Holiday plans…sort of

In Korea Christmas doesn’t seem to be a really big thing, what I mean by that is at my school we only have Christmas day off. And actually even for New Years we only have 2 days, we do have 3 days off for Chinese New Years in February though (although that fall during vacation so who cares really…). Anyway as I was saying it doesn’t seem to big a really big deal here, which seems kind of odd to me since a lot of Koreans are Catholic I think. I haven’t really seen any house decorations, I’ve seen a little but not to the extent that you would see in Canada or the US.

It’s fine with me really I don’t really do Christmas anyway, and I actually hate Christmas music (except for I think 3 songs). Back in Canada since my parents have been going to Florida every winter for the last few years so we don’t have any family events or anything; although I did go see them at Christmas a few times in Florida. I’m pretty sure my brother feels the same as me about Christmas (extra time off, yay!) so we don’t usually do anything either but we did go ice climbing last year which was an interesting experience.

Now that I am in Korea I still don’t really care much about Christmas which is reflected in the fact that I didn’t even realize that it was in less than 5 days. Anyway some of the girls I live with were talking about poutine the other day, and specifically about one restaurant. There is only one restaurant on Korea that we know of that makes proper poutine (with curd cheese), there is no curd cheese in Korea so this restaurant actually makes it’s own cheese. I went there once with some classmates who also wanted to try poutine, and it was pretty good. So my plans for Christmas day are to go to Itaewon to eat some poutine with some of the girls I live with. My new years plans are equally weird since I will be moving on New Years eve… More on that later, and pictures after I move of course 🙂

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Retest Update and the new semester

Like I said in a previous post, I’ve been lazy and haven’t been updating the blog much… Sorry for those who follow, I guess it’s been a little depressing lately. So I had my retest on Nov 28 since I failed my speaking test for level 2. The retest covered all of level 2 and so I basically spent all of my break studying for that and that’s also part of the reason I didn’t put anything up on the blog for a while.

I showed up for my retest fairly confident I suppose, I had studied mostly vocabulary since that is what I’d had the hardest time with in my previous tests. I went first of four other students for level 2 also doing the retest. The questions were actually pretty simple, nothing complicated or designed to confuse you or anything like that. There were questions on informal and indirect speech though and I got those all wrong… But I only realized that after walking out of the exam. Actually I was pretty convinced after walking out that I had failed miserably… and I had, I did terribly. And who wants to advertise, even to complete strangers that they failed? I certainly didn’t, I didn’t want to tell my friends either. Another reason I didn’t post for a while…

Anyway I suppose I’m over it now and the new semester started a week ago now it’s kind of boring thought since so far I remember all of the grammar and vocab. I still can’t speak very well though so I did start a language exchange program a few weeks ago and I’m hoping that will help me at least get some extra practice in. Oh, and since I’m redoing level 2 I’ll have to do the friggin’ singing contest again! I’m not looking forward to that, I’ll have to try to get my class to sing the same song as last time hehe cause then it will be easier for me… not sure it will work though…

Battleship Park

On Facebook I have a few pages that I follow in Seoul to know about some of the different touristy thins that take place around town that I may not know about otherwise. I saw a post not too long ago about battleship park. There are three retired ships in on of the Han river parks and this is a fairly new exhibit and so entrance was going to be free until Dec 3rd (it’s only like 3$ even now though so still not expensive). So obviously I was like, I have to go there before then, because I am a cheap person and I like free things 🙂 So last weekend off I went to find this park that wasn’t too far from my place and here are some pictures.

DMZ and JSA

I’ve been lazy lately and haven’t been updating the blog… I went to the DMZ a little while ago and also to the Joint Security Area (JSA) which is in the DMZ. The JSA is the only place in the DMZ where you can actually step foot into North Korea. We were literally right next to North Korea but we only saw one North Korean soldier since apparently the only time the soldiers are present is when they conduct their own tours. Yes, apparently North Korea also gives tours of the JSA. The only way to go to the JSA is to book a tour, the procedures to get into this area are quite strict and everyone’s identity was che

cked with passports and the passenger count was checked both when we entered the DMZ and when we left (in case anyone decided to go to the North, I guess?)

My tour was the whole day and also included a stop at the war memorial of Korea in the morning, Imjingak bridge (where we also had lunch) and the JSA in the afternoon. The tour departed from the President Hotel in Seoul at 9:50, and we were back there around 5pm. There are other tour options including visiting some of the tunnels that were dug by the North, it is also possible to visit some of the towns near the DMZ without a tour as well.

The stop at the war memorial was somewhat useless in my opinion since we only had 1 hour and our guide talked for about 20 mins so we really didn’t have much time to look around. The war memorial is pretty big and I think in itself would probably take a whole day to get through if you really wanted to look at everything. I don’t know if it was a special that day but they also had a free book available about the Korean war at the entrance in both Korean and English, I didn’t want to carry it all day so I didn’t pick one up. Since I plan to go back I hope they will still have the book available at that time. I’ll do another post about the war memorial when I go back but here are some of the pictures I took.

The next stop was lunch and Imjingak park. This park is located 10km from the DMZ and is a place where some of the separated families go sometimes to either tie ribbons to hope for reunification or have some of the ancestral rites as well. There are pictures of both of those places below.

The final stop before heading back to Seoul, was the JSA. On the way to the JSA our soldier tour guide gave us some information on the two only villages which are inside the DMZ. Both North and South Korea are allowed 1 village within the border of the DMZ, South Korea has Freedom Village (if I remember correctly) and North Korea has what is referred to as propaganda village. It is a phantom village in which no one lives and is meant to show off how “well off” the North is, it is in fact a fake village in which there aren’t even any windows. Unfortunately we did not get to see either of these villages.

The South’s village however is in fact inhabited and falls under the jurisdiction of the UN and so the men who live there are not required to serve in the military. This is the reason why women can marry into the village, but men cannot because some may try to avoid their military service by doing this. Most families farm in this village and farm areas much greater than the average Korean farmers and so make about 100k US/year, they also do not pay any federal taxes since they fall under UN jurisdiction. I thinks that’s everything that they told us about th village.

The rules about taking pictures while in the DMZ were pretty strict there were only three places where we could take pictures. The place where we arrived, the UN building which is half in North Korea and half in South Korea and just outside that building. On the bus ride to that location we were not allowed to take pictures. In the actual JSA we stayed 10 mins, I find there was a lot of hype about this tour for what it turned out to be in the end, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be, but it was interesting nonetheless.