent after taking each and every test. Luckily, because I am writing this so much later, I do not have those negative thoughts floating around in my head. Looking back at this test and my OPI, I feel like I did pretty well. Comparing it to my march speaking test which involved me crying while on the phone with my teacher, this one went a lot smoother. She actually asked me to describe the movie plot of one of my favorite movies so I went on and described the basic plot of Hello Ghost which involves suicide and ghosts and although the subject matter was heavy, I was able to explain it all better than I originally assumed I would be able to. (Actually, I feel like that answer was probably one of the biggest reasons for why I was able to move up a level that month.) The writing test for this month was writing about our individual projects and I felt prepared to discuss my topic, but I still struggled with vocabulary. Even though I had to substitute some desired words for ones that I did know, I felt that I explained everything I wanted to discuss in my paper quite well.

After the monthly test, Josh and I walked to 와플대학 to meet some of the other NSLI-Y students (Alix, Hunter, Katie, etc) for our after-test-tradition of waffles. I had dinner plans with a friend after the test so I ended up not ordering my own and just stealing some bites from Katie. We talked about our tests and ranted for a bit before I left for 신촌.

In 신촌 we went to a meat restaurant and had barbecue for dinner while chatting about a lot of different topics. I learned that the tape and arrows on the roads and alleyways pointing to certain restaurants were a part of events that the university students hold. Apparently like a fundraiser type thing? Or they are ways to try to raise membership for clubs and such. When we first got to the restaurant, we watched some female students putting the yellow tape on the road and as it got darker, we noticed people directing others to follow the tape to the final destination. 

Yonsei at Night

After eating we walked around the 연세 campus which was honestly the first time I really was able to walk around a large majority of the campus. Previously, I had only walked up the large drive (lawn maybe is a better term?) with Addie and Jessica on two separate occasions. My friend was not a student there or anything but we still walked around the different buildings anyways.

We ended the night just chilling at a cafe to talk. Cafe Pascucci was the name of the cafe and it was my first time there! We just got our drinks and relaxed on one of the sofa seats on the second floor and talked until I had to go because of curfew. It was a nice way to unwind after the stressful days leading up to the test day.

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

  • Emma 엠마

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

Productive Cafe Date, Feeling Sick, and Age Gaps in Korea (04/10/19) NSLI-Y AY

04/10/19 Wednesday

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Views from my transfer station 대곡역 which is mostly outside. It makes me truly feel like I am outside of Seoul since its surroundings look pretty rural. But look, some flowers started blooming~ Although the morning is still very chilly. I have a love-hate relationship with this station; however, the scenery is nice.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I knew I had come down with something and it wasn’t just a cold. My throat ached badly and when I opened my mouth to cough, the sheer raspiness in my voice surprised me. I could still breath out of my nose perfectly fine but my head also throbbed. I placed my hand against my forehead and could feel unusual warmth. I decided to just carry on with the day regardless (I do not get sick often and have not skipped school for sickness in a long time so my initial game plan was to ignore it.) and threw on my 생활복 and didn’t even do my hair or put on any makeup (something that’s pretty rare now—though in high school, I never wore makeup.) 

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Wow, catch this awkward sick-day selfie. Look at those dArK CiRcLeS!!

Wednesday’s day of school was literally a blur. Maybe because I was sick? But trying to look back on this day… I come up with nothing. However, I guess it could have also just been an uneventful school day. I had 국어 in the morning which I basically just day dreamed throughout the entire thing because I wasn’t feeling well. At one point, the teacher was explaining some concept involving fire and paper so he came to my desk (I was sitting in the back) and took my paper and tried throwing it up in the air. While demonstrating, he dropped his marker and paper on the floor so it ended up being kind of awkward—especially because I still had no idea what he was trying to show me. I had to muffle my nervous laughter.

Another time, he asked me what 벚꽃 (cherry blossoms) were in English and after I told him, he proceeds to point out the flower on our paper but he realized that I was “looking”at the wrong side of the paper so he flipped the side for me. That was a bit embarrassing to be honest… 

During my study period with Katie… I literally stole her coat and then slept for almost the entire period. It was pretty nice. 

During my two hours of 세계사, I worked on my Korean workbook pages and then did a Topik reading test. 

We ate lunch with our friends but I was not really impressed by the meal. Mostly because the rice contained corn kernels and I could barely eat around it so I gave up eating it halfway through lunch. (I hate corn more than any other food in this world…) I was also really sick at this point in the day so I barely said a word during lunch. I just brought spoonfuls up to my mouth and chewed. Katie was also very tired so she didn’t say much either.

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We had Japanese Omurice (오모라이스) which is just an empty omelette draped over rice usually accompanied by a savory/sweet sauce.

My last class of the day was politics and we just listened to lectures for the two hours, so I worked on my Topik writing test which left me finished with my last Topik test! (Actually this is a lie; we will probably get one more before the date of the actual test.) 

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After school today we had our second club meeting; however, since midterms are coming up, we ended up self-studying during the period—or at least for the greater part of the hour. At first we goofed off about the club hoodies that we are making and the ugly logo of the club but after awhile, everyone was able to settle down in their own desk and do some work. I made a Quizlet for the newest chapter for Korean class! 

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Gloomy weather after school

After school, even though I felt like death, I decided to go to Twosome Place with Katie because I worried that if I went home, I would just sleep and not do any actual work. I wanted to prevent this or at least lessen the consequences by doing most of my work before I got home. 

And I was successful, despite the random dance breaks to Taylor Swift’s Love Story and Let it Go, I was able to write my entire presentation on a Korean historical figure: I choose the Korean independence movement leader 유관순 열사. Also Katie told the employees at the cafe that I hurt my foot (which is why she ordered a hot chocolate for me) and so when we left the cafe after our study date, she asked me how I hurt my foot. I explained to her that I wore new shoes (left out the part about the fact that they were heels) and walked around for hours so I hurt my feet. She laughed and said “Oh I assumed you hurt it badly.” We laughed and left but if only she could see my toe! It is no tiny blister! No, it is not! 

(I don’t think I wrote about it earlier but one of my blisters—from wearing uncomfortable heels while walking for hours on Sunday—on my foot popped and the skin ripped off so I have an area on my pinky toe (makes it ten times worse) about the size of a quarter that’s all red and raw as my first layer of skin literally peeled up. It hurts a lot and even if I put band-aids on it, it hurts really badly–especially, when I wear my sneakers and walk around so I currently have a limp while I walk. I also have been using it as an excuse to use the elevator in the school more often cause stairs… are not my favorite right now.)

Anyway, I came home after studying at the cafe and had dinner with my host sisters. We ate at home but we had this huge feast made up of grilled meats, two different kinds of noodles and a pot of steamed egg. During dinner today, we had an interesting conversation about age difference in Korea. In America, we have a common phrase that “Age is but a number” but in Korea, it is so much more than that so I was curious to know  how it relates to relationships. From what my host sisters told me, too big of age gaps are not common but they really aren’t a big deal as long as the two people are close enough in age that they are a part of the same “generation” if you will. When it comes to friendships, it’s a bit different because if there’s a very large age gap, sometimes it can feel like you aren’t true friends but simply a person that’s just older than you (like an 언니 or 오빠). She did tell me that there’s a very negative image towards guys in their late 20s dating girls in their early twenties/in college. 

My older host sister explained that this is seen as really sleazy to most people and they actually view the guy as a bad person. (Example, if a 26 year old was dating a 21 year old in college.) They also said that he would probably take advantage of her because she doesn’t know better but more importantly, it’s a real red flag if he can’t find anyone in his own circle of acquaintances and has to resort to shooting his shot in a bigger pool with younger girls. They did mention that this the other way around (a way older woman with a younger guy) has no negative connotations. 

She also made sure to tell me that I need to be careful with Korean men especially because I’m a foreigner—she said no one too old!! And if I find someone, especially someone that old, she will have to have dinner with him and make sure that his intentions are pure. It was really cute~ At that moment, I felt what is what I assume it feels like to have an older sister~

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! I am on the grind writing out these blog posts so quickly this week. I am really trying to catch up (only 5 days behind now!) Let’s get this! Thanks for reading, anyway! Insert your email to the right of this post to follow for more!

  • Emma 엠마