I think I’ve decided to stop doing a Light Fellowship blog this semester.
Partially because I’m definitely going to write an End of Program Report so I can have somewhere to articulate my numerous complaints about Korea University’s language program, but also because I just hate that nagging feeling when I get behind on my blogging. Instead, I think I’m going to switch to posting smaller updates on my own schedule, like I did when I was in France. For instance:
I was determined to post some really cool stuff tonight, but now that it’s 3 AM I’m reevaluating my position.
You think I’d learn.
Anyway, stay tuned!
[I wanted to post this yesterday, but the internet in my apartment has gone bad.]
Yesterday my swimming club participated in a dragon boat race! When I signed up for this, I realized it would be sacrificing the chance to go the Busan International Film Festival that a bunch of the other Yalies went to, and I’m confident that I made the right choice.
The race took place in Chuncheon at this ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS lake, pictured above. The mountains seemed infinite, and the sparkling water made it feel like a fairy tale. (I stole the picture, by the way. I would have taken lots of my own, but my camera decided to die, AFTER HAVING TOLD ME THE PREVIOUS NIGHT THAT IT HAD FULL BATTERIES, and that was when I decided to officially disown it.) As I later discovered, this was actually my second time in Chuncheon, because apparently that’s where Nami Island is located.
Our club brought enough people to form three whole teams! There was 알통팀 (Team Bicep), I think Cowboy Team, and my team was 고무고무팀, which is apparently the Korean version of One Piece’s Gum-Gum, and which I initially misheard as “고문고문” (torture torture). One of our opponent teams was Yonsei, so in some ways the event felt like a little preview of 고연전 (pretty much Korea University and Yonsei’s version of The Game - which is happening this coming weekend!!).
All of the competitors had a practice round where we were taught the basics of dragon-boating (the idea is for everyone to paddle in sync to the beat of the drummer at the front of the boat), and the actual races took place not too long after, with three or four boats facing off at once. It was actually nowhere near as difficult as I imagined it would be. A few boats capsized over the course of the day, but fortunately 고무고무 stayed afloat.
알통팀 managed to come in 3rd place overall! For the record, first place went to an actual, legitimate dragon boat team, so extra props to us. 3rd place came with a $300 prize, which we used to fund a victory dinner at a super fancy tuna sashimi restaurant! Like, I thought I knew tuna, but I was wrong. We were presented with countless different cuts of various sizes and colors, and little diagrams at our tables explained which part of the fish each one came from. The owner took a liking to us and even gave us some super deluxe premium tuna for free at the end. Plus I was able to bond with (and finally learn the names of) some of the other swim club members!
Overall I went to bed feeling much more positive about my swimming club experience. So much so that I was pretty much glowing all day today.
This post started off as something longer, but I’m whittling it down for now because it’s the wee hours of the morning, and I need to get up soon for a crack-of-dawn trip to 춘천 with the swimming club.
“Swimming club?” you ask. I’ve neglected to mention that I did have minor success with my frenzy of applications, and I joined KU’s swimming club two weeks ago. We meet for three hours every Saturday, spending the first 90 minutes swimming, and the second half doing volunteer work where we teach mentally disabled children how to swim. I’ve enjoyed it so far! Note that serious, actual swimming is not something I’ve done before, but joining this club was one of my many schemes to make Korean-speaking friends. Unfortunately, a strangely large portion of the members have lived abroad in English-speaking countries and thus speak flawless English. The other bit of bad news is that I’ve been completely upstaged by my gyopo classmate. He decided to join the club after I foolishly blabbed about my weekend plans to him a while back, and he’s been outshining me in every possible way since. Here’s Ju-Young who speaks fluent Korean, and then there’s Diallo who is incomprehensible and dull. Here’s Ju-Young who used to be a lifeguard, and there’s Diallo who is essentially drowning. So at this point I’m sticking with it mainly because it’s good exercise - even if it’s not the Korean immersion I was hoping for, I might as well get some abs, amirite??
Switching gears a bit, this is something that I’ve meant to mention before, but it amazes me that even months after graduation and on the other side of the globe, I’m still meeting new Yalies relatively frequently. In particularly, on Wednesday night two alums took a bunch of us out to dinner in Hongdae. They’re both TD ’96 and are working for a startup called hellomarket, which is kind of like a Korean Craigslist. We had a really got time, and we got a lot of advice that was especially pertinent to clueless, recent graduates starting a new life in Korea (aka me). Here’s a picture of us (expertly taken with Emily’s new selfie stick):
I was going to post another song, but I just found something better: THE EPISODE OF 별바라기 I WAS ON!
This is just a short clip, but I think you get the gist I sit there awkwardly.
If you wanna watch the full episode (I haven’t yet) it’s broken into three parts on YouTube:
Yesterday was the four-month mark of my arrival in Korea, which means two things.
The first is that, assuming my math is correct, I’ve now spent more time in Korea than Japan. I’ve been trying to understand why I feel this matters to me, and the makeshift answer I’ve come up with is that Japanese has always unofficially been “my thing.” As it stands now, Japanese is without a doubt the foreign language I speak the best (though I arguably understand more French). Korean people and my Korean classmates are sometimes surprised to hear this, but it makes sense considering that at Yale and even before Yale I studied way more Japanese than Korean. But the thing is, and the part that’s been harder for me to accept, is that that’s going to change. By the end of my time here I should speak better Korean than Japanese; if I don’t, I will have done something wrong. Just, it’s sort of strange to imagine my Japanese being dethroned. It’s only been a relatively recent development that I’ve been able to learn Korean vocabulary without freaking out and running to jisho.org when I don’t know the Japanese equivalent. It’s late at night and I’m out of coherent thoughts on the matter for now, so I guess I’ll come back to this some other time.
The second is that I’ve survived just over a month of my cooking now. And dare I say I’ve even enjoyed some of it! As I think I’ve mentioned before, one of my big goals for this year is to learn to cook, and things have seriously been going a lot better than I expected they would. Successful creations so far have included pad thai, omelettes, and kimchi quesadillas. I also received a care package from my mother on Wendesday including herbs and spices and various much-needed kitchen supplies, so I expect good things to come. I’ll start posting more pictures (even though they’re mildly off topic, but what the heck).
On Friday my class went out to lunch together, but I ended up having to leave almost immediately for an audition to be the next host for KUlture TV. (Wish me luck!)
Last Thursday, Mahir and I did some exploration of the campus, and we came across an office claiming to be a sort of one-stop help center for international students. We decided to mention to one of the guys working there that we were looking to join clubs (with Korean students, as opposed to the ones offered by KLC), and he printed out a four-page list of all the available ones for us, including their websites! I’ve since been busying myself applying to several, admittedly with little luck: so far two have rejected me, four have not responded, and one apparently meets once a year.
There’s also news on the internship front. Since the good news I was hoping for didn’t come true, I’ll reveal what I was hoping for. When I had my interview, I mentioned that I would really like to work with Talk To Me In Korean. It turns out that the guy in charge of the Yalies’ internships is the very same person who got Terris his internship with TTMIK! So I was really hoping he’d be able to pull some strings for me as well, but alas.
What I’ll be doing instead: I’m going to be working in a language lab in KU’s Korean Cultural Center (which is a BEAUTIFUL building, pictures soon!) as part of a team studying how infant babbling changes according to the sex and number of the baby’s siblings. I’m the youngest in the lab by more than ten years, and I’m getting “Ugh, we have to babysit this kid who doesn’t even speak Korean” vibes from the others, but hopefully that changes? And I realize I’d practically sworn off of linguistics after completing my thesis, but this is different because it’s fieldwork AND it’s focusing on language acquisition, which I never got a chance to study at Yale.
And next week we’ll FINALLY get our language buddies!