Monsoons, TOPIK, & Mud!

Rainy/monsoon season is no joke. Imagine my shock/surprise/horror when I left the house at 7 AM on a Sunday and it was just absolutely *dumping* rain. There was just no avoiding getting soaked. I was so annoyed!

But the test went well… I hope. I don’t have the results yet. I ended up shopping a bit after the test, and exercising in the evening. I have to work out in my apartment because I only belong to a taekwondo gym right now. I’d like to eventually join a real gym so I have access to equipment. My room must suffice though.

I also enjoy running outside, but the random rain makes it difficult. Turns out that heavy rain from that morning just flooded the stream and river in Jochiwon. I only got about 1 km into my run before I was forced to stop because the path was flooded. Squishy mud made it annoying and maybe a little dangerous to run in because it was slick.

I think the rain is tapering off these days, but we’re still stuck with ridiculous humidity. Must persevere so I can make it to vacation! For now, gotta make it through summer English camp for the coming 2 weeks. 화이팅!

Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival

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Long time no blog!

So… I’m back in Korea now. (“Say whaaaaat?”)

Yep a lot has happened since my last post *cough* last year. Long story short I re-applied to the EPIK program and was accepted. I’m now living in Sejong which is right next to Daejeon. How lucky!

I’m going to try to get caught up and do a back log of some of my adventures over the past couple months, but today I wanted to show some of what I saw at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.

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A lantern parade float

I randomly decided on Saturday morning that I should go to Seoul and check out this festival that I had read about online. A lot of my friends in the EPIK program decided to go to Jindo for the Sea Parting Festival which I a) still haven’t seen but b) forgot to chime in that I maybe wanted to go haha. So a solo Seoul (Seoul-o?) trip it is!

I was able to book a hostel in Hongdae pretty easily which was lucky since my first choice place was booked up. Well, that’s what I get for waiting until the last minute. I killed time in Hongdae until I headed over to Jogyesa Temple where the festival was being held. Jogyesa is the chief temple of the Jogyesa Order for Korean Buddhism. The festival is held in honor of Buddha’s birthday, which fell on May 3rd this year in Korea. It changes every year because of the lunisolar calendar, but it’s typically in May.

It was such a sight to see! There were groups playing traditional instruments, people dressed in beautiful hanbok and other traditional clothes, and so many people carrying lanterns. And the parade floats! I’d seen pictures of past parades, but it’s a whole different thing to see them in person. I can’t imagine how long those take to craft. Plus, there were people from different places like Thailand and Myanmar marching together with their own floats in honor of Buddha. The people carrying lanterns were even just handing them to people as they passed. I got 2! One I got was shaped like a lotus, and a little girl was staring longingly at it. So I gave it to her, and she traded me the one she had. I ended up having to leave 1 behind at the guesthouse, though, because I couldn’t carry it all with me (boo!).

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The floats were parked and lined up on the street, so I got to take a good look at all of them. I also explored Jogyesa a bit. There were soooo many lanterns hanging, and it just looked beautiful at night.

I also went inside the temple to pay my respects. I just quietly stood in the back because people were praying and I didn’t want to disturb anyone. I did, though, take part in the Bathing Buddha ritual. The ritual is supposed to help improve happiness and peace of mind. A person takes what is essentially a long ladle and pours water over a small Buddha statue 3 times. Each time you should say each of these things:

  1. May I eliminate all evil thoughts.
  2. May I cultivate good deeds.
  3. May I help save all living beings.

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Before I went back to Hongdae I walked down the street once more and came upon another celebration. There was a big stage set up with performers on stage (my guess is they were pansori singers, but I’m not sure). There was a large crowd watching, and also groups of people, both Korean and non-Korean, holding hands in a circle and dancing — or walking? They were walking in circles to the music anyway haha.

I honestly hadn’t expected the whole thing to be so lively. My initial thought was that since Buddha is such a revered figure that maybe it’d be a “tame” event, but it really was more like a party! I’m so glad I was able to experience it. If you’re in Korea around Buddha’s birthday you really should give it a go.

Rest Stops in Korea

At the end of last month I went on vacation back to Korea. It was super fun and waaaay too short.

I filmed this video on a whim my 2nd day back. I had planned to rent a WiFi egg (portable router), but what I didn’t know is that you can only rent them at the airports. I, for some reason, had it in my head I could go to a cell phone shop or something. Nope. So the day after I flew in I actually went back to Incheon airport to rent the egg. Korea has more places with Wifi compared to, say, Japan, but it’s not everywhere so having an egg is super helpful.

So anyway I took the bus back which is cheaper than the train, but takes a little longer. And most of the time the buses will stop at these rest stops. The only exceptions are when a) the ride isn’t very long or b) when it’s a very late bus. Usually when I would take the bus back from Incheon to Daejeon after flying in late at night the bus doesn’t make pit stops.

The rest stops in Korea are pretty much the same everywhere. There are a couple exceptions for ones that are particularly big or have some shops or a bigger food court. But all the basic ones are the same – some bathrooms, a small food court, a convenience store, and other small food shops like Dunkin’ Donuts and shops that sell things like 호두과자 (hodu-kwaja) – a sweet bread/cookie with walnuts and, sometimes, red bean paste. Also there’s almost always a little stand selling weird odds-and-ends and trot music lol.

Not a bad place to stretch your legs!

Going to Movies in Korea

I love movies! There’s nothing like going to the theater, getting a big ol’ tub of popcorn, and being entertained for a couple of hours. Movie theaters in Korea are no exception.

For one thing it’s a little cheaper than the U.S. Maybe by only a couple of dollars, but that’s money you could be spending on snacks (which are also cheaper). Of course, snack-wise, you aren’t going to get things like dried squid in your home country, but it’s an interesting option. I always like the popcorn choices because my friends and I each had our own preferences. So for not much money we could each get a topping we liked (such as caramel or butter), and we’d share and be happy.

In pretty much every theater you get to choose your seat when you buy your ticket. I liked that option, though when you go as a couple or group then you risk the chance of being split up. Or you could do what we do here and just ask the people in your row to scoot down a couple seats.

There obviously isn’t going to be every English release when it comes to movie choices. It’s usually the blockbusters. These days, though, we have things like Netflix and options to buy digital copies so you won’t totally miss out on what people are seeing back home. There’s also the thing about there being Korean subtitles on the screen, but I can easily ignore that. Plus, subtitles means less younger children because they don’t want to sit through a movie for 2 hours reading. For kids movies, though, like animated ones that means there are dub tracks. So you may have a harder time finding a time when you can see it in English because those showings tend to be less often.

Also – movie fliers!

Movie fliers

I got addicted to collecting these. They also have them in Japan. I like them because they’re like little posters. I hung a few in my apartment as decoration. I didn’t even see some of those movies! They’re cool though, right?

All-in-all, seeing movies in Korea is pretty nice. It’s mostly the same experience as home, but the little differences make it interesting.

I didn’t see any Korean movies in the theater, but I have seen a couple elsewhere. What’s your favorite Korean movie? I enjoyed “Secretly, Greatly” (은밀하게 위대하게) and “A Werewolf Boy” (늑대소년).

Cheers!

Packing for Korea

Happy December to all!

Soon, those of you who applied for the EPIK program will be finding out where you’re going to be placed. Exciting, right? But here’s one slightly less exciting part of the process – packing.

I mean, how do you fit what you’ll need for (minimum) 1 year in 2 suitcases? Well, having done that move, I have some input.

Clothes

Bras/underwear – Ladies, I say bring as much as you can. For those of you that are smaller sizes it shouldn’t be too bad, but I’m a bit curvier so I never tried. I brought all my underthings with me. I will say, though, that when I was in Tokyo for vacation I found bras that fit me in American Eagle in Harajuku.

Jeans – Again, if you’re pretty small then if shouldn’t be too terrible. I’m roughly a size 8 US, with a bit of a badonk, so it’s not always easy. It seems like Korea fashion does not account for said badonks. Plus, it’s pretty much a lot of skinny jeans. If you like different styles or are a larger size then bring 2-3 pairs with. However, there are stores like Uniqlo, H&M, and Forever21, so it’s not impossible.

Shoes – I’m a size 8, so I didn’t have lots of trouble getting shoes. I am, though, on the larger side for ladies shoes over there. You’ll sometimes find less styles than you’d like. Also, I noticed that things like sneakers are a bit narrower. So bring a pair of sneakers, maybe a few flats, and a pair or two of dress shoes.

Professional/work clothes – It’s something you’re going to need right away, and don’t wanna have to search for. Plus, style and sizing can be an issue. Things like nice slacks and skirts are always good. Also dress shirts and nice sweaters.

Just in general bring a few of your favorite things. I never really found casual/every day clothes to be a probably to buy. Things like dresses or party clothes, you may wanna bring a couple of your favs. I found plenty of dresses I liked in Korea (especially in Seoul), but sometimes ones I’d see would be way too short on me.

Toiletries

Deodorant – Bring a 3-pack or whatever with.

Razors/shaving gel – If you don’t mind the cheap throwaway kind, it’s not a problem. Also I remember seeing shaving gel for guys, but not for ladies.

Tampons – Your call, honestly. I don’t use them, but I feel like it’s not impossible to get them. It’s just that pads are more favored it seems.

Vitamins/medication – Of course bring your meds with you! Also the prescription (this goes for glasses too). Things like Tylenol, Advil, ibuprofen, Midol, and stomach medicine are extremely useful.

Toothpaste – I don’t like Korean tooth paste, honestly. Also I hear it doesn’t have fluoride. Anyway, just bring a few tubes of your fav.

Make-up – Korean make-up is awesome! But if you’re a darker skin color then bring your favorite concealer/foundation/BB cream/etc with you. You’re just not going to find it over there.

Snacks/food:

Bring a few of your favorite snacks if you have room. It can help combat homesickness. I suggest Reese’s!

Also if you love Ranch dressing (Heeeey, Simon), then you can buy Hidden Valley Ranch packets at the store. Saves a lot of room and you can make it whenever you want.

Home

Bath towel – Get a big, fluffy one. The towels in Korea are small in comparison, and it’s so annoying!

Pics – Bring some to decorate your home or classroom. Speaking of classroom, anything you can bring to decorate it great. I brought a poster of my college campus, pictures of my home, etc.

Camera – You can buy one over there too, but no matter what get one! You’re going to be overseas for a year and you should document as much as you can.

Adapter/convertor – Definitely bring a couple adapters. If you want to plug in more than one thing at a time then you’ll want a few. Convertors are only needed if you bring something heavy duty like a game system.

Laptop – A lot of people wait to buy one in Korea. For me personally, it seemed like getting a PC was troublesome (having to change the language and other things). I ended up buying a new MacBook in my 2nd year cuz my old one was dying a slow death. Apple products are more expensive there, unfortunately, but I never had trouble with it. Actually, it was nice having the hangul written on the keys.

The biggest problem with Macs, though, is Korea’s outdated obsession with Internet Explorer. It just doesn’t work on them! There will be many times, especially with your bank, where you simply won’t be able to do anything on your Mac. In those cases I used my school computer or went to a PC bang. Annoying, but it works.

Etc

Pics and videos – Buy an external hard drive and load it up. Take videos before you leave: of your family, friends, workplace, old schools, whatever. The kids will like it, and it can be nice when you’re missing home.

Books – Don’t bother. I love books, but they take up way too much room. Download the Kindle app and get e-books. If you ever want a real book, though, you can always order from WhatTheBook in Seoul.

Movies – Meh, a toss-up. Bring a few of your favs if you like. Korea’s internet is amazingly fast though so it’s not hard to download things.

I hope that was useful! There’s probably a few things I forgot, so if you have questions leave them down below.

Thanks for reading. Stay warm!

Daejeon International Food Exhibition

Another throwback vlog! I think these things need an acronym or something — TBVs? TVs?

Anyway, this is another one from 2012. In May there was an exhibition at Expo Park featuring international food. Actually, I didn’t get to see much of it because a) I went on the last day and b) I went only a few hours before it was closing. Oops…

Still, I managed to see some interesting things. There was a part that had beautiful displays of food eaten at the Buddhist temples. They also had information about how you can do a temple stay. I always wanted to do one, but never made plans for it. Next time I’m in Korea I want to give it a try.

There were also lovely table and food displays around the hall. In another part, they had a mock-up of a traditional Korean house with a display of food, and you could dress up in (costume) traditional clothes and take pics. I did give that one a go. ^^

There was even a place where they let you try, and, in the case of foreigners, you could make your own kimchi. It pretty much just involved applying the sauce and garlic to the cabbage, but after that they put it in a pot and let you keep it. How fun it that? I still have the pot with me, but I use it for my spare change now.

There was also a women at the Buddhist temple area doing a traditional tea ceremony (which I’ll put a video up for later). It’s very formal, but relaxing in a way. The way the people who do the ceremony are so precise about everything is kind of impressive. I’m not sure I could be so controlled. Oh, and the tea was tasty as well. 🙂

All in all, a pretty interesting way to spend on afternoon.

Thanks for reading!

Korean College Festival

Time for a throwback vlog!

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When I lived in Daejeon, I lived just 2 bus stops away from Chungnam University. It was really convenient because the area around the university is a popular place for twenty-somethings to hang out (seeing as many students live in the area). At least once a year, the university holds a festival. Actually, many Korean universities have festivals.

The main activities of these festivals are eating and drinking.

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Clubs or departments will set up tents and sell food and refreshments, namely alcohol like beer, soju, and makkeoli. One tent we went in had a 노래방/karaoke machine set up. And I loves me some karaoke!

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There will usually be a performance too. Sometimes students will perform a bit, and after a professional singer will perform as well. When I went this time, it was in 2012 and Geeks and 4Minute performed. Pretty lucky! Though I remember Gayoon was out sick, but it was still fun to see an idol group that close.

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Hip hop duo – Geeks

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4minute

It’s a nice chance to walk around with friends and relax.

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I haven’t seen anything quite like this in the States. If we did, they probably wouldn’t sell alcohol. **Note: It was all students running things so it’s not like anyone was carding people. They assumed everyone is of age.

It’s a fun! I went to one or two other festivals during my time in Korea. One time they event set up a giant closed-off tent as a club. College kids sure know how to party.

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Does your university/college do festivals or big events like this? Lemme know! I’m curious how people’s university life differs. 🙂

Thanks for reading!