The lost adventures pt.2: Nami Island

Another island! But smaller…and inland!

So this is the adventure right after we got back from Jeju. We set off by meeting Sungsu (Aiden is his English name) at the Olympic park subway station which was near where he worked. He took us in his car and we went and picked up his girlfriend Sujung (Crystal is her English name). We rode in their car through traffic and long roads towards Nami Island.

We stopped first at a restaurant for lunch where an older man had an angry outburst after not receiving his noodles fast enough. That aside we made it to Nami a short while later.

For those that don’t know, Nami is a small “Island” In the middle of a river. It is a piece of land where the river splits around it. There was a cute “Immigration” process to get our ferry tickets to get to Nami. You can also zip line to the island across the river but we passed up that option.

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Nami is similar to Jeju in the way that it is a popular vacation spot and was full of nature. It is kind of a little resort area. We walked among fountains, couples, through forest pathways and beside baby ducks. It was like a small forest reserve. Sungsu and Sujung were so nice to walk with and they told us more about the island than what we could read.

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The trip around the island led us down bike paths and more; one would have to come back many times to see all that Nami had to offer. After we got across to the main land Sungsu and Sujung treated us again to a spicy vegetable dinner as we watched people bungie jump right out the window. They were so kind to us and we really cherish their friendship. Maddie and I are so glad we got to meet our friends again in Korea.

It was a very nice day and place to relax. From there we headed back to Seoul and said our last goodbyes to Sungsu and Sujung until next time. Someday soon we’ll see them again. 🙂

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Pinecone eating squirrel!

-Calum Fletcher

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The lost adventures pt.1: Jeju

Well I as our semester in Korea was ending we were becoming very very busy with packing and seeing our friends so we never got around to detailing the last parts of our adventure in Korea. Here it is!

So, there is a fair sized island off the south coast of Korea called Jeju. It’s known as “Korea’s Hawaii” It is a pristine island with plenty of waterfalls, forestry, cities, and a big volcano in the center that formed the island. Soooo of course we had to visit before we left!

Our trip started with us taking the first subway car out of Anam and towards Gimpo airport. (very early am) We got to the airport and made it through fine.                           Did you know that in Korea they let you take water through security when they are domestic flights? A lady came by and said “You can bring water through” Right after I finished chugging 1+ liters of water…thanks lady. Couldn’t have come sooner?

Anyway, it was a short flight to Jeju and we got in about 9am. When we got off we needed to find the bus that would take us to the start of a hiking trail we planned to take. This trail started at the west side of the mountain. Unknowingly we accidentally looked at the other hiking plan in our notebook and took the wrong bus to another trail. This trail was a 4 hour hike and wasn’t what we wanted to do that day. To sum up what eventually became this huge detour we ended up through a combination of buses, walking and a taxi making our way around the south side of the mountain to the east where the trail we wanted was. By about 3:30pm…

We double checked there was a bus that would take us back to Jeju city and went ahead and hiked up. Though we didn’t go all the way it was a great hike and was a lot of fun! Made it back to Jeju city and called it a day.

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The next day is where a lot of the problems came up. See, it was supposed to rain almost the entire time we were there. We didn’t have a time to reschedule and we wanted to go to Jeju so we decided to work with it.                                                       But on the second day we wanted to go to a famous cave on the island that had some very unique structures. It also would have been good to get out of the rain. We took the bus that we thought would get us there and ended up being forced to get off at Jeju international university…instead of the cave. Which is down a completely different road.                                                                                                                   Something happened and we couldn’t get to the cave from where we were so we decided to go ahead and go to the south city on Jeju and see a famous waterfall that we were going to go to the next day. We made it there and trekked a long way to the waterfall in the rain. There was an extra added bonus because there were less people there because of the downpour! The downside was that we started to both get soaked even with rain gear…                                                                                                       By the time we walked back to the south city from the waterfall we were both done…We sat in a Paris baguette and ate our sorrows away. We took the bus back to Jeju city and called it a day because we were so worn out. (Hopefully Maddie will come in here and edit in all the names of these places because I toootally forgot them)

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Famous Korean diving ladies who make very deep breath-held dives and grab fish and other seafood. They were selling their catch on the shore.

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The third day we wanted to take it a little slower because of these last two days. We grabbed a taxi that took us to Jeju city “center” that was an area with a lot of popular museums and restaurants. We had lunch at this tucked away restaurant that was very good considering the location and that no one was there but us. But we’re adventure seekers so we went anyway!

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After that we decided to go to this history museum we saw on some road signs. It lead us to a temple that we decided to stop by first because there was a let up in rain. Now let me tell you, this temple had it all. This big courtyard grounds, many buildings and this huge story about how Jeju came to be from these three princes that came out of three holes in the ground. They had the funniest cartoon to go with it too. Something you’d expect with that sort of budget. I wish we were able to record it, it was hilarious in English.

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After that we went to the museum next door and saw some cool natural history exhibits. There was also a little rock walkway nearby the museum that was supposed to help your feet or something that we had to try. Let me just say, though it may look soothing, it is extremely painful.

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The last day consisted of us finding famous black pork to eat (Also known as “Poop” pigs…interesting history there. You’ll just have to look it up.) and us walking to the water front. Just a final evening for the Jeju get-away.

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All in all it was an amazing trip and I’m so glad we went. Maddie actually planned most everything by herself! It was so worth it regardless of the rain and the mistakes. I would definitely recommend a trip there if you’re ever in Korea.

We never did figure out how their bloody confusing bus system worked…

-Calum Fletcher

The Beginning of the End

We’re finally done! Classes have finished and so have exams. It was a long, hard week of studying and assignments for Calum and I, but we made it through.

Many things have happened since we last posted to the blog!

Mariia Week!

Perhaps most importantly, my best friend/Russian sister came to visit us for a week here in Seoul. We probably set the record for most activities done in Seoul in a short period of time!

Many of the places that we visited are places that Calum and I have visited before, but we didn’t mind at all. It was fun playing tour guide and hearing a different perspective on familiar places.

After picking up Mariia from the airport, we stopped by a BBQ restaurant near our university for some lunch. And of course, in true Mariia and Madeline style, we followed up lunch with iced coffee from one of my favorite nearby cafes. Next we did a little shopping and exploring around Sungshin Women’s University, which is within walking distance from Korea University. From there, we took the subway straight to Hongdae and enjoyed some of the sights and sounds there. We had dinner in nearby Sinchon, and dessert was, of course, Starbucks frappicinos. Lastly, we did a little shopping at Ewha Women’s University, one of the best shopping districts for ladies in Seoul (cheap clothes and accessories everywhere!).

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Side Note: Did you know that Starbucks caters its drinks to the local population in the places where it sells? The South Korean Starbucks recently featured 3 summer-y frappicinos; mango with coconut jelly, strawberries and cream, and a dark chocolate mocha frap. All three of us really enjoyed the chocolate one.

We checked into our accommodation late that night. I used Airbnb to book us a room that is located two subway stops away from Korea University. The neighborhood looks a little rough, but the room was clean, quiet and safe. We talked for a while but I was particularly exhausted and slept like a rock.

On Sunday we ate a little breakfast from a local café and explored Dongdaemun market. We walked for some time on the Cheongecheon stream, making our way to the famous Korean palaces. Unfortunately, my heart condition started acting up and we had to rest for a while. Although my heart was still racing, I was determined that we would make it to our destination, so I convinced Calum and Mariia that we should keep walking, just taking it slow.

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I wanted to include this part of the day because it shows what a truly amazing friend Mariia is and what a fantastic boyfriend Calum is. When we got to the palace my heart was still racing at the speed of light and I didn’t feel well. We went into the free museum/café/gift shop and took another rest. Suddenly, I remembered a tip that my doctor at home told me about my heart condition…the only problem is, it involves immersing my face in a sink full of ice water.

Mariia kindly asked the café for a cup of ice and we went into the bathroom. Since there was no way we could fill the sink up (and that would be kind of gross), we just added water to the cup and decided I would splash it on my face. Mariia offered me moral support by counting “1, 2, 3!” for me every time I splashed my face. As funny as it may sound, her counting and just her presence gave me so much courage. Hey, its not easy splashing your face in a public restroom in a foreign country! After a few tries we had to give up because the splashing was only succeeding in ruining my makeup.

We returned to Calum and he had me lie in his lap and try to relax (very concerned boyfriend). At this point we were contemplating whether or not to grab a taxi and go to the nearest hospital…it had been over 2 hours since the episode started. But then, as suddenly as it started, the episode stopped and my heart returned to a normal rate. So, we were able to continue our day and enjoy the beautiful palace! It was a different experience seeing this palace in the spring, filled with blooming flowers. The weather was lovely as well.
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We had dinner on Sunday at Myeongdong, the most popular place for foreigners who want to go shopping in Seoul. After dinner and some treats from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (an Asian chain café), we walked to the Namsan cable car station. We waited in line for an hour to ride the cable car up the mountain, but the view was totally worth it. Namsan at night is really magical. Mariia and I put our own lock of friendship on the mountain to celebrate our sisterhood. (Now I can say that I have two locks on Namsan…ha!) We walked down the mountain and took the subway back to Anam for some honey beer, a popular Korean trend and then made our way back “home”.

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Thankfully, Monday was a holiday, so I didn’t have any class to attend!

Our first stop on Monday was Youido Gospel Church, the church with the biggest congregation in the world, but unfortunately its giant sanctuary was closed. So we walked a short distance to the Han river, where we had some snacks by the water and rented bikes for an hour. I have to say that riding bikes at the river is one of my favorite things to do here in Seoul. Its cheap, clean fun and good exercise too. It was wonderful to be able to share it with Mariia, and it wasn’t too crowded that day so we were able to ride side by side and talk for much of the time.

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Afterwards, Mariia and I went back to Ewha for some more shopping, since we hadn’t had much time to spend there before. We visited clothing stores and we shopped at Korea’s famous cosmetic stores. We ate some yummy street food as well!

After shopping we met Calum again in Gangnam, and we walked to the Bongeunsa temple. A huge celebration was going on for Buddha’s birthday. There was lanterns, candles, and hundreds of devoted people. I will let Calum’s pictures do most of the talking here, they are stunning.

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On Wednesday, Mariia and I went on a tour of the DMZ that divides North and South Korea. We even had the chance to tour one of the tunnels that North Korea built to try and invade the South. There’s a lot we could say about it, but I think I will leave it for another post. A one word description: surreal.

The rest of the week was not as busy as the first few days…Mariia graciously went with me to a few of my classes, and during my other classes she was able to spend some time with her Korean friends that she met while studying in China. I had the joy of meeting some of her Korean friends too! On Thursday we met a couple of them at a food market and they had us try some unusual Korean food. These foods included chicken feet, ham-hock, and cow intestines stuffed with noodles. Though it was great to try new things, we both agreed that we would prefer to stick to kimchi and fried bean pancakes. 😉

On Friday we went to another of her friend’s home for dinner. We enjoyed an assortment of lovely food, and her friends were such sweet hosts. Most of the time Mariia and her friends communicated in Chinese, and Mariia translated to English for me. However, I did get some opportunities to practice my Korean, which was great!

Saturday came too quickly, and we had to take Mariia to the airport. It is really bittersweet—I’m so happy and thankful that she was able to visit, but sad because I don’t know when we can ever see each other again.

I think meeting someone from across the world whom you connect with in the way that Mariia and I connect is a rare and precious opportunity. I will never give up on my dream to visit her in Russia (and possibly China?? hehe). It may be hard, but we have already shown that with determination we can make it work. Mariia especially worked hard and made some sacrifices to make her visit happen. Even with the distance between us, sisters are never that far from each other in spirit.

-Madeline

I’m not lazy in writing btw…I was going to write this one but when I told Maddie that I would do it the next day she said “I already wrote one!”. Sooo I guess I will just be the picture man again! Which I like. Not too much to add. It was a busy week for me so I was kind of doing my own studying while she was here. Also, I will go to the DMZ with my parents so I’ll see what that is like on my own. 

Time is really running very short here in Seoul. Every day now is moving blazing fast and I don’t know how to make it stop. We’ll have to enjoy what we can. 

-Calum

Seoul and Beyond

These past few weeks we have been fortunate enough to do some traveling outside of Seoul. As much as we love this city, it has been nice to get away.

Soooo sorry it’s been a long time…things just got away from us….there has been a lot going on though.

Jeonju

Two weekends ago we traveled to the city of Jeonju with some of our international friends. Jeonju is famous it’s hanok (traditional Korean-style architecture) village, mountain scenery and great food. There was also an international film festival happening during the time we visited, but we were unable to see any of the films. It was a rainy day and not everything went as planned, but we still had a good time.

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While in Jeonju, we ate delicious kalguksu (noodle soup) and mandu (dumplings) that were unlike anything we have ever had in Seoul. Everything tasted so fresh and rich, like it was homemade with ingredients from a garden. Next we took a short walk up the mountain to see a view of the city, and explored the hanok village. We also visited a small museum with portraits of Joseon dynasty kings. After a visit to the local market, we had bibimbap for dinner and then hopped on the bus back to Seoul. We are thankful that two of the friends who came with us, Asna and Ariel, speak fluent Korean. Their skills made the whole day much easier! Overall the company of our friends made the day really fun. We are going to miss them so much.

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No that kid doesn’t have two heads, it’s two kids.

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We are starting to think that it is a requirement that every Korean city have a nice river walk…

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One of the great things about Korea is that transportation is so convenient. There are several bus terminals in Seoul where you can buy a cheap ticket to almost anywhere in the country. Thanks to the bus we were able to spend the entire day in Jeonju, arriving at about 10 in the morning and leaving around 9 at night. Unfortunately there was a lot of traffic on the road back to Seoul, so we didn’t make it home until after 2am the next day. Needless to say, we were quite tired.

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Suwon

On the following Tuesday we traveled to Suwon with some friends from Calum’s KUBA group to see a soccer game, Suwon vs. Beijing. The Korean fans showed up dressed in blue and ready to cheer on their team…and by cheer on, we mean rhythmic, well-rehearsed cheering songs complete with dancing and hand movements. Maybe it was the beautiful weather or the enthusiastic fans, but we found ourselves getting really into the game! By the end, we had learned some of the cheers and a few of the players’ names. The two teams ended the game in a tie.

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About midway through the game, and older fan bought several churros and shared them with us. This is one of many gestures of hospitality from strangers that we have experienced here in Korea, and we are so grateful.

It was really cool seeing a game in a world cup stadium too. Just being in a place that had such a big international attention a few years ago.

Gangneung

A week ago I was staring at my calendar, counting the days and weekends that we have left here in Korea. There’s not much.

That being said, I panicked a little and planned our trip to Gangneung at the last minute. Thankfully, everything turned out even better than we expected. If I could describe our weekend in one word, it would be picturesque.

The city of Gangneung is known for its beautiful beaches, and those beaches are known for their gorgeous sunrise views. It also has many pine forests that extend right to the ocean’s edge. It sounds cheesy, but the smell of the pine trees mixed with the smell of the sea was incredible. As we walked near the shore on Saturday evening we kept repeating to ourselves how good it smelled. We visited three consecutive beaches—Anmok, Seongjeong, and Gangmun. Anmok beach is lined with cafés, and is less crowded than the other two. Gangmun is one of the more famous beaches in Gangneung and is home to many hotels and fresh seafood restaurants.

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We walked to a bridge at the mouth of a stream, where we watched several men fish with nets and spoke to a kind local man who is studying English. In Gangneung there’s also a gorgeous lake that feeds into the ocean. We stayed near the lake for a while, watching the birds fly and the sun go down. After that we went back to the beach and turned to walk in the direction we came. To our surprise, the bridge we had just seen was now lit up in rainbow colors. Of course we had to take more pictures!

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The walk back to our Gangneung guesthouse felt so long because we were tired and hungry. For dinner, we had seafood noodles at a restaurant on Anmok beach. It was quite possibly the freshest crab and mussels we have every eaten.

On Sunday morning we woke up at 4:30 in the morning to see the sunrise over the ocean. We walked to Solbaram bridge near the Gangneung ferry port to get the best view. And it really was the best view. The sunrise in Gangneung is anything but overrated.

Fair warning, up ahead there are too many pictures of the sunrise but I put them in anyway.

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Someone got cold…

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Sunrise….5:13 am

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Older, (mostly fisherman) men of the town watching the sunrise.

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After a couple more hours of sleep, we left the guesthouse, picked up an iced coffee and boarded the bus for Daegwallyeong Museum. However, our goal was not really to see the museum, but the hiking trails behind it. We walked on the Daegwallyeong pass, which according to the signs, was once walked on by scholars of the Joseon dynasty. It is 13 kilometers long (about 8 miles).

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The majority of hikers were groups of Korean men and women around the age of 60, some even older. We were greeted with many smiles and shouts of “hello!” At one point we stopped next to a group of hikers and put our feet in the freezing cold stream. The atmosphere was so nice—the sun was shining, the water felt good on our tired feet, and everyone was talking and laughing. We even saw one woman drinking straight out of a bottle of soju (Korean hard alcohol) as she hiked away! Not sure how she was managing…

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Place where we let our feet in to cool. There was a large group of older Koreans here earlier but left by the time I took the picture

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Small Prayer stones set by someone

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Unfortunately, we didn’t prepare very well for such a long hike. We really had not eaten or rested enough, so our energy levels were low. The last two miles were grueling, especially for me. Calum once again showed what a great boyfriend he is by carrying my backpack part of the way and encouraging me until we made it to the top. And the view was incredible, as promised.

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After the hike we took a taxi down the mountain (we were way too tired and starving to hike back down) all the way to the Gangneung bus terminal. At the terminal we stuffed ourselves with food and snacks before boarding the bus back to Seoul. I think we both fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow that night.

Not too much to add to this that hasn’t already been said. Really, it has been a little bit of a personal favorite of mine in Korea. The sunrise was unreal.

Thoughts and Reflections

Our weekend in Gangneung confirmed for us that coming to Korea was the right decision. It seems that the majority of American college students study abroad in Europe, and while that is great for some, Korea is much more our “style.”

When we were walking in the pine forest and dipping our feet in the mountain stream, we felt so peaceful. We joked that if we had chosen to study somewhere else, we could be sitting in a dingy bar instead of breathing in the fresh air. The people here in Korea have been so kind and treated us with endless hospitality. Our expectations have been surpassed in almost every way.

(Speaking of hospitality, our trip to Gangneung would not have been nearly as successful without our Airbnb host, Gina. Thank you so much for everything! We hope to meet you again someday!)

There is less than two months left until we return home! To our family and friends, we miss you and we can’t wait to see you again. We have so many things to share with you. Also, please be patient with us, because we may be experiencing reverse culture shock.

Not too much to comment on this one, Maddie said pretty much everything I would have wanted to express. It is very weird thinking of how much time has passed and how much we have left…some days it feels like not enough and others it feels far away. I definitely think we have seen and experienced some awesome things here in Korea just so far. Being able to live here an extended period of time has allowed such incredible memories to be formed.

Love from Seoul,

Maddie And Calum

Springtime in Seoul

What’s the best feeling in the world?

Right now, its walking in the goshiwon kitchen and discovering that everything has been restocked. There’s fresh rice in the rice-cooker, lots of eggs and bread in the fridge, a full jar of strawberry jam, a bin full of frosted flakes cereal. Nothing can make my day like that!

Anyways, a lot of things have happened since Calum and I last posted to the blog. It is springtime in Seoul, and everyone is basking in the cherry blossoms. In our neighborhood the blossoms have mostly gone and are being replaced with fresh leaves. But in other parts of the city they are still in full bloom!

Last week the blossoms were in full bloom on the Korea University campus, so Calum and I joined the rest of the students in a photography session. Please enjoy the results. 🙂

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Besides taking photos, there were several groups of students having picnics, complete with the university student staple, chicken and beer. Oh and there were lots of selfie-sticks everywhere.

A lot of Korean students knew this was the place to be! It’s almost like Library Mall at UNT. This area was on the “Science Campus” which is where I have all my classes but not where many people go to otherwise.

When in Seoul…

Last Friday we went to a “jimjilbang” (Korean spa) with a group of friends. The spa consists of two bath areas, a floor with rooms of various temperatures and minerals that are supposed to be good for your health, a floor with just sleeping areas, and a recreation floor with a TV, table tennis, workout facilities, Korean manga and computers.

I think we both understand now why going to a jimjilbang is often called “a bonding experience” for friends. The bath areas are separate by gender for one obvious reason—everyone is naked as the day they were born. (Woohoo!)

The first thing you see is rows of stools in front of shower heads attached to the wall, where everyone washes off before they get in the baths. The baths are like hot tubs but with varying temperatures, and some are filled with salt or lined with minerals like jade. There’s also a cold tub for when you need to cool off. In the ladies section there is a “shower stall” with a very strong waterfall flowing down. For a harsh massage on your back, you can sit on a stool underneath the falling water for however long you would like. There is also a room attached to the bath area where you can get the first three layers of your skin scrubbed off by older ladies in their underwear for about four dollars. No I’m serious, they scrub super hard, which is why my friend and I skipped this step that day. Seems like something that you have to grow accustomed to overtime.

(Pretty much everything was the same for the guys. I had a much larger group of guys to go with and we tried out all the various pools. It was funny to be in there with a group of foreigners and mix with the random Korean people. The back pounding water was closed though so we never got to do that. But we did go to the mud bath and many others.)

The floor with the various “health rooms” is shared by both genders. After you have a bath, you can change into the shorts and t-shirt that are provided for you (color coordinated for guys and girls) and meet your friends there. Calum, our friends and I tried out almost all of the different rooms, including the room where you lay on a floor covered in heated clay balls. (Felt so nice >.<)

Side note: Have you seen the video of Conan O’ Brian and Steven Yeun at a Korean spa in California? Fair warning, its not really family friendly, but its hilarious none the less, and we feel we can relate to their experience a bit. In the second half of the video they go into a clay ball room that is just like the one we went to! The song at the end is pretty funny too.

For your viewing enjoyment:

“Hello…you’re naked…”

HAHAHA

(Seriously though…)

Priceless Memories 

Last Sunday we had the privilege of eating dinner with our friend MyungWon’s family. MyungWon is the captain of the soccer team that Calum plays for here, and he has been such a kind and helpful friend to Calum. The dinner was delicious and different…eating a home cooked meal is rare for us here. Despite the language barrier we shared lots of laughs with MyungWon, his mother, sister, and brother-in-law. We even got to hold MyungWon’s 5-month- old niece! Yes, she is only 5 months, she is a big baby!

(I should mention here that there is still a language barrier, but the gap is growing smaller everyday as we learn more and more Korean.)

I felt a special connection to MyungWon’s mom, she was so sweet and welcoming. As MyungWon put it, she “has an open mind”. She was such a great host, and she was really encouraging to me when I spoke Korean, even when I made mistakes or didn’t speak formally enough. She kept telling me that I was cute, but she was so cute too! Before we left she told me (MyungWon translated) that when I miss my family I can come to her home and spend time with their family.

This was a really touching and important moment for me. I felt like we developed a little friendship before we left. When we were leaving their apartment building I realized I left my purse and we had to go back upstairs and get it. When MyungWon ran inside their apartment to get it for me, I could hear his mom yelling “Maddieeeee!!!” in a joke-scolding voice. 🙂

Both Calum and I had a great time with MyungWon’s family, and we are so grateful for their hospitality. We have been so fortunate to meet so many genuine and caring people here in Korea…the connections and friendships we have made are the most precious thing we will take home with us.

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KUBA!

A quick interjection from me! The next pictures are from when my KUBA group went to Yuideo to look at the cherry blossom trees. It was when they were blooming in full. There were so many people there, they had gathered at this area like an all day convention. There was even a band there. I guess if you’re in Korea when the cherry blossoms are blooming, this is the place to go! Even though we walked about 1.5 miles to find a special chicken place afterwards, it was still a lot of fun.

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Cute old Korean couple by the river

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Locks of Love

Yesterday, Calum and I went to visit Namsan tower (aka North Seoul Tower), which is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Seoul. The tower sits on a mountain and is surrounded by a beautiful forest and park. Rather than take the cable car up to the top of the mountain like many people do, Calum and I decided to hike all the way up like the true outdoorsmen we are. It was a steep climb in some places, but well worth it!

Namsan tower is similar to the Pont de l’Archevêché in Paris–couples put locks there and throw away the key to symbolize their love lasting forever. The railings in the designated area are absolutely covered in locks. Some locks are old and rusted, others are new and shiny, most are colorful and decorated. Many of the locks are in the same design (the one that you can buy at the gift-shop near the tower). Calum and I brought our own lock, which we decorated earlier in the day.

Please enjoy the photos…

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Our lock! On the bottom left with the star on it.

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We did not actually “throw away the key” in the traditional sense. Authorities do not want visitors to throw their keys off the mountain, and for good reason. So instead, we put our key in the designated mailbox, where the metal will be taken and reused.

As a couple in Seoul, we are often asked “Did you put a lock on Namsan tower?”

Now we can finally answer “yes”…

and we have and we have the pictures to prove it. 😉

Until next time, lots of love from Seoul xoxo

-Madeline and Calum

Update!

On Korea!

Well we have done a lot for school these last few days. When we first started it kind of felt like freshman year all over again. You don’t know anyone in your classes, you don’t know where to go, where to print things off, or where your classes are. Luckily I think we have gotten over that and have settled in for the most part. It’s amazing how quickly a routine schedule can come together with just a few commitments.

Well one of these days I had off I went on a walk through Anam (Maddie was out shopping with friends). I was walking on the road that curves north around campus and I noticed a little trail across the street. I crossed the road and walked up the trail a little bit not expecting to see much. But, the trail kept going and eventually went up the hill to an outdoor workout area. I kept walking too because it didn’t even stop there. I eventually found myself going along this expansive walking trail north of campus. As I was walking I passed by many people, large outdoor exercise places and what looked to be a military base. I eventually got to the top where there was a playground area, soccer field and a helicopter landing area.

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This whole place was very cool and I didn’t know that such an area was on the mountain just north of the university. It looked like there were many trails leading up to the center of the mountain and it was a place that connects a lot of people from the surrounding area to it. Needless to say it was a really cool day for me and many of Madeline’s and my walks may happen here.

A few days later I went with my KUBA group to the Korean War Memorial. The grounds were pretty impressive to day the least, with many Korean and UN statues outside. Also, as you walked closer to the building there was all the UN forces that fought in the war on flag poles. We had a guide take us through the museum as a tour and he gave the entire account of the war. Unfortunately because of this I didn’t get to see all the displays clearly but his talk was very informative. As we walked out of the museum there were the plaques of the KIA soldiers from all the countries. It was a very humbling experience in understanding the war. It was also a reminder to me and the Korean students who have required enlisting that they are still technically at war.

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After that we split and my group played soccer at the world cup stadium! The stadium was build for the 2002 world cup and now has other soccer fields and a pretty social atmosphere. I wasn’t told to bring cleats and shorts because I thought it was a more relaxed game so I ended up playing in tennis shoes and rolled up jeans. It still went well and we had a good time.

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Well that’s what has been going on for the last few days with me! Maddie has been doing group stuff, classes and much more.

For those of you who know who they are, I found this studio as a bonus later that night!
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-Calum

A New Semester Begins!

Here is a little taste of what my classes at KU are like, compared to classes at UNT…

Similarities:

  • Spoken lectures accompanied by a PowerPoint slideshow
  • Classrooms with tables, chairs, a whiteboard, a podium, and a projector
  • Each class has a TA to assist the professor with grading, handouts, etc.
  • Students taking notes in notebooks, on laptops, or on printed copies of the PowerPoint
  • Students drinking coffee, juice, etc. during class
  • Students playing on their phones during class, either subtly or obviously
  • Students falling asleep during class

No comment on whether I participate in any of these student activities… 😉

Differences:

  • English is not the professors’ native language (however, all my professors are at the very least adequate in their English language skills, which is great and admirable!)
  • The majority of the students in each class are Korean, with the remaining ten percent being exchange students from various countries.
  • The TA always arrives at the class before the professor, and proceeds to set up the PowerPoint/projector for them
  • Though students sometimes drink coffee etc. during class, I have yet to see anyone eat anything during class…
  • Nobody ever wears sweats or PJs to class, many students “dress up” a little for class
  • Professors will send all of their required readings for the semester to a local copy shop (online articles, chapters picked out of various textbooks), where they are compiled, printed, and bound together in a packet, which sells for around $18 on average
  • If the professors require a certain textbook rather than a packet, the price of the (NEW) book is unlikely to be more than $15-50 in the campus bookstore (Calum got ALL of his textbooks for about $150!!)
  • The first week is about “shopping for classes”…professors do not give out homework that is due during the next two weeks because they know many students will drop the class and others will add it

Yep…that’s basically all that there is to say! I have had to drop one of my classes, and I am in the process of picking up another to replace it. I’ve spoken to a few people in each class, and made a couple of new friends. I’m interested to see how things play out during the rest of the semester!

Other thoughts from the first week of class…

On Sunday night I went to dinner and shopping with a group of girls (also international students) in the Hongdae neighborhood. Hongdae is an area known for its nightlife, and is extremely popular with college students (there are several universities nearby). The girls and I had delicious Korean-style BBQ chicken for dinner, supplemented with street food of course! We enjoyed several different street performances (dancing, rapping, singing). The majority of our shopping was done at local boutiques and stalls that line the streets.

One fashion trend that I noticed is the use of American cartoon characters on clothing and accessories. Some of the most popular characters used are Mickey/Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Bart Simpson, and Whinnie the Pooh. Keep in mind, these clothing items are made for adults, not kids, and they are meant to be fashion statements (as opposed to PJs or loungewear). I personally don’t feel I could pull off a cartoon cardigan, but I saw several Korean teens and twenty-somethings looking quite cute in these outfits! I can only speculate on the copyright laws (or lack of…?) that govern the use of these characters…

The atmosphere in Hongdae is amazing. Though many people go there to visit clubs and bars, many others go to enjoy the streets. One interesting feature is a playground/park with a jungle gym covered in graffiti…it seems that only musicians, never children, play there. On Sunday night I was unprepared to spend adequate time enjoying all the sights, but next time I will be ready! I look forward to visiting Hongdae many more times while in Seoul.

Lots of love from Seoul,

Maddie

My small piece about classes!

My first class is Fluid Mechanics. It is the study of water viscosity, flow through pipes and dams to give a few examples. My professor Joong Hoon Kim is kind of a fun guy and makes the class very interesting by making it relatable to the real world. His English is near perfect and funny enough he actually studied at the University of Texas at Austin!

My second class, Mechanics of Materials is good as well. It is the study of Materials that have a stress put on them but don’t move. My professor Yun-Jae Kim is also very good at English and is a nice guy. He also studied in America at Michigan and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The class is a recap of statics so far but should be interesting once we get into it.

My third class is Thermodynamics. The study of heat transfer which applies to almost all engineering systems. The professor Suk Goo Yoon is again, very good at English and has a funny personality. He always tries to get the class involved and makes fun of himself. He also has really cool concepts that I enjoy learning about. It’s a pretty fun class.

Fourth and finally, Dynamics. It is the study of objects in motion and the forces that act on them. This professor Shinsuk Park is probably the least fun. He is fine at his job and has great English but is kind of monotone and rambles. Seems hard to pick up on what he deems important. But, it should be fine.

My last class is a lab but I haven’t been to it yet. First day should be tomorrow and I hope it is good!

That’s all for me, I’m loving school here so far!

-Calum

Anyone a Studio Ghibli fan?

Well, we are!! It started out as a normal day, all we really had planned was to find Eat Your Kimchi’s (EYK) “You Are Here” café and go for a walk. (For those that don’t know EYK is a YouTube blogger profile run by a Canadian couple that lives in Korea.) Well as we were eating, our friend from the goshiwon, Rhia (from the UK!), asked if we would like to join her in going to the studio Ghibli exhibit that was on. Also noting that it was the last day it was open. Of course we decided to go and in thirty minutes we left. The exhibit took a little effort to find but after wandering various floors of the mall it was hosted in we found it. The outside of the exhibit had all the posters of the films that studio Ghibli had produced and I even saw some movies that I somehow hadn’t seen.  I took note to watch then later as we went into the exhibit. DSC01514DSC01511

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Maddie’s favorite!

DSC01515 To be honest some of the character models looked a bit odd and it was a short exhibit for the price but it was still well put together and was very cool. There was a fully moving model of Howl’s moving castle and a sleeping Totoro to name a few. It also luckily wasn’t too crowded for being that last day open. Needless to say it was well worth it.

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Blurry but still a good frame… (Thanks for inviting us, Rhia!)

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😀

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Blurry Totoro

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Couldn’t take videos but it moved back and forth

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Maddie and CALcifer 😉

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Shhhhh…

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Awkward Ashitaka…

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Maddie + Rhia

DSC01559 DSC01555    DSC01517_1       DSC01557 DSC01558    DSC01553 DSC01551 DSC01548 DSC01547 DSC01546 DSC01528 DSC01530 DSC01541   DSC01521 DSC01526     When we first went in we were given a blank white sticker, we finally found out why they gave it to us. Outside the gift shop there was a big wall that you could draw something on and add your sticker to it. There were many people who had drawn out their love of Ghibli and put it to the wall. We added our stickers too with what we could draw best. Mine wasn’t so good….oh well…                                                                                              After that we said goodbye to Rhia and headed towards the You Are Here café.

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My little dude, drawn with a fading marker

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Maddie’s drawing there in the middle. MCR was Maddie, Calum and Ria. Not My Chemical Romance….

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Fun to look at this wall

DSC01566DSC01573DSC01569 DSC01567 Again we had trouble but this time with the trains. It made it a little harder to find the “You Are Here” cafe but eventually we did. It was a really cool café, neat models and stuff from EYK everywhere. We got some food and relaxed there for a while. (The way I write about food is this- We had sandwiches, coffee, milkshake. Eat. Nom.) It was interesting seeing something that I’ve only seen in YouTube videos, in person. Watching them from the USA it seemed very far away before. For some reason I don’t think my body has fully registered that I am in South Korea yet… Also, they have a booth there that they have people who visit the shop record themselves in. They have a video once a week of the people who do this so I hopefully we will be in one of their youtube videos soon! DSC01575DSC01577 That’s it, quick update of what happened before classes started. Next…what the classes are like….   -Calum

We Love KU!!

 

Hello, My Name Is…

 

Our looooong winter break is about to come to an end!

On Monday and Tuesday of this week we had international student orientation, beginning at 9am each day. In some ways, it was like being freshmen again. We applied for our student ID and bank card, we learned the rules for adding/dropping classes, and we had a short campus tour. Oh, and every bit of info was presented in at least two languages.

At the beginning of orientation we were sorted into our KUBA groups (KUBA stands for Korea University Buddy Assistant) and we met with our Korean buddies. Calum was assigned to group 2, and I am part of group 3. Our buddies were by our side for the entire two days, helping us with everything from ordering food in the school cafeteria to accessing the KU version of Blackboard. My buddy, Jessie (this is her English name), is so very sweet and helpful! I also love the other four girls who are assigned to her as well…I have feeling we will have a lot of good times together in our small group. Each of us represents a different country; Korea, USA, Hong Kong, Canada, China and Sweden.

My large KUBA group, group 3, has over 80 members (international and Korean students included). We went out to dinner on Tuesday night, and honestly, it was a bit overwhelming! Everyone had to shout in order to be heard. However, I still had the chance to make many new and interesting acquaintances. I even had the chance to practice my Spanish with a couple of students from Chile and Mexico!

After all these introductions and new faces, I am feeling a bit exhausted! I usually consider myself to be a very extroverted person, but the combination of being in a new country and meeting (literally) dozens of new people is tiring, even for me. Now I understand how my international student friends from UNT feel! Still, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Congratulations!!

 

Today we had the honor of visiting our friends SungSu and JungMin on the day of their graduation. (They took a few pictures with their cameras and phones, and we will post them as soon as they are available)

This was our first time seeing JungMin since December 2013, and her graduation made the reunion extra sweet. “JM”, I hope we can spend a lot of time together while Calum and I are in Korea! ❤

SungSu’s family was gracious enough to invite us to have lunch with them in celebration of SungSu’s graduation. This is our third meal with them since arriving in Korea. We are so thankful for their generosity. We can feel their kindness and we enjoy spending time with them, despite the language barrier. Hopefully in a few months we will be able to express our feelings to them better in Korean!

We would like to congratulate both of our amazing friends, and give them our best wishes for the future. Your friendship is invaluable to us. Congrats, you did it!!

Skiing in Korea and the Lunar New Year

(Credit to SungSu Kim for many of the amazing skiing pics and pics at the resort) 🙂

Skiing, But in Korea!

These past few days Korea has been preparing for their new year. Or specifically, the Lunar New Year. This is a time to get together with family to celebrate and to have special meals for the occasion. We had the privilege this year to go with Sungsu Kim and celebrate with his family at Vivaldi Park. It was a nice skiing resort and it was also fun because we got to travel further into the mainland of Korea. The adventure started off with us packing up and taking the subway to the “Sports Complex” stop. The reason for the name of the stop remained a mystery until we got there. Turns out it was the site for the 1988 Summer Olympics. There were multiple stadiums and courts all around. I don’t have a picture of this however because we were a little late in getting to the sports complex stop and as we met Sungsu we immediately boarded the bus to Vivaldi Park. Which by the way was free! The hour and twenty minute bus ride was free for all three of us, pretty cool. The area outside of Seoul started to look more and more like it had been described to us; A very tall mountainous country. As we headed along the highway there were rivers, parks and shops all along the way. English text slowly started to be more scarce than it is in Seoul too…

DSC01446 DSC01453 DSC01452DSC01456 When we got to the park we were very much impressed. There was the tall mountain on our right which the ski slopes were and seemingly as tall of resort hotels on our left. We went into the “Maple” resort and headed up to Sungsu’s family’s room. Upon getting there we got to meet his family-Mom, Dad, Uncle, Aunt and Grandma. They were all very nice and through a little Korean and English were able to say hello and such. The fact that his uncle spoke a good amount of English and Sungsu was there to translate for us through the evening really made it work. Sungsu’s grandma, or “halmoni”, was especially sweet. She kept encouraging us to eat more food and complimenting us on our looks. Hehe. Then, the dinner…I have to say right now this was one of the most interesting things I have ever experienced. We sat down at the table with Kimchi, pork, greens, lettuce, dumplings, Kimchi pancakes, rice and much more. The food was placed in the middle and the style was to take (with chopsticks) what you wanted and bring it to your plate. What made it really different was how involved everyone was, Sungsu’s relatives were all encouraging us to try this and that, it seemed like so much was constantly moving. Also, we were trying to abide by customs such as taking a drink facing away from those that are older than you. The food was different but it was soooo good. Sungsu’s grandma made the Kimchi-buckwheat pancakes, and they were amazing! They were my personal favorite of all the foods. Sungsu’s Mom, aunt and grandma are all very talented cooks. Everything was very tasteful and the dessert was tangerines and parsimonies. Sungsu’s uncle was the life of the table especially being able to speak English well enough to tell jokes. The things he told us about Korea were very interesting!

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After that it was time to go skiing, we suited up and rented our gear (again at the kindness of Sungsu’s family). Now, I have been skiing a good amount of times before but it was Madeline’s first time skiing ever. For the sake of trying something new I rented out a snowboard instead of skis as well. Bunny slope time! For having to start from not knowing what we were doing at all I would say that Madeline picked up skiing pretty well. Her stopping power may not have been the most perfect but she learned very quickly how to get down the slope without falling. I was doing ok with the snowboard. I figured out how to ride pretty easily and with Sungsu’s help to switch off my feet. However, I did fall a lot because I expected to have the same ability to stop and such like with skis and I didn’t have it; at least not at my experience level. After falling and hurting my wrist I was able to switch to skis so that I could do something more comfortable and enjoy myself more. Maybe I will try snowboarding again another day, but I didn’t feel as though it would be as fun for me. Having my feet both locked together on a board wasn’t so easy. We then moved to a bigger slope and started to ski down it. It was a lot more fun and we went down it a bunch of times. Maddie was having trouble going down in the most controlled fashion but made it work. I talked to her about slaloming down the hill instead of going straight down. That’s when trouble hit. Ok, maybe not that bad, but as I was skiing in front of Maddie and making my way down the hill. As I looked back for her, instead of seeing her skiing behind me I look just in time to see her crash through the side fence. It was honestly a little heart stopping. I stopped on the side, threw off my gloves, ski poles and skis and ran back up the hill towards her. Sungsu was above us so he got over there pretty quick. Both of her skis had come off and her glasses were on the ground (surprisingly unbroken) a nearby slope worker saw what happened and called the snowmobile. She asked me if her eyes were dilated and seemed very shaken up. Even though I was fully conscious, I was paranoid that I could have a concussion, so I asked Calum to check my eyes. The snowmobile came and we got her on it. I grabbed the poles, skis and gloves and started down the mountain after it. Smart Sungsu put on his snowboard and rode down but I got down fast enough. After getting checked out and multiple blood pressure checks it was shown that she was fine. Though she was a little bruised it wasn’t a big injury. She still had a lot of fun though! I’m making a full recovery, haha. Looking back at it now she really didn’t do anything that bad but it was scary at the time.

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She’s Skiing!

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That happened a lot for me. One of the only ways to be still.

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After that we exited the slope, went back to the room and ordered a little food. At Sungsu’s request, we had Korean fried chicken, and it was so good! Not long after we went to bed to rest. The next day we had the traditional mandoo soup (Dumpling soup) that is customary on new years day. Kind of the like black eyed peas that Madeline’s family does on new years day in America. We said our goodbyes to Sungsu’s family and got back on the free bus to Seoul. We will definitely see Sungsu again while we were here and it was one of the best times I’ve had. Definitely a unique experience to say the least. We are so thankful to Sungsu and his family for giving us this opportunity. We are so very fortunate. Happy New Years to anyone who follows the lunar calendar by the way!

-Calum

With input from Maddie