Virtual Reality Cafe at Lotte World & Photoshoot with High School Friend {02/17/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

02/17/19 Sunday 

Katie and I met up with 서린, one of our best friends at 하나고, to go to a  virtual reality cafe underneath Lotte World. We have been trying to plan something so that we could hang out before going back to school after winter break but it took us till now to get anything scheduled! My first real experience with VR Rides was with my younger host sister earlier this month so this was only my second time trying some of it out and I will continue to say that technology never ceases to amaze me! It’s crazy what one can accomplish with technology, truly! 

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We paid about 13,000 Won {less than $13 dollars} for three VR experiences but they could be anything—genres from space, realism, horror with durations lasting from one minute to 20 minutes. We started out playing a team player VR game which involved using these guns to sling us to different poles to try to kill our enemies. My explanation makes no sense because I honestly didn’t know what I was doing then either… I was playing with the computer and we lost but… I’m pretty sure I killed someone like three times but maybe I’m just crazy. Maybe I kept killing myself in the game who knows.

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After that, we went to this room that had several of the same looking machines but each one had a variety of scenarios that could be played. I ended up choosing a mode that had you trapped on a Ferris wheel type amusement park ride as it came undone from its bolts and rolled around the city streets. This was so extremely realistic! I was standing there holding onto the handrails and bending my knees to brace for impact because my body and mind literally thought I was falling at times. 

For our last VR experience, Katie and I decided to do the horror escape room that they offered. 서린 was all against the room because it was advertised as being scary but then when she did a one-player game about zombies, she got so scared and had to stop playing halfway through. I felt bad that she had to wait for us as there was a 20 minute wait time till we could go in. While we were waiting, one of the employees {Who had really cool hair! It was very curly! I loved it!} asked Katie and me if we were Korean because he said our Korean was so good that he would not be surprised. It was very cute. 

I have done an escape room before {with my host sister—blog post here} but this one was different in the fact that it was virtual! Clearly… why am I explaining this? Katie and I were hooked up to VR headsets on different parts of the room and then given these controllers that were literally shaped like hands. The guy said “right” and “left” as he handed me the controllers. 

The escape room was set up so that Katie and I were in separate rooms and we had to work together to solve each of the puzzles to proceed along with the escape room. So for example, Katie had a typewriter in her room but could not use it to get any clues because she was missing paper. Luckily, in my room, I had a stack of A4 papers. There was a little hole in between the rooms with a small tray where we could leave the objects in for the other person to take to use in their room. The escape room was a lot of fun! Definitely a lot easier than my first escape room experience but nonetheless, we had to think on our feet to solve the puzzles. We went along with the room pretty smoothly until we got to this point where we needed a blue light. Katie had a flashlight in her room but we could not find how to turn it blue. The worker overseeing then actually called over the intercom and told me to look behind me, in the set of drawers. I was able to find this blue cover that needed to be placed over the flashlight. That was the only hint we received so I am pretty proud that we basically did it all by ourselves.

Right before we finished the room, we ran into one more problem, though. I had to place my hand controllers on these two highlighted parts on a door but it turns out that my hand controllers were flipped! They were in the wrong hands. So we stood there trying to open the door with no luck. So much so that the worker had to come in and went up to me and grabbed my arms to switch the controllers. At the point in time, I did not know that they were in the wrong hands so when I felt a hand grab my wrist, I literally screamed in horror. It was a bit embarrassing. But in the end, we made it out alive! We survived and escaped the room! 

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After the escape room, we hung out around the closest arcade for a little bit to sing some songs in a Karaoke room and then played the basketball arcade game. We debated what to do next for a while and decided to go to a photo studio to have a high-quality photo shoot together! Apparently, going to get photos professionally taken is something really common in Korea. A lot of friends, students, and couples get photos done. Actually, not only that, since job applications here still require an attached photo, a lot of people go to photo studios to take professional photos for Job IDs and such. We went to this studio one stop away from 잠실역 and got to take almost 100 pictures for about $30 which split up between three people, is not bad. I am not sure how long our session was? Maybe 20 minutes? I am not too sure. But we were given electronic copies of all the photos and 2 print outs (We also ended up paying a little bit more to get three copies instead so that we would not have to fight over anything.)

 

 

At first, getting comfortable in front of the camera took a while. We were all sitting quite uncomfortable and awkward on this long bench for the first set of photos but we eventually eased into it and mastered the perfect fake laugh! It was a lot of fun! We decided that we have to come back here with our 하나고 friends and have a huge friend group photo shoot! (In our uniforms… I think that would end up looking so cute!) I have so many photos from this day… from this shoot should I say but I will spare you and only include my very favorites! Enjoy!

 

Once we chose the photos to be printed out, we left to visit 서린’s house and meet her family. I’ve done this countless times in America because going to your friends’ houses is a very normal occurrence. Actually, they don’t even have to be your friends! Because of school projects and such, you end up going to the homes of people you may barely know well because you were assigned to the same group. This does not happen in Korea. When students hang out, they go out. Not only is going to friends’ houses not that common which made the idea of meeting her family awkward but also the fact that we had to speak Korean! They were meeting 서린’s foreigner friends! They probably had expectations…

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We came in and met her parents and her little sister {as well as her extremely adorable cat!} and then left to eat 삼겹살 at a nearby restaurant. 서린 told us that the area around the apartment is pretty nice except for some few sketchy 노래방s… you can guess what that means… 

 

We had a lovely dinner of a lot of food I still don’t know the name of! For one thing, we ate 게밥 {crab rice} and 서린’s dad made a dad joke {in Korean 아재개그} about the fact that Katie and I could tell our other friends that we ate 개밥 {dog food} with 서린’s family. I took this time to share the funny Korean joke I made back during 설날 vacation. 

Q: What does a snack say to his other snack friend when he wants to go to a different place together? 

A: 같이 과자! 

If you don’t speak Korean… the joke won’t work for obvious reasons but basically, it’s a play on saying let’s go (가자) and the word for a snack (과자). He appreciated my joke! Even though both Katie and 서린 groaned in disapproval. (Too bad for 서린, she had to listen to this joke a couple more times when I would share it in class!)

After dinner, we went back to 서린’s and just sat at her kitchen table and talked for the next 2 hours or so (before we had to leave to make it home in time for curfew). 서린’s mom acted as the normal caring mom character and gave us this huge plate of a variety of fruits, 떡, and even these very delicious mochi ice creams. 

 

Sitting with 서린 and Katie at the kitchen table reminded me of my hangouts with American finds~~ Just chilling, talking, and hanging out at home. We talked a lot about what we have been doing these past few weeks and our feelings on going back to 하나고 {We also got some tea about some 하나고 students and their overwhelming competitive attitude.} I was really surprised to hear that 서린 was ready to go back to school because she 1. Couldn’t sleep at home and 2. Hated going to 학원 for so many hours in a day only doing math. She expressed the fact that even during breaks at the 학원, the other students would still push themselves and work and so she felt trapped. She preferred having classes and time to breathe and think. Honestly, this surprised me because as an outsider looking in, I can’t imagine going to school at 하나고. But now seeing what the alternative would be for 서린 for example, I can see how for some, it’s exactly what they want in education. 

Also found out … that I think my favorite foreign teacher {Correy} went back to America for his Master’s Degree… It is so sad! Katie and I really loved talking to him. Having lunch with the foreign teachers was the best! I’m gonna miss that… He was able to relate to us so much! Unlike the other teachers, he studied Korean so he was able to understand us when it came to language struggles and not just the universal foreigner struggles experienced here. I think he said he might have been going to school in NYC? If so… maybe I can figure out how to meet up with him! I will be in NYC next year for school. (While editing this, he did recently reach out to me on Kakao! He will be studying at Columbia University too so we will be grabbing lunch together for sure!

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Well anyway, that’s all for this blog post! It was a long one… I had a lot of things to say and I didn’t go easy on the details. It was such a nice day— being able to spend time with a good 하나고 friend outside of school! I don’t know when is the next time we will get the chance again.. well till next time! Thanks for reading! 

  • Emma 엠마

Lotte World Trip During The Lunar New Year {설날} with My Host Sister {02/04-05/19} NSLI-Y Korea AY

01/04/19 Monday

In Korea 설날 or Lunar New Year was on the 5th of February this year but the day before and after are usually considered part of the New Year holiday, and so many people are off of work and take the time to visit their families outside of Seoul. Today was the day before the big holiday but my host family had nothing special planned; we decided to just chill and relax at home. Although this was the case, I did not mind that they were not doing anything traditional. I was happy to just be able to spend time with them. Additionally, my host sister had just gotten back from Japan so she was tired beyond belief.

Anyway, in the morning, we had breakfast together and then we had a Japanese snack taste test! My older host sister brought a lot of delicious and even some fancy snacks and cookies from Japan and she was kind enough to share it with all of us. She even gave me an individual small box of fancy chocolates which were delicious! I did not eat them today but I saved them for another day when I would have a sweet tooth. We got to try some corn flavored snacks, vanilla wafer cookies, red bean puffs, and some animal-shaped cookies. Not only tasty but cute too!

For the rest of the day, I tried to work on my practice Topik test but it was harder than I thought to get motivated to finish everything… so I only ended up finishing the reading test. I also did write some blog posts… but I am still so very far behind. I am talking several days behind! I ate dinner with my host sisters and we had some fun conversation. Since we were planning on going to Lotte World the next day, my host sisters told me a story about a Korean girl with long hair who went on one of those tall drop rides and got her hair and face skin ripped right off. We were eating mind you… While she told this story, I was so freaked out. But because of this conversation, I was able to tell her that I was against going on any drop rides. They were totally not for me! She was lucky that I was going to get on the roller coasters… because I am usually against those too…But I had the goal to get over my fears!

01/05/19 Tuesday

LOTTE WORLD!! Today my host sister and I left the house a little bit before 10 am and made the 1 hour and 30-minute long subway ride to Lotte World. This would be my first time going because I never got the chance to during the summer program and plans fell through when I tried going with high school friends back in October.

As soon as my eyes laid upon the entrance, I was so excited to just go in and look around. Unlike other people, I don’t frequent amusement parks so going to them is still very special to me—magical even. I went to Disney for the first time this year and I can’t even remember the last time I’ve been to 6 flags! While we were waiting in line to buy tickets {don’t even get me started on how kind my host mom is; she paid for the entire day’s expenses!}, my host sister and I noticed that the majority of people standing in line were foreigners—mostly Chinese. Because it was 설날, many people were spending the holiday with their families {many who often live outside of Seoul} and so we expected Lotte World to be practically empty. However, it seemed that many Chinese families visit Korea during the New Year. Not only that, but there were a lot of couples there as well. And lots of students wearing school uniforms—apparently there was a discount for wearing a school uniform. If only I had known, I would have just thrown on my 하나고 uniform. I’ll have to come back again with Katie and some other NSLI-Y students with our uniforms maybe!

It wasn’t empty but the crowds definitely weren’t bad and the waits for the rides weren’t ever more than an hour which was nice. Actually, the ride that ended up being my favorite {Gyro Spin} was only a 30-minute wait so we got to go on it twice! Lotte World is apparently the LARGEST indoor theme park in the world. I honestly have nothing to compare it to so I wouldn’t really know… but I believe what they say. There seemed to be so much!!! rides, games, restaurants, and lots of pretty photo zones. 

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Our first ride of the day was the Viking/pirate ship ride. I think here it was associated with Spain? I can’t quite remember the name to be honest. This is actually one of my most hated rides because I hate the feeling of air going through my stomach as the ship swings up and I also hate the feeling of extreme fear that I may fall out of the seat when it swings up so high. At Disney, I refused to ride it as the last time ended with me crying. I knew I was going to have to ride it here but I was willing to. Luckily, my sister didn’t seem afraid to ride any of te rides; however, she also wasn’t the type to really enjoy the thrill of rides so she screamed in fear with me which gave me much-needed comfort. I held so tightly onto the bars—basically gripping for my life. My feet did not stay on the floor flat, instead, they were pushed up against the backboard of the seats behind me as I tried to keep myself from feeling like I was going to fall right out. I screamed with every swing and was sourly mad at this one guy in front of me who literally rode the whole thing with the most stoic face I’ve ever seen. This guy was intense. At the end of the ride, I had tears in my eyes which surprised my host sister! 

After a good warm-up, we rode my favorite amusement park ride {swings} and this really fun roller coaster ride that had a meteor shower theme. It was one of the longest waits for the park but it was 100% worth it. The ride wasn’t actually a roller coaster I would say… but the ride itself took place in complete darkness and the coaster cars would spin around and go down steep drops {even backward suddenly}. I think what made it so thrilling was the fact that you couldn’t see what was happening in front of your eyes. Unlike huge roller coasters {specifically those on outside structures}, everything was a surprise. You couldn’t see any drops or turns approaching on the track and prepare yourself for those to happen. I loved every minute of it {though my vocal cords probably did not}. We also rode this ride called the gyro swing which had seats that you sat on as if you were mounting a bike or a horse. Then the seat secured you with some back padding that pushed you up against the front of the bike like seat. Then the ride spun around in circles up and down this track that also went over the water. This one also had the surprise element because you never exactly knew which direction the ride would swing. It was probably my favorite one of the day! 

For lunch, we went to this school cafeteria themed restaurant and ate 떡볶이 {spicy rice cakes}. I was really surprised by how relatively cheap the meal prices were at Lotte World. They weren’t the same prices of the same dishes outside of the park but seeing how big it was… I assumed the costs would be similar if not the same as Disney World. 

We also got to ride bumper cars which were honestly kind of easy to drive? Like I can’t drive in real life so this made me feel a bit better about driving… {Who am I kidding… kids can drive these cars!} However, something I realized was that most of the Koreans were too shy to really attack anyone with the cars. In fact, some people wouldn’t even hit any strangers—only the people that they came in with. In some cases, I understand this like when they were couples but still… for some rounds, it seemed they were all just driving around a track–with no collisions whatsoever. In America, most people tend to go crazy with bumping people with no reservations. That is the fun of it all!

The ride that I rode which made me proudest was the most famous ride at Lotte World: Atlantis. This is their biggest roller coaster {though I will say, it does not compare to anything big at Six Flags}. We waited in line for around an hour for a fast-paced and heart-racing couple of minutes. Honestly, I did a lot better than I expected! I was intensely shaking and sweating before going in and while the cars slowly made their way up the first large arch {hill? Not a loop… what are they called?} I was cursing myself for getting into that situation. But, it ended up being a lot of fun! My stomach got that airy feeling throughout which I really hate since it makes me feel like I’m falling but once those feelings passed, I enjoyed the fast turns and all the anticipation. I will definitely ride it again if I ever return.

We rode a few more VR and 3D technology-based games, enjoyed some popcorn chicken, and watched a quick little performance by some dancers and the Lotte World Mascots before calling it a day and heading home. 

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Andy wearing a new hat from Lotte World!

We got home pretty late and relaxed until it became 10 pm and my host sister and I were hungry for dinner. She ended up taking me to this 24-hour place near the apartment complex that sells a lot of traditional Korean foods. My host sister and I both had 콩나물국밥 which is basically rice and bean sprouts in a soup broth. It was a very simple taste. My host sister told me that it is usually eaten more regularly by older people and that it is a common hangover food. 

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And that was my day!! I spent a great 설날 with my host sister doing something that has been on my bucket list for a while now~ It was a lot of fun and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this blog post! 

  • Emma 엠마