Night at The Seoul International Youth Hostel (August 12th, 2016)

Friday Afternoon (08/12/16) was a time for all the NSLI-Y scholars to spend the last couple of hours with their host families. Most went on their last cultural excursions or simply had lunch with their families one last time; however, not everyone’s host family could make time to do this. Both of my host parents had to get to work and so my last meal with them was yesterday night. Therefore they brought my luggage to the university and I was told I would make my way to the hostel with the help of one of the supporters. I wasn’t the only one, though. I was traveling with Nicole and there were about three other students who were hanging out with their supporters because their host families were busy. It was around lunch time when the ceremony ended so I went along with some supporters and our program photographer to get some lunch at one of the restaurants close to the university. It was such a hassle heading to the restaurant because we couldn’t leave our bags at the school; therefore, we had to carry them to the restaurant which was not easy. Not even that, but the restaurant they chose was on the second floor of a building so we had to carry all of our bags up the stairs (I am really surprised no one got hurt…) The lunch was nice even though I was really quiet in the beginning. (I didn’t know any of the supporters before this lunch and I was also still pretty sad about all the goodbyes and not being able to spend the rest of the day with my host family.) We went to Bbalbong. I ordered this dish of Ddeokbokki (떡볶이) and Donkatsu (돈까스) which also came with french fries, a salad, a small chicken leg, and white rice (staple). It was all very filling and delicious too! I was also able to handle the heat brought by the 떡볶이 (Spicy rice cakes). Once we got some food, I found some energy and started engaging in conversation with the other supporters and my fellow classmate Nicole. We talked about our favorite memories from Korea and even some “gossip” like who we think had feelings for each other.

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Afterward, we continued to walk down the main street and we went into a couple of stores to pass the time. We also had to stop at a glasses store as Trudi (one of the girls whose host family also had to work) needed to pick up new contacts. That store though… was so aesthetically pleasing. The shelves were so organized!

 

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띵똥와플 (Ding Dong Waffle) sprang up out of nowhere. It only started to be built a week ago and it already looked like this. Unfortunately, it wasn’t done in time for us to try out the waffles… and they look so good!~

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The famed egg blow up (I loved seeing it this summer!)

I took a taxi with one supporter (I forget whose supporter she was… but she was in my group back at the HanMi Camp as well.) to the Hostel we were staying at again. It was my first time in a taxi in Korea and it was a very nice experience. My Korean was the best it has ever been and I was able to have a good conversation with the driver about my skills and my time in Korea. He was very surprised to hear that I was only a high school student. When we got back to the hostel, we were one of the first ones there and our rooms were not even ready yet so we had to drop off our luggage in the lobby. I hung out in the lobby with the supporters and Nicole until a couple other NSLI-Y kids came back from lunch with their host fam. I believe the time everyone was supposed to back was 5pm. Abby showed up after her host mom and sister came and one of our program coordinators told us that we were allowed to leave the hostel, as long as we came back home by 5pm. I went with Abby, Nicole, Trudi, and a few of the supporters to Myeongdong which was a close walk and subway ride away from the hostel (well the main shopping area). We spent the next two hours walking around, talking, and hanging out around the area. It was great because I thought I had already made my last visit to Myeongdong but it looked like it really wasn’t the last (for the summer). We came home just in time for our rooms to be ready and we got to carry our luggage up once the room keys were administered (there was only one per room… it was weird having all the power haha). We were not in the same rooms from the beginning of the summer but we had the same room mates (so in my room there was Me, Angie, Jodi, Jane, Rhea, Grace, Maris, and Jessica). For dinner, our program totally spoiled us! They ordered each room a box of Korean fried chicken and a box of pizza (we got the plain cheese pizza but they also were giving out sweet potato pizza). It was a lot of fun to pig out on all this food while spending some of the last moments in Korea with the same people who I started out the summer with (Read about those nights here and here).

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Sofia taking candids XD

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Me writing a thank you letter to Madeline while Jodi is cooling down (Our room was very WARM!~)

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Hostel Dinner (Photo Creds: Nicole)

That night was also very hectic as I was running around the whole hostel (with Sofia at times) to finish up our group presents to our resident directors Madeline and JT. So earlier in the week Sofia and I visited the Morning Glory (A Korean Stationery Store) in Hongdae trying to find a group gift for our RDs. We were able to find these really pretty jars filled with these tiny messages/scrolls. We thought it would be a very fun idea to have every student in the program write a message for our RDs and put it in the bottle. And that is what we planned to do.

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One of the Jars we bought~

The night before the graduation ceremony, Sofia and I fixed up the bottles by putting in mostly “masculine ” colors in one jar for JT and we put all the other pastel-colored scrolls into a jar for Madeline. We also had to count out 50 scrolls for each jar to make sure it would be ready (but we kept the access in a baggie just in case some accidents were made… and there were PLENTY). Then, at night at the hostel, Sofia and I went around to every room and placed scrolls on the vanity to have all kids fill them out with short messages. You would probably think the rest of it would be easy… but it was not! I had to follow and stalk so many people trying to get them to write their message before the curfew. I literally had a list of people that didn’t hand in their scrolls yet and I had to track them down. Not only that, but getting the scrolls from the boys rooms was even more difficult because every time I would head up to their floor… JT was there. One time Kenwoo told me the coast was clear and when I came up to collect their scrolls, JT opened the door (I quickly and quietly rolled the jar down the hall… I do not think he saw me.) But he did notice that I was acting funny since he told me not to worry. He promised that everyone in the room was decent XD Eventually, however, I was able to collect all 50 and fill up the jars to look all pretty.

That night was spent mostly switching between hanging out in the lobby with my resident directors and Ari 쌤, talking with my roommates, collecting scrolls for our group presents, and hanging out in the “lounge” area of our floor. We all stayed up until past midnight just chatting. We had a curfew but we were allowed to go to other rooms even if it was past curfew (which is why Joy, Casey, and Sofia hung out with my roommates). The last night in Korea was spent well and I am glad I got to spend it with so many people that influenced me and made this summer one of the bests. (Actually… I think it earns the title of the BEST SUMMER EVER!) The next morning we would be waking up in Korea for the last time leaving for the states in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading~ And I hope you enjoyed~ 안녕 친구들!

  • Emma (엠마)

Visiting a Cat Cafe in Myeongdong and Meeting Up With a HelloTalk Friend in Edae (July 27th, 2016)

On Wednesday (July 27th, 2016) I went with a bunch of my classmates to this restaurant close to the university for some lunch. It was a big group made up of Sofia, Tucker, Nicole, Casey, Jodi and I. It was a very traditional restaurant that served us plenty of side dishes and the menu was only in Korean — no English translations whatsoever. I had ordered a dish of cold water noodles (물냉면) since I had it the night before with my host mom for dinner and it was very very delicious. My host mom finished up work a little before 8pm so she called me on my Korean flip phone telling me to walk outside of the apartment complex and find her car and then we would go out to dinner near the house. We went to this  restaurant and I ordered the cold water noodles while she ordered spicy cold noodles (비빔 냉면). I loved it so much the night before, I ordered it again!

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물냉면

Cold Water Noodles (mul-naengmyeon — 물냉면) are predominantly buckwheat noodles that are very thin and chewy. The broth of the noodles is cold and icy. It vaguely resembles slushy snow water if that makes any sense. The broth is very tangy and a bit savory. It is mostly eaten in Korea during the summer since it is a perfect dish to eat during a hot day. It is one of the dishes I know I will miss the most when I come back home from Korea.

After eating lunch, Sofia and I headed off to Myeongdong (명동) to go to a cat cafe. We had already been to a dog cafe but Sofia and I also really like cats as well, so we wanted to experience a cat cafe. We didn’t really have any specific one in mind or one that we researched. We just knew that myungdong had one since whenever we went there in the past, there was always a guy in a cat suit walking around holding a sign. We decided to just find him and ask him where we should go. We eventually found the guy walking around and I asked him in Korean “Left or Right?” but he just motioned towards us with his hands to follow him and he brought us to the building where the cafe was in. He told us to press level 3 on the elevator and then left us from there.

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Dude in the Cat Suit

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Sign Outside

When we arrived to the right floor we were in a small lobby type thing outside of the doors to get inside of the cafe. We took our shoes off and put them in this little shoe cubby and switched out footwear for indoor slippers. The girls had pink ones while the guys slippers were blue. When we got inside, we went to the counter to pay for admission that came with one free drink. (They advertise admission with one free drink but basically the admission is the drink.) The admission was $8 and both of us ordered green tea lattes.

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녹차라떼

We were ordering and talking to the manager or guy behind the counter (we later found out he was the manager from how he was talking to the other employees) in Korean and he was very impressed. He continued to talk to us in Korean and though we missed a lot of things he said, we understood the main important things.

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He showed us this laminated paper with all the rules of the cafe in English while he explained the rules to us in Korean rather than English. (which was really great since he had really good English skills. It was nice that he was helping us with our Korean listening skills.) The rules were pretty obvious but one rule that was pretty important is if a cat was wearing a blue scarf around its neck, don’t play with it or bother it. Most of the cats were wearing random colored scarves but some weren’t wearing any at all. The scarves/neck pieces (I can not explain it well enough) were super cute.

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 We sat at the back of the store and got a pretty big table to ourselves. We were able to see the whole cafe from our view point. We spent the first hour at the cafe in our seats enjoying our drinks and petting cats. I honestly prefer cats over dogs so this was heaven to me.

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The Cafe

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The cat sat next to me on the bench basically the whole time we were there.

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Sofia and a Cat!

I honestly prefer Korean cat cafes over Korean dog cafes and not just because I like cats better to begin with. Cat cafes are so much more relaxed and calm. There is no barking or screaming or any loud noises at all. The cats are also a lot easier to pet. The dogs (at least at the cafe I went to) were so hyper that they wouldn’t stay still for you to pet them. The only ones you could really pet were the ones that were sleeping. Plus, it smelled really bad at times since they would just take bathroom breaks in the middle of the floor. In the cat cafe, the cats would go through these little cat doors to a separate room in case they were not feeling human interaction and I am guessing their litter boxes were back there also since it didn’t smell bad in the actual cafe. To play with dogs you need toys and or treats or they aren’t into you. Cats are fine with just sitting on your lap and being petted. At the cat cafe, I was able to sit at a table with Sofia and do our Korean Homework while petting my favorite cat right next to me.

After the cat cafe, Sofia and I took the subway to Edae because later that afternoon we were going to meet up with one of my friends on HelloTalk that I have been talking to for awhile now. I help him practice English. HelloTalk is this app that is a community of language learners and by joining the app, you can talk to people that are native in the language you are wanting to learn while they want to learn the language you are native in. It is actually pretty great since not only do you message back and forth, but you can also correct their sentences and translate certain parts if you can’t understand it.

But first, Sofia and I walked around some of the streets surrounding Ewha womans University. We went into Artbox and even discovered that the location we were at had another level (and we have been there several times already). Right next to Artbox there was a set of stairs leading to the other levels of the building. We went up the stairs and found a cafe on the second level called “백설공주 The World Dessert Cafe.” 백설공주 means Snow White so the Cafe is named after the princess I presume. Visiting the cafe was pretty much an impulse decision but I am glad we both did since we both really liked it and there were so many things that we could order from the cafe that seemed so delicious.

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Sofia and I split an Oreo Bingsu (오레오 빙수) which was delicious! It was my first time having that flavor in Korea and it was really good. They had a lot of other things to order as well. Different flavors of bingsu, toasts, ice cream, and lots of different types of drinks.

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Menu From Google

After our bingsu it was around 5pm which was the time we were meeting up with my HelloTalk friend at the exit closest to the cafe. When we met up with him at first, it was really awkward as messaging is a lot different than real life conversation. But eventually we got over the awkward silence and soon enough Sofia was feeling chill with him too. He wanted to go get dinner but Sofia and I didn’t plan this meeting very well as we did just finish eating Bingsu. My HelloTalk friend wasn’t so familiar with the Edae area so we walked around for awhile until he finally picked a place that was appetizing to him. Sofia and I ended up sharing a dinner since we were definitely not hungry enough to eat something by ourselves. We shared a plate of mild donkatsu. Even though we both shared, we still didn’t finish it since it was A LOT of food. And when I ordered, my friend was surprised to hear me read the Korean on the menu. I guess he thought I could only speak it. It was hilarious when I explained to him that I could read, write, and speak. From then on we promised to message each other more in Korean. He felt bad for always communicating in English.

For the rest of the night we ate dinner and talked about a lot of random things. He told us what it was like going to an international school and church and explained the differences he noticed from living in the states. He actually lived not too far from where I live back in the states. It was fun meeting a Korean friend in real life since we don’t have much of a chance to meet Korean teens on program besides going up to random strangers which is dangerous and not to mention very very very weird in Korea. Since it was so fun, when I came home I started talking to another friend about meeting up and we planned to do something together with Sofia and Yves (one of my 나무반 classmates) who also talks to the same friend on HelloTalk.

That was my jam-packed Wednesday in Seoul. We did so much in only one day which explains why this post is so long. Reading it over and editing it will be a hassle! XD haha Thanks so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed~ Do not forget to follow my blog!~ 안녕!

  • 엠마 (Emma)