Spending a month on sabbatical from work in Washington DC to take a Korean language course at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Previous entries from January to May 2006, when I studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France.
I have loved traveling ever since I was a kid and my family took road trips all over the US. In the summer of '05 I spent a month in China on a research trip with my advisor. Now I've returned to Asia to have another go at hot humid weather and tasty exotic foods in a vibrant city.
I've been on three continents so far- only four to go! Hope you enjoy the journals and get inspired to go out and be more interesting than me.
August 27th 2009
... Especially if you got a floor show with dinner each night! On Sunday night I met up with Karl, Florence, Chairman and Mrs. Hong and Dr. and Mrs. Lee of the Korea Customs Service for dinner. And not just any dinner, but a special dinner at a restaurant called Sanchon in Insa-dong. Sanchon offers temple cuisine, as in the cuisine that Buddhist monks would eat. It was all vegetarian, since the monks would pick the food from what was available in nature. Some of the flavors were exotic and a little bitter, others, like the peanut salad, were relatively normal. It was all very good. We sat on the floor again (my knees!) and dug right in. We also shared a couple bowls of makkoli- a milky rice wine that definitely had a little kick ... read more
August 27th 2009
Wanted to show you where I'm staying for the next few days- BeBop Guesthouse in the Hongdae area, one stop down the line from Sinchon. I got a taxi here on Wednesday morning and almost made it all the way without issue, but then the driver got lost. So I quick called up and asked for directions and one of the owners, MK, actually came out to the street corner to meet me. He helped me get my big bag inside too. Thankfully my four person female-only room is on the first floor. I don't want to imagine what it would have been like trying to get my bag upstairs. Oy. It's got a very cool, hipster vibe that I've missed for the past couple years in my travels. The last time I was in a ... read more
August 23rd 2009
What is this, Wild Kingdom or something? Is that bird paying room and board? We're not running a charity here! And if it's a male bird, then it should definitely be expelled for being on this floor. Sheesh.... read more
August 22nd 2009
After visiting the DMZ, I was exhausted. So instead of going back to take a nap, I went to a Korean bathhouse! There's one on the same mountain as Yonsei's campus, near a Buddhist temple. It only cost 8,000 won, towel service included. Let me break this down for you- first off you remove your shoes and place them in a locker near the front doors. Then you take your bath outfit and towels down to the locker room and strip. Then you go into this big room with tons of showers and whirlpools and hot pools and cold pools and saunas and massage tables and go crazy. I circulated from the 43 degrees C pool to the 50-something pool and back again for a bit after taking a shower. I sweated it out in the ... read more
August 22nd 2009
That's right, I used a Kenny Loggins song as my blog title. Word. Probably the coolest thing I've done so far in Korea- visiting the DMZ! You definitely feel like you're stepping into some weird "Twilight Zone"-esque last frontier. Maybe it's all the warning signs, or the threat of land mines, or the barbed wire and fences that run along the highway from Seoul, but you definitely get a sense that you are heading into a no-man's land- a war zone in many ways. The bridge we crossed into the DMZ area even had barriers strewn across it that the bus had to weave back and forth through. The closer we got, the more ROK soldiers we saw too. I went with the USO tour, which, although it's more expensive, allowed me to visit Panmunjon. We ... read more
August 21st 2009
As I near the end of my time here in Korea, I have become a hundred times more confident in my ability to navigate the streets and subways of Seoul. But I spent a couple of hours in Seoul on Friday that I won't soon forget and they have taught me a few lessons about myself and traveling in general. On Friday after language classes and before cooking class, I went to the souvenir shop on campus and bought some gifts. This left me low on the last of my original stock of Korean won, so I went to the Global ATM in the Student Union to get some more. But it rejected my card, saying it was stolen. Needless to say, this sent me into immediate panic mode. I had 22,000 won in my possession ... read more
August 18th 2009
I swear, they really need to make the Hongdae exit 5 bigger. That's the one closest to the main dining and shopping district. Every time I've been there, although that's only been two times, you have to get in line to climb the stairs out. Outside, there's tons of people milling about, waiting for their friends. I kind of stick out, so my friend Yewon had no trouble finding me in the crowd. She took me to a highly recommended Japanese noodle place on a back street of Hongdae. The food was really tasty, but you probably could have told me it was a Korean noodle dish we were having and I would have accepted it. It didn't have any particular "Japanesesy" taste and they gave us kimchi too, which just totally confused my taste buds. ... read more
August 17th 2009
I really like the Seoul subway system- it's spoiling me. I won't be able to go back to DC's metro and be satisfied anymore. I have tasted the forbidden fruit. How are you gonna keep me on the farm now that I've seen Seoul? (To paraphrase a WWI song title: How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree?) Yeah, I'm that much of a history dork.) Not only is it cheap, efficient, clean, helpful (does any American subway system have signs in 3 languages?), and comprehensive, but it has great audio too. In particular the alert sound that plays when a train is approaching the platform. It always reminds me of the song "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. Don't ask me why. But I find myself singing that song all the time ... read more
August 15th 2009
I finally spent a night on the town on Saturday! As I may or may not have mentioned earlier, our dorm has a curfew from midnight to 5:30am. What this means in real terms is that we are locked out for 5.5 hours. Which is a really effective way to make sure you don't become a party animal while at Yonsei. Not that I'm a party animal, but still. Anyway, I planned for a week prior to Saturday to stay out all night. For someone like me who loves to sleep, that meant taking a disco nap the day of and mentally preparing myself to see the sun rise. It actually wasn't as hard as I thought it would be to stay up that long (can you tell I'm a lightweight on the party scene?). The ... read more
August 10th 2009
So I'm including some pictures of the places of Yonsei's campus and the buildings to give you an idea of what it looks like and what I look at everyday. I don't have a picture of the dorm yet, because I'm usually too hot and sweaty to pause to take a picture- I see those front doors and I know air conditioning is within reach. I promise to get a picture of my "haksa" soon. Notice how the sky in all these pictures is white or gray? Many days it's hazy due to the humidity and air quality. The pictures aren't as pretty as they could be, but they are realistic.... read more