Classes have started!

2 09 2008

So I have now started all my classes, which are actually all pretty good. Quite a few people in my program have been having problems with their course registration and all that, but mine has been painless which is nice. I am taking:

Pre-Modern Korean History

Traditional Korean Society & Modernization

International Trade Practices

Beginner Korean 1

They are all pretty good and all that, but the first hour of Korean was terrifying as it was 100% taught in Korean. We were taught a bit of Hangul, the Korean alphabet, and apparently we should know it pretty well within a week or two. Either way it was pretty frightening at first, but it eventually became easier to understand and we were okay. I think just from a class perspective it will be a pretty interesting semester, which I am happy about. So I am now going to go as I must do what I need to for these classes that I just outlined.


Orientation Trip!

2 09 2008

So there was a weekend orientation trip, where everyone in the CIEE program left Seoul for the weekend and went to the country. For those that lack an attention span here is a brief list of things that happened:

1. Sat in a bus for many hours

2. Made paper, in a traditional style

3. Laughed as people came back to the traditional hotel really drunk, and did ghetto norebang

4. Climbed a mountain

5. Did a lot of shopping in the Family Mart at weird hours of the night

6. Ate eggs at 1AM

7. Picked tea leaves

8. Sat on the bus for waaaay too long

For those of you that have the ability to concentrate and actually read I shall explain these items a bit more. So the first day basically encompassed going to a huge land reclamation project where they are making a wall to block the ocean which will give the Koreans land about five times the size of Manhattan, which they will then change into various things like farmland and a space center… It is kind of a useless project. We then drove on to another city, which I don’t remember the name of, and there we made traditional paper. I can’t think of anything more to describe that. After that was over a group of us went to a really ghetto norebang (or karaoke room), and when we returned to the traditional-style inn that we were staying at for the night there were many drunk people running about. It was a very amusing and fun night filled with talking.

The next day we woke up to discomfort as we had slept on the floor (though I was fine as I slept on about ten pillows). If my memory serves me right we then drove to a mountain that we then proceeded to hike up. This was a fairly annoying hike as much of the path was just small boulders which were not very easy to traverse. The view, however, was quite spectacular and the whole experience was well worth it. After that we went to a Buddhist temple where we had dinner and watched an evening prayer, which actually was quite cool to me. The monks were reciting the Heart Sutra, which I forget what exactly it is but it is important. I thought that was pretty interesting. After that we went to our hotel which was a modern facility, and conveniently had a convenience store in the basement. We went there quite late and bought some eggs to have at about 1AM. That was great.

The next day, which was the last day, we spent the morning at a tea plantation and traditional village, where we actually were able to pick some tea leaves and keep them. I currently have my tea sitting on the counter drying out before I roast it to make some black tea. I just hope it doesn’t suck. We then proceeded to spend about eight hours on the bus…. it was boring. Mostly people just took pictures of other people sleeping.

Overall, orientation was pretty good. Nothing super exciting, but it was cool to get out of Seoul and things some other sides of Korea that I do not think I would have necessarily seen. So I guess you could say that it was good. Here are the pictures:

This is just a toll gate, but I thought it was pretty cool.

This is that land reclamation project, it goes really far into the Yellow Sea as you can see.

This is a cool Hyundai sign.

These are some Kimchee pots at the traditional inn we stayed at.

The same Kimchee pots and the building we stayed in.

This is apparently the prefered method of growing squash in the countryside.

The Buddhist temple we stopped at to watch the monks at work.

Here is the traditional village, with some rice fields in the background.

The Ol’ DMZ

31 08 2008

So this is the beginning post of my orientation things, I didn’t really have much time during them so I will try to write all about orientation, starting with going to the DMZ, between North and South Korea (it’s a strange place).

The DMZ is the “border” between South and North Korea, which are actually still at a state of war, and only have a cease fire to stop the fighting that started with the Korean War. So while I was at the DMZ it would have been possible for the war to resume, which would have been dangerous. There have been several incidents where fighting between the ROK army (Republic of Korea/South) and the KPA (Korean People’s Army/North) has actually occured. These were explained to us by the soldiers that guided us around the DMZ. I won’t go into those, but I will say that being at the DMZ was a very strange experience.

For many years it seems like North Korea has been such a dire enemy and it was a bit odd to see some of the KPA soldiers in person. Wasn’t so much frightening as just unsettling. I even went onto North Korean soil, in the conference room where the UN flag is flown. We also saw ‘Propaganda Village’, where the world’s biggest flag is. It is called ‘Propaganda Village’ because no one actually lives there, even though there are buildings and every night propaganda is played over speakers to tell the South Koreans to defect to the North. Soldier of Fortune magazine also put a $1,000,000 bounty on a square meter piece of that flag, which the American soldier guiding us told us, and we all laughed and tried to figure how to do it, but unfortunately it is pretty difficult.

Anyways, I think this is a good time to show off the pictures as they are pretty interesting themselves.

The large building in the back is the main North Korean building and the blue ones are conference rooms

A KPA soldier watching us (we weren’t allowed to point or make any gestures towards them)

The cement thing going across in the middle is the exact location of the border, and those are two ROK soldiers

That is our American soldier that guided us around the DMZ… he was pretty cool

This is the main conference table and a U.N. flag on the right. All the soldiers there are actually working for the U.N. but the Americans are in charge of them. I was also technically in North Korea when I took this picture.

All the ROK/US soldiers at the DMZ wear these armbands. I just thought they looked pretty cool and thats the only real significance of that.

Here is ‘Propaganda Village’. That is the big flag, and the nice looking town that nobody lives in.

These now rusty signs mark the border between the countries, and they are positioned about every 50 meters along the entire border.

Here is a picture of North Korea, taken from a vantage point.

So Jet Lagging Sucks

27 08 2008

As the titles says, being jet lagged sucks. I have felt really bad all day, maybe due to the fact I only got about six hours of sleep, and had a very strange waking up experience that took about one second, which was odd. Normally my waking up is a very protracted process. I am definitely tired out right now though. It was another fun day, but it was also exhausting. I am definitely going to take tonight easy and rest up for tomorrow, which will probably end with something (probably drinking).

I do have a picture to show off though! We went onto one of the guys’ brother’s roof and it has a great view of Seoul and Sinchon. So here it is:

The view over the river

A big street in Sinchon

Now I am in Seoul

25 08 2008

So I am finally in Seoul, and just got some delicious food. I am tired and am going to put up what I wrote in the plane. Goodnight, I will be back tomorrow or so.

So I am currently on the plane somewhere over the Pacific, but I don’t know where because the map that tracks our progress isn’t really working right now. Either way I am a few hours in (I think 3) and things are going well. Just watched The Graduate, which is an amazing movie by the way. Weird they just turned the lights off and all that and it is only 5:30PM Seattle time. Anyways so The Graduate is an amazing movie. I cannot think of anything that is really wrong with it. The soundtrack is great too, but I think the general feeling of the movie is what makes it great. You can really relate to it in college, and not knowing what you are doing (or where you are going in my case). I would show you some sort of poster, but considering I am on a plane without Internet I am not. This is all being written in Word, so yea. I am a bit disappointed in the lack of Internet though because I was under the impression that it would be on the plane.
The most fun thing about this plane so far is the free wine they give out with meals. I always thought that you had to pay, but apparently not on Korean Airlines, which is fine by me. I did make the mistake though of getting the beef instead of the rice. Always get the food that is native to the airline’s country, it will make you happier, and maybe even actually happy. Another good thing so far in this flight so far is the David Cross I am listening to. He is really funny, and that makes me smile. Plus, he hates Georgian rednecks. So yea, I am out of things to say, maybe I will pick this up in a few hours after some more stuff happens/ doesn’t happen.
Part 2
So two movies later and some other stuff, I decide I am hungry, which I am currently in the state of. It would be nice to get something to eat, and I still regret getting that damn beef and not the rice. Although I did get a really good beef bun thing, and I would describe it as being closest to those Chinese BBQ pork buns. Though this one was kind of crispy and delicious. So if it isn’t quite clear yet… I am hungry.
My next big decision in my life is, which movie do I want to watch next? There is a very amazing selection of lots of movies, not necessarily amazingly good, but rather amazingly big. I think next up will be a nice and light romantic-comedy. Either way it should be pretty exciting. As long as I can get some food I will be happy. A weird thing that has happened is that I do not think that the brightness has changed at all since we left Seattle, which means we are following the Sun! A bunch of people are starting to get up and walk around a little, meaning that about five people have passed in the last five minutes. I am kind of tired too, if I am not watching a movie I start to get pretty tired and yawn a lot. I am sure this is really interesting to hear about.
Excellent, the little arrival time thing on my TV screen just showed up and said there are only about three hours left in the flight. Which means I have to go watch that good old-fashioned rom-com, unless I get something better… STAY TUNED! For part three which may or may not exist.

Packing up

23 08 2008

So I am currently packing up stuff… I’m not going to be overly dramatic and say I am packing up my life, because I am not doing that. I am just packing clothes and such. That’s not what I wanted to say though, what I wanted to say is that I hate packing. I am writing this post to delay the packing effort a little, also my laundry hasn’t been finished so I am waiting on that. Luckily my friends are coming over in about 20 minutes to have a little goodbye dinner thing and to generally hang out.

That is another good thing to delay my packing. The only concern I have with this packing up of stuff is whether or not I can confine everything to duffel bags. I hate wheely bags when travelling countries. I feel so stupid rolling them and they get in the way if public transport is in the works. Luckily, I do enjoy traveling by myself though, as I can do whatever I want and don’t have to wait or do what others would prefer. It makes my mind happy as I can focus on nothing really.

I don’t really feel like I am going to South Korea tomorrow. I think I should be feeling a bit more anxious or nervous about going to a new country where I do not speak the language or know much, but I am not so whatever. I didn’t even really do much for last things before I go. Overall, this pre-departure experience has been pretty easy and not all that nervous making, which I am a fan of.

So I guess tomorrow is the big day, when this blog will actually begin to explain things about my travels to Korea. So far it hasn’t had too much to do with Korea, so it should be a good change of pace. So probably the next time you hear from me I will be in a new place, across the world, where I know nothing. Then you will get a better understanding of what happens in Seoul.

I’m like a real blogger now

21 08 2008

So I am like a real blogger now since I haven’t posted in a while. Anyways to catch people up on things, I just got back from New York, like 20 minutes ago, and went to Idaho last week. So most of my things from my list are now complete

1. Get out of Canada (where I am currently located)

2. Go to Portland for a concert by The Faint

3. Go to grandmother’s memorial service

4. Go to New York to see my girlfriend for the last time before I am gone for possibly a year

5. Maybe learn some Korean… which I have no knowledge of

Now I just need to learn some Korean… which I know for a fact won’t happen before I leave. Although I did read one of those Korean culture and customs books on the plane back to Seattle. It was, overall, not that helpful, but whatever it’s probably best I read it anyways. So I also signed up for classes today in the airport (best place to do that sort of thing if you ask me) and I am taking: PRE-MODERN KOREAN HISTORY, TRADITIONAL KOREAN SOCIETY & MODERNIZATION, and INTERNATIONAL TRADE PRACTICES, along with the beginning Korean class I will be placed in once I get to school.

Overall I am pretty happy with the courses I am signed up for, and the best part is that all I have on Fridays is Korean and no class starts before 10AM which is always a big plus. I am the anti-morning person so that is an important thing for me. So before Sunday (when I leave this place) I have to do some stuff, such as, buy a few more clothes, get a haircut, eat some good food, and finish up on video games. One of my goals while in Korea is to severely cut back on the amount of video games I play, which hopefully won’t be too hard as I will be busy doing all sorts of things.

Anyways I am pretty tired and I think I am going to go head over to my big cushy bed and put myself to sleep for a bit, as I have to get up and start doing some wonderful errands.