Friday, June 24, 2016

My first full day in Seoul began at 6:30am…jet lag be real. Anyway, after typing out my first blogpost, I went downstairs with my roommate and was greeted by an underwhelming breakfast of two very small waffles, cereal, exactly four cherry tomatoes and a salad fit for a mouse, if mice ate salad. I was still quite hungry, so I decided to play it safe and went to an American-style restaurant called (진언하우스) JineAnn Haus where I ordered a (불고기 버거) bulgogi burger and (딸기 버블티) strawberry bubble tea. Both were absolutely delicious. Pictures at the bottom.

Meanwhile, a large group of about 20 students decided to travel via (지하처) subway to (명동) Myeong-dong, a shopping district.  After buying T-money cards, we traveled from (신촌) Sinchon on line 2 until (을지로3) Euljiro 3. Once there, we visited the famous restaurant (명동교자) Myeong-dong Gyoza.

Our gang split up after lunch, and we found a model interviewing foreigners. Actually, he found us! I’ll let the video do the talking for this:.

Some mannequins at Lotte
Then, we shopped! I bought a shirt at ZioZia, and we wandered around the various beauty shops before hitting up the (롯데) Lotte department store. Branding clearly holds a firm grip in the minds of Koreans, because there were almost as many brands as items, with many only holding sections of the floor the size of my dorm room.

The next few days consisted of meeting my (선생님) teachers and classmates. After some level adjustments, I had 10 new friends! The days were long, but I learned a hell of a lot of Korean. At the end of this post are some pictures of my classroom.
The stage minutes before the Nanta performance.
On Friday, the program and its helpers conducted us towards (홍대) Hongdae, where the Nanta performance awaited us. Nanta is a non-verbal performance that integrates (사물놀이) Salmunori, a traditional band of four percussive musicians, along with comedy sketches, dancing, singing, acrobatics and magic tricks. Really, anything goes. Our show revolved around cooking. Real chefs knives were twirled while chopping actual food, though sometimes more food made it on the floor than in the dishes! Several audience members were called up, and I even had a fake bag of trash thrown at me, upon which the entire caste apologized profusely. All in all, between fits of laughter, clapping, and (at the behest of one actor) clapping and stomping our feet to his conducting and fake disapproval, the atmosphere felt light and fun. It was the perfect way to begin our adventure together.
Korean meat! Yum!
Afterwards, about 9 of us decided to search Hongdae for some (삼겹살) Samgyupsal, a Korean pork belly dish. Our guide was an Australian Korean who had a propensity for getting lost. Not a particularly useful combination, but the wandering led us down some amazing streets. We eventually found our meat at (구이가) Guiga. A trip to a random (노레방) Norebang followed with much singing and silliness.

I still have long way to go in exploring Seoul, but that’s okay! At the very least, I’m not worried about running out of things to do.

Monday, June 20, 2016

I could hardly contain my excitement the night before my trip. I swam laps in my neighborhood pool in an attempt to tire myself out for a good rest. Sadly, I seemed immune to fatigue! I got up at 2:43am – several minutes before my alarm was to go off – and began my journey! I’m a strong believer in early starts. I like getting up before fate (in this case, my 3am alarm) forces me into action. It empowers me like nothing else.

Entrance to the food court and flight gates, 
Toronto airport.
Anyway, this post covers the ride from Atlanta to my dorm in Seoul. The trip to the airport was nothing special. Once inside the international terminal, I was somewhat taken back by the low number of people. Wasn’t this the busiest airport in the world? And the international side at that! But such a low turnout presented itself at 4am, that not even the TSA decided to show up. I guess those suicide bombers like a full night of rest before heading out to “execute” their plans. The TSA showed up roughly 30 minutes later, looking like they were about to start a 17 hour shift at McDonalds. Once the usual customs were underway (see what I did there? You’d better laugh, or at least snort), the process of getting to my terminal went quickly in the uncrowded airport. I got on my flight at 6am, slept and landed in Canada at 8. Or, as one of the other passengers said, CanAAAda. In the Toronto airport, I went through customs and immediately went to devour a breakfast burrito at True Burger. It felt delicious to my empty stomach. Now, to wait for my next flight and meet up with other students arriving in Toronto.

I wanted to let the other students know I had arrived, so I walked over to one of the many iPads docked throughout the flight gates and logged into Facebook. I was liking this airport so far. That is, until my flight got delayed for 2 hours. No amount of free WiFi and iPads can turn a 7.5 hour layover into something okay. By the time my new friends and I gathered around the boarding zone, I had deflated a bit.
iPads and eating area at the Toronto airport.

It was now 3:30pm on Sunday. I quietly make my way to my assigned middle seat (ew), but the woman already sitting by the window asks if I can switch with her son, who is located behind her. I readily agree (yay window seat), but before I can even turn around she notices my avatar the last airbender shirt. She tells me her son and her were both in the movie and how much they love it. Internally, I’m speechless, but I courteously let her know how cool it was before finding my new seat.

The rest of the flight was about what you expect. I watched two movies – Zootopia, surprisingly good, and the second Maze Runner, surprisingly bad. Seriously, they just slapped a crappy zombie apocalypse story onto a decidedly better survival story. The only other thing worth mentioning was the absolutely adorable mom and her teenage-looking son. I don’t think she spoke English, but the son understood some. Anyway, they were extremely pleasant to sit next to the entire flight. At one point, the mom had her head sprawled on the son’s food tray, while the son rested his head on hers. If taking a picture wouldn’t have been creepy, you would see one here.

Once in Seoul, we went through customs, then found our way to the buses, purchased the correct ticket, and got off in the general area we were supposed to. By this point, I would be, in the words of one of my new friends, “curled up in a ball on the street.” We wandered in the right direction and eventually found the front entrance and a map to our respective dorms. By now it was dark and I was hungry and thirsty. After checking in, however, a shower came first. I felt spoiled, and not in the good way. I drank some water and ate the Choco pie they left me, then read a book and went to bed.

Bonus: confusing Incheon airport toilet.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hi! 안녕! My name is Jarrett and I am going to South Korea for 5 weeks in 2 days! This blog will hopefully capture my 여행 (trip) in all its glory.