Thursday, August 30, 2012

배구 - Volleyball

This one's for Tracey, a fellow Norcal-er who randomly played professional volleyball in Slovenia for one year. In Korean language classes during Orientation, Tracey was our go-to sports example person because she talked about volleyball at least once a day. Seriously, nobody in our class will ever forget that paegu means volleyball.

I also happen to really enjoy volleyball, although two years on the high school JV team and two years on the college club team have proven to me beyond a doubt that I'm perfectly mediocre at the sport. Still, when I was invited by some of the other teachers at Changwon Science High to their weekly "Sports Day" with hints that they liked to play volleyball, I was more than happy to accept. First of all, I want to get to know the other teachers at my school better. There are only around thirty total. (The English department consists of three teachers, including myself, and because I spend all day in the English department office, I basically never see anyone else at this school except for during lunch. It's maddening sometimes.) Secondly, I've been a total couch potato for the past week, sitting at my computer for six or seven hours a day, and coming home to sit on the couch to play board games with my younger host brother. I've definitely been restless, and I am sore in need of exercise.

So, yesterday was my first Wednesday sports day! I had brought along a change of casual clothes, and at 4:45pm I wandered over to the gym to see what was up. I was met by about a dozen teachers, all male, some of whom I'd never seen before and some of whom I recognized from the teachers' conversation course I threw together on Monday. All of them knew who I was already, of course, but I still felt a bit out of place. I think the youngest of these teachers is in his mid-thirties; I'm closer in age to their students than to them!

But whatever. We played three games to twenty-one, and it turned out to be tons of fun. 생각보다 재미있었어요! Much more thrilling than I'd anticipated. I don't know how long these middle-aged men have been doing their sports club together, but they mostly knew what they were doing when it comes to volleyball; some of the rules had been simplified, but I had no trouble fitting in during the match. My team recognized in the second game that I had some spike potential, and our setter gave me some great fours. The third game, our tie-breaker, was especially close and intense; the gym teacher (who runs the club and who was obviously the most competent of us all) went for a tip I sent over the net -- which was lower than usual, definitely helping my spikes -- and slightly pulled a muscle. Oops :(

In the end, my team lost, and my t-shirt was soaked through and practically dripping with sweat, but that was okay. It was all fun and games! At least, it was just fun and games for me; I gathered from what little Korean I understand that all the other teachers had placed bets on the outcome! Like, serious bets: ten bucks to each player on the winning team! Ha! And that's just the first of three stereotypically Korean additions that I witnessed to our little competition.

The second is that none of the men would ever dive for a ball -- for obvious reasons -- but if a ball did happen to go short, they would all invariably stick out their feet to kick it back up. This wasn't even done for humorous effect; it seemed as if this randomly thrown-in soccer move was just as legitimate as a normal bump or set. As far as I'm aware, "foot digs" are technically not illegal during play. It's just that while they're super-rare in American volleyball, I'm not at all surprised that soccer-obsessed Korean men made ample use of it, an often to great effect, to boot.

The third is that when we took water breaks, there was no water. Instead, there was Gatorade (normal), Pocari Sweat (normal for Asians), and... Hite (하이트), which is a rather cheap Korean beer (not normal?). Oh, and there were chips. Haha! I think that next week I'll just bring my own water bottle. And to be sure, I will be there next week. I had a fantastic time this time around, and I'm looking forward to getting my butt kicked in indoor soccer (축구, chukgu).

P.S. One thing I forgot to mention was that after Sports Day, all of those teachers go out together to eat (and probably drink themselves silly). It's known as a 회식 (hweshik), which I guess roughly translates to a dinner meeting? But it's not really a meeting at all, just a camaraderie-building hangout time. I've already been to one, but it was with my school's soon-departing principal (long story, I'll explain later) and probably isn't what a normal 회식 will look like. The point is, I wasn't aware that they were going out after the match, so I had to awkwardly and politely decline, but I'd like to go next week.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Departure Day

It has been one week since Departure Day, or D-Day as most of us have referred to it. D-Day was last Wednesday, when Fulbright Orientation came to an end and all 120 (or so) of this year's Fulbright teachers gathered only to be scattered to all different parts of the country.

It was very much like Placement Day, but this time all of the returning ETAs (those who have renewed their grants for a second or third year) were with us. And in the audience, in addition to our OCTs and the Fulbright Office staff, were hundreds of teachers, principals, and vice-principals from our schools, who had traveled hours to tiny little Goesan to meet us and bring us to our new homes and schools.

The night before was a frenzy of packing and reminiscing on the six awesome weeks of Orientation. I took the opportunity to play some final games of Contact, Bananagrams, and Pirate Scrabble. On the morning of, people seemed a bit quieter than usual, but otherwise it felt like any other day -- mediocre breakfast at the Jungwon cafeteria included.

But then everyone got dressed up, and everyone started bringing out their luggage, and then everyone started bringing out their cameras to take photos, and then it hit me that everything was about to change.

The ceremony was quick. Lots of ETAs were given flowers from their co-teachers and school administrators, including almost everyone in Jeollonam-do. We then ate lunch with the people from our school, not in Jungwon's sorry cafeteria, but in a super-fancy (and predictably ostentatiously decorated) banquet restaurant in the university guest house. Where was all that good food hiding all summer?

After lunch, there was so little time left before the school staffers' meeting with the Fulbright Office was over and everyone started disappearing left and right for their placements. It definitely felt a lot like the aftermath of Commencement, just a few months ago. Everyone was everywhere, it was loud and hot and people were fairly emotional... Also, it was raining, hard. Symbolic much? I just wanted to leave quickly before it got overwhelming.

And so I did, and my co-teacher Saerona and I drove out of Goesan (we had some trouble with our GPS; I think there's been a lot of recent road construction around our tiny town) and south for three hours until we arrived in Changwon. My new home for a year. Here in Changwon, the real adventures have begun!
A fraction of the D-Day photos I took. Center: I met another Swattie! Melinda Neal '11, who is renewing her Fulbright grant for a second year in Jeonju. Left, from top to bottom: Ryan and Rachel, my Gyeongsangnam-do (경상남도) buddies! (We are the smallest provincial group of all of this year's ETAs.); Andrea and Hana, reppin' the greater Philly area (Swat, Bryn Mawr, and Villanova); Tracey, the first ETA I met and my trans-Pacific traveling buddy; Kelly, fellow lover of the liberal arts discourse. Right, from top to bottom: Jet, my awesome roommate who's teaching his middle school boys in Daegu how to dougie; Sara, my ukulele-and-Ultimate-playing friend; and Katelyn and Jason, fellow Pokémon Masters. I hope to be able to visit all of my friends around the country this year!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Typhoon Update & First Class

The big typhoon (태풍; taepung) that was expected to wreak havoc on the Korean peninsula ended up swinging a bit wide of land and traveled northward off the west coast (서안; seo-an). Here in Changwon, which is on the east coast (동안; dongan), we've been left basically unscathed. According to the weather report (일기 예보), Bolaven has already been downgraded from a typhoon to a tropical storm. It is currently drenching Seoul, the capital of South Korea which is far north of where I am, and will move on into China by tonight.

Having experienced summer typhoons in Asia previously, I was never really worried. During typhoons, my typical modus operandi is simply to stay inside and listen to the wind rage. It's kind of comforting and kind of bizarre to see many Koreans completely unperturbed. Last night, I watched the news with my host family; they were showing footage from Typhoon Maemi (메미), a catastrophic category-5 that hit in 2003. Seeing the floods and the incredible damage done almost ten years ago was kind of jarring, but otherwise the newscasters were very calm. They had a segment on demonstrating ways to prevent your windows from being shattered by high winds. Some of these methods include sticking wet newspapers (신문; shinmun) to your windows or reinforcing them with tape (it's like trussing, except it isn't...). I was highly skeptical of what tape and paper could do against 60mph winds, but my younger host brother was convinced. He gathered up old newspapers around the house and a huge bowl of water and was all ready to go before my host parents told him it wasn't necessary. Haha!

Anyway, everything at school is chill, too. My students live in on-campus dorms; they don't even have to go outside to get to the classrooms. So apart from wind rattling the windows on occassion, my classroom also remains unaffected by the typhoon.

Speaking of which, I did just teach my first class! It was a simple lesson on classroom rules and introductory questions. I had them ask me twenty questions about myself (of course, I got "Do you have a girlfriend?"), and then we played Human Bingo, which was a total hit. Surprisingly, my second-years have good English comprehension. I was expecting to have to explain things very, very simply, but all I did was talk at a lower speed and use cue words, and everything went smoothly. In fact, the class was so fun that it got really loud at one point, but I had neglected to teach them any sort of quiet-down signal, because I didn't expect to have to use one!

They say that science high school and advanced high school students' biggest problem is sleeping in class, because their intense studying schedules leave them exhausted daily. Well, my hope is to bring out as much energy as I can, and enthusiasm for learning English. I can see that they have it; I just have to tap into that potential. I hope my students like me, because I'm impressed with them already! It'll take me a while to learn all of their names, but with fewer than two hundred students total (about twenty-five in each class), I think I can do it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's my first day of teaching!

As the title of this post may suggest, it's my first day of teaching today! I have two classes, one for the second-years and one for teachers (an English conversation practice group, to be more specific). They are both in the afternoon, so I will spend my morning preparing and freaking out.

Am I excited? Yes!

Am I ready? Not at all!

Is that okay? I don't know!

Is that okay? Yes!

Wish me luck!

[edit] Haha, okay... forty-five minutes after I arrive at school and begin finalizing preparations for my first class, my co-teacher announces that there has been a schedule change due to the first-year class trip to Japan. (They're going to visit Japanese universities and also spend a day at Disneyland Tokyo.) Because the second-year English teacher is gone on the trip as a chaperone, all of her classes have been shifted around. As a result, I don't have any classes to teach today! Well, I'm still teaching the conversation class for teachers.

The good thing is that I have much more time to prepare both lesson plans now. The bad thing is that I no longer have the four-day weekend I thought I'd have, but I think that in this case the good strongly outweighs the bad.

So my first official day of teaching is... tomorrow!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bau House Dog Cafe (Seoul Weekend pt. 6)

No, Aunt Phyllis; I promise that I did not eat dog meat.
Bau House (not Bauhaus! haha) Dog Cafe in the Hongdae neighborhod of Seoul.
Seoul's Bau House is a dog cafe where not only are visitors welcome to bring their pet dogs, but dozens of real, friendly, and incredibly cute dogs live and hang out with customers all day! You walk in, wait for a table, order drinks, and then are free to play with puppies of all shapes and sizes to your heart's content. Amazing? Yes.
Cute pippies to cuddle and sweet smoothies to sip? YES PLEASE!
My friends and I were quite determined to find this place, even though we only had a vague idea of where it was. There are apparently several animal cafes (themed for either dogs or cats) in Seoul, but the one in Hongdae (홍대) was reputed to be the cleanest. After wandering around somewhat lost in the very interesting streets of Hongdae, and after Jason and I somewhat unsuccessfully asked some locals for directions, we spotted a sign with paw prints on it just outside of Hapjeong Station (합정역), Exit 3.
Bau House Dog Cafe in Seoul! How many dogs are in this photo? The beautiful malamute in the center counts for double. :)
Julia at the Bau House Dog Cafe.
Walking in, I was surprised by a few things: first, it was very clean and bright. The cafe consists of basically one room with all the tables along the edges; dogs play mostly in the middle area, which is also where the staff's generous cleaning supplies are located. Any time a dog does its business, the 큰것 (#2) or the 작은것 (#1) is taken care of immediately.

Secondly, there were so many dogs! It was almost overwhelming. There were golden retrievers, beagles, shih-tzus, labs, pomeranians, a corgi, a pug, a husky, and even a malamute! They were running around, cuddling with people, and jumping up onto the counters. Some where very shy and just wanted to sleep beneath a table. Yet for all the dogs in the room, it didn't smell bad, and it didn't even smell like a PetsMart. I'd say the general odor of the place was a light scent of ammonia or cleaning supplies.

I quickly grew very comfortable to the environment. The dogs were not being noisy at all, and some of them would play-fight a bit aggressively, but overall there's nothing to worry about in terms of safety. Do beware the safety of your clothes, however! One unfortunate customer was peed on by a dog he was holding, and he didn't look too pleased about it! (Now that's an obvious reason why establishments like this could never exist in the US...)
Oops, a little accident! I hope this guy loves his job, because he probably has to do the doggie doo duty dozens of times a day...
Kristen finally found a friend!
The dogs were friendly, but most of them were obviously after the treats that many people brought or bought at the cafe. Jason and Cody were lucky enough that the friendliest dogs found them first and promptly went to sleep on their laps for the entire time we were there.

The rest of us were less successful; poor Kristen is usually a dog magnet, but none of the 강아지 (kangaji) here had any interest in her because she didn't have any food to give them!

I also couldn't find any dog to be my best friend for the evening, so I spent a lot of time just wandering around the room, plaintively calling, "강아지! 강아지! 친구 되고 싶어요?" ("Puppy! Do you want to be friends?") It was hilarious because all the dogs kept running away from me and toward the people with treats. Hilarious and sad. :(

Nevertheless, for two too-short hours after a long day, my friends and I had the absolute best opportunity to de-stress and let our worries melt away. My doggie and my green tea smoothie worked wonders. Afterward, Jason, Katelyn and I tried to go to Namsan Tower but got completely lost and decided just to go back to the hotel. Even so, it was just fine because: 1) we had a ramen, cookies and Pokémon movie pajama party (and I convinced them both that the third movie was far superior to the first and second!), and 2) we had just petted adorable dogs for two hours, and seriously, what could make you unhappy after that?
귀엽다! ki-yeop-da = "So cute!"
Info for dog-lovers:
Bau House website in Korean, with a map. Exit 3 of Hapjeong Station (합정역).
- Bau House Dog Cafe in Hangeul: 바우하우스 애견카페 (Ba-woo Ha-woo-ss Aegyeon Ka-pe)
- Address in Korean: 서울특별시 마포구 서교동 394-44 제일빌딩 후면 1층
- Address in English: 394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. (Je-il Building, rear entrance, 1st floor)
- Hours: 13:30-23:00 weekdays, 12:30-23:00 weekends and holidays
- Menu: Pricey but whatever PUPPIES

P.S. Thanks, Seoulistic, for the shout-out!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Walking Around Seoul (Seoul Weekend pt. 5)

In front of Gwanghwamun (광화문), the largest gate of Gyeongbokgung (경복궁). Left to right: Katelyn, Christina, Cody, Jason, Adam, and Lauren. The fans some of us are holding were freebies we got from high school students for taking a brief survey about the environmental impact of eating meat. It was really humid, so the fans were an awesome surprise.
Saturday was a drizzly and rainy day, but fortunately the showers came in spurts, so my friends and I could walk from one historic site to another without much problem. Our first stop was Gyeongbokgung (경복궁), the largest of Seoul's Five Grand Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (조선). It was first built in the 14th century and has been destroyed and restored several times since.

We actually didn't do much there except take photos on the outside. We didn't go in because we were planning on visiting another palace later that day, and one is enough, I think. On the way to the next palace, we briefly dropped by the National Folk Museum. There were some interesting outdoor displays to look at, but it seemed kind of small. I discovered later that we never even found the museum and had only wandered around the grounds beside it. Oh well!
Funny imitations of stone statues (spirit posts?) on the grounds of the National Folk Museum.
It took us a while to find the next palace; it was only a few blocks down the road, but we made some wrong turns and had to ask for directions at an information booth. On the plus side, our path took us around the edge of Bukchon/Samcheong-dong, which was a cute and fascinating neighborhood to walk around. It kind of felt like walking around hilly Berkeley, and I'd like to go back to explore it more.

Eventually, we made it to Changdeokgung (창덕궁; 궁/gung means "palace") and went inside. We got our timing wrong and missed the English tour and the tour of the Secret Garden in the back, but I figured that walking around it would still be worth it, so we did just that. And played Contact when it began to rain heavily and we were stuck under a gate.
Changdeokgung is famed for having been built into the topography of the land around it, rather than "imposing on nature". The result is a very pretty palace grounds that nevertheless got old quick. Next time I visit, I'll be sure to join the Secret Garden tour. After taking the inevitable tourist photo and the inevitable self-serious band shot, some of us split off to visit Gwangjang Market (광장 시장), South Korea's oldest traditional market.
My kiwi smoothie (키위 스무디)! With photobombers Jason and Katelyn in the background.

When we arrived at "Gwangjang Market", we were confused because we had actually gone to Sewoon Plaza instead, and that turned out to be arcade after arcade of fan stores, stereo stores, lamp stores... nothing but electric appliances! We found a cafe to sit and re-orient ourselves while downing delicious smoothies... and then walked one block over to find the real deal. Gwangjang Market: food, traditional clothes, convenience stores, and random touristy stuff all barely organized along covered streets, or arcades, and tons of loud Koreans everywhere! Although this market is on the tourist maps, it didn't seem like many foreigners were there. Maybe these dried fish scared them away, or the ahjummas making enormous bowls of kimchi, or incredibly dense crowds.

My friends and I quickly found the "street food" section, which was two short streets crammed with food stalls like mini open-air restaurants. It was insane; it smelled amazing; it was also really, really hot. We walked down the entire length of both streets -- it was actually much smaller than your typical Taiwanese night market (夜市) -- and grabbed some ddeokbokki (떡볶이), kimbap (김밥), and all types of fried savory pancakes (부침개), like pajeon (파전)!
Gwangjang Market's street food section! It smelled so good. So good.
I love street food, especially in Asian countries where it's fried, greasy, totally unhealthy, and has mysterious meat in it. This is something I'll take advantage of while I'm here, I think! So far, Taiwan still has the best in my opinion, but we'll see if that changes after a few months!

So that was Saturday morning and afternoon. After the street food smorgasbord, we went back to our hotel and chilled, meeting up later to visit one of Seoul's famous animal cafes! Reader be warned: you are about to see lots and lots of photos of the cutest dogs ever.
Buchimgae feast! It was about ten bucks per plate; we barely finished it, but Adam on the right definitely helped us power through.

Friday, August 24, 2012

미국 음식 - American Food (Seoul Weekend pt. 4)

저는 벌써 한국에서 일곱주일 동안 살고있는데, 한국음식 아직 좋아해요. 중원대학교의 식당에도 음식을 불평 없이 먹었어요. 그래도, 서울시를 방문할 때 미국 음식을 보고싶는지 마침내 깨달았어요.

You see, I never actively missed food from home. This is partly because I'm very used to Asian food: duck, squid, weird spicy things, mystery soup, mystery meat, and tons of rice. What bugged me most about Jungwon University food was that it was so repetitive, not that it was inedible. So I never complained. And discovering new things from time to time like 짜장면 or 김밥 were all the more exciting.

That said, when eighty Americans were finally set loose in Seoul to eat whatever they could find for two days, I decided that I'd try to find an American diner for Saturday morning brunch. I wasn't craving anything in particular, but I thought it would be nice to see pancakes and scrambled eggs for a change.
Katelyn and Jason at Richard Copycat's in Itaewon.
Richard Copycat's facade, + Starbucks, in Itaewon.

Our plan was to take the subway to Itaewon (이태원), the neighborhood that caters to the international crowd, expatriates, tourists, and the like, and just wander around from there until we found a place that looked good.

Fortunately, after meandering down the length of a long shop-filled street for a while, we found Richard Copycat's, a promising-looking restaurant with a sign that said, "EAT HERE".

In we went!

And oh, was that food glorious. I had an American-style waffle with whipped cream! And hash browns! And fried eggs and breakfast meat, to boot. It was amazing, especially that waffle. And the hash browns. I'd go back just to get another pair of those...
Beautiful waffle with a dollop of whipped cream! They also had French toast, biscuits and gravy, omelettes, and a menu written entirely in English.
So nommable! 맛있네요! What I'm getting at with this post is that, while I was extremely satisfied with my brunch with friends, I realized that I didn't realize how much I'd missed American food until I actually had some. There were those among us who scoffed at the idea of eating American food while in Korea, especially as it was fairly expensive compared to a Korean breakfast (about 13,000원 -- which is like $12 -- and that includes tax... Korean restaurants never charge tax...). But to them I say, some of us needed the comfort food after six weeks of deprivation, and those of us who didn't need it benefited from it anyway.

I think that brunch at Richard Copycat's gave me my fix of American food for at least a few months. I'm not one to crave certain foods often, but I will admit that that meal really lifted my spirits and helped carry me through (an enjoyable but) long and rainy day.
Knife and fork ready to dig into my American brunch! I fleetingly thought of Black Bear Diner... (taken by Cody)
Amber & Elaine at Taco Amigo in Itaewon.

While I'm at it, I have to write about my most memorable meal while in Seoul: Taco Amigo, also in Itaewon! This was on Sunday evening, when I had no concrete plans and just tagged along with Amber and Elaine on their quest to find the best Mexican food (멕시코 음식) in Seoul.

Mexican food isn't American food, of course, but the chimichanga (치미 창가) may have originated in the U.S., and that is what I ordered. I have never actually had one before, so it's kind of funny that my first chimichanga was made by a Canadian who owns a Mexican restaurant in Korea. Nevertheless, it was made to perfection. It was absolutely delicious; I savored every last bite.

Add to that Mexican rice and Chipotle sauce and you have... a meal that literally kept me smiling for hours. (When I burped later that evening and it tasted like a deep-fried burrito, I was happy. TMI?) Also, conversing with Amber and Elaine as we satisfied cravings and downed that food like it was our last was just so wonderful. I won't forget it soon.

Again, the idea that I may have missed Mexican food (and by Mexican I'll admit that I mostly mean Chipotle burritos and horchata) never crossed my mind until after I'd finished and declared that Taco Amigo was the best restaurant in the universe. It's funny what a good meal can do to you, especially after weeks of rice and kimchi. I highly recommend Richard Copycat's and Taco Amigo for the American who is (not on a shoestring budget and) desirous of these kinds of foods that are readily available in the States, and taken for granted, as well.
Taco Amigo's chimichanga meal set: 14,500원 -- about $13. Quite expensive but hey, I'm in South Korea. And it was delicious.
I'll conclude by saying that Seoul really is an international city in terms of the kinds of food you can find. McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and other fast food chains are everywhere. There was even an Outback Steakhouse right outside of the subway station exit in Itaewon. I had American brunch, Mexican dinner, and Korean-style hot pot/shabu shabu; my friends and I also ate our way through Gwangjang Market's famous street food (post on that coming soon!). I also heard of my peers' adventures with Indian food, Thai food, and ordering a Subway sandwich (harder than expected). My stomach and I had a great weekend in Seoul. I hope to go back to eat more, soon!
Cheese! Did I mention they had cheese?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Party at the Embassy (Seoul Weekend pt. 3)

"Big Korea Gate": 大漢門 or 대한문. Below it were these guards. I don't know if they were actually guards, or just tourist photo fodder. I felt sorry for them, though, because they looked like they were hot under those heavy costumes.
When the tour of the DMZ was finished, we headed back into the city proper and visited the American Embassy. There, the ambassador threw us a pool party and backyard barbecue! It was a nice way to relax after an intense morning. Plus, there was regular American picnic fare: burgers and cheese (!!!) and potato salad and freshly baked cookies (!!!). It was great! I almost forgot that I was in Korea.
Making a face at the embassy. (taken by Katelyn)

I didn't expect to swim at the party, as the forecast had called for thunderstorms, but it ended up being a fairly nice afternoon. People hung out poolside, napped, and ate. Others went for the water sports and played chicken, sharks and minnows, and the always-expected underwater-breath-holding contest. I do remember there being swarms of bugs that got more and more intense as the evening wore on. I'm glad, and kind of surprised, that I didn't get bitten.

For the better part of three hours, I just ate lots of good food and played Contact with my friends for the better part of an hour. Somehow I managed to hold them off for forever on "extremist". They were ready to hurt themselves when they finally gave up... I love a good game of Contact!

Anything else interesting happen? Not really. Did I mention that I ate tons of cheese? Haha.

In retrospect, I think I should have taken the opportunity to actually talk to the ambassador and the other important political people present at the party, but I didn't get around it. I couldn't even hear any of the speech he gave in the beginning because I was too far away. Well... maybe next time?
You can't have a pool party without a game of chicken! Katelyn on Ammy (left) beat Nina on Elaine (right), but only barely!
Amber and Kelly during Contact; they're smiling, but are also secretly frustrated, because very few words begin with E-X-T-R-E.
The Fulbiright Office in Seoul

After the party, our whole group took a trip via the Seoul metro system to the Fulbright Building in Mapo-gu. It's a fairly large and pretty building with a charcoal-gray exterior. It's pretty hard to miss.

At the Fulbright office, we went over our Fulbright contracts, line by line. It was a long and tiring meeting after a long and tiring day, but I'm glad we did it. It's important to know what's in your contract! And now that I do know all of the stipulations et cetera, I feel more confident in what I'm about to pursue: teaching (an actual job!) for one year -- and maybe more.

By the time that was over, it was late evening. My first impression of Seoul was... Big, busy, and lots of foreigners. And giant billboard advertisements and video-board ads, too (I'm not sure what they're actually called, but it's like having giant outdoor TV screens everywhere, and it's pretty striking). So after being in Goesan for six weeks, I had the same minor city-shock that I got whenever I'd take the train to Philly from Swarthmore. And, similar to when I'd travel to Philly, I was definitely looking forward to a fun-filled weekend!
A Seoul sunset.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Greetings from Changwon!

Hello! Orientation is over; everybody has moved out of Goesan and scattered to dozens of cities across the country to begin their new lives as English teachers, living with Korean families and experiencing a whole new level of cultural immersion.

I'm typing this from my own bedroom at my homestay in Changwon! My family lives in a nice apartment about fifteen minutes away from my placement school by foot. My host father (아버님) and host mother (어머님) are both science teachers, but neither teaches at my school; the connection to Changwon Science High is that their daughter is a first-year there. Furthermore, I think my school's vice-principal is good friends with my family. The family also has a son who is in middle school and has no interest in learning English. They also have two Pekingese-Shih-tzu mixes, and I can't decide if they're really cute or really ugly. :) Also present: a pet crayfish (가재) and a pet hamster that smells bad. And a piano and three guitars (!) that no one in the family really plays (!!!). And a keypad security system whose code is based off of a prime number sequence. Awesome.

I met most of the family tonight and chatted with them in broken Korean (mine) and broken English (theirs) about myself and my family, as well as logistical stuff like showers, wake-up time, how to get to school, etc. The only member who wasn't present was their daughter, because Changwon Science High is a boarding school, so she lives in a school dormitory (that is, again, only fifteen minutes away from her actual home). Maybe I'll see her tomorrow when I visit the school?

Anyway, after a long but chill (and no more awkward than expected) evening, and especially after my new host mother fed me peaches (복숭아) and told me that she loves buying organic food (유기농) and that I could eat anything I wanted from the fridge, I decided that I'm going to absolutely love my homestay family and this homestay experience. The food, the dogs, the shy 남 동생, everything!

The other hugely important person that I met today was my co-teacher, Saerona. (Her name is a traditional Korean name, hence the three syllables and its lack of a hanja counterpart. That's cool.) She is an English teacher at Changwon Science High, and she gets more and more interesting with every minute of conversation that passes. I was dead tired after the Departure Day ceremony and expected to sleep for most of the three-hour car trip to Changwon from Goesan, but we ended up talking the entire way, mostly about American and Korean educational systems, race relations in the States, religion, politics, and what my new school and city are like. I'm pretty sure we'll get along just fine.

I got my first look at my city, Changwon, through a heavy curtain of rain and from between mountains that turned out to be taller than they looked on Google Maps. (Yeah, I know, Google Maps is... flat.) It was a bit surreal to be finally on the streets that I'd studied for so long on a computer screen.

We were going to take a quick look at the school itself in the evening, but we arrived a bit too late and went out to dinner instead. (We had 돌반 비빔밤 dolpan bibimbap and it was delicious!) While I did catch a glimpse of the outside -- it sits on a small hill and is larger than I anticipated -- I'll tour the school for the first time tomorrow morning. My host brother is going to walk me to my school, and I'll sit in on a class and try not to draw attention to myself. Host father did say that I look kind of Korean at first glance, so maybe I'll blend in? Haha.

Anyway, that's all I'll say for now. More details about Departure Day -- and of course, parts three, four, five, etc. of Seoul Weekend -- later. I'm very happy and utterly exhausted after a long whirlwind of a day... good night!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stepping into North Korea (Seoul Weekend pt. 2)

When does the weekend actually start? After work on Friday afternoon? How about 3am on Friday morning? That's when ours did. The buses arrived at 3:30am, and we boarded them in the midst (or perhaps in the mist) of heavy morning fog.
The Night Bus... its headlights illuminated quickly-moving drops of water vapor from the fog. It felt like SF.
The first thing I saw in Seoul!
Earlier -- after the talent show -- I decided to watch the second Pokémon movie with Katelyn and Jason, which was a good way to keep me awake. I then began my morning by playing some lively rounds of Contact with peers who had also decided not to sleep. Our plan was to conk out during the three-hour bus ride to Seoul. When I woke up, the first thing I saw was a very, very tall building. And then more tall buildings. And lots and lots of cars. It was much bigger than Goesan... Welcome to the Capital!

Our schedule for the day was packed. We had an official USO tour at the Demilitarized Zone, followed by a visit to the American Embassy, followed by an important briefing on our Fulbright contracts in the Fulbright office building. Even though we arrived in Seoul at six in the morning, we wouldn't be able to check into our hotel until nine in the evening.

First stop: The Demilitarized Zone. The DMZ is the border running close to the 38th parallel that separates South Korea from North Korea. The Military Demarcation Line (MDL) was established in 1953 following the end of the Korean civil war; the DMZ extends for two kilometers north and south of the MDL. It's a heavily guarded territory on both sides and is a constant reminder that there has yet to be real peace in the Korean peninsula.

Fulbright was privileged enough to gain access to a USO-led tour of the Joint Security Area, the only point along the entire DMZ where North Korean and South Korean troops actually face each other. There is a lot of complex history surrounding the JSA that I didn't quite take in, but we were able to see a lot of interesting things.
ROK soldiers standing guard at the MDL. In the background you can see a DPRK guard in his dark green uniform (the only North Korean I have ever seen).
First, there were the three ROK (Republic of Korea = South Korea) soldiers standing guard. The two blue barracks on the sides are conference rooms where peace negotiations have taken place. The gray building in the background is the North Korean "Panmungak", where North Korean tours of the JSA take place. You can see a DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea = North Korea) soldier standing in front of the door on the left. His job was, apparently, to constantly watch soldiers and visitors on the ROK side, while the ROK soldiers' job was to watch the DPRK side. It was very quiet and tense, with the exception of our American soldier tour guide, who kept cracking jokes in between his very well-rehearsed comments at each site.
I took this photo of the MDL while standing in North Korea...

We were then allowed to enter the blue barracks on the left, which was the Military Armistice Commission Conference room for peace negotiations, although meetings were suspended in 1991. The room was small and we crowded in around a large conference table to make room for everyone. When I looked out the window, I got a better look at the concrete slab that marked the MDL. I was then shocked when our tour guide informed us that those of us who had crossed to the farther side of the room had already inadvertently stepped into North Korean territory, or at least their side of the Joint Security Area.

Also inside the conference room were two ROK soldiers in uniform, standing as still as statues. I immediately felt awkward when I saw them. What must they have thought about all these weird Americans barging into such an important area with their cameras, taking photos with them and being as touristy as if they were in Paris? I was really reluctant to take a photo with the soldiers, although many other people did, so instead I took a photo of them. I felt badly for them even as I focused the camera and tried to frame a good shot.
On the left, an ROK soldier. He's wearing sunglasses and standing in a specific TKD posture to denote attention but also neutrality toward North Korea. He is also standing precisely on the line that separates ROK from DPRK. On the right, Tracey is standing in North Korean territory.
The feeling of awkwardness only increased after the tour was over. Did you know that there is a souvenir shop at the DMZ? It's run by locals who live in the South Korean freedom village within the boundaries of the DMZ. I know that they need to make a living and sometimes rice farming isn't enough, but the very existence of the souvenir shop just baffled me. You could buy North Korean currency, postcards of the DMZ, t-shirts and American camo, and also a bunch of random novelty items and traditional Korean objects like fans, masks, and hanboks. It was weird...
The JSA souvenir shop, with ETAs milling around in slight confusion.
After touring the JSA, we continued to some other spots along the DMZ that were of historical interest. However, at all of these areas, we found that the historical interest was overshadowed by purely touristy interest. One site was an infiltration tunnel created by the DPRK that the ROK discovered in 1978. We donned hard hats and walked 73 meters (240 ft) underground to walk through a tiny, wet tunnel and see... a wall. A wall that separated the North Korean side of the tunnel from the South Korea side. It wasn't much, but it was interesting. You could even see the drill holes for dynamite and remnants of the coal powder that the DPRK sprayed all over when they made the excuse that the tunnel was for coal mining.

Still, what struck me most was how the site was just as crowded at the mountain hiking park I'd visited a few weeks ago. There were tons of tourists waiting in line just to walk down to see a wall, and also get a nice thirty-minute workout in the meantime. (The tunnel was actually pretty steep, so it really was like an actual hike...) It was a total tourist trap.
Who wants a photo with a happy ROK soldier? I did, I guess. (taken by Ammy)
They even had these little statues of ROK soldiers. Is this ridiculous, or what? I was just incredulous that the Korean tourist industry would actually make the DMZ into any other tourist trap. I could only ask, "Why?" I mean, it's important that the Korean government keep the memory and knowledge of the events of the Korean war alive, especially for younger generations of Koreans who have grown up mostly unaware of how far their nation has come in sixty years. But the signs, the souvenirs, the overwhelming number of giant tour buses, and even small things like the fifty-cent fare for looking at North Korea through big binoculars from the top of a hill... it all seemed very contrived, and I didn't know what to make of it.
Left: Ben, Jaeyeon, Bridget, Taxi, Jessica, and Susie at the DMZ. I really like this cute group photo, but why is the giant Hollywood-esque sign there in the first place? It's just odd. Right top: We visited a train station that runs only twice a day. It used to connect cities in South Korea to cities in North Korea, but the tracks that cross the MDL are now blocked. Still, the direction is toward Pyeongyang (the capital of North Korea), and from there the railroad continues to Russia and beyond. Because of the DMZ, the southern half of the Korean peninsula is isolated from the rest of continental Asia and Europe. Right bottom: Binoculars to look across the border and into the closest North Korean city, Kaesong.
In conclusion, although I enjoyed visiting the points of interest around the DMZ and got a chance to see things that many people will never see, overall I thought that the commercialization of the tourist sites was a shade inappropriate. We were learning some very important things about Korean history and its current political situation, but it also never felt as solemn as I had expected. I was intrigued and uncomfortable at the same time. And because the DMZ sites are not just mementos of history but technically still a war zone, traipsing around on a tour of a highly dangerous territory also felt absolutely surreal.

Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to process everything that we'd taken in that morning. After a quick lunch, we had only an hour-long bus ride before we were back in Seoul in the afternoon. Everyone was exhausted from having been up all night and we just conked out, and next on our itinerary was a meet and greet with the American ambassador at the U.S. Embassy.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Talent Show (Seoul Weekend pt. 1)

Wow, this past weekend has been a total blur... From Thursday night until now, I've been singing, dancing, traveling, touring, eating, hardly sleeping, and just having an all-around fantastic time.

The first part of the best weekend ever began on Thursday evening with the annual ETA Talent Show. This is a tradition for the end of Orientation, but in the past few weeks it's seemed like a major burden for the committee of ETAs who were putting it together, as well as for everyone who signed up to do an act. But it came together wonderfully, and I'm really impressed by the organizing committee and their chosen theme: The Kimchi Games, a parody of The Hunger Games that was spot-on and hilarious in so many ways!

I was in two acts: a lindy hop dance with Amy and a song with Katelyn and Caden. As I mentioned before, having rehearsals for these performances on top of preparing for the final exam and so many other things was tough. But it was totally worth it!
Amy and me, throwing a cute cuddle dip into our routine. Photo taken by Jaeyeon.
Amy and I had been practicing an hour a night for five nights, and our efforts really paid off. Not only did we show off the East Coast style, we worked really hard to put some aerials into our routine, including the awesome Princess Dip and the Angel, which took us so long to perfect (and even then, it wasn't perfect, but we pulled it off!). I think the crowd liked it. :)
Left: the Angel. It's harder than it looks! Right: the Princess Dip, which is tons of fun! Photos taken by Jaeyeon.
The other act I was in was a musical performance. Katelyn and I put together a mash-up of Kina Grannis' "Valentine" and Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am"; these were two songs that had been stuck in our heads for weeks now. It's been our habit to chill in the ETA lounge and jam on the guitar, so we decided that it'd be fun to turn our chill time into a performance. Caden, one of our RAs, also plays the guitar (and has a secret ambition to become a K-pop star), jumped on board to help us out. It was great!
Left to right: me, Katelyn, and Caden. Photo taken by Andrea.
I wanted to mention here that neither of my co-stars, Amy or Katelyn, had ever performed swing or sung on stage before! Yet they both did a fantastic job, and I'm really proud of them and happy that I got to share the stage with them.

All the other performances were stellar, too: there was comedy, poi, salsa, para-para, hip-hop, lots of musical performances, and even a drag performance that stole the show. There was also a slideshow created by our RAs that made everyone cry, and then a crazy dance medley put on by our awesome Orientation Coordinating Team that ended with lots of dancing on stage. And perhaps the funniest and most daring part of the show were the Superlatives created by the Talent Show team that poked fun at almost everyone. My Superlative was, "Most Likely to Put Incriminating Photos of You on Facebook"... and it's true! The whole show was almost three hours long... but even though I was tired by the end of it, I wasn't about to sleep, because we had to get up at 3am the next day to leave for Seoul!
Our OCTs: Anthony, Ashlee, Jim, Bruce, Emilee, Leslie, and JR, dancing in Goesan style!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Last Day of Class

The Intermediate class has had a lot of fun the past few days. To celebrate our last day of class, we made a big poster for our homeroom teacher, 김 선생닙. It was shaped like a giant cupcake (컵케익), and we wrote individual notes to her shaped like sprinkles!
Our awesome cupcake poster! The green stem of the cherry was actually a piece of trash we found on the ground.
We also got her this amazing green tea cake (녹차 케이크) from Tous Les Jours (뚜레쥬르), the nice bakery chain that also has 팥빙수. It was absolutely delicious, and also very pretty!
녹차 (nokcha), green tea, is one of my favorite dessert flavors. :3
During the first two periods of our last day, we learned a Korean song called "Americano", by 10cm. Here is a fan-made lip-sync video of the song. It's simple and really catchy, so I think it'll be stuck in my head for a while! Anyway, our assignment was to rewrite the lyrics so that we loved something besides Americano.
Our class decided to write an ode to... ourselves. ("인터, 인터, 인터, 인터... 인터미디엇!) We also *kind of* put down the Beginner classes... not my idea! But it was really funny anyway, and during the class battle (B-1 through B-6 versus Intermediate, all presenting their versions of the song), we had a great time. I love a little rivalry, and it's funny how it's only just come out! The competition to make the best poster, buy the best gift, and impress our teachers the most at the end of the semester has been a fantastic motivator. Also, I'm glad we finally had a chance to have a fun class. 인터미디엇, 사랑해!
"We love Intermediate, no need for Beginner!" Teehee. (If you're wondering, we're making hearts with our hands.)
Speaking of class gifts, our gifts to 김 선생님 and 홍 선생님 were photographs of our class in really nice frames. (Thanks to Kelly and Ashley for getting the cake and gifts!) After giving her the gift, we ate snacks and cake and wrote little "yearbook" autographs to each other. I was pleased at how much I knew how to say to my classmates in Korean, although I still used a little bit of English in my autograph to get some more complex points across. But I can now tell people that they are going to be a good English teacher in Korean!
김 선생님 with our class photo, which was taken in this same room in front of the same whiteboard. 파이팅!
I guess I'm pretty sad that language class is over! It wasn't always loads of fun -- in fact, having four hours of language class a day was never very exciting -- but it was a really important part of Orientation, and now that we've passed this milestone, the reality of our approaching Departure Day and the real beginning of the grant year is starting to sink in. I'll miss my classmates and our teachers!

(We still have one thing left, though: the graduation ceremony! It'll take place in Seoul on Monday. During the ceremony, every class will give a presentation in the form of a skit and speeches. So, our class still has to meet to rehearse once or twice. Fortunately, our skit is hilarious and I enjoy rehearsing it. You'll see photos of it soon!)

(Oh, and yeah, I'm going to Seoul! It's 1:30am as of this writing, and everyone will be boarding the buses in two hours. Am I going to have an awesome weekend? Yes.)
Intermediate class, posing with our awesome cupcake poster! From left to right: me, Susie, Monica, Jaeyeon, Kelly, Ashley, Megan, 김 선생님, Amber, Tracey, Lizzie, Kyla, and Soon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Final

The final exam is over! It wasn't too difficult (쉬운 편였어요), so I wasn't nervous (긴장 안되었어요), and I felt pretty good about my performance all the way through. The exam was broken up into three sections: reading comprehension, writing, and speaking.

The reading section was straightforward, but on one section, we were given four sentences and had to figure out which one of them had no grammatical mistakes. I didn't think it would be difficult, but as soon as I read through the choices, I had to make sure that I was choosing the one correct sentence, not the one incorrect sentence, because I couldn't find any mistakes in most of them. I ended up guessing on those questions, and probably got them wrong.

In the writing section, the biggest portion was a short essay on a hobby. I've written about enjoying photography and working out, but I decided to go for something new and wrote about liking music (음악) and playing the guitar and the piano whenever I have time. It was an awkward essay, because I had to use specific grammatical points and wrote clumsy sentences such as, "Because I get good feelings when I am playing guitar, if I can't play guitar then I'm a bit sad." ...Yeah. Here it is in Korean: "기타를 치고 있을데 기분이 좋아 졌기 떼문에 연주 할 수 없으면 슬픈 것 같아요."

Unfortunately, I'd misspelled "guitar" (기타) throughout the entire essay: I wrote about how much I liked to play the "kuitar" for a whole page. Oops!

Lastly, there were two oral examinations. One was with a dialogue partner; we chose a scenario and had to role play. I was paired with Soon, which was a bad idea from the start because whenever Soon and I sit next to each other in class, we end up in hysterics. She's very funny, but has a knack for putting me into embarrassing situations during which I can't stop laughing. Anyway, Soon was a fun partner to work with, and it probably didn't surprise anyone that our role play ended ridiculously. I was looking for a suit to buy for teaching attire, and Soon the shopkeeper kept insisting that I buy a pink or orange suit, because those were in style.

After that, I had my one-on-one interview with my teacher. I admit I was more nervous coming into this one, but it was all right. I was asked to describe my parents ("저는 어머니를 닮았어서 눈이 큰 편이에요." I take after my mother, so my eyes are on the bigger side.) and talk about what kinds of situations made me happy, sad, or nervous. The interview didn't take as long as I thought, or maybe time passed quickly.

All in all, I think I did fine. I wanted to do well not really because my over-achiever drive was kicking in, but because I wanted to show my Korean teachers that I've indeed come a long, long way since my arrival in Korea. I mean, in all seriousness, I am so much more competent in the language now, and I'm kind of amazed at how much my class has managed to cover in five short weeks. Actually, my teacher who did my final exam oral interview was the same teacher who interviewed me during the placement test on Day 2. During that interview, I could only talk about when I arrived in Korea, tell the time, say that I like Korean food... really basic stuff. Now, I can write an essay about myself and my hobbies; I can describe peoples' appearances and personalities; I can make travel plans for winter break. No, fluency is still a long, long way off, and I still am not sure if I can successfully direct a taxi driver to a new destination, but hey, little steps!

A lot of the other students (future teachers!) were very anxious about this exam, because not passing our Korean crash course actually results in termination of the grant. But, in reality, I don't think anyone is going to fail the course. Even if someone technically receives a failing grade on the final, it's the effort that counts, and our Korean language teachers are aware of that. (And at this point, now that we've gotten our placements, the program would do anything to prevent a grantee from going home!) So, success really does depend on the amount of effort you put in.

In a more abstract way, this will apply to my year as a teacher, as well. For one, I will have to instill in my students the mindset that getting a low grade doesn't mean you're a failure (at least not in my class). It will also become apparent to them quickly enough that if you don't try to learn a language, you simply won't. For me personally, I'm also going to make plans to continue Korean classes regularly during my grant year or find a language partner to practice conversational skills. I've got to be held accountable, though, because if I don't make the effort, I won't get the results I want.

Here's to successful language learning! 아자자 화이팅!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Stressing vs. Seeking

Life has been quite busy and stressful these past few days... the final exam for our Korean classes is this Wednesday, so I've been studying for that in earnest. But I've also been finding ways to procrastinate for it, including Facebook Scrabble and jamming on the guitar as a study break. On the plus side, I was able to turn playing the guitar randomly with friends into a performance for the 2012 ETA Talent Show, which is this Thursday. But I'm also doing a swing dance routine with another friend, so rehearsals for that have been taking up time, as well. All in all, I think I can look at each day of this week consisting of 4 hours of class, 3 hours of studying, 2 hours of cultural workshops, 1 hour of gym, 1 hour of swing rehearsal, half an hour of music rehearsal, and half an hour of Facebook Scrabble.

This Friday, the end of Orientation will be marked by a weekend trip to Seoul! I'm really excited for this, but it's hard to think about the weekend when I'm so busy at the moment. On Saturday and Sunday, I'll be hanging out with friends (including some Swatties! Yay!). However, next Monday, we are going to have our "graduation ceremony" from KLCC; that is, we'll officially be promoted from the Korean classes we've been taking and obtain the right to become Fulbright English teachers. For this graduation ceremony, each class has to prepare a special skit or movie demonstrating what we've learned. My class, the Intermediate level, is going to perform a skit based on The Bachelor (but I'm not the Bachelor, haha...). So let's add on extra skit rehearsals to my already hectic schedule!

The thing is, although I have a lot on my plate, I need to keep reminding myself not to complain or to be an ass about it. People in general have a way of finding ways to gripe about anything, and as someone who is easily annoyed by it, I should check myself for hypocrisy. I must constantly remember that I've been blessed beyond comparison just by having the opportunity to be in Korea (and take Korean classes and get teaching training and do all the great things I've already done for free!).

So: yes, I'm busy. But am I, at the same time, grateful for having a job and for having friends? Do I have good health and food to eat (even if it's not delicious food), goals to work toward, and daily physical, mental, and spiritual satisfaction? Yes. 예! Swarthmore has taught me a lot about handling stress in healthful ways, and one of those methods is to remember to frame everything in context.

Tonight's Bible study was focused on Matthew 6, the passage where Jesus commands us not to worry. As Tracey pointed out, it's not just a "Oh, don't worry about it, things are going to be okay"-type message but an actual command not to worry. Anxiety (and stress, by extension, I'd suggest) is useless because, unlike concern, it is self-centered and doesn't manifest itself outwardly in love. Worry is almost idolatrous in nature, whereas true faith means seeking God in all situations ("Seek first the kingdom of God..." Matthew 6:33). Instead of worrying, stressing out, or complaining, in all things I can trust in God to pull me through. Including the big, scary four-hour test on Wednesday.
Mickey Mouse and me. Even though I'm in Korea, I know I'm in good company! :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

노래방 - Karaoke!

Noraebang, or NLB for the proud speakers of Konglish, is the Korean version of what seems to be an Asian trend: private rooms for friends to rent out for an hour and sing all the latest pop songs (or any song they like, really). They're usually BYOB, so anyone can get over "stage fright" before the evening really gets going. That said, noraebang makes for an excellent party space or just a fun place to chill and hang out.

Julia and I got "토네이도" (Tornado) desserts at Lotteria!
My first experience with a karaoke room was in Taiwan (where it's called 卡拉-OK), but the selection of English songs was paltry. Here in Korea, even the smallest of 노래 연습 방 (Yeah, some of the "classier" NLB are called "singing practice rooms" instead of "singing rooms") has hundreds of hits from the American songbook.

NLB was on my Korea bucket list, and I wanted to knock it out early on -- with friends from Orientation -- especially because I'd need some experience before my principal and co-teachers invite me out to a 회식 (hweshik, or dinner meeting that is commonly followed by 노래방). It was a couple of weeks into Orientation before I finally had the time and energy to spend a night out. It was the night after our placement ceremony, and I wanted to celebrate. My friends and I went into town (tiny little Goesan...) and hit up the Lotteria first. Lotteria is like the Korean version of McDonald's. I really wanted to try a "토네이도" (Tornado), which is like a McFlurry but much, much smaller. In fact, serving sizes of everything in Lotteria were rather meager. But I guess it keeps Koreans from overeating the way Americans do. Non-Olympic athlete Americans, that is.

After Lotteria and a quick round at B&B, it was NLB time! We went to a place called "스카이 노래 연습 방" and got a room for two hours for 30,000원 (a little less than $30). Because there were a dozen of us, it turned out really cheap for us all, so that was great. And then... let the singing begin!
Tyler and Sara jamming to Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend". Yup.
We didn't even try any of the Korean songs, except for one, but I didn't know it, so... oh well. Most of our time was spent in 90's pop, Disney songs, and "Call Me Maybe"-esque fare. My favorites were probably "Lady Marmalade" from Moulin Rouge, Blink 182's "Semi-Charmed Kind of Life" (although mid-way through the song I got really embarrassed because I remembered what the lyrics were actually referring to...) and "Colors of the Wind".

It was almost one in the morning when we finished -- I haven't been awake that late for the past month -- and we walked back to campus, singing Adele and the Pokémon theme song very loudly. All in all, it was tons of fun! Just the kind of thing I needed after a stressful week. I'd like to go again, but I don't think I'll have time, because Orientation is almost over. Who knows what it'll be like if I actually have to go to NLB with my colleagues? I swear it's a thing here. I guess I'll look forward to it, if it's anything close to this!
Toward the end of the night (like... 12:30am-ish), everyone was up and dancing. I forget what song this was, though!