Monday, October 12, 2009

Hongdae-ing Around

Hello again! So once again I'm not really sure where to start. Every week here is something new and different. Yet at the same time, some of the things that I used to find so strange are suddenly just part of my everyday life and have become normal. I'm not sure when the switch flipped, but somewhere in the past few weeks this foreign country has stopped being so foreign and has started to actually feel like home. Believe me there is no better feeling than walking into your apartment at 7am after a long night out in Hongdae (the University area in Seoul my friends and I frequent on the weekends) and actually feeling at home in this apartment in the middle of Korea. I admit, it took me longer to feel at ease here than any other place that I've ever lived, but now I feel sort of guilty because I'm starting to forget what is "normal" here is not normal to everyone back home and that you all still may want to hear about it. Don't worry though, K-Pop still isn't normal to me and I still think its hilarious. More on that later.

Current mood: Disappointed in those Badgers, but also feeling incredibly smug that its snowing for all you losers in Wisconsin. Sucks to be you. It was 70 here today.

Also, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well this entry will be fullllll of pictures if that's ok. It really just describes everything better than I could ever attempt to.

This past Friday at school was "field day" or in my mind just plain ol' GAME DAY! No classes. No teaching. Just an entire day filled with games It was grrrreeat. All the homerooms competed against each other. Started off with some crazy human bridge game that involves one student running across the backs of the other students, and then the students have to run to the end of the line to allow the standing person to continue. They had to make down the soccer field and back. Really dangerous. Really funny.

Bridge Game

Here's a video of some of the students cheering. No idea what they're saying, but this class won for the most spirited of the day!

There was also a jump roping competition. This class happens to be my neighbor Sang-Eun's homeroom class. They won. And just FYI - they counted to 21 in the video before they messed up.

The kids were all really into all of the competitions and it was cool to see them so excited about something. Some of the homerooms even had shirts made to show their team spirit. The kids loved it because they usually have to wear uniforms and this was one of the rare days when they could dress as crazy as they wanted. One of my students, Garam, has surprised me by having some incredible photography skills. I've stolen a few of her pics to share with you all, because they're so good.

Also, my neighbor Sang-Eun roped me into participating in the days events because her homeroom is only boys. I may have said this before, but there is a disproportionate number of boys and girls at my school, and on average in a class of 30, there are only 5-10 girls. For the relay races, there needed to be 4 boys and 2 girls on each team. So she was going to be running with her kids, and asked if I would help out their team. The kids totally loved this. The first was a simple relay race, just run fast and pass it on. We didn't win, but the kids thought watching me run was fun and they were surprised by how "fast" I was. Which is really funny because I'm not fast at all - I think women here are just overly girly and don't tend to exercise much.

Sang-Eun's homeroom (my relay team)

The 2nd relay was not so simple and now the students have ammunition to make fun of me forever. For my part, I had to run, crawl in the dirt under a volleyball net, run some more, and then hop for what felt like forever in a potato sack. We all looked crazy but we were playing for playground pride here! Luckily I didn't have to do the 2nd part of the relay which involved some sort of somersault followed by sticking your face in a tray full of flour to grab a piece of candy. And here's some more pics from the day...

Friday night after game day I met up with Sara, Anna, and Rebecca in Seoul for a good old fashioned girls night out. We went out for dinner and then hit the clubs! We made a few Korean friends along the way as well which was fun. The club we went to was pretty insane. Think London meets Acapulco. The music was mostly hip hop which is perfect for me, but they were digging wayyyy back into the music archives. I'm pretty sure I heard TLC's No Scrubs at some point during the night. I also feel like we were all doing the Cupid Shuffle at some point as well (Courtney and Meghan please tell me you know this dance and can demo it for mom and dad because I know they don't have a clue what it is).

The huuuuge dance club
After the club we made our usual stop at Burger King and then hopped on the subway home.

This weekend I also went to Gyeongbokgung Palace. Its the biggest palace in Seoul, and was built in...1396? ish? Maybe? I can't remember honestly. But it was pretty awesome.

I also took a video since my pictures really don't show how massive this place is. Even the video doesn't quite capture the magnitude of it.
Inside the palace walls were pond, gardens, trees, multiple buildings, and a towering pagoda. It was pretty awesome. It also is especially beautiful because there are mountains visible behind the grounds of the palace. We were there in late afternoon and it was the perfect fall day.

After the palace, we walked around the City Hall area and Cheonggyecheon stream. Always great places to visit in Seoul. Then we got a brilliant idea to go up in the Samsung Jongno tower. This tower was the one I described wayyy back in August when I first ventured into Seoul - it was literally the first thing I ever saw in Seoul. So without really knowing whether or not we could go there, Sara, Rebecca and I decided to just go for it. We went up to the top floor, which is 33 for this particular building. At the top was an amazing view and an absolutely beautiful restaurant. They were really nice and allowed us to go in so we could take pictures, but we were so captivated by the view that we decided to stay and have a glass of wine at the top of this beautiful building to watch the sun set over the mountains. The pictures obviously don't measure up to how amazing it actually was, so for those of you who come to visit I'm going to highly recommend a sunset dinner or drink at this restaurant, appropriately named Top Cloud.

We decided to make reservations here for November when we'll be celebrating Sara, Rebecca, and Anna's birthday all in the same weekend - so I'm looking forward to going back.

Next weekend I'm planning to go to Busan with the usual crew to see a fireworks festival! Last weekend Busan hosted an international film festival and I think I saw on the news that Josh Hartnett was in Korea for it. He's such a babe. Its my first real weekend traveling out of Seoul - unless you count the DMZ but I don't really since I practically live next to it. If all goes as planned we will be taking the bullet train out of Seoul on Friday night, and it will take us about 3 hours on this high speed train across the country. We're still looking into hostels/love motels but we really want to stay near the beach. Its nice enough here still where even if we can't lay out or go in the water, it will be comfortable to at least walk around or play some games on the beach.

As promised, here is your weekly dose of K-Pop. This song always seems to be on in the grocery store near my house, and once I hear it I can't stop singing it. Limited English, as usual. "Sorry sorry" and "shawty shawty" is about it. The song is called Sorry Sorry by Super Junior. Super Junior has 13 members with ages ranging from 15-18. And is it just me or do they all have the same haircut? With the exception of the tutting part, the dancing in this video is so atrocious that I had the whole thing down by the time I had watched half of it. They literally just do the same moves over and over and occasionally reverse them. Having an obnoxious amount of people in k-pop bands is pretty common here. I have no idea who thinks that is a good idea but somehow they make it work. Completely ridiculous. But awesome. Here it is: Sorry Sorry by Super Junior.

School is going well. The kids are still continuing to amuse and frustrate me but its always entertaining. I'm looking into volunteer opportunities with several North Korean Human Rights organizations in Seoul. I'm working on getting my friends involved as well. Human rights is something I became really interested in during college and took several classes on. Its something that is a really important cause to me so I'm looking forward to getting involved and hopefully working on building a resume that is directed more pointedly at what I want to do with my life. Especially after visiting the DMZ and stepping into North Korea, I am even more dedicated to this particular cause. North Korea is guilty of some of the worst human rights violations in the world, and I want to help raise awareness and do whatever I can to help victims of this incredibly oppressive government. This is a link from Amnesty International about only one area of the many North Korea is guilty of violating. Please read it.

I'll be back next weekend with updates from (hopefully) Busan.

"It's my life, and I'm not sitting on the sidelines watching it pass me by. I'm leaving you my legacy. I gotta make my mark, I gotta run it hard, I want you to remember me. I'm leaving my fingerprints..." --Katy Perry

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