Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

^ Heejin and I in hanbok, traditional Korean garb


So what I failed to realize when I re-started this blog was that summer school involves, well, just that: school in the summer. As such, the last few days have been filled with the typical summer activities combined with excruciatingly dense schoolwork, tests, and essays (and almost no time to update this blog!). Sorry sorry; I'll try and be better about updating in the future!

^ Sang "studying" for the first exam

Getting away from my cubby hole room, I've been hanging out with a lot of the Korean students, students from Korean universities such as Ewha Woman's University (not "Womens" because they stress the individual), Seoul National, and Seoul University. Whether because the majority of these students attend school while living at home (housing is only given to freshmen, and only freshmen who live a certain distance away from the University), or because the culture is simply so vastly different from America's, these students are some of the nicest and purest students I have ever met.

^ Sleeping on the floor, Hangook style, 10 to a room on our archeological excursion to Iksan. Though we were pretty crammed into our room, the guys had it even worse and ended up spending the night in a sauna, of all places! Apparently this particular sauna that they found had a lounge area... that was then occupied by 13 guys for the night.

From my two week observation, it seems as though Koreans in general are especially EXTREMELY good at creating a fun time. No matter what we do or where we go, there's bound to be some silly game or singing element involved!

^ Playing a version of thumb war in a restuarant in Puyo

^ Don't know if you can see this, but, this is Joo Yeon while karaoking (complete with a mike and sound system) on the bus ride home from Iksan!

These kids always seem to bring a good time with them, and, I'm still shocked at how good Koreans are at singing! It seems like EVERYONE can carry a tune and belt Wonder Girls (gee gee gee gee baby baby baby).

This past weekend, we went on our first archeological excursion that involved travelling to Iksan and viewing a lot of rocks and hills. I mean, we saw other relics as well, but, the majority were torn apart pagoders (explanation later) and grassy hill tombs for kings that may or may not actually still contain kings. Also, it was pretty disappointing to know that a lot of the things we travelled to see were actually replicas and not from 300AD.

We still did get to see some cool stuff though:

^ Buddha's calificied remains from his cremation

^archeology dig

^ archeological find that looks like a gummy bear wearing a cowboy hat

^ One of many "pagoders" as our translator was prone to calling them

It's been a lot busier than I thought it would be, but, I'm enjoying my time here, and, managed to celebrate the 4th by going with friends to view fireworks while cruising down the Han River, and meeting up with some Harvard peeps later in the night.

^ fireworks behind the trump tower on the boat

Now, it's time to study for yet another exam... wish me luck!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Korea redux

Korea! After a year of Harvard Korean classes and a visit to Korea last summer (below), I'm back again for more, this time through summer school at Ewha University.

The first adventure after disembarking from the 14 hour flight (we hit wind and were nearly 2 hours late) was finding the darn campus. My driver circled and circled while I groggily peered out the window and was of no help at all until we finally arrived at our destination: Ehwa's graduate school dorms.

Our rooms are... well, let's just say that they make Dunster's accomodations look luxurious. Space wise at least.

^ But, it's clean, and has a "fun sized" balcony (my first reaction: THIS IS NOT A BALCONY, THIS IS A LEDGE WHERE PEOPLE CAN COMMIT SUICIDE!!). I'm sure I'll get used to it :)

For my first day, I've been surprisingly productive, getting internet up and running... wait, that's all I've done. No, that's not true, I guess I took three naps and re-read Twilight when I couldn't get the internet to work (it's the only book I brought for the flight--don't ask). And, I went to the bookstore (also called the COOP) and bought The Alchemist which I've heard good things about.

I'm pretty excited to get settled in, start my internship at KISTEP (an international science and technology think tank (I'll be working in the Policy and Planning division)), and begin classes with my Korean classmates!

I'm off to take another nap; till later,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ike a combination of New Zealand, Greece, and other places I haven't been

Ahh. Last week we went to visit 2 islands that turned out to be just gorgeous. One of them, Hongdo, I actually consider to be The Prettiest place I have ever visited. It was like an amalgam of all the pictures of places I desperately wanted to visit at some time: the rolling green hills seemed like something you could only see in New Zealand, while the little houses set on the hill looked like something straight out of Greece (at least, from the pictures I've seen)... the aqua water (surprisingly clear!) reminded me of some place in South America, and the jungle like forest looked like something straight out of my book on orangutans in Borneo.

This time, when I talk about "We," I mean my dad's best friend's family (the mom, dad, and two daughters aged 23 and 26). We grew up together sharing Christmases and holidays which were all recorded on home videos which we watched endlessly while I visited them. Their family ended up moving back to Korea, and, it's interesting to see how the girls I used to play with grew up so different from me, leading the life I could have lead if my parents had moved back to Korea too. I have to say, it's been so much fun hanging out with them/girls/young people again. We may have gone on extremely different paths, but, we picked up right where we left off.

On the day we left, we took a KTX train from Seoul to Mokpo, a city on the southern most tip of Korea, where we boarded a ferry for a 2.5 hour ride to Hongdo (Korean for "Red Island").
Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Almost uninhabited by people due to the designation of the majority of the island as a nature reserve, the island combined the things I love most.
After Hongdo, it was off to Hooksando (black mountain island), another island (10x larger, and with a whopping population of 4,000 people).

We chose to leave right in the middle of Olympic fever time, when all the events Koreans are good at were playing on tv. As a result, no matter where we went, Koreamania took over and people were crying, yelling, and hugging on the ferry and in restuarants. God love nationalism, even if it's not exactly my nation! If you know what event is happening at what time, you can literally tell the result by listening for the cheers or moans of agony that penetrate through the apartment walls or permeate from the streets below. Loves it!


The general reigning over his land at Mokpo.

Mokpo: the rock that was covered with white powder to give the appearance of a large pile of rice to intimidate the Japanese that were going to invade on ships. The Japanese were intimidated by the "cornucopia", and instead of attacking, fled for home.

On the ferry riding to Hongdo! I heard once that Korea is the only place in the world with overlapping mountains and weather that makes for these types of black and grey scenes... probably not true (Japan for one), but, so pretty nonetheless. The sticks are the borders of fish farms.

Arrival at Hongdo!

Hongdo: I look like a tool, but, this is the only pic I have of Hongdo's forests.

One of Hongdo's green green hills (the only one you can walk up)

A closer look at the stairs leading up the hill. I just realized that the colors seem to be off on my camera... either that or the light was really different at different times of day

The little village of Hongdo, nestled inbetween the hills.

Mini praying mantis

That pier is the one where I want to get married someday. Maybe. Probably?

View of the sunset from the restaurant where we had fish we saw swimming not 10 minutes before.

Then it started raining, but, nothing could dampen our spirits (or our backpacks) on the pier

View from our ___'s window (not a hotel... not somebody's house either... don't know what to call it!)

View from the ferry at Hooksando. That rock happens to look EXACTLY like Korea! Everyday the basic tv channels "take a break" from 4-6, but, when tv resumes at 6am, they play the national anthem with a slideshow of great images of Korea. We saw a handful of those images while at Hongdo and Hooksando, and, these rocks comprise one of them

Cloud forest at Hooksando

Ji Hae and I made a surprise birthday dinner for her mom's bday! I will miss that family tons.

It for now; leaving in 1 week, can you believe it??


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The going rate for luxury items in Korea:

-Calvin Klein bra: $100

-Victoria's Secret underwear: $50

-Seven or True Religion Jeans: $500

-Jacket from a department store: $300

-Coach purse: $600

-Starbucks Coffee: $4

-Foreign car prices: On average, 119.8% more expensive than in the USA

-Gas: Not sure, but, it takes my friend $130 to fill up her tank and she has a sedan.

-Eyelash grafts: $300 (they transplant hair follicles onto your eyelids... the problem is, they keep on growing like the hair on your head does, so, you need to trim them or be visually impaired)

-Anything Burbury: Priceless?

Thursday, August 7, 2008



Demo(nstration) Mad(cow)ness

SHOOT (pun intended), Korea's soccer team which I love is playing in the Olympics and I need to see this!! Quickly, let me get something off my chest:

I think one of the most disconcerting aspects of my stay in South Korea is the widespread negative sentiment that ebbs through the entire country, exploding into waves of protests almost daily in the streets of Seoul. Daily we drive by armored "riot buses," buses with grills on the windows and filled to the brim with Korean police officers wielding shields and clubs. In front of the subway stations are typically 4-8 of these riot police officers, ready to spring into (violent) action at the merest hint of a "Demo" (short for demonstration, or, protest).

The negativity stems from much that we, as Americans, can relate to. Distrust, and even anger towards the conservative president. A tanking economy coupled with job shortages. Crazy weather.

What I, as a product of a Western and capitalistic educational background, CANNOT relate to is the sheer numer of demos occuring, and the content of the demonstrations. I am all for social activism, and even for political dissent to keep politicians on their toes. But, demos, riot buses, 16,000 police officers clogging the streets daily? I'm having trouble understanding.

This was one of the first cases where I realized in a slap in the face realization that I come from a very different cultural background than those around me who share my skin color and blood.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak who grew up in extreme poverty to extricate himself using very "American" and non-traditional methods in Korea to become the youngest CEO of Hyundai is a very classic example of a strict economist who uses basic business principles to try and draw win win situations. Him, I get. His economic strategies, I get. I think the biggest example of his nothing short of genius political acumen and savvy business skilz is his turning a gross, swampy garbage stream that nobody wanted to live by into a scenic, pleasant river (Cheungecheon) that runs through Seoul spawning much desired riverside properties and beautifying the city during his time as Mayor. That earned Lee Myung-bak his thumbs up from Time Magazine as the "hero of the environment", and, that's about when I slowly started to give my approval to the atypical businessman from Seoul who promised Korea the 747: 7 % annual growth in GDP, $40,000 USD per capita, and a rise from 14th to 7th in world's largest economies.

But, Lee has a 17% approval rating from Koreans. And, it's declining. A huge contributing factor to this disappointing number is the pro-American, pro-trade attitude Lee holds. He made the decision to re open trade with the United States beef industries after trade was closed in 2003 after the first reported case of mad cow disease.

Well, Koreans went ballistic. And continue to demo DAILY in protest of American beef asking for Lee's resignation.

I can't claim to know anything more about the status of Mad Cow Disease in American beef than the lay person in America. But, from my meager knowledge, I don't think that it's a large, or even close to large threat. For the most part, I'm behind the self declared "CEO of Korea, Inc." Mr. Lee.

The last few days have been especially tense as President Bush himself has dropped in for a visit en route to Beijing. At night, the streets are alive with raucous protests from middle school aged students to about middle aged professionals.

The Koreans I have met are lovely, and, it really puzzles me to hear their political tirades against the President. Maybe I will meet somebody or see something that suddenly will illuminate a side to the story that I currently don't understand... I will try to keep an open mind.

For now, I really can't concentrate on writing any further; I love Korea's soccer team (as evidenced by the times my dad and I woke up at 3am to drive two hours and see the World Cup games in a Korean supermarket with 600 other fans) :) More on the riots later... with pictures next time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Extra pickles please

K, so, just had some pizza in Korea. In addition to having shrimp on the top and coming with a side order of pickles (the fried chicken came with radishes...), the crust was stuffed with YAMS.

Mmmm... so much for eating less. Once again, WORTH IT!

Full and content. And unable to fit in my jeans.

Did Miss California really ever happen? Sometimes/most times, I think I dreamt it all!