(merkit hukassa)

Adventures in Korea

Tag Archives: music

It’s over, or is it?

If all goes as planned, this is my last night in Korea for now. My flight is supposed to leave from Incheon today at 14.30 – but let’s not bet on it yet. Typhoon Meari will hit Korea later today, and might lead to flight cancellations and even more severe stuff. I’ve never experienced a typhoon, so I’m kinda excited. Also, I’m thankful for leaving some air on my schedule – if the flight departs on time, I might have enough time to drag my ass from Busan to Incheon.

So, I’m in Busan now. I’ve done close to nothing spectacular.

I took a long stroll along Haeundae beach on Thursday night. It was cloudy, but it didn’t rain yet, so I got to see the beautiful beach, Diamond bridge and the skyscrapers. The next day I just slept – it was raining and my eyes were hurting. Reason? Found out yesterday after visiting an optician. My vision suddenly went from -2.25 to -3. Lack of vitamins? Sure, my diet here has been retarded.

Other things I did yesterday were visiting the PIFF square (just tumbled upon it) and shopping – I hate shopping, but it was raining like crazy and the wind kept breaking my umbrella, and still I didn’t want to stay cooped up at the hostel since I went through all the trouble to come all the way to Busan. Oh, and I went to get a new haircut again (got the last one a week ago). I didn’t really like the previous one, so I went and got a mohawk. Or mohican, as the Koreans call it.

The hostel I’m staying in, Pobi Guesthouse, is mysterious: a British girl I met on my first week in Korea, in Hongdae, is now staying at the same hostel in Haeundae. Also, two Korean girls from Ajou stayed in the same room on my first night here. What a small world. The hostel is very new, clean and well located between Haeundae subway station and the beach. It’s easy to find – take Haeundae stn exit 1, keep walking until the first bigger intersection, turn righ and keep walking until you start to see the road ending at a T-intersection. It’s on the left side of the road and well marked with yellow signs. Knock the door, it’s usually locked.

Super nice young lady Jeong Eun owns the place and this friendly guy who’s name I didn’t ask also works there. The only small minus point is the neighboring club, which can get a bit noisy on weekends. But it can also be a plus to party people – very convenient to go party! They just played Imogen Heap, can’t be bad!

So, I’ll leave in less than five hours. Taking KTX and hoping it’s on time. And hoping there is enough room for my bass – the conductor lady gave me a whole car to choose from when she saw it on my way here. I wonder if I should take a bus to the station or just ride the subway. It was pretty okay from the station to here, and knowing Korean buses don’t have much space I might end up choosing the subway. Oooor I could take a cab. It’s about 15 000w and I have 18 000 left. Dun dun duun, let’s see what I end up doing.

So, bye bye Korea. Please let me leave and don’t delay my flight.

PS. Things I noticed about Korea:

1. They really love singing fountains.
2.  The umbrella bags they provide in every store on rainy days are convenient and I’m gonna miss them.
3. Busan has an awesome bakery chain OPS. They have non-sugar coated veggie stuff. I love!
4. Why Korean people don’t feel cold indoors even when the ACs are making me freeze?
5. Summer fashion this year is hideous. HI-DE-OUS! Why did you come back, early 90’s? Go back where you came from! You don’t look good even on pretty Koreans.
6. I feel utterly ridiculous dining alone in Korea. Or just having a cup of coffee. And the hairdresser dude was truly amused when I told him I’m traveling alone.

…and it’s kinda gay

I went to check out the gay clubs in Itaewon last Friday. Certainly, a lot of gays and very friendly atmosphere. Totally different from earlier on the day in the same area. Itaweon in daytime was super intimidating, after I’ve gotten used to the reserved Korean manner guys. Honestly, I wonder if the guys there really get lucky with the aggressive approach. Don’t try it on me, I get annoyed.

Back to the homo hill, there weren’t many girls there, and the lesbians I could count with one hand’s fingers. My friend told me there are lesbian clubs in Hongdae, but isn’t it just boring and prejudiced to separate rainbow people by gender? If I went out with my gay friends in Finland, why would we want to go to separate bars just because some of us have something hanging between our legs and some don’t? I don’t get it. Well, doesn’t matter, we had fun.

I got all happy the next day to see so many cool indie kids in Samseong,  I got a ticket from my friend Vanessa, for this band I had never heard of before, but which was very awesome. Mellow and massive and cute. Check them out: Dear Cloud (디어 클라우드). There was this coolest girl ever sitting beside me, but of course I was too shy to talk to her. By the way, again they gave out freebies. I guess they do it often here. And the concert was awesome, but way too long… more than two hours of mellow music is just a bit too much in one go.

So, by the time it was over, I was hungry and tired and since it was such a long time since I last took a bus from Gangnam, I forgot from which exit it leaves and spend a long time looking for the right bus stop, since of course Koreans can’t put the information on any maps – they just have like 12 tiny bus figures on the map but no info of which bus leaves where. And, no north arrow either, so I couldn’t even figure anything out by compass points. Of course I could have asked, but I’m from Finland, we don’t ask.

Yesterday a couple of Lotta’s friends from Finland came to Suwon and we had great time. Of course we drank excessively and today I’ve been feeling not that fresh. I ended up causing some trouble, even though I had no intention whatsoever, nor did I start it, but oh well, I got the blame since I’m older and look oh-so-manly with my new summer haircut. It was nothing serious though so I guess it’s okay now. And I’m leaving the town anyways kkkkkkkk

PS. They are opening a new store called ㅋㅋㅋ down the street. I wonder what kinda business it is?

Isn’t Korea just awesome sometimes?

A couple of dudes from Jyväskylä came here to travel. It was a good enough reason for me to drag my ass to Seoul. There have been a bunch of national holidays going on – one of them Buddha’s birthday on May 10th. To get ready for the main thing, the Buddhist community here holds Lotus Lantern Festival – thousands of lanterns, performances, rituals, food, exhibitions. We went to see the Buddhist Street Festival in front of Jogyesa Temple last Monday. Too bad my camera settings were horribly wrong… but at least I got something:

Spring is also a time for University Festivals, where universities promote themselves. Our festival will be next week, 18th to 20th. It’s basically school clubs and faculties selling food and drinks in street stalls, but the big name idols are the thing everybody thinks when you mention Uni Festivals. Ajou university has IU (아이유), Kim Janghoon(김장훈),San E(산이) and Girl’s Day(걸스데이) and it’s all open and free to everybody.

Lotta did some clever detective work (googled University festivals + 2NE1) and found out 2NE1 was indeed performing in one of these festivals – yesterday at Kyungwon University, along K.will, UV, G.NA and Se7en. Me, Lotta and the abovementioned dudes went  there, of course – it was surprisingly easy now that we found out how amazing Naver is (I’m gonna make a post about Naver pretty soon, wait for it). We got there early, and had plenty of time to watch a local band Soundbox perform (to be honest, it was the best performance that night). They even had tap-dance! Isn’t that just awesome? We heard many original traditional Korean songs, like You Oughta Know and Proud Mary.

By the time we found out where the big performances would be, there was a huge line already. We joined (not being completely sure it was the right line) and got free stuff when we got in – milk, sweet bun, a light stick and Kyungwon University socks. Oh, Korea! Everything was well organized and people behave well, until 2NE1 started playing. But that was some for ours later – us spending the 4 hours sitting on the ground in front of the stage. The stage was pretty low, so they made most of the audience sit on the ground in neat lines. Four hours is just too long if you need to pee, and I did. We weren’t able to go back to our previous seats, but at least we were easy enough to recognize, so the nice bouncer let us back to the front area at least.

Oh, btw, they had the coolest fireworks ever! The performances were nice, but horribly late and at the end we weren’t able to see much. But at least we got a glimpse and some shaky proof:

We were lucky the show ended before the last train. We were kinda prepared on taking a cab home or at least to Gangnam, but to our amazement the buses were still running from Migeum and we even found the right one. I call this success!

“But you should see the other guy…!”

I was in a fight, look:

Just kidding. I went to get rid of my wisdom tooth, but they took out two. With the painkillers (I even managed to find a pharmacy and get my prescribed medicine) it cost me 300 000 won. Maybe 250 euros_ Thank you Visa. (Message for my mom: kantsii kohta kertoa paljonko oon velkaa ennenko mennee rahat risasiin hampaisiin) They even gave me an antibiotic shot – after allergy tests. They never bother with tests in Finland. I like Korean system. So efficient.

And my life is a musical! I’m not sure if I already mentioned this, but when I need to get stuff done I go to my Club’s room in New Student Union Building (Yes, building. They have not only one, but two student union buildings – for clubs and student activities. In Finland we barely have a basement cupboard for the student union). There is always somebody – people doing their homework quietly, playing piano, chatting. Then suddenly someone starts a song and people join, singing harmonies, spontaneously. When the song ends they just keep doing what they were doing like nothing happened. And that happens all the time. (Well, it’s GLEE Club so that explains.) Yes, I too join spontaneously now that I know the songs they sing.

And I got my work done too… sat there for whole day working on my mind map and flowcharts – which apparently overwhelms my classmates. They told me Koreans are not good with holistic views but details – in which I suck hard. My mind works in pictures, so I need to process everything through flowcharts and mind maps to actually understand. Tomorrow I have a presentation and I’m still a bit confused.

I took some very random pictures. Here goes:

My Biological Wastewater Treatment handbook. Very heavy, very big, and very boring.

Wrist bands from Everland and Big Show. And Pizza ads.

I’m bored of orange juice and allergic to nestle IceTea, so I switched to this. It’s good, but the pink one tastes like childhood antibiotics. Yuk… YUK!

One very cute Lotta and our dorm room. Check Lotta’s blog too if you haven’t already. In Finnish or in English.

And a postcard to my friend who has her birthday soon. Hope it gets there on time. Yes, that’s only one word there. Saying happy birthday. So Happy Birthday Kemppu <3

PS. I bought PhotoShop smudge effect from the cosmetics store nearby. It’s just foundation, but it gives the exact same effect that photoshop. ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ

The fresh air of Gyeong-ju

The Office of International Affairs (OIA) and Ajou Global Ambassadors (A.G.A) organized us a 1 night 2 days trip to Gyeong-ju. The little I know about Gyeong-ju is that it is the spot with most historic sites. They were pretty nice, but I guess I would have enjoyed it more by myself and later in spring – and if I had researched a bit beforehand. But it was great to get away from the Seoul dust – the fresh mountain air was awesome.

The bus ride from Suwon took about 5 hours, with two stops. The highway rest areas here are pretty well equipped, nothing like the shabby gas stations in Finland. There are similarities though – in Finland we have the ABCs, here they just have more chain stores. Fast, that’s the key word.

I spent most of my time in the bus taking pictures of weird things that interest me. Like construction sites and erosion prevention. And load securing on trucks. I wonder if they have any legislation to control it. They barely do it. I have to find out how it is…the girl next door is doing her masters in transportation engineering, I have to ask her.

We spent the night in Kolon Hotel (in the middle of nowhere). They had a sauna/onsen there so me and Lotta had to try it. We only had 40 minutes, but it was worth it. Refreshing. A.G.A held a talent show at the hotel and many groups had prepared something. I have to say I liked the Indonesian dances the most. Colorful, smiling, pretty and they are good dancers too. And they are friendly. I love friendly people.

It would have been fun to do something together with A.G.A people afterwards, but we had fun with our own little group too. I guess I’m getting the first symptoms of culture shock, since I’m starting to feel a bit irritated about stupid stuff. I need to get my ass out of the dorms soon, and do it alone, or I start nagging at people who don’t deserve it.

Here are some pictures of the sights and the people (and food):

Fast dentist is fast

In Finland I waited for six months to get an appointment with my dentist. It really sucks a big time, the queues there. Here my filling suddenly came off and after trying one private dental clinic down the street (they kicked me out, saying they don’t speak English) I went to the university hospital’s dental clinic.

After filling in some forms the dental hygienist walked me to the x-ray guy, click, “okay Leena, phinished!” and out to the dentist. She checked my teeth while waiting for the filling material and told me my filling came out because my wisdom teeth is putting too much pressure on it – and I need to have it removed. Is next month okay? Oh, and we need to finish your root channel treatment and put a new crown on your teeth, is next week okay? And do you want a golden or porcelain crown?” And all this took maybe 30 minutes.

I have no clue how much do I need to pay for all this, but it’s probably dirty cheap compared to private dentists in Finland. Which would be my only option, since it’s impossible to get in the public dental care. For this one round – emergency filling, one local x-ray and one panoramic x-ray and check-up I paid  83000 won –  58 euros. Let’s see how much does it cost for the rest. I don’t really care, I’m just happy to get my teeth fixed and I have my insurance.

I’ve been x-rayed quite a lot in these last two months – first full torso x-ray back in Finland when I had to stay in the hospital, then here my lungs and my teeth. I need no more radiation.

GLEE club started for real. It’s a mixed choir, rather big one. I was happily surprised of their talent and even the young conductor dongseng gets my approval. We started with this song (skip to 3:40) – medley of animation music. My choir back home should learn from Korean culture – no excessive chatting and stupid questions, just listening and doing until the practice was over. After that we had plenty of time to talk – it seems to be common to go to a bar after clubs. We apparently had fun – after two bars we came back to the club room to play some more drinking games – until 6 AM. Those games are totally awesome.

Then again, I caught a cold so today I’ve been staying at the dorms, trying to get better. My friend is coming to Seoul tomorrow so I want to be able to go and meet him there. Also, tomorrow we are meeting some other friends and I have a presentation to make and and and… Oh, some pictures:

First one is from my Ecodesign II class… we have to disassemble and analyze an existing product and design a better one.

The lower pictures are from our dorm room – our decorations. Poster of the play I went to see, Big Bang, Korean flag and a hentai poster we found on our way home.

Every Finn knows every Finn…

Oh man, just a short random update.

I went to see Kiss of the Spider Woman (거미여인의 키스), again. Today it was with 박은태 (Park Eun Tae) as Molina (same as last time) and  최재웅 (Choi Jae Woong) as Valentin. It was still awesome, although I liked 김승대’s (Kim Seung Dae) Valentin more. Him and Euntae had the chemistry thing working and it felt a bit more real – maybe because they are friends in real life. (That’s what they said.) Eun Tae was on fire tonight! Even the stage crew behind us was giggling. And yes, now I understood more, thanks to Sookie who taught us how to ask guys to come closer in Korean – they used it in the play. Oh, and because Puu is awesome, we got a 40% discount  – coz we are foreigners and went to see the play, not one time, but in her case three times!

Puu dragged along a random Finn who is staying at the best hostel ever.  Yes, that girl knew my roommate Lotta. Did I mention there are 12 Finns studying here at the moment. One of them is a class mate of my irc buddy, and one is part of the hobby group I’m sort of involved with – aaand his grandfather used to be my mother’s principal. I would probably find more connections with the other Finns if I dared to ask.

Other things:

  • Food here is good, but I’ve lost weight. Let’s see for how long – the grocery store downstairs sells very good snacks and is open until midnight.
  • Plenty of weird tech, I’m gonna post about them when I have time.
  • Super busy with school… I think I’m taking too many classes.
  • Weather has been chilly. Sunny, but windy.
  • Tomorrow I have overlapping everything – band audition, evening class and AGA meeting. 어떻게~?
  • Tomorrow also: course change period begins at 9:00 AM. I don’t need to wake up for that, I only need to drop some courses and the one I want to enroll for is not full anyways. I still need to ask the professor if I should really take it since I can’t make it to the class tomorrow.
  • Weekend: Everland!

Yeah, no pictures… I’m so lazy.

Whoa! She’s a nuna!

I’ve been doing so much these days I don’t know where to start? EDIT: some random pictures here

Creative parking Suwon Suwon I insisted people here should call me unni (언니 ) or nuna (누나) (the former one is how girls address their older sister and the latter how boys address their older sister). It sounds cute, but now I regret revealing my age – I can’t call anyone oppa (오빠) – which is how girls call older guys.  It all sounds very, very whiny and cute, but the boys here said they like it. Apparently they feel very masculine when they can do something for the girls. I feel so very old here. And masculine too. Before I know, I’ll start answering when ever somebody calls “Oppaaaa~!” I’ve found lovely people here, really cute and awesome girls to hang out with. The guys are nice too, especially the tutor guys, who are soon gonna get tired of us if they keep that up. School started for real – I’ve already missed two of my classes (messed up my schedule, not on purpose). Two of my classes – Ecodesign I and Biological wastewater treatment – are taught by professor Lee Kun-Mo, who gave a really pleasant and professional first impression. He seems to be strict, he speaks fluent English and the courses don’t seem too hard by far. So I really recommend his classes – based on first impression. I’m considering taking Ecodesign II too, but I’m already taking six courses in total, that might be too hard for my lazy ass – especially if I stick to all those clubs I signed for today. So yeah, it’s all like in anime – they have stands where they lure in innocent minds for clubs and associations – varying from religion to astronomy and from rock band to study groups. I signed for choir and English conversation. At the choir stand I had to fill a form where I needed to tell my birth year – and the guys started whispering: “Oh, she’s a nuna!” I also signed in for band audition. There are two rock band clubs, but the other club wasn’t exactly welcoming  – they basically shunned me away. The other group seemed nice, so I’m gonna try my luck. The weather has been awfully cold. It was snowing on Tuesday morning when we left to Seoul. It was the March first movement day – the day they remember their fight for independence and those who died in wars. There were quite a many activities in Seoul and we also went to Kimchi museum in COEX mall.

Statue of Hammering Man in Seoul

The beauty of Koreans is starting to hurt my eyes. I think I might start feeling inferior pretty soon. Well… at least I managed to impress the locals in my class a couple of times. I’m not sure whether it was me answering professors’ questions correctly, me speaking English rather well and using long sentences, or me just being able to talk to the professor as an equal. Be as it might, I have to admit I kinda liked how the whole class went “whoooa”. (Note: Back in Finland I’m the crappiest student in my class.) I caught a cold, so I had to stay at the dorms tonight, although the girls went out to party. The hot food seems to help and it’s not that hard to find vegetarian food anymore. You just need to know what to ask. So long – diet! Today we found a really good and cheap toppokki place and yesterday we ate bibimbap… ah, the food is awesome, but it makes me crave for beer!

And yeah, we’re gonna get our own Ajou Uni baseball jackets… They look warm and comfy! Look, here Sub is wearing one, ain’t that cool?

Anna-Maria & Sub

I’ll post some pictures when I have time… now I really need to start preparing for tomorrow’s classes. 안녕~!

BIG SHOW… and yeah the school started too

The orientation day at Ajou held in just as many PowerPoint presentations as I expected. Quite a many that is. But the information was useful and very down to earth and the lunch buffet was overwhelming and huge. Lots of vegetarian choices too! The OIA staff seems really nice and helpful and the AGA members are hard working folk. I figured out my course schedule and I have Fridays off! Yay!

Awsome lunch is awesome.
Spot the Finns

Then the main course – BIG SHOW 2011, first one of the three Big Bang concerts. Korean pop – K-pop for short – is a huge thing all over Asia, as well as among freaks particular music diggers all around the world. Big Bang has been one of the most popular groups for years – if not the most popular. It was also my first contact with K-pop so I didn’t think twice when Ryo mentioned Puu had and extra ticket (I didn’t even know it was possible to get the tickets, but Puu’s amazing). Here’s a shining example of their music (with Seagways and a tank) – GD&TOP’s 뻑이가요.

There is a straight bus from Ajou to where I was aiming, but I was too stupid to find it… and I was running late so I just took the route I knew. A long route. And crowded. And sweaty. Quite a lot of staring occurred too. But I got there on time, finally, and managed to spot Puu’s amazing pink hair in midst of thousands of screaming tiny fans. After hours of waiting we finally got to our standing area, which was pretty well located – we managed to see the guys up close, really close.
Big Bang

Every Big Bang fan.
Every Big Bang fan.

The show was big business. Thousands of screaming fans holding up their crown-shaped light sticks and chanting fan chants to every song, laser show, fireworks, Seagways, pink tank, hilarious parody fan service version (which might have been a bit gay) of popular drama Secret Garden, confetti and the amazing charisma those guys ooze. Even my hardened iceberg of a heart fluttered, and not just a little. Oh I just admit it, I was totally into it, in my moderate Finnish way. Not as much as those little ones though, they were a bit scary, but luckily so small that I could hold my place if I wanted. Nothing compared to moshpits of huge drunk neo-nazis back in Finland.

The taxi ride from Olympic Park to Hongdae was scary, but Puu said it was actually pretty good compared to average. IT WAS FREAKING SCARY. I calmed down when I got food. Really spicy tofu soup and those good side dishes they offer at BBQ places. That place’s gotta be my favorite, the staff was lovely. And I almost cried when I got back to the hostel and saw a group of good people I met last week. I was so happy to see them again and it felt like coming home. And I was only away for one night.

So I guess this is the honeymoon period of culture shock? I’ll give you pictures when I get back to dorms tomorrow.

PS. Wives, I would have bought some fan stuff for you but they sold it out hours before I got there.

PPS. For some reason everything I’ve done so far has been a bit gay… and this was supposed to be a conservative country! Or is it just me?

Sore feet

Got lots done yesterday and a ton of blisters.

Me and this lovely French WWOOFer Luce went to get stuff done. First we hit the Nagwon Arcade to buy me the bass I’ve been talking about. The place was amazing – an endless maze of music stores.

After asking around for quite a bit I finally found a store that had few acoustic bass guitars on sale. The sales guy “Johnny” was really nice and didn’t question too much my first choice for bass being acoustic. He gave me a couple of options and, knowing nothing about basses, I purely based my decision on sound. He first gave me an offer of W400 000 (280€), but after seeing me hesitate ha dropped the price to W300 000 (210€) (case, strap and chord included), which probably still had quite a lot of air in it, but was still cheaper than stuff back home. And it’s Korean, it’s a souvenir!

Nagwon Arcade

Then we went to rent me a phone from Jongguk. It’s bloody expensive (W90000, 63€) a month, but it’s a must to have a phone here if you want to meet people. And I want to. The price is gonna go down after a month (from W3000 to W2000 /day and after a while to W1000 /day) but it’s still gonna be expensive. I hope there is a way to find a better long time deal.

Luce came here to wwoof so we went to the local office to find information. The building was the awesomest little house ever and I had my moment of serenity with their pet bunny while Luce talked with the staff. They have pretty interesting places to work at – everyone recommends Jeju-island.

WWOOF Korea

We were in the tourist district so we did some touring on our way back. Walked the Insadong-gil, went to see Jongno tower and eventually tried to get in to the Museum of Art (too expensive) and Gyeongbokgung (closed for the day), but managed to see Gwanghwamun-gate – which was impressive.

And I got a T-money card – RFID based re-loadable ticket for public transit in Seoul and surrounding areas. It saves money and think it should  be able to get me all the way to Suwon. I got pretty good instructions from one of the AGA members – should take the subway to Sadang (exit 4) and change to red bus number 7000 to Ajou Dae Hak Kyo. I’ve been talking to other exchange students and they seem pretty nice and cool.

Tonight: Kiss of the Spider Woman. Yay!

PS. This country seems to have tons of traffic officers who just stand by the large intersections in case something happens…

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