Category: norebang

Last week before October

Well, life’s clipping along at a solid pace now.  This will be my last post before the month-long insanity that is October ensues.  I’m going to be traveling every…single…weekend in October, and a few times during the week, too.  I’m already tired, just thinking about it.Anyway, I spent Saturday helping my friend Harry move across town.  That evening, we went to a dance performance called Miso II with a group of people from church.  The performance was incredible, and the company wonderful…it was very enjoyable.

The cast of Miso II

Sunday I sang again at church.  I went with a Korean named Sea-reum (Rachel) to the service.  She actually asked me if I wanted to go with her; it was really nice to spend some time with a Korean for once :).  After church we went out for lunch and, through a series of strange events, ended up in the field by the river’s edge with 2 of Anthony’s Korean students dancing the Merengue.  Such things just seem to happen in Korea, lol….

I started a Bible study within the English church.  This Wednesday was our first meeting.  We met in a cute little coffee shop near where I live; six people (including myself) showed up.  It was really nice to chill and talk about God and get to know other believers in a friendly, relaxed setting, and I’m looking forward to this addition to my schedule.

Friday night I had dance class again – this time it was East Coast Swing.  That was INSANE.  Even more so than Merengue.  You try getting over 50 giddy girls who don’t speak your language to do a rock step.  But they all had a blast – I got several hugs and lots of smiles and laughter, so I’m happy :).  Anthony helped me again, and again, I was thanking him profusely.  He’s such a good sport :).  After the dance, my teachers wanted to take us out to dinner, so the entire English department + Anthony went out to dinner.  “We will eat chicken,” my co-teacher told me.  “Lots of chicken.”  And that’s exactly what we did :).  After dinner, I was thinking that we would go home.  But no, it was time for round 2 – norebang!  All of us except Anthony went – he had somewhere else he had to go.  It was really funny seeing my outgoing and slightly inebriated co-teachers singing and dancing all over the norebang room.  So that was fun – I sang a couple of songs that I barely knew (the selection of American songs is not the largest, lol).  So after norebang, I was thinking that THEN we’d go home, right?  Wrong.  Time for round 3 – rounds of drinks at a bar!  I went along for the ride, but didn’t drink much…but my co-teachers all respect that I don’t like to drink, so they didn’t push it.  I was grateful for that.

Anyway, overall a good last week of September.  Gotta go for now – gotta finish packing for Jinju! 🙂

Phase 3

There are several stages of culture shock when  living in a foreign country for an extended period of time that are pretty generally accepted.  The first stage is the honeymoon stage, when everything is new and exciting and exotic.  After that comes withdrawal and depression, when everything is hard and overwhelming and nothing seems exciting anymore, just difficult.  All you can think of are the days when you understood everything around you and always knew what you were eating.  My honeymoon stage lasted probably all of orientation and maybe the first day or two of living in Gyeongju.  But after that, the second stage hit me hard and fast.  No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do anything right, couldn’t understand anything.  It’s been like that for four long weeks. 

But the third phase is assimilation, when you finally come to terms with the fact that you won’t be able to understand everything that’s happening around you, and that’s ok.  You’ve begun to find your own niche, regardless of the cultural differences.  I think that I’ve finally embarked on phase 3.  This has been a week of assimilation, niche-finding, and friend-making.

Over Chuseok, one of my adopted uncles had given Songi (my host sister) 50,000 won (roughly $50) to buy something for me.  So on Tuesday afternoon, Songi and her best friend took me shopping!  It was the first time that I had really hung out with Koreans outside of school or the homestay, and it was a blast.  They wouldn’t let me buy anything for them while we were shopping, so I insisted on taking them out to ice cream after.  Then we went to a norebang (Korean karaoke) – in the middle of the day!  It was kinda weird, but fun.  After that, we took sticker pictures!  Korea is famous for these – they’re like photobooths in America, except after you take the pictures you have to decorate them with stickers and cutesy designs before they are printed.  The place we went to was a tiny little hole-in-the-wall in which all of the signs weren’t even in Korean – intimidating enough – but rather, Chinese characters.  I would have never ever stepped foot in that place by myself, but it was alot of fun.

Songi singing Karaoke

Our sticker pictures!!

Thursday night was salsa night, but I didn’t go this week.  I was so tired, but I didn’t really want to stay in the house all night, so I was kind of looking for an excuse to do something other than salsa.  Well, lo and behold, I got what I wanted!  I got a message from another English teacher, Jennifer, who said that she was looking to make some more girlfriends, and would I be interested in sometime meeting up with her?  I said yes, and so we met up later that night for tea – we both got green tea lattes, yummm :).  Of course, neither of us thought to get each others’ numbers, and so we had a rather hard time finding each other at the tea shop, but we eventually figured it out – life in Korea, always an adventure!  The shop that we went to had some games in it, so we played Jenga while we talked.  We actually ran out of moves!  I’ve never seen a Jenga game come to a draw….I didn’t know what to do, lol…  But I had a really nice time.  It was good to get out of the house and spend some time with another girl.

A draw in Jenga??  How does that happen??  What do we do now?

That brings me to Friday – the big day.  So I had told my English teachers when I got here that I loved to dance.  Well, to them, that meant I would love to teach a dance class.  Oh, and just by coincidence, my principle studied danced in college.  The foreign teacher and the school principle dancing – publicity photoshoot match made in Heaven!  Oh, it gets better.  Not only did my co-teachers decide that I would teach a dance class, but they decided that it would be open to all of the students.  All 700 of them.  And their parents.  And all of the teachers.  And heck, while we’re at it, why not just invite the entire city of Gyeongju? (I’m not being facetious….they did just that)

On Thursday afternoon I had a photo shoot with my principle.  It was really awkward because, although he dances, he doesn’t speak English, so I didn’t know what kinds of dances he knew.  So I just kind of stood there and let him take a position, and then I arranged myself accordingly.  By Thursday night, our picture, accompanied with a flyer on my wonderful new dance class – was the new home page of the school website.  I’m not kidding.

Clowning around with Yeji during the photoshoot
Photoshoot with a Korean ballroom dancer?  Oh yes, I think so 🙂

Check out his shades.  My principle is awesome.
The current school home page.  Note my picture front and center….and the flyer on the right that they sent to all Gyeongju =/

So Friday evening comes around (it’s a 6:00 pm class), and I’m a nervous wreck.  I had no idea what to expect – not even a clue as to how many people would show up.  Well, I got my answer soon enough.  Forty-two students, plus about ten teachers, came to learn basic merengue.  Thursday afternoon I had sent a message to Anthony, asking if he would help me teach.  He agreed, and I am eternally indebted to him.  It was so nice to have a friendly face, a sense of solidity next to me in the craziness of the class.  And of course, all of the girls loved him :D.  At the end of the lesson, they asked us to do a demo – I really think that they believe that I’m far better than I actually am, but they enjoyed it.  After Anthony and I danced, we brought in some of the teachers and then danced with them.  The students really liked that.  It was really hard trying to teach over 50-something giggling high school girls, but it was worth it.  I had a blast :).

Me and my favorite student!  I know I’m not allowed to have favorites, but…she is.  She bought me cookies one day and always waves at me in the hallway <3 :)

A few of my English teachers hamming it up

I was leading him….he didn’t know what to do!  Lol 🙂

After dance class, Anthony and I went to get something to eat.  I had biked to school that morning, while he had taken a taxi, ergo – 2 people on a bike!  I had never done that before.  It took a while to get the hang of it, and we had a couple of spills, but we caught on pretty quickly.  I felt like such a local :D.  He took me to this tiny little Japanese restaurant in the center of downtown.  So we got some yummy food which I have no idea what it was called or what it was and just talked.  After I thanked him for the millionth time for helping me, he was like, “Lauren, you’re my sister in Christ.  Of course I’ll help you if I can.  All you have to do is ask.”  It was so comforting to know that I have someone looking out for me here :).

Friday was also one of the English teacher’s last day, so we had a cake and said goodbye to Borim.  It was really sad to see her go :(.  But she told me more than once that she really wanted to see me and hang out with me (she’ll still be in Gyeongju), so hopefully we’ll make that happen.

Saying goodbye to Borim 🙁

Oh, I also had an awesome teaching moment today!  Just before class, one of my students came up to me and started a conversation with me (which in itself is pretty rare…they’re all sooo shy to speak English).  She had written out a script beforehand, so she bumbled through it: “Teacher, I no speak good English, but I want talk more with you.  Is ok?”  She was so cute, and I appreciated her efforts so much.  Made my heart swell :).  I can’t believe how much I love teaching.  Sure it’s hard, and sometimes it’s frustrating, but I really really enjoy it.  That kind of hit me as I was sitting at the restaurant with Anthony.  I was describing to him the lesson that I had taught this week – it was about definite and indefinite articles (a/an/the).  These words don’t really exist in the Korean language, so Korean students have a lot of problems using them properly.  I told Anthony my topic, and he immediately asked me, “Wow, how did you make an interesting lesson out of that??”  A fair enough question, lol.  And so I started telling him….about the story that I introduced it with, and the schoolhouse rock song that we listened to, and the worksheet that we went through to check for understanding, and then the game at the end that everyone loved.  It’s true, articles is a pretty boring topic.  But it was one of my best lessons.  I think that was when I realized how much I love my job.

Well, the day’s a-wasting, time to get moving!  Sending my love as always!! 

Seoul and DMZ weekend

The capital city of Seoul is a bustling metropolis of super-sized proportions.  The city, which over 10 million people call home, seems to extend forever.  It is exciting and overwhelming, diverse and homogenous, fancy and cheap, all at the same time.  My time in Seoul this past weekend did not disappoint in any of those categories.  But I suppose I am getting ahead of myself…

We left Goesan for Seoul bright and early Friday morning, around 5:00 am in the morning.  On our way to Seoul, however, we made a detour – to the DMZ.  I’ve always thought that the DMZ  – which stands for Demilitarized Zone – is an ironic name for possibly the most militarized place in the entire modern world.  As a part of our orientation, we were allowed to go as far into the DMZ as the actual border between North and South Korea.  And let me tell you what, it was sooo tense.  There were so many rules about how we should behave, gesture, or dress, or even where we should look.  We were checked by South Korean soldiers for identification on more than one occasion.  We had a security escort for the entire duration of the tour.

The thought that these two countries at war, these two mortal enemies, the thought that they were brothers and families at one point, and in many cases still are…..it broke my heart.  War is always bad, but when it’s between families, it’s even worse.  I realize that visiting the DMZ is a privilege that very few people have been afforded, but I have to admit that I was glad to leave it at the end of the tour.

After the DMZ, we went to eat dinner with the American ambassador to South Korea, in her personal home.  At first it was supposed to be an outside pool party, but it got rained out, so it was moved inside.  Because it was moved into her home, that also meant that it was shortened, which meant that by the time we got there we only had about an hour to mingle and eat dinner.  It was a bit rushed, but I still got to eat a yummy legitimate American barbecue and talk with some really interesting embassy officials, including the ambassador.  Plus apparently her home is really famous, and it’s a very big honor to be allowed inside it, so that was cool.

After dinner, despite our super early morning, some of my friends wanted to go out that evening.  You’ve got to make the most of your time, right? 🙂  So we went out for ice cream, and then went to a 노레방 (norebang; basically a Korean karaoke) – it was my first time!!  It was so much fun.  At one point I looked around and thought to myself, “look how much fun you can have if you’re not drinking!”  It made me happy to think that we were having a ball, and not a drop of alcohol was involved.

Saturday, bright and early, I went out with a group of friends for breakfast in the morning.  After that, they went shopping at Costco (ahh, the pull of American stores in foreign countries, lol), and I made my way to the War Museum.  Technically it’s a museum on all of the wars in Korea’s history; but in reality, it’s about the Korean War.  Two floors of the three-floor museum are devoted to that war alone.  It was pretty incredible.  Considering the subject of the museum, I cannot really in good conscious say that I actually liked my visit; it was, however, very moving.  To see the sacrifice, the heroism that those men displayed – both Korean and foreign – made me realize just how detached I was from the Korean War, and how little of it I really about.  It was very eye-opening and sobering.  I think my favorite part of the museum, however,, was when I was standing in the room with busts of famous and gallant Korean soldiers.  I had stopped at a particular statue, and was reading in awe about an officer who had post-humulously been awarded the highest honor in Korea after he had thrown his body over a live grenade in order to protect his men.  An elderly Korean man came up behind me and tapped my shoulder.  In broken English, he managed to tell me that the very man whom I had just been so admiring – that man had been his captain before his death.  It was very  moving, to say the least.  And then he let me take his picture with the statue, which just made it even cooler.  
Entrance to the War Museum
Flowers decorating the bases of the plaques containing the names of the Koreans who died in the Korean War – hundreds and thousands of names.  It was very moving.

Korean soldier and his fallen captain
I had to rush out of the museum early because I had made plans to meet with some friends to go to the big shopping district in Seoul later that might.  None of us, however, are very big shoppers, so we didn’t stay very long.  We got some food, got lost a few times, I bought a pair of dress shoes because my friend informed me that the ones I was going to wear were simply not acceptable, and then we made our way back to the hotel on the subway.  I spent a lot of time on the subway this weekend 🙂

Sunday, our last day of freedom, dawned humid and rainy.  But we decided to go on an adventure anyway, and we made our way to Seoul tower, a huge tourist attraction that overlooks the entire city.  I had heard that you could get to the tower by cable car, so I looked up directions online on how to get to the cable car pick-up point.  However, because I didn’t have access to a printer, I had to simply take a picture of my computer screen with the instructions on it.  I’m sure we must have looked a sight – 5 foreigners, huddled around a little camera, trying to find their way through the backstreets of Seoul :).  But find it we did, and the ride to the top of the mountain was exciting, albeit gray and foggy.  Once we got to the top of the mountain, we decided not to pay for the ticket to the top of the tower because of the weather.  The view wouldn’t have been good, anyway.

At the base of Seoul tower
Sarah and Leora got their portraits done 🙂

But we certainly didn’t do nothing!  Instead of going to the top of the tower, we decided to go to the…..Teddy Bear Museum!!  It’s a museum about the history of South Korea, but all of the people are illustrated with teddy bears!  It was really cute, I enjoyed it alot :).

One of my favorite pictures at the Teddy bear museum.  It reminds me of what Hope was doing on our walls while we were remodeling our kitchen 🙂

After the Teddy Bear Museum, I went out with a few others to eat at, and I quote, “the best noodle restaurant…ever.”  I must say, I think that was a pretty accurate quote.  I was in absolute heaven.  I have no idea what I ate, but whatever it was, it was incredible.

One plate of heavenly goodness, coming right up!!

After noodles, I went to the English service at Onnuri church.  One of our orientation coordinators goes to that church, and so he took us with him.  It was amazing.  I have immensely enjoyed the Bible studies I have been a part of during orientation, but being in a large worship service is something that I had still been sorely missing.  The message was challenging and very timely applicable to the new life that I am about to start.  I was so glad I went.  Worshiping the Lord with a body of other believers refreshes my soul like nothing else can.

The inside of Onnuri church

I was pretty tired after all of that, but in the evening some of my friends wanted to go to Insadong, the arts district, to get some rice cakes and other desserts.  After much hesitation, I decided to go with them.  I was super tired, but hey, you only live once, right? 🙂  It was alot of fun, I’m really glad I went.  It was really nice to be able to spend one last night out with the people who have become so dear to me before we all leave for our placements.

Green tea patbingsu….yummmm 🙂

I love my friends 🙂

Monday had quite a different flavor to it.  Monday was my official graduation from Korea University – that was the school with which my orientation Korean class were affiliated.  It was a huge event.  All of our teachers were there, as well as all of the Fulbright office staff and, of course, all of the ETAs.  There were speeches, awards, and honors given.  Each class performed some kind of final presentation – some did skits, some did movies, some did K-pop dances, some did speeches, all were very good.  And after that….that was it!  We said goodbye to our teachers and left.  It was a very sad parting – certainly more than just a few tears were shed.

My whole class with our teachers after graduation

Well, that’s all of my adventures in Seoul this past weekend!  Adventures in Gyeongju will be following shortly!!