Namsan (남산) Lets down its Hair

Most of the place-posts are going to be photo diaries because a picture is worth a 1000 words, right?

Before we get to the great pictures… Namsan is a mountain, a popular tourist spot in Korea.

A little fun Korean lesson for you: Nam=남 and San=산 (산 means mountain).  In total: it took around 2 hours to walk up and down the mountain.  It’s not too bad, but I do suggest going when it is a little cooler out.  I went when it was a little above 70 F and that was a bit too hot to be hiking up a mountain.  However, if it’s too hot for you- take the cable car up.  That option is very popular and there was a huge waiting line.

You may have seen this site in a Korean TV show or a few.  Not only is this place a tourist area but also a great place to shoot dramas.  As seen in the famous drama, Boys Over Flowers:

Namsan Park has several paths walking up the mountain and even a cable car that will take riders to the top and back down.  On top of the mountain, people are blessed with breathtaking views and a tower, known as the N Seoul Tower.  This tower is similar to the Empire State Building in New York, as it can be seen from almost any point in Seoul.  I could see the tower from my dorm room.  You know what direction you are facing by finding the N Seoul Tower.  This tower serves as an observation tower if you want even more breathtaking views (unfortunately, because my fear of heights, I didn’t go up in the tower).

However, there is plenty to see on top of the mountain.  They sell keys and locks by the mountain and couples are allowed to lock away their love and throw the key over the edge.  Most of the pictures I took look strangely messy but seeing them, in person, has the opposite effect.  Piles upon piles lock their love away, a promise meant to be kept forever.  With each one, I wondered what the story behind it was.  The whole thing is fascinating because these people, wherever they are from, are leaving behind a piece of themselves in South Korea.  It is like they are making history.

So, without further ado, instead of listening me talk about how gorgeous the site was- see for yourself:


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Truth or Dare Pt. 2

Truth or Dare? Dare sucks.  Need I say more?

I wrote a first part of my truth or dare adventures in Korea and thought I would share with you more.

After the basketball court fiasco, I thought my truth or dare days were past me but on my birthday, my friends had a wonderful idea to pass the time.  Of course, it involved playing the game I hated the most.

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Hanging out with a small group, the game resumed without an audience this time.  It was just us enclosed in by a circle of bushes between the park and the sidewalk.  We were without an audience until my friends decided that for my turn, I had to yell out “오빠!” to random passersby.  오빠 is a Korean term of endearment, essentially meaning “older brother” (gender specific: only females can say this word) but also could mean “boyfriend” or “older guy in my life.”  It is a bit confusing to explain, but when I post my essay about the use of the word, it will probably make much more sense.  오빠 is not something I should be yelling out to random strangers.  It simply is not done.  Also, being a foreigner and yelling out the word seemed a total cliché and I wanted to avoid it as long as I was in the country—of being a typical foreigner.  But this is a dare in the game and it wasn’t like there was a crowd.  It was a stranger and me, and my friends were watching from a little ways away.

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A male student walked passed on the sidewalk.  A total stranger.  I took a deep breath.  One of my friends pushed me onto the sidewalk, after he had passed.  (Remind me why we are friends again: no, just kidding, my friends are awesome!  It’s just this game that brings out their devious sides.)  The plan was to call after him, not too loud but to get his attention.  Well, I got his attention.  When I took a breath in, I let the word rip out of my throat.  He looked back.

I hid in the bushes.  Moral of the story is to never let introverted people play TRUTH or DARE.  My friends started laughing and eventually the student, shrugging, left.  No questions.  I never want to play TRUTH or DARE ever again.  Isn’t college a bit too old for sleepover games?  Never again.  Never. Again.

From this experience and a few other instances, I was inspired by the topic to write an essay in my Cultural Anthropology class.  I will be posting that essay in the coming posts.  Stay tuned.

Embarrassing as TRUTH or DARE is, I learned that going to a different country with a different language, different culture, and almost different everything is like playing a 24/7 game of TRUTH or DARE.  The game and studying abroad is all about taking risks and doing things you wouldn’t normally do.

The ultimate “dare” here is going to South Korea and having an amazing experience of a lifetime.  It is about taking the risk and going for it. 화이팅!

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That Kind of Girl

Being from a different country when you’re in America: can anyone really tell?  America is such a diverse group of people that you can’t tell if you’re American or if you just got off the plane from Germany.  No one would know.

Obviously, people knew right away in Korea that I was not Korean. Staring at [insert any noun here] is very common; if [that noun] is rare, I would stare at it as well.  Nowadays, foreigners are becoming increasingly popular in South Korea.  If I traveled outside of my campus’ gates, I would find at least one foreigner besides myself looking uncomfortable under the gazes and sniffs of Koreans that walked by.  It was something to get used to, it was just how things were.

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Most of my peers were Korean students.  In most of my classes, there would be one or two foreigners besides myself, the rest were Korean.  I didn’t mind so much except when I was trying to make friends.

I never even thought about it being an issue.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term of being a trophy wife.  She is a wife that is there for the husband to show off and tell his friends, “I did well, didn’t I?” My roommate brought this up to me after I had met a considerable amount of Korean students.  It wasn’t a large group but after hanging out with a few of them a bunch of times, my Korean-German roommate voiced her concern.  She wanted to know if I was a trophy friend.  (Of course, she didn’t say it like that because that term is something I just came up with-)

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Seoul Fashion Week 2014- w/ band 고구마

I took her concern seriously.  A trophy friend? Ridiculous! (ahem, well not seriously at first) All my new friends are awesome and so nice to me.  I mean, I think I would have been able to tell if my newfound friends were showing me off, right?  (Disclaimer: my friends and all the people I met while in South Korea, they were awesome.  I think what I had with a lot of them was true friendship.  In this post, I’m not calling anyone out.)  I’m just saying my roommate put this thought into my head and now I can’t just shake it.

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awesome roomie and I

I made a considerable amount of guy friends, which is unlike the introverted country girl from America.  I don’t really have many guy friends in America and when I came to South Korea, I befriended at least five guys right away.  My roommate was worried.  I was not; we’re friends.  I mean I’m not that kind of girl.  You know, the kind of girl that will have boys walk all over her and whatnot.  After the talk with my roommate, I began to notice small things and a small seed of distrust was planted.  However, my doubt did not make us any less friends.  After all, I was only there for four months.

It was a friend of a friend commenting on pictures on Facebook, asking how he could join our group.  It was a friend introducing me to his other friends and everyone patting him on the back and going, “대박!”- something that reminded me strangely of “You the man!” in cliche movies. It was a friend who held my hand in a crowd of people and then refused to let go.  It was a friend asking me endless questions about America and how does it feel being a foreigner.  It was these types of interactions that planted my distrust.  It was these types of interactions that I knew my roommate was right about some of my friends.

Every time something like this happened, questions would race through my head.  I wished I hadn’t thought about it.  I wished I could blissfully return to the relationship we had before my roommate voiced her opinion. But I knew she was partly right.  Are we friends only because I’m foreign, because I’m American?  Is it because I speak English? Why does she want English help- is that the only reason we are hanging out?  Is it because I’m blonde? Because of my accent?distrust

Truly, I will never find out.  Neither do I necessarily blame them for wanting a friend who is different.  In that way, I was special.  Not sure if that was a good thing or not.

But still I didn’t want to be that kind of girl.

I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin

STATUS UPDATE: I have returned, safe and sound, back to America.  But that does not mean, I am going to stop posting.  I have so much to tell you about my time in South Korea.  Due to assignments and just plain busyness, posting will obviously be a little late.  However, I have posts planned out and I just have to write them.  Stay tuned.

While in South Korea, I got the wonderful opportunity to meet the translator of I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin, Sora Kim-Russell.  The interview was both inspiring and insightful.  I’ll be posting the interview soon.  However, here’s my review of I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin.

08^883618 1Shin060814.jpgI’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin

Publisher: Other Press
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Pages: 336
Source: purchased
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

How friendship, European literature, and a charismatic professor defy war, oppression, and the absurd Set in 1980s South Korea amid the tremors of political revolution, I’ll Be Right There follows Jung Yoon, a highly literate, twenty-something woman, as she recounts her tragic personal history as well as those of her three intimate college friends. When Yoon receives a distressing phone call from her ex-boyfriend after eight years of separation, memories of a tumultuous youth begin to resurface, forcing her to re-live the most intense period of her life. With profound intellectual and emotional insight, she revisits the death of her beloved mother, the strong bond with her now-dying former college professor, the excitement of her first love, and the friendships forged out of a shared sense of isolation and grief. Yoon’s formative experiences, which highlight both the fragility and force of personal connection in an era of absolute uncertainty, become immediately palpable. Shin makes the foreign and esoteric utterly familiar: her use of European literature as an interpreter of emotion and experience bridges any gaps between East and West. Love, friendship, and solitude are the same everywhere, as this book makes poignantly clear.–Goodreads

In all honesty, this book review is very difficult to write.  This book is something I need to get out on paper, something that I just need to explain because… feelings.  It’s the type of book I want to leave behind another book on my shelf, pretend it was unread so when I return to it, I will relive the same emotions I feel now.  I don’t know how to explain it but this book has taken me on a rollercoaster and still stuck high in the sky.  The book was pure genius, pure awesome-ness (and I don’t mean that slang term that everyone uses- I’m talking actual AWE!).  Let me explain.
I cannot explain this book with a mere summary because that simple paragraph would not suffice.  I’ll Be Right There is about life and not just the fictional life of the character, Jung Yoon, but of my life and of your life, and everyone’s life and how we are entwined into the world’s life.  For a lack of a better quote, “We are all in this together” (High School Musical -no one is ever to old for that).  I finished this book late at night, when the rest of the house was asleep, and was surprised to find my cheeks wet with tears.  Seriously, I don’t cry while reading or while watching films.  I rarely cry at all, in fact.  There was something about this book that made me weep.  Something about its truthfulness that touched me so much so that I cried.
Without giving too much away, I want to bring your attention to the title.
I’ll Be Right There is translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell, who I had the wonderful chance of meeting while in Korea.  The interview I had with her should be posted soon.  Translated work is always similar and at the same time different.  Sora Kim-Russell did a grand job with this work.  Kyung-sook Shin’s voice, best known for Please Look After Mom, also shined through the translation.  The collaboration between author and translator worked very well to bring together the English version.
shin-140428-1I’ll Be Right There. The outstanding title for the outstanding book.  Talk of the title is mentioned briefly in the novel.  With whom can you say the words of the title to someone and have it be the truth?  And as time passes, will that person remain the same or will there come a time that you saying those words not mean anything at all?  The title itself personifies the whole book (personifies is not the best word but I’m trying to explain what Shin has done here so cleverly).  Kyung-sook Shin is telling her readers how gentle life can be, how powerful and meaningful, and how rough and sad life can be as well.
For graduating high school students and college students, the go-to book is Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.  Seuss tells us with the title: if you can dream it, you can do it.  Instead of getting a graduate that book, gift them I’ll Be Right There.  It makes readers ask the important questions and keep asking, long after the novel is over.
IMG_2877While I was in South Korea, I connected with the protagonist as if we were the same person- that’s how close I related to her.  Jung Yoon, a college student, tries to find her path in a sea of roads that could lead anywhere.  Even after the initial relationship between reader and character, I decided to follow some of her adventure.  In the beginning of the book, Yoon describes her walks in the city– I followed her footsteps among many landmarks around Seoul, South Korea.  Even if you do not have access to Seoul, South Korea (to take walks and try on Jung Yoon’s shoes), the character still proves to be relatable with her inner thoughts bubbling to the surface of the page.
The ending was hard to believe.  Not that it was unbelievable, but just that it was difficult to face as truth.  I wanted to be a child, stamp my foot, and swiftly shake my head.  I wanted an adult to nudge my shoulder and say with a sigh, “Well, that’s how it is.  That’s life.”  I’m still trying to admit that Kyung-sook Shin left it at that.  The ending was not disappointing.  The ending was just how it was supposed to end.  That is how it is.
I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-sook Shin is a fantastic work of art which immersed me in its mesmerizing grasp with its poetic writing, life-like characters, and reality-check plot.  It is most definitely worth picking up.
Cover: 5
Writing Style: 5
Plot: 4
Characters: 5
Ending: 5

Fan Upgrade

Spending my birthday in Korea was awesome and yet terribly sad.  Sad because I was away from my family and friends that I’ve known forever.  I didn’t get a cake or even seaweed soup (since I heard that is what I was supposed to be eating on my birthday in Korea).  No one sang to me and no one threw me a party.  But who needs all that?

I turned 21 years old in Korea.  That is awesome.  I spent the entire day in Gangnam.  You might have heard of the place.  There is a song that released a few years ago by the title “Gangnam Style” that parodies the whole area.

The area is pretty cool.  Department stores that reach far into the sky.  Filming locations that fans will recognize from their favorite music videos and tv shows.  Malls that scour deep underground with endless shopping and walking galore.  Women walking in the highest of high heels.  Men strutting a suit and a matching tie, looking so good that it is hard to look at anything except the uneven sidewalk.  But you should definitely be keeping an eye out for the uneven sidewalk since you don’t want your face to meet it if you trip over a block that sticks out.

Well, welcome to Gangnam.

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I had been there once before and took a bus ride tour, ate at a famous Japanese noodle restaurant, visited a quiet temple, and went underground to shop.  This time we stayed above ground.  This time we decided to take a behind-the-scenes look at Korea’s music industry.  Armed with a map, we scouted out entertainment agency buildings to see what the hype was with each one.

The group, two friends, that I was with are huge fans of Kpop, Korean pop music.  I have my favorite Korean bands but some of the music is not to my liking.  However, since Gangnam is home to several agencies, we wanted to come say hello.

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First stop: SM Entertainment.  SM Entertainment is best known for groups like Super Junior, Girl’s Generation, and SHINee.  I guess they are also known for fans that stare daggers into your soul.  We arrived at the agency.  We just wanted to take pictures of the exterior, looking in on a place that produces some of Kpop’s best known music.  Since we were walking so much, I was forced to change shoes.  Our plans had changed somewhere since the beginning and I wasn’t exactly dressed for walking, wearing ballet flats that were digging into the back of my heel.  We took some pictures but these girls kept getting in the way of this perfect shot.  Since these girls also occupied most of the benches out front, I changed into the only other pair of shoes I had on me at the time- high heels, while balancing on a friend’s shoulder.  They were all like robots that caught someone with a malfunction.  Every head turned to my shoes, as if I was a threat.  The air was thick with anticipation, wondering what my group was going to do next.  It was at that moment that my two friends and I realized who these girls were.

These were fans but not the kind of fans that like a band and will go to a concert to see them.  These fans can’t wait until a concert.  They have to see their favorite band now.  These fans wait outside these buildings day in and day out, watching and waiting for people to come in and out.

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Before a fight could break out, we were on our way to the next building.  FNC Entertainment.  Best known for my favorite bands, CNBlue and FTIsland.  Girls stood outside this building too.  It was so interesting to us that they respected an invisible boundary.  They did not huddle by the door but rather crowd in the streets.  However these girls seem to smell intention.  Pulled out of deep conversation with their standing friends, a man with dark shades walks out of the side door that is visible from the front gate.  He wastes no time getting his helmet on and rides off in his motorcycle.  As soon as he crossed this invisible boundary, the girls start chasing him—him on his motorcycle, them in cute skirts.  They do it for a chance to meet them, for a chance that the guy underneath the helmet may be their favorite singer from their favorite band.

My friends and I were astounded that Korea would be home to a very different fan culture than we were used to.  I’m sure there are fans like this in America but I feel like they are a bit more hidden than Korea.  At least, I feel like the America’s building security would have taken care to not have fans loitering in the streets 24/7.

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We also visited JYP Entertainment and CUBE studio.

It was so interesting to experience this type of fan culture.  Can you imagine skipping school or work for a potential chance to see your favorite singer walk in to work?  It astounds me.

Sadly, the few minutes that we did mill around the buildings to take pictures, we did not catch anybody that we recognized.

Overall, it was a good 21st birthday, despite the lack of cake and seaweed soup.  It was awesome spending a birthday in another country and being able to travel around Gangnam.

And speaking of robots, I’m currently obsessed with this song (but not so obsessed to wait outside their building to catch a glimpse of them) and keep listening to it everyday:

Riding Solo Not Allowed

It’s midterm week here at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and I have absolutely nothing to occupy my time.  I barely have any midterms which surprises me immensely since I am taking regular courses.  However, that is a post for another day.  Today I want to discuss the sense of community that all of South Korea has.

If you know Korean culture at all, you should know that it is a sharing community.  I don’t mean sharing as in: “Please pass the corn.” “Thank you.” No, not like that.  I mean, using the same spoon, eating out of the same bowl—basically the equivalent of French kissing everyone at the table, swapping spit with everyone.  I know that sounds gross and everyone is definitely sharing germs.  However, it grows on you and I sort of love it.  Plus, I haven’t gotten sick since I got here and we are already at midterms. (Photo: the big bowl was shared amongst the whole table)

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Sharing everything, mainly food, has opened my eyes at this Korean sense of community.  Sharing food so intimately with everyone, whoever it may be (friends, strangers, coworkers, ect.), really builds your relationship.  The act of sharing food is so intimate to me since in America the only thing we share are appetizers.  Though even sometimes people want those all to themselves.  “Those nachos are mine. Not yours.”

In Korea, it’s another story and even though it may take some getting used to, it is really awesome.  Not only do you get to try more variety of food this way but you become closer with the person you are eating with.  Now the question here is: what if you’re alone?  What if you have no one?

That’s the problem.  It is quite difficult to eat anywhere if you are alone.  Forget about eating alone, if you are in public.  Unless you find a coffee shop, where you can arm yourself with a cellphone or a book, eating alone in public is not going to work.  Most of the dishes in Korea are meant for two or more people, so even getting fried chicken to go is basically stating that you have a friend back home who will eat with you.  They are going to give you at least ten pieces of chicken.

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It’s hard being alone in South Korea.  There are tons of other reasons but I’ll once again make this post have multiple parts so stay tuned of being alone in Korea.

The next post will focus on couples and the relationships but I wanted to touch upon the cuteness now because I can.  You can’t walk down the street and not see at least one couple doing something couple-like (holding hands, ect.).  They are everywhere.  And sometimes they are even easier to spot because they have some sort of couple wear on.  Everyone should be aware of the idea of promise rings, even though the idea is very old-fashioned and not really practiced much in America anymore.  Promise rings is basically the exchanging of rings, a statement that this couple is committed.  Well, Korea takes it to a whole different level.  You can walk down the street and see couples in matching shoes, matching bracelets, matching backpacks, literally matching anything and everything.  And when I say: takes it to a whole new level: couples will match everything.  I’ve seen couples, more than one, on numerous occasions, dressed exactly the same.  Whatever this is doing to their relationship, it is working.  Divorce rate in South Korea must have something to do with their couple culture.  Not only mentioning their outfits but just how couples act toward each other in general.  The divorce rate in America is around 50%, where any sort of couple wear would probably be made fun of or looked down upon.  In South Korea, the rate is at 36% (according to wikipedia, because I am currently pressed for time but will try to find a valid source later).  I think it would be fascinating to study couple culture and for my final project, in one of my classes, I’m examining a part of the relationship culture (so maybe I’ll even post my findings when I’m finished). (Photo: The Heirs… notice the matching shoes)

With all these couples, South Korea seems to discourage single people.  They even have a day devoted to sad single people.  It is called Black Day (April 14) and it’s a day, where single people have to eat black noodles alone.  It sounds utterly terrible and I’m sort of glad, I won’t be around to participate in the holiday.  It sounds like a holiday where the people who made it wanted all the single people to sit in a corner and think about what they’ve done.

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If you are alone in South Korea, like I am, don’t be too upset.  The goal here is to make friends fast, or at least find another person to eat food with.  Otherwise, Seven 11 and other convenience stores may become your only friend.

A Way Out (Korean Society Pt 1)

Being in South Korea is awesome!  I am truly having the time of my life; this is such a great opportunity!  As a tourist, if I had stayed for only a week or two, I don’t think I would notice half the things I do.  However, as an exchange student, living in Korea for four months, I tend to notice the daily workings of Korean society.  There is several things I want to say about general society, so I think this will be put into parts.

First, when I arrived in this country, I was armed and prepared to take on all the stares thrown my way.  I am different, and staring was expected.  However, attending a school that emphasizes its global-ality, I wasn’t expecting so much stares from students my age.  Still they come, targeting me day in and day out and I want to say that I have gotten used to it.  For the most part, the stares don’t really bother me.  They are not hurting me with their laser beams so one just has to endure.  It is going to be different when I go back to the United States, where no one really looks at me twice.

Another thing I noticed, in the first few weeks I arrived, was the EXIT signs that adorn the underground subway systems and telling people where the way out is.  It is a picture of a person running out of the door.  I find this in the most comedic light because when exiting in America, those in charge always comment to make your way “calmly” forward and to “walk, not run.”

Still, my favorite thing about Korean society is the underlying emphasis on respect everywhere but with that comes its own problems.  I love it but realize the system is terribly flawed.  People give respect to those in a hierarchical sense, so it would always be the elders receiving the respect and they can either give you some too or act in any way they please.

I’ve heard that this is a common complaint among foreigners and no matter how much foreigners or even younger Korean people complain, I don’t think there is anything we can do to change the system.

Older people of Korea has superiority which is rightfully so, they’ve lived longer, they know more—in theory, giving them higher ranking than everyone else should be allowed.  However, some elders take this superiority to their advantage.  Just with any power, some people abuse it.

There are older people, surprisingly strong people, who will push and shove you forcefully out of the way (this happens mostly on the subway).  There are older people who even go as far to think they are above the law.  I’ve seen older people go through the subway turnstiles without paying the fare; the security guard looks on the scene with suspicious eyes but doesn’t dare to say a thing.

I was thinking, on the subway, once about what if WHAT WOULD YOU DO? aired in Korea—(1) there is no way the show would air unless the problem would consist of an older person, or elder to the bully, being the victim and (2) the “bullies” in the TV show could never appear as an elder person because of Korean society, because someone could always say, “Well. they should have been given respect.”  Elder people are always right—elder people will always have the right of way, so to speak.

I am, in no way, saying everyone is like this.  Actually, living here as long as I have, the older people of Korea are the ones who seem to approach me the most.  They don’t seem so timid to ask where I am from, how am I doing, or even just to practice their English.  The young people or even the students at college do not make the effort to try to talk to me, either out of being introverted or just because they don’t like me, I’m not sure.  I love the elderly people of Korea and I do respect them and I think the respect system at work here is definitely cool!

In general, the system of respect gives people power and in the words of Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Some take that power and abuse it and that is why so many foreigners and young people complain.

If you are living in South Korea or have traveled here, if they were to air WHAT WOULD YOU DO?, what kind of scenarios do you think they would play?

 

That Hostel Horror Story

Every person in their life should have at least one Hotel Horror Story.  The worst story of staying in a hotel for me was when I went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida and we came in the room to find a take-out salad in the drawer with the Bible.  Now that’s disgusting and my horror story for South Korea is less so.

The story is less filled with horror, and more filled with annoyance and my need to complain.  For those of you who don’t know, a hostel is basically a backpackers paradise.  It is where mostly young people stay while traveling because it is a cheap form of a pillow under your head for the night.  Since this is my first time abroad, I thought I’d check out what the hype was.

download (1)We arrived in Seoul at 4AM, way too early for my time but since not used to the time change yet, relatively okay.  (I traveled with one of my friends from school, Raquel.) Both of us carried 4 months worth of suitcases, which is not ideal at a hostel.  (Like I said, backpackers paradise).  I knew this going in.  There have always been those rumors, or fictional books chiming how everyone should at least try a hostel once in their life time.  So I did. (Pic: me at the airport, just arrived at Seoul!)

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Since we arrived so early, I borrowed a phone from a nice woman and proceeded to call the hostel- after about the thousandth ring, she picked up.  I explained the situation and she was glad to keep our suitcases before check-in while we went and explored the area.  I’m not about to name the hostel because I did meet some cool people there but still, my experience with hostels are over.  I will not be staying in one ever again.

When we arrived, there didn’t seem to be anyone working there.  We dragged our suitcases up the stairs and after talking to some girls, found that the woman sleeping on the couch was, in fact, the one who I had talked on the phone.  She woke up enough to tell us where to put our suitcases and then swiftly went back to sleep.  Mind you, she didn’t check our paperwork, nor IDs which I thought was odd.  We had reservations but I thought it strange because we could be anyone in the world.  She did not know us by our faces.

After the day of exploring and getting lost, we were ready to sleep forever since we were both so jet lagged. We arrived during check in time- check in time was 3PM (why so late? Probably because she likes to sleep the day away).  And guess what? She decides then to tell us that we can’t stay there that night due to an overbooking.  She suggested another hostel close by that was almost the same price.  She paid the difference.

We dragged most of our luggage to the other place and slept the rest of the day.  In the morning, even though given the option to stay there the remaining two nights we had reserved, the woman in charge of this hostel promptly, yet quietly, kicked us out.

Thus we moved back to the original hostel and spent the rest of the nights getting eaten by mosquitoes.  Is it the worst place I’ve stayed at? No.  However, considering I’m sure most hostel stories don’t end up like this, I wanted to share.

Let me tell you: I’ve had the hostel experience.  I think I’ll stick with regular hotels from now on.  At least, Motel 6 will always leave the light on for me.

Plane Ride Playlist

With my departure from New York to South Korea looming, I was thinking about the many things I might occupy myself with while on the plane.  It is around a 14 hour flight which will be quite a long trip.

STATUS UPDATE: Before I get into my entertainment options, I wanted to update you on what will be happening.  I leave at the end of this week for Korea and arrive early next week.  School doesn’t officially start until September 1st so I’ll be traveling around Korea for a few days before that.  I have a rough sketch of where I’m going but I’m not going to ruin the surprise for those of you who want to see my awesome pictures.

There are loads of entertainments options that can truly keep you occupied during long trips like mine.

illberightthererain

First off, BOOKS!  As an English major, I’m sort of required to say these first but I also can’t wait to devour the books I’m bringing for the plane ride.  Obviously, if you’re going on a long trip, your taste in books will be different than mine but make sure that you pack some awesome reads that you know will hold your interest (like a favorite author or genre).  I’m bringing Rain by Amanda Sun and I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin.  I’ve read both these authors previously and know that they are fantastic at what they do.

I can throw movies onto this list but for this trip, I’m not bringing any movies since my laptop doesn’t have a CD-ROM (I’d have to bring my external CD-ROM to play movies but I’m saving luggage space and not bringing it.).  A great movie to get you in the mode to travel is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (directed by Ben Stiller).

MUSIC is also going to be a huge thing when traveling.  One, it’s a little slice of home that I’ll be able to listen to while on the move.  Two, listening to music while around others (say: on a plane, for example)  or with others (like the gif from Heartstrings below) makes me feel like I’m in a music video or something as equally cool.  Even though I’ll have my IPod on shuffle, I created a small 15-song playlist for the purpose of this post.  Here’s an example of some of the awesome songs, I might listen to on my way to South Korea:

music

Paradise by T-Max

Best I Ever Had by Gavin DeGraw

Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Can’t Stop by CNBlue

Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia

The Great Escape by Nell

It’s Time by Imagine Dragons

Madly by FT Island

Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Rey

Torpedo by Jillette Johnson

Troublemaker by Olly Murs

Wake Me Up by Avicii

Welcome to the World by Kevin Rudolf

200% by AKMU

1004 by B.A.P.

The Little Things

UPDATE: I, officially, have dates! I got flight tickets this week and everything is starting to fit into place. This is happening!
 With that, I wanted to talk about little things because a lot of BIG things have been happening of late and I am so overwhelmed that all I want to do is focus on the small stuff.
I went to the movies the other day. I travel about an hour to go to my nearest movie theater; it’s a pretty big outing for the whole family. It’s always been that way, since I can remember. Since I went off to college, the family doesn’t really get the chance to take me out to the theater, unless I’m home and free of any previous engagement. And usually if I’m not free, I’ll make time because I am sort of a movie-buff. Before aspirations of becoming a book publisher seeped into my brain, I had wanted to be a screenwriter and researched and watched tons of movies. Even after I dropped that dream, I still can’t stop watching and falling in love with the art of movies.
That trait is actually how I met this boy. As much as I always love going to see movies with my family, there is a little thing that I love about the movie theater. We met one night a few years ago and, quite truthfully, I don’t even think we ever exchanged names. Before you get the wrong idea, he works part time at the theater, you see. He approached me before going to clean a theater room and asked me about the movie I had just seen. I guess movie buffs attract because ever since that one time, we still discuss every movie after I walk out of the theater.
Our discussion wasn’t anything special opposed to the other times before, however, it got me thinking about little things. Like the little things I love about the movie theater is the self-serve butter machine for popcorn, this boy, and the rocking theater-seats.
In the movie, Zombieland, they said to enjoy the little things. And that is exactly what I am doing.
 In anticipation of traveling to South Korea, I got thinking about the little things I might enjoy there. I came up with a subject-to-change top 5 list of the little things I will love in Korea:
1. Food: Now, I know it is a bit crazy but I haven’t tried a lot of Korean food. But what I have tried was fantastic. All the food: delicious.
 2. So Much History: I’m aware that everywhere is going to have history but coming from America, which is still a baby country compared to most, I’m saying Korea has lots of history. Also, it has held onto that history, whereas a lot of places have torn buildings down and upgraded the once historical sites. South Korea has palaces among skyscrapers. It is like two different worlds: the past and the present living together under the same roof.
 3. Traditional Markets: To me, traditional markets in South Korea will be a little slice of home. I grew up on the countryside, running a dairy farm with my family. Farmer markets have always been a thing and I love to go and see everything they are selling. I can’t tell you what differs from a Korean traditional market and a New York-style farmers’ market but I will tell you that no matter the difference, I’ll find home there.

4. Bubble Tea: Need I say more? I have an obsession with this flavored-milk tea drink for the past two semesters. And that’s awful, considering I’m lactose intolerant. But I can’t get enough of the stuff. In Korea, I’m hoping they’ll have more than the five flavors they have in my college town (and I’m pretty sure they do).
 5. Views: In the countryside, where I live, it is gorgeous. All seasons, I look out the window and see beautiful fields and animals. It is something out of a storybook. However, since I live here, I notice how beautiful it is but I’ve desensitized myself from the effect long ago. Seeing new things, new places, new people for the first time will make me realize how wonderful and pretty the world is again. When I take pictures, I see my surroundings with news eyes. But now I want my eyes to be new again. I want to take everything in for the first time.
 Just enjoy the little things. Whether it’s that boy at your movie theater or the view outside your kitchen window, take it in and smile.