Note: I had this all set to upload Sunday night, but unfortunately the wifi wasn’t working and I didn’t want to stay up any later than I already had to try and fix it… so here it is now. Enjoy!
No profound thoughts for this week, but plenty of stories to tell.
After the speaking portion of my midterm on Monday, I rested in my room for a few hours before meeting my buddy to get 빙수 (bingsoo). It was super delicious, and super decadent. After eating and chatting, we headed a few bus stops away to see a photography exhibit. The exhibit, titled “Impossible is Possible” featured the works of Erik Johansson, a Swedish surreal photographer. I found this intersection of culture and language particularly interesting, since I was in a Korean museum looking at a Swedish artist’s exhibit and some of the captions were written in English. Despite these differences, the overlapping ability to appreciate something joyful and imaginative made the exhibit very cohesive. I really, really liked the art, and even picked up a few gifts from the gift store (something I would NEVER do usually, as gift shops tend to be overly expensive). Unfortunately, the lighting was not designed with picture taking in mind, so I’ve only included a couple of the clearer pictures I took below. To make up for the lack of pictures I took, I’ll link to the artist’s website here.
Wednesday was a pretty chill day and I got to eat lots of good (junk) food. In class this week we mostly focused on learning 반말 (banmal) which is informal language. It was very strange to practice it with our teacher since 반말 is meant to only be used with people who are similar in age to you and whom you are close with. In addition, to practice using our vocab, one student called and ordered pizza to be delivered to our class. It was kind of hilarious to know that all of the Level 2 classes were ordering pizza at the same time, so the delivery man had a lot of pizzas to carry. I imagine after the second call from the school they must have realized what was going on, and that it was more than coincidence. I got to try a Korean specialty too — 고구마 피자 — sweet potato pizza! In addition to sweet potato, the pizza had ranch dressing, pineapple, and raisins. It was actually pretty delicious, although very unexpected.
After class, Victoria and I tried out the convenience store right next to our 고시원 and I finally got to try this ice cream I’ve had my eye on. It looks to be just soft serve in a cup, but I was very shocked to discover a layer of Italian ice at the bottom of the cup. It reminds me of going to Rita’s Italian Ice when I was younger, and I ended up getting another one later in the week. Very delicious and very cheap: my ideal snack type.
Friday evening, once it had cooled off a bit, I met up with my buddy again. This time we headed to a 시장 (a traditional Korean market) nearby to pick up dinner. We got a ton of food, but quickly realized that there was nowhere to sit in the area. We ended up taking the bus all the way to SNU, and sat outside of the biology department to eat. Even that wasn’t easy though, as we realized quickly that the plastic seal on our 떡볶이 (tteokbokki) was not tearing the way it should have. We ended up poking a bunch of tiny perforations around the edges with toothpicks before carefully tearing it all the way around the container. Although a little uncomfortable, we kept laughing at the hilarity of the situation. Then came time to pour the ice onto our noodles, and we realized we didn’t have any scissors to cut open the package. We walked over to the security guard’s office inside the building, but as he was in a back room he didn’t notice us, despite our efforts to politely get his attention. I can’t put into words how hilarious it was in the moment — calling softly to get his attention and repeatedly walking past the window hoping he would notice. Eventually, he came out and saw us and we were able to get some scissors. We ate very well despite the troubles!
On Sunday afternoon I met up with 이세원 and one of her friends from middle school in 강남 (Gangnam). It was super cool to meet her friend, Grace, who is from Korea but has lived in America for high school and is starting at university in the fall. She was very kindhearted and I had a really good time listening to the two friends talk. It is very different to hear close friends chat in 반말 rather than hearing my teachers talk. It was good practice! After getting ice cream, we all went to a Harry Potter themed 방탈출 (escape room) and actually made it all the way through. I had a fun time figuring out the clues, and again noticed how many things don’t require fluency to communicate.
Other Notable Events
These aren’t full enough stories to warrant their own section so I’m going to just leave them here 🙂
I found out that another one of my classmates is also a vegetarian, and after I mentioned I had really been missing oats, she offered to bring me some of hers from home. The next day she brought me a big bag and sent me a bunch of vegetarian restaurant recommendations. I never thought I would be so happy to see oats, but I was beaming.
I finally made my Wednesday/Thursday teacher laugh during class. We all had to make a sentence using a new grammar, and I said ““저는 여자인데 남자 옷을 입는 것을 좋아해요. 진짜 편해요!” It sounds much less funny when translated to English (not that it was very funny in Korean to begin with) but more or less I said “Even though I am a woman, I like to wear men’s clothing. It’s really comfortable!” It helped that I was wearing an oversized men’s button down that day, which I held up as proof.
On a more serious note, my Wednesday/Thursday teacher spent nearly 20 minutes talking to us about etiquette on public transportation, and the ways that men purposefully act in order to avoid harassment allegations. He brought this up because he wanted to explain why Korean men are reluctant to help when they see a women struggling with a heavy item. If they do offer help, he said it is typical for women to either say they don’t need any help, or to more plainly tell them not to touch anything. In a similar vein, he said that men have to be cautious during rush hour on the subways so that they don’t inappropriately brush up against a woman. Although the subways get super packed during peak travel time, it can still be an issue if a man bumps into a woman. I found this discussion really interesting, especially because my teacher was male. I didn’t exactly disagree with what he was saying, but I had to look at it through a cultural lens to better understand the reasoning. I plan on writing more about this in the future, but I still wanted to add this here so I wouldn’t forget.