Spring has sprung in Korea!
(4/8) Sat: So this past week, spring has truly sprung. Having lived in the Midwestern US my whole life, spending the transition of winter to summer in Korea has been the most mild and gradual spring I’ve ever experienced. It can be a little painfully slow at some points, but as long as I don’t have to worry about it suddenly dropping back down to freezing for no reason again, I’m okay with it.
Spring here is officially heralded by the cherry blossoms/sakura trees blooming. I’m pretty sure that Korea is absolutely obsessed with these trees and whenever they plant new trees anywhere, you can guarantee they will be these trees. (I think there might be a secret plot to slowly make it so that only these trees grow in Korea.)
There are a few different cherry blossom festivals in Seoul, but the biggest in Seoul (and I believe Korea too) is on an island in the Han River called Yeouido (Yo-we-doe). There it boasts the longest stretch of these kinds of trees.
At the festival, there aren’t a lot of street food vendors which surprised me, but there were lots of street performers. There was one street magician that we watched for a while. He juggled and did balloon animals mostly, and he was awesome.
The cherry blossoms are beautiful and everyone was taking so many selfies with them trying to get the perfect shot.
That Monday, I finally went to get my alien registration card (ARC) paperwork turned in. It’s required for everyone who is staying in Korea longer than 90 days to get this ID card. Unfortunately, I accidentally signed up for the wrong jurisdiction, so I had to be added to the waiting list and wait for another hour before they could get to me. It was really funny because the two guys who helped me looked college-aged and weren’t wearing any sort of uniform though they definitely worked for the immigration office. I wonder if they were there for some sort of internship or something from their university because they spoke English well.
When I finally got to the desk, I was really proud of myself because I understood something that the immigration officer said to me because we learned it that day in class. She asked me if I could read Korean, so I said I could. Then she started to explain something to me in Korean, but of course I didn’t understand. While I can read Korean, that doesn’t mean I know what it means. She saw my face and explained it in English then.
Most people who go as teachers to Korea (which are most foreigners) have someone from their school go with them to help them. However, I had to figure out everything on my own. Sydney did help by giving me a heads-up on some things because the people from her school already took her to do this, so that was helpful. I made a blog post about it after on my other blog series so people like me can know how to do it right.
Tuesday, I went to another OMS prayer meeting where we prayed for Korea as well as other countries around the world. This was also the day my allergies hit. I normally get spring allergies, but I wasn’t feeling anything when we were walking around the cherry blossom festival, so I wondered if maybe whatever I was allergic to at home didn’t grow here. I was wrong. Thankfully, I brought some medicine, so I didn’t have to worry about it.
Wednesday was the first day of midterms. I had two tests this day. The first one was my speaking midterm that was completely written. I was confused as well, but also kind of relieved because I am much better at writing than speaking in any language. The second test was my reading/listening midterm. That one was also written, but it was a little more rough than the first. I think I did okay on the tests, but I’ll have to wait until I get them back and see the results.
After that, I walked to Seonyudo Park. Seonyudo (sun-you-doe) Park is a tiny island on the Han River where they turned an old water filtration plant into a park. I see this park everyday when I go to school, and I had been wanting to check it out sometime. And because it was a nice day, I decided to walk there instead of taking the bus.
I got to walk across Yanghwa (yahng-wa) Bridge that goes over the Han River and take lots of cool pictures. Then I went to a coffee shop that is on the bridge too. It’s called the Outlook Cafe. (But on the bus, it misspells the name when it displays the name of the stop as ‘Oultook Cafe’ which I get a kick out of every time.)
So I got a smoothie there and then took a slanted elevator down to the the riverside.
The Han River (or Hangang—’gang’ means ‘river’) has parks and walking trails all along it. This one was no different. It had an exercising area set up under the bridge. I don’t think Korea actually builds these exercising places. I think they just kind of grow out of the ground. They’re everywhere.
Then I went across another, smaller bridge to Seonyudo Park. I could tell that it would be beautiful once it was a little deeper into spring and summer. Right then, only the cherry blossom trees were blooming.
Thursday, there was no school because of Easter break, so a few of my classmates and I went to a place in Seoul called Myeongdong (myuhng-dong). This is a big shopping area and is popular with foreigners because it is nearby the ‘foreigner district’ as well as being very close to Namsan Tower—a huge tourist destination.
While I window-shopped and didn’t actually buy anything, they have people giving away free, promotional stuff everywhere. Popular items were Korean facemasks for cleaning your face. If The Onion existed in Korea, a possible article could go like this: “Seoulite Admits She Has Never Actually Bought a Facemask in Her Life.”
There was also a really cool taekwondo demonstration in the center of the shopping area. They were much younger than the guys at the taekwondo place my class went to. These kids looked about high school–aged. It was still really impressive. And I almost liked it better because they did miss breaking the boards sometimes during their demonstrations. When we saw the taekwondo demonstration as a class, those guys never missed ever, but these kids seemed more real. And when they did break the board, it seemed so much more impressive.
The next Saturday, I met up with Sydney and Luke again. I think we’re making it a tradition. I invited them to come to Seonyudo Park with me because it was so cool. We went to the Outlook Cafe and went to the area of Hangang Park underneath the bridge.
After that, we took a bus a few stops to a traditional market that I had been meaning to check out. After we go off the bus, we saw a crane game place. These places are everywhere and are extremely popular right now. So we went in and played, and Sydney and I won two prizes each although that was mostly due to the fact the machine was giving us x2 tries for some reason.
Then we went into the traditional market. I got some rice cakes, and then went to eat afterward.
Sunday was Easter, and I went to Bethany’s church.
Monday, I had my writing midterm. There was just barely enough time for me to finish the test, which means I had no time to look over it. I hope I did alright.
Thursday I went to a pizza place with classmates. Korean pizza, at least the particular pizza place that we went to, has ‘golden’ pizza which has sweet potato in the crust. It’s the most amazing thing ever.
Friday, I had my ‘interview’ midterm. This was the one where it was all speaking. I was most worried for this midterm. The midterm was done in two, ten-minute sections. The first ten minutes, we were put with a partner and told to follow dialogue prompts and just have a conversation with each other. We knew about the dialogue prompts ahead of time, but it was still a little hard. My partner happened to be the girl that I sit next to in class, so that was awesome because I had lots of practice talking with her.
The second part is individual. The teacher asks a question off a list we know ahead of time, and this one is not a conversation. I just had to answer and talk for as long as I could. I thought I would be better at this one, but I think I actually did worse.
When you’re in the beginning stages of learning a new language, everything is like the game Catch Phrase. You mostly just say a bunch of chopped sentences or just single words and hope that the person you’re talking to will eventually shout out the word you’re describing. (And you automatically follow the rule where you can’t use any word with your target word in it because you don’t know the word in the first place.)
So I really, really tried to speak a lot, but because my brain is still having trouble forming grammatically correct Korean sentences on the fly, I was really choppy and made lots of mistakes. The teacher said that I needed to practice speaking more in class, which I agree with. I just hope I didn’t get too bad of a grade. I’ve already paid for a second session of class, but I don’t exactly want to repeat level 1 again.
Anyway, so this was late again by two days or so, but that was because of my midterms. So hopefully I won’t be late again with my next update.
I think I like the updating once every two weeks, so I’m going to continue to do that.
Please pray that I have a renewed drive and focus for studying as I really need to step up my game academically.
Thanks for reading!