Hyehwa and Samcheong-dong

1 Sep

Wow, it’s been a long break. I have to figure out how I’m going to post now that school has started at Korea University… but I’m sorry for not posting! I have been so busy every day since coming to KU – this is actually the first time I have a good amount of time to write a blog entry.  Even though I’m still posting about my summer vacation adventures, I wanted to mention that things at Korea University are going great and I absolutely love it here so far!

One day, I went to Hyehwa, an area in Seoul, with my language exchange partner.  Hyehwa is an area known for having many plays – there are so many theaters in the area.  It’s also in an area with a few universities, so its atmosphere is kind of like Sinchon’s.

First we went to a restaurant that my language exchange partner said was famous in Seoul for having some authentic Japanese donkatsu (fried pork cutlet).  I admit that I have no idea if it was authentic, but it was really good!

Me with the restaurant's mascot that sits outside!

The sign for the restaurant.. it's in Japanese and I'm rusty but I think it says "Donbori."

The very Japanese-looking kitchen area of the restaurant!

My donkatsu over rice and with egg!

After we ate, we wandered around Hyehwa for a while while waiting for our play to start.

I laughed SO hard when I saw this and had to take a picture.. it's Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings! Hyehwa has a lot of weird statues like this, I guess it's "artsy" XD

The (blurry) set of the play... everything took place on this one set. The play was really funny, even though I couldn't understand everything that went on.

On another day, I went with my friend, Julia, to a district in Seoul called Samcheong-dong! It was my first time there, but I really liked it.  There are lots of cafes and nice restaurants there, and even though there are always a lot of people there, it had a peaceful and calming vibe.

Walking from the subway to Samcheong-dong! No surprise, it was raining!

First glimpse of a traditional-looking house! Samcheong-dong has a lot of Korean traditional houses, called hanok, around.

That gate blocks the way to the President of South Korea's residence, the Blue House!

Samcheong-dong has a lot of Italian restaurants, so Julia and I picked one to try out called Oz’s Kitchen. It was really cute and quaint, fitting into Samcheong-dong’s overall feel nicely.

Oz's Kitchen exterior~

The drinks station at Oz's Kitchen.

Cute cooking instructions mural on the wall of Oz's Kitchen.

Part of the dining area at Oz's Kitchen.

I had oven-cooked spaghetti and Julia had some kind of shrimp pasta. It was delicious! The ingredients were all fresh and real, nothing fake here!

My oven spaghetti~ steaming hot! And the ubiquitous pickles!!

Me and Julia at the restaurant 🙂

After walking around a bit more, Julia and I relocated to a cafe for dessert: ice cream waffle! Waffles are not just a street food here, you can also buy “gourmet” versions in many cafes.  These waffles come with dipping sauces, ice cream, fruit and more! I love them~

Cafe's interior from our seat.

A picture of the Blue House gate (you can see the security guard) from inside the cafe.

And of course I must end with a picture of our waffle~ chocolate sauce, cream dipping sauce, maple syrup, chocolate and vanilla ice creams, powdered sugar, kiwi, and banana!

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The Three Musketeers, Food, and Inkigayo

19 Aug

(More random updates… trying to finish posting about KIP!)

First, one of my friends from class had tickets to a musical she wanted to go to called The Three Musketeers because a member of a group here called Super Junior was in it (it was Kyuhyun, by the way).  But at the last minute she couldn’t go, so she offered her ticket to me! So nice of her! The play took place at the Sejong Performing Arts Center in Gwanghwamun.

The lobby of the Performing Arts Center - it was really beautiful inside.

The poster for the musical, The Three Musketeers, inside the Performing Arts Center!

I really enjoyed the musical – I understood enough to follow the plot, so I was relieved! 😀 Everyone in the cast did a great job and from my seat in the balcony, I could see everything – it was great!

My view of the stage from the balcony before the musical started.

Kyuhyun (from Super Junior) taking his bow!

The Four Musketeers' final salute 😀

Now I wanted to share photos about one of the great aspects of South Korea: the food! I love the food here – there are so many options and I rarely find something I dislike.  My biggest advice to future exchange students would be to try everything at least once – you’ll never know if you like something until you give it a try!

A soda here called Milkis (?) Weird name, interesting taste - very fizzy. I liked it!

Ddeokmandugook!! Very delicious, combines mandu (dumplings) with ddeok (rice cake) in a soup with other vegetables.

Sweet and spicy chicken over rice, something that I eat often but don't get tired of!

Where I ate the chicken over rice - supposed to be a Japanese restaurant, but Saya said it was very Koreanized - something that a lot of Japanese places here seem to be!

My beloved patbingsu - this one was a frozen yogurt kind!

Milk tea version of patbingsu!

One day, my language exchange partner found out how much I love chocolate, so she took me to a cafe that specializes in “drinking chocolate,” very rich chocolate drinks. I was in heaven because I really am the biggest chocoholic ever! 🙂

Me excited for my chocolate drink 🙂

My drink at the chocolate cafe - the designs on the side of the cup are actually chocolate syrup! Yum!

On a different day, one of my other Korean friends took me to a cafe in Hongdae famous for its chocolate desserts!  Chocolate overload? Not for me 😛

I don't even know the real name of this cafe - the outside sign just advertises what it is famous for!

Steaming hot lava cake - this cafe's signature dessert!

A few weekends ago, Sogang KIP took all of the exchange students to SBS, one of the television stations here in South Korea, to watch a music show, Inkigayo, be filmed.  It was awesome but truly no pictures allowed! There were a million security guards there JUST looking for people trying to sneak pictures! It was crazy! But I saw some awesome people – 2NE1 was amazing and I felt really lucky that we got to see them perform, MBLAQ was really good, and Infinite were really, really good dancers. What was really cool was the different singers would just walk around in SBS’s lobby – I walked next to 2NE1 for a minute 🙂

Ayumi, another girl from KIP, and me on the bus to Inkigayo.

The sign for Inkigayo on the board outside SBS.

This summer has been really, really rainy in Seoul, and I’ve never seen as much rain as I did during my five weeks at Sogang KIP.  So here’s a photo of something that is a very common sight in hallways all over Sogang’s campus:

Umbrellas out to dry!

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Talchum, B-Boying, and Hanging Out With Classmates

16 Aug

A few more random updates 😀

One of the activities we did in culture class was Talchum, the Korean mask dance, where you put on a performance while wearing a mask. It’s a very traditional dance that goes back many many years in Korean history.  We went to Gyeongbokgung, one of the palaces in Seoul, to experience Talchum.

A view of Gyeongbokgung's side gate.

The palace grounds are huge! But here is a small sample of what you can see.

More of the grounds.

It was a beautiful - and hot! - day.

This building has a museum inside.

The National Folk Museum of Korea, where we learned about Talchum.

Talchum is actually a lot harder than it seems, because the dance looks pretty simplistic.  Actually, it’s really difficult to remember the rhythm, the steps, and the words you have to say all at the same time! It’s safe to say everyone in our class looked ridiculous but it was all in fun. 🙂

Selca (Korean word meaning "self-camera," very popular here!) with Saya!

On a different day, some of the girls in my class and I had time to go off-campus for lunch so we took the opportunity to take some pictures!

Saya and Nari!

Julia and me!

Julia, Saya, and me!

And the four of us!

For a different culture class, we went to see a b-boy performance at the 63 Building in Yeouido, another part of Seoul.  The 63 Building is the current tallest building in Seoul, but a taller one will be constructed soon.  (Also, the 63 Building is named for the number of floors it has) 😀

This is the 63 Building - it really sticks out!

The best way for me to describe b-boy is just to say that you should watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG1J6QYXjZc. This commercial shows some famous aspects of b-boy.

The show we saw - all of my pictures turned out blurry, so unfortunately this is all I have!

The picture we took with the dance crew afterward - they were all amazing!!

After the performance, our class felt like ~bonding~ so we went to a meat place in Hongdae.  These restaurants are everywhere – you grill your own meat, then get sauces to dip it in.  Side dishes are included too!

Grilling the meat~

Henri and Sungwan-ssi eating~

Sungwan-ssi, me, and Saya! Happy to eat meat~~

Julia and Lucy with all the meat!!

After that, we went to karaoke!! It’s the best with a group of people because you get a private room and can sing to your heart’s content for as long as you paid for.  But usually the people running the karaoke place will give you extra time in the room (we got 30 extra minutes that night). Much better than the embarrassment that is karaoke in the US!!

I was super tired so here's just a picture of the room in general~

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Various Updates!

14 Aug

Now that I’ve finished with all of the really big events that took place during the beginning of the Korean Immersion program, I’ll put a bunch of updates in one post because they’re all just everyday events that happened. 🙂

First, one day during the program I went with my roommate and her friend to eat jjimdalk, a very popular Korean dish which I had no idea existed but now LOVE! It’s so good! You always eat jjimdalk with a group of people because it’s just a bunch of ingredients cooked in the center of the table together.  I’ve had it a few times now, and it’s been different every time. 🙂 The jjimdalk must have chicken (dalk means chicken in Korean!), but may include ddeok (rice cake), noodles, potatoes, carrots, and other kinds of vegetables.

My roommate and I in front of the jjimdalk restaurant we ate at (the name means "The Chicken Looking At The Sky;" sounds better in Korean!)

The cooker for the jjimdalk that can be found in the center of each table in the restaurant.

Everything included in the jjimdalk gets put in the cooker, then the waiter turns the burner on (the waiter does all the work for you!)

The jjimdalk all cooked!

After you finish eating the jjimdalk, it is common for the waiter to come over and cook rice in the jjimdalk sauce - it's really yummy!

Looking out at one of the main roads in Sinchon from inside the jjimdalk restaurant.

Crowded restaurant full of people enjoying jjimdalk 🙂

After eating jjimdalk, we were in the mood for something sweet.  Jjimdalk is usually really spicy, but you can request that it not be as spicy – something we forgot to do 🙂 so we headed to an ubiquitous waffle stand! These little street stands are everywhere in Seoul, and you can just grab a really cheap waffle and eat it on the go!

The girl at the waffle stand making my waffle.

Me with my whipped cream and chocolate sauce waffle (and super happy about it!)

We also made a surprising discovery that day 🙂

An Ashley restaurant! Apparently it's some kind of buffet?

Of course I had to take a picture with the restaurant that shares my name 🙂

 

On a different day during KIP, I went with my friend Saya to visit Hongdae for the first time (a place that quickly became one of, if not my most, favorite place in Seoul!)  Hongdae is the area where Hongik University, a university famous for art, is located.  Because of that, the area is full of restaurants, cafes, clubs, and bars catering to students.  On Saturdays the students of Hongik University even have a mini craft show of sorts.  Since that day, I have been to Hongdae many times, but the area is so big and there are so many little alleys to explore that it’s impossible to get bored there!

One of my favorite stores in Seoul - Artbox! It's a stationery store primarily but sells all kinds of things, like pillows and purses. Plus everything is super cute, as most things in Korea tend to be!

 

Here's a place familiar to people in the US: Baskin Robbins! It's much better here: there's a lot of variety and the ice cream flavors are delicious.

Since summer in Seoul means super hot weather, Saya and I decided to stop in Baskin Robbins for a very Korean treat: patbingsu! Patbingsu is shaved ice topped with various toppings, which can include ice cream, ddeok (rice cake), sweet red bean, fruits, cornflakes, and basically anything the shop wants to use! It is mainly enjoyed in the summer in Korea because it’s very refreshing.  I have eaten it many times already! Here is Baskin Robbins’ version:

Baskin Robbins' patbingsu: Your choice of ice cream (we chose a white/milk/dark chocolate ice cream with malt balls), various fruit, nuts, red bean, cornflakes, ddeok, and of course shaved ice!

Other people enjoying ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

Here is what I bought at Artbox that day!

 

I also managed to get my cell phone that day! It’s a prepaid Lollipop phone that is pink and has a LED screen.  I think it’s a good choice for exchange students!

My very pink cell phone!

My phone when you flip it open.

 

1 Night, 2 Days Field Trip

8 Aug

On July 15th, students from the Korean Immersion Program went on a 1 night, 2 days trip to the countryside of Seoul! (1N2D is a popular way to refer to weekend trips here!)  We went to Yeongwol and Yeongju, both located outside Seoul, to see the countryside and some different landmarks.  Now I’ll let the pictures do the talking! You can click on this link to access the photos in a stream because there’s just too many of them to include in this post!!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/66112381@N06/sets/72157627383431250/

It was a whirlwind 1N2D!

Megabox Sinchon and Insadong

31 Jul

One of the most exciting events of my first week in Seoul was going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II two days before it opened in the United States!  Of course I loved the movie, but I also got to experience South Korea’s movie theaters, which operate a bit differently than those in the US.

On the way to Megabox, I saw something that is very common in Seoul: a car parked on the sidewalk!

I love the way Korean movie theaters operate.  In the US, for a popular movie you have to get to the theater at least an hour beforehand to make sure you get a seat.  In South Korea, you can get your ticket whenever you want beforehand, and at that time you pick what seat you want in the theater! The cashier will pull up a map of the theater and you can choose your preferred seat.  No one can steal your seat because it’s printed on your ticket.  Because of this, you only have to arrive at the movie theater 10 minutes before the movie starts, which is when they let people into the theater.

Megabox at nighttime. It really is a giant box. There is a mall inside as well.

Another nice aspect of Korean movie theaters is that the seats are really comfortable and spacious, with plenty of room for snacks and drinks.  Also, the area in front of the screen is not full of seats but is open – that way, no seat in the theater is a bad seat and if someone gets up and walks to the exit in the middle of the movie, they don’t pass in front of the screen.

Inside the theater at my assigned seat before Harry Potter started.

The side of the theater.

—-

On Thursday, July 14th, I went to Insadong, a district in Seoul, with my classmates as part of culture class.  Insadong is famous for being a very traditional area in Seoul, with lots of old-fashioned teahouses and shops selling traditional objects (which would be great souvenirs!) The area also has many independent art galleries.  Insadong is very crowded and on weekends, the city even closes the main road going through Insadong so people have more room to walk.

A very famous storefront in Insadong! The Korean letters say Starbucks – in Insadong, all shops must use Korean writing, so even Starbucks had to conform!

One of the many "Insadong" streets.

One of the most famous places inside Insadong is Ssamziegil, a really neat space full of little boutiques and shops.  Most shops featured hand-made items, not limited just to traditional objects.  There were shops selling accessories and clothing at Ssamziegil too!

Sign for Ssamziegil.

Inside Ssamziegil - it is famous for the way you make your way from floor to floor by winding around each level.

Another view of Ssamziegil.

Making our way through relaxing Ssamziegil.

Unique artwork inside Ssamziegil.

Full view of all the floors of Ssamziegil.

Cafe inside Ssamziegil.

View of Insadong from inside Ssamziegil.

Last of the statues you can find scattered through Ssamziegil.

Another look at Insadong from Ssamziegil.

After walking through Ssamziegil, our class met up at a traditional Insadong teahouse to escape the heat and try some traditional Korean drinks.

Courtyard of a traditional teahouse in Insadong where our class met for a break.

Decorations inside the teahouse.

A view inside the teahouse - see all of our shoes? The floor of the teahouse was the kind of floor you definitely can't wear shoes on!

A view of the courtyard from our room in the teahouse.

After I drank sikhye, a traditional Korean sweet rice drink, I left Insadong with my friend from class, Saya.  Before that though, we wanted to try something from one of the many street food stalls lining the main road in Insadong – these street stalls are seriously everywhere and sell great, inexpensive food.

Traditional Korean street food called Hoddeok - pancake-like dessert filled with cinnamon and brown sugar. Delicious and cheap!

As we left Insadong to go back to Sinchon, the subway we used had a huge mall inside! This is actually very common in Seoul as many subways have some kind of shopping center inside.

My Usual Day At Sogang And First Meeting With Language Exchange Partner

20 Jul

Every day, Monday through Friday, for five weeks, I have Korean class for about 6 hours.  My day usually begins with breakfast at the Gonzaga dormitory cafeteria.  Every meal of the day, there is a Korean option and a Western option (though sometimes the Western option can be Koreanized – I had some interesting french toast one day!).  At 9am, when class starts, there is an hour of reading and listening class, then two hours of speaking class, then an hour of writing class.  After that, we have an hour for lunch.  Because our class is in a building rather deep in the Sogang campus, my classmates and I generally eat lunch on-campus, usually in Gonzaga Plaza, the area outside of our dorm.  Here are some various pictures of lunches I’ve had.

Kim Ga Nae, a restaurant in Gonzaga Plaza we go to often because it is cheap, has a lot of options, and is gooood.

Bulgogi (beef) over rice at Kim Ga Nae

Pork curry over rice from Kim Ga Nae.

Yum! Pork and vegetables over rice from the Gonzaga Convention Center.

After we eat, we move to a different building on campus for culture class, where we learn about Korean culture… still speaking all in Korean of course! In culture class, the things we do change every day, varying from seeing a B-boy performance, doing taekwondo, watching Korean drama, going to Insadong, and more.

After class on Tuesday, July 12th, my classmates and I received our Korean language exchange partners.  With these partners, we can practice our Korean and they can practice their English.  My partner’s name is Eun-Ah, and I actually get to practice a lot of Korean because she does not speak very much English.  It’s a little difficult to communicate sometimes but I think it will help me become better in Korean in the long run.

Eun-Ah and I walked around our neighborhood, Sinchon, for a little while, before we decided Eun-Ah would introduce me to Korean pizza.  So off we went to Sinchon’s branch of Mr. Pizza, a pizza chain in South Korea that caters to women (the only men that were in the restaurant were with their girlfriends).

The sign for Mr. Pizza (shops and restaurants in Korea can be on the second, third, or even a higher floor so they have signs by stairwells)

 

Waiting for food at Mr. Pizza

My language exchange partner, Eun-Ah

Korean pizza is completely different from pizza in the USA! While American pizza has toppings like pepperoni or mushrooms (and pizza with pineapple is considered exotic), Korean pizza comes loaded with toppings, most of them rather strange.  A lot of the pizzas at Mr. Pizza came with shrimp on them, but they also had pizzas with vegetables, sweet potatoes, and more!  You can also choose from different types of crusts for your pizza.  We went with the sweet potato-stuffed crust, which was quite good, but I really want to try the cookie crust, which is supposed to taste kind of sweet (like a real cookie).  The fun is in experimenting.  So we decided to go with one of the strangest pizzas on the menu, Seafood Island.

Seafood Island pizza - pizza covered in shrimp, octopus, and other types of seafood, with a sweet potato-filled crust topped with shrimp wrapped in potato curls.

Though it sounds crazy, the pizza was really delicious!  Another unusual thing is that whenever you eat Italian food in South Korea, it will come with pickles on the side.  I have no idea why.  Mr. Pizza also gave us mayonnaise to dip the crust in.

It was a fun dinner with my language exchange partner, and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

 

The Arrival

17 Jul

Wow, it took a while to get this blog going!! I’m really sorry about that – I’ve been really busy settling in and attending class 6 hours a day. It’s really tiring but exciting, and I’m so happy to be in Seoul.  I love the city already.

Going back in time to the plane ride from New York to Seoul, it was very, very long but also the best plane I’ve ever been on.  I flew Asiana Airlines non-stop to Seoul, and the plane had a bunch of the latest movies available to watch (like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1), so time went by quite fast.  We also got two full meals (I had bibimbap and bulgogi), a sandwich, and a snack.  It was amazing compared to the airlines I have flown before.

After arriving, I went through Immigration (it was very easy – they didn’t even ask me any questions).  I picked up my luggage, then went and bought an airport bus ticket to Sinchon Station (the university I am studying at for my summer program is Sogang University, and it is right down the road from Sinchon Station).  Unfortunately, I arrived too late to check in at my dormitory, so I went to a guesthouse that is very close to Sogang.  However, I got hopelessly lost on my way to the guesthouse, because I went down a road that had Sogang in its name but was actually for Sogang Bridge (after that I will never forget the word for bridge in Korean).  Thankfully, some people from the neighborhood helped me out and a few people decided they would drive me to the guesthouse.  I was so thankful!!  They drove me right to the door of Alpha Guesthouse. (You can click on any of the pictures and they will open in a bigger window)

My room at Alpha Guesthouse for one night.

The next morning, I walked to Sogang to check in at Gonzaga Dormitory.  What I didn’t realize is that Sogang has a big hill that you must walk up when you go through the main gate, so with my two big suitcases it was very tiring!  However, I finally arrived at Gonzaga and got checked in.  I then got taken to my room in Gonzaga by one of the program assistants.

The door of my room.

 

My desk on the left and my roommate's desk on the right.

 

My desk! (sparse because it was soon after I moved in)

 

My bed and wardrobe.

The view from my window.

The view from my window after it started raining (as it does almost every day!)

After I got settled in, my roommate and I went to Myeongdong, a big shopping district in Seoul.  Myeongdong was definitely big and filled with so many people.  I heard a lot of different languages being spoken too – there were many tourists.

To get to Myeongdong, we took the subway from Edae Station.

Seoul's subway map.

After my roommate exchanged her money, we went to eat at a restaurant she wanted to try out.  It was literally down an alley next to a huge Uniqlo store, but when we got there it had tourists from many different countries eating there.  I had bibimnaengmyon, which is naengmyon noodles mixed with vegetables, ground beef, egg, and gochujang (spicy red pepper) sauce.

The restaurant down the alley.

Looking down the alley at the restaurant.

My meal - bibimnaengmyon and soup (there are so many soups here that I can never learn the names!)

We then walked around Myeongdong for a while – I bought my first Korean make-up at Etude House. I bought BB cream (which is face cream that works like foundation but is not so heavy) and strawberry hand cream.  I also bought an Alice in Wonderland umbrella from a street vendor! I love Alice in Wonderland and needed an umbrella so it was perfect!

The crowds in Myeongdong on a Sunday.

After walking around a bit more, the hot weather had taken its toll on us so we walked back to Myeongdong subway station and took the subway back to Edae Station.  There I saw something miraculous!

G-Dragon in an ad on the subway! G-Dragon is my favorite Korean star so I was !!!

And again!

After taking pictures frantically in the subway, my roommate and I walked back to Gonzaga.  The rest of the night we just ate dinner and prepared for orientation the next day, Monday.

Everything I purchased in Myeongdong.

A Year In Seoul

3 Jul

Hey! ^^

My name is Ashley, and I am attending Sogang University’s Korean Immersion Program this summer.  Then I will be studying at Korea University for the 2011-2012 school year.

So I will be in Seoul, South Korea for an entire year, leaving this Friday, July 8th, and arriving in Seoul on Saturday, July 9th.  Once I arrive, I will be staying in a guesthouse for one night before moving into my dorm, Gonzaga, at Sogang University on Sunday!

I am really interested in Korean culture and pop culture, and I have taken one year of Korean at my university in the United States.  I’m so excited to go to South Korea – I feel like I’ve waited so long to go, and it’s finally happening very, very soon!  I plan on taking lots of pictures, so hopefully there will be many blog updates!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment on any of my posts! I would be happy to answer any questions anyone may have about studying abroad, life in Seoul, etc.

As soon as I get settled down in Seoul, I will post again!