Saturday, March 31, 2007

홍대 프리마켓

Last Saturday evening while I was walking in the streets outside of Hongik University (홍익대-弘益大學) I came across this flea market inside the Hongdae Park. It was quite a small area. Things sold there were quite unique. A surprise find.

This is the Hongdae Park's Flea Market. I am not too sure if the "Free Market" was written intentionally but things were definitely not free there.
Those canvas shoes look as if they are hand-painted. The big building in the background marks the main entrance of Hongik University. The flea market was the first place I visited after exiting from Hongik Uni campus
The park toilets are situated behind the graffiti-painted wall. You can actually have a good view of the flea market activity by climbing up that slide.

Friday, March 30, 2007

새로운 마음으로 시작

Picture taken at Namchuncheon Station during sunset


Thursday, March 29, 2007

오스빌 기숙사

This clock is placed beside the main door of Osvill dormitory. I have to walk pass it multiple times everyday. It has a temperature gauge. In the photo, the gauge is reading -14 deg Celsius. However, the actual temperature then was probably about -4 deg Celsius or else I would have been frozen. I wasn't expecting such cold weather in March. Fortunately, I read the weather forecast and brought along my winter coat. As predicted, it snowed in Seoul the next day after I took this photo.

This is the U-Yong Osvill dormitory for foreign students. I took this photo from the platform of Hoegi station. It is less than 5 minutes walk from the dormitory to Hoegi station. From the photo, I can identify my room. It is the one with two window panes opened. Although the weather was cold, I have no problem opening my windows to let the cold air in. I slept well with the windows opened.

This is the basement of Osvill. Down there, I could get my laundry washed by the washing machine for 1,000won. For another 1,000won I could dry it in the heat dryer. There were exercise machine like treadmill which I didn't use. Sometimes, I would spend my night watching TV programme from the large screen rear-projection TV. Although there was a TV in my room, I usually felt bored watching TV alone. Internet was available but because of poor maintenance those computers at the basement were working at crawling speed. There were also a billiard table and a vending machine. I would spend 500won daily at the vending machine to get myself a can of orange juice. That would be my daily Vitamin C intake.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

회기역까지 가까워

Train stopping at Hoegi Station.

This is Hoegi station (회기역-回基驛) as seen from the window of my room. Despite living so near to a subway station, I never felt that it was noisy. I slept well every night and woke up fresh in the morning. The cold weather helped me to sleep well. After returning to Singapore, I need my air-con to be on every night before I can fall asleep. I think I need some time to acclimatise back to the tropical heat.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

한국의 디저트

What will I do when the weather is cold? I will go for "Bingsu" (빙수-氷水). Sound strange but that was what I did exactly.

Tower Bingsu from Iceberry

Tower Bingsu (타워빙수) from Iceberry. The "tower" is made up of four layers. Top layer is green tea-flavour shaved ice. Second layer is cream. Third layer is raspberry-flavour shaved ice and the bottom layer, strawberry-flavour. Frankly, it didn't taste as good as its look.

Yogurt Bingsu for 4 person from Lovice

Yogurt Bingsu for 4 persons from Lovice. To eat this dessert the local way, we were supposed to mix the yogurt, shaved ice and fruits thoroughly. I was quite reluctant to do so though as it "destroyed" the nice-looking bingsu. For reason I do not know, bingsu is always served with bread or bun in Korea.

Monday, March 26, 2007

슬픈 이별

I am finally back in Singapore and to reality. If leaving KHU was not sad enough perhaps the two movies I watched on the return flight did it. The "Holy Father" (원탁의 천사), a sad Korean movie, has a father who passed away but whose soul chose to return to be the friend of his son only to leave him again when he finally earned the respect and love of his son. The Japanese movie "Tears for You" or "Nada Sou Sou" (涙そうそう) was equally sad with a caring and responsible orphan who worked so hard to the detriment of his health in the hope of bringing a better life to his step-sister. Similar to both movies, the point of departure was the most heart-wrenching moment. If at every departure, the love goes with it, then life will be lesser of a pain. But most often than not, love stays and the pain continues. How then to stop those tears from coming out? Perhaps I should try pinching my nose like what Yota's mother taught him in Nada Sou Sou.

[Left] Holy Daddy, 원탁의 천사 and [Right] Tears for You, 涙そうそう

Friday, March 23, 2007

잊을 수 없는 Memory

This will be my last posting from Korea. For those things that I have not have the time to write, I will write about them subsequently. Just a short summary about the course. The 3 weeks course at Kyung Hee has brought me a lot of happy memories. In particular, I have made new friends and got to know more good teachers. I also realised that it is much harder to differentiate between Korean, Japanese and Chinese Singaporean than I thought. There were also some regrets but too little to mention. I am definitely going to think fondly about this course for a long time to come. With that, this is Equinox, signing off from Korea ^^

안녕~ 잘가

Its time to say goodbye although it was never easy. Everyone was presented with their certificate of completion at the closing ceremony. Director Kim of Institute of International Education, in his closing speech, reminded us that we were now considered "the people of Kyung Hee" and part of the Kyung Hee family. To mean what he said, he asked us to repeat "경희인" word-by-word after him.

Because of his recent visit to Singapore, he also took the opportunity to talk about his trip. He mentioned that he was very surprised to know that National University of Singapore has over 8,000 students and that there were over thousands of people in Singapore learning Korean. He then asked us Singapore students whether we would come back to Kyung Hee to study. Of course, we said "yes" obligingly. Frankly, we do meant what we said.

We started with a lunch after the opening ceremony 3 weeks ago and we got to end our course with another lunch. The lunch was the last opportunity for us to take photos before everything was gone. The lunch didn't really taste as good as the lunch after the opening ceremony but I didn't think anyone really care. After the lunch, we had to say our final goodbye and that marked a final end to our 3 weeks course in Kyung Hee.

이별 전에

Today was the last day in school. We went to class at 10am to do our course and teacher evaluation. I have nothing except very good to say about the course. While doing our evaluation, our teacher, Yun Sang Chul gave out blank paper to everyone and asked us to write our name and passed it around for others to write about something about us. These were what I received,

3주일 동안 너무 재미있었어요!! 앞으로도 한국어 공부를 열심이하세요!! - 키쿠치 노리코

언제도 미소가 멋있었요. 언제까지나 멋있는 미소를 잊어버리면 안돼! 안돼! - 사야카

같이 공부를 할 수 있으니까 아주 재미있었어요! 만나서 반가워요. 행복하세요. - 이나가키 노리코

싱가포르에 돌아가도 열심히 공부하세요! 나를 잊지 마세요~!!ㅋㅋㅋ - 아키코

만나서 반갑습니다. 3주일 동안 같이 공부해서 너무 즐거웠어요! You look very nice. Your voice is nice too! 앞으로도 열심히 공부하세요! - 이토가 리에

감사합니다. 한국말을 너무 잘 해요~!! - 카나코

자리가 옆에서 정말 재미있었습니다. 앞으로도 열심히 공부합시다! - 사토 히토미

앞으로도 한국어 공부파이팅~!! - 요시다 게이코

99살? 정말? 여러 가지도 신세 많이 줬습니다. 재미있었어요. - 오강경

저는 너에 발표가 듣고 싶었습니다! 싱가포르에 돌아가도 우리들을 잊지 마세요~! - 이영명

마지막party에서 영어 가르쳐 줘서 고마워요!! 또 만나요. 3주간 감사합니다! - 사오리

Hello...Had enjoyed myself this 3 about you? Thanks for bringing us to so many places this time round...haha...열심히 공부해요... - 오징어

Thanks for being so willing to bring us to those places that we wanted to go. Can see that you are a kind and honest person besides the serious part of you. For all your care and kindness, many thanks again! Oh, if not for you, would not know that there are so many nice places to eat ice-cream. I will introduce those places to my friends if I do come to Korea again. You have improved much in the Korean language and I believe you will progress even more in the future. All the best to your achieving proficiency in the Korean language. - 임펄

I just want to say,

여러분, 많이 좋은 말을 써서 매우 감사합니다! 3주일 동안 같이 공부할 수 있어서 너무 행복해요. 앞으로도 여러분을 잊어버리지 않을 거예요. 꼭 연락해요. 건강하시고 행복하세요. 안녕~ 잘가! - 이퀴녹

마지막 수업

On Thursday, we have our last day of lesson as well as a class gathering. The meeting time for gathering was 6pm and the venue was the main gate of Kyung Hee. The main gate is almost like a default meeting place for Kyung Hee students. Every evening there would many students waiting for one another at the gate.

It was hard to write my feeling about the gathering especially when there were so many. The gathering might perhaps be the last time I would meet my class partner, Mika. She would be leaving for Japan before the closing ceremony to prepare for her graduation ceremony on Saturday. I remember the first time we met was during the group photo-taking session after the opening ceremony. She was standing beside me complaining about the cold weather. Indeed the weather was very cold that day. It was snowing while our group photo was taken.

All the teachers who took us for the lessons and the field trips were also present at the gathering. It really showed the closeness in relationship between the teachers and students. The "cool-looking" guy (the man with his hand holding his chin) in the photo above was our teacher Yun Sang Chul. He took us for lesson everyday. I cannot think of other better descriptions of him except "멋있어요" and "잘 생긴 남자". He just got extra "high" when people described him that way. There was one thing he said during class that kinda caught on me. He was describing his trip to Argentina. As he was travelling in Argentina, he saw so many horses and cows along the way and it was like "말,말,말,소,소,소,말,말,말,소,소,소" (말-horse, pronounced as "mal" and 소-cow, pronounced as "so"). Guess what? From then on, when my Singapore friends asked me "so?" as in "so, what's next?" I would go "소,소,소,말,말,말,소,소,소" before answering them. I am so childish.

가고 싶지 않아

Weather was getting warmer these days. It was raining a little on Wednesday morning and I did not bother taking out my umbrella. My morning mostly began with a stop by the Isaac Toast for a "special toast". The ajumma knew me so well that I did not even need to tell her my order and she would say "special toast?" - 네.

We finally received the pottery we made during our field trip to Icheon. My "masterpiece" turned out better than I thought. I am thinking now of what I should use it for. Perhaps I shall use it as a flower vase or pen holder. Or maybe use it to grow beansprout. Whatever it may be, it is a nice present to keep as memory for the course.

On Wednesday, I had two meal appointments. One was lunch with our teacher Ms Cheon to repay her hospitality and the other was dinner with my previous dowoomi. We knew that Ms Cheon like Italian food so went to Della Pasta. This was our first pizza and pasta meal since we arrived in Korea although there were many of such Italian restaurants around.

I did not contact my previous dowoomi when I came to Kyung Hee. However, we met on the street last week accidentally and she questioned me why I didn't contact her. I was at a loss of word. Well, there will always be people who you will bend to meet and there are people who you will never get to meet. Since we have met so I called her out for a dinner. During the dinner, I found out she had taken a break from her final-year study. She was preparing to go Tokyo to study Japanese language for one year under FM scholarship. As it is known in Korea, FM scholarship means scholarship given by Father and Mother. What a lucky girl she is.

Talking about dowoomi, I didn't get to meet my new dowoomi for this course. He was currently taking a study break to do his national service. I tried to arrange to meet him twice but he was not free on both occasions. He suggested to meet this Sunday night. All I can say is "안녕히 계세요" as I will be leaving Korea on Sunday afternoon flight. Well, there maybe some truth when some people say that old is sometimes better than new.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

정문앞에 만났어

On Tuesday afternoon, I went to Apgujeong again. This time I finally got to the right part of Apgujeong where branded shops, high-class cafes and flagship stores were found. I was definitely out-of-place in Apgujeong. The only thing that attracted me to Apgujeong was the building design, layout and decor. I wasn't disappointed though I would have wished to have more time to roam the streets of Apgujeong. However, we had a gathering with teacher Kim Minjae at 6pm so I only had about 2 hours in Apgujeong before leaving. I took some pictures of the shops at Apgujeong but I thought they didn't really capture the "essence" of Apgujeong.

The evening gathering was a gathering of NEX students studying at Kyung Hee and Sogang and we were all the ex-students of teacher Kim when she was teaching Korean at NUS Extension. Altogether, six of us went to a Korean restaurant which was just a short walk away from the main gate of Kyung Hee. We had "닭한마리" which literally means one chicken. It was some sort of chicken stew that came with a lot of cut potatoes. We were told not to eat the potato as the ajumma would scold anyone who did that. The potato was meant to be left until the end when they would be mashed together with the cooked rice added. The dinner was a treat by teacher Kim. It was a fulfilling dinner and I meant not just the food but also the company.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

김치팅 이겨라

This is our last week at Kyung Hee. There will be another three days of lesson and everything will be wrapped up by then. The closing ceremony is on Friday. As usual our Monday morning started with four hours of lesson with 10 minutes of rest in between lessons. In the afternoon, we had our last culture programme which was about Korean games. The teacher who took us was Ms. Kim Nang Ye (김낭예). We were split into two teams "Kimchi" and "Kimbap" through a game of 가위, 바위, 포 (or Scissor, Paper, Stone). I won the game and was placed in the Kimchi team. The 내기 or bet for the afternoon was loser would buy winner a can of drink each.

제기차기 - Shuttlecock Kicking

제기 or Jegi is something like shuttlecock but not quite like it. 차기 or Chagi means kicking. Jegi is not made from bird feathers like the "capteh" we are used to in Singapore. Instead it is made from shiny strips used in pom pom ball. That has kinda of made it less buoyant in air than "capteh" and we have to kick the Jegi at faster pace to keep it in the air. Singaporeans simply outplayed others in this game. Not even Ms Kim was our match. But that was because we have similar game in Singapore. The result for this game, Kimbap team won.

닭싸움 - Chicken Fight

닭 (pronounced as "dak") means chicken and 싸움 is the noun-form of the verb stem 싸우다 which means "to fight". To be exact, we played the game like a one-legged chicken. Standing on one leg with the other leg bent, we were supposed to "fight" one-to-one using our bent knee. The bent knee, I suppose is to simulate the beak of the chicken. As we pushed each other with our knee, it was like two chicken pecking at one another. The game ended when one person stood on two legs or fell to the ground. The winner would be the one who remained standing on one leg throughout. For this game, Kimchi team won.

공기놀이 - Pebble Game

공기 (Gong-gi) means something like pebble. 놀이 (Nori) simply means game. Gong-gi Nori is very similar to the "five-stones game" which was once popular in Singapore. In the five-stones game there is 8 levels to complete while in Gong-gi Nori there is only 5 levels. We didn't actually used pebbles to play the game. Instead it was some pellet-sized plastic pieces filled with iron filing. The plastic surface was quite smooth and we had some problem grabbing the pieces during play. The winner was determined by the number of pieces a team could grab in the fifth level. For that level, we first placed the five pieces of "pebble" in our palm and then pushed them into the air by jerking our stretched-out palm slightly. While the pieces were in the air, we had to quickly flip our hand and catch as many dropping pieces as possible with the back of our hand. Next, the remaining pieces were pushed up into the air again and we had to grab as many as possible of the remaining pieces using our hand. The number of pieces grabbed gave the points for the game. One piece gave one point. Kimchi team was the winner for this game.

윷놀이 - "Yut" Game

The game of "Yut" was played with 4 yut sticks and a game board. Each yut stick has a flat and a round surface. When the 4 yut sticks are thrown, they need to stay within a marked-out area. Any yut stick that falls outside the zone, the throw is considered unsuccessful and no re-throw is given. Trust me, it is easy for the yut sticks to fall outside the marked-out area. There are five outcomes when the four yut sticks are thrown. They are 도 (one flat surface up), 개 (2 flat surface up), 걸 (3 flat surface up), 윷 (all flat surface up) and 모 (all flat surface down). 도 is like one point on the dice, 개 is two, 걸 is three, 윷 is four and 모 is five. When the outcome is either a 윷 or 모, the player get an extra throw. Each point received will allow the chip on the board to move one step. The first team to get all their chips to the ending point will be the winning team. Kimbap team won the first game to draw Kimchi team with a 2: 2 scoreline. We played an additional game of yut to determine the final winner. Kimbap team looked almost like winning the second game until we hit two 모 consecutively to over-turn the table. It was a "hair-line" finishing for the Kimchi team. The final result was Kimchi team won and we got our can of drink from the Kimbap team.

얼음땡 - Ice "Ddaeng"

We were introduced five other games which were not part of the competition between the Kimchi and Kimbap team. We played three games and Ms Kim explained the other two games verbally. One of those games that we played was 얼음땡. 얼음 means ice and 땡 is just a sound and has no special meaning. The game was played with one catcher and the rest as "escapees". The game is very much like the "Police and Thief" game we played in Singapore. The catcher is supposed to catch an escapee. However the escapees can avoid being caught when the catcher is near by shouting "얼음". When the escapees call out "얼음", they can no longer move and neither can the catcher catch them. The "frozen" escapees can move again only after they are "ddaeng" or touched by other escapee. The catcher must catch an escapee before he or she shout out "얼음". Once an escapee is caught, he or she will become the next catcher. We played this game in the IIE auditorium which was kinda of small. In spite of that it was still difficult for the catcher to catch an escapee.

여우야 여우야 - Fox

여우 means fox. "여우야 여우야" is something like "fox ah, fox ah" in Singlish. This game is played with one person acting as the fox while the rest as frogs. It also has a nursery rhyme to go with it. The game starts with the "fox" and "frogs" set distance apart. As the "frogs" sing the nursery rhyme, they move closer and closer to the fox. The nursery rhyme goes like that:

Frog: 여우야 여우야 뭐하니 (Fox, what are you doing?)
Fox: 잠 잔다 (I am sleeping.)
Frog: 잠꾸러니 (You are a sleepyhead.)

Frog: 여우야 여우야 뭐하니 (Fox, what are you doing?)
Fox: 세수한다(I am washing up.)
Frog: 멋쟁이 (You are a dude.)

Frog: 여우야 여우야 뭐하니 (Fox, what are you doing?)
Fox: 밥 먹는다 (I am eating rice.)
Frog: 무슨 반찬 (What side dish does you have?)
Fox: 개구리 반찬 (Frog side dish.)

Frog: 죽었니? 살았니? (Dead or Alive?)
Fox: 죽었니 / 살았니 (Dead / Alive)

By the time the "frogs" ask the "fox" the question "dead or alive?", they will be quite close to the "fox". The "fox" can choose between saying "dead" and "alive". If he or she says "dead!", no one is supposed to move. Whoever moves will be considered "dead" and has to become the next "fox". However, when he or she says "alive", all the "frogs" must run for their life. The person caught by the "fox" will be the next "fox".

3 6 9 게임 - 3 6 9 Game

The last game that we played for the day was the 3-6-9 game. This is a counting game. No one is supposed to call up the number which contains 3, 6 or 9 digit in it. Instead he or she should clap their hands if their number has 3, 6 or 9 digit. A person who call out the number which contains 3, 6 or 9 will be subjected to penalty. The penalty for losers was to use their buttock to write their name. It was embarassing but the losers were all game enough to play the penalty.

널뛰기 - See-Saw Jumping

널 is the Korean version of "see-saw". 뛰기 can mean running or jumping but in this case I think it should mean jumping. I guess many people have come across this traditional Korean game. What I did find interesting was the original purpose of playing this game. Ms Kim told us that long time ago, the social system in existence, did not allow Korean women to venture outside their house. In order to see the world outside the four walls, Korean women played 널뛰기. The harder they hit the see-saw, the higher her partner would fly and the further she would see. It was interesting to learn that 널뛰기 was a product of a feudalistic era.

깡통차기 - Kicking the Can

깡통 is something like a tin or a can. 차기 is kicking. Like in the case of 널뛰기, we did not play this game primarily because the IIE auditorium was too small Although the game is called "kicking the can", it is more like "hide and seek". Ms Kim explained that to play 깡통차기, a can is required to be placed beside the catcher. The rest of the people are supposed to find a place to hide while the catcher count to 10. Once the time is up, te catcher will go around finding the rest of the people. The catcher shall also ensure that nobody kick the can before he or she finds all the people. If the can is knocked down, the catcher will have to repeat the counting down process while the rest seek out new places to hide.

Final Words

It seemed like we spent the whole afternoon playing game. In fact the lesson only lasted for 2 hours. Language lesson was so much more fun with games. Just that afternoon, I learn a few more Korean words like 얼음, 여우 and 차다 which I think are words that are likely to stay in my mind. Looking back at all the four culture lessons that I had, those lessons which required participation, are those which I enjoyed more like Korean Game, Taekwondo and Korean Song. Korean Movie lesson though interesting is less memorable. I will be suggesting to include Korean Food as part of the culture lesson. Perhaps in future there maybe lesson on making Kimbap or Japchae. I think it will be interesting as student can enjoy cooking and eating at the same time.

Monday, March 19, 2007

천국의 계단

Getting to Muuido Island

It took us about 1 hour 20 minutes to travel from Hoegi to Incheon station. When we arrived at Incheon, we dropped by the tourist information centre, located just outside the station, to collect a map of Incheon and to confirm the way to Muuido Island (무의도-舞衣島). We boarded the bus no. 306 bound for Eulwangri Beach which is in Yeongjondo Island. Yeongjondo Island is the same island which Incheon International Airport is located.

The bus ride took about 1 hour. We manage to catch some sleep along the way. We alighted at Geojampo's T-junction. From there, we walked about 1km to get to the bridge that connects Yeongjondo Island and Jamjindo Island. The above sign was erected at the start-end of the bridge. It showed that we had to walk another 1.9km to get to the Jamjindo jetty where we would take our ferry to Muuido Island.

The above picture was taken on the bridge leading to Jamjindo Island. The road seemed to stretch to the horizon but it was not as long as thought.

It was low tide then and long stretch of mudflat was exposed. Groups of people were seen digging and filling their bucket with oysters, mussels and other mollusks. If you are into eating fresh mollusks, this is the place to come at low tide when you can eat all the mollusks you want and better still they are free. I went down to the mudflat to take a walk while waiting for the ferry.

The ferry could carry both people and vehicles. A round-trip ticket cost us 2,000won (S$3.30). It took only 5 minutes to cross the water between Jamjindo Island and Muuido Island. Upon landing at Muuido Island, we paid 1,000won for the bus to take us to Hanagae Beach. At the entrance to the Hanagae Beach we paid another 2,000won to gain entry. That was the first time I paid to get to a beach.

The House in "Stairway to Heaven"

Frankly, I never watch a single episode of the Korean drama "Stairway to Heaven". So when I was looking at the house, that appeared in the drama, all I can say is that it is indeed beautiful. I guess many people will like to live in such a house and I am no exception. Besides that, no storyline ran through my mind then so I cannot write about any special feeling.

Hanagae Beach

Hanagae Beach is famous because it is the filming site for "Stairway to Heaven". I especially like the large span of mudflat revealed during low tide. The unobstructed view and empty space make a day at the beach stress-free. The mudflat at Hanagae Beach kinda of remind me of a scene in Il Mare when the lead actor was playing solo football on a mudflat like that. It gave a sense of loneliness multiply many times by the large span of mudflat.

Chinatown in Incheon

When we arrived back at Incheon station, we visited the Chinatown located just opposite of the station. I felt there was an over-exaggeration of the "Chinese-ness" in the building and the goods sold on the street to the extent that the Chinatown looked so "un-Chinese". At least that was what I felt. I can now empathise with the Malaysia Chinese when they strongly opposed to the government plan to set up a Chinatown in Malaysia.

Yongsan Electronics Market

Yongsan Electronics Mart is like Funan IT Mall in Singapore but much bigger. We were there that evening to buy electronics dictionary. This gadget is almost indispensable when it comes to learning Korean. I always have my e-dictionary in front of me during lesson.

The GPS Navigator for car seems to be a hot-selling electronics gadget in Korea if the advertisement space they are given is anything to show. Cool gadget. Singapore should really look into developing such gadget for the Singapore and Malaysia roads. Time to get rid of those cumbersome street directorys.

There is no Nokia or Sony Ericsson handphones here but they definitely have more handphone designs in Korea. One floor in Yongsan is just dedicated to selling handphones.