Wednesday, January 31
The museum had great English translations, but there were still a few funny things to find, like this sign:
In the special exhibition part of the museum, they have some paintings on loan from the Louvre. It was an extra 9 bucks to see that and it was super crowded, but it was nice. I overheard one girl saying something like "hardly any of them have any clothes on!" (of people in the paintings).
Monday, January 29
Yesterday, I went to see 미녀는 괴로워, a movie with the family I used to live with. Afterwards, we went to a new shopping center near where they live. We were walking around outside and saw this sign. It says "Danger of electric shock. Do not touch the tree." Except the word they use for tree (the trees have Christmas lights on them) is not the Korean one, 나무 (nah-moo), it's a Konglish word, 추리(choo-ri) which is meant to be the English word, tree. I couldn't believe it. Why wouldn't they use the Korean word for tree? The younger sister looked at the sign, looked at her sister, and said "Onnie (older sister), what's a choori?" I was glad she asked, because I didn't know either. The older sister explained to us and we laughed. More examples of Konglish here and here.
Sunday, January 28
I thought when I first came here that I mostly acquired friends who wanted to speak English. That may to some extent be true, but now that I can speak more Korean, I realize that they spoke English because I didn't speak Korean, not mostly because they wanted to practice. That may not sound like such a great revelation. I just didn't know they'd be eager to speak in Korean once I learned how. I still have a long way to go in Korean studies. I can't talk about deep things to the extent that I want to, so I revert to English if I know my friend will understand, but I long to be able to really talk about things that matter in this language. I still sometimes lament that I chose one of the hardest languages on earth (gramatically) to learn, but I love it.
You might be wondering why my Korean has improved since I left Korea. I'm not sure it actually has improved, but I keep hearing surprise that it has. I think because I've had a series of one-on-one tutors since I moved (it's much cheaper to get tutors in China!), I've become more comfortable in speaking. With my tutors, we sometimes go over grammar or workbook exercises at my request, but mostly I just listen and talk with them in Korean. In Korea, I generally didn't talk that much to people in Korean above simple daily exchanges, but in China there are a few people I only talk to in Korean because that's the only language I share with them. I know that the grammar centered 6 months of classes I took here helped lay a very necessary foundation, but it's really the normal communication practice that makes a difference in learning.
On a side note, a short article on why it's a good reason to learn a foreign language here.
Friday, January 26
A guy selling produce from his cart near 동대문, the old east gate of the city: At a modern Starbucks not too far away, three girls alone in a row reading or studying. The trees outside the window are lit up. Soon after I took this picture, a light snow fell for a while.
Thursday, January 25
I have gone through a lot of my old posts to give them labels. Now if you want to see other posts that talk about the same thing, you can click on the label at the bottom of the post. If you want to see all the ones with pictures, you can click on the "pictures" label on the right sidebar.
I talked to my mom on the phone the other day and she commented on how she likes that I'm posting so much, then asked why I don't post this much all the time. The main reason is that I have a lot more time and fast, easy internet access where I am right now and for one more week. Other reasons include the fact that I really don't have that much to say (that hasn't actually changed, I'm just manufacturing more stuff to talk about since I have the time) and I don't want to post totally useless stuff here, even though my mom would like just about anything I put up as long as it was some form of communication.
Wednesday, January 24
-people who drag their feet when they walk. especially when wearing heels.
-holes in the heels of my socks. apparently, i have sharp heels that give socks short lives.
-forgetting a Korean word that I should know. on the contrary, it doesn't bug me when I forget an English word. recently I found myself describing to someone what a vending machine was because I couldn't think of the English name.
-stains that appear on clothes and i have no idea how they got there.
Monday, January 22
Today, I went to a friend's house to see her new baby. She lives North of Seoul and I'm staying Southeast of Seoul, so it took a while to get there. I left plenty early so I had time for a coffee break at a new Krispy Kreme in Myung Dong, a trendy section of Seoul where I changed from the bus to the subway. They were trying out a new donut for Valentine's day and gave me one. I took a picture of that as well as some of the many signs that can be seen nearby.
I have been so lucky to get to visit with a lot of children in the past few days: on Saturday a 1.5 year old and the 12 and 14 year olds and today a 2 month old. Being around children is such a blessing. They bring a fresh perspective that I need.
Sunday, January 21
So, here it is. I starred the ones I thought were really great. I was pretty surprised when I realized how many I finished. I read a lot of fiction, which probably contributed to me reading so much, but this year I hope to read more meaningful non-fiction, so I'll probably read less. I also read a lot because I was at home last winter vacation with the almost endless supply of books at my parents' house. I probably read four or five of the books during that time.
Books (fiction and non) about China or Korea:
Waiting – Ha Jin
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - Dai Sijie
The Middle Heart – Bette Bao Lord
*Iron and Silk – Mark Salzman
*Still Life with Rice – Helie Lee
In Absence of Sun – Helie Lee
About other countries:
Winter in Kandahar – Steven E. Wilson (Afghanistan)
Jerusalem Vigil – Bodie and Brock Thoene
Thunder from Jerusalem – Bodie and Brock Thoene
*The Gate – Francois Bizot (Cambodia, non-fiction)
About people from other countries adapting to the States:
*Native Speaker – Chang Rae Lee
A Gesture Life – Chang Rae Lee
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents – Julia Alvarez
Texas – James Michener
The Mermaid Chair – Sue Monk Kidd
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs - Alexander McCall Smith
*Cold Sassy Tree – Olive Ann Burns
9 Stories – J.D. Salinger
*Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
The Alienist - Caleb Carr
Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour, an Introduction – J.D. Salinger
The Color of Water – James McBride
Collapse – Jared Diamond
*An American Childhood – Annie Dillard
*Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer
One note (in response to a comment): Texas was a huge undertaking. I think I started it somewhere towards the end of 2005 and finished it in 2006. I was near the bottom of the barrel (just before a trip home, had run out of books to read, and found it on the shelf in the office).
Saturday, January 20
I had no one to meet up with yesterday, so I set out on a small hike up the mountain behind the apartment I used to live in. It was a pretty warm and sunny day, so I was warm as long as I kept moving. The trail felt familiar and it was a nice few hours up to the top and back. My knees are not thanking me today, though.
The first of the pictures show an ad for a health club on the trail! Development is everywhere in Korea, and even on the hiking trail, they can't help but advertise. My backpack held my snacks: cheese sandwich crackers (called Cheese Sand on the box), some mandarin oranges, and chocolate covered pumpkin seeds, a new discovery. Yum! The last picture is the view from my bedroom window at night. These apartments are the things that Korea is made of.
Today, I went to Itaewon to visit a friend from back in the day here in Korea. She has a beautiful one and a half year old daughter that was super cuddly and friendly, so I really enjoyed spending some time with her on my lap. We ate Subway sandwiches for lunch. Yum. There is so much good food there from so many different nationalities that I wanted to get take out for the whole week ahead, but I restrained myself from doing so.
Tonight I'm going to spend the night with the two girls from my old homestay. Should be fun!
Thursday, January 18
1) Grab the book closest to you
2) Open to page 123, go down to the fourth sentence
3) Post the text of the following 3 sentences
4) Name the author and book title
5) Tag three people to do the same
The book closest to me happens to be Let's Go Thailand which doesn't really have an author, but many writers and an editor. The real book I'm reading right now, Clowning in Rome by Henri Nouwen, doesn't have 123 pages anyway.
The sentences I'm directed to post here are some that I had read earlier because I hope to visit this place:
Referred to by locals as "JJ," this weekend market is a bargain hunter's dream and makes for a great case study of market culture in Southeast Asia. The bustle is unmistakable and addictive as thousands of vendors see everything from dalmations to incense, although the main focus is clothing and plants. Chatuchak has a reputation for being the cheapest of the markets, but come armed with plenty of free time and patience to navigate the crowds and ready to hone your wallet preservation skills and bargain ruthlessly with relentless vendors.
Sounds like fun, huh? I'll be there in about two weeks!
I'm not gonna tag anyone, but if you have an interesting (or not) book near you, go ahead and do it too, for fun, and let me know.
Wednesday, January 17
The weather in Texas has been below freezing for a few days, but it's been below freezing in Northeast China for at least a month, and that's because this winter has been warm and started late. Anyway, I guess that it's alright for Texans to complain about it because it's not normal.
In Seoul, it's quite a bit warmer than Yanji. I wore a pair of long johns on the plane over, but haven't put them on since. I haven't been wearing a hat or gloves much and I brought my short coat that I can't wear in Yanji right now. Someone last week asked if where I live was as cold as here. I told him it was much colder and his eyes got very big. He said he can barely stand to be here in the winter because he gets dizzy when he goes outside. I told him to get a hat.
Tuesday, January 16
Monday, January 15
Anyhow, I had a nice day in downtown Seoul. I ate some cheese dduk bokki (one of my favorite things - you can get it in China, but it's not the same) and then went to Kyobo bookstore. I looked at the Korean language learning books and the fiction, but figured I have enough of both already. I spent a lot of time looking at all the different schedule books (Korea may produce more of these than any other country in the world) and chose a tiny one, picked up some face wash at The Face Shop, the best cosmetics store around, and then headed to Insadong, the artsy touristy section of town.
The pictures are from a mall area in Insadong. Seoul is getting more and more hip. There was a gallery downstairs with some of Andy Warhol's paintings and then other artists paying trubute to him. Every store in the mall had some form of tibute to Warhol, too. The umbrellas were hung up in the open area and looked pretty cool. There were lots of people posing for photos.
This guy was outside on the pedestrian street. His sign says "I give warm hugs." On the other side, it said in English "FREE HUGS." I wanted to go up to him and ask why he was doing this, but I didn't. This is one thing I've gotta get past - not speaking to people in Korean unless I have to. (I'm not really a talkative person anyway, but I need to learn how to be talkative in order to practice these languages I'm learning!) I didn't see anyone getting a free hug, but I do like the expression of the girl in the green coat.
Sunday, January 14
I just ate a late dinner with them and then finally successfully helped with the dishes. (I had been barred from helping up to this point, but I kept trying and she finally told her husband "What can I do? I might as well just let her help.") She then started talking about how I was a great dishwasher and I am ready to get married. Then the dad/husband said, "Yes, I think she'll get married this year." I drank the coffee that he made for me and then came back to my room. Now, they are still in the living room, I think talking about why I'm not married, how Koreans get married earlier, etc. I am glad I escaped that conversation.
The topics of conversation have actually been quite interesting. They have included: Korea's standard of living (which they don't think is very good, but I keep telling them it is), whether people in the Phillipines have a better life, the fact (they say) that single women in Canada have the best standard of living, whether there are aliens living in America that look like humans (I'm not kidding about this. It actually came up.), how Koreans equate peppers to important parts of mens' anatomy (I think they thought I didn't understand that part, and I was glad), how Americans don't have a special food like kimchi, etc. I'm telling you, it's interesting here.
Since you can't join in our conversation, I leave you with a few more Harbin ice festival pictures, because my Mom was "wowed" by the ones I put up earlier. Just FYI, I read that Harbin has one of the three largest ice/snow festivals in the world, the other two being in Japan and Canada.
Saturday, January 13
This dragon was really big and cool. We all tried to capture its magnificence on film, but alas, we failed.
Me, on the second level of the sleeper. It's the best place to be because nobody bugs you there and you're not too far away from the ground.
These are the military guys cleaning up certain sections of the base. They have these man powered snow plows. One person pushes and two or three people pull. Pretty effective use of a lot of men. What do they do when it's not snowing, I wonder?
Friday, January 12
The theme at the snow park this year was Canada, so there were maple leaves and other Canadian symbols like Niagra Falls sculpted in the park.
They were still sculpting some of the sections of the park.
Just before we left the park, someone noticed how amazing the snowflakes were. We tried to take pictures of them, but no one had a camera that could take such close pictures well. After spending a few hours looking at all these amazing snow sculptures, we were most amazed at what the maker sent that landed on our coats. They were simply the most intricate, beautiful, picture like snowflakes we had ever seen. Some of them had two levels and couldn't have been more perfect or beautiful. When we left the park, the flakes seemed to have turned normal again, but for a few minutes, we enjoyed the fascination of seeing those amazing flakes.
We spent the rest of the afternoon that day eating a huge Korean meal at the house of our new friends and then rested there until it was time for us to catch our train. We picked up our bags and got some kimbap (seaweed rolls) to eat on the train. I thought it was interesting that the only food we ate was American (McDonald's) and Korean the whole time we were there. I guess we should have ventured out, but those are the foods we are happy to eat and we were hosted by a Korean family, so we didn't try any new Russian or Chinese foods.
On the way back, we had sleeper tickets and met some students and teachers from our university, so it was much more enjoyable than our trip going. We had a lovely time in Harbin. I want to go back sometime!
Unfortunately, the bus ride was super crowded and I started sweating under all those layers. All I could really take off was the hat, scarf, and gloves. They came off and I was gasping for fresh air everytime the door opened to let someone off. I had to walk around for a few minutes outside to cool down, but it didn't take long.
We were impressed with this city of ice buildings lit up from the inside. They had palaces, churches, tunnels, igloos, castles with slides, sculptures galore. It was beautiful. Worth the 150 yuan (about 18 bucks) I paid to get in.
We hooked ourselves together and slid down one of the ice slides on our rear ends. So fun! It felt like I was a teenager again at Wet and Wild waiting my turn to go down the next water slide. We stayed pretty warm most of the evening, it just got cold as we were waiting to meet up with our Korean friends again to go home together that we got cold, but we were warmed up by the packed bus ride home and almost thawed out by the time we reached our destination. We went to eat spicy rice cakes and steamed eggs at the Korean restaurant near the place we stayed. We impressed them with our (three white girls) ability to read, write, and speak Korean and we got special treatment.
Looking down from the top of one of the taller palaces. You can see a huge Buddha sculpted from snow and the other buildings in the park.
Wednesday, January 10
The cobblestone street ends at the Songhwa River where we got our first sighting of a snow sculpture (a pig, because it's the year of the pig) and all sorts of fun ice games.
After walking around for a while, we ate McDonald's (it only tastes good in foreign countries, and since we don't have one in Yanji, it tasted especially good) and went to Wal-Mart (another thing Yanji doesn't have) to buy cheese and a few other items from the imported food section, then back to our sleeping spot to rest up a bit for the opening night of the ice festival.
I'll post more pictures of the main winter attractions, the ice park and the snow sculpture park, later.
There were a few different people who spoke. Two or three of them spoke mostly in English with Korean translation, some spoke only in Korean, but one guy was from South America. It was so interesting to hear him speak, have a Korean guy translate, and then have my friend next to me translate into English. Even though I don't understand everything in Korean, I almost asked her to stop because my ears wanted to listen to all three languages. I know more Korean that Spanish (sadly, I never learned that language, but should have), but there are so many Spanish words that are close to English that I still wanted to try. I wanted to listen to Korean because I'm learning it (and for some reason it's fascinating to see a Korean translate from Spanish) and then I had to listen to the English because my friend was going to the trouble of translating. The speaker was so fast and passionate that it was a crazy 30 minutes.
Tuesday, January 9
I have a lot I want to post, but I'll start with some pictures from the last weeks of school.
Graduation, with Mee Yeon.
Lunch with some students at my new apartment.
The morning after a beautiful, long awaited snow. A few days after we gave our last final.
The reason why everything in my apartment will have a coating of black dust on it when I get home: coal used for heating.
Wednesday, January 3
I have been having people over for lunch or dinner almost every day for about a week. I have been making either a version of lasagna or pizza almost every time, so I am getting really familiar with those foods. I'm ready for a break from my own cooking, but it's really fun to have people come over and enjoy it.
On the first day of the year, Monday, we had a new teacher come in. It's really strange that he would come in at this time, since almost everyone is gone, but he had to for some reason. I volunteered as one of my last jobs at my previous university to be in charge of making sure someone picked him up and got him settled. It turned out that I thought he was coming in at 10am and I had people coming over for lunch, so I got someone else to pick him up. His plane actually came in at 10pm and the guy who I asked to pick him up waited at the airport thinking he had missed him. I felt really bad about this and told the guy who I had asked that I would go at night to pick him up. He was full of grace and mercy and said, with no resentment in his voice, that he would take care of it. That is the first lesson and gift I received this new year.
The second one was brought by an old student who came over for lunch. She had gone to the old folks home and shared her time and the truth with some old folks there. She told me about it and how one old person understood her but wouldn't accept her good news. She told me about how she felt like she had spent all last year without really telling anyone, so she wanted to start this year off by doing so. That was a real blessing to hear. This newbie has such a passion and such a giving and searching heart to tell others. She's another lesson and gift for me. All before noon on the first day of the year. I am blessed.