Hey guys! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted something here, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
Last week just ended midterms here at Yonsei, so I’ve got just a short three weeks left here in Seoul. Although there is still some time between me and my departure, I’m already feeling sad and definitely not looking forward to leave. I finally made it here and checked a box off my bucket list, but I’m certainly going to have to find a way back!
In the time I’ve spent between my last post and today, I’ve not only studied a lot, but I’ve also met a bunch of new friends and explored new places! One day I decided to go to a Gwanghwamun – the gate that acts as the entrance to the palace situated in the heart of Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace. By the time I made it to the palace, it was too late for me to go in and really take my time to look around, but even the outside of it left me awestruck. Photos simply couldn’t do it justice, but here’s a few just to give you an idea of the beauty.
In front of Gwanghwamun was also a beauty plaza/greenway with a statue honoring the great King Sejong, who began his reign during the Joseon Dynasty in 1418. As one of the greatest rulers during the dynastic Korea, he is known for having personally created the modern day alphabet of Hangul that Korea uses to write as well as advocating for stronger advances in science, technology, and agriculture. And as a little fun fact, the area in front of the statute is where the K-Pop group EXO shot their variety show, EXO Showtime!
This wasn’t the only place that I visited; I also had the great joy to watch a musical performed at the Seoul Arts Center Opera House! The musical, 웃는남자 or The Man Who Laughs, was based off the book of the same name by Victor Hugo. Theatrical, thrilling, and comedic at times, this musical was amazing! I only understood a good 25% of it, but the actors and actresses never ceased to amaze me with both their abilities to act and sing beautifully. This is what the set looked like before the show started!
여러분, 카톡 아세요? Everyone, do you know what KakaoTalk is? KakaoTalk, very commonly abbreviated to KaTalk among the younger generations, is a messaging and calling service in the form of an app on your phone. Through this app you can message, group chat, voice call, and video call people from anywhere around the world as long as they also have a KakaoTalk account. It seems to be the leading messaging service in Korea; if you don’t have KaTalk here, then you’re a minority! With KaTalk comes the Kakao Friends – a set of characters that are built in stickers in the app as well as personalities that are seen throughout the application. They’re also not the only stickers you can send – if you’re feeling like spicing it up, you can download stickers from your favorite K-Pop groups as well!
Personally, I have a fondness for the character named Ryan. He’s a lion without a mane, although at first glance he looks like a bear. He’s known for being expressionless, but still has emotions and a warm heart. I’ve visited two Kakao Friends stores, and had a chance to meet Ryan in the flesh!
I could go on and on about all the fun and exciting adventures I’m going on, but I’d say that’s enough for now. To cap off this post, I’ll share a couple more interesting facts about South Korea before signing off!
A very common and well-known method of riding the public transportation here is by using T-Money or Cashbee cards. These are cards that are reloadable and shaped just like credit cards or debit cards. You simply “charge” them at either subway charging stations or convenience stores with money and then tap the indicated sensor at subways or in buses to ride. I’ve gotten on probably a total of 50 different buses and rode the metro at least 20 times and have yet to see someone who wasn’t using a T-Money or Cashbee card to pay for it. While you can use actual money to pay, it is much less efficient and quick and will leave others behind you annoyed!
Another thing I’ve noticed here is the weather. Although I’m on the other side of the world, the weather feels exactly as if I were home in Alabama! On average we have been having high temperatures of about 92-97 and the humidity is high enough to create that uncomfortable sauna-like atmosphere. I’ve received alerts on my phone issued by the government warning to not do heavy labor outside and to drink plenty of water. Seems as though South Korea is experiencing quite a heat wave, but thankfully I’ve been seasoned to this harsh climate already! 😉
Last fact – this one is about the Korean language! I recently learned this through my Korean language class, and it’s definitely something I’m glad I tackled through a formal class and not on my own. Indirect speech, or retelling a quote or recounting something, seems to be quite complicated here. In English, it’s simple to say “she said ____” or “they told us ____”, but in Korean the way you express that depends on what kind of sentence was spoken in the first place. Whether it was declarative, suggestive, questioning, argumentative, future, past, present – these all change the grammar needed to reinterpret the original sentence said. It can be quite confusing and frustrating, but slowly I think I’m getting used to it. 🙂
Alright! That’s it for this blog post. I’ll catch you guys up later when I’ve found more interesting facts and seen many new places! 내일 봐용!