The Brave, Little Ninja Goes to School in South Korea: Week 11 & 12

I eat at Chili’s, see Changdeokgung palace, and almost lose my ninja.

Mon (5/8):  The Korean election was this day. They had 15 candidates, but apparently, most only knew the first five.

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These sets of posters were up everywhere for the 15 candidates. Each had a number and a theme color associated with them. In the end, Moon Jaein, candidate number 1, won the election.

The candidates advertised in three main ways: banners on buildings and street corners,  special campaign trucks that were essentially jumbotrons on wheels that party members would drive around blasting advertisements, and supporters standing in busy spots like subway exits holding signs.

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Almost every intersection had posters for election candidates on them.

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This was a sort of combo of the last two methods where there was a jumbotron truck and supporters holding signs. This particular rally was in Gangnam and was for candidate number 5 who was the only woman running.

That weekend, I went with Sydney and Luke to the Osan Airbase. Because Luke works on the base, he was able to bring us there to visit. But most importantly, he took us to eat at the only Chili’s in South Korea (and North Korea)!

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Here’s one of the entrances to the base.

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You would have no idea this was in South Korea from this picture.

The bill was given in US dollars because they use American money on the base. They also give you the total in won too, and it was a good thing because I didn’t have any dollars with me. I also had to tip in won which was something I never thought I’d do because you don’t tip in South Korea.

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Everything is the same down to the tiles on the tables.

After that we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on base. The movie tickets were $6.50 for a regular movie and $8.50 for a 3-D movie. That’s the cheapest tickets I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s not that cheap in Korea even. Anyway, the movie theater consisted of only one screen but it was a pretty big theater though.

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After that, we went up to Suwon to see a baseball game. It was the KT Wiz vs. the NC Dinos. (KT or Olleh is a huge phone company in Korea.) So, baseball in the US truly is an American pass-time. It’s pretty chill to go to a baseball game in the US.

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The crowd was a little sparse because it had rained earlier in the day.

But in Korea, oh boy. Each member on the team has a song that the fans sing whenever they’re up to bat. They lyrics are displayed on the jumbotron so you can follow along. There are cheerleaders too. There is also a guy who is also a cheerleader but is really the crowd hype man and decides which songs the fans are going to sing. The opposing team also bring their own cheerleaders and hype man. Many people in the crowd on both sides stand the whole game.

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The KT Wiz won by the way.

The KT Wiz are a newer team with a smaller following because they’re one of the few teams that aren’t a Seoul team. I really want to go to a game in Seoul where the crowd is probably much bigger and even more extra.

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Looking out to the South of Seoul from the top of the hill where the fortress stood.

The next day, we went on a tour done with the airbase (again, courtesy of our inside connection Luke) to the Haengju Fortress. It was significant in one of the many times the Japanese invaded Korea in the past. Because it’s on a hill right on the Han River, it’s of strategic importance is many ways. IMG_5806

The battle happened something like 500 years ago so there’s really not much left of the actual fortress, but there are different monuments built to honor the commander who led them to victory.

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I thought this was interesting because normally they are extremely rigorous about the upkeep of their historical buildings. However, this one you could clearly tell had weathering damage. It was just so unusual that I had to take a picture.

After that, we went to a palace in Seoul called Changdeokgung (pronounced kinda like chang [the ‘cha’ is like in ‘cha cha slide’]-duck-goong). This is my most favorite palace I’ve been to in Seoul so far.

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This was the building where the king would do all the super official things which required lots of pomp and circumstance.

The reason why it’s my favorite is that it was one of the few historical buildings/landmarks/culture things that the Japanese didn’t completely destroy when they occupied Korea from 1910-1945. So when you go see many of these palaces and other places, most of the time they are complete reconstructions. This palace however has some actual authentic buildings.

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This is where in the historical times, the king’s officials would line up next to these stones by rank. You would stand next to the stones near the front of the palace if you were the most powerful as that was closer to the king.

When the Japanese occupied Korea, they completely destroyed the primary royal palace, Gyeongbokgung. (I went to Gyeongbokgung last year. Every single bit of that palace has been painstakingly reconstructed.) So the royal family moved into Changdeokgung, their secondary palace. The Korean royals lived there until after Japanese occupation and even a little after the monarchy was dissolved as Korea changed to a democracy (late 1920’s-ish).

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Because the palace structures were built out of wood, they kept these huge bowls of water nearby the palace buildings just in case.

So because it was used into the 20th century, modern things were grafted into the palace. This makes this palace feel so much more real. When you walk through the other palaces, everything seems like a fantasy world. But here, you can tell that real people actually lived here.

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The king’s throne room. See the electric lights on the ceiling?

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Brick fireplace added on.

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Some glass windows too.

This palace also has a “secret garden,” but we didn’t have enough time to go see it. I’m planning on going back in the next two weeks or so when my mom comes to visit during the break between my two semesters.

The Friday after that, Julia (one of the girls I went to England with) and her friend Christine came to Korea for a friend’s wedding, so they came a week early to explore Korea. I met with them after school and we went to Itaewon and Namsan Tower. It was really awesome to see them!

However, in preparation to meet them, I got my little ninja out of my backpack thinking that I could take some pictures with him, but I ended up accidentally leaving him on a bench at the Sogang University subway station platform! I knew that I must have left him there, so after I had finished seeing Julia and Christine, I went back to see if my ninja was still there.

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This particular train car had books you could borrow to read. There was even a thing that looked like you could rent kindle books.

I knew there were three things that could have happened to my ninja.

  1. He could still be there chilling out on the bench.
  2. One of the janitor ahjussis/ahjumas could have swept him up in their dustpans, and he could be gone forever.
  3. Some kid could have found him and kept hime because he was cute. I mean, I wouldn’t blame them. The ninja is adorable.

So when I got off the subway, I found the bench I was sitting at, and he wasn’t there. I looked on the ground. I looked on the other benches. Nothing. However, there was one of the rare trashcans nearby, so I checked in there in desperation, and lo and behold!

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*the “Hallelujah” chorus starts playing*

So that’s tale of time number 1341 that I almost lost my ninja. What would I even do if I lost him? I would just have to quit blogging.

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Topic change, so here’s a pizza that has corn on it. Why is this not popular in the Midwest? I feel like the Midwest USA would totally do this. It tastes good.

 

So pollution has been getting much better recently. I’m not sure if this means that yellow dust season is ending or if the wind is just blowing it all away from us temporarily. Here’s some pictures for comparison with how it was a couple weeks ago as I talked about in my last blog post.

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May 8th

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May 16th (about a week later) Crazy, huh?

So, yes. I am still going to school. I’ve taken all but one of my finals. I’ll get to know what class I’m in next Tuesday. Just a little cultural difference I’ve learned between East/West in respect to homework and studying:

People from Western cultures view homework and studying as two different things. Yes, you can study a little by doing homework, but real studying involves looking over notes and quizzing yourself over vocabulary and hardcore memorization.

However, people from Eastern cultures view homework and studying as the same thing. This leads to them saying things that sound rather odd things to a Western student’s ear. Things like, “Our homework was really good. I like getting homework.” And the teachers in Eastern cultures saying things like, “I think you need more homework. Do you have enough homework?”

Leading up to the finals, the teachers were giving more and more homework. The students from Eastern countries loved this while the students from Western countries were getting rather stressed and frustrated. When were we supposed to study when we had all this homework to do? That’s when I realized my first significant cultural difference between how the East and West do school.

So please pray for me that I will continue to recognize and then patiently adjust as I learn cultural differences here. And, as I said, my mom is coming to visit me next week, so please pray for safety for her as she flies.

Thanks for reading!

Next: Week 13&14
Week: Week 9&10

 

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