This is for everyone back home. I hope that you enjoy reading this and sharing in my experiences.
The weekend was packed full starting Friday morning but the weather was beautiful and i have many amazing memories! Friday was young han’s birthday and it happened to fall in the day that VIPs offered a special student discount for the last day of midterms. VIPs is a buffet that normally costs around 25000w each but we got in for 13000w plus tax equalled 14300w. We each paid 15000 to basically cover youngs meal, sarah paid the rest. We had a 15 person reservation for noon and The food was AMAZING! During lunch, Young received a homemade card that the GV people signed and Cassie created as well as a birthday cake, purchased from girlfriend Gabe.
After lunch, i took a taxi back to campus because my roommates had booked tickets on the student bus for seoul at 245pm. From campus the tickets are only 6000w compared to 7-10000w at the terminal. My roommates and I had a weekend planned together and we stayed at Lynda’s house! I had to hurry back to pack :) We arrived in seoul around 4pm and took our stuff to Lynda’s house. She lived on the 17th floor of an apartment complex. After dropping off our stuff and watching some korean variety shows, we walked to a local restaurant and got a large seafood dish with red sauce over bean sprouts.
There were shelled peanuts on the table but the were boiled, strange. Apparently we have them in the US but I have never seen them. Here in S. Korea, they are common in southern regions. Lynda’s mother came by and dropped off her credit card; she paid for our meal! On the way back to the apartment, we bought gelato at cafe ti-amo for her mother (and us lol) as a thank you. When we got back, were met by a nice surprise. Her mother bought us a ton of fruit which she cut up and we ate it with the gelato. We ate around a coffee table on the floor the whole weekend and this is pretty customary.
There was no “kitchen table”. This is probably also do to space restrictions? This is only a guess. Anyway, There is a lot of floor space and it is kept clean! All shoes are left at the landing area infringing of the door. Following desert we dolled up before clubbing in Hongdae. I curled julie’s hair and straitened mi seon’s (who ended up being our group project!!) But was both of their first times clubbing ever! We took the subway to hongdae and grabbed street dapoki and fried sweet potato before going to the NP1 club. We wandered forever trying to find it but asking for directions is not easy for Koreans, it’s loss of face. NP1 was lynda’s first and only past club experience so she wanted to take us there. It was a 15$ cover but you got 1 free drink and entrance into HP2 and ??? . We didn’t take advantage of the others. The club was not hoppin until 130am’ish and we got there at midnight. It is a hip hop bar but the mixes are really weird. also, the crowd was younger. I got briefly separated from my girls and so I met some freshman boys from the USA who are spending their undergrad in Seoul,Yonsei. I found Julie just in time to rock out to “if you like it then you should of put a ring on it” and we met up with lynda and mi seon. They decided to get a pop min sue from cafe bene across the street. It was the best pop min sue ever!
We took a taxi back, 19000w because of the distance and time if night. I woke up the next morning and Lynda’s mother made a large korean breakfast for us! This included fruit from the day before, brown rice, homemade kimchi (better and spicier) , kimchi’ed radishes, fried egg, fish (with the head still on, custom and common), and fried pork. She also ordered a pizza for herself because that is what she wanted. She was so hospitable!
WARNING WARNING short random tangent: Lynda said that hospitality is very important and her mother felt it very important to treat us well. I was overwhelmed. If parents treat their child’s friends well then it reflects well on the child and this is the concept. Also, Lynda’s mom seems to be very traditional and Lynda tells me that her dad has the same traditional ideals (whatever the man says goes). Her dad will always point out if someone is unattractive and he will point out if he thinks she has gained weight. Also, Lynda kept referring to her mother as “weak” (there is nothing actually wrong with her but she is not strong enough to go out and do a lot, muscle wise) and I think that this was a interesting view at how women are seen as and expected of here. They are dainty, they are expected/”pushed” to get surgery if they are not pretty, and they go to college to then marry for greater status/comfort. My roommates and I discussed/debated the cultural view on beauty and women quite a bit this weekend. We were riding the subway and I saw a the following picture and it sparked a lot of discussion. Each of my roommates feel insecure and they talk about changing things about themselves because image is so important here. Lets face it, photos must be included on a resume (point made by Mi Seon).
END OF TANGENT!
Regardless of the anxiety I had about these points, it was very very very nice to see Lynda interacting with her mom. It had been 4 weeks since they last saw each other.Being there this weekend felt like home for all of us and made us miss our parents a bit. After all of this niceness, I was able to go explore the surrounding area via run while the girls got their showers, I went last. No shower curtain on the tub but water shoes for the bathroom and a drain in the floor. We left the house again by 230pm because we had plans to enter Lotte World Amusement Park http://www.lotteworld.com after 4pm to get an entrance discount. A further discount is offered at 7pm. We all put money into a communal pot for the day’s food expenses. Lynda took charge of that and our cards so we didn’t have to carry bags. We took the subway, arrived, bought tickets (15500w with additional Worri Bank Card discount), and purchased novelty headbands for great picture opportunities. The outside ride area id the park is pretty small in comparison to the USA and they cannot expand since they are smack dab in the center of Seoul. It is cute but It ended up being super crowded. We only road the Gyro Drop, Comet Express, Waikiki Wave, Bungee Drop, and tea cups (inside). The longest wait was for the Comet Express, 2hrs t. It was a fun space and aliens indoor roller coaster but it was not intense. We didn’t ride the bigger roller coaster because of the lines. Dan, Mathild, and Cassie lucked out because they met up with us at the park as we were waiting in that line and they only had to wait like a half hour. Jacob and them went to a Lady Gaga concert in Seoul the night before. Anyway, we did those rides and got some snacks, had plenty of photo opportunities, and briefly learned to shuffle when we watched a dance crew perform on the indoor main stage. We parted from Dan, Mathild, and Cassie, and we took the subway back to her area. Cassie went to the Birds Nest Hostel
in Hongdae and Dan and Mathild stayed out all night parting. My roommates and I got 3 roasted mini chickens and brought them back for a late dinner. They did online shopping and we went to bed. Julie and I took Lynda’s bed and Mi Seon was on the floor, opposite of the night before but both comfy!
We all had to wake up early because Mi Seon had a TOIC test on the opposite side of Seoul at 930 and Lynda had something around that time as well. Mi Seon left for the subway at 8, Lynda Julie and I left at 830. Lynda took the bus and Julie caught the subway with me, thank god! She was heading towards City Hall to see an art museum for a report and I was going the same direction (5 stops farther) to Hongdae to meet with Cassie at Birds Nest, so I wouldn’t be alone in the city. We made plans to go to the zoo with a bunch of GV people who were also in the area. I knew to leave the subway at exit 2 but I could not remember from there. I ended up starting to cross in the complete opposite direction and, to my surprise and great luck, I ran into Jacob in the middle of the road. We walked to the hostel together and he told me that everyone was getting prepared to leave for the zoo. He decided to stay one more night and he was just coming from a Jim Jil bang. Our group was exiting the hostel as we were walking up, again a stroke of luck. Jillian and SoJung also stayed at the Birds Nest. All of us took a the transfer and million stops to the zoo terminal and met up with Yuri, dahae, Anna, and Lauren. We were all able to put our bags in Dahae’s car and they drove it back to Wonju for us, so sweet! Lauren spent the weekend at dahae’s home, also in seoul. They got in the city on Saturday evening. It only costs 800 per tram ticket (2) and 3000 for zoo entry, cheap and really nice. The had giraffe, gorillas, elephants, etc., and we saw a dolphins presentation. Then, we pet kangaroo! Lauren and Cassie put sweet potato sticks in their mouth to feed them so the pics look like they are kissing, ew. One of the kangaroos had a Joey in its pouch and you could see it moving! We left after that and went to the bus terminal. We had to wait an hour and fourth minutes for the bus so we grabbed dinner (first real food of the day - ice cream, banana, rice cake diet all day haha) and awesome fruit bing su. The long weekend finally came to a close as we reached the Wonju bus terminal at 915pm on Sunday night! My feet hurt :p …I wrote this from my iPod which is a nice productive way to spend the long bus ride.
…Back in my room all snug like a bug in a rug. While taking the taxi back to campus with Jillian and SoJung I learned that all Koreans are required to take a college entrance exam right out of high school. The score decides whether or not a person will go to college and what kind of college they go to. In addition, they take their drivers license exam around the same time. I guess this is a big time in their lives.
We got our third stipend on Thursday and just in time; we left on a charter for Seoul on Friday at 850AM. First semester International GV students were required to attend, but other GV students were allowed to catch the free charter bus.
Yun sent one of her assistants to take care of the days schedule and the first stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁). The GV program covered our entrance fee for the palace and a tour guide was arranged. The tour guide spoke English but was really hard to understand. We got really lucky to see the changing of the guards as we entered the palace and I got to be right up front with Jeonghee, Cassie, and Jillian. Cassie has some great footage from the event. We spent a few hours in the palace and then went to lunch in Samcheong-dong (삼청동). This neighborhood in Seoul is known for having a very traditional feel as up until very recently development of the area was prohibited. It is filled with hole-in-the-wall cafes, restaurants and stores that you have to take narrow stone step alleys to get to. We split up so Lauren, Jeonghee, and I found a back ally pub with great thin crust margarita pizza. It was 14000w and it came with peppers and sweet pickles on the side! The food in this area is expensive so I would suggest finding things like this to split. After lunch, we were given time to walk around. I bought a decorative EAR PICK from an outdoor display, a small piece of wood curved slightly at the end. A doll with a green dress decorates the end of mine. We then headed to Insadong (인사동). This area has many tourist attractions and hand crafted items for sale. It is also the location of Ssamziegil (쌈지길), the multistory outdoor mall I mentioned in the past. We got Ddong Ppang (똥 빵) here (it literally translates to “poop bread” and is a poop shaped bread with a red bean center, hilarious!), 3 for 2000w. A must try! There were other traditional foods here, like all over the city, so come hungry and with plenty of cash. After Insadong, Cori went back to Wonju for choir practice but the rest of us stayed in the city. We booked the Birds Nest hostel in the Hongik University area (Hongdae) and checked in around 5pm. Birds Nest was a little off the beaten path but it was a really nice place and I am going to be an advertisement for them at the end of this blog! After checking in, we walked to a main restaurant and shopping and saw crazy street performers on the way to Samgyeop Sal, yummy! The restaurant had an outdoor waiting area but there was a coffee machine and a wood burning stove so it worked out. Dan had to rent me his leather cost because I was not dressed for the cold Korean weather. Never expect warm weather in April! Anyway, Grace, a girl from the hostel, joined us. She was a Korean American who was moving here to live with her father. Hostels are a bit more expensive then jjimjilbangs but they are a great place to meet people from all over- and come with beds. After dinner, we walked the streets to watch a few street performers and shop at jewelry stands. We ended up at an optical store located next to a Ho Bar that we went to after shopping. The optical shop had colored contacts for 5000W and up so I got cheap purple ones. Everyone’s eyes looked crazy, definitely worth buying for the experience! For five dollars extra they would add prescription. After the Ho Bar, some of us headed back to the hostel but not before seeing a large crowd hovered outside of a nearby restaurant where K-Pop band 4 Minute was eating. Crazy fans. The other group went to another bar for some more drinks and snacks before heading back.
The next day I got up at 630AM and briefly ran the city before breakfast. We left at 930am because we had intended to bungee jump 45min away for 25000w. While we were on the subway, the bungee jumping facility became booked for the rest of the day, so we couldn’t go. Some of us shopped for clothes in Gangnam Subway Station while others ate at a popular western style restaurant with mining theme. After you place your order they give you a miner’s hat with your order number on it for easy identification when delivering food, at which point they high five you! There was a line out the door because it was so popular. Jae Young met up with us in the subway and everyone reconnected at Smoothie King to leave for the cherry blossom festival in Yeouido (여의도). There were picture stations and tents set up with information about causes in attempts to raise money. There was also a large stage in back with a band and other small dance performers and speakers on another stage. We also got to see a basketball dance team performance in the middle if the activities. Cassie, Jae Young, Lauren, and I split off from the rest of the group when we explored the tents and experienced some of the entertainment. While in a costume booth meant for taking pictures, a random girl even asked to get her photo done with Lauren and me! We walked through the park after leaving the festival and got to see many families with their children and some couples sitting together on the GREEN (WHAT GREEN IN KOREA??) grass. We attempted to do dips on the playground and we commandeered a girl’s ukulele to sing “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole. We got some street chicken and met up with the rest of the group on the river. It was a beautiful day and I could have sat by the water all day. After sitting for a while with everyone, they headed back to Wonju while Cassie and I stayed to eat dinner with Jae Young in the Terminal, Dok Seafood Soup! We finally said our goodbyes and caught the 7:40PM bus, home by 9:15. Jae Young bought me some oranges for the trip.
Today has been a day of recuperation because you need that after weekends in Seoul. I woke up and ordered food with my roommates. While they went off to study for their exams in the library, computer lounge, etc. I watched Cassie edit our video from the trip and torrented some fun movies. By 2PM, the sun was really hot so some of us took blankets outside, bought food, and chilled.
Here is a website with more information about The Birdsnest Hostel: http://www.hostels.com/hostels/seoul/birdsnest-hostel/58226
Address: 561-34 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
I would give my stay at the hostel two thumbs way up! The man who runs the place seems to truly care about it and he tries to make you as comfortable as possible. You are given a nice comforter, linens, towels, and a complimentary breakfast with toast and hard boiled eggs. There are tea and coffee packets available at all times and you use their hairdryer and straightener. There is a vanity table with a sink upstairs. There are two lounge areas and free WiFi! I was really comfortable the whole time and, most importantly, I slept like a baby. The short walk from the subway is worth the accommodations!