For this blog post I have decided to write a daily highlight… I cannot believe we are already half way through our program!
Monday — After class I went to the Gwangju National Museum (광주국립박물관) with Paula and Peter. The museum featured prehistoric and ancient history from the Jeolla-do area (south west of South Korea). There was also an agriculture gallery, a medieval and an early modern history gallery. We got to see how people hunted for animals, fished, collected edible plants, etc., during the Paleolithic Period (65,000 years ago) and the Neolithic Period (10,000 years ago). Overall the museum was fine, but if you only have a few days in Gwangju I would not recommend using your time here.
After that we walked towards the 민속박물관 (Folk Museum) on the other side of the street — also why do 4 lane roads not have any working cross signs!?!.
That museum ended up being closed on Mondays, so we just wandered around the outside and looked at statues. There were also these large swings that you stand up on. Paula really needs to work on her swinging skills.
Also on Monday — we took like 5 buses getting to the museum because we kept taking the wrong direction (we did that twice, oops) and because we had to transfer. We also walked by the restaurant in the middle of the woods that sells dog meat and dog meat stew… We heard the dogs barking in the back too 😦
Tuesday — Nothing different today in terms of schedule. Went to class, then to taekwondo, and then home to do homework and hang out with the host family. For dinner we had boiled chicken that was seasoned with these Korean medicinal herbs and then rice porridge with kimchi. Apparently this is what a lot of Koreans eat on the first day of the hottest part of the year (basically after the worst of the rainy season has passed). Other Koreans also eat dog meat on really hot days, because it is said to help cool you down.
Now that the worst of the rain/monsoon 장마절 season has passed it is going to get super hot apparently. Tuesday was 92 degrees and the humidity was still in the 90 percentages. My host mom keeps warning me that August is even worse. Koreans always talk about how they have 4 distinct seasons — spring, summer, fall, winter. In my opinion it is more like 7 seasons — spring, yellow dust season (thanks China), rainy season, die in the heat season, summer, fall, winter.
The rubber floors at the taekwondo place have been warping because of the heat and I keep tripping on it now. Since there is no AC in the taekwondo place it was apparently 88 degrees in there. Loooots of sweat.
My room also does not have an AC and so it has been hard to sleep this past week because I am just SO hot. I do not think it helps to be on the upper floors of an apartment where all the heat rises to. I sleep on top of the blankets.
ALSO — my host mom believes that if you sleep with a fan on while you sleep you will suffocate and die. FAN DEATH she calls it. I spent a solid thirty minutes trying to explain that it is complete baloney….
Below are the shorts that my host mom got for me. The English really cracks me up.
Wednesday — I went bowling with my language partner, Peter and his language partner. Peter was on target to beat me but got cocky and ended up placing his last two balls in the gutter, so maybe next time he will get me. In our second game we made two teams — I was with 준헌 and Peter was with 정민 — and the losing team had to buy drinks for everyone. Better luck next time Peter and 정민!
After bowling we went to dinner and showed Peter 짐닭 for the first time. We stayed and talked for a while about our presidents, and then regional vocabulary differences.
In the U.S. there are not only different accents but there are different words to describe the same thing. For instance people out west call workout shoes “tennis shoes” and people in the east call them “sneakers”. We taught 정민 and 준헌 a lot of these differences, but was interesting is that they said these differences do not exist in Korea. Regional accents are diverse, but they said there is not really a divide in vocabulary. This was another discussion topic that made me realize just how big the U.S. is.
In the end we stayed out relatively late for a school night, about 9:45. 9:45 really is not that late but considering I have an hour fifteen minute commute home and had not even touched my homework it was late. I ended up having to do my homework on Thursday morning before class.
Thursday — We had our promotion test in taekwondo and I am now a yellow belt!
After our test we celebrated with pizza and sodas. We had bulgogi pizza and sweet potato pizza.
Then I spent the rest of Thursday night studying 320 vocab words, grammar structures, and prepping for a speaking test. Friday was our midterm exam which I think I did well on the vocab, grammar, and passage/reading sections. But on the speaking section I did not feel as confident afterwards.
It is a little frustrating because I feel like I am plateauing with speaking because it is so hard to incorporate more formal, Chinese originated (한자 단어) vocabulary in my speech. With the native Korean words they are much simpler and I feel that I have no problem getting around the country and doing daily life things. Also on a day to day basis people do not use 한자 단어 as much, and those with minimal education in Korea do not know much at all. But when it comes to discussing more complex topics you really need to know and use 한자 단어. Because of this I finally understand why Korean in ranked in the category “hardest for English speakers to learn”.
Also before I forget… I got scolded this morning for not doing morning greetings properly. On the way to school when we go to pick of S at the host grandparents house (S is staying there this week because H is sick with chicken pox) the grandfather brings S down to the parking lot. I would just bow my head through the window and say hello in Korean, but apparently I am supposed to get out of the car and say hello. I did not know this, and so I had been doing it wrong all week. The host grandfather was then telling my host family that I do not know how to greet well and politely. I honestly wish he would have told me my mistake on Monday instead of letting me do it incorrectly all week. Clearly there are cultural differences that I have yet to learn.
Friday — We saw a movie called 화려한 휴가 which is about the democracy uprising and movement during 1980 in Gwangju. It was a very intense and emotional movie, and I definitely learned a lot from it. We also had a professor from the university come and talk to us about those events. This was all in preparation for our tour on Saturday (today) of the 국립5-18민주묘지, which I will write about with more detail in another post.
Friday night I then went to my friend Justin’s house along with his 언어 파트너 (language partner), Akshaa, Peter, and Paula and her 언어 파트너. We had green tea infused 자짱면 (black bean noodles) and other Chinese foods. Justin’s host parents are awesome, super fun to talk with, and taught us how to play mahjong and other games. After that we went to 노래방 and sang for two hours. I did not end up getting home until 2 am this morning, which made this mornings 7 am wake up very brutal. But overall, I had a really memorable night.
Also on Friday I got to try this ancient Chinese cupping therapy for my back. I was kind of scared of trying it at first, but then thought why not…. when else would I come across the opportunity again. I cannot tell if it is all in my mind or if it actually worked, but my back feels better! The cupping left behind these dark marks, but the blood clears up in about one weeks time.
Saturday — as I said, I will post in more detail later about today’s events. But in the meantime I want to share a picture of this adorable dog we met today at a restaurant.
Also here is a picture of me and my sisters playing a card game at home tonight. It started out all fun and games until they got annoyed at each other. Then came the tears, the yelling, and the throwing of objects. The host dad was gone and the mom was sleeping so I was at a lost for what to do. Host families truly give you the “family experience”!
Alright that is all for now… Sorry that the post is so fragmented and not well written. Just trying to get some details down in a timely manner before I forget them.
Until next time!