Korea: Day 20 (Tuesday, August 2, 2011)

The last full day.

The morning started out with me waking up as usual, I just for some reason didn’t do my blog post. I apologize for that.

But today we got to go to the De-Militarized Zone! Yessssssss.

After the whole group arose and met downstairs at 8, we went to a bakery and hopped on the bus. We really had to be punctual today, and thankfully everyone understood the importance of the day.

Curiously, before we drove to the DMZ, we stopped at a really fancy hotel (I think we picked up like 4 people there). In fact, it may have been the fanciest hotel in the city. There was also a high-end (like… ridiculously so) shopping center (it doesn’t feel right to call it a mere ‘mall’) below the hotel. It was nice to look at, however. But then, I saw it.

A huge. Green. Glowing. Inviting. A sign.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts — “Hot Doughnuts Now!”. So you know where I spent the rest of my time.

At this point, I discovered that there are two universal things: Coca-Cola and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

But I digress. We took about a 45 minute drive to the DMZ, but our tour guide (who actually spoke pretty good english) was talking to everyone on the bus about the Korean conflict and some of the events that happened. Having never taken a US History course that covered the events of the Korean War, most of the history was news to me. When she wasn’t talking, Laura (the assistant director of sorts) and I talked about Korea, our thoughts about it, our lives in America, and took some funny pictures. She’s really cool. And then we napped.

We then approached the borders. We stopped at some monuments to those who had died following the treaty signed in 1953. From these locations, there were some military trucks driving around, and we could see a military training group from a couple of the monuments.

Once we got to the actual DMZ, I learned some cool stuff about it: The actual border extends 2 kilometers into each country, The Chinese assisted the North Korean Side, and North Koreans and South Koreans are forbidden by law to talk to one another.

I do recall Brandon talking to our tour guide (who had impeccable English) a bunch of random questions that everyone thought was funny. That kid.

And then it was time to head back. We took the bis back to Seoul. I was either talking to Laura or asleep. Then: The Fulbright Office. It vas here that the group met the amazing Mrs. Shem. She was indeed great. All of the JCs also got to go around and say what made the experience so fantastic for us. All of us showered praise on the program, and her. rightly so. We each got certificates and amazing glass stand thingies. So cool.

Then: dinnertime! And it was the best dinner in recent memory. Ve vent to this space called simply “The Buffet”. It was one of the nicest, most upscale places that you have ever seen. Yet, it was a buffet! I had four plates of deliciousness. Then, upon my suggestion,  we went around the table and we each gave our favorite experiences of the trip. A fun time was had by all. time to head back — but not without a quick detour first.

GLASSES SHOP. There just happened to be a glasses shop right next to our hotel! I, Laura, Seok-Woo, and Saachi all went in to get some new glasses. After much deliberating, I decided on the only white ones in the store (are you surprised?). As it turns out, my prescriptions were so uncommon for Koreans that the shop owner would have to order them, as opposed to the others who were getting theirs right out of the shop. Not cool. So, after I talked to the guy (with Seok-Woo’s translation), we decided to get them mailed. I gave him the address and everything, and we were ready to head out. I knew that it would be a while till I saw those again.

Then, we came back to the hotel. All of the other JCs saw HP7 P2, which there was no way I was doing; which meant that I missed out on the huge make-out party that they had. At first I felt guilty, but then I realized that I didn’t want to mar my memories of everyone. So, instead, I talked to Vinnie for a while (who said that I was very professional, but too rigid at times). Then I slept, and slept well (in Vinnie’s room, as I switched out of mine since that’s where the party was).

That was my last night, spent alone

 

(I’m SO SORRY for being months late with this. There really is no excuse.)

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Korea: Day 19 (Monday, August 1, 2011)

Wow, It’s Friday, and yet I haven’t even done Monday. That shows how neglectful I am. I’ll have probably forgotten a lot of detail by now, but I still want to outline what I did.

Monday was our last morning at Jungwon. I woke up early to get a tour of the (emptied out) place. I was almost done when the camera died, so I had to make a 30-minute detour to try and find the charger. I eventually gave up and decided to finish the rest of the tour on my phone (which is still HD, but now the video balance will be inconsistent).We had our last breakfast (rice and something or other) together in the cafeteria; the same as every other meal we’d shared together. Then came the time to load up the busses.

We all hopped in a charter bus (Korean Style, it felt cozier, homelier, and had better AC). It was here that we said good-bye to some counselors, and a multitude of hugs and photos ensued; all while our poor bus driver struggled to fit all of our bags into the bus. A significant percentage of the counselors and CIs came with us, as they were leaving straight out of Seoul to the airport or lived there. There was about a 2 ½ hour drive to Seoul, which I occupied by lounging, reading a quite well-done Batman graphic novel, and napping. Then: we were there. We weren’t in Goesan anymore.

We all piled out of the bus, said good bye to Jenna and Olenka (not one for sentimental feelings, I discovered amusingly enough), and walked to the hotel. It was technically a Best Western ‘Premiere’, but was intact earlier a really well-known and loved Korean hotel that was bought out by Best Western. It was far nicer than any other Best Western that I’ve ever visited. I did discover one annoyance with the way the rooms were set up: you couldn’t turn on the bathroom light without the key. That wasn’t an issue unless your roommate had the only key.

After we left the hotel, we received T-Money cards (sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?). These cards were used for the subway and for busses. They way that they work is pretty cool; as long as they’re in the vicinity of the scan area, they work. Therefore, you can keep them in a wallet and simply scan them and have the money taken off. Very nice. It keeps lines moving much, much faster. This was my first time (that I can remember) taking a subway in a city. Man, was it cool. The system in Seoul is probably the most efficient in the world. It Just Works©.

We got off… somewhere else and went to a market street (different from the street market in Goesan; this one had buildings and established stores). We first ate lunch at this pretty legit restaurant, and afterwards we got to shop for an hour or so. I ended up getting chopsticks for the family and myself, and one keychain. I also tried looking for glasses, but I didn’t find a good store. I was probably going to go to the one that I found by our hotel…

Then, we had Taekwondo (again). Except this time, we weren’t getting trained by some small shrimp in Goesan. This guy was on the national team. He was probably one of the top 25 Taekwondo masters in the world. You wouldn’t have guessed from his gym though; It was the 4th floor in some random building in the heart of Seoul. But in order to get to the good stuff (like kicking through wood), I had to stretch first. Need I riming you about my inflexibility? Best part of Taekwondo: I learned an entire form and got to punch through a piece of wood with ‘procrastination’ written on it. It was supposed to ‘break’ that habit within me… but just look how long it took me to post this. Eddie, who is a blue belt and was my partner, nearly killed me though. He accidentally hit my hand multiple times.

Shopping! We went to the premier shopping district after we left Tae Kwon Do, and it was fun-ish. I didn’t really get to buy anything, and the one belt that I was going to buy I ended up returning. There was also a mess concerning the correct time to meet back (especially on Brandon’s part), so we ended up wasting a lot of time there.

We then took the (awesome) subway back to our district, and hopped in the bed. We had a big day coming.

Korea: Days 17-18 (Saturday, July 30 — Sunday, July 31, 2011)

Yeah, so I dropped the ball the last couple of days. My bad. Do you guys forgive me?

Saturday

Saturday was The Last Day. Final Presentation was that morning, and all of the campers were gone by three; it was the saddest day of the camp. I was running the AV, so I was stuck in the 33° (Celcius p; I’m not in the US!) side room next to the audio room. I actually enjoyed being the tech guy. It was a nice feeling of power and responsibility you get when you realize that half of the presentations rest in your ability to pay attention. I had fun. I was also able to give ponchos, personalized notes, and contact info to everyone on my team, and a few other campers whom I saw. And yes, ponchos. In retrospect, that was a terrible idea in comparison to something like postcards. But it had the FAMU emblem on it, so yea. The rest of the day was clean up. Clean up everything. Dismantle it, box it, throw it away, tape it up, take it here, take it there, take a break, taking too long. Go, go, go. That was the rest of Saturday.

During the evening packing, I discovered that Dave, the activity director and my first interviewer for Camp Fulbright had some Guster, so we got to listen to that while we boxed up stuff for two hours. Gotta love Guster.

But that night, I had a delicious idea of using Vinnie’s Mac Pro to finish my Boys State work. He said yes, so he gave me the key to his office. Then, off to bed!

Sunday:

Sunday started out for everyone else with a meeting at ten, but I slept in till six, got to Vinnie’s/the JC office by 6:45, and got to work. It was here that I forgot to blog about Saturday… :) Then the meetings began. They simply focused on what kind of improvements all of us would like to see in Camp Fulbright. But I did go to Paris Baguette with Noelle (a CI and the JC adult leader) and get delicious bread to start the day. I love bread. Other than that, I sacrificed my break time to finish my Boys State work (I finished it!). But we had all of the fun Sunday night.

First, we ate at this authentic Korean place. You know how in some Asian restaurants, they cook the food in front of you? Hogwash. You cooked your own food in front of you here. They presented sides, like mushrooms and peppers, and a plate of raw meat. There was a grill in front of me that we used to cook it to our liking. The customer can put all of the other ingredients on top that they want, and dip it in sauce, and eat it however they liked. And the cool part is that they give you this bowl, filled with seasoned and cooked grass (I did a double take also, but it tasted good!) and ate the meat with that. They way one traditionally eats it is that you take a leaf of lettuce, put the meat in it, put other seasonings inside, and put the whole thing in your mouth. Sometimes I ate it like that, but it was too much work. So good. So very delicious. After we left, we walked across the road to a convenience store and grabbed some ice-cream. Then, the night fun.

(Insert Korean work for ‘Karaoke’ here)! After much indecision, I decided to go. Those of you that know me well know that I usually don’t like it. I didn’t sing to that many songs (my throat has been hurting for the past couple of days), but I will say that I had fun. But today (Tuesday) I will make it my goal to find what eludes me so: 허떡. It can’t hide forever.

Korea: Day 16 (Friday, July 29, 2011)

Yesterday was ridiculous. There was more stuff packed in to today than there had been for ehte past three.

Well, rememer how I went straight to bed on Thursday night? Well, I got woken up about 7 minutes after I fell sleep. Not cool. There’s a big difference between a late- night meeting, and waking up JCs for meetings. But it was important. Those JC reflections were pretty good, except for one member of the group’s. Most people said something either negative, extremely negative, or even a bit rude at times. Thursday night, I had seen her cry on the elevator. But the meeting was not only about her comments, but the groups’. Noelle and Vinnie each went around and called on each one of us and offered good and bad things to say about us, and then, if they wanted, peers would chime in. I was the most dead out of all of them because of my sleeping habits and such.

The meeting was extremely productive. My comments (obsessed with Apple, takes things too personally, really cool, nice hats, etc.) I mostly expected, and they’re things that I had heard before. But I’m glad that everyone could see everyone else’s comments. Overall, it was a great bonding session, and I’m glad I went. They had chicken and soda afterwards, but I was too tired. I went back to sleep at around 2:15.

I slept in yesterday; I told Vinnie that would be to class on time, however. If I hadn’t gotten that sleep, Friday could have been that much worse. So I woke up at 7:30, did some blog stuff, some other stuff, and then went to class at 9AM. Korean class was so much fun yesterday. We started out with a review of all of the major phrases that relearned. Then we watched a really funny Korean movie! It was great. I need to double check on the title, however. It was about a radio host who thinks he’s the center of the earth, finds out that one of his greatest talk-show radio correspondents was his daughter, and them living together. It’s great. we then watched a bunch of K-pop and American songs on YouTube. No quiz! That made it all worth it. Our teacher also gave us all pens (which I still have), and letters (which fell out of my bag). I really need to find it, as it fell out before I could read it.

After lunch we had some free time. I used that time to prepare for Fulbright Idol. I was the Master of Ceremony for the event, along with a counselor named Olive. we had to check all of our props to see if they were working correctly. They were. Then dinner time! Shrimp. I was gonna need that energy. After dinner was more preparation for Fulbright Idol and the Candlelit service that came before. After running around for hours, it was time.

For the candlelit service, team 1 walked into the Sky and had their candles lit first. We then walked in a line through all of the instructors and stood around them. Eventually, all the teams came in and formed a huge circle around all of the teachers/CIs. They each said a few sentences, then all of the counselors came up, followed by the JCs. By the time that the JCs got to speak, everyone was bawling. There were hugs, and consolations, smiles and frowns. But most of the campers really loved it.

Then, FULBRIGHT IDOL! It was so much fun. Most teams did a song, or dancing, or singing. Lots of guys dressed up as female k-pop singers though. It was too funny. I even recognized some of the songs from Korean class. MCing was fun, but it seemed to drag on forever. Me and Olive had some great skits though. One where we were wonder woman and Batman, fighting the dark Taekwondo master Vinnie. Another one was water balloons, except that the water gallons never exploded. But the acts were beautiful. Yena and Mindy, two JCs, did a fantastic K-pop meldley that the kids couldn’t get enough of. Men in drag also seemed popular. For last minute, my team also did really well. I was quite proud of them. Our final performance was a Whitney Houston song by one of the counselors. He was amazing. I think he used to do opera or something, but it was SO GOOD. All of the girls cheered for him for what seemed like ever.

By then it was 11PM. But there was also Final Presentation to get ready for. And as the AV guy, all of the CIs had to give me their presentations/movies/whatever and check to see if it worked (on the lame Windows XP machine). It also turns out that there’s no AC in the AV room.

I finally got to bed at around 1:30. I am dead. And I need more sleep. So, goodnight!

Korea: Day 15 (Thursday, July 28, 2011)

Yesterday was such a stressful day. We’re fully in the arduous preparation process for Fulbright Idol and Final Presentation.

Korean class was really awesome yesterday. We finally learned numbers (at least, one set of numbers…) and can now tell the date and count to 100. It’s a wonderful thing to feel like a kid again as you struggle to count to 10. But what made it really cool is the fact that we got to play bingo with our newfound number powers (I didn’t win) and play another Korean counting game. in the second game, you go around in a circle and say numbers. But you can’t say a number that has a 3, 6, or 9. If you do, everyone gets to come in and hit your back. It’s really fun.

I got really disappointed in music class today. One of the major differences between Korean traditional music and most western music is that Korean music is all in thirds (a time signature that will generally have an 8 on the bottom, like 6-8). For most JCs here, who were either contemporary dancers or not musical in the slightest, it was really hard for them to shift their thinking into thirds. So, our teacher came up with a method to teach in thirds: walk. Walk heel-first, then sole, then on your toes (to divide the step in three). But at the beginning it wasn’t explained well (she actually speaks good English for a Korean, but it’s never quite the same), and
Eople got turned off from doing it after 5 minutes. We did it for about 30 though. I would have much rather spent that time memorizing the music. Apparently, JCs have to do the song for Fnal Presentation, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Murder Mystery Club was really cool yesterday. Cornelius put the last clue in the cafeteria, and it really narrowed down the subjects. I can’t wait to figure out who did it along with the kids! :)

For homework time, I was trapped in Olenka’s room, though I needed to meet with Olive to get ready to lead Fulbright Idol tonight. That’s not good, since we haven’t met in two days. Instead, I got to talk to Mindy (who was painting in Olenka’s room) for a while. I also ended up burning myself with a hot glue gun, which wasn’t cool. Naturally, I messed with the burn and opened the skin underneath, so it bothers me a bit more than it otherwise would have. Putting clear tape over it has worked wonders though.

And then, after the teams met up for homework time, I went back in Olenka’s class so that the team to work on our presentation. It consisted of out group making beats with basketballs. I thought it was really cool because it was something that we all created together (plus I got to conduct) As it turned out I had left my bag where we met a fe minutes in to rehearsal, and when I came back, I heard Olenka ask the group if they liked the basketball idea (about 5/10 didn’t); which hit me in a couple of ways. A) it was her idea to begin with B) she let me lead the activity C). We had no other alternatives, and the competition was in les that 24 hours. After 40 minutes of doing essentially nothing, they decided to do a K-Pop song. But they explained everything in Korean because some campers didn’t understand (which, you know, defeats the whole purpose of the English camp). At that point I left. I had things to do, and I felt pretty excluded.

We also got our JC Comments from all of our peers. Boy, was that interesting. We could see everyone’s, so it got pretty interesting. But once we got them, we could head straight to bed. And that’s exactly what I did. At least, for a new minutes.

Korea: Day 14 (Wednesday, July 27, 2011)

Yesterday marked the beginning of the end. Yesterday was the last ‘fun day’, the last Night fun, and consisted of me running around to do the increasing number of things that I must do for Fulbright Idol and Closing Ceremony.

Yesterday morning I got swamped. I had Korean homework, a letter to write to my team counselor, and a JC reflection sheet. For the JC reflection sheet, we had to write down every team members’ name and positive things about them, along with things that we thought that they should work on/we didn’t like. I filled up four pages (2 sheets), mostly with rave reviews.

Yesterday was also the penultimate Korean class. We learned more about sentence structure, particles, and biggest of all places. What makes the language difficult is that everything is said in a different order in Korean. Essentially, when trying to construct a sentence out of pictures and verb charts, we English students in class must:

1. Pick a sentence to say out of limited vocabulary (or, if she gives us a picture, look for the word if we don’t know it)
2. Say that word and the correct particle that goes with it.
3. Repeat for every subject, object and verb.
4. End with ㅂ니다 for a statement and -ㅂ니따? for questions.

Repeat if the entire process takes too long. It’s hard, but not undoable. And we’ve made spectacular progress. Since we have her class for four hours a day, we can go at about 3 times the rate of one school foreign-language class.

It was around lunch time with Vinnie told me wonderful news: “Bo, your package is here.” “WHERE?!” (my immediate response) “In my office.” you know what that meant. I dashed to the office and saw a beautiful box with my name on it, written in my wonderful mother’s very own handwriting. It was definitely the best part of the day. I even recorded a video of the whole process, so you guys get to see that when I get back. And Skittles were in the box. Wonderful Skittles. Those were opened immediately. As it turns out, Vinnie also got skittles that day — Korean Skittles. I had a rare opportunity to do a taste test comparison. Korean skittles do taste differently. I only had a few, so I couldn’t do a complete assessment. I loved the note though, Mom. Thanks.

Two honey buns and a dismay at chocolate Oreos later (you guys know I don’t like chocolate!), the day continued (but on a fuller stomach). Yesterday’s cultural activity was Korean traditional music; and as it turned out, the lady who taunt it was Vinnie’s middle school teacher. She’s extremely good at Korean music. She also speaks surprisingly good English. She knows the intricacies of every song (memorized) and even wrote them out in Finale [music notation software]. The fact that she was able to take these songs, as a 60+ year old woman, write them down accurately in western style by ear, put them into a complicated program like Finale, and even insert the song lyrics in Korean and English (so that we could read the syllables, not a translation) was huge. She could also tell my some of my comments on the music that I was a musician.

In her class, we heard her preform some traditional Korean songs on a drum and with her voice. It was totally cool. She even taught us one called [roughly] Ariringya. It was definitely my favorite cultural activity of the week.

For clubs, I got to skip out on the first half because I had to bring in evidence mid-way through the club. It turns out that the kids tried to play Mafia beforehand with disastrous results, at least from this one girl who spoiled the game for everyone twice. Cornelius was pretty disappointed about that.

I also got to miss homework time, as I had to finish and go over my script with Olive as we prepare for Fulbright Idol [the camper talent show]. We’ll simply be doing a number of small skits in between each act. My team’s doing a really cool one with basket balls here we make a beat and I get to conduct. After that script editing process, I went up to the auditorium (the big brother of the Sky, complete with projector and Mic equipment). I’ll be running the tech office (Yes!) for the final presentation, so Vinnie introduced me to all of the equipment. Sadly, it still runs Windows XP. People, it’s time to move on. Strangely, I found a conductor’s baton in there. It will come in handy for my team’s performance at Fulbright Idol.

That night was also the last Night Fun, and JCs got to lead clubs also. I went back to the dodgeball group and we got to play Steal the Bacon. While not as popular as dodgeball, the kids did have fun. I was going to start a group game of Simon Says when Brandon instead walked up with a bouncy ball and said that we were playing FourSquare. That didn’t seem like a good idea because everyone was split up and only four people could play at a time. Whatever.

And then it was bedtime. Vinnie even told the campers that they had to go to bed early to make sure that they were well rested. At least, until he pulled a ‘lol, JK’ on the JCs and we had another music class. At 9:45PM. I tend to shut down at about 9, so I was not excited about it. But, we got to play real traditional Korean drums, so that helped. She taught us some songs, but it got really difficult because some people got off-beat pretty bad (No, Dad, it wasn’t me!). We finally finished up at 10:45 when Jack’s brother came in and played. He was really good, so we had another 20-minute Korean dance. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have because I really wanted to sleep. I don’t like it when things run longer than they should…

And on that note, it’s time for Thursday to begin. This is going to be a rough day…

Cultural note: I’ve realized that a lot of Koreans tend to say ‘Oh my God’ when speaking in English. I assume that this is due to the regularity of its repeated use in American media.

SN: I apologize for any typos, unclear sentences, or heavy amounts of parenthetical information in either this or any of my other posts. I’m on an iPad (it’s great, but not at typing essays) and I really don’t have time in the mornings to go over the post. Rest assured, once I get to America, they will be edited for clarity.

Korea: Day 13 (Tuesday, July 26, 2011)

It’s about that time. We are gearing up for closing!

The beginning of yesterday was better than the rest because I finally got to video chat with my brothers, so I was really happy about that. It was a great way to start the day.

In Korean class, I learned more about verbs and some more phrases. It was easy to see how stressful the amp is on us though. More JCs than ever before stood up to avoid falling asleep simply due to fatigue. I was fine because it was still the morning, but I did feel a little slower. Teacher Kim is still a great teacher however, and I wish she taught all of my language classes. She’s one of a kind. Having homework at camp is still not cool though.

Our cultural activity was tea making. For me, it was more new than usual, because I don’t even like tea all that much (if at all). What made the lesson a little more difficult was that the lady who was teaching the class didn’t speak much English, so Yena (a JC) had to translate. It’s always harder to listen when you have to listen twice but can only understand once. Korean tea making is a very specific art; this I had not expected. For example, everything must be picked up with two hands (even little towelettes), or picked up in the right hand and transferred to the left hand. The dishes even have to be heated prior to drinking because it can “change the flavor of the tea”.

At first, the specifics frustrated me. But then I thought: “Wait. I love all of the great intricacies of great Graphic User Interfaces and great User Experiences (GUI & UX), so maybe it’s the same y for them.” after having that thought, I felt much better about it. Sitting Crisscross-Applesauce Hands-in-your-Lap for an hour and a half is killer though.

Club today was pretty fun. I’ve settled into my new role. I’ll essentially rewrite important facts or new vocabulary words up on the board so that the kids can know what they mean in the context of the mystery. Today we were going to have a clue deciphered by Mad Tim’s Crazy Science Lab club, but it turns out that the paper that he was supposed to be analyzing didn’t show the message clearly, so it was ‘taken for further analysis’. We did find some good hints at the gymnasium (where the murder victim, Peyton Manning, enjoyed hanging out when at Jungwon, it seems).

The other really cool part of the day was Night Fun, because me, Brandon, Jeanne (pronounced like ‘Genie’) and Jack got to lead DODGEBALL! I got to explain the rules, and I did fairly well doing slow (though I did speed up too fast at one point). The kids had a blast, and my team won. Double win. I did make some substitutions after the first couple of games, however, and that made things a little more difficult. Glad I got to do it though.

But even with homework, reflections, blogging and spending time with campers to do daily, I still have some Boys State stuff to finish, plan out mini skits for Fulbright Idol, write a letter to my counselor (done), and write a JC chart saying what we think of the person and possible improvements that they can make. I’m inclined to believe that I think that it’s due to my reflection, where I mentioned my anger at Kevin and Evan. I think it will be helpful, as I’m sure the other JCs each have something to share.

On to the Two-Week anniversary! Only one week left in Korea before life calls again…