Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Seoul!!

Whew. So... after leaving shortly after class on Friday, I'm finally back in my room from spending the past few non-stop days in Seoul - South Korea's largest city. It was overwhelming at first just how huge it was, and even though Jonathan and I barely stopped even to eat the whole time we were there, we didn't even get a chance to see half of what the city had to offer.

I've just finished sorting through and selecting some of my 200+ pictures to upload, so there are three albums up on Facebook! Woo! Try not to get too bored with them too fast, because there is a LOT of different stuff in there.
Album 1
Album 2
Album 3

Also, an update about my current situation...

Today (Tuesday) is Korea's national holiday of Chuseok - the reason I had this break from school. But because of the holiday, nothing in Daegu is open, including the school cafeteria! Ah! After getting back to my room and filling up on gummi worms and cereal, I decided I need to get some sort of nutrition in my system and wandered out to the convenience store in that back alley that leads to the subway closest to the dorm. Luck with with me that they were still open, but my choices were still limited. On tonight's dinner menu:

Is it a giant carrot or a minuscule carton of milk?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Teachers and Students in Korea

One of the things I've noticed in classes now that I've had them for a few weeks is the amount of respect that students (haksang) have for their teachers (seonsang-nim) here. It's refreshing after living amid the typical US students, where it isn't uncommon for a group to sit in the back and snicker during lectures or openly and cynically contradict most of what the professor has to say in class. That's not to say that the same doesn't happen here at all, but the students very obviously have much more respect and appreciation for what the teachers are doing for them.

There are two most vivid examples that I've noticed so far from the Korean students in some of my classes. In one class, some of the students had arrived to the classroom before our professor. There was still notes written on the chalkboard from the previous class, so one of the boys went up and erased the entire board so it was clean for our professor when she came in. When we take breaks during our 2+ hour classes, many students go to the coffee machines or vending machines for a drink. More often than not, one of the students will buy an extra coffee or juice and leave it on the professor's desk on their way back into the classroom. In the US, that student would be considered a "kiss-up" or "teacher's pet." In Korea, though, it's just respectful. I like that.


Our teachers take care of us too, though. During language class on Monday, we spent only the first half in class. During the second hour, she took us on a field trip to the traditional village on campus where we have the art classes. She gave us a sort of tour, so I found out that the building in which we've been doing the classes is actually the husband's half of the home part of the village. There's also another half for the wife (since they would have had different duties... hers being to raise children, while he may have had to invite guests and such to his half). And then the second part of the village is actually a model of a school, almost identical to the one we visited on the bus tour (where Confucianist theory was taught).


We went down to a gazebo-like construct built over the pond in the garden area of the village. There, she taught us how to do the formal Korean bow that they do during the lunar new year and weddings.
The Girls' Version
This is actually the "easy" version of it... because you actually start standing up, and in this one you can move one of your legs to go down cross-legged like that. In the other version, you end up on your knees by going straight down, and its hard to do without falling completely over.

The Guys' Version

In both versions you start standing up and end standing up, and it's all very slow movements going down and back up. It was really interesting to get to learn how to do it, though, since I always hear about it and even saw an attempt at it by the Western bride and groom at the wedding. Now the real trick will be learning how to do that in the traditional Korean costume, the hanbok.


Seonsang-nim and her girls. :) (4 Chinese, 1 American, 1 Russian, and 1 Finnish)

After we did the bowing, we also played a board game that she'd brought. It reminded me a lot of the game "Sorry," with little pieces that moved around the board and which could be bumped back to the starting position if one of the other team's pieces landed on top of it. Instead of rolling die to determine the number of spaces to move, there are painted sticks that you throw. Different combinations mean different things. If we play again, I'll get a picture and be able to explain better. :)

The boys. (2 German, 1 Azerbaijani, 1 American, and 1 Austrian)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Apples, chestnuts, a wedding, and lots and lots of rain...

So today was another day to wake up bright and early to go see a part of Korean culture. This time it was a trip to Guam Farmstay Village, where we got to pick famous Daegu apples, dye scarves, pick chestnuts, witness a traditional Korean wedding, and dance to the beat of traditional Korean drum music. It was a long, long day filled with lots of walking, rain, and mud, so I'm pooped!

This is another story better told in pictures, though, so I have another Facebook album (http://tlu.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2009862&l=607e0&id=79500798) all made up for you. Enjoy!

After you look at the pictures, I have a few videos here too. But you have to see the pictures first to get the whole story and explanations! I don't know why the videos seem to steadily go back and forth from blurry to clear, so I hope that stops soon... video
video
video


And for something completely different...

McDonald's!
<3
It's nice to get "normal" American food every now and then. :) Even if you have to walk 45 minutes to get it. The menu is very different, though... no $1 deals here. And there's extra stuff, like "bulgogi burger" or "shrimp burger". I stuck with the ever-classic cheeseburger, fries, and a Pepsi (the default soft drink here in Korea).

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Su-hyun's birthday party!

(These decorations are also pendants that are worn by a bride and groom during a traditional Korean wedding. The birds are swans.)



This afternoon was Su-hyun's birthday party as well as the celebration of her baby cousin's 100th day. As Ally explained to me, the baby was the "princess" now instead of Su-hyun, since celebrating a baby's 100th day of life is a big event in Korea. The celebration originated many, many years ago, when it really was a big feat for a baby to survive past 100 days. If they made it past that mark, it was basically guaranteed that they would grow up as normal instead of falling victim to a not-uncommon infant death.

We went to a traditional Korean restaurant that reminded me of something I'd seen way back when I was what... 3 years old? (No laughing now...) Big Bird Goes To Tokyo. :)
Instead of having a big common room in which everyone ate, each different party gets its own room. Under the step is where the shoes go, and then the paneled doors slide open to each room.
I really like the picture on the wall... it reminded me of the one I won in the first art class. And yes, we all sat on the floor again. Besides Ally and I, a big portion of Su-hyun's family were there. Mom, dad, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It looks small, but we all fit fine! The food just kept coming, too. There was no definite "main course," like we serve in the Western world, but instead there were many many smaller dishes. They started out recognizable enough, but they got stranger and stranger to me as the meal went on. There was squid, sushi, another raw meat (I don't know what kind, but it was bright red and looked like hamburger), noodles, rice, soup, whole fish, whole shrimp, octopus, stingray, and some stuff I couldn't even begin to guess as to what it was. Su-hyun's family was really nice, and they kept offering me stuff even if I looked hesitant about it. So, yes, now I can add octopus to the list of things I've eaten. It was sliced very thinly and was cold like it had just come out of a freezer, so I'm wondering if it was raw too.

Su-hyun's mother took good care of me, though. :) When the small bowls of rice came around and I was eating mine, she started picking out pieces of meat from the fish and putting them in my bowl for me, which I thought was cute and really nice of her to do, since it's hard to get the flaky meat away from the bones in the first place, especially with chopsticks.
Me, Su-hyun's mom, and Su-hyun.

Su-hyun's aunt (the mom of the 100-day-old baby), Su-hyun, me, and Ally. You can't really tell, but Su-hyun and her aunt are on their toes to make the height difference less noticeable. :P
The happy family! The mom is 28 years old - only one year older than Ally, who wanted to know where her baby was! Haha.
Look at those chubby cheeks! ...not on me, I hope.



Saturday, September 8, 2007

Long week...

I know, I know... I should be posting more often than I have been. There's not a lot of terribly interesting stuff that goes on during the week, but I'll see what I can do.

Wednesday was another Korean culture-experience class. It was a continuation of the calligraphy-type art from the first session, so now we learned how to add four more lines to our grass paintings!
There's my finished product, including my name in Korean (or "hangul," as the Korean writing system is named) over on the right. Because of the way the Korean language works, though, it would technically be pronounced "Kuh-ree-suh-tee". My roommate, Da-eun, said it was cute when she saw it. :)

I didn't win any prizes this time, although the instructor said that it looked like the work of a famous calligrapher from one of the ancient dynasties, so that was pretty cool. The prizes this time were really pretty, because he used color! Here's Hanna with her first-prize roses and Kukka (both students from Finland) with her second-prize chrysanthemums.
On the board behind Kukka, by the way, is the directions for how to do our traditional grass-paintings. Each stroke is numbered, so they really are all supposed to come out the same.

Today was an especially long day. I woke up at 7:30am to make it to breakfast at 8 so I could go with Jonathan on a Daegu City bus tour. I think it's better narrated with the pictures, though, so I made another album (http://tlu.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2009764&l=6c178&id=79500798) full of pictures. Have a look and tell me what you think!

Tomorrow I'm meeting Ally and Su-hyun to go with Su-hyun's family to lunch to celebrate her birthday and her baby nephew's 100th day. If all goes well, I'll have more pictures to post after that!

Monday, September 3, 2007

It's now almost Tuesday here, and I'm just now finally sitting down to write about my weekend... shame on me!

The campus here pretty much shuts down on weekends, which leaves us international students with very little to do. Most of the Korean students live within the city, so they're able to go home. I filled my days mostly with catching up with people from home while they were awake (the time difference is most annoying), and then venturing off campus a few times with various people.

On Friday evening, for example, Ally and Lily (Angela's buddy) invited Angela and I to go out to dinner with them. Dinner was pretty good, although not what I had expected. My "steak" turned out to be hamburger steak, and had a sauce that was so peppery, even Lily - a Korean - admitted that it was spicy. It wasn't bad other than that, and for dessert we went to a Baskin Robbins for ice cream! Yay! It was just like ice cream from home, so that was comforting. Of course, I stayed away from the flavors like "green tea" and stuck with plain, great chocolate. Our next stop was a game room - basically like a small arcade where we played a few games. Ally beat me at DDR (a dance game) and I beat her at Indy racing, so I think that turned out reasonably well. :)

Our last destination was another restaurant (so much food!) where Ally and Lily treated Angela and I to a Korean traditional alcohol drink which was served in a big wooden bowl, with smaller bowls for us to ladle our own drinks into. We also had appetizers there, like small, crunchy puffed rice-chips of some kind which were good, and Korean "pancakes". I'm not entirely sure what it was, but it seemed to be a flat layer of scrambled egg with things like green onion and squid cooked into it. Seems more like an omelet to me...















But yes, I have officially eaten squid. Tastes like shrimp, but chewier.

Sunday was a good day too. Jonathan and I went with Jennifer (another international student from the US) and her roommate deeper into the city to do some exploring. Our goal was to find the Outback Steakhouse, but it wasn't at the subway stop where Jennifer thought it was. Instead, we ended up at a TGIFriday's, which was just as good. We weren't picky about our Western food at that point.
It's one of those restaurants that gives you a basket of bread when you first get to the table and then which keeps refilling said basket as the bread gets eaten. I think we figured out that we went through five baskets between just eating the bread and also hiding the small loves away in various pockets and purses. :) Because of that, I was only able to eat half of my delicious chicken fingers and fries, so they packed the rest of it for me in a to-go box and bag. They must have picked up on our taste for bread (can't imagine why...) because there were three extra loves packed with my meal for me. Ha. What nice guys... It was expensive, though, as I suppose we kind of expected. For just my meal, it was W10,900, or a little over $10. Oh, well. It was worth it.

Dinner was amazing, also. Jonathan took me with him to his aunt and uncle's house, and his aunt had made a dinner for us which included my favorite - bulgogi! I think I've determined that my problem with the food here is not only getting used to Korean food, but also to Korean cafeteria food, which I realized when I enjoyed Jonathan's aunt's meal so much. It's too bad that we can't get that on campus, or I'd feel a lot more at ease here. And well fed, for that matter.

I tried to take more pictures of the view of the city tonight, but no luck... just more blurs. I also tried to get a few of the traditional village all lit up, but that was a bust as well. My picture-taking has kind of declined as I haven't seen many new sights lately, but if anyone has any requests as to what they'd like to see more of, let me know!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Um, excuse me, waiter...

...there seems to be a chicken in my soup...I'm getting the feeling that dinner is going to become a great topic of interest in these blog posts. For the first month, anyway. Apparently we get a different meal every day, but it's a one-month cycle. So I get to look forward to three more chicken soup meals! The bowls were set up with the chicken sitting on a bed of rice, and as the students came up to get it, the cafeteria ladies poured the broth part over it all. Mmm mmm good.

Anywho, this afternoon's activities consisted of shopping! Shopping at the Korean version of Wal-mart, I guess, known here as HomePlus. When we walked in the door, we encountered a group of giggling Korean girls still in their school uniforms who said "Hi! You're beautiful! I love you!" to me and who also told Jonathan he was nice... Cute kids. Anyway like Emart, HomePlus had several different levels, which you can get to and from by escalator. But since there are carts just like at Wal-mart (except better because the wheels turn every direction so you can actually push the cart completely sideways), the escalators are ramps, which I find highly entertaining.
And I got new shoes! They're really nice (especially nicer than the flip-flops I've been wearing) and I think they'll be really good on these rainy days. Hopefully they'll dry fast, and I'll definitely stop slipping on all of the brick walkways. Here they are, sitting in the designated shoe area of the room, since it's customary for Koreans to leave their outside shoes off the inside floor. They cost me less than W20,000 ($2o), and for good LA Gear shoes, I figured that was a good deal. I had to get one of the men's sizes, though... apparently my American feet are bigger than those of your typical Korean girl. Go figure.


Anyway, I also rode the Daegu subway for the first time to get there, so that was exciting. It's a really nice, really clean system, which was a nice alternative to the New York subway system that I experienced this summer. It costs W1,100 for a one way trip, but once I get my student ID from Keimyung, that also works as a transportation card, so I can put money on that and maybe it will be even cheaper. I guess I'll find out.
There is a back way from campus to a subway stop, and since our dorm is at the back of campus, it's MUCH easier and a much shorter distance to trek that way instead of going all the way to one of the gates. I took a few pictures back there, too, since it was a side of Daegu I hadn't seen yet.
There's a "hair shop" back there, and a church.

And apparently this is someone's house... I'm extremely jealous. I want a house like that, although in a better location than the back streets of Daegu.
And then here's the little road that leads up to the (long) set of stairs that leads back up the hill to the school. Woo! I'm so tired now, though... Hopefully tonight I'll sleep well!