Helo welcom 2 my websight
Quite a lot of stuff has been going on these days, so it’s time for another update before it all piles up and I won’t know where to begin again.
Since the last update, summer has continued to flood Korea with one 30+ day after another, the rainy season has made those days even more interesting by filling them with what amounts to basically 24 hours of rain a day and, on a more positive note, the MERS epidemic has all but officially ended.
In the beginning of this month, I had the pleasure of visiting my wonderful girlfriend in Changwon – her home town. Since her vacation started (Koreans have a summer vacation that lasts 2.5 freaking months as a trade-off for barely having any time off during the rest of the year) she has pretty much been there all the time while I have been here in Daegu because my classes continue until the end of this month, so I hadn’t seen a lot of her lately. As such it was great that I could go see her even if it was only for one day.Changwon is pretty close to Daegu, taking only about an hour by bus. Even though it’s a fairly big city, it’s much more open and..breathable..than Daegu, Seoul or Busan and there’s not as many giant buildings choking up the skyline as in those metropolises. I arrived around lunch time, so first we set out to a cute little ‘indoor garden’ style shabu shabu buffet place to stuff our faces. After that we walked around the area a bit, discovering a huge fancy shopping mall that apparently cost so much to build that the owner went bankrupt and the city forgot about actually taking care of the dozens of small gardens spread out amongst its rooftops. One of those typical Korean ‘looks awesome on paper but I wonder what it will look like in 5 years’ situations. With the 30 degree sun shining down on us, we arrived at her former high school after a short bus trip. Unlike my school in the Netherlands, her school was split up into a male and female part (of course coupled with hilarious rules to keep the two from meeting) both housed in giant square buildings. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside, but hearing her stories about her time there taught me a lot about what kind of environment she grew up in. It wasn’t long until it started raining, but luckily we managed to get to our next destination without too much trouble. She had found a super cute LEGO café where we staid for a while, hoping to wait out the rain. Of course, this being Korea, that plan didn’t really work and we were forced to battle our way to the last stop of the day; Changwon’s museum. The current exhibition was Pulitzer Prize winning photographs, which was more like an American history class than anything interesting, but there was some Korean art on the upper floors that was actually worth the admission price. After having dinner at a restaurant where you could grill your own little hamburger on a scorching hot little stone and a drink at a nearby café it was already time for me to say goodbye and head back to Daegu because I was too poor to afford a hotel for the night. Even though we could only spend a short day together, I felt really lucky to be able to visit my girlfriend’s home town and see some of her history and where she spends her time when she’s not with me in Daegu.
Next on the calendar was the Daegu International Horror Theater Festival – an event that I’d be visiting for the Daegu Tourism Office. You can read the resulting article here by the way, if you happen to be fluent in Korean. Also, the picture they used for their archives is hilarious:
Anyway, obviously when I heard there was going to be a horror festival, I was on the edge of my seat because I freaking love horror. Luckily, my partner didn’t mind writing about it and we made our way to Duryu park where the festival was taking place. Honestly, it was a bit scruffy looking and small, but you could see the people involved were really into it.There were some actors walking around dressed up as ghosts, a booth where you could wear spoopy masks, a ghost house that we unfortunately couldn’t visit because it was closed when we got there and closed again when we came out from the opening ceremony, and my personal favorite; a booth where make-up artists would create really awesome looking wounds for you to show off. It was kind of weird to see someone cutting the putty they just smeared on your arm with a knife and filling it with blood, because you’re looking at it and your brain is going all ‘dude this bitch is totally cutting into your arm dude what’s up’. Unfortunately it was so freaking hot that we fairly quickly started sweating the putty loose, causing it to kind of grossly drip down our arms until we decided to just wash it off.
The following day was a day that many (if not all) of my classmates had been dreading for weeks now: TOPIK. TOPIK, the Test Of Proficiency In Korean, is a test that we as scholarship students need to pass in order to advance to our respective universities and start our real studies here in Korea. It’s not so much an actual test of your proficiency in the language, but more of a test of your proficiency in taking tests, so I hate it with a passion, but it is unfortunately a thing that we all have to do. I had already decided I would fail this test so I can stay here in Daegu and perhaps learn some actual Korean in the extra 6 months I’d be granted, but since most of the scholarship students will be studying in English at their universities they just want to pass this thing already and get it over with. The test takes about 4 hours, consisting of reading, writing and listening parts. The writing was surprisingly easy this time around, asking us to write a small text about some research results that were presented in a graph, and a larger text about our opinion on history and why it’s important to society. As a trade-off the reading and listening parts were pretty hard though, so I wonder if I would have even been able to do well if I had wanted to, but luckily I didn’t have to worry about that at the moment. I will however be having to worry about that for the upcoming three tests, because I’ve set my sights on Level 5 which means I should perform pretty damn well.
Related to this is the fact that…it’s been almost a year since I’ve arrived here in Korea. Actually, I think we arrived on the 25th of August, so it has been exactly 11 months today. It doesn’t feel like a year to me. It feels more like a couple of months. Time has gone by so fast. In this year, I’ve met so many people from so many countries all over the world and made friends that I will never forget and can’t thank enough for being here with me all this time. This past month, I’ve been feeling kind of sad knowing that all of them will leave within 4 weeks to go to their respective universities, and I’ve been wondering if I haven’t wasted too much time not having fun with them.. Then again, not a week has gone by without some hilarious event or meet-up, and even when I was barely able to get through the school day, they were always there to make the day more interesting. I’m sure I’ll be lonely when next month rolls around, but for now I just want to enjoy the time I have left with these amazing people.
Luckily, Keimyung also realized this and had planned a sort of ‘party week’ starting the day after TOPIK. First, we went on a ‘culture lesson’ with our class. Usually, due to a lack of ideas, these end up as going bowling together or seeing a movie, but luckily our teacher had decided to pay a visit to the Daegu Museum of Art, where Yinka Shonibare’s awesome work was on display. This was followed by a delicious lunch at Ashley’s, where we staid several hours too long talking amongst each other and stuffing our faces with great buffet food.
The next day, we had our Student Talent Show where every class would send a representative to perform on stage. I’d missed the previous one because I went to Seoul at that time so I didn’t really know what to expect, but it ended up being lots of fun. Unfortunately I can only show you guys the pictures I took because the dude that took videos decided it was a great idea to upload them directly to facebook instead of going through Youtube, but I’m sure you get the idea. Basically, imagine a bunch of foreigners singing in Korean and you’ve got a pretty good picture of what this day was about. It was really entertaining to see people you know show their hidden vocal talents/make a fool out of themselves and even more entertaining to see the teachers you’ve spent every day in class with do the same.
As soon as the Talent Show ended, I had to haul ass to Duryu park to attend the opening of the 2015 Daegu Chimaek (chicken and beer) Festival. You can read about it (and see the pics!) in Korean here and here, and some explanation about the phenomenon in English here. Chimaek is one of my favorite things about Korea, but I never expected so many Koreans to feel the same. The festival was absolutely MASSIVE, consisting of over 150 booths by different companies and pulling in over 880,000 visitors, frying over 250,000 chickens and doing away with about 250,000 liters of beer.
I tried really hard to get this video in here but it’s too Korean to work I guess so just click that link~ It’s a cool video about the festival.We, as members of the Daegu Tourism Blog, were invited to visit the festival and the mayor of Daegu would join us for a few beers and, obviously, a few bites of chicken. To my disappointment I noticed that talking to the Korean members of the group still wasn’t any easier compared to 6 months ago, but regardless there’s not much that can go wrong when there’s beer and chicken involved so we all had a good time.
Just when I was thinking of heading home because I’d have to wake up at 6 the next morning, Meerim (a classmate) called me that she was on her way because she’s a huge fan of Lee Minho and he had been at the festival opening. The following hour was a cartoonesque game of cat and mouse trying to find each other in the huge festival grounds, and after shoving some free chicken into our stomachs we fairly quickly had to leave since most of the places were closing up. Because I was mostly holed up in the one tent during this entire night, I went back later in the week to fully experience everything the festival had to offer. I was promptly picked out by someone writing an article about the festival for the news to give my opinion (you can read that here) on the festival’s organization, prices and my general impression of it. I of course told him I thought it was awesome and such a Korean thing to do, but when he found out I was also a writer for the Tourism blog he asked me very frankly ‘But do you really think so, or are you just saying that?’ I was kinda surprised but it gave me a good opportunity to share my love for beer and chicken with him, which I of course did in full detail. I went a bit earlier than my friends who would be joining me, so I used that time to stand in seemingly endless lines of people hoping to win some free stuff. I did end up winning a free Selcabong, 2 pieces of weird soap, some wet tissues and an Lee Minho CD, so I guess I didn’t do so bad for myself. When my friends arrived we treated ourselves to some actual beer from the couple of microbreweries that were attending and of course filled our stomachs with all sorts of fried goodness. Later in the evening there were some intense performances too before the festival wrapped up with a bang.
Anyway, back to the reason why I had to wake up at 6 in the morning the day after the Chimaek Festival opening; we would start our final two day KGSP field trip the next day! We had gone on one early in the year that I totally wanted to blog about but didn’t because I probably got caught up in the same situation I am in now (so much to write about, so little inspiration and so much difficulty to just start somewhere) but that trip was one of the best memories I have of being together with everyone, so I was hoping this would be just as great.
We left in the early, early morning and after 5 hours of sitting in a boring bus we actually arrived somewhere, where we in turn took…a train.. However, this train was actually awesome because all the seats were rotated 90 degrees and the windows were huge so you could look out and enjoy the views of, and I’m quoting the booklet here, “the majestic waves, elegant beaches, and the emerald-blue ocean.” In reality it was mostly trees and noise-cancelling walls, but still it was a lot more fun than a regular train and so, so relaxing.
And the next day’s program was, actually, an awesome one.
Or…it would have been awesome…
Thankfully though, our story is not quite over yet. Of course we had our ‘graduation ceremony’ last week where everyone came together one last time and after that we also had our very last ‘the park across from Daebaek’ drinking party where almost half of all KGSPers attended. That really was the last time we’d all get together like that, because after that night lots of people left for their home countries or their new homes in Seoul.
But, luckily for me, most of the people I’m close with are still here in Daegu at least for two more weeks, so I’ve been making the most of it ever since vacation started. I’ve learned how to play Go Stop (a traditional Korean card game), proceeded to teach this to a bunch of other people to play with them, went out for dinner a bunch of times, went to the pool, sang at a 노래방 and we’re even planning to go to a Horror Festival next week so that should be great as well.
I’m going to miss my friends so, so much..but for now, I want to enjoy their company while I still can!