PSY’s Concert at CAURIVAL

Last night was CAURIVAL: CAU’s anniversary festival. It was held at the Anseong campus, not the Seoul one, so we had to take a bus that the International Office organized for the exchange students.

Setting up for the PSY concert.. The beer gardens were slightly off to the left.

Once we got there, there were a bunch of food tents which various student groups were running. I still can’t get over the party culture here, it’s so awesome. The fact that they had countless giant tubs of alcohol that they were selling on campus was totally different than what would happen in Canada. And this isn’t too unusual; many school groups at the Seoul campus do the same thing (sell liquor on campus to fundraise) and it’s totally normal. They were also cooking, another thing that would require hours of bureaucracy, asking permission, and signing forms, at least at VIU.

You know, somebody could choke on a wayward chunk of french fries and die, or have one too many drinks and jump off a cliff and kill themselves, so yes, it’s too dangerous. Also, the students’ cheap sale of food and drinks might detract away from the overpriced, chemically-laden non-perishable matter that the cafeteria administration calls “food”, thus lowering profits for the university, and we couldn’t let THAT happen, now could we? <– VIU/Canadian logic. Quite sad.

Okay, rant over! Let’s get back to the CAUrival…

Drinking games! Soju for everyone.

Almost everyone’s eyes were closed at this point… still so early, too! Only 7:30pm or so.

I only had a couple drinks, because I wanted to be sober enough to remember the PSY concert!

WOOHOOO! PSY! Our friend Sam, an exchange student from California, took a bunch of these photos. The ones I took with my iPhone were so crappy, so I thought I would use his. They’re great.

What a guy!

OPPA GANGNAM STYLE!

Watch the video of him performing at the school below (I didn’t film it)… I’m about 8 or 9 rows back, dead centre from the stage, and maybe a little to the left. It was a warzone!!! Luckily I could see over everyone’s heads hehe.

The place was just packed! We had an awesome time, although my feet got really trampled during the PSY concert 😦 Well worth seeing him, though! Plus it was FREE.

It was another late night getting back to the dorms, (we made it back a mere 10 minutes before the 2:00am curfew) but wow! So much fun.

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♪ Let’s go to the movies ♪

On Sunday, a bunch of the exchange students went to the i-Park movie theatre at Yongsan Station, a 5 or 10 minute bus ride away from CAU.

We went with one of the CAU Global Ambassadors, Ha-Young, as she’d posted about the film in our international student facebook group. Apparently, a friend of hers had seen it and said it was a good movie for foreigners to watch.

So, off we went!

This was the interior of the cinema. I think buying movie tickets is far more efficient in Korea than in Canada. Most people buy them online, but you can also purchase them on-site at the theatre. No matter how you buy them though, you’re actually required to reserve a seat, just like buying tickets for a concert. You can view which seats are left. Sadly for us, our group of 10 people had to split up – two together, four together, and four individually scattered about. I guess most people don’t really care about the assigned seating though, as about six of us were able to sit next to each other without any trouble from anyone.

There was this giant smartboard thing on the opposite end of the hall from the cashiers. You could take a photo of yourself, edit it, and post it on the board. It was pretty cool!

The guys touching each others’ faces up – beautiful.

…Then watching the photo float away among the other ones people had taken.

After that, we made our way to the theatre to watch the movie.

The name of the movie was “Masquerade”; it was basically the storyline of “the Prince and the Pauper” set in Korea’s Chosun dynasty.

Basically, the King (a grumpy and somewhat tyrannical character) hears rumours of treason, and thus trusts his right-hand man with finding a double for him, so he can pretend to be the King at night (in case someone tries to assassinate the King in his sleep). After the King falls ill for some time, the double – a commoner who impersonates the King to make a living – is given the task of standing in for the King during important tasks, such as during legislative meetings. The only two people who know about this “masquerade” are the King’s right-hand man, and an elderly man, who I understood as being the King’s head servant or something. Many things, ranging from the “King’s” new benevolent way of ruling, combined with some unusual mannerisms, start causing the court members ask questions…

The Queen, the “King”, and the right-hand guy.

I really liked the actor who played the King. I’m not sure if it’s just his role or if he’s like that in real life, but he seemed very warm and kind. It could just have been some of the side effects of my “yellow fever” which has been slowly developing here (lol)! But no matter what the nationality, you’ve gotta admit, that’s one heck of a smile 🙂

That’s him, Lee Byung-Hun (the actor) out of character. Dat smile…

ANYWAYS…

This was the Queen; I loved her costumes so much. I love seeing Korean traditional dress now, I think normally in the West we are just accustomed to seeing Japanese kimono or Chinese cheongsam, while the Korean hanbok gets too easily overlooked. I will note that her bun is fake (I think most are in traditional Korean dress?); there was a scene at the beginning of the film with her handmaidens pinning it on her head with the pretty stick thing. I kind of liked that, seeing as I wear fake hair too 😛

This character’s name was Sa-Wol. She was probably my favourite person in the film. Basically, she’s sold to a nobleman  in order to pay off some family debts. Her father was a farmer, but after a bad season, combined with some heavy taxes (which were subsidizing the ancient Korean nobility’s extravagant lifestyles… sound familiar?) he had no choice but to take out a loan so the family wouldn’t starve. The interest kept adding up though, and eventually, he was thrown in jail for not being able to pay it off, and died from the torture the guards forced on him. To pay off his remaining debts, Sa-Wol and her mother were sold separately as servants. Sa-Wol was sold to a corrupt nobleman, who took her virginity (despite her being only a child) and treated her horribly. She was sold from there to the “King”, as a kitchen assitant. In the scene where she tells this story to him, after he asks about her background, I definitely shed a few tears! She was an incredible actress.. Sadly, her character ends up taking her own life in an effort to save the “King”, as she had been previously burdened with the task of being the royal food taster. Even though she’d been payed off to slip the poison into his food, she put it all into hers, and in doing so, saved his life. The King was distraught, as he’d promised Sa-Wol he’d find her mother for her, after hearing her tragic story of her family’s separation.

Overall, it was a great movie.

You can watch the trailer (with English subtitles) here: 

North Korean Human Rights International Film Festival

This past Friday, I attended the North Korean Human Rights International Film Festival.

The festival took place in the Edae area of Seoul (near Ewha Women’s University; very famous throughout Seoul). The venue was quite small and intimate, and it took a 40-minute ride on the subway plus a 5-10 minute bus ride from my school to get to.

Only arriving a couple minutes late, I was quickly ushered into the theatre as the opening credits were ending.

(I’ve tried to summarize the film as best I can below, but it might be a little “TL;DR” <– “too long; didn’t read” for some people. In that case, I’d recommend watching the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6Y0VAtZ-1M)

 

The first film I watched was called “Engaged” (약혼). It started off with a North Korean woman and her younger sister attempting to cross the Tumen River into China. The main character makes it, but her younger sister is captured by the NK guards. Like so many North Korean women who defect into China in search of a better life, the woman finds her only option for making an income is through the sex trade. She joins a brothel and is subjected to horrible treatment by the Johns. Each day is an intense struggle as she battles nightmares about her sister (whose whereabouts are unknown to her) and lives in constant fear of being discovered by any North Korean spies who would deport her back to the DPRK.

One day, two men in suits show up at the brothel. They are well-groomed and speak with a different Korean accent – they are South Korean governmental agents who are interested in the woman’s past as an elite North Korean spy. In exchange for her testimony of defecting, as well as her providing some intel on the North Koreans, they offer to reunite her with her sister, who they’ve found to be living in a North Korean concentration camp (as punishment for trying to escape). As if this wasn’t good enough news, the South Koreans also offer to resettle her in Seoul, providing her with a new identity, financial & employment support, bodyguards, and a free place to live. The woman bursts out in tears – this level of kindness is overwhelming to her. She gladly agrees to go on film and tell her story…

… The next evening, she is thrilled to find her sister waiting for her outside her room with the South Koreans. The agents say they must make haste; they’ve heard rumours of some of the North Korean spies catching on to their mission in there in China. They ask the two women to put on blindfolds as they enter a car, to protect their identities, and say that they will drive to a safe house immediately before continuing onto Seoul.

The next morning, the woman wakes up to see her sister lying next to her; she smiles and remembers – she is finally safe. She glances around the room, and all of the sudden lets out a blood-curdling scream – on the wall are two portraits… one of Kim Jong-il, and one of Kim Il-sung. She’d been conned. The South Koreans were actually North Korean spies, who now had her entire confession on tape. They were in North Korea now.

The agents drag her sister away, who wails “sister, sister!” between tears. Sobbing, the woman is taken away to a torture room, where she is forced to perform blood-curtling acts upon herself in order to prove her loyalty to North Korea. She succeeds, and is “rewarded” with the task of resuming her role as a North Korean spy. The guards said that they would show her family the film footage of her being beaten and raped, then brutally murder them, if she did not agree to resume her post. Her mission? Kill off the South Koreans found to be aiding North Korean refugees in China. Emotionless, she complies. 

Eventually, she successfully defects to South Korea, where she becomes something of a celebrity. When she isn’t battling off instances of PTSD, she is trying to fight off reporters who want to hear her story. She becomes engaged to a compassionate South Korean man, and together they try to work through her pain and raise awareness about the human rights atrocities the North is continuing to commit. 

The film was incredibly moving and really made an impression on me. The (fictional) movie was commissioned by an NGO here in the South, and it is based on the horrible truth of what many NK refugees risk when they defect to China.

Upon leaving the theatre, I was approached by a man with a camera who was going around the room asking for peoples’ opinions on the film. I agreed to tell him what I thought of it; he thanked be afterwards and mentioned he was the director. I thought it was so cool that he was there, and knew I needed to get a photo with him for my blog. He’s not famous in Korea, but I still thought it was really neat that he was there and interacting with the people who’d just seen his film.

A still from “Engaged” (the woman and her fiancée)

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Suwon Folk Village and Hwaseong Fortress

 

 

 

This past Saturday, the International Office organized a trip for the exchange students to the Suwon Folk Village…

It started off with a traditional musical performance. I should mention that Korean traditional music is not the best hangover cure, as it is very, VERY loud.

The night prior, it was Damien (a Polish exchange student)’s birthday, so in true CAU International Student style, we had to throw a party for him on the famous Chung-ang steps! Cheap liquor and snacks were abound, and at midnight, we all did a celebratory shot of Polish vodka. Afterwards, I had the munchies reeeeeeal bad, so I went with a few friends to my favourite restaurant (so far) by the university, Chandokdae. Serving up cheap jeon and makkeoli, this restaurant is always jam-packed with CAU students.

We finished off the night by walking up this giant hill that our Korean friend, Seong, showed us. What a view. Seriously, the photos don’t do it any justice…

 

 

Johannes (from Austria) on my left, Seong (Korean, studied abroad in Aus and Canada) on my right. Our friend Julien from France took the photo.

Again, I stress that the photo does the view zero justice.

An amazing way to end the night. Wait, no. It ended with Egg McMuffins at the campus McDonald’s at 4:30am, with still a half hour to kill before the dorms would let us in – a mere 3.5 hours before we were supposed to be on the bus to the Folk Village. Yeah, not the finest of moves 😛

So aaaaannyyywayyyys, back to the Folk Village!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This guy spun some tops. Hurray!

 

 

 

 

Impressive act by the acrobats.

A tightrope walker (about 60 years old I’d say??)

 

 

 

 

Some equestrian performers, all seemed quite young.

Oh yeah, we were told there would be a traditional Korean wedding ceremony held somewhere in the village. Only thing was, we all just assumed it was going to be staged 😛 After a few of us noticed several people dressed to the nines (in modern clothes), and a registry for the bride and groom, we concluded that no – this was a real wedding!

If you look in the left background, you can see the bride. The groom is the one in white/bowing, I think. The parents of the couple are sitting in the right-hand background, the mothers in traditional Korean dress (“hanbok”).

Yeah, it was definitely a real wedding.

These guys thought it would be a good idea to start drinking around 10:00am. At the Korean Folk Village. After getting about an hour of sleep the night prior (and in full knowledge that we were going out later that night), the beers kept on coming. And yes, they were bought on-site 😛 Korea is a wonderful country.

I should mention that I was still recovering from a horrible hangover at this point, so despite everyone’s insisting that more beer is the best cure for a bad hangover, I decided to stay sober during the daylight and wait until the club to drink 😛

This was our tour guide, a Catholic deacon who was the descendent of a Korean saint. The man was hilarious. His English was fantastic, and really made the tour interesting for our group!

I felt oddly maternalistic the whole time we were at the Folk Village. There’s something about Asian babies/kids that is just so god-damn cute. As someone who has very little tolerance for children, I was really scaring myself. Me, wanting to go run and play with the kids?? IMPOSSIBLE! But then, without mentioning this phenomenon to anyone, I overheard a few other exchange students (most of them guys, actually) squealing with glee each time a cute little kid walked past. “They’re just SOOO CUUUUUUUUTE!” – their words, not mine! But don’t worry, no babies (Asian or not!) for a VERY, very, verrrrrrrrrrrrrrry long time.

Come on though, isn’t she a sweetie?!

These kids were jumping rope.

 

 

Hwaseong Fortress…

Later we visited Hwaseong Fortress, before stopping to get Korean BBQ.

Nearly everyone by this point was drunk out of their minds.

What, you didn’t believe me?

Each person from a different country!

The wall surrounding the Fortress

 

CAU represent!

 

The most impressive structure in the Fortress.

 

All in all, a tiring (but good!) day, with a crazy night at NB (a club in Gangnam) to follow…

Be warned, if you’re getting email updates to my blog, I will be posting several more separate entries, so your inbox is about to get clogged 😛

Anyways, I need to get to bed. I’ve got Korean language at 9:00am tomorrow (it’s 2:30am) and then PSSYYYY!!!! Can’t wait to get my Gangnam Style on! 🙂

My Saturday at the Hongdae Freemarket

Last Saturday, I visited the Hongdae Freemarket, a market run by art students from the nearby Hongik University.

The name “freemarket” doesn’t imply that everything is free, nor is it Konglish (Korean-English) for “flea market”. Instead, the word is supposed to imply some sort of free spirit that art brings.

Hongdae is an area of Seoul named after Hongik University. It is probably the most vibrant “college town” of Seoul (there are 37 universities in Seoul, and I go to one of the ones in the top 10, hehe). By day, there are many artists and performers to be seen, as well as many clothing boutiques priced for student budgets. By night, the whole area comes alive with bars, clubs, restaurants, and 24-hour clothing & cosmetic shops.

I’d been wanting to visit the Freemarket since I arrived in Seoul, however, it always appeared that each Saturday morning/afternoon was spent recovering from the night prior’s activities 🙂 So, with my camera in my purse and no hangover to be seen, I made my way from Heukseok (my neighbourhood of Seoul) to Hongdae…

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about travelling alone is that you have the freedom to be a little more spontaneous. So after getting off the subway at the Hongik University stop, I decided to check out the Freemarket a little later as I browsed some of the shops and street food vendors.

I’d been wanting to try one of these little egg tart things since I saw them on the Seoul, Korea facebook page. It was good, but sure enough, after taking one bite I dropped it on the ground 😛 I felt sort of embarrassed going back to the vendor and miming out what happened before asking to buy another one, but he laughed and understood. For only about 75¢, it wasn’t too much of a waste. The bread thing kind of tasted like brioche; thick and sweet. I’m not a huge fan of yolks (the texture just kind of throws me off), but I ate around it and it was still good.

At this point, I saw a Seoul Tourism kiosk, so I asked them how I could find the Freemarket and the pointed me in the right direction.

This little guy was at the entrance of the park where the market was being held, how cute! In a sort of weird, wacky, artistic way..

There were lots of people, both Koreans and “weigookans” (foreigners), there on that sunny Saturday afternoon to browse the market stalls.

Students were selling everything from paintings, to mixed-media art pieces, to sculptures, to dolls, to photography, and everything in between. I refrained from taking too many up-close photos of the stalls themselves, as I didn’t want to make the artists uncomfortable (in case they thought I wanted to duplicate any of their works).

There was also a stage where you could go watch some of the students perform. These girls did a really good job. I have a video of them singing at this link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TEaKIg7J1c

I think these students were leading an art workshop, but not too many people were signing up. I would’ve done it, except I  was worried that my Korean skills wouldn’t have been good enough to understand them 😛

It looked like this lady was selling some ball caps she’d decorated.

Some more stalls; I think these ones were selling jewelry and stationary.

The art market takes place in Hongdae park, where the (in)famous Hongdae playground is. During the day, little kids play on it. During the night, drunken students convene there, often waiting to meet friends there before hitting up the bar.

The portrait artists’ stalls were easily the most popular. People were lining up left, right and centre to have their portrait done, with many artists creating waitlists. Each artist had their own individual style; some were manwah (Korean version of animé/manga), some were more photorealistic, others were more cartoony, like mine.

At the time I visited the artist’s stall where I had my portrait done, he wasn’t all that busy. But I saw one of the drawings he’d done and really liked it, so I chose to get mine done by him.

It was about a 30-minute wait to have mine done, and more and more people started lining up after me, so I must’ve gotten there at the right time! It was easy to kill 30 minutes at the market anyways, too. The artist’s name was Darren K; he’d spent some time in Edmonton so we talked a bit about that. He was really nice. Here’s a link to his blog, where you can see some of his other illustrations: http://blog.naver.com/ltdco

 

      

 

Those are the drawings (images are taken from his blog) that caught my eye.

Overall, I had a really nice time at the Freemarket. I’ll probably go back, but there are several other weekend freemarkets in Seoul (not ones run by art students; they are similar to the Western flea market) that I want to visit and I think they may end with the cold weather approaching.

The Freemarket’s official website is in Korean-only, but if you want to read more about it you can visit the KTO’s link on it here: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=1004029

Why I Decided to Start Eating Meat

After a long, well-thought process, I have decided to abandon my vegetarian diet and return to eating meat.

A lot of people have asked me why I decided to become a vegetarian in the first place. The answer is a little bit long-winded but I’ll do my best to condense it. First, I should clarify that I was never entirely vegetarian, as I always included fish/seafood in my diet (technically this is referred to as a “pescetarian” diet). Many “real” veggies get offended at the improper use of the term vegetarian (“Fish have faces too!!”) so I always like to clarify that 🙂

Anyways, I digress. The reason I initially thought to give up meat was due to religious purposes.  In the Catholic and Orthodox tradition, it is customary to fast for 40 days prior to Easter as a reminder of Jesus’ time spent in the desert, resisting the Devil’s various temptation. The respective faiths have different customs regarding this period (known as Lent), but in the Catholic church one usually “offers up” an act that they enjoy in remembrance of that. One year, I decided to give up red meat as a Lenten sacrifice. Even after the fasting period was finished, I realized that I didn’t actually mind cutting the red meat out of my diet, so I stuck with it. Eventually, I stopped eating chicken too. This was either in 2006 or 2007, but I honestly can’t remember. Even now, despite the fact that I have not been practising Catholicism for several years, the religious tradition has had a large impact on my life.

So why did I continue with abstaining from meat even after Lent? Well, there were a number of reasons: environmental, moral, health-based, etc.

While initially, my new diet replaced meat largely with refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereals, etc) and dairy products (cheese, butter, milk, etc) I eventually learned to eat healthier. My exchange trip to France from January-June of 2009 taught me how to be less picky, and so not long after that, I began eating more fish, eggs, nuts, whole grains, and fruits and veggies. And man, it felt good. Working at a popular Vietnamese restaurant also opened up my pallet to trying new things, like my favourite lemongrass prawn stir-fry with bell peppers and ginger.

I also began to learn about how environmentally-unsustainable it was to be eating meat, at least in my corner of the world. This point could be interpreted differently depending on one’s lifestyle I suppose, but seeing as I wasn’t living “off the grid” on a farm in the Cowichan Valley, a carnivore diet would have had some very negative environmental impacts. This article explains the whole notion of “environmental vegetarianism” quite well: http://www.downtoearth.org/environment/top-10-reasons

The most popular reason to be vegetarian – at least from what I’ve observed – is because of a desire to want to protect animal rights. Yes, I am an animal lover, but I feel somewhat hypocritical of citing this as a reason for my pescetarianism as some of my favourite foods are made with eggs and fish (ex: sushi, omelettes, salmon, breakfast wraps, etc). Even free-run chickens can have pretty crappy lives, seeing as the regulations for them being advertised as “free-run” are shaky at best (http://veg.ca/content/view/272/101/). Fish-farming can also be inhumane as well. So, while I love animals dearly, I can’t say I love them all that much without sounding like a hypocrite.

SO, why did I start eating meat, as the title suggests?

Well, since arriving in Seoul, I have felt very fatigued and unmotivated. And no, these feelings continued even after the jet lag. I attribute this to the lack of protein in my diet, as since I’ve been living in the dorms, I’ve had no access to cooking facilities – just a microwave.

Thus, I have been at the cafeteria ladies’ mercy in terms of meat-free options in my diet. So far, it’s just been rice, kimchi, and soup. While I do indeed enjoy eating all of these things, as well as having no problem with eating the same thing in repetition, my health was beginning to take a hit. And while I would try to microwave some meat-free things (kind of like TV dinners) from the dorm’s convenience store, they were usually laden with cream and salt – not the best things to be constantly eating. So yes, my diet was leaving me feeling either hungry and unsatisfied, or bloated and fatigued (from all the salt and cream).

There are many places to eat off-campus, but I need to be budgeting and not constantly eating out. We had to pay 350,000 won (roughly $300 CAD) automatically for the cafeteria card, which gives us roughly one meal per day during the semester, depending how you budget it. So, it makes no sense to constantly be eating out anyways if you’re still going to be paying for the food. Plus, the cafeteria food is quite cheap, costing only 2,300W (about $2) per meal, while eating out could cost between $3-$5 (cheap, fast food; no booze) to $7-$10 (sit-down meal, no booze) to $15-$20+ (food + booze).

Finally, I realized that the social consequences of being meat-free were really starting to get to me. Now, I don’t mean that people were “peer pressuring” me by any means. However, I realized that all the exchange students love eating at Korean BBQ places, which require the bill to be split evenly between all the people at the table, regardless of what you personally have eaten. As well, basically all dishes at Korean BBQ restaurants (and many Korean restaurants in general) are meant to be eaten communally. Namely the meat, which is grilled in a BBQ in the centre of the table, but also the side dishes: spicy tofu stew (which often has meat in it), Korean seafood pancakes (called “pajeon”), etc. So, I’d order one of those things, but the portion would actually be meant to feed 4+ people, and I felt bad making everyone else at the table pay for it even if they didn’t eat any. I also felt bad wasting the giant cauldron of spicy stew or platter-sized portion of pajeon. Many bars (called “Hofs”) require you to order fried chicken in order to offset the stupid-cheap cost of buying beer kegs there, so yes, same situation. I’d pay for the meat, but wouldn’t eat any 😛 What a waste.

Here’s a good video showing what a typical Korean BBQ place is like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hxd-H9IFZ0U. The video is by Simon and Martina, a Canadian couple teaching English in Seoul who have actually become minor celebrities here in Korea and online. They ramble a lot but the video is still good.

The social alternative? Some more vigilant vegetarians might argue that I could simply become a hermit; spend all my time in the dorms and never eat out – or, eat out with people, but strongly suggest eating at “veggie-friendly” places only. And since I don’t want to be a loner, nor a giant pain in the f**cking ass, eating meat would appear to be my only option.

So, how’s that whole carnivore thing working out for you?

Actually, it hasn’t been all that bad. It’s not like I’m eating meat three times a day, and I have been easing my way into it so to prevent any possible “yuckiness” with my digestive system (apparently that can happen after 6-7 years of not eating meat). So far, so good though. I had Korean BBQ pork for the first time last night, and it was pretty great. Not gonna lie though, the texture was so strange at first!! I mean, it was very “meaty”, but I hadn’t had meat in a long time so it felt very odd indeed. Haven’t had beef or chicken yet, though, but I’m sure it won’t be long. Also been enjoying the Egg McMuffin with ham or bacon on it, yum yum.

I do still feel slightly guilty/like a failure, though, but I’m not sure why. What I keep telling myself is that this diet is only temporary; I can return to eating fish and so forth when I return to Canada. Maybe in the meantime I’ll figure out a healthy way of being a vegetarian here, but for now, I’m making the best of the situation. Pass the pork, please!

First Week of School!

This week was my first week at CAU.

Where to start! All of my classes have been going very well. Sunday night, I met my roommate. She’s a Korean girl named Minjy in her fourth year at CAU, and is majoring in Business. We have been getting along really well 🙂 I’m so happy I got a roommate that I really click with.

Monday morning, I went to my first class, Promotion Management. Although I’m majoring in Global Studies, I thought it would be still useful to take the odd business course, as many of the skills are still very transferable, especially in the public/governmental sector. It turns out Minjy is also in that class with me, which is really cool.

After Promo MGMT, I had Theory of Visual Communication. Basically, the point of that class is to learn how to effectively communicate with visuals, and to learn why visual communication is often more effective than verbal in terms of making a message “stick”. I took it because I’m interested in graphic design, but it’s not very useful for my degree so I may drop it (as I’m already enrolled in four courses, plus two grad school courses).

That night, we went out and drank.

Tuesday I had Project Management, the class I had most been looking forward to! I was a little worried upon arriving though, as I was the only person in the classroom and I was only five minutes early. I double-checked the schedule for the room outside the door, and it turned out I was in the right place. Finally, another exchange student I knew walked in, and we both became worried. Someone earlier had told me they wanted to register in the course, but the online system said it was full… What was going on?? Finally, one more exchange student showed up and we were all feeling pretty confused.. At this point, it was 10 minutes after class was supposed to start. At 15 minutes past, the prof walked in, apologizing for his lateness. According to him, no Korean students enrolled in the course; there were only four students total and all were international students.

The prof had a really interesting background as he’d worked for the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and a variety of other international firms around the world. His English was quite good too, and the lesson was very easy to follow. I think this will be my favourite class this semester!

That night, we went out and drank. And had Korean BBQ. I, the vegetarian still struggling with the communal meat-eating concept here in Korea, ordered a pajeon (fried Korean pancake) to eat/share. Of course, lots of beer and soju to wash it down.

Wednesday morning I had my “Korean Language Placement Test” along with all the other international students. It basically consisted of a personal interview-type portion at the beginning (“Why did you come to Korea?”, “Why do you think learning Korean will be useful?”, etc) followed by some grammar questions afterwards. For those of us who can’t read Hangul (Korean characters), we just had to leave it blank!

Later that night, one of the Korean “Global Ambassadors” (CAU domestic students who’d applied to help out exchange students throughout the semester) had her birthday party on the steps by the Dragon Pond at CAU. Now, public drinking is 100% legal in Korea, and one can easily buy cheap beers and soju (Korean hard liquor) at one of the many convenience stores scattered around the streets. It was a lot of fun!

Thursday/yesterday, I had International Relations of Northeast Asia. It was a cool class, but I was one of the unlucky students who got selected randomly to make an individual presentation the following week on a specific IR concept. I chose Collectivism, falsely mistaking it for another theory I thought I knew 100%. Thankfully, I found some good resources online so it won’t be a big deal.

Later Thursday, a bunch of the international students went to a baseball game in downtown Seoul; next to the Olympic stadium. Doosan, the corporation that sponsors our school, had their baseball team playing that night, and were generous enough to offer all the exchange students a free ticket to the game. It was a lot of fun! The highlight of the night was definitely the “fat contest”, where staff ran out into the audience and selected a few lucky “large” men, got them to each stand on a scale in front of everyone, and awarded the fattest with a case of beer. There was also a contest where they took to women, gave them a can of beer with a straw, and gave the fastest drinker – you guessed it – a case of beer. Of course, there was also the Kiss Cam that usually frequents sports games in North America. Apparently baseball games are pretty cheap here (tickets being only around $15) so a bunch of us will probably go back at some point.

 

 

And today, I had my “Politics, History, and Culture of Pacific Asia” course. The prof was nice, and was very well-educated. He’d also had his own talk show on KBS, a major Korean news station, and had lived and worked around the world.

It’s Friday night, so later I’ll go out to the club with all the other exchange students 🙂

Here are some photos from around campus that I took Tuesday:

 

First Couple Days at CAU

Hello again!

My first few days at Chung-Ang have been going quite well. After moving in, I met a Danish girl Laerke and a Danish guy named Christian. We went and searched for bedding and some other household items together, then ate a late lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Unfortunately, the menu was all in Korean and had no pictures, so we pointed at something and just ordered it! I think the Korean family who was running the restaurant kind of got a kick out of us eating the food; they even brought some forks around without us asking for them – thoughtful! 

We made our way back to the dorms and then decided to go to E-Mart (basically a Korean version of Zellers or Walmart) at Yongsan Station to find some other household items needed for our dorms. After that, we returned via cab to our dorms and went out for samgyeopsal (Korean BBQ pork) with some of the other exchange students.

Thursday…

At 7:50am, an announcement came on through the loudspeaker – all students were asked to evacuate the dorms from 8:00am until 9:00pm as there would be construction going on in the building. We had 10 minutes to leave. The vast majority of us had not been informed of this; I’d seen a girl on our CAU exchange students Facebook group mention it, but I’d been hoping that it wasn’t true!! Luckily, I’d gotten up at 5:45am, as I’d heard they were shutting the water down from 6:00am-8:00am for plumbing, so I could shower. However, I’d fallen back asleep after showering and blow-drying my hair, so I quickly did my makeup and brushed my teeth then went downstairs.

I went with another girl named Breauna to grab some McDonald’s breakfast. Then we decided to head off to the National Museum of Korea. I’d already gone last summer, but we needed to take cover somewhere in order to escape the pouring rain, and the museum was free. We wandered around the Museum like zombies for a bit; both quite tired, then went back to the Heukseok subway station near CAU to meet some other students for lunch.

Two were from California, the other was from Sweden. One of the guys from California was Korean-American and had been interning at a Seoul business during the summer, so he took us to one of his favourite spots to grab lunch. It was an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, only costing 9,900 won (roughly $9 CAD). Man, was it ever good! I tried a bunch of different curries, rice, and had kheer for the first time (kheer is basically Indian rice pudding). Total comfort food for the rainy day. I just wish I had been hungrier! The only catch at this restaurant is that for dinner, the buffet is much more expensive; I forget how much though, so it’s much better to go for lunch. The atmosphere was really cool.

After that, we went to Home Plus (another Korean sort of Walmart store) because the other students needed bedding. We then took a tour around the Hyundai department store, which was basically like a giant mall, complete with two movie theatres.

At that point, I bode my new friends farewell as I was meeting my Korean friend Jen, and one of her guy friends who goes to CAU, for dinner & beers.

Later that night…

After meeting Jen and her friend at the subway station, we made our way to a cute little basement restaurant that is apparently quite popular with CAU students. We ate tteokbokki “au gratin”, which was out of this world (tteokbokki is a very popular Korean dish consisting of chewy rice cakes cooked in a spicy chili sauce. Add melted cheese on top of that, and you’ve got a pretty deadly combination. Family back home, no need to worry about me getting too skinny over here!). We also had some salad, which consisted of greens, with a giant scoop of cream cheese on top, sprinkled with sliced almonds. No, it wasn’t good. Luckily we had some cheap $3 pints to wash all of it down!

What the cheese tteokbokki looked like

After chatting away over our beers and tteokkbokki, we decided it was time to move on and hit up a new restaurant. This one was called Jangddokdae (Korean for “The Jar”) and was PACKED. I soon found out why. Besides having a really cool (albeit cramped) atmosphere, Jangddokdae was serving up bottles of Korean rice wine (makkeoli) and jeon (Korean deep-fried pancakes with fillings like seafood, kimchi, onions, etc) for prices that even the poorest of students could afford! After several glasses of rice wine, and a giant seafood jeon that we barely could finish, it was time to call it a night.

Jen and her friend accompanied me up the steep climb back to my dorms, and bid me goodnight. It was a really fun evening and hopefully we’ll do it again sometime!

Friday…

After scarfing down some pastries and an “Ice-uh Americano” for breakfast, I gave Scotiabank in Canada a call. I’d been having some issues withdrawing cash from my debit card. Apparently, they’d put a hold on my card for security reasons, as they thought some random person in Asia was trying to withdraw large amounts of cash from my card. Well, it turns out that random person was actually me, so I answered some security questions and the hold was taken off.

After that, I went downstairs to the cafeteria and had lunch with some other exchange student girls. We then made our way to the busses which were going to take us to our orientation at the CAU campus in Anseong, which was a 1.5-2 hour drive away.

The orientation went well. We received some free t-shirts from CAU and some other documents, then watched some traditional Korean performances before heading off to a BBQ that the school had put on for us.

Saturday…

I decided to take ‘er easy Saturday, and just sort of hung out and slept around my dorm. Decided to go grab some pizza for dinner, Skyped a bit, and then went to bed. All in all, a pretty uneventful day.

Sunday (Today)…

Today I grabbed my usual McDonald’s egg mcmuffin and orange juice, then headed up to my room to shower and get ready for the day. I joined some other exchange students for lunch; we decided on a Chinese place and ordered way too much food. It was good/cheap though!

Now, I’m in my room about to go do some laundry. Tonight we’re going to go to Myeongdong to mail some free postcards at the Tourist Information Centre, then grab some dinner at Primo Bacio.

Tomorrow is the first day of school!