The Brave, Little Ninja Goes to School in South Korea: Weeks 42 & 43

This time I go to my grandparents’ house for Christmas, and I get to see my family after almost a year!


Tues (12/12): Monica left to go back home for Christmas the previous day so I was all by myself for the rest of the time until I went back to the US for Christmas myself.

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I got one of these cute bear keychains for Sydney, Luke, and me.

Wed: I had a lot of time to kill after class because this was the first day of the Kpop dance club meeting. The meeting started at 5:30, class got out at 1, and it wasn’t worth it to go back to the apartment because it takes an hour one way. So instead I just decided to hang out in the Sinchon area.

Something I did to entertain myself was I went to look inside the Hyundai department store that was nearby because I’d never been inside that particular one and to look at winter coats. I’d been inside a few other Hyundai department stores, and this one was exactly like the others. This included the cost of everything inside, so I wasn’t able to buy any of the winter coats inside.

So after that I went to coin noraebang (Korean karaoke). After all, if I was going to be stuck there for a while, I was going to get some noraebang in. I apparently surprised the guys running the place by being a foreigner and going by myself. I wasn’t 100% sure, but when I came in, I think they were asking me which room the friends I was meeting here were in, but I told them that I wasn’t meeting anyone because I came by myself. Now it is completely normal to go to coin noraebangs by yourself, so they must have been shocked because I was a foreigner doing this. It’s kinda hard to believe that though because there are three universities near Sinchon. You’d think at least one foreigner had gone in there by himself/herself before. Anyway, just to prove I knew exactly what I was doing, the first song I sang was a Korean song (one of the only two I can sing proficiently).

Anyway, after that I went to Artbox. Now, I’m not normally one for impulse-buys, but I got this adorable penguin keyring thing.

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Isn’t it the cutest ever?!

After that I went to Spao to buy a winter parka. However, Shoopen was on the first floor, and I saw they had warm winter boots on sale, which I needed. However, I needed to try them on first, and I wasn’t sure how to go about doing that. Much of my time in Korea consists of me standing back and just watching Koreans do things so I can see how it’s supposed to be done. It turns out at least in that particular store that you tried on the shoes that were on display instead of digging them out of the boxes. Thankfully I have the average Korean woman’s shoe size so my size was included in the three sizes that were on display.

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After I bought the shoes, I got an awesome parka from Spao on the floor above. I had gone into Spao once before to do some preliminary price shopping, and I noticed it had these weird numbers on all the tags. After doing further research into buying winter parkas, I found a site that told me what the numbers meant and which numbers meant that coat would keep me warm enough. So with those numbers in mind, this time when I went back, I found this coat that I liked that was very good quality and bought it. I absolutely love it, and it’s like walking around in my own, personal cocoon of warmth. It makes me happy.

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After that, I went to the dance group meeting. There was one guy from my current class and three girls from previous classes there. I’m finding that I actually know a good number of people at Sogang now after going to school here for almost a year. It’s starting to feel like I’m back in college or something. Anyway, one of the girls I knew chose to do the same song as me, so not only am super pumped to learn this particular song, I’m excited to hang out with her as well as make new friends.

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I also had to get a new portable battery because my other one died. But at least I found a good place to finally put my big Ryan sticker!

Thurs: I went to lunch with one of the girls from my class. She signed up for many of the same extra free classes that I did, so I think I found a fairly consistent lunch buddy for the semester. Yay!

On another note, the washer froze. The washer is outside on the patio/balcony thingy, and it’s very cold out there. The water went into the machine, washed, and did everything like normal except the water wouldn’t drain. This meant that the machine would not unlock itself because it sensed there was still water in it. Practically all my clothes were in there, so I was kind a panicking because Monica had already left, and I knew there was no way I was going to be able to call up the laundry machine company and successfully be able to explain my problem.

I ended up calling Susan, the director of OMS Korea who I stayed with at the beginning of this adventure. Thankfully she was able to come over and help try to figure it out with me. We figured out how to string over the hairdryer and warm up the place where the water was probably frozen in the pipe. Somehow, thanks to Susan it worked and the water started to drain! My clothes were saved! Susan suggested when I want to do laundry in the winter that I first do a short load with just a towel or something with very warm water just to clear out any ice that may have formed before I do my actual clothes. Hopefully, that strategy will work.

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The left sock says something like, “Even my feet are pretty.” The right sock says, “So my face will be pretty.”

Fri: I had lunch with one of the girls from my previous semester’s class, so that was nice to catch up with her a little. After that, I went to Insadong (a super touristy place where you can get any sort of Korean souvenir that you want) to get some last-minute Christmas gifts. I went there via a bus I’ve never been on, which is sort of like a form of entertainment for me. I like doing it because the subways are mostly underground, and this way I get to see parts of the city I’ve never seen. My journey was successful, and I got the presents I needed. When I got back, I pre-packed a little of my suitcase that I was going to take back. I was maybe a little anxious or something.

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You know it’s cold when they give the statues sweaters.

Sat: Luke and Sydney weren’t able to meet up, so I just chilled at the apartment. I did some laundry and started this blog post in anticipation that I wouldn’t want to do a whole one on the day I’m supposed to update which is Christmas Day. And I was very thankful to my past self for thinking ahead when I went through and actually finished it.

Sun: I went to church, but Sydney and I didn’t eat with our usual group as we went to Myeongdong to meet up with Luke and his sister who came from the US a few days earlier to visit him and go see Nanta. So instead, Sydney and I ate at this super awesome waffle place. They did not skimp on the chocolate that they put on the waffle, and it was heavenly.

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Before

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After

After that, we met up Luke and his sister and saw Nanta. Now how I would describe Nanta is that it’s kind of like Blue Man Group in that it’s a comedy percussion show except this one is set in a sort of story where all the character work as chefs in a restaurant. It was really funny, and of course the performers were amazingly talented. It was so awesome!

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Unfortunately, you weren’t allowed to take pictures during the show, so here’s just the brochure.

After that, we went to noraebang in order to give Luke’s sister a proper Korea experience. However, I was feeling kinda sick, but I didn’t care because we were going to noraebang. We had fun singing, and when I got back to the apartment, I went to sleep at like 8:30.

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In Korea, this is considered a lot of Christmas lights.

Mon: I felt kinda better, but just in case I brought a thermos of tea to class. I was shocked when I stepped outside the apartment as it had snowed a lot (or what was ‘a lot’ compared to the dustings we’d gotten so far this season).

Wed: This was the first day of my free extra pronunciation class. I really got a good feeling from this class as this was the first time I’ve taken this class where the teacher seemed to actually want to be there. I have a feeling that the teachers may not get paid to teach these extra free classes, so as you can imagine, usually the teachers do only the bare minimum of preparation for these classes and are just mentally exhausted while teaching. And of course the students can sense that, and I think it definitely contributes to the sharp drop in attendance after the first day which has happened every single session I’ve taken this class.

Afterward, it was also the first official practice for the Kpop dance club. The number of people who came the first day to join our song doubled this day. We’ll see if attendance stays the same, but I’m excited for a bigger group. We learned about 20 seconds of the song, and it was a really fun atmosphere. Remembering back to the last time I did this which was back in level 1, it’s so awesome to be able to understand a good majority of what our leader was saying as she was trying to teach us the dance.

Thurs: This was the first day of the last free class that I’m attending: the song class. I went to last semester’s class for one day even though I hadn’t signed up for it just to see what the class was like, and so this time I actually signed up for it. The thing is though that they decided to change it into a singing club instead of just a regular extra class. This means that we will be basically forming a choir, and we will perform during graduation. I’m super excited, and I hope too many people don’t drop out now that they revealed the change in the nature of the class. We hadn’t really discussed which song(s) we might perform yet, and we’ll do that when we get back from Christmas break. However, in the meantime, we got the printed-out lyrics of the Korean version of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from Frozen, and we sang that together. It was lots of fun, and I can’t wait until the next class!

It was a pretty long day for me though as I had to take my big suitcase to the airport for them to hold until the next day. The reason why I had to do this was because I knew that on Friday, the day I flew out, I wouldn’t have time to go all the way back to the apartment after class, get my bag, and go all the way back to the airport in time to catch my flight. And so I found a place in the airport that would keep my luggage there for me. It was evening by the time I got all that done and got back to the apartment.

Fri: Every semester we have a field trip, and level 3 always goes to this special place in nearby Idae where they teach you to cook Korea food. Thankfully, last semester was Fall semester because that meant that everyone regardless of level did the festival thing where we made food and sold it, so that meant that I didn’t have to do the same field trip when I repeated level 3 this time. Awesome how that worked out, huh?

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After we were finished with cooking, I went straight to the airport. As I was checking my bag, I completely forgot that I had bought and wrapped one of those little portable batteries as a gift for one of my family members and put it in my checked bag, which is a big no-no. I already knew that you had to treat portable batteries like laptops and bring them in your carry-on, but it completely slipped my mind since it was a gift. My bag got in trouble, and I had to go to this special room and get it out. Thankfully the lady there was really nice, and I was able to leave without any trouble.

On the flight, I watched four movies: Oceans 11, Elf, Wonder Woman, and whatever the newest Pirates of the Carribbean is called. I don’t know if I was actually able to really sleep or not, but I tried to for the rest of the time.

Eventually we got to Fort Worth, and I was kinda frustrated because the airport is confusing, takes forever to transfer terminals, and worst of all: there was no free wifi in the airport. Seriously! How was there no free wifi? So I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to tell my family that I landed safely or anything because I don’t have an American SIM card anymore.

On top of that, our flight was delayed for an hour because catering wouldn’t show up to our plane for our 2.5-hour flight. It was 1am, and everyone on board was being sassy and saying things like, “Your catering sucks anyway!” Eventually catering did show up, and then we did finally take off.

Sat: When I arrived finally, my grandpa met me at the airport. Strangely enough, the airport wasn’t very busy at 1am, so I got my luggage easily, and then we got to my grandparents’ house quickly too.

I fell asleep at like 4am and woke up just before noon, but I could already tell that I was handling this jet lag much better than when I came back from Korea last time. I went to the store with grandma to get some stuff for dinner. We also got Dunkin Donuts for breakfast the next day because that’s how we do it in this house. It was so fun to be able to see my grandparents after almost a year!

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I guess I’m okay with the weather. haha

My parents and brother arrived later that day hours earlier than what they were supposed to because a really awesome guy they were checking in their luggage with was able to change their flights around and get them on one that was faster. My family usually has horrible luck with traveling, so this was completely unprecedented. It was kinda surreal when my family walked into the house. I was more happy than any words I knew in English or Korean could have been used to describe it.

Sun: This was Christmas Eve, and we grilled out for lunch. Afterward, we went and picked up Christmas dinner and some other things from the store. When we got back, we played gonggi which is basically Korean jacks. We’re all terrible at it, but we’ll have lots of time to practice while we’re here.

Mon: Christmas Day, we slept in and opened presents. It was so much fun to see my family members open the presents I got them from Korea. After we finished with presents, we played the Korean subway Monopoly game that I brought. I bought it from Daiso (the Korean dollar store), and so there were some obvious things about the game that reflected that, but it was actually a really interesting version of Monopoly. There was an extra element that made it sort of like a combination of Monopoly and Ticket to Ride. The game was fun, but the set-up took a long time as I had to do a lot of translating of the game cards and such. In the end, I lost horribly, but my family (especially my brother) is really good at these sorts of things. And it was just fun to see them playing something Korean.

Later on, I was able to talk to my cousins and then my other grandparents over Facetime. So that was very exciting. I love Christmas so much!

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We also played this game. I also lost this one.

Thanks for all of you who prayed for safety in my flights. Please pray for the same for me and my parents and brother as we all fly back to our respective places on New Year’s Eve.

Sorry that this was a day or two late, but I think you understand I was a little occupied. My next blog post should be back on schedule. I’ll fill you in on what happened the rest of the break and how my first week back went.

Thanks for reading! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Weeks 44, 45 & 46
Weeks 40 & 41

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