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!

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Jo Kwon Mini Fan Meeting

I was lucky enough to be picked to attend Jo Kwon’s (singer of 2AM, musical actor) fan meeting at his cereal cafe – Midnight in Seoul – a couple weeks ago. The meeting was to celebrate the 9th anniversary of his debut.

I applied on the 2AM Daum cafe. I was a bit apprehensive because I’m not 100% confident about my Korean skills, but also meeting someone I admire was intimidating too. Nonetheless I applied and I went.

It was a pretty chill affair, although the weather itself was far from chilly. It’s summer which means heat, humidity, and the rainy season. Luckily the rain wasn’t a problem… until I had to go home anyway.

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It was held just outside Midnight In Seoul which is the cereal cafe Jo Kwon runs (co-runs? co-owns? The place was originally run by other people, I believe). About 30-35 fans total sat outside in the outdoor seating area while we waited. Actually, Jo Kwon came in rather nonchalantly. His parents and aunts were waiting inside, so he sat with them for a bit.

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The whole event took about 30-40 minutes. He greeted us and answered questions we wrote on memo notes. My question was what’s his favorite musical, but he answered all the ones he has been in and one or two others lol. So actually I don’t know if it was interpreted as “What’s your favorite” or “What’s your favorite that you’ve done”. By the way, he said he’s working on a new solo album. No word yet on when it’ll be released since he’s currently acting in the musical “Evil Dead” in Seoul.

He then showed us how to make one of the cereal specials that’s on the menu in the cafe. We also each got a chance to go up and say hi/get a signature. I was pretty nervous, but it turned out okay.

That was pretty much the end of the event. A few people got selfies with him, but he looked kinda busy so not many did it. I thought he’d pack up and leave, but he actually stuck around and worked at the cafe! Granted, there were other staff members, but he helped here and there. I ended up buying one the menu items which ended up being pure sugar.

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See? Tasty, but holy cow that’s just all sugar right there.

Now quite a bit after the event, maybe 30 minutes or so, I ended up getting a selfie with Jo Kwon. I had stayed to snack and also because the rain got kinda heavy. I didn’t really feel like walking in the rain (I ended up having to anyway). I felt bad about asking for a photo because he looked pretty tired, and I think he was packing up to leave. He was very kind, though, and obliged to take a photo.

Quick note: The cafe itself is nice. It’s actually split into 2 sections which are on either side of the building entrance, but share the outdoor seating area. I didn’t partake in any other food, so I’m curious about the privately labeled cereal. You can actually order it on their website, so I may give that a go one of these days.

You can check out Midnight in Seoul on Instagram and their website. If you’re in Seoul it may be fun to head on over. You may see Jo Kwon or other celebs!

I Have Too Many Sheet Masks

The struggle is real, guys.

I’ve been good lately about not going into Korean cosmetic shops (well, except Olive Young). I know what’ll happen if I go in. Inevitably I will buy something and if it’s not make-up it’s possible it’s gonna be a sheet mask.

I love ’em! Every store has their own and they can help your skin in different ways — moisturizing, firming, brightening, sebum control, etc. Plus they aren’t all that expensive (generally 1,000-2,000 won though there are some that cost a little more).

If you haven’t given them a try yet why not check some out?
Via Amazon.com:
Etude House – https://goo.gl/WeYYpT
The Face Shop – https://goo.gl/ozzFAS
Innisfree – https://goo.gl/ZT4cQV

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.

Studying & Coffee

I spend a lot of my days of from work in coffee shops studying and writing my master’s thesis. I wanted to just give a quick peek at my favorite coffee shop, Fiddleheads. They’re a really chill local coffee business with several locations in the Milwaukee area. If you happen to live around there definitely check it out (and try one of their seasonal drinks!).

I’m just chipping away slowly at my master’s thesis for now. It seems like it’ll never finish at this point, but I’ll get there! 🙂

Is It Okay To Be in 2 Kpop Fan Clubs?

There’s no question that Kpop fans can have a fierce loyalty to their favorite groups. From fansite managers, to people who run Tumblrs, people who go to pretty much every event and take videos, and people who buy multiples of CDs just to get into a fan sign event. Those people are super into their groups!

But are we, as fans, allowed to have more than one bias? Or are we supposed to swear unfailing loyalty to our one ultimate group/singer?

I was kind of wondering this when I saw that GOT7 was having their 3rd recruitment for IGOT7s. I’ve been an official Hottest for about 4-5 years now. Even having moved back home I still sign up when the new period starts. However, last year I had been considering being an IGOT7 too. I didn’t sign-up then, though, because I didn’t feel super into GOT7 at the time. Not enough to shell out around $60 anyway. This year was different! I’ve been getting more into the group and I decided to just go for it.

And, really, we shouldn’t feel hesitation in terms of whether it’s “okay” to be part of 2 fan clubs. Why not? We international fans almost never get to see our groups live anyway. We’re just doing it to support them.

I do get that there are people who only want to support one group, and that’s cool too. You want to put your energy into that group. As for me, I’m mostly a casual fan of many many groups, though I have a weakness for people from JYPE obviously haha. I’ll cheer for the big guys along with the nugus if I like the group.

Anyway, my point (along with a few others in the video) is that you can like as many groups as you want. Just respect each other, respect the artists, and enjoy the music! Because that’s what it’s really about.

Why do I still study Korean?

Even though I don’t study nearly as much as I did when I lived in Korea, I still like to study Korean in my free time back home. But people have asked why do I keep studying even though I’m no longer in Korea?

Well, honestly, why not? Why do we, when we are young students, have to study other languages? There’s no guarantee we will use it in those specific countries. But it’s good for you! It’s good for your brain.

Also, I spent quite some time studying while I was in Korea. Why should I give up that skill? There were days when I was deskwarming and I would spend a couple hours (or more) listening to Talk To Me in Korean podcasts. Or I’d go to cafes after work and study by myself or with friends. I even took the beginner level TOPIK. So why stop? Even though I don’t keep a consist schedule for studying, and I really should, I like that I’ve kept it up.

Another reason is that it’s comforting. Daejeon became a second home and there are many times I miss it there and all my friends. I even had occasions to meet and hang out with the fine folks at Talk To Me in Korean. ^^ So hearing them on podcasts and watching their videos makes me feel like I’m back with them.

Speaking of which, I highly recommend TTMiK if you haven’t been there! Both the website and their YouTube page are very, very useful. Honestly they account for, like, 90% of my study materials. You can also listen to music and watch TV programs to study. Keep word journals of vocabulary you hear while watching. Write down unfamiliar words and go back to them later for review. These kinds of exercises make for more effective vocabulary learning.

And even if you take breaks, it’s no big deal. Just get back at it. You can do it! 화이팅!