#Sameface-Much More Than Just a Game

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Back in January, we traveled with NSLI-Y to Busan, South Korea, for a cultural exchange camp between us and teenagers from Busan. Each Korean class (there were three) had to prepare a presentation that focused on one aspect of American culture, as a way to share our culture with the Korean kids. (The Korean teenagers prepared stuff as well.) My class focused on the different accents in America (Southern, Valley Girl, Boston, Long Island, etc) and American/Internet slang.

On the day that we arrived, we hung out in the lobby, practicing our presentations, since we would be meeting the Korean kids and doing our presentations the following day. But like most teens, after going through our presentation once or twice, we quickly got distracted. We started taking selfies.

As we got more and more deeply engrossed in the shenanigans, we began copying each other’s facial expressions just for fun and realized that we hit a gold mine in taking photos. The peace sign, the duckface, just standing and smiling…these were simply too exhausted, and what we had here was a constantly evolving way to take fun pictures.

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The rules to what we eventually called #sameface are simple:

1. You gather a group of friends, strangers, teachers, whomever you want. Five is a golden number, but any number works really, as long as you’re not alone.

2. Decide who’s the leader first. The leader is the person who makes the face that everyone else in the #sameface group has to follow.

3. For best results, especially in a larger group, the leader should first turn around and show everyone the face he or she plans on making. For smaller groups, you can usually see the face clearly on the screen.

4. Take the picture.

5. Change leaders. To make it simple, just go clockwise until everyone has a chance.

6. Look and laugh at the results. (Don’t look until at least one cycle is completed.)

7. Repeat.

But why do I claim that such an easy game is more than just a game?

Well…while participating in NSLI-Y, I got the chance to meet new people almost everyday. The NSLI-Yans themselves, host families, host teachers, classmates, supporters, people at camps like Busan and AYLP…the list goes on! At the beginning of the program, my Korean wasn’t good at all, so I worried a lot about making friends with Koreans. On the very first day at my Korean high school, however, my worries were laid to rest. My seatmate took my phone and started taking selfies with me. I was a bit surprised, so I just started making really strange faces at the camera. She thought it was hilarious and through this method of just not caring about appearances, I made a lot of friends at school. (It did, however, backfire when I would be completely normal and smile in pictures, and my classmates still thought I was making weird expressions lol. “ㅋㅋㅋ야 일레인!ㅋㅋ 이상한 얼굴을 하지마라고!!ㅋㅋㅋㅋ”)

So that’s the first part: many of Koreans whom I met were shy, but once I started doing funny things, and they realized that I’m just a teenager who likes to have fun just as they do, they started becoming more comfortable around me. Making friends with Koreans, even though I wasn’t fluent in Korean, just became that much easier.

And the second part: Koreans loooove taking selfies. They’ll even take selfies with people they just met! I have 10 long finger flicks worth of selfies on my phone from AYLP and the Busan Hanmi camp to prove my point. I would say it’s a big part of the culture, especially since selcabongs (selfie sticks) are sold on every street corner.

So combine these two elements, and you find that #sameface is basically that! It brings together a cultural element of Korea with an ability to break ice and make new friends, even those from different countries. So much more than just a simple game, eh?

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(Our class presentation minus Mary…Camera didn’t quite get enough of Johnny’s right side)

The small group that created #sameface (Emily, Brady, Mailiis, Serena, Johnny, and me) was mostly comprised of people in my Korean class, so once we figured out what to call this sensation, we quickly added it to our American Dialects/Slang presentation. We saved it for last, and everyone in the room, including our program coordinators loved it.

#sameface became more than just a game. First, it represented NSLI-Y Korea Year 6. It was one of our legacies to the future NSLI-Yans. By understanding the love Koreans have for selfies and combining that with the penchant Americans have to take weird photos, you get the truly multicultural #sameface. Our program coordinators and supporters would send us #sameface photos they took together, and we would do it with classmates and with other Korean kids we met. Looking at the #sameface pictures and laughing along with the new friend you just made by doing #sameface is such a great feeling.

And second, while it is called #sameface, it’s interesting to note that not everyone makes exactly the same face. The general feeling 느낌 is the same, but there are always differences, and sometimes a follower will make the leader’s expression even funnier! These differences give you those great unflattering shots of your friends to zoom in on and screenshot. And you can find this same principle in the larger scheme of things; while there are certain human characteristics such as laughter, love, and friendship that are evident in all cultures, there are also differences that make each culture special and worth celebrating. By promoting the understanding of other cultures, we can learn to embrace the different, make connections with new people, and learn more about the world we live in.

#sameface is not just a game or a conversation starter, it’s a friendship starter. It brings together people from various backgrounds and identities to have fun and a good laugh. And we, cultural ambassadors, could not be any prouder.

Here’s a video of us brainstorming about what to call #sameface. (so close to being called mimipic!)

Fun Things to Do in Incheon (Songdo and the Surrounding Areas)

Alright, here it is: the promised list of things to do in Incheon. I’m going to start off with Songdo, since it’s my love and I miss it.

Songdo:

Incheon Line 1How to get there: (By Subway) Take the lighter blue Incheon 1 line and get off at any of the stops between Campus Town and International Business District. Campus Town Station is right by Yonsei University (Songdo Campus) and is the closest subway station to where most of the good stuff is. Central Park Station is on the other side of Songdo, and has, you guessed it!, the beautiful Central Park. (By Bus from Seoul) You can take the M6405 from Gangnam or the M6724 from Sincheon/Hongdae/Hapjeong. You can check out a detailed route of these buses on Naver maps (which I strongly encourage anyone who lives in Korea to get!)

SHOPPING:

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There are a bunch of places to shop in Songdo. If you take the bus at Campus Town Station, and get off at around Poonglim iWant Apartment Complex 2, you’ll immediately be in what Hope and I referred to as the “Civilization.” Some parts of Songdo are completely devoid of people, and the Civilization stands in stark contrast to those areas. There are shops all along the street, with familiar big-name stores as well: The Face Shop, Innisfree, Baskin Robbins, Daiso, Starbucks, etc. Within the Civilization, there are two main buildings: Dream City and Millennium, but I’ll get back to those in a second. 

Songdo is also home to Canal Walk/NC Cube-the place they always make sure to put in Incheon promotion videos. Canal Walk is this long strip of two-floored mall, divided into four sections, to correspond with the four seasons. It’s mostly franchises and restaurants (topped by officetels), so you’ll find your favorite Korean cosmetics, clothing brands, coffee shops, bingsu places, etc here. There are also some low key coffee shops, and a delicious pretzel cafe. In addition, f(x)’s Hot Summer music video was filmed here. One of my classmates remembers going home one day and wondering why there was a huge pink tank in the middle of the road.

I would suggest getting here by bus from Campus Town since there are a lot of buses there, but it’s closer geographically to International Business District station. You can walk there from this station. Heck, you can walk there from Campus Town-it takes me about an hour (I walked all over Songdo man).

Right next to Central Park is another mall to fulfill all of your shopping/cafe needs. I think it’s actually called the Central Park Mall, but I can’t remember clearly. The shops here were mostly brands that I hadn’t heard of before, but there is one Morning Glory, if you are in need of cute stationery! You can get here by bus from Campus Town, or just walk through the park from Central Park Station.

THINGS TO DO/SEE:

IMG_4314Coming back as promised to Dream City and Millennium, these buildings hold much more than just shops and cafes. I took a jazz funk dance class in Dream City, and the studio was right across from an art hagwon. There are noraebangs, an essential past time for all Koreans, and there is a decent bowling alley in Millennium. Both buildings wear admittedly overwhelming signs for all of the businesses it holds inside, but if you look closely, you can usually find something interesting, and that’s how I found the bowling alley!

Central Park, with G-Tower in the background

Central Park, with G-Tower in the background

Of course, if you’re looking for a low-key, free outing, a walk around Central Park offers great views, and fun things to do along the way. While it gets pretty crowded on weekends, especially nice weather weekends, weekdays are still mostly empty. Some of the stuff on the signs are still being built (like the tea maze and the museum), but there’s still lots of other stuff to do! You can chill on the wide grassy area, play with your dogs, or play frisbee, while other people bike around the park, either with their own bikes or bikes you can rent from the park. Some people even choose to rent a paddle boat and leisurely paddle their way through Central Park. There’s also a deer enclosure, which was closed while I lived in Songdo, but it’s open again I hear. Also, fun fact: the Korean drama Who Are You filmed a few scenes in Central Park (along with the bus stop outside my apartment…and had planned on filming in my high school, but our principal declined…but let’s not think about that T.T…still bitter!) If you go to the far side of the park, where the piano and horn sculptures are, the Prugio officetels there played background to one of Hyunbin’s commercials this year.

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View of Central Park from G-Tower’s Observatory

Right next to Central Park stands G-Tower. It’s that weird, tall building with the triangular cut balcony of some sorts that you can see from the park. It turns out that you can go to that balcony, provided you’re with someone who has an ID card, and get an awesome view of Songdo. Also, there’s a great, cheap Korean restaurant on the same floor the balcony is on.

Another place worth mentioning: the Korean American Village building. There’s not much to it, but you’ll see it if you walk around Songdo, on the Campus Town side. At night, the sign lights up to this horrendous rainbow neon, but it reminds you of home, if you’re American…because go big or go home right?…

EPIK HIGH@INU

EPIK HIGH@INU

And of course, festivals/concerts. This goes with all of Incheon, not just Songdo. Since there is a lot of space in Incheon, compared to Seoul, the venues tend to be bigger, and as a result, many concerts get scheduled in Incheon. Songdo has a lot of festivals, and quite a few of them take place at either Central Park or International Business District. Also keep an eye out for college festival season (spring), when all colleges invite famous artists to perform on their campus. I went to Incheon National University’s festival, since my friend goes to that school, to see Epik High, and it was fantastic. I think Yonsei had Exo, so ask around to see who’s playing. Did I mention it’s free?

Okay so on to FOOD:

I mentioned in the previous sections that there are hundreds of cafes all over Songdo. In fact, on our last full, free day in Songdo, Hope and I planned to cafe-hop all around the city. There are the coffee chains of course (Starbucks, Tom N Toms, The Twosome Place), but there are also unique cafes serving delicious dessert as well (Audrey Hepburn Cafe? Bicycle Cafe?? Book Cafe??? Cafe Urban????). I also recommend Cafe 옳음; their grilled cheese tomato panini is to die for. It’s located near The Sharp First World (더샵퍼스트월드). Along with cafes, there is the obligatory Sulbing (actually there’s three lol), BUT Songdo also has a bunch of other bingsu chains that aren’t as big as Sulbing. Sulbing purists claim that these aren’t as good as Sulbing, but the fact is, they have menu items not found at Sulbing, and some, like Homibing (호미빙) do shaved ice better. Actually, I’m pretty sure Homibing is Taiwan ice flakes, rather than Korean, but no matter, the chocolate one is amazing. It includes chocolate bananas, pudding, and brownies that rival your grandmother’s. There are a lot of bingsu and dessert options in Millennium, Dream City, and Prugio Worldmark (the apartments right next to the Hillstate Apartments I’m about to mention).

The Hillstate Apartments across from Dream City are home to a city of Korean bbq restaurants. There are so many meat places in Songdo, especially under Hillstate, that I don’t know how they all stay in business. But anyway, meat is always good, and if you’re a fan of Samgyupsal, I’d definitely recommend this place.

Also, visit the Yonsei campus, because their cafeteria is not only cheap, but also delicious!

Nearby/Other Incheon Areas:

If you take the subway, go down about two stops to Dongchun Station, you’ll arrive at the Square One mall, which is home to a movie theater (CGV), an Emart, a Homeplus, and other fun stores, such as ArtBox or H&M. This CGV is the closest one to Songdo, so I went there often.

A few more subway stops away, and you’ll alight at Incheon Bus Terminal OR Arts Center. Both stops overlap at the good stuff, and you can easily walk from one station to the other. There is a big department store, but no big shopping mall, so this is where Korean kids go after school for street shopping, or for other street fun. There is a CGV at the Arts Center station, and there is also a disco pang pang in the neighborhood. I’d recommend going with a Korean who knows the area, unless you’re the type of person who is fine wandering streets on their own.

Even further down the line is Bupyeong Station. This is where I spent a lot of my free time hanging out with friends the first semester, since I lived at Sosa, a quick 10 minute ride. There is a huge underground shopping maze, packed with small shops that sell the latest Korean fashion at discount prices and your favorite Korean cosmetics. Aboveground is a labyrinth of streets filled with great restaurants, good dessert, and noraebangs. It’s basically a small gangnam, but it doesn’t give off that high-class feel that the main street of Gangnam does.

If you transfer from the light blue Incheon line 1 to the dark blue line 1 at Bupyeong, you can get to Seoul easily, by transferring at Sindorim. OR, you know, you could be cool and go to Bucheon. Bucheon the city spans over a course of multiple subway stations, but if you get off at Bucheon Station, you’ll find more underground shopping, not as big as the one in Bupyeong, but decent sized. You can follow this map I drew on (courtesy of Naver Maps) to get to the best part of Bucheon.부천Red: Leave from either exit 3 or 4, and walk straight for a little bit on the left sidewalk. You can turn at the first major road, where you’ll be greeted by a statue painting the entrance sign. There are some good restaurants on this street including a 닭갈비 place (stir-fried diced chicken) and stores like ArtBox.

Blue: Again, leave from either 3 or 4 and walk on the left sidewalk until you get to the main road with cars. I always preferred the “scenic route,” the red route, but looking at the map now, I guess it would have been more efficient to go this way.

That whole area at the end of the arrows is filled with youthful vibes, but on the street the red arrow points at is a Multibang, a multi-purpose room you can use for noraebang, surfing the internet, watching TV, or playing the hundreds of games they have for the wii. Whenever we went, we always played Just Dance lol. Most multibangs, this one included, has free ice cream, cookies, slushies, sodas, etc available in the common room. I wouldn’t suggest going alone, however, because some can be a little sketch. This one is fine though! The multibang will be on your right, and you’ll pass a church on the way. Just look out for a sign that says 멀티방 and it’ll be on the fourth floor I believe, but don’t hold that against me if I’m wrong.

There are bars and clubs around for the legal crowd, just like Bupyeong and Gangnam, but there are still plenty of small shops, cafes, noraebangs (and multibang!) for the younger people.

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You’ll leave Aiins World disappointed and with an empty heart.

Other Bucheon Subway stations include Bucheon City Hall (부천 시청역), which has a big department store, lots of cafes, nice restaurants, and a huge park. Bucheon Terminal (부천 터미널역) also has a department store, a movie theater, and a waterpark (Play City). Since Bucheon has all of these great places to visit, I would suggest avoiding the tourist trap that is Aiins World. Not only is it expensive, but taking a bunch of pictures with small versions of world wonders is not as great as it sounds to be.

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Wolmido

Disco Pang Pang

Disco Pang Pang

Going back to Incheon, if you get off at Incheon Station (line 1) and take a bus, you can get to Wolmido, a small, sketchy amusement park by the ocean, that gives off a slight Coney Island feel. The Disco Pang Pang there is great, but other than that I would not go on anything else. Johnny, our resident safe-rides inspector, having worked at Kings Dominion, was horrified by the lack of safety checks (and even without that training, we were too lol). The ride that drops you from a high height did not have anyone checking our restraints, and when we went on the Viking, the bar that keeps you from flying out was broken for Mary and Brady. Thank goodness they survived though. Other people weren’t so lucky, and one of the Vikings was closed after a death this year. But the boardwalk is decent, and looking at the ocean is always good fun. Plus, I know I mentioned this already but Disco Pang Pang is great. Wolmido is completely out of my way, but I’ve gone just for Disco Pang Pang because it’s that much fun. And it’s better than the one at Incheon Bus Terminal and the one in Dongdaemun, since those two are indoors. (The one at Dongdaemun has the cutest boys, however.)

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Chinatown with classmates

Also at Incheon Station is Chinatown, which has some cool things to see like the murals, but most people go for the food. There’s the famous Korean “Chinese” dish jajangmyeon, but there is plenty of street food, like mandu!!!, sold as well.

As a quick addition, Woninjae and Seonhak are worth exploring, and Incheon has plenty of great hiking areas. Seoul does too, but let’s just say Incheon’s are better, because once an Incheon Girl, always an Incheon Girl.

TL;DR Incheon is cool, but you’ll still wish you lived in Seoul. LOL.

I kid. Maybe. But no for real, you can go see the cool stuff in Seoul on weekends or something. It’s not that big of a deal.

And thanks to my fellow Incheon girls, Mary and Serena for helping me think of stuff.

To All of the Future “Incheon Girls” (Especially You, Songdo Girls)

Motor Festival in Songdo

Motor Festival in Songdo

Hi my name is Elaine, and if you’re new to this blog, just a quick self introduction: I spent the 2014-2015 school year studying abroad in South Korea, with NSLI-Y (National Security Language Initiative for Youth). There were 15 kids in my year, and six of us were the “Incheon Girls.” With the exception of our three all-girls schools in Incheon, all of the other schools in our program were co-ed schools in Seoul. While we anxiously awaited our school assignments last summer, all of the girls hoped that they wouldn’t be one of those unlucky enough to be placed in Incheon. I mean, think about it, cool and popping things/places are only in Seoul (untrue), most of your NSLI-Y friends live an hour commute away (true), and while Korean guys are attractive, you attend an all-girls school (true, but there’s a plus side). Haha, getting placed in Incheon seems like you really got the short end of the stick right? Well, you kind of did. But at the same time you honestly didn’t. To be truthful, I was a bit disappointed to be placed in Incheon at first, but looking back now, while there were a few cons, I wouldn’t trade my experience in Incheon for any Seoul school.

Why Incheon isn’t as bad as you’ll initially make it out to be.

1. You’ll go to Seoul anyway, so you get the cool opportunity to explore two cities, while your Seoul friends are lame and stay mostly in Seoul. As part of the program, we attended Korean classes three days a week (Mon, Tues, Thurs), and these took place in Seoul-Hongdae to be specific. Since classes ended at 5:20, there’s time after class to hang out with friends, explore the vibrant Hongdae area, and still make curfew, even for Incheon girls (Songdo girls…it’s another story, but I have a section solely devoted to you later, so read on). Also, Hongdae has a lot of famous people undercover around and about, great shopping, good food options, nice music, and the best noraebang in Seoul, so out of all the places in Seoul to be almost everyday, you’re in a fun one.

2. Boys are everywhere. “Yeah, but I won’t be able to have that high school romance that I’ve seen in Korean dramas and dreamed to experience myself.” Okay, let’s back up for a second. Even if you were in a co-ed school, chances are, dating is not going to happen. While Korean dramas sometimes do show how much Korea stresses the importance of education, the focus is usually put on romance and such, and rightly so, since it is, after all, just a drama. In real life though, these kids go to school early in the morning, before school starts, and leave at 10 or 11 at night, only to go to another 학원 afterwards. These kids study hard, and while you’ll get to hang out, it’ll take a lot of effort to date. So don’t be too down about having no boys at your school. While you’ll sometimes say you miss guys at your school and wonder what could have been, you’ll truly stop caring after awhile. Also, like I said earlier, boys are everywhere. I remember talking to my host mom about how difficult it is for girls in China to find a boyfriend, since there are so many girls, and comparatively fewer boys. In surprise, my host mom said that it’s slightly the opposite in Korea. More boys, fewer girls (not sure if this is actually statistically true, but it sure feels that way!) You’ll have boys in your host family, boys at your host family’s church-if they attend and you decide to go with them, boys on the subway, you’ll pass all-boys schools on the way to your all-girls school, AND boys at those Korean-American youth camps you’ll go to with NSLI-Y. You’ll have plenty of chances to meet a wide variety of guys.

3. Going to an all-girls school has its perks-lots of them! I actually wrote about one of these perks in my reflection of the program, “Something about attending an all girls’ school in Korea, whether it be having wildly popular middle aged male teachers because of the lack of male (students), the freely changing of clothes in the classroom because of the lack of males, not caring about appearances because of the lack of males, or showing their true personalities because of the lack of males, was very liberating. By being surrounded by these confident, self-empowering young women, who had no one to put on an act for, I too have taken off my outer shell, become more at ease with myself, and I find that now I care much less about what other people think of me than I did nine months ago.” Being in that kind of environment helped me understand who I am, and at this tumultuous age, who doesn’t want to learn even just a little bit more about themselves?

On a completely different note, Incheon girls get free stuff outside their schools-notebooks, fans, wet napkins, etc. Some schools in Seoul get these occasionally at best, but we get so many notebooks, we end up giving them away. (One day, I received seven. SEVEN!) My personal favorites are the notebooks from the art 학원s, since they have nice, thick paper and a lot of it. You’ll go through these notebooks fast thanks to Korean class, but you’ll be set while all of the Seoul kids have to keep running to Morning Glory to buy yet another 4,000~10,000 won notebook.

And there are so many more good things about these schools (from the best friends you’ll make, to the family you’ll gain…but I’ll let you learn about that yourself!!)

4. There are a lot of fun places to go and things to do in Incheon, especially Songdo. I am currently compiling a list with my other fellow Incheon girls, and the link to it will be found here.

5. For Songdo girls, I’m going to be completely honest: the commute sucks. You’re luckier in the fact that the other Incheon girls have to transfer on the subway, while you have a direct bus from Songdo to Hongdae (and another direct bus from Songdo to Gangnam, for when you want to play it Gangnam style), however, your bus, M6724 comes basically never (every 20-30 minutes if you’re lucky), and with traffic, the forty minute commute will often stretch to more than twice that. Also, for Hongdae to Songdo, don’t think that getting a seat during rush hour is a given. There’s a science behind it, but you’ll have to look at how many buses are currently at the bus stop, and estimate where M6724 will pull up. If you don’t, good luck finding a seat after the twenty other people before you, and have fun standing in an aisle for more than an hour in stop-and-go traffic. But that’s only happened to me twice, and if you get a seat, it’s not too bad, unless you get motion sickness from the stopping and going.

Being late for Korean class

Being late for Korean class

HOWEVER, the commute aside, Songdo is fantastic. You will fall in love with the city, even though it is half-finished. This is another topic that I will have to write a separate blog post about (here-when I upload it), so just know, that if you were placed in Songdo, you have all of the perks of Incheon (Songdo is technically part of Incheon, but we don’t like to admit it), plus more. The whole point of this post was to prove that getting placed in Incheon is not as bad as it will seem to be initially, but if you were placed in Songdo, you can rest assured knowing that you really scored in terms of the NSLI-Y placement lottery.

NSLI-Y Korea: My Spring Semester Schedule

Every weekday morning, I wake up at 7:06, get dressed, wash up, eat breakfast, and leave for the bus by 7:40. Since I live in Incheon, and recently a push by the local Incheon government to push back when school starts to nine has caused our school to start later. We have to be at our school by 8:40, but it is *strongly recommended* to get there by 8:00-8:10, to self study for an hour before school actually starts (9 am). The bus ride and walk takes about 25 minutes, so I’m usually there around 8:05.

On days that I have to leave early to go to Korean class in Hongdae (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday), I only sit through three classes. I’m currently in the second grade again; my classmates from last year are now third years. We have the usual high school classes: Math, Chemistry, English (the language), Korean (equivalent to the English we take in America-literature, symbolism, and all that jazz), History (East Asian), Ethics (extremely popular male teacher), Art, Music…

There are 7 periods everyday, each is 50 minutes with a ten minute break in between. Our new facilities (our school moved during winter break) are so nice, that the 10 minutes are a good chance to explore the halls, get some bread from the bakery, check out a book from the library, visit old classmates, or just nap. Between 4th and 5th period is lunch, and on popular food days, there is literally a stampede to get to the front of the line, or before the third years show up since they get to cut in front of everybody. Second years are allowed in front of first years, so it’s very much that hierarchal system embedded in Korean culture. Since there’s an hour for lunch, after we eat, we can usually walk around outside (there’s a very tiny walking path), play some sort of game (baseball, kickball, etc-depends on who gets there first) at the field, ride bikes, go back inside to finish homework, and it’s not necessary allowed, but some students go outside the school gates to the convenience store across the street.

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On Wednesdays, 7th period doesn’t have a class assigned, so most of the time it ends up being self-study. On Friday, 5-7 periods also don’t have a set class, so occasionally it’s club day, Mass, or something special the school has prepared for us (concerts, performances, presentations, etc).

Since I live in Songdo now (where our school moved), it takes about 2 hours to get to our Korean class by subway, so we take an express bus that goes from the Yonsei Songdo campus to the Yonsei Sincheon campus. And did I mention that Yonsei is right next to our school? The dorms are so close that one of my classmates filmed two students…yeah. But it puts a little more pressure on my classmates, since they can see their dream school outside of the window while they study.

On the Korean class side of things, there’s not as much to say. Our classes are held in our program’s office in Hongdae. They start at two and end at five twenty (but really five thirty). We have a ten minute break first, and then a longer twenty minute break around four, which we usually use to run to the convenience store down the street for some Jeonju Bibim(samgakkimbap) or some ice cream. There’s usually a 2+1 sale going on for chocolate, so Johnny usually buys that and gives us the free one. 🙂

After class, we 인사 to our program teachers, and occasionally do something together before going home. I hung out more after class the first semester, but since my bus comes only once every half hour, and the traffic is so bad at that time, it takes two-some hours to get home. Our curfew on weekdays is 9, so I usually just go home after class, arrive at 8, eat dinner, and hang out with my host family.

(But Songdo is awesome, so I can put up with the commute. <3)

옹녀-A Pansori for the Adult

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Oh where to begin…

I guess it goes back to a couple of months ago, when the four of us (Me, Mary, Johnny, and Brady) went to see a traditional dance performance because Johnny’s host mom was in it. It was a fantastic visual and aural experience, so when Mary found a “traditional Korean opera” a few weeks ago, we all excited to go.

The show was on Thursday, which means we go to school in the morning and Hongdae in the afternoon for Korean class. With no time to change, we showed up wearing our school uniforms. We got our tickets, which Mary had bought online with a STUDENT discount, found our seats, and got ready to be cultured.

And cultured we became.

Looking back the first red flag was the modern drum set in the pit. I didn’t really think much of it at the time, but if this was supposed to be traditional Korean opera, would they have those kind of drums? There were screens on the side (used for English subtitles for the whole thing and Korean for the parts with singing). Anyway, the show started out with 옹녀, sitting in the middle of the stage, speaking a monologue. She described how men would sing of her beauty, but that she was cursed to be a widow forever. As she described her past husbands, their coffins were rolled out behind her. 

The second red flag was when she described her second husband. “He had bad breath, and he couldn’t get it up, but he died anyway.”

A short while later, we were bombarded with descriptive figurative language, adjectives, and nouns (i.e. jade gate), and censored skin colored images on the screen onstage. There were horny grandmas, horny totem poles, horny everything, and because we were not expecting this, we all kind of turned and looked at Mary. 

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The second half had less sex and more funny, however, so I personally found it more enjoyable. (The first half was hilarious too, and getting past the initial shock, I really liked it.) There was one point were 옹녀’s mother tells her to not care about the gods, to seek revenge (Long story short: 옹녀’s new husband 변강쇠 had gone to chop down wood, but chopped down a sacred totem pole instead, got a million diseases, died, and turned into a totem pole. 옹녀 wants him back) and the mom flips the entire audience off. 옹녀 joins in, and the screen in the back starts showing floating hands that keep flipping everyone off to the beat of the poppy song playing in the background. 

My favorite parts were the scenes with the Totem poles and the scene with the women doctors. The Totem poles were just adorable, and their dancing scenes were entertaining. When the women doctors arrived to try to cure 변강쇠, they came in wearing sunglasses while shaking their hips to the bouncy beat. I also could imagine their part being the hardest to learn and memorize because they just sung lists of all of these herbs and roots that failed to cure 변강쇠. It was really impressive that they could memorize all of those in order…

Overall, putting the initial shock aside, it was a funny and honestly an enjoyable show. 

 (I just felt uncomfortable wearing my high school uniform there.)