비가 오다~ The Rain Comes~ How Suitable a Phrase!

비가 오다 (biga oda)

Rain is coming.

This phrase is very suitable. Why? Because the way it rains here. The rain starts with the slightest smattering, almost like that of an ominous warning signal shouting, “You have 15 minutes before the sky let’s loose!” Then, as if on cue, the downpour sweeps in, almost teasingly. Best hope you have your umbrella with you, because when they sky decided to let it go, it does with no remorse. You’ll be drenched in a matter of seconds.

Rain - Seoul National Museum
Currently we are at the tail end of rainy season, but the rain doesn’t just give up and go back to the sea. No, it likes to take its time. And tease. Since I have been here, the rain has seemingly had a system. If the rain comes early in the day, expect it to come in short spurts. It will rain for a few minutes and then peter off to sprinkles. Then, after an hour of no rain, the rain will come again for another short bout. The rain is coming. All day it does this as if someone is pulling the lever to a garden hose stationed right above us. I find it quite amusing.

Now, on the other hand, if the rain comes later in the day you should expect it to be harder with a longer, harder downpour. This time, if you are caught without your trusty umbrella it is best to run inside the nearest G-25 or 7-11, grab yourself a snack, and wait it out. Otherwise you will find yourself soaked to the bones. Trust me.

rain

Now, in Sinchon we don’t have to worry as much about flooding as other areas of the country, but if you are going to be out for a day during rainy season, it’s best to keep your eye on the weather or bring your little umbrella. If you didn’t bring your umbrella along, 걱정하지 마세요 (don’t worry). Almost every convenience store sells umbrellas for around 4000₩ (~$4 USD).

비가 오다. The rain is coming.

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Pope Francis in Korea

Today marks my second week in Korea. Since I arrived I have met many friends, all eager to show me around Korea and to chat up a storm. This past week I have spent my time settling into the dormitory at Yonsei University and sorting out things for my semester here. As such, I hadn’t found the time to write much but I have a long, long list of topics to write about already.

I’m a little late in posting about this, so I extend my apologies, but it still sticks out in my vividly in my mind. The Pope visiting Korea from August 13th-18th.

What struck me the most was the massive number of people who came out just to get a glimpse of him. Korea, as you may already know, is a country of three main religious tenets: Christianity, Buddhism, and Korean Confucianism. Out of 25 million people polled in a recent census, only 53% of Koreans professed to having a religion. I didn’t really know what to expect of the Pope coming here for a conference. Would they openly welcome him or would it simply be as if another celebrity came? But I was quick to find out.

The Pope delivered a speech at the palace in Gwanghwamun and this was the picture that greeted us:

Pope in Gwanghwamun

So. Many. People. It was quite surprising to me, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprise. I wasn’t in Gwanghwamun that day to see the Pope. I was actually exploring around Seoul with one of my guest-mates from my guesthouse when we ran into the huge crowd. It was quite a sight to behold. The milling people and squadrons of police. The nearby subway stop even shut down for the Pope.

I never intended to see the Pope, but it was nice to see people come out to hear what he had to say.

Chinese Short Story 002 – 愚公移山 (Mr. Stupid Moves the Mountains)

There were two mountains, TaiHang and WangWu, in the North of HeYang State. Both of them were bigger than 700 square miles, and taller than thousands of meters.

Mr. Stupid was a 90-years-old man. His home was in the north of the mountains. Every time, his families had to climb across mountains to go to the city. One day, he convened his family and said,”I am tired of climbing the mountains every time. Do you think it can work, if we move the two mountains to other place?” His wife answered,”It even is unbelievable for you to move the hill outside of our house. Moreover, where can you put the rocks?” Their son said, “We can put the rocks into BoHai Sea.” Therefore, Mr. Stupid led three of his sons and began to break the rocks on the mountains and moved them into BoHai Sea.

At the beginning, all of their neighbors laughed at them. However, more and more people joined them later. One day, Mr. Smart met them and laughed at Mr. Stupid,”You are so stupid. You are so old now. There is no difference between you and a dead person. You can’t finish your plan before you die.” Mr. Stupid answered,”I am stubborn. After I die, my son will keep working on it. After my son dies, my grandson will keep working on it. My family won’t give up, and the mountains won’t grow. There will be one day that we can finish my dream.” Mr. Smart had no words to answer him.

Tip:

When I heard this story in my childhood, I had a question in my mind, “Did Mr. stupid succeed?”  Later, I found my answer from the Chinese map. However, I got another question,”Is this story true? Maybe the two mountains were always at that places where they are.” Honestly, I don’t know. But I know cleverness is not as important as people thought. Intelligence can help people figure out the easiest way to get their goals. However, absurdness is the reason that humans could create so many miracles in our history.

Walking in Korea

I’ve had many great experiences already since entering Korea. I have two weeks before I enter university here, so I have been doing quite a lot of touring. That is why I haven’t posted much since arriving, but I have more than enough to write about.

Gwanghwamun MarketWalking. Best to get used to it, because chances are you will be walking a lot. The public transportation is incredible here (I’ll follow up in the next post on the Seoul subway system, which is phenomenal!). Especially if you are coming just to tour, a 20 minute walk becomes short. BUT there are so many great sites to see as you are wandering around. Landmarks are numerous, whether you are in 홍대 (Hongdae district) or meandering through 광화문시장 (Gwanghwamun Market), there are floods of lights and aesthetically appealing buildings.

Gwanghwamun Street ViewI am from a suburb of a smaller city in the United States. It certainly is nothing like the sprawling streets of Seoul. I expected to see tall buildings cramped together similar to that of downtown Chicago but, to my surprise, Seoul is much more spread out. Certainly the buildings are more than a couple levels and there are areas of skyscraping wonders, yet the area Seoul covers is astonishing. When you start exploring, you rapidly realize why Seoul is split into districts. It would be impossible to manage otherwise and for the locals the districts are great ways to spatially remember the city.

Even though the area of Seoul is massive, the subway does a fantastic job getting you close to your destinations. The stations have several exits for maximum efficiency, but if you wish to see some of the top ranked sites be prepared. Make sure to bring suitable clothes and a decent pair of walking shoes because you may be on your feet the entire day, even on the subway. Streets are not very well marked aside from the main roads, but many times the main landmarks will be right next to the stations. If you don’t have a map, the street signs are a life saver.
 
Street Sign, Gwanghwamun

Fortunately, many locals are glad to help out even if you need to use English to ask. Getting around Seoul is quite easy if you can speak English, but I would always recommend brushing up on the Korean unit on directions. At the very least, you will bring a smile to their face when you whip out your Korean vocabulary.

Let me know what other topics you would like me to find out and write about. I’ll add them to my list~~

대한민국 안녕~!

Hello Korea! Actually, I arrived three days before writing this post. Two of my penpal friends came to the airport to ease my experience, and I tell you I cannot thank them enough for that! I would have managed, but simply being thrown in would probably have shocked me a bit.

Being from Kansas, we have a tender lack of sprawling cities which only heightens the immediate culture shock. That is not to say I don’t love it here because Korea is amazing! Neither of my friends live in 홍대 (Hongdae) where I am staying for the first few days, so we trounced around a while trying to find the 김치 게스트하우스 (Kimchee Guesthouse) which is quite hidden among the numerous guesthouses in the area. I would write more about the guesthouses here, but I think I will reserve it to it’s own post.

Kimchi Guesthouse Sign

I have a lot left to do today, so I will leave off here for the moment. Until next time~ 안녕히 계세요!

Chinese Short Story 001 – 叶公好龙 (YeGong Loved the Dragon)

The period for this story is 770BC~476BC.

There was a guy, YeGong, he loved the Dragon so much. So, he used the Dragon’s pictures,  sculptures, patterns, etc to decorate his home. He wore the Dragon’s clothes every day and he told everyone he loved the Dragon. One day, the Dragon heard about YeGong. The Dragon thought, “Wow, I have a fan now. I should meet him, since he loves me so much.” However, when the dragon went to YeGong’s home, YeGong was so scared he ran from the Dragon.

Tip for Chinese dragons:

If you know anything about Chinese dragons, you know they are different from the Western dragons. Chinese dragons are kind and friendly. However, they also have a defect: they are egomaniacs. They have no interest in women, but they have an interest in almost all kinds of female animals, such as buffalo, tortoise, fish, etc. People call the monsters of half dragon blood sub-dragons. Sub-dragons are not as powerful as the real dragons, and they also have their own characteristics. This means not all of them are as kind as dragons, such as Jiao (蛟). Jiaos are a cross between dragons and snakes. The Western dragons could possibly be a cross between dragons and bats.

There are two special dragons. One is The Dragon. You can say he is The King of Dragons, and is different from normal dragons. The Dragon has five legs (normal dragons just have four). The Dragon can control his body to become bigger or smaller, and he can use magic to turn into anything he wants. He is the most powerful dragon and all of the other dragons are constrained by his rule.

The second one is the Blue Dragon. He is the Eastern Security for China. (There are three more Securities for the other three directions.) Also the Blue Dragon is the most powerful Security.

Dragons were the signs for Chinese royalty. After 221BC, only the royalty could use dragons’ pattern. The dragon on the emperors’ clothes have five legs. The other royalty members just could use the dragons with four legs. However, the government officers could use the sub-dragons patterns.