Fall

Hey guys!  How was your weekend?  I heard that it was very stormy there the past few days.  Did you all weather the storm okay?

Here, it has been really nice, and I can see why a lot of my Korean friends call fall their favorite season.  With temperatures in the low to mid 70s and quite a bit of sunshine (at least, compared to Oregon), it has been hard to stay inside and focus on anything!  So, this week I made a lot of time to get out of my dorm, enjoy the weather, and do a little sightseeing.  I ended up going to three parks to search out those beautiful changing leaves.

I first went to Olympic Park, an area where a lot of the events of the 1988 Olympics were held.  The area is now a large paark, and the buildings are frequently used as concert venues and exhibition halls.  There are also many museums spread throughout the park, as well as art exhibits located in the open field areas.  A lake is also located in the park, and is a popular place for couples to go on dates.

olympic park

While I was there, a traditional performance was being help lakeside on an outdoor stage.  Traditional songs, dances, and plays were performed, as well as a drum performance, with a lot of people around to watch.  The small children seemed to like it the most (and especially the drums) and ran to the front to dance along!

olympic park 2

Unfortunately, fall is really short here, so my timing was a little off to see the golden leaves.  I was afraid I would miss the changing of the leaves, but I think I was a little early since a lot of the trees were still really green.  However, the lake and park was still really beautiful!

olympic park 3

Then, this weekend, my cousin (who, I think I forgot to mention in my last post, is an English teacher here!) and I went to the Korean Forest Research Institute, since I had read that it is one of the most beautiful parks in the fall.  Again, the leaves were not what I expected, but the park was still really beautiful!  It was also not very crowded, which is something I have learned to love after two months in the big city.

kfri

kfri 2

We were really hungry after trekking all over the park, so we wandered down a side street nearby to look for a restaurant, and ended up finding another park full of colorful leaves!  We ate at a restaurant next to it and then headed inside.  The park was actually a burial site for a few members of the royal family of the Josen dynasty as well.

Ribbet collage

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My cousin and I were both very glad to find a place that reminded us a little of home.  We both love fall,  but it hasn’t totally felt like fall yet to either of us.

What is your favorite season?  What kind of fall activities do you enjoy?

What would you guys like to see me do next?  What are you guys learning about in class now?

I hope you guys have a fabulous week!

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Pictures: Rubber Ducky, You’re the One!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Well this week, I got to see something pretty neat: a gigantic rubber duck floating in a lake!  I had read about this duck about a week ago on a news site.  The duck was designed by a Dutch artist named Florentijn Hofman, who created the duck to “heal wounds and relieve tension wherever it goes.”  The duck was brought to Seoul to celebrate the opening of a new major shopping center near Seokchon Lake, where the duck will reside until mid-November.  A lot of my friends have pictures of themselves with the duck as their profile pictures on social media, as well a quite a few Korean celebrities, so I couldn’t help but take a selfie too!

20141019_152654 rubber ducky

A Day at Deoksugung

안녕하세요!  지넌 주말에 뭐 했어요?

(annyonghasaeyo!  Jeenan joomalae mwo haesseoyo?)

Hello!  What did you do this weekend?

As for me, my weekend was super busy!  But I kind of like it that way!  On Saturday, I met up with my cousin to go check out another palace.  We were planning on checking out a palace that has the King’s secret garden inside, as we had heard that it is very beautiful in the fall when the leaves start to change color.  Only the King and very few select people were allowed inside during his reign.  We were both really excited to check it out, but unfortunately by the time we got there, all the tickets had sold out.  So on to plan two: check out another palace nearby!

Deoksu 6

We hopped on the subway to Deoksugung, a palace used at the very end of the Josen dynasty, or around the late 1800s.  Around this time, Korea was starting to be influenced by the Western world, inviting envoys from far away countries, such as America, France, and Britain.  As such, Western style buildings began to be built next to the traditional buildings throughout the palace.  Later, during the occupation of Korea by Japan (which lasted from about 1910-1945), the palace was turned into a museum and then zoo.  Now it is restored and open to the public to view!

Deoksu 2 Deoksu

We wandered and explored the palace, and then got to watch two performances, the changing of the guards, and then a play showing what it was like when foreign envoys came to visit and report to the King.

The changing of the guards was really exciting!  It started off with about 50 actors dressed in traditional clothing marching towards the front gate of the palace.  the guards switched and the new set took their place in front of the palace.  The reminded me of the guards at Buckingham Palace, the ones who aren’t allowed to speak, move, or react to what people say or do.  Have you seen pictures of them before?

Deoksu 3 Deoksu 4

After the changing of the guards, we watched the play.  Thankfully, there were TVs displaying what was being said in English behind the actors, so we were able understand most of what was going on.  A guy about my age sat next to us, and helped explain to us what we didn’t understand.  The King greeted the envoys and then a fake banquet was held, and we were entertained by the Kings band and some women doing a traditional sword dance.  Then, the play was over and we got to take pictures with the King!

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Then we continued our trek around the Palace, exploring every nook and cranny we could fine, along with out new friend Joon.  He took pictures for us and even helped us find our way back to the correct subway station when we left.

Deoksu 5

While the Palace was awesome beyond belief, my favorite part was meeting Joon.  I realize now how scary and intimidating it can be when you’re in a foreign country and the language being spoken is not your first.  I have meet a lot of people like Joon in my time here, and it’s definitely something I will think about when I go home.  Of course, using your head and listening to your gut feelings are important when you are talking with anyone you don’t know, but a smile and a friendly greeting can go a long way in helping someone feel comfortable and welcome.

Have you guys ever stopped to help someone who looked a little lost or out of their element?  What did you think about your experience?  Would you or have you done it again?

I heard the weather is changing and getting cold there, so stay warm and don’t catch a cold!  Have a great week!

Deoksu 7

Pictures: Midterm Stress Relief

Hey guys!  I hope you had a fabulous week!  Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend?

This week, I had midterms.  Needless to say it was a lot of hard work, with a lot of late night studying, followed by 4 hours of tests for two days, or 8 hours total.  By the end, my friends and I were extremely worn out mentally, and needed a break.  So, we went to a 노래방 (noreabang), or a private karaoke room!  In Korea, there aren’t public karaoke places, so instead you go to a building and rent a room that has a tv, microphones, and a machine for the music.  The lights are adjustable so you can change them to fit the mood of your performance!  We sang a lot of songs (mostly off-key, so no video, sorry!  We have to protect our images), but my favorite song we sang was Glass of Water by B1A4.  Some of the lyrics (translated to English) are:

I’m so tired, I’ve been kicked around enough
I’m reaching my limit now, an energy drink is not enough
My head is spinning again, work is still piled up
Getting stress, but I’m letting go, I’ve had enough

I thought it was very fitting after a big test!

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And here’s a video of B1A4 performing Glass of Water!  What do you think of it?

Delicious Food!

안녕하세요 여려분! 잘 지내요?

Hello everyone!  Have you been well?

This week, I’m going to talk a little bit about Korean food.  Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll be ready to run out and try some of the delicious foods of Korea!

One of the main staples of Korean food is 김치, or kimchi, which I’m sure some of you have heard of before.  The most famous kind is made of cabbage, spices, and other miscellaneous vegetables.  Once mixed, the cabbage is placed in jars to ferment, and then sometime later (depending on the maker’s taste) the kimchi is ready for consumption.  There are many different kinds of kimchi made out of a wide variety of vegetables, including radish and cucumber, and is said to prevent cancer (of course, this hasn’t been proven by scientists).  Kimchi is so popular here that most refrigerators that are sold here come with special kimchi drawers, and every non-fast food restaurant serves it with your meal.  It’s still made the old fashioned way, where many members of an extended family gather around huge bowls and make a bunch in one afternoon.  If you walk down the alleys behind some restaurants, you can even watch little old ladies crouched down on the back doorstep mixing and tasting kimchi.  It’s really cool to see!

Left: a jar used to ferment kimchi; right: a special kimchi fridge

Left: a jar used to ferment kimchi; right: a special kimchi fridge

Almost every meal is served with a bowl of rice and a bowl of soup, as well as kimchi and other side dishes.

school food

One of my favorite on-the-go foods here is called kimbap, which is kind of like the sandwich of Korea.  It’s what mom’s make their children for lunches and it’s a very popular food to take on a picnic or road trip.  Rice and seaweed are wrapped around vegetables and sometimes meat to form a log, and then is cut into slices.  If you are a vegetarian or vegan, this is one of the best options for you to eat in Korea, since a lot of soups and dished have hidden meat products in them (such as fish stock for soups and seasoning).

kimbap

Of course, you can also find western food here as well!  I’ve found a really good burger place nearby that isn’t very expensive, and is definitely a nice treat when I’ve feeling a little homesick.  You can also get pizza pretty much anywhere, however a lot of places use ingredients that may seem a little odd to foreigners, such as sweet potato, mayonnaise, and corn.  You can find corn in pretty much any dish here, and it takes a lot of getting used to.

Left to right: Fried chicken, chicken burger, ham and cheese panini

Left to right: Fried chicken, chicken burger, ham and cheese panini

Snacks here are some of the most tasty things I have ever tried in my life!  Today, I tried a snack called egg bread, and it’s basically just cornbread with an egg cooked inside of it.  And it’s delicious!  Who would have thought something so simple could taste so yummy?  Another favorite snack of mine is called tteokbbokki, or spicy rice cakes.  Rice cakes are shaped into logs and cooked in a sweet and spicy sauce, and served hot out of small shops and tents on pretty much every street.  These shops usually sell fishcakes (fish that is blended with spices and into a paste, then dried) which are boiled and served hot right out of the water.  At these shops you can usually drink the water the fishcakes are cooked in for free, and it is the perfect treat on a cold day.

Top:Tteokkbboki, fried veggies, and fishcake soup.   Bottom: Egg bread

Top:Tteokkbboki, fried veggies, and fishcake soup.
Bottom: Egg bread

But the best part of Korean food is the desserts!  Back in Portland, one of my friends (who was there as an international student from Korea) told me “Korean girls say they have two stomachs, one strictly for dessert, and the other for everything else.”  I totally understand why.  There are a ton of goodies you can get for dessert.  In my opinion however, the best is patbingsoo!  This dessert consists of very fine shaved ice, condensed milk, sweet red beans, and rice cakes, in its most basic form.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of variations however!  A lot are served with fruits and delicious sauces on top in addition to the basics.  Some are made entirely out of chocolate (my favorite)!

patbingsoo 2

Top to bottom: -Strawberry patbingsoo -chocolate patbingsoo -Oreo patbingsoo

I hope I have inspired you all to go out and try some Korean food!  Have any of you tried it before?  Is there any dish I talked about that you want to try?

Before I go, later this term I will be interviewing a student at a middle school here who is around your age!  I will be talking to them about student life in Korea.  Is there anything you would like to know about school life/life for people your age in Korea in general?  Let me know so I can add them to my list of interview questions!

Have a great week everyone!

Pictures: Korean Folk Village

Hey guys!

I hope you’ve had a fabulous week!  Happy Friday!

Yesterday my cousin, friends, and I went to 민속촌 since we all had the day off for Hangul day!  It’s a replica of an old Korean village, and they serve traditional (kind of) food and hold special events that show off what it was like back in the day to live in Korea.  It’s also a movie and drama set!  Many Korean dramas and movies are filmed there, and all over the village are cut outs of actors and plaques talking about what happened there.  It was a really fun day!

Left to right, top to bottom: 1. A Korean carving, similar to totem poles, 2. A small building, 3. A student and teacher, 4. A newly-wed husband after a traditional wedding ceremony

Left to right, top to bottom:
1. A Korean carving, similar to totem poles,
2. A small building,
3. A student and teacher,
4. A newly-wed husband after a traditional wedding ceremony

Left to right, top to bottom: 1. Myself in a traditional hat 2. A gate to a shrine 3. A Buddha statue 4. Myself with a cut out of one of my favorite Korean actors, Kim Soo Hyun

Left to right, top to bottom:
1. Myself in a traditional hat
2. A gate to a shrine
3. A Buddha statue
4. Myself with a cut out of one of my favorite Korean actors, Kim Soo Hyun

Did you guys enjoy learning Hangul?  Was it difficult?

Here are the translations to the words:

  1. Computer
  2. T.V.
  3. Canada
  4. New York
  5. Banana

Today’s word was 민속촌.  Minsokchon, or Korean Folk Village.

Have a great weekend!

Hangul!

Hi everyone!  How was your week?

As I mentioned last Monday, this week I’m going to teach you guys the Korean alphabet, or Hangul (한글), and how to read it!  In fact, this week on the 9th is Hangul day, a celebration of the creation of the alphabet!

Hangul was created by King Sejong in the mid 1400s during the Josen Dynasty in order for the common people of the time to become literate.  Before then, Chinese was the language of Korea (and is still used on some high level documents).  Chinese was (and is!) very difficult to learn, meaning only the rich and powerful were able to spend the time and money to learn it.  King Sejong created an alphabet that was much easier to learn than the traditional Chinese characters, and, in fact, it only takes 15 minutes to learn!  I will do my best to teach you guys, but at the bottom of this post, I will leave some links in case you would like to learn more.  In addition, I will be teaching you guys a few words a week!

There are 40 letters in the Korean alphabet, 19 consonants and 21 vowels.  This may sound like a lot (especially since we’re used to only 26), however, I promise it is a lot easier than it sounds (Thanks King Sejong!).  Here is a handy dandy chart I found of all the letters:

Notice how there are two English letters listed for some of the letters?  That’s because depending on where in the word a letter is placed, it may have a different sound.  Also, in addition to being the “-ng” sound at the end of a character, when placed at the front of a character, ㅇ doesn’t have a sound.  This means you just pronounce the vowel.  Here is a playlist of videos with further explanation and examples of pronunciation:

Korean is written and read left to right (just like English!) and top to bottom.  Each character can have only one vowel and up to three consonants.  Here I have drawn a picture of how the letters can line up:

C= Consonant, V= Vowel

C= Consonant, V= Vowel

Let’s try to read some words, shall we?  These words have the similar pronunciation in English, if not exactly the same!

  1. 컴퓨터
  2. 티비
  3. 캐나다
  4. 뉴욕
  5. 바나나

Try your best to read these, and let me know what you think they are in English!  I will post the answers when I do a picture update on Friday.

If you have any questions, or if something is unclear, feel free to comment and I can help out!  I hope you have enjoyed learning Hangul.  Have a great week!

References:

http://www.zkorean.com/hangul/appearance

http://www.zkorean.com/hangul/history_of_hangul

Korean Wiki Project:

http://www.koreanwikiproject.com/wiki/Main_Page

Pictures: Banpo Bridge

Hi everyone!

This Wednesday, my friend Dong-oek took me to Banpo Bridge!   Sorry the pictures are a little blurry.  It was hard to get some good ones since it was dark!

Water jets and lights line the top of the bridge on one side, and then at night, there’s a water show set to music!  There’s a park where people sit and watch the show and usually have a picnic.  On the other side of the bridge, there’s a floating island with three buildings.  Inside there are a couple restaurants and a cafe.  The skyline is also beautiful!  You can see Seoul/Namsan tower in one of the pictures.  I’m hoping to go there once midterms are over.

Have a great weekend!  If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Banpo 1

Banpo 2