I’m in the process of writing a post, but given that it’s already 2 AM, I am almost guaranteed to pass out before completion.
So to tide you over, here’s the brand new "Darling" by Girls’ Day, which I’ve been jamming to since Busan.
My brain has already checked out for vacation, as evidenced by me getting on the wrong bus this morning.
As for further proof of how small the world is, yesterday I hung out with not one, but TWO visiting friends from Yale. I met my friend Brandon right after class ended. We first set off for the Coex Mall, and we also hit up Apgujeong, Cheonggyecheon, and Gwanghwamun. So basically a LOT of places - it wasn’t until Brandon pointed it out to me that I realized we’d done roughly 5.5 hours of exploring. We parted ways at Shincon, at which point I met up with my Japanese classmate, fellow Linguistics major, and year-in-Korea 선배, Tyler. He and some friends were on a brief visit from Ishigaki, where he has been doing linguistic fieldwork. One of his friends is actually a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) in the JET Programme, and it was exciting to talk to her about it since I will be applying for the same job within the next few years. I joined them for dinner and a bit of shopping, and afterwards I took them to the 막걸리/파전 place - it’s becoming a ritual.
Today was the penultimate of Ewha’s cultural activities this summer: Taekwondance. I was super curious as to what the heck Taekwondance actually was, and judging from today’s session, it seems to be a class where you kick little punching bag things while K-Pop is blasting in the background. (So I guess something like Zumba? Disclaimer: I don’t really know what Zumba is.) We also learned some dance moves to 으르렁 at the end. It was a bad day to wear skinny jeans. Soyeon tells me that Taekwondance is a really popular field trip… for elementary schoolers. I can’t say that I’ll be dying to try it again any time soon.
I also had a moment of, I guess, appreciation today. None of my Ewha friends went on this trip (can’t blame them), so I ended up chatting with a bunch of people from Levels 1 and 2. Before the Taekwondance class began, some people from the local police station gave a brief announcement about this campaign they’re doing to encourage people (particularly foreigners) to call the police. It concluded with a video of several policemen dancing to Psy’s “Gentleman” than was just BIZARRE and, in my opinion, did not really inspire confidence in the police force. But the point is that I discovered after the presentation that my new friends in the lower levels (unsurprisingly) didn’t understand anything that was said, and it reminded me that even though I still have a looooong way to go in my Korean studies, I should be thankful for what I’ve accomplished so far. And then I gave a quick explanation in French to one girl from Paris, Korean-French interpretation, what whaaat.
I also forgot to mention that the other day Soyeon told me that a man who lives upstairs saw me and told her he wanted to drink with me. Because I guess I just have that air about me???
"200%" - Akdong Musician
To continue sharing Korean music I’ve discovered with you, and to make up for my lack of pictures, here’s my latest jam. It’s pretty much the cutest thing ever, so I am going to require that you listen to it and watch the video.
I spent the majority of this week listening to Brooklyn Baby.
This week was draining.
As I’d mentioned previously, Monday and Tuesday were our dreaded midterms. Monday’s tests were pretty uneventful. We started with writing, which was a bit difficult, as I had expected, but grammar/vocab and reading were both smooth sailing. Tuesday was a different story. Listening was an unpleasant surprise because even though I’d reviewed all of the textbook audio, I found the test dialogues much more difficult to follow.
And then the speaking test. So part of my struggle was me misunderstanding the format of the test. I thought we would have at least some choice of the topics we talked about, so I did not prepare for all five of the chapters we covered equally. I also thought that our “discussion” section would be, you know, a discussion, but it turns out it was more of a monologue of our opinions. (I now realize the implication is to memorize a spiel for each topic and recite it, but I had been unwilling to do that because that’s not actually speaking - but I guess that’s the name of the game.) But even if I had prepared properly, I still would have been wrecked by my teacher. Our male teacher is usually super bright and bubbly - in fact, we were initially all happy that he was the one conducting our speaking test instead of the other teacher because he’s so goofy and friendly. But during the test he just sat staring at the table with an incredibly stern look on his face the entire time I was talking. No eye contact. He made no reactions whatsoever to anything I said, except for the occasional wince. I was already nervous going into the test, but his bizarre behavior made everything infinitely worse. I was reduced to babbling. When I recounted the story to some of my veteran Ewha friends, they assured me that I’d passed, but more than my grade, my bigger concern was the sheer embarrassment I felt. Like, to have put this much effort into studying a language but then be unable to form one single coherent sentence… If I’m being perfectly honest, after having lunch with a few of my classmates, I just went home, sulked, and convinced myself that I never wanted to speak Korean again (cue Brooklyn Baby).
To top off two fun-filled days of test taking, I had my newspaper presentation on Wednesday. Fortunately it was painless. I gave a brief talk about mokbangs, which you may have heard about. They’re basically these internet livestreams of people eating ridiculous amounts of food. I’m too tired right now to explain them in greater detail. After class that day I’m pretty sure I just went home and slept.
We got our test results back on Wednesday and Thursday. I was pleased to discover I got an almost perfect score on my reading and grammar/vocab exams, and I did much better on listening that I expected, though still not as well as I would have liked. I did end up passing my speaking test - and my friend was telling me something about how in the Ewha grading system even as low as a 60 is still a C or something like that, but I’m not sure that I believe him. Either way, seeing my speaking grade inspired a second round of sulking on Thursday.
At the end of the week we got back our mid-term grades, which is when I discovered that homework is worth only 5% of our total grade, and is not marked down for being turned in late. Since then I have found it hard/am currently finding it hard, as I write this blog post as a means of procrastination, to bring myself to do my homework. I intend to talk about this in more detail in the review-of-Ewha post I’ve been planning out, but my biggest (only?) complaint about the program is that our grades are virtually entirely comprised of the midterms and finals. I don’t think it’s good to put that much emphasis on two sets of tests.
I FINALLY was able to meet up with a language exchange person on Friday afternoon! We had lunch together in English and switched over to (mostly) Korean when we went to a cafe later. He seemed like a really cool guy, and things were going so well… until he felt the need to express his disapproval of gay marriage and Muslims. There won’t be much more of him in my future.
Soyeon invited me to a flea market this afternoon that she and her friends were participating in, but I never made it
because she gave me bad directions. Speaking of Soyeon, I feel that I should mention that my homestay situation has been heading south. I’ve discovered that one of the challenges of living with a young adult and her mother is that 20-somethings tend to fight with their parents - who knew?! One of their issues (besides the mom trying to marry Soyeon, who already has a boyfriend, off to some unknown rando) was that the mom was refusing to talk to Soyeon until she got a job. She’s since found a job as an English teacher, but this has the double effect of her being gone until 10 PM every night (including weekends), and her wanting to practice her English as much as possible when we’re together. Plus, because of her work schedule, she’s no longer able to go on any of the trips we were thinking of taking. So I’m essentially back to where I was before. Oh, and now that Soyeon is around to serve as an interpreter, her mother has all but completely stopped talking to me directly.
Finally, tonight was the Light Fellowship dinner, featuring Professor Treat and Professor Botsman (who taught lil’ old freshman me), as well as 최 선생님, the mysterious other Korean professor at Yale whom I had never met before. Dinner was very enjoyable, if not very long because of the seemingly endless courses. We wanted to go to the Moomin Store next door afterwards, but they were closing by the time we finished up. We instead ended up going to this huge bookstore, where I bought the first half of the Korean version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
This upcoming week should be much more exciting, largely thanks to the fact that Mahir, Patty, Kelsey and I are taking a trip to Busan starting Thursday! Skippin’ school! Beach beach beach!
When I got to Ewha on Friday morning there was not a cloud in the sky, and the campus look even more fairytale-esque than usual. I pulled out my camera to take a picture… and naturally the batteries were dead.
As Friday was the last day of class before our midterms, class time was spent as something between a review session and a study hall period. I was also made aware of the existence of a giant review packet that I’d missed because of my Monday absence when my Monday-Wednesday-Friday teacher discovered, to her horror, that my Tuesday-Thursday had neglected to give it to me. I know I’ll be fine, but I can’t shake this feeling of minor panic in the corner of my mind.
My class went out for lunch together at Mr. Pizza afterwards, as evidenced by the above photo. (We were missing four people.) They’ve been great classmates, and although the sentiment is decidedly premature, I’m going to miss them when I switch over to Korea University in August.
Friday was also Chris’ last day in Korea, so we spent the night wandering Dongdaemun. The rest of the weekend has been a lot of “I should be studying” (like right now, cough cough), and not so much actual studying. So I guess I’ll get back to that…
My cold is mostly gone now, but I’m still taking the opportunity to wear the face mask I bought yesterday. I consider it part of my assimilation into Korean culture. Something I’ve found surprising is that never before have I been asked why I caught a cold - and by multiple people!
But anyway. Last week wasn’t particularly remarkable. This was largely because I had set aside time to start preparing for next week’s midterms and newspaper presentation, but that didn’t really end up happening. Last week was also characterized by unsuccessful attempts to get a visa. I lost a long battle to Ewha’s printing center on Wednesday, when I tried to prepare the necessary documents. On Thursday I managed to successfully print out everything, but when I got to the immigration office, I was told (in rapid-fire Korean) that I needed more documents from Korea University. File this under Diallo’s Adventures in Visa Wonderland.
On Thursday I also went to my first LanguageCast meet-up (essentially a language exchange - started by Hyunwoo Sun WHO I MET) in Gangnam. It was decent, but it was too loud for optimal conversation, and the scene was mostly Korean people looking to practice their English, so I wasn’t really able to get the speaking practice I hoped for. Speaking of which, the search for speaking practice has been an ongoing quest! Even since before my arrival in Korea, I’ve been really proactive about contacting potential language exchange partners. I’ve contacted upwards of 30 people, but they all have either not responded, inexplicably ceased communication, flaked out, or said that they are really excited to do a language exchange but work every single day and have no free time (???). I was originally hoping to have a different language partner for each day of the week, but at this point I’d be ecstatic to even find one. I’m going to test my luck at one of the other LanguageCast venues.
On Friday I went to the second one of Ewha cultural activities this semester: a musical called finding Kim Jong Wook. For some foolish reason I expected there to be subtitles, and since there weren’t, I understood approximately 3% of the dialogue.
Later on that evening, some other Yalies and I took the Light SAC guidebook’s recommendation and went to Hongdae’s Club Day - the last Friday of every month, where you pay for one club and get a wristband that lets you into 15 different ones. (There was talk of doing it in May, but we were all too jetlagged at that point. Also, the fact that we’ve arrived at another Club Day means it’s already been a month.) Long story short: we discovered, to our horror, that Club Day ended years ago. YEARS. C’mon now, guidebook! We ended up going to a club called nb1, which gave us access to another, more poppin’ club called nb2, so it wasn’t that much of a loss.
Saturday afternoon, Soyeon invited me to a picnic at Seonyudo with some of her friends. The first hour or so was spent waiting for Soyeon’s very late French fried Polly to arrive, and the second hour was spent trying to find said Polly, who got dreadfully lost. It was a fun afternoon nonetheless! Seonyudo is a beautiful area hidden away in the middle of Seoul, and Soyeon’s friends were both great. Polly is from Paris, speaks incredible Korean (and English), and is currently studying and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (a foreign language college - AKA my dream), while her other friend (whose name I’ve forgotten), is Korean, speaks fluent English with a British accent, and, like me and Soyeon, also spent time studying in Paris. We opted to speak in Korean, though to be honest, I mostly listened.
That evening, my quasi-suitemate Chris landed in Seoul for a week-long visit. His timing was perfect, because lately the reality of graduation has slowly begun to sink in lately, and I have been all missing my Yale friends quite terribly.
But it was also awful timing because he got me sick right before midterms. He wanted to go to this mega club called Ellui, but when we got there it was closed. So we instead went to Hongdae (for my second night that weekend), and went to a club called M2. I probably would have enjoyed it, but it was around 4 AM by the time we got there, and I was almost literally falling asleep on the dance floor.
And boom, now you’re caught up! I’m supposed to put pictures on this blog, so here’s hoping I remember to take some.
(Continuing my procrastination…)
I promised you all I’d make a post explaining how to use Korea-homestay.com (the website I used to find my host), so here it goes!
LONG STORY SHORT: The best way to coordinate things is just by emailing them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. After explaining the process to two people, I realize that, because the website is so terrible, I’m still not 100% sure how to work it. So this post is pretty much what I was able to figure out on my own before having to resort to email.
First off, the link to the website: http://korea-homestay.com/page_files_eng/
You start by creating a profile, where you give a brief self-introduction, say how long you’re looking to live with a family, what kind of host you’d like, etc. After that, you can see the host list. When you click on a host’s profile, they’ll tell you things like how many people live in the household, there will be a map of where the home is and a description of the nearby subways and/or buses, and usually pictures of the place. In theory you’re supposed to be able to “apply” to hosts you like, and in theory hosts who are interested are supposed to be able to “apply” to host you, at which point you make a selection and voilà! BUT because the site doesn’t function properly, this is when I switched to email.
Another helpful link is the sitemap page: http://korea-homestay.com/page_files_eng/sitemap.php
This link is important, because it is the only way to access the otherwise very hidden “Service”, “Process,” and “Fee” sections, all of which contain important information. (Design your websites better, people!!) The rate is $550 a month for students, and that includes breakfast. If you would also like to have dinner, some hosts offer it and some don’t - if they do offer dinner, you’ll have to coordinate with them, and usually pay extra. Some hosts also offer other services such as airport pickup or “cultural activities,” and I think some offer discounted rates if you’re willing to provide English lessons - I didn’t look into any of these things, so I can’t comment on them.
Other advice: Contact Korea Homestay well in advance. I got frustrated by the flakiness of the staff, and because my need to find housing upon my arrival was so immediate, I almost gave up on doing a homestay. Give yourself extra time to sort through the madness. Specifically, I was informed on more than one occasion that a host I had decided on was actually no longer available, and “Richiard,” whom I was in contact with, liked to present me with a list of possible hosts and strongly recommend one or two of the hosts on one day, only to come around and urge me to pick another one of the hosts the next day. There were also a few periods when he mysteriously stopped responding to my messages.The other thing is that if you start the search earlier, I think you have a higher chance of finding a host in a location that’s optimal for you.
Ah, forgot to mention something about Nami Island! When our teacher was prepping us for what we could expect to see there, she mentioned that we might see squirrels. I thought this was a joke at first, but later on I heard a crowd of people taking pictures in awe over something, and low and behold, they were crowded around a squirrel. Apparently in East Asia they only exist in zoos. Come to think of it, I remember Ecchan being surprised to see wild squirrels when she came to visit sophomore year.
Anyhoo, just though that was funny. And I’m procrastinating.