On to level 2

17 02 2012

I passed my finals.
I get to see Steve and Eddie next week.
And Immigration gave me a visa, so I won’t get deported.

Today’s graduation marked the end of our semester at Sogang.
I’m going to miss each classmate individually and our class collectively.

Some of us may see each other next semester, but we’ll have a different dynamic from being newbies with no common language bonding over our shared fear of
“sseu-gee seon-sang-nim” (writing teacher 쓰기 선생님).

Some happy moments from this week…

unexpected thoughtfulness

i think everyone got As

nissa from indonesia, me, kang su mi, our amazing speaking teacher

Market watch

15 02 2012

Gwangjang Market 광장 시장 is mainly a fabric and food market. You can find bedding, fruit and food stalls, but not many, if any, foreigners afoot.

The market’s famous for the bin dae ddok 빈대떡, or pancakes made with freshly ground mung beans.

For less than $4 USD you can sit down to a freshly fried pancake of green onions, shrimp and beansprouts. For $3 more, you can have a bottle of makkolli 막걸리, rice beer, on the side.
I want to return.

After one pancake, you can’t eat much else. And among the other foods at the market, are wild vegetable bibimbap, fresh seafood and black bean porridge.

black bean porridge, pumpkin porridge and pan-fried ricecakes

Filipino Sunday market

This Filipino Market is small. There are two food stalls and maybe 5 vendors selling snacks, videos, CDs and personal goods from the islands. The market operates on Sundays after mass in front of Hyewha Catholic church. In addition to the lumpia, banana eggrolls and pansit fried noodles, I like listening to Filipinos speak Korean and watching Koreans muse over their foreign food. Last month, a ~40-year-old Filipina mouthed to me:

“Hey you. Yeah, you. You like Filipino food?”
“Where you from?”
“I don’t speak English. Only Tagalo. Because I love my country.”
“Hey, you’re eating the food the wrong way. You’re supposed to eat with rice.”
“OK, I’m done. Have fun. Bye.”

Noryangjin Market is the biggest seafood market in Seoul.

A few classmates and I went on a Sunday afternoon.
It will be one of my favorite memories of Korea.

Noryangjin fish market 노량진

The day we went, we bought scallops, assorted sashimi and shrimp.
Our Japanese classmates haggled down the price of the sashimi.
Fishmongers yelled “sashimi” whenever our Japanese classmates walked by.

The bottom level is all seafood, and bargaining really is part of the fun.

You can get king crab, tuna, salmon, mackerel, scallops, every sea squirt, shrimp and mollusk imaginable plus octopus from swallow-em-whole size to slice-em-up for-stew size.

We haggled, bought, then headed up stairs to the restaurant level, where we paid a few extra bucks to have our food prepared and paired with soju and such.

Sogang’s semester ends

15 02 2012

This week is the last week of the semester.
Where did two-and-a-half-months go? Or as my friend Su ji would say “monthes”.
This must be what getting old is like.

Today, we completed our written and listening tests.
Tomorrow we have 15-minute oral interviews.
Friday, we have a graduation celebration complete with lunch and presents and awards for highest marks and perfect attendance.

I was aiming for perfect attendance but found out last week tardiness is considered.

After graduation, we’re having lunchboxes from Bennigans.

And after our finals tomorrow, a few of the gals are going to the sauna.

I’m intimidated, which means I have to go.

Do you know Dokdo?

4 02 2012

Hiking Bugaksan in downtown Seoul

4 02 2012

After boasting the coldest weather since 1957, Seoul got some sunshine today.
Made for fantastic hiking weather—brisk, but windless thank God.

So I went to Bugaksan for the second time in a week.

Steve hiked Bugaksan in December, and I’ve wanted to go since then but especially since last Saturday when I arrived too late to hike the secured trail.

Bugaksan is behind the President’s house, and the trail’s been secured since 1968, when North Koreans hiked through the mountains to assassinate the President. The North failed, but not before 71 Koreans and Americans were killed. Thus, if you want to hike Bugaksan, come before 3:00 and bring your passport.

Reaching Bugaksan
I was lucky today.

A security guard escorted me to the trailhead. It was the second time in an hour I’d passed the same guard shack, and he must have known I’d never find the trail myself.
There’s no English sign that reads:

“This way to hike dangerously close to the President’s house!”

So the guard hurried me down the hill, and we made it to the entry gate by 2:40.
Bless him. I hope he drinks for free tonight.

Bugaksan’s peak takes an hour to reach, and I hiked the lateral path for another hour. Several security guards on the way tell you where you can and cannot take pictures.

The mountain is north of the city (buk = north), and this is where the city’s little-used north gate is. Following Seoul’s Fortress Wall brings the city into relief. Here you are looking down on Seoul’s urban landscape while sidling a stone wall dating back to the 14th century.

Bugaksan & Seoul Fortress Wall

Leaving Bugaksan

After hiking, I walked down Bugaksan, past Gyeongbokgung (Seoul’s largest palace) through Samcheongdong and then Insadong. In one day and by foot, you can get your hiking, your history, your romantic strolling and your arty farty itches scratched.

If I’m in Insadong, I like to visit the rice cake neighborhood which has 5 or 6 rice cake shops. This is north of the Han River, an older part of Seoul. You can’t get rice cake outside of a freezer in North Carolina, and here you can get rice cake made this morning for ~ 3 bucks.

Fermented soybeans

You can also get cheonggukjang (청국장) in Insadong. Oo-rah.
My mouth has watered for this dish since last March, but I didn’t know what it was called.
Naha told me last month. Then she said she hates cheonggukjang.

Some people love 청국장, some people hate it.
Like cilantro. Or hot yoga.

Cheonggukjang (청국장) is like Eddie’s favorite dish doenjangjjigae (된장찌개), which is a soybean stew made with soybeans fermented for two months. More common, less stinky.
청국장 uses beans fermented for 2-3 days. More stinky. More delicious.

WERS 88.9FM in Boston

4 02 2012

Remembers the night owls.
Thanks WERS.

WKNC @State plays death metal and other obscurities overnight.
Pandora hasn’t reached this part of the world. Neither has Spotify.
But thanks to the nets, WERS plays “Music for the Independent Mind,” even in Seoul.
In the wee small hours of Boston’s morning, ERS is playing Vintage Rock Singer-Songwriters. The Velvet Underground, Johnny Cash and Dylan.

I didn’t know Warren Zevon did anything outside of “Werewolves of London”.

Durham in Seoul

3 02 2012

Caffe Bene in Seoul playing Durham’s Nnenna Freelon.