April Fool’s Day (만우절) in Korea

I remember reading about how intense of jokes Koreans pulled on April Fool’s Day, but I got to experience it myself today! While I witnessed none of the too-extreme kind (the kind where students pretend that they committed suicide for example…) I definitely did more here in Korea than I would have done in America. (Quantity over Quality)

Here are some of the ones I remember at the moment:

1. For background, at my Korean high school (and most, but not all Korean high schools), students have to turn in their phones at the beginning of the day, and our homeroom teacher takes the bag of phones to the teacher office. Therefore, my class (Jin-진반) and the class next door (Sun-선반) decided to have every phone alarm ring at 9:30, during first period. Everything was quiet, until suddenly the cacophony of phones from down the hall was heard. Everyone burst out laughing, we could hear 선반 cracking up too, which just made us laugh even harder. At the end of the period however, the teacher who had been in the office at the time made an announcement that said, “진반 and 선반 kids will not only have 3 points docked, but also will have their phones be confiscated for one month.” Everyone started freaking out, because the joke wasn’t serious enough for that kind of punishment, and they thought the teacher was actually angry, but he was just joking too (we think).

2. My friend brought in fake bangs, that we all took turns putting on. Someone thought it’d be funny to tell our homeroom teacher (주부리 <3) that they tried to cut my bangs, but it went terribly wrong, so we would need to leave school to go to a hair salon as soon as possible. Haha, it worked for about a minute-he said that it didn’t look so bad, but one girl from our class, who wasn’t in on the joke, came over and said, “Ahh the fake bangs from earlier,” and with that, our teacher lifted up my bangs and just started cracking up.

3. At my school, it’s a rule to have shoulder-length hair or shorter, but since I’m an exchange student (I follow all of the other rules, but cutting my hair is a bit extreme so I’ve been exempt) I have the longest hair in the school. And if you put all of that long hair in front of my face, I look like something out of a horror movie. The friend who brought the fake bangs and I waited outside of the bathroom for our other friends inside, and I just stood there with my hair in my face. The first girl who walked out almost had a heart attack, and said, “언니~~~!!!! Why are you being like this  ㅠㅠ so scary ㅠㅠㅠ” and the other girls, after they stopped laughing told me to do it to our Chemistry teacher.

We had this whole thing planned: I would hide behind the teacher podium thing (I’ve been in Korea for 7 months now-my English isn’t as good as it used to be), and just pop up when she walks to it. And I did exactly that, but she just smiled at me, as if to say, “Hello there.” She jokingly said that that’s what we all look like to her everyday, so she wasn’t scared by it.

4. While we walked to lunch, our Ethics teacher (who has this deadpan sense of humor that is hilarious because he delivers his jokes with such a straight face) walks up behind us and says, “I hear it’s chicken today,” and I don’t know if you know, but Korean high schoolers are serious about good food, and chicken is good food. So normally that kind of mean joke would get a response, but we had all just looked at the menu seconds before and so we all just kind of stared at him, confused, until we realized it was an April Fool’s joke. He kind of ran away after that. Ah, he’s one of my favorites.

5. Sixth period we had our homeroom teacher, who teaches math. He was also the homeroom teacher of last year’s 2nd year 진반, the now 3rd year 진반 (the class I was in before winter break). We decided to have half of the 3rd year 진반 and half of our class switch. Jokes aside, it was really nice having my old classmates beside me again in the same classroom-I’ve missed them so much!! Anyway, they pretended to sleep when our teacher walked in, and he was just really confused as to why everyone was suddenly tired. He realized what was going on really quickly though, and we just spent the next hour not learning math, but listening to life stories and lessons from our teacher. ❤ He also planned for us to have a huge samgyupsal party, which I am totally down for.

6. One of my third year friends got me good by saying, “After the 수능 (Korean SAT) is over, I might go to America-New York!” and while I’m freaking out, she brings out the, “April fool’s!!” T.T

All in all, the jokes themselves weren’t even that funny, but I think it was because I was with such great company that made today so much fun.

My teachers from fall semester

My teachers from fall semester as caricatures. 

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NSLI-Y Korean Year 2014-2015 Christmas Party

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To get the mushy emotional stuff over with, on Christmas Eve, 2014, we gathered in a hostel to celebrate the Christmas spirit together. Originally, our program had planned a simple Christmas dinner, but a few of us felt that if we could all hang out, watch Christmas movies, eat cookies, and have a sleepover, our Christmas wouldn’t be so lonely. A lot of us were going through the W Curve at that time, and Christmas isn’t as big here in Korea as it is in America. Of course you’ll see some decorations at cafes, and a few on the streets, but it’s not as obvious as it is back at home. Mary and I wanted the kids on our program to feel a little bit more at home, especially during the holidays, so we organized the Christmas party (with the ssaems’ support!) to have a family gathering (because NSLI-Y honestly is a family). Thus, our theme was 가족 (family).

Mary and I had organized the budget and purchased the candy, snacks, stockings, stocking goodies, and decorations. We originally planned to personally decorate as well on the 24th, but both of our schools ended at four and are in Incheon, so there was no way we were getting to Seoul before the meeting time. But thanks to Ellie and Johnny, we got to walk into a beautifully decorated room that just screamed Christmas! The room was warm, and all of our friends were there, so it was a good time.

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We started out eating pizza, which there wasn’t much of, but we had bought so many snacks that it wasn’t too bad. Afterwards, we had a massage circle for a good half hour (Kim, you are a massage goddess <3). Then we played, or rather attempted to play, some games. Bunny bunny 당근당근, 007 빵 (which failed miserably. I have never met people who have been more confused by this game, which is a shame since it is really fun when it gets started…), and then Pterodactyl, which is a if-you-laugh-and-show-your-teeth-you’re-out game.

Massage Time~

Massage Time~

Next we exchanged 마니또 gifts, which is a version of our Secret Santa. At the beginning of the month, our program teacher gave each of us our person, and all month long until the party we were supposed to be especially nice to that person and give small gifts and notes. We had fun trying to guess who our 마니또 was, but a few people didn’t get anything all month long so it was hard to guess without any clues. My 마니또 had given me a tangerine, and after a couple failed attempts at guessing, I thought hard and realized that the only person who would legitimately go out and buy fruit would be an adult…so 쌤 it was!

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warm earmuffs~

We then watched most of Elf, on a projector with white paper on the walls. About halfway through, though, we left one by one to go to the other smaller room to brush our teeth and whatnot, and we didn’t finish the movie. A few people were sick that day and went to sleep early, but about seven of us talked until about 5:30 in the morning…man we got real deep.

The next day we took some pictures with the lovely photo zone that Mailiis created and then it was time to go! We went to a café to get breakfast, and from there we split to do our various Christmas activities.~

It was really nice sleeping over with my NSLI-Y 가족! Love you, NSLI-Y and Better World~

Korean High School Festivals

This past Friday, which was Halloween, my school held a 축제 (festival)! Usually what this means for girl schools is BOY SCHOOLS VISITING! And so, when I arrived at school that day, everyone in my class either had makeup on, or was in the process of putting it on. They even took down the full body mirror and set it up sideways so four girls could put on makeup at once.

The first half of the day was just going around to different classrooms and doing the various activities that they offered to achieve the coveted stamp! If we got five stamps, we could be entered into the raffle, but I forgot to submit mine even though I had a lot more than just five…

Some of the booths included: the snack stand, which sold 떡볶이 (Ddeokbokki), 닭강정 (Chicken in a type of sweet and sour sauce), and other street food; face painting; art gallery; cocktails (non-alcoholic of course); napkin art, which took the pictures on napkins and pasted them on coin purses; Chinese food; fossil making and a whole lot more!

The different booths

The various booths

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Cocktails

닭강정

닭강정

Face Paint on Hands

Face Paint on Hands

The second half of the festival were performances! My class learned the dance to “We’re All in this Together” from High School Musical, which is wildly popular amongst girl Korean high schoolers. Apparently people cried during our performance because we put in so much effort into learning the dance (which we did, man. I came back to school from Seoul, after my Korean classes, to learn this dance yo). If I find a recording of our performance I’ll upload it to youtube!

Our school has some really talented singers and dancers, though!

After our performances, visiting schools started performing, and other than the taekwondo one and the dancing one, the others were 별로 (so-so?). They were mostly rapping and enjoying the right side of the audience’s adoring screams. Also when the one guy randomly pulled up his shirt to show his abs…just imagine how crazy the male-deprived girls at my school reacted.

Taekwondo

Taekwondo

We had a meat party afterwards! We split up into groups of five and grilled Samgyupsal (삼겹살) which is my favorite type of meat. 😀 There was a sleepover at the school that night, but I had forgotten about it until that day so I hadn’t talked to my host parents or program coordinators about it, so I just went home.

But I had so much fun that day! I got some quality bonding time with my classmates, and I realized that we really are all in this together.

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번데기-Steamed Silkworm Snack in South Korea

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Ah yes, you’ll see Ahjummas selling this in busy areas of Seoul, such as Yeouido Park or Seoul Grand Park. As you walk past, you’ll notice the pungent savory smell that takes over all of your senses, as you think, “Does anyone even buy these?”

But yes, a portion, big or small I don’t know, of the population enjoys the taste of 번데기 (steamed silkworm pupa), and my host parents are part of that group. We were at Seoul Grand Park today, walking back from the zoo, when they saw the 500 won 번데기 and decided that I needed to try it.

Now, I’ve smelled and seen this stuff around and had firmly put it on my “Do not need or want to try” list. But the moment my host parents bought a cup of 번데기, I knew that it was then or never…and they did insist that it was delicious.

I put on my big girl pants, gritted my teeth, hesitated twice, shoved it in my mouth (careful not to touch the tongue), chewed it on the right side of my mouth, it popped, spewed liquid, I gagged, lost all control of my body, wondered if I had the stomach to swallow it, decided I didn’t, looked around, found a patch of grass, and spit it out. Meanwhile, my host parents are laughing their heads off at me.

Honestly, a few days ago, I wondered out loud to my friends if the 번데기 would pop in your mouth, and one of my friends said that it’d probably be dry…So when it actually did pop in my mouth, I was so surprised that I couldn’t keep it in. Maybe if I had been mentally prepared for that, the whole experience would have been a lot better.

Growing up finding bugs gross definitely also played a part, and I really wish I could have at least swallowed it. But I’m happy I tried it and that I know for sure that I’m not a fan, instead of wondering if I would like it.

Watch it all go down here:

My Daily Routine in Korea

So it’s been a little over a month since I’ve arrived in Korea, and since I’ve gotten into a sort of routine of things, I thought I’d update you guys about my daily life here!

I go to Korean high school every day, but on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, I leave before lunch to go to my Korean language classes. Every morning I wake up at 6:00, and then press the snooze so actually 6:09, eat some breakfast and then leave the house by 6:40. It takes me about 10 minutes to walk to the subway station which isn’t bad at all, but since trains on the Incheon line come at 10 minute intervals, if I miss one, I’ll have to wait awhile for the next one. After a 20 minute ride, I get off the 전철 (aka 지하철, or subway) and walk 15 minutes to school. There’s a pretty cool 지하 (underground) walkway by my school that has a bunch of stationery stores, school food, and 빙수 (shaved ice)!!

I have to be at school by 7:40, and when I get there I climb a hill and three flights of stairs to get to my classroom. I’m back in the second grade of high school (junior year in America) and the girls in my class are all about 2-3 years younger than me (they call me 이란 언니–my Chinese name–and it is the most adorable thing ever–“EE RANNNN!”). I’ll chat with my 짝꿍 (seat partner) or anyone not sleeping before class begins at 8:10. The schedule of classes is different for each day of the week, but each lasts 50 minutes with a 10 minute break in between. What do I do since I understand about 20% of what they’re teaching? I do my Korean homework, which we get a lot of, so it keeps me busy haha.

The only class I actually pay attention in is 중국어 (Chinese) since the Chinese they’re learning is simple Korean, I also know Chinese, and the Chinese teacher always has fun videos that relate to the lesson.

I never liked 체육 (gym/P.E.) even in America, and I like it even less in Korea, well at least at an all girls school. The first few gym classes were 피구 (dodgeball) games, which, I would like to point out, is banned in many American schools, including mine, due to the numerous injuries that arise from such a scary and violent game (i.e. one girl in my class in Korea sprained her ankle). Actually to be fair, dodgeball is fun, just really, really scary when you’re the last one left standing and everyone is on the outside aiming the ball at you. T.T Also, volleyball was the only game I liked in American gym class, but here, the ball has to hit the ground three times before you can hit it over the net, which makes for a less interesting game.

During breaks, we sometimes go to the little 매점 (store) that sells everything from dumplings to ice cream to Korean snacks (뿌셔뿌셔 is delicious–it’s basically dried ramen that you break up and eat from the bag).

Lunchtime on days that I stay until 야자 (self study time, which my school doesn’t require me to do, unlike some of the other kids on the program’s schools) is at 12:10, and everyone in my class is at the edge of their seats at the end of the class before lunch, waiting to be dismissed before they sprint to try to beat the line at the lunchroom. The lunch is alright; we always get some rice, kimchi, and a bowl of soup, with the other stuff depending on the day. My friends told me that next Friday is 삼겹살 (pork belly) and I am so excited; I can never get enough 삼겹살.

Since we have to leave the lunchroom right after we finish eating, we usually have some free time before the next 교시 (school period) starts. Sometimes we play baseball, other times we ride bikes (there is a bike shack that you can borrow a bike from if you leave your student ID with the student in charge, but since I don’t have one, I’ll usually give them my school uniform’s vest haha).

On Fridays, there aren’t classes after lunch, so from 1:10-4:10, it’s club time! I joined orchestra, since I miss my violin, but since there are only 2 clarinets, 1 flute, and 5 violinists (and no director-it’s student led)…the choice of music is very limited haha. I think I’ll stick with it though instead of joining a different club, just because I want my violin hickey back.

On the days that I leave for Korean class, I usually buy 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes) from the underground place for 1,000 won, or something like kimbap from a convenience store. I don’t have time to actually sit down and eat something healthier since it takes an hour to get to Seoul, where my class is.

Korean class starts at 2 pm, and it lasts until 5:30 with two breaks fit in. The second break of the two is long enough to buy some 호떡 (a type of filled Korean pancake) for 500 won, 떡볶이, or ice cream from the convenience store.

We learn so much in class everyday that I feel that I only retain 50% of it. So much new vocab, grammar, etc. But I love it so much! It is really nice being able to focus on learning one thing, and that one thing being something I really want to learn~

After Korean class, I usually head straight home since it’s a lengthy commute, and I eat dinner with my host parents. My favorite part of the day is just sitting in the living room after dinner and chatting about our day. Sometimes we’ll go for a walk and talk then too. I’m really thankful my host parents know little to no English, because it really makes me have to practice my Korean!

And that was a quick look into my day in Korea!

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Blog Random Vocab List #1

전철-/jeon cheol/ subway

지하-/ji ha/ underground

빙수-/bing su/ really delicious shaved ice that comes in many flavors ❤

짝꿍-/jjack ggoong/ the person who sits next to you, your seat partner

중국어-/joong gook eo/ Chinese (language)

체육-/chae yook/ gym, P.E.

피구-/pi goo/ a dastardly game (dodgeball)

매점-/mae jeom/ store

야자-/ya ja/ self study (my school has it until 10 pm)

삼겹살-/sam gyeop sal/ pork belly, similar to American bacon, BUT BETTER

교시-/gyo shi/ school period

떡볶이-/ddeok bokk ee/ spicy rice cakes