Moving Day

What should’ve been a simple move from Sinchon to my host family’s apartment in Hongdae turned out to be quite the ordeal.  I did have more luggage than I did when I originally came to Korea. To accommodate the books, thick winter sweaters, and skin care products I’d accumulated since arriving in August, I had to put some stuff into a box separate from my rolling luggage. I’d also bought a comforter, so I had to take that in its own container…and not to mention a small totebag of snacks from my apartment that I didn’t have the heart to throw away. But even with 6 things to tote to Hongdae, I didn’t forsee moving day to be this much of a challenge, especially because my Singaporean roommate was kind-hearted enough to lend a hand.

The problem started with the property manager (surprise, surprise). I was scheduled to check-out of my apartment by 12pm. At that time, the manager was supposed to come by, inspect the apartment, and, if there was no damage done, give my security deposit back. That would give me a little less than an hour to hail a cab and get to my host family’s apartment by the agreed upon move-in time, 1:00pm. Well, by 12:15 the apartment manager had not arrived to inspect the apartment. So I send a very nice text to the manager asking why no one had showed up. They essentially kept giving me the runaround, saying it would only be 5 or 6 minutes more, but no one arrived until about 12:40.

Now, I woke up early and was all packed up and ready to go by 11:30, but ya’ll can’t even show up on time? Disgraceful.

Anyway, after I went through the check-out process, together, by flatmate and I (okay, mostly me) managed to get 2 rolling luggages, a carry-on, a comforter, a box of books, and a totebag of snacks on the curb in front of our apartment. We were going to the closest main road to hail a taxi and lure it into the side road in front of our building when a beautiful shiny golden taxi cruised right in front of our apartment building. I thought it was a sign from above because I’d never been able to get a taxi so easily on the weekend and I’d never seen an empty one cruising down these tiny side streets. We stopped it and asked the driver if he could pop the trunk to we could load the stuff into the back. And once he saw how much there was, he gave us a lot of lip about “not being a moving service,” but let us shove everything into the trunk and backseat anyway. Halfway to my host family’s house, I realized I couldn’t fine my wallet, got out of the taxi, jogged back to the apartment to check for it. A fruitless endeavor—it wasn’t there. The taxi then circled back to pick my up and my roommate was holding my wallet out the window to show me that she’d found it. Great! But of course, the meter had been running the whole time I was looking for my wallet so already the cost for the taxi was higher than I’d calculated it to be. But at least I had my wallet to pay him with right?

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. The taxi driver didn’t try to cheat us and drive around in circles (He was probably secretly happy I’d had to go back and look for my wallet, the vindictive little toad.) But he didn’t take me to my host family’s apartment. He stopped us somewhere in the general neighborhood, kicked us out of the cab, and pointed in some vague direction, saying the house was “somewhere over there.” Well, fine and dandy, but when you have at LEAST 100 pounds of luggage to move “somewhere over there” just ain’t gonna cut it, sir. And then he had the nerve to ask me for a tip? Gurl….

Anyway, so two foreign girls were standing in the middle of the road with a bunch of luggage wondering exactly where the hell the apartment building was. I’d only been to the area once, so some things looked vaguely familiar to me, but I wasn’t exactly in a position to pinpoint the apartment’s exact location. So while we tried using my flatmate’s phone to find it on google maps, it started to rain. Because of course. That was only the next most logical turn in this grueling tale.

Oh and I hope you do remember how my Singaporean flatmate feels about the rain…?

Right.

So, while she took cover in the entrance of a building, I look a third of my luggage and set out to find the apartment in the maze of tiny twisting streets. After about 15 minutes, I did manage to find it, lug my luggage and the (now soaking) box of books all the way up to where my host family lived on the fourth floor. (Yep….4th floor.) Though I was about an hour and some late, my host mom welcomed me with open arms, helped me relocate my flatmate, and get the rest of my stuff to the building. Yes, it was a long arduous struggle getting all my crap up the stairs, but not a single jar of Cantu hair product was left behind.

My flatmate, despite being a delicate little snowflake, despite the rain, really toughed it out for me. And, after all the moving and unpacking was over, I had a nice new room with a bed twice as big as the old one, my own bathroom, and a nice host family to cook dinner for me practice Korean with.

 

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Fall Quarter Wrap Up

Finals didn’t go as well as I had hoped, but they went. I was particularly worried about the writing and speaking portions this time, so I focused on sharpening those skills for the final. Long story short, these extra preparations did pay off, but at the cost of my other test scores being a bit lower than last time. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

Now that the semester is over and I know I didn’t fail, I can give you my honest opinion of the third level of Ewha’s Korean language program. You might think it’s crazy of me to worry about failing, but about 40% of my class didn’t pass Level 3, which is a ridiculously high number, in my opinion. The thing is, daily class activities and homework aren’t that difficult, but overall you learn A LOT of material in Level 3, so you’re almost sure to forget a few words or small grammatical rules.

Let’s talk a bit about the textbook and how class is structured first. Each chapter in the textbook had 3 sections. Section one contains two grammar structures, one dialogue, and a listening portion; section 2 contains another two grammar structures and a dialogue; and section 3 was a reading passage, writing, and studying a special group of vocabulary words. We covered one section per day (on average) and homework usually consisted of writing your own example dialogue, writing a short (4-5 paragraph) essay on a topic related to the reading passage, and of course, the workbook pages for each corresponding chapter.

When we were learning new grammar, the teacher walked us through example sentences and proper conjugations with a powerpoint presentation. We would practice making sentences using the key grammar with a partner and then as a class, and finally we used a supplemental packet to make example sentences with a partner again. The fun thing about level 3 is the grammar. You learn a lot of grammar points that aren’t super basic, but are used a lot in natural everyday conversation. When I started to use this grammar with my friend/language partner (from Tinder of all places LOL) he was quick to compliment how natural my Korean sentences had become. I have to say, that was a really nice feeling. When it comes to actual speaking, though, I’m not sure if Ewha’s teaching methods really help. For speaking practice, we read the example dialogues in the book, practice it as a class and with a partner, and finally students come up with our own dialogues similar to the example ones and present them to the class. This is all fine and dandy, but the example dialogues focused so much on that chapter’s key grammar that it kind of excluded grammar from previous chapters. I think including a bit of everything from previous chapters would help me see all the building blocks of grammar come together. Plus, it’d definitely help students remember the grammar points.

I don’t really have any complaints about the textbook listening practice at Ewha. But the speed of the recording was much faster than the speed at which either of my teachers spoke in class. The hours and hours of teachers speaking slowly undermined anything we would have gained from the listening practice, which was done every other day or once every 3 days. And because listening isn’t something you can really cram the night before the test, you have to make an effort to listen to Korean radio or watch TV (or live with a host family…) to really improve your listening.

The star of Ehwa’s language textbook is definitely the third section of each chapter, the reading/writing portion. Whereas Sogang’s teachers kind of rushed through the reading portion of a chapter (at least in Level 2), Ewha’s teachers really walk you through every reading passage paragraph by paragraph, highlighting how written language differs from spoken language and paying special attention to understanding the rhetoric, tone, and format of each article, not just the overall meaning. Of course, understanding how to read different kinds of articles in Korean is really helpful when it comes to writing too. I don’t write much in Korean outside of homework, but my writing has definitely come a long way from what it once was. And, if you’re planning to take TOPIK, like most of my classmates are, being able to quickly outline and write an essay in the proper tone and format will help you ace TOPIK’s writing portion.

Another thing that really helps with reading comprehension is the sheer amount of words you learn at Ewha. By the end of the 10 weeks, we had learned about 1500 new vocabulary words (or about 100 per chapter) and you can best believe a lot of those show up in online articles, magazines, and advertisements. However, I think cramming so many words into such a short period of time also drastically slowed my speaking speed. Now that I have so many words floating around in my head, it’s taking me a while to pick one with the exact connotation that I need. This is something that can be overcome with practice, but there was no time to really get a good grasp on these words between the time we learned them and the exams. I mean, you roughly have 3 days to learn 100 words before you’re tested on them and then you have to dive right into hammering another 100 words into your memory. On top of that, we were learning new material all the way up until the day BEFORE the exam, so where was the time to let it all sink in?

But I guess it IS an intensive program, so you just have to learn to take it all in stride…

I can’t draw any big conclusions about Ewha yet (because I’ve got 2 quarters left!) So far I can say that I recommend this program to learners of Korean who want to go to college or graduate school in Korea and/or those who just need to focus on reading and writing. If you want or need to take TOPIK, I think Ewha would put you in a good position to pass. But if you’re looking for class to provide a lot of speaking practice, Ewha’s classes might irritate you (at least level 3).

I hear Level 4 is structured differently and is not jam-packed with as many vocabulary words as Level 3, but I don’t have a lot of details yet. I’ll let you know about that in a couple of weeks!

 

 

Making Kimchi

So, I have finals next week (time flies!) and while I have been faithfully previewing and reviewing the material every day, listening to the textbook CD, and using supplemental materials to get a good grasp on grammar usage on top of THAT, I’m still a little concerned about how this final exam will turn out. I think I’m at the point where I have a good grasp on things taught in class but as far as using the new Korean things I’ve learned in everyday life, I’m pretty shaky. And from my experience with the midterm, I think getting a good grasp on everyday language usage is the thing that will give you an edge on the exams.

My solution? Instead of locking myself up in my room and pouring over the books this weekend, I went to make kimchi with a lovely Korean family that I will be moving in with at the end of the quarter~! (More on this later!) Hopefully this will give me some conversation practice before the exam, and it’ll be a nice opportunity experience a bit of traditional Korean culture.

I got up early (9am on a weekend…whyyyyy) and figured out the bus(es) I needed to take to get from my current apartment around Sogang to a residential area of Hongdae. When I arrived, they made me take off my sweater (because the red pepper flakes would stain) and set me up with super long kimchi-making gloves that came up to my elbow. My host mom, host sister, and her aunt were all sitting on the floor around a huge tarp covered with a mountain of spice red paste. The red paste is a mixture of garlic gloves, onions, fish sauce, salted shrimp, hot pepper flakes, green onions, and radish and carrots cut into matchsticks. To make kimchi, you use your hands to paint this paste on each leaf of napa cabbage.

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Apparently I’m a little heavy handed when it comes to painting on the paste because they kept telling me to only add a little of the paste per leaf, but every cabbage head I finished came out distinctly redder and heavier than everyone else’s….oops. But I mean, who doesn’t like a little extra flavor with their kimchi?? POW!

After finishing about 35-40 cabbage heads, we stored them all in some heavy duty containers and stored the kimchi in the kimchi fridge. You can eat it while it’s fresh–in fact, it’s tradition to have one freshly made bunch of kimchi with pork and rice–but the kimchi is left to ferment for about 3 weeks before consumption. The longer it ferments, the better it is. Can’t wait to see what it’s like after I move in in several weeks!