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.

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Studying for the Retest… Sucks!

Next Tuesday I have my speaking retest that covers the entirety of level 2, which means that during my vacation I have been studying instead of touristing or resting which is really what I would like to be doing. I mean let’s face it who really want to be studying during their vacation… Actually I have one friend who really, really likes studying and spends her weekends and vacation studying. But let’s just agree that she’s the exception. Now if I had to study for any of the other tests: reading, listening or grammar this wouldn’t be so difficult but studying for speaking alone is really hard I mean how do you even practice speaking alone?

Actually I haven’t really been working on my speaking perse since my biggest issue is remembering vocabulary I’ve been trying to work on that. Unfortunately I have yet to find what works for me and continue to simply write and write and re write the words and then forget them 10 minutes later it’s very frustrating. I see the word, and I know that I know what it is but I can’t remember it. The words that I do remember are the words I hear daily, or certain words that I’ve heard in dramas and have for some reason or another associated to a certain scene in that drama so I remember it. I try to use Anki (which is an app to help you learn and memorize words) but I’m terrible at actually using it daily which doesn’t make it as useful. I’ve googled how to memorize vocabulary more times than I care to admit and the same techniques keep coming up but I can’t seem to apply them since I have no imagination to come up with stories to associate to words…

I’ve asked a number of my friends how they go about memorizing words and they all either seem to have better memories than I do or don’t really know how they go about it. This problem has already caused me to fall behind quite a bit so I’ll have to find a solution quickly before it crushes me… Maybe some of you reading this have had experience with this and have suggestions?? I’m running out of places to look to find a solution…

Seoul Lantern Festival

After the last day of finals I went with some classmates to the Seoul lantern festival for some much needed R&R. After too much time spent studying this past weekend and the past few days before that we needed so time to do something totally unrelated to school. Here are some pictures. One of the themes of the festival this year was the Olympics so there were a few depictions of the two Olympics mascots in some of the various sports

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Level 2: Review and grades…maybe

Level 1 was hard, I mean we all just started learning a new language so we started with the alphabet and how to write and all that, but I had already learned all the sounds and pronunciation before coming so it wasn’t that bad. At least in the beginning, you know , when that’s all we were learning; so maybe for the first week or so? After that we started getting into vocabulary and grammar but even then our first teacher in level 1 threw in some English words here and there and all the vocabulary was written on pieces of paper with a translation in English, Chinese and Japanese. Because I mean, at this point how else do you explain to a class full of people who all speak a different language what 사과 (apple) means, actually it also means apologize…

At some point, I’m not really sure when exactly but the paper with the translations disappeared and the grammar got that much more complicated. In our books there is always an English (Japanese or Chinese depending on which is your native language, if you speak another language I’m afraid you’re out of luck) explanations on the grammar patterns, but sometimes the translations are so bad I have no idea what they are trying to say. Sometimes the practice we go through in class is helpful for this, the teacher asks us each a question which we have to answer using that days grammar pattern, and sometimes that helps it click for me. And then other times I’m still completely clueless when I leave class, those days are depressing. Those days I ask some of my friends to explain it to me and so far every time I’ve managed to understand.

Between level 1 and level 2 though it feels like there was such a big gap, and from what I’ve heard from other students that gap is even bigger between level 2 and level 3. There are 6 levels but there are also three categories if you will: beginner (1-2), intermediate (3-4) and advanced (5-6). So whenever you jump from one category to the next the gap widens even more then the usual gap that already seems to exists between levels.

OK enough blabbering on… I’m sure you’re all wondering how I did on my exams, I know I was. In fact I had absolutely no idea how I did on my exams. OK that’s a lie, I felt like I didn’t get the grade I needed to pass on my reading and also felt like I completely messed up my speaking test and spouted some nonsensical sentence at my teacher on the first question. But apparently I didn’t do as badly as I thought. I passed, everything except speaking which I will have to retest for just before next term… Should make for a super exciting holiday filled with studying 😦

Nami Island and Petite France

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Disclaimer… I messed up the settings of my camera at the beginning of the day and have, as of yet been, unable to fix this very annoying mistake. Needless to say when I got home and noticed that my camera pictures looked worse than my phone pictures I was more than a little pissed. Anywhooo, after a little research I did find out what my mistake was and I will not be making it again but it does leave me with some terribly grainy pictures.

One of my level 1 classmates is from Vietnam, lately she is always cold, mainly because where she comes from the coldest it ever gets is 20 degrees Celsius. And even then she sometimes find that cold, and these days the temperature hovers around 5-10 degrees maybe. Personally I like it it’s amazing weather for mid November. But anyway, I digress, since she’s from a warm country she’s never seen the fall colours so 2-3 weeks ago we went to Namsan on a random weekday to see the changing leaves. Well we were very disappointed as the mountain was about 2/3 still green. In her hunt for fall leaves she found a tour package for a day at Nami island and Petite France.

Since the tour took a whole day we had to book on a weekend , which isn’t ideal as there would be tons of people but we weren’t about to miss classes for that. Another of our classmates also joined us for the tour. Nami Island was very pretty and there were a lot of fall colours for my friend to see. We some bunnies, some weird looking sculptures, lots and lots of snowmen and took lots of pictures. We had some Korean sausage, which was a little disappointing and had some delicious Italian pizza.

After Nami Island we went to Petite France, which was a little weird I thought. I meant there was the Petit Prince and that was about the extent of the Frenchness of the place. They were playing some music but it wasn’t French, there were some antiques and some sculptures which seemed more Italian than French. The view however was very nice so I guess that’s why we went?

Exam season again

This is going to be short…

It’s exam season again, finals start tomorrow to be exact so I’ve some studying to do but I’ve been really quiet of late so I thought I’d at least post this. I do have a few things I want to write about like my trip to Nami Island and a possible upcoming trip to the DMZ so stay tuned for that.

And of course there will probably be a post exam post, though we don’t get our grade back until next Wednesday so you’ll have to stay in suspense for that one. I might do the Nami post after day 2 of exams on Monday though, that sounds like a pretty good plan.

The Olympics and hockey

As you all know by now I’ve been in Korea for about 5 months now, and plan to stay… probably for another year, at least that’s the current plan. And you should also all know that the winter Olympics are in Korea in Feb 2018. Seeing as I plan to be here during the Olympics, I looked into getting some tickets to a game. Thankfully, not sure that’s the right word, but anyway there are some tickets left to many of the events.  There are even tickets left for some of the more popular events and some of the medal games also.

Being Canadian, a hockey fan and a hockey player myself I want to go see the women’s hockey at the Olympics! Today, I thought to myself why keep waiting, book now! So I went back on the site and have now officially reserved a ticket to the women’s hockey gold medal game, yup that’s right the gold medal game! Woohoo! OMG though, Canada had better be in the finals lol.

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Sorry I had to brag, I’m so looking forward to going! 😀