The Brave, Little Ninja Goes to School in South Korea: Weeks 51 & 52

This time I go to Jeju Island and have my last weeks of language school!


Wednesday Feb 14th: This was our last dance practice. We finished up the formations and discussed what we were going to wear for the performance.

Thursday was the beginning of the Lunar New Year break. Sydney, Luke, and I went to Jeju, which is a Korean island off the south coast. It’s treated like the Hawaii of Korea as it’s a popular Korean vacation destination and it’s an island, but really it feels much more like the Florida of Korea.

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The trip went smoothly probably because Luke planned it all honestly. We got the rental car with no problem and drove to our hotel. Jeju has one big mountain in the middle, and there was still quite a bit of snow up there, but the coast areas didn’t have any at all.

On Friday, the first place we went to is Ilchulbong Jeongsang, which is called Sunrise Peak in English. We had to hike a little bit to get up to the top, but it was a really awesome view.

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#AleciaApparentlyDoesn’tKnowWhatLightingIs

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On top of Ilchulbong Jeongsaaaaaang…all covered in touristssssss

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Look how clear the water is! LOOK AT IT

My favorite part was going down to the beach. The sand was really thick and reminded me of ground-up Oreos. (No, I didn’t try any to make sure.)

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Jeju is famous for these women divers. While we saw plenty of them, we didn’t see any actually diving.

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Oreo sand

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I guess collecting seashells just isn’t something that Koreans do. I definitely took a few shells and also a few pretty pieces of sea glass. The beach was absolutely covered in these shells.

After that, since Jeju is famous for a special type of tangerine-type fruit called a gyool (귤), I bought gyool-flavored chocolate to take back for my class.

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Yes, it is shaped like a pig because…

Jeju is also famous for is what’s called black pork. So we ate that for lunch, and it was expensive, but it was totally worth it to have just that once.

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We practically gave the owner a heart attack trying to cook the stuff ourselves. We apparently didn’t do it right so he offered to do it for us. Oops.

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The owner also gave us free rice thingies because they’re traditionally eaten on Lunar New Year.

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The owner was either really excited that foreigners came to his new restaurant or he just really liked us because he gave us free gyool too.

After that we went to a cave cafe, which as you can probably guess, is a cafe that’s inside a cave. Because we were in Jeju during a Korean holiday, many of the places we went had very few people. This was one that had absolutely no one else there but us. It was a little strange, but the poor lady who was manning the cafe all by herself was really nice and she spoke English really well, so we got to talk with her a little.

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It looked kinda like a Hobbit hole from the outside honestly.

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Inside I felt like I stepped into Skyrim. (I could have sworn that someone stole my sweetroll….)

Saturday, now another thing that I didn’t know before going to Jeju is that there are tons of really obscure museums on Jeju. Like, if you think of anything, there is probably a museum of it on Jeju.

Our first stop was the Teddy Bear Museum.

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I about fell over laughing at this.

The next was a glass museum.

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It felt a lot like something out of a Dr. Seuss book or Alice in Wonderland.

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You can tell I’m from the Midwestern US when one of my first thoughts was, “They must not get hail here.”

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This place was probably even more awesome at night.

After that, the Jeju Air Museum.

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#AleciaDeperatelyNeedsToAttendABasicPhotographyClass

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Then when we parked to go to an awesome pizza restaurant Luke went to last time he was in Jeju, we realized we were really close to the beach so we just walked over. It was really windy and still kinda cold so we took a lot of pictures and then quickly went to the restaurant.

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In case I didn’t mention it before: Sydney, Luke, and I call our little group the “Flock” for reasons that even we’re unsure of.

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The pizza place is run by a chef who trained in Italy. You could tell he was super professional and the pizza was really good.

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Sunday, our flight was in the early evening so we had some time to squeeze in some sightseeing before we had to be back. Our first stop was the only waterfall in Eastern Asia that drops straight into the ocean.

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There were some of the female divers eating lunch near the waterfall.

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This was a building nearby the falls. Pretty.

After that, we had an impromptu stop to another set of falls.

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You could say we were falling for Jeju.

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So these stone guys are basically the mascots of Jeju. They’re called 돌하르방 (dolhareubang) which translates to “stone grandpa” in Jeju dialect. They’re everywhere.

The next place we went was a bridge.

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Does this make up for all the other blog posts I had where I had like only three pictures?

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After a quick lunch at McDonalds, we flew back. It was a really awesome trip, and I’m super grateful that I had the opportunity to go. (But first, some leftover pictures!)

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These pumice(?) stones are everywhere and they have short but long walls of these things all over.

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So in the olden days of Jeju, people had these fences with three planks of wood in front of their houses to communicate to other people if they were at home or not. No poles connected: We’re home so please come in.
One pole connected: We’re out but we’ll be right back.
Two poles connected: We’re at the neighboring village.
Three poles connected: We’re at a far away village.

Monday, I gave my class the chocolate I brought back, and it was a hit. Although I can’t imagine how bringing chocolate wouldn’t ever not be a hit but whatever.

After school, I had my pronunciation tutoring phone call, but this time my tutoree wanted to help me with Korean, so we talked in Korean for that time.

Tuesday was the day of my writing final. I was really disappointed with myself because I wasn’t able to finish during the test. We had two writing prompts, and we had to use the given grammar in our answers. I was able to cram all the grammar into the first few sentences I wrote, but I wasn’t able to finish the prompts to make them coherent essays.

Wednesday, I had my listening, reading, and grammar final. It was really hard to do well already knowing I didn’t do well on my writing final—which is normally my best test.

Thursday was my last test—the speaking test where I talk with a teacher from level 4 (a level above what I was currently in). I felt much better about it than I did last time when I tried this level.

I couldn’t go to prayer meeting because there was one last group dance practice before we all performed at graduation the next day.

And later that night I found out about my grades: I passed all my tests except for my listening test. Now, at Sogang if you only fail one test, you can retake it after graduation. So it was a little disappointing that I had to retake a test, but I could see from comparing my grades with when I tried this level last time that I had improved drastically. My teachers even gave me a “very good” in the “understanding” category, which I kind of disagree with, but I guess I’m just really good at faking it.

Graduation was Friday. Now at Sogang, there are two groups of classes: morning and afternoon, so they have two graduations. My dance group got to perform for both graduations because there were people from both the morning and afternoon classes in it. Thankfully I only had to sing to represent the song class for just the morning one. I was really pitchy, but overall it was okay. I didn’t like throw up or faint or anything so I count that a win.

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Here’s my tumbler that I got for having perfect attendance.

After that I met up with some of my classmates and we went to a buffet for dinner. After that we went to a really cool arcade. It was awesome because unlike a normal arcade, there was an entrance fee (about $4) and then you could play all the games in the arcade for free for one hour instead of paying per machine. The arcade also had little karaoke rooms and we jammed way more people in one then was probably allowed and rocked out. (Gosh, do people even say “rocked out” anymore? I can’t use “jammed” twice in the same sentence! Writer struggles.) We took lots of pictures, and overall it was a really good finale to a fun last semester at language school.

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Here’s a picture of the arcade.

Saturday, I hung out with Sydney because Luke was visiting friends in the Philippines and taking a tour around some of South East Asia while he was at it. So Sydney and I worked on our story and played Mario Kart. (I actually won once. I think I’m getting the hang of the Switch finally!)

Monday was the day of the restest. It was much better than the normal test. It was almost the exact same test but they gave you time to read all the questions well before playing the audio so you could know what to listen to. And they gave you as much time as you needed to finish (within reason of course). Basically, the retest is to make sure that you didn’t fail the test just because you didn’t take the test well. (I kind of just wish they did it like this to start out with, but nobody asked me.)

Tuesday, I found out I passed the retest, so I passed this level! I’m so happy that I finally passed level three. I know I improved a lot over the past three months, but it would have been so frustrating still to have failed my last level, and not only that but to have failed the same level twice. This makes me feel so much better about myself and makes the time I spent retaking this level feel more worth it.

Wednesday was my 1-year Korea-versery (part of why I decided to wait until today to post instead of Monday. Well, that and I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do yet, and I didn’t want to leave you in suspense).

Lisa took me out to eat for lunch to celebrate my graduation and my Koreaversary. I’m so grateful for people like Lisa who have taken me under their wing while I’ve been in Korea. I’ve been so supported while I’ve been here, and I can’t imagine being more blessed than I am for that.

Now my next steps are constantly in flux, but I have been dragging this out way too long, so I’m just going to go ahead and say that for now this is my plan:

  • I will stay in Korean until March 31st (as my visa expires April 1st). I’ll be moving to the Missionary Training Center where I helped out before when I was in Korea the first time. I will be helping the missionary kids that are there with English, and one day a week I’ll be helping the adults with conversational English.
  • After that, I will return to the States and continue trying to get applications and stuff filled out in order to return to Korea for 1 year to do basically the same thing. I’ll be helping the missionary kids with English, doing the English camps that I helped out with before, and then assist in the intensive English program for the Korean missionaries afterward, which I also did last time.
  • It’s really up in the air how long the application process and getting the visa will take, so I honestly can’t give you an estimate for how long I’ll be staying in the US before I go back.
  • This process does include me raising my own support as I will be working for a non-profit missions organization.

As for the blog:

  • I will keep blogging for the next month until I leave but under different series title because, well, I’m not going to school anymore, am I? If you’re subscribed to my blog, you’ll get the updates, so you don’t need to do anything on your end except keep reading when the email shows up in your inbox.
  • After I get back to the States, I’ll keep doing my blog, but the updates might be once a month instead of twice a month.
  • I plan on doing a follow-up reflection post for this blog series a month or so after I get back in the States.

All in all, this has been an amazing opportunity, and I’m so grateful for all the people who have been praying for me. I have never felt anything but surrounded by God’s love the entire time I’ve been here, and I know that has a lot to do with all the people advocating for me with their prayers. So thank you so, so much.

Thanks for taking the time to read up on the adventures of Alecia and the Brave, Little Ninja when we went to school in South Korea!

Follow-up Reflection
Weeks 49 & 50

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