Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sookmyung Saturday #1: Free Korean class and good food

Today I bussed into Seoul (1.5 hrs?) to meet up with some other TTGs from UW.  We met at noon and walked around the Itaewon district, which is filled with international restaurants and souvenirs.  We had durum kebab at a Turkish place (yum), but it wasn't as good as in Madrid (they didn't even have baklava!).  Later we stopped at an Irish pub for a drink:

Check out the tangle of electric wires just outside the windows up there:

Then we headed to Sookmyung Women's University for their free Korean classes that are offered on Saturdays from 15:00 - 17:00 (and taught by volunteers).  They had run out of books for the beginner's (Hangul -- alphabet) class by the time we got there, but I had brought an old class book with me, left behind by the girl before me.  So far I haven't noticed any differences between the two versions, so I'm not sure if I'll buy a new book next week or not.

I wasn't impressed at all with the teacher, but what can you really expect from a free (1,000 Won =  > $1 USD) class?  I guess she wasn't the regular teacher either, so maybe it will be better next week.  Some of the Korean sounds are really hard to differentiate!  There are two that sound exactly like t, two that sound exactly like p, etc., and oh the vowels!  So I'm trying to listen to youtube videos, but I would like to find something where a native English speaker explains the difference between the sound of certain letters, because they would know where we're coming from.

After the class we went to eat with other TTGs.  We were also joined by a girl from UW who stayed in Korea and is starting her second year here.  She was so helpful and willing to answer any questions.  She also did the ordering for us at this restaurant!  I'm not sure of the correct name for this style of restaurant, but you order raw meat, and then grill it yourself at the table.  Here are some photos:

Update 6/18/16: This style of restaurant is Korean barbecue, which has an entire section in my Beginner's Guide to Korean Food and Restaurants!

After dinner we went for some ice cream at a nearby place.  It was neat because they make the ice cream right then and there for you behind the counter:

Seconds before I took that picture (above), the mixer was overflowing with what looked like cold steam/fog.  My guess is that it was from dry ice?  Or something.  You can only see a little bit of it in the middle mixer now.

I got mocha chocolate chip:

Mocha chocolate chip ice cream at Voilà
Then it was time for me to head home.  I knew a bus left a nearby station at 8pm.  I got to the bus stop at about 8:03, and the electronic sign said the next bus would come in 74 minutes.  I had to do a double take, because I wasn't expecting that long of a wait at all!  Other buses on the sign had 5 - 20 min estimated arrival times.  I thought about my options for a bit, then decided to go back into the metro to see if I could take the metro to one of the places my co-teacher had driven me the previous week (for the health test and residency card application), since I knew how to bus home from there.  Those buses would also take over an hour, but I thought it would be faster than sitting idle for over an hour before my bus came.

I figured out a route in the metro, but there were lots of transfers and many stops.  I was waiting a while for the first metro I needed, then I saw that it was 8:25 already.  I decided at that point it would take longer to take the metro than to just wait for this bus.  So I went back out to the bus stop to wait.  ETA 50 minutes when I returned.  I started to write in my notebook, knowing I had tons of time to kill.  My head happened to be up at the exact moment that I saw my bus pulling in!  This was at 8:40!  I felt so lucky, and glad I'd only had to wait about 30 minutes instead of 74.  Once I have my residency card I can get a cell phone plan (with data), which will supply me with many awesome transportation apps.  These will tell me exactly when the next bus will come, so I won't have to deal with that situation again!

The highlight of my bus ride was when an older Korean man sitting next to me gave me a thumbs up when he saw me practicing writing the Korean alphabet.  Thanks for the encouragement!

The Seoul metro was excellent today, just as I'd heard it would be.  I keep comparing everything to Madrid (the schools, the teaching, the metro), and already Seoul's metro is superior.  There are bathrooms in the metro!  Free, clean bathrooms with toilet paper! (No bathrooms in Madrid's metro).  I'll save my other metro observations for another post.  But know that it was great to be in a big city again, both above ground on the streets and down in the metro.  I'm really looking forward to discovering Seoul on the weekends.
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