I’ve been feeling frustrated with my Korean abilities for a while now. I work at an English kindergarten where most of the staff speaks English very well, and I’m not even allowed to speak Korean in front of the students, so that limits me a bit. On Fridays I participate in the head teacher meetings which are conducted entirely in Korean and it’s definitely shown me a new side to myself and my (absent) willingness to speak up when it’s in another language. As the weeks go by I find myself better able to understand what they are talking about, but still barely able to speak up if I haven’t already planned something I want to say ahead of time. So I decided to try my luck again and post an ad on Craigslist to find a conversation partner.
I really hoped to find someone close to me, someone that I could just step out of my apartment to meet, but nobody like that really responded. More than a few interested people answered my ad though so I’ve been having some “dates” this weekend. Yesterday I met a really lovely woman who lived in France for 8 years, so her English always comes out with a beautiful French accent. She also runs a Bed and Breakfast, so her home was ready with tea and coffee for having company! Her family was really lovely too and her husband was welcoming and talkative. It was really easy to talk with her, and she seems excited about meeting many times in the future. Best of all we spoke Korean about 90% of the time which gave me the practice that I want. I’ll let you know how the other ones go!
Next weekend my friend Silver is getting married, and she’s asked me to sing at her wedding. I have no experience with this and I’m feeling more and more nervous as the time draws closer. I’ve been practicing and I think what I can do is passable, but not miraculous. I just want to get through it without people asking themselves, “Why on earth did they ask this girl to sing?”
Halloween has come to Everland! Yes, this is my third time going to Everland this year. On Thursday both Tristan and I managed to get the day off of work (thank you, work!) and we went because we heard that it was spruced up for Halloween.
To get to Everland from Seoul: You can catch the 5002 bus at the bus stop by Gangnam Station Exit 5 (the one in the center of the road, heading south). Don’t confuse it with the 500-2 bus though. Even on a weekday in the morning it was crowded and we had to stand, so try to get there as early as possible if you want to get a seat. It takes about 40 minutes and Everland is the last stop (everyone gets off there). Then you just catch the shuttle from the bus parking lot to the front gate.
As it turns out, fall is the perfect time to go. Not only was it decorated festively with pumpkins, ghosts and other spooks, the crowd was pretty thin because it’s not peak season anymore. Some of the smaller rides and cafes were closed, but all of the big stuff was open and the lines were short! It seemed that everyone was there with their kids who were too young for school, and then us. We didn’t have to wait very long to ride the best roller coasters, and I was glad to go back on a nice day with Tristan since he missed it last time.
On Monday we decided to spend the day in a more relaxed fashion since we’d done so much traditional tourist stuff, so we decided to spend the day at the mall! A great mall near us is IPark mall at Yongsan Station. It’s both a mall, a train station, and a subway station all in one. We went because we saw there was a showing of Brave that wasn’t dubbed, and Tristan and I have been waiting a while for it to come out here.
When we arrived the tickets were all sold out for the showing we wanted so we got tickets for a later showing and decided to just hang around the mall while we waited. We went restaurant hopping (we wanted to eat different things and we had 4 hours to kill) and did a bit of shopping at the toy store.
We also found a Japanese Purikura booth at an arcade and just had to take pictures. I feel like I can never find these things when I’m looking for them, but we discovered this gem and the machine was actually in Korean so I could follow the directions. Check out the results on the left.
We also found a stall selling adorable earrings at a really cheap price, so I bought (ahem) six pairs. They are all themed and I justified it by keeping my students in mind as I picked out the pairs. Feeling inspired, I decided to get my ears pierced too, so now I have a double piercing. My students have never ever noticed my earrings before, or at least have never commented on them. I guess since my hair is short now it’s easier to see, but one of my girls noticed the new piercing right away when she came to school. Then yesterday one of my girls was delighted with my happy clouds earrings and asked why I have two holes now! I will have to post pictures of the happy clouds sometime. I am definitely living in the right country for cute things.
Finally we saw the movie Brave, which is titled Merida’s Magical Forest here. It was cute but not spectacular. While watching I thought, “this is definitely a movie that Korean moms need to take a lesson from,” so I’m pretty sure it won’t be very popular here.
This weekend was a long weekend because of the Chuseok 추석 holiday. We visited most of the traditional touristy parts of town– 인사동 (Insadong- craft shopping district), 삼천동 (quaint traditional part of town with cafes and restaurants), 경복궁 (palace).
We picked a good time to go. Although there were lots of people there was a festival going on and we got to participate in some fun things. Their whole trip has been nothing but traditional cultural experiences that the city has been putting on, so it’s an exciting time to be here. Not to mention the weather is perfect.
In Insadong we saw lots of traditional crafts, mostly pottery, hand-made paper, brush paintings, and some generic ‘gifts’ that you can find all over southeast asia. We did discover an authentic antiques shop that had some really interesting finds, and we tricked Tristan’s mom into buying Turkish ice cream. Check out this link if you don’t know what I’m talking about. We wandered around there a while though I’m not sure we actually bought anything.
On Sunday we went back to the same area but went right to Gyeongbok-gung palace right away. Because it’s a national holiday entrance was free! There was a massive amount of people there but the place is so huge you can stay away from crowds anyway. It was an absolutely gorgeous day to enjoy the gardens there, and there was a festival going on as well. You could make all kinds of crafts and try some traditional foods, so we tried our hand at a bamboo flute. The guy who helped us made it look so easy but I’ve yet to make a sound come out of it yet.
After walking around there a while we went to Samcheondong which is a nice area with traditional looking architecture and a bunch of interesting looking restaurants. We picked a Chinese restaurant and had some wonderful wontons and chicken lo-mein. The kind of lo-mein we have in the states that I haven’t eaten in forever! It was a perfect start to their visit though I think we may have seen enough ‘traditional’ things, so we’ll have to show them what our real life is like.
Tristan’s family at 경복궁 Palace
Main courtyard of 경복궁 Palace
Reflections at 경복궁 Palace
Chowing down on a kebab and some delicious chinese food
Tristan’s parents have arrived safely and we have spent the long weekend experiencing lots of cultural things! We have done lots of things and have lots of pictures, but I need to get to bed (some of us actually have to go to work, ahem).
For now, I leave you with these sticker booth photos we took together at the mall today: