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.

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Best Dakkalbi Ever!

I’d been dreaming of one particular place in Daejeon since returning home, and I couldn’t wait to go there when I was on vacation in fall. That place is 맛존 (mat-jon or Mat [flavor/taste] Zone). I have never tasted better dakkalbi than there.

The first time I went there was a few years back when my friend was working there part-time in college. It became a favorite place among our group. I always get “mild” spice because even that makes my nose run. I had “hot” once with co-workers and I could barely handle it. So good though! It’s secret too. The owner makes the sauce off-site and brings it in to the restaurant. Wow!

You can get add-ons like cheese or have them make it into bokkeumbap (fried rice) with your leftovers. Plus, they have yummy pineapple makkeolli!

Mat-jon isn’t too hard to find. It’s in Gungdong (궁동) which is the area right by Chungnam University. Start from Sobija Mart, where all the taxis drop off/pick up. Walk straight for a minute or so. Turn right at the first large street by Paris Baguette. Then make a left at the next street. Mat-jon will be on the right side. Enjoy!

matjon map

Address: 대전광역시 유성구 궁동 408-14
(You’ll probably get more accurate results plugging that into Naver Maps as opposed to Google Maps)

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!

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!

How & Why I Went to Korea

Hey, all!

Fall has finally arrived. The weather is getting cooler, there’s pumpkin flavored everything all over the place, and I finally get to wear sweaters (yay!). I was thinking back to fall a few years back, when I was applying for the EPIK program. So, I decided to make a video about how and why I decided to go to Korea.

In winter 2009 I graduated from college with a BFA in Painting & Drawing. I didn’t have a plan for right after graduation. I thought maybe I’d go to graduate school or possibly travel. I’d taken courses in Japanese during my undergrad, and I had heard about the JET program. So in the midst of my final semester in school I was also applying for JET. I read blogs and watched videos by people like myargonauts. I thought at least, with my language experience, I’d get an interview. But, when the list of successful applicants went up in January, my name wasn’t on the list. I was crushed!

But I continued on. I looked at different graduate schools, but I didn’t have much in my savings. At the time, I wanted to go to art school for animation. I had no idea how I could possibly afford it, though, since grad school/art school isn’t cheap. Around summer 2010 my friend suggested I give EPIK a try. I hadn’t heard of it, and did a bit of research. Korea, eh? Well, I did like Korean pop culture. And Korea seemed like an interesting place… so why not?

By fall I was looking into how to apply. I ended up going through the recruiting agency Canadian Connection. I filled out an application and waited for a response. I don’t think I had to wait very long. I had a successful interview and began gathering my documents. In December, I got an e-mail asking me about my city preferences. Cities like Seoul, Incheon, and Busan are popular, and it was harder (and now moreso since GEPIK is cutting jobs) to get a job there. How about my other choices? I had no problem with them, and very soon after I was told I was going to Daejeon. Wow, just like that? I’m going? Holy cow!

I had about 6-7 weeks to get everything in order. I was still waiting on documents and my contract so I could get my visa from the consulate in Chicago. I researched on-line all about living in Korea, teaching Korea, what I should pack, etc. I was so nervous and excited. My mother was probably more nervous than me. My family was probably confused as to why I was even going to a country where I knew no one and couldn’t even speak the language.

Except for a slight snafu at the consulate regarding my contract, I was able to get my visa just a couple days before my flight. I stayed up all night the day before packing, repacking, and probably freaking out a bit.

It all ended up fine though! I went to Korea, I met so many great people, and learned lots of things while teaching.

If you’re thinking about applying to EPIK (or just teaching in general in Korea), I say “go for it!”. I’m glad I applied through a recruiter. They were kind and informative, and helped me through the whole process. I feel like I probably saved myself a lot of stress this way.

As it’s now October, it’s probably a bit late to be applying for Spring 2015 intake. Don’t worry if it’s late in the game. If you don’t mind a hagwon job, they’re always taking applicants throughout the year. Otherwise just wait for Fall 2015 intake for EPIK. You can always use that time to get a certificate like TEFL to boost your resume a bit.

If you have any questions about applying or teaching in Korea in general, I’ll do my best to answer them. I believe EPIK has changed a few requirements in terms of applying, so I’d have to read up on that.

Thanks for reading!

Leaving Korea

Yep, it’s true. As of this date I have left Korea. Apologies! This video went up awhile ago, but I didn’t pair it with a blog post.

I left Korea on March 28th. Sad day ㅠㅠ. I left behind a lot of great friends (and great weather btw – it’s not warm enough in the Midwest!).

As to why I left, well, I wasn’t feeling… fulfilled? I always liked my workplaces and my co-workers. The past job at the kindergarten was pretty great actually. But towards the second half of my employment I just wasn’t feeling good about things. Even though things went well for the most part I still went in thinking, “Well, at least I only have 6 hours or so until I can go home”. That really didn’t feel right.

I didn’t dislike being a teacher. I had a lot of great moments with my students. I never really felt like a”real teacher” though since Education wasn’t my major. I thought maybe getting an university job would be nice, but these days it’s very hard to get one of those if you don’t have a MA. So I decided to come home.

I’ve seen a few friends leave and return to Korea after a year or so. I have friends who went home to get certificates or a Masters, or even those who stayed in Korea but do those programs online. So that’s my tentative plan. I love Korea and, if I can, I’d like to go back. So I’m going to apply for an online program to earn a TESOL MA.

I still want to make vlogs and blogs about Korea, as well as traveling and my life in the U.S. Thanks for sticking around. I’ll still be here making content as long as you guys are around. 🙂

Cheers!

Noraebang Booths

I love going to noraebang (노래방). If you aren’t familiar, you may know it better as karaoke. In the U.S. we have karaoke nights at bars. Which means you have to get up in front of everyone at the bar and sing. Not that good if you’re the shy type. I prefer what Japan and Korea have – businesses that have singing rooms that you can use for an hour or so.

Usually when I’d want to go I’d get go with a group of friends. Sometimes it’s hard to get everyone to agree to go out. Or maybe you don’t want to sing for that long. That’s why noraebang booths are awesome.

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Noraebang booths at a game arcade.

Welcome!

Welcome!

In many game arcades you’ll see a few of these booths lined up. You can fit 2 people comfortably, sometimes 3. You can pay 300 won for 1 song, 500 won for 2 songs, or 1,000 won for 4 songs. Then it’s time to rock!

Time to pick your songs.

Time to pick your songs.

The remote isn’t always easy to figure out if you’re not familiar with Korean yet. So I went through the basics in my video for how to pick out a song. Here’s a few words you should know:

제목 – [song] title

가수 – singer

These are how you find the song you want. From there you type in the words. You can go between Korean and English by pressing the button that says “한/영”.

시작 – start

예약 – reserve [a song]

최소 – cancel

Once you find the song you want you press one of the above buttons.

You can also change what country’s song you want by pressing 국가. There’s Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese. Sometimes you can find Vietnamese or Thai.

There’s also other buttons like the Top 100 songs, changing the tempo (템포), key, or skip interludes. I usually just use the basic function buttons.

Now you can sing your little hearts out!

TV at the noraebang

I sang 2NE1’s “Missing You”