Green. Everywhere, green. Green baked with South Korean sunshine. The fresh, clean scent of mountains clad with green tea bushes. And heat. Oh, yes. At ten in the morning, it was brutally hot in the green tea fields, and it was only getting hotter.
Into the 시골
Rewind about twenty hours. It was midsummer in 2015. I was on a bus leaving Seoul, heading into the countryside in search of the famous Boseong Green Tea Fields (보성녹차밭). Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, I attended the 4th Chaillot Human Rights Forum 2014. My professor for my Politics and Society of North Korea class is a researcher at KINU, or Korea Institute for National Reunification, and he invited his students to attend the forum as guests.
The forum was hosted at the Joseon Westin Hotel in Seoul, South Korea. It was packed with reporters (at least for the first session), ambassadors, researchers, and Continue reading →
I wrote a post for my Reach the World classroom this past weekend about my experience at a temple in Seoul (Reach the World is a program that I joined via the Gilman Scholarship which is supporting my studies abroad; it is designed to connect world travelers and exchange students from the United States with K-12th classrooms). While I am constrained by space and writing level for those pieces – because I am assigned 2nd graders – I really wanted to expand on my experience on my seouldream blog. The temple stay indubitably ranks as one of my top three experiences in Korea thus far. I cannot think of a better way to have spent my weekend than to have lived in a Buddhist temple for two days and one night, and I hope that after reading this, you’ll want to experience it too. Continue reading →
Warning: this is rambling, a bit introspective, and entirely related to my experience of sounds in Seoul (If you want to read some points about concerts, albums and music stores, just scroll down to where it says Let’s talk about music).
How can NELL’s CDs be so pretty?
It took an unacceptable amount of time to rephrase the title for this post, so I hope you appreciate it in all its glorious simplicity and soul/seoul-iness. I am sitting here with three brand new albums (well, I was when I wrote this on October 16th) and feeling moderately victorious over surviving three of my four classes’ finals (let’s not talk about how they went, just acknowledge the fact that they’re over). I have multiple Korean exams and tests left of course, but I’ve studied enough today and I need to catch up on some blog posts!
Music is life for me. I listen to music almost constantly, although I have a deep appreciation for silence – both the kind where I am silent and I listen to the noises that the world around me creates, and the kind where everything is so silent that you can hear your own heartbeat pushing blood through your head. Silence is a beautiful thing, and in Seoul, it is rarely so silent that the latter is possible. The former, however, is a glorious thing to experience. I love sitting outside at night as the weather gets colder and listening to the wind twist through the trees and sends leaves scattering across the pavement for adorable ahjussis to sweep up in the morning. The night is crisp and alive in its own beautiful way. I don’t sit in the bustling downtown – no, I mean sitting outside near trees and buildings where people are sleeping or simply not there.
Writing this from Seoul, South Korea! This is my first post from the Land of the Morning Calm.
I arrived in Incheon International Airport last Sunday afternoon, and now it’s another Sunday afternoon and I have a little bit of time before I go to 광화문광장 (Gwanghwamun Plaza) and 동대문 (Dongdaemun). I intend to use the coming week to share some things that I’ve seen or learned this past week. Today I’m going to talk about getting around the city. Continue reading →
So, you’ve been accepted to that awesome study abroad program. You’re looking at plane tickets (nothing new, probably) that you might actually buy (that’s very new, actually). You’re googling the best places to visit in Seoul, the best way to travel to Busan, the top tasty spots in Myeongdong. You’re reviewing your vocab lists. You’re wondering if you can work in a trip to Jeju Island during Chuseok. What’s happening? You’re going to Korea!
But first, you have to apply for a visa. And the process is a maddening, confusing, difficult process.
But it’s a necessary evil. That’s why I’m going to explain how I did it, what went wrong, and how I survived the process.
It’s been a while. You’ve gotten prettier….ah wait, those are the opening lines to Monster. Ahem. Life’s been busy! I mentioned this in a previous post but I applied to an exchange program with Yonsei University in South Korea. About a month ago, my university accepted my application and forwarded it with a recommendation to Yonsei. And so now I wait until April 30th for the official news – although everyone tells me not to worry because everyone who passes the initial application to the program through my university is accepted.
But still. 긴장! 긴장! I feel like I have little Running Man variety show subtitles floating about my head whenever I talk to someone about it. It’s not official until it’s official.
Recently, I’ve been particularly interested in dissecting famous sayings/quotes in Korean. Or not so famous ones. Any quotes in Korean, in general, are super interesting. I’ve always loved ‘collecting’ sayings in English – I absolutely adore Quotables and I even buy the cards just for myself. When I said collecting…I mean it. I do actually collect quotes.
If I were speaking in person to you rather than writing this, you would have seen me bow to you along with the greeting, “안녕하세요!” (For spoken greetings in Korean, see this post.)This tradition is definitely something you should learn if you ever intend to go to Korea or talk with native speakers in person.
As there are all kinds of bows and they’re used for different situations or occasions – for example, you don’t bow the same way to a coworker as you do to your parents on New Year’s Day – it’s a good idea to know the difference. Also, there are some people you probably wouldn’t bow to at all – like your really close friends. Do you shake hands with your best friend each time you see them? Unless you have a super awesome secret handshake that involves dancing, eyebrow wiggling, and complex hand movements, you probably don’t. Koreans don’t usually bow to their best friends either (unless they have a super awesome secret bow…?).
There are lots of great resources on the web that provide pictures, videos, and explanations of what each type bow is, when to do it, and how. Why not greet people properly in Korea? Look at these articles and videos to learn how.
I recently read Please Look After Mom, a novel revolving around a family’s search for their missing foundation – their mother and wife. The famous South Korean author, Kyung-sook Shin, spun her masterpiece so flawlessly that I thought it was at least partly autobiographical; I discovered in this article that I wasn’t the only one – “‘She thought the story was completely real,'” (x Kyung-sook Shin about one of her readers).
Please Look After Mom is an award-winning novel (published in English in 2011) that not only provides a tragic and beautiful tale of how a Korean family comes to terms with the disappearance of their aging mom, but it also gives insight into Korean culture and tradition. Yet as the story is in a modern setting, this insight isn’t limited to historical culture – it shows the reader the effect of Korea’s rapid development and how it has influenced the younger generation (the daughter and son) as opposed to the older (the father and the missing mother). And for the literary-lovers, it’s rich with symbolism that ices the cake of this book.
I absolutely recommend Please Look After Mom, whether you read it for its literary value, or to learn more about Korean culture, or even just because you’re looking for something new to read. Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin is crafted to be accessible and rewarding for anyone.