Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sookmyung Saturday #5: Level 1 and fireworks

Last week after finishing the fourth and final week of our beginner Hangul class, we were told that by passing a test we could begin Level 1 today.  So, those of us who have been coming to class regularly met up before class today for lunch at our kimbap place, and then we did some studying.  My Hangul friends and I were basically trying to learn the numbers (Korean and Chinese).  I just wanted to learn 1-10 in each.

Turns out we didn't have to take any sort of test at all, we were just given the Level 1 book (for free, since we attended all four weeks of Hangul) and told we could attend that class today.  Except Level 1 is an 8 week class, so they were on class 5 today!  We still went, it was just uh, kind of scary and overwhelming when in Hangul class we learned letters and numbers.  My brain was fried after the first hour, and there was still a second hour to go.  For real, my brain turned to mush -- all my energy was sucked away during the first half of class.

My current plan is to finish the second half of level 1, and then start at the beginning and do the whole 8-week level 1 course when the next session starts in four weeks.  So I'll take level 1 one and a half times.  I figure the more exposure, the better.  Have to learn my basics before I can build up!

Saturday evening was Seoul's 11th annual International Fireworks Festival.  Along with Korea, there were fireworks from Canada, Japan, and France.


We stopped by the park after class to grab some street-vendor dinner and watch some of the fireworks.  I only stayed for the first little show, since it would be a long trip back home.  I went into Seoul on Friday, too, (banking and trying to get a cell phone plan) and making the trip two days in a row was twice as exhausting.  

While waiting for the show to start, I bought corn on the cob from a vendor right by the curb we were sitting on.  Looked just like American corn on the cob.  But when I took my first bite, there was a hint of rice in the taste.  And by the second bite, I realized the kernels were not light at all, but rather heavy -- as if they were filled with rice.  It was so bizarre. And not the most pleasant thing to eat.  I'd wanted something light to top off my dinner, but this was not at all the right food to have bought.  I got a can of sweet corn the other day from the grocery store.  I'm curious to see if it's "normal" corn, or this strange Korean "rice" corn, as I've dubbed it.  Anyone know more about Korean corn?

Korean corn on the cob
Looks like corn on the cob... does not taste like corn on the cob

Leaving the fireworks was the worst experience I've had in quite some time.  It took a half an hour to get from the subway entrance (above ground) to the train (three flights of stairs underground).  This would normally take three minutes tops.  The thing is there were thousands of people still coming to the fireworks, trying to exit the station.  And thousands of people trying to leave via metro.  We were so smooshed inside the station -- so, so crowded.  Way more crowded than the metro in Madrid after the Cabalgatas de los Reyes Magos (photo on post).  And it was hot down there with all of the people. So many people and no air flow.  

There were crying infants in their mothers' arms.  The mothers tried fanning the hot air on them, or blowing into their faces.  People would push and push, so you had little control over where you went.  It was like a mosh pit in a small enclosed space.  I started to get claustrophobic and was surprised nobody had fainted yet.  If we all needed to leave, there was no way to move. We were packed so tightly with no space to get out.  Please don't be the first one to faint, I kept telling myself as I drenched my clothes in sweat.  So. Many. People. crammed into this small space.  And more kept coming in, trying to get to the train as I was. While more kept arriving down below, wanting to exit and watch the fireworks.  Both directions battled to claim more space inside the metro.

The most space I ever had was on the stairs, while walking down.  That's also where I tried to snap a quick picture (super blurry), but it's down below (and above) where it was the most crowded. Our few precious moments on the stairs were when I could breathe a bit.

So, I entered the subway to leave the fireworks around 8:00pm, caught my bus home at 9:03pm, and arrived at home around 10:45pm ready to pass out.
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