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

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

04/02/19 Tuesday

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This week I am sporting my school uniform tie! Hehe

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

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

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

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

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But what did my group talk about? Beats me… 

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

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

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

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

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

04/03/19 Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jessica 언니 ㅎㅎㅎ

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

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Andy ❤

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

  • Emma 엠마