Amsterdam!

So this is about a week late but last weekend I went to Amsterdam! It was definitely not what I was expecting and I think that is why I enjoyed the city so much. I had very low expectations going into the trip but it ended up being a beautiful and fantastic weekend. To begin, when flying Ryanair one must always check where exactly the airport is in location to the city. In our case we flew into Eindhoven which was about an hour train ride from Amsterdam. So the travel time from Limerick to Amsterdam was about ten hours. To begin we have to take a bus from limerick to Dublin airport. The first bus is a 2.5 hour journey, then we have to take a different bus another 20 minutes to the airport. Next, in order to make sure you get to the airport in plenty of time, one must leave limerick 5 hours before flight time; so there is some waiting around in the airport. Then the flight was about an hour and a half. When arriving in Eindhoven, first take a bus to the train station and then the hour train ride. At this point it is dark, but you have arrived in Amsterdam with an address, no map and everyone speaks Dutch. We found our hostel after only being lost for a minute (go us)!!!

As it turned out our hostel was in the red light district of Amsterdam. I am not really sure what you all have heard about the red light district but it is full of some weird things. Most of these things threw me very off guard and caused me to be very turned off from the Amsterdam night life.

The city did a complete 180 during the day. It was absolutely gorgeous. If someone only saw daytime in Amsterdam, the would never know the crazy things that occur at night. The city reminded me of Venice and had many canals that twisted and maneuvered themselves through the city. Also, everything was very busy and a lot was going on. The scariest part of the city is the bikers. They do not care if you exist, especially if you are standing in their way. I was almost taken out a few times and I almost knocked some people off their bikes on accident.

Amsterdam has a ton of different outdoor markets, all of which were extremely cool and had a ton of interesting things. My favorite market was the tulip market. If you didn’t know tulips became extremely famous thanks to the natives of Holland and used to represent wealth. Only the wealthiest could afford them and they would show them off by setting them in the front window of their houses.

There were a ton of museums and things to see. We only went to one museum which was the Anne Frank house. I read the book in middle school and enjoyed it a lot. It was nice to be able to picture the things she was talking about.

My advice to anyone that goes to the Netherlands/Holland, try the stroopwafels! They are my new obsession and are extremely delicious. If you go to a street market and they are making fresh ones, get one. You will not be sorry! Also one really popular food/snack that the Dutch in the Netherlands enjoy are the fish, herrings. They eat the fish raw and dip each piece into diced onions and then chase each bite with a piece of a pickle. Sounds gross but it actually wasn’t bad at all.

Other than that, the weekend was awesome. It was sunny and warm all weekend as well, what more could you ask for?

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spring has Sprung

Spring has sprung here in Ireland which means the grass has gotten greener and the flowers are in full bloom! Yesterday the sun was out all day and the temperature was up to almost 60 degrees. I know that doesn’t sound warm but in a country where the warmest it gets is usually about 70 degress, yesterday was a fantastic day. Also, the clocks were pushed forward this past weekend, which means it is lighter longer. In fact, It doesn’t get dark until after 7pm now. It definitely leads to a happier Ireland.

Image

Image Sunset yesterday

The past few weeks have been crazy busy with traveling and schoolwork. I have celebrated St. Patricks day in Dublin, traveled to Scotland, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Netherlands; all of which were absolutely amazing. 

To start off, St. Patricks day in Dublin was very exciting. The streets were extremely packed and full of green. We had the opportunity to see the parade, which was a lot different then I thought it was going to be. There were no Irish dancers, no classic Irish music and lots of random things that I didn’t understand. I should have brushed up on my Irish history well before the parade but luckily my friends and I were standing next to an Irish family who explained everything to us. There were a lot of artists who were involved in the parade and the different floats, costumes and props were really cool. What was also very interesting was that they had a couple of American marching bands such as LSU’s band, University of Illinois band, and a couple of American high school bands. The coolest band was actually a German band. 

ImageEveryone lined up for the parade! 

 

ImageThe only pipers and they were bag pipes, not Irish pipes. 

 

ImageImageThis section of the parade was for the anniversary of a huge viking battle that occurred just outside of Dublin. 

Image

Image

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

After the parade, we listened to some live Irish music and checked out all of the different pubs, which every pub in Dublin was packed. It was a really fun experience but definitely exhausting. If Dublin wasn’t such a popular place to celebrate and mark off of my bucket list, I probably would have gone to a smaller town on the west coast. My roommates were telling me that the celebration in Ireland was busy but a little bit less touristy. 

Traveling through Europe has been very cool and stressful. Ryanair is one of the cheap airlines here in Ireland, but they have very strict policies. I am always worried about my bag being too big, or not getting to the gate on time (which my friends and I almost missed our flight to Scotland). I have been very lucky with the opportunities to travel and have two more trips planned before I head back to the states. Other than that, the life abroad is amazing. It is going way too fast, though. 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

…still living in France…

 

Je me réveille. 

Je mange des céréales.  Je prends un café. 

J’achète une pan-au-chocolat avant mes cours d’art.

Je fait du vélo.

Je peins le Montagne Sainte- Victoire.

Je fait du vélo.

Je prends un café.

Je mange une baguette.

Je dessine. 

Je dors.

Je répète. 

 

J’adore.

ImageImageImage

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Korea Did For Me Today

Today, I ate Taco Bell. The Crunchwrap Supreme is, thankfully, just about the same. The tacos are smaller, though, as are the drinks. And the nachos are…well, there are nachos. Oh! And no Doritos Tacos. :(

20140316-010438.jpg

All you can it. Literally all you can it.

20140316-010450.jpg

This sticker says “Zacpot,” which is hilarious. In the Korean language, the “j” sound is actually just a harder “z” sound, so they romanize it both ways. They just happened to pick kind of the wrong one here.

20140316-010500.jpg

We visited a flea market (this is Korea, mind you, so it’s called a “free market”) in the Hongdae area. Hongdae (short for Hongik Daehakkyo or Hongik University) is known for its incredible art program, so many of the art students will make handmade trinkets to sell at this market every Saturday. Today was a beautiful day, so my host parents took me to do a little window (or table, as it were) shopping. These hats struck my fancy. I especially like the “Drunken Swag” and “HTML” hats.

20140316-010516.jpg

There’s live music here all the time.

20140316-010538.jpg

This restaurant is too good to even exist. Hotdogs…with coffee…with pie??? How did they know?!

20140316-010554.jpg

And this guy was performing magic tricks for a good part of the afternoon. He was actually really good, and the host parents and I stayed way too long. Good thing we had just bought hotteok. The only problem was, the poor guy couldn’t really speak clearly and was a little on the awkward side. And he ate burning paper so his mouth was bleeding. And his pants were unzipped. Other than that, though, golden.

20140316-010607.jpg

And here are my host mom and me! It may not look like we are outside of a cool, artsy, fun, folky public restroom, but I assure you that we are.

20140316-010619.jpg

Hope you enjoyed!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

An Update, and a Word on Korean Humor

It’s been pretty hectic lately, what with the start of classes and all. My first week, and after today my second, have passed without too much fanfare, and I’m somewhat happy and somewhat sad to say it seems like I’m ahead of the curve in all of my classes. I tested into level one Korean, even though I’m pretty sure I could have handled level two, since I’ve been acting as a default translator for most of the class so far because the teachers only speak Korean in class. Still, it’s good practice, and a good confidence booster. My history class is interesting but a little boring (at least one person has fallen asleep in every class so far) (not me yet but I’m not overconfident). My political science class is a bit like pulling teeth because I already know all of the theory we have discussed (thanks, Transy), and my Intro to Korean Studies class, as I have discovered, is primarily a literature class. So my schedule definitely could be a bit more challenging, but should make for a fun and (mostly) interesting semester.

As for outside-of-classroom things, everything is going swimmingly. I signed up for a language exchange club, and my buddy seems like a really cool guy even though we haven’t met face-to-face. The weather is getting warmer, and I’ve been meeting some really awesome people, both in my program and not. Honestly, my problem now is that I’m already anticipating with dread the approaching farewell date.

Another issue is, of course, there is still a pretty big language barrier between me and most of the country. The result of that is that even when I’m at the apartment and speaking to my host family in English, there’s not a lot I can watch on TV. Of course there’s a CNN affiliate here, but who wants to watch English TV in a foreign country? (And, for that matter, who wants to watch the news while they’re studying abroad?) Plus, even though I can usually understand dramas because they talk about predictable things, I told my host family that I don’t really love watching dramas, so now we never watch them because they are overly thoughtful. Due to all of these factors, I have seen at least 16 thousand million episodes of Running Man and 진짜 사나이, whose rough translation is something like “A Real Man.” (Problematic, I know.) Running Man is a show about seven (?) people and a guest who play games against each other in rotating teams. 진짜 사나이 is about celebrities doing military service (required of male Korean citizens), but both are shot as comedies. These shows are hilarious, but I honestly cannot tell you why. Korean humor is, thankfully, not as reliant on wordplay as Chinese humor is or on physical comedy as much as British comedy is. Actually, Korean humor relies a lot on ugly/average-looking people making fun of really attractive people, which may be why I find it so appealing. Korean humor is also really exacerbated by the fact that Korea’s background as a Confucian society means that most people don’t do anything loud or that makes them stand out. Comedians, on the other hand, are usually the loudest people in the place, and they also are the only ones willing to do weird stuff. For example, Koreans find cross-dressing hilarious. And the way they go about it, they’re usually right, because they always take care to go way over the top. The funniest part about this to me is that most Koreans are androgynous enough anyway that instead of looking like a cross-dresser, they usually just look like a kind of mis-proportioned guy/girl. Another theme which appears a lot on comedy shows is foreigners making cultural faux pas, which is equal parts funny, relatable, and helpful to me. Oh, and for some reason, they really like to wake each other up early on comedy shows. They also use a lot of music that I’m pretty sure they don’t have the rights to. Be heard a lot of Fall Out Boy, and right now I’m watching an episode of Running Man that is using the soundtrack from the Taiwanese film 不能说的秘密 (Secret). And every comedy show is heavily edited, with cutesy visual and sound effects and often with the dialogue written out. I would guess that one episode of any comedy show will use 15-20 different fonts, so whoever has that job must have a lot of fun. I’ve also tried to watch SNL Korea, but that one’s a little hard without subtitles. Anyway, Korean comedy shows are definitely a part of the culture worth experiencing, and it’s so easy with the Internet! When you get a minute, I recommend any episode of Running Man, a lot of which are available with subtitles at http://www.dramafever.com.

If you have any comments or recommendations, I’d love to hear them! Please leave them and any suggestions for future posts below in the comments section. 안녕히가세요!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Street Food in Seoul: My Top 5

Check out my latest video!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Many, many shades of green!

Hello all!

So far Ireland is amazing! Yes, it does rain a lot here and instead of thunderstorms there are extreme wind storms. It makes you appreciate the sun and clear day more than ever. The beauty of the rain is that the grass is always green and you learn how to layer your clothing. Now I am not saying Ireland is a terrible place at all. In fact, it is an extremely beautiful country with a lot going on. The cities are gorgeous and filled with history. Also, the country sides are magnificent rain or shine. 

I am currently living in Limerick, which is on the west side of the country. There is so much natural beauty that I do not have to travel more than an hour by bus to see something new and wonderful. A couple of great things about Limerick is that it is very centralized to a lot cities on the west coast, there is a huge milk market (farmers market) every Saturday morning that is very unique, and Limerick has a castle located right in the center. It is about 2 euro from the University to the city centre by bus and you can find everything you will ever need in the city centre. 

The university I am attending is the University of Limerick and it is the major sport campus in Ireland. I am not sure on the exact number but I know there are at least 6-7 pitches (fields) located next to my flat. Also, they have an olympic sized swimming pool, a large weight/ cardio room, four basketball courts and an indoor track that is six laps to a mile. All of the facilities are always in use; I saw an empty field for the first time last week and I have been here for over a month. The fitness center also offers a ton of fitness classes, which is pretty entertaining because one of the classes is held on two basketball courts and can accommodate over 100 participants (they have to turn people away half the time). As for being an exercise science major, this location is exactly where I need to be for the study abroad experience. 

One really interesting thing is that this time of year is huge for the Irish because the Six Nations is in full swing. This is the only time that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland come together. The Six Nations is a Rugby tournament between Ireland (consisting of players from both Northern and the Republic of Ireland), England, Scotland, Whales, Italy and France. They are very exciting matches and every pub is jammed packed with fans during the matches. 

To begin my journey of Ireland, my study abroad group and I (18 students from all over the US) met up at the Dublin airport. From there we were introduced to Ireland through an orientation program with Arcadia. In the morning we would sit down and go through what to expect, things we needed to have completed and how to’s. In the afternoon we were given time to explore Dublin and get to know eachother. We had this schedule for about three days and were then taken to Limerick where we went through an orientation that University offered. 

Settling in and classes was weird the first week. I live in a flat with five roommates; we each have our own room and bathroom but share the kitchen and family room. They are all really cool and from all over; two are Irish, one is from London, another is Canadian and then other is from Palestine. All of them are in the Music Grad program at Limerick, so I am the baby of the house. Four of them play instruments (fiddle, flute and pipes) and the other is in the Dance academy. They play in “sessions” at different pubs around Limerick with other students in the academy. Also, they invite me along to listen and watch. They play classic Irish tunes and lots of fiddle music. 

Classes are a lot different here. I have three classes where I only have lecture once a week for two hours. One of my classes has a two hour lecture and a two hour lab. The final class has two, one hour lectures with a tutorial. I have never figured out what the difference is between a tutorial and a lecture. I think they are supposed to be smaller class sizes for more one on one and hands on activities, so far we have had two. Also, my final exams are worth 80-90% of my final grade. There is very little work that is to be turned in during the semester. I either have a paper due or a presentation at some point during the semester, but that is it. So right now it is smooth sailing, but come May things are going to start getting stressful. 

Walking to class is also very, very different from Transy. My closest class is about a half mile walk, which is definitely different from the 2 minute walk from one end of campus to the other. It is cool to get the feel of a big school as well as getting my walking milage up. Also on my walks to class, I walk across this pretty quarter mile long bridge. It crosses the river shannon which has been filled to its max capacity for a few weeks now due to all of the rain. 

As for now, things are going fantastic and my traveling is starting to pick up. So far I have been to Dublin, Galway, Connemara and Belfast. My future trips include many more Irish locations (Cork City, Killarney, Dingle, Kilkenny and more), Scotland, London, Amsterdam and Barcelona. 

Just a few pictures of my experience so far:

Image

Us American’s learning the Gaelic sport of Hurling. Here they have the GAA which is Gaelic Athletic Association and each town/county has their own GAA location. The GAA sports include Gaelic football, Hurling, Camogie and Handball. 

Image

 

Halfway across the Living Bridge that we cross everyday to get to class.

Image

 

bridge from afar

Image

 

Connemara

Image

 

Connemara continued

Image

 

Galway

Image

 

more Galway

Image

 

Galway

Image

 

Dublin!

Image

 

Giant’s Causeway

Image

 

Causeway Continued

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Je ne sais quoi.

I can in no way describe this walk.

But yesterday’s rain has cleared everything from the sky.  Dad and I would call it ‘crispy.’

Drops of water are falling from the trees with rays of white sunlight shining through them.  Thus, as they fall, they are illuminated against the dark pavement.

Whizzing cars yield to bird chirps and the far away sound of Le Torse. And as I walk down toward the river the sun has also illuminated the mist rising from behind the peach- colored houses on the other side of the little valley.

My fingertips are frozen, for the morning is brisk.  A small breeze is blowing, and I would have an earache if it weren’t for the hat I grabbed as I tiptoed out of the little art museum of a french apartment that I now call home.

But I feel warmth on my face.

And this is the je ne sais quoi that confronted me on my walk to art school this morning.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Phenomenon That is Kim Yuna + My Homestay So Far

There is no female athlete in the world who is paid more money annually than South Korea’s very own Kim Yuna. There is also probably no person who has more completely taken over control of an entire country without being in political office than Kim Yuna. This place is totally obsessed with her. So you can imagine that the last few days have been pretty rough since she graciously accepted a silver medal to retire on.

A little bit about Olympics coverage in Korea–it’s nothing like coverage in the States. First off, events are played live instead of in a recorded and cut format like NBC shows, so the better parts of the waking hours are taken up by curling since it’s events like these which take place at the times no one wants to watch them in Sochi. Events like figure skating or speed skating usually take place in the wee hours of the morning, and so it was for Miss Kim. The first night she took the ice at exactly 2:24 a.m, and there was a shocking number of people who had obviously stayed up to watch it as gathered from all of the puffy faces on the bus the next day. This was convenient for me because it was the night my medical tests required that I sleep only four hours. At least I wasn’t alone.

The impressive bit, though, was what was happening on the rest of the channels the entire day leading up to her performances, because every single one of them was playing something about her. There were variety shows featuring her, there were commercials where she was endorsing a skincare product, and of course her previous performances were on loop. Literally on loop. Here is a photo from the Vancouver performance to prove it.

Kim Yuna

The day after her first performance, she was all over the TV again. This time, though, there was no variety. It was all the previous night’s performance, again on loop. People watched it on their smart phones on the bus and subway. The ones who couldn’t afford the data for that month looked at stills from it. I was asked about it by total strangers if I had watched it. The nation was nuts. And then–the unthinkable. She didn’t win.

Kim Yuna Eye

Abraham Lincoln that if you want to test a man’s character, you should give him power. I assert that if you want to test a Korean’s character, you should tell them the Kim Yuna lost to a Russian. Social media was totally blowing up with complaints, a petition reached some ungodly number of signatures in something like 20 hours, and overall, everyone was really upset. I was there on State Street when UK won in 2012, and this might have been worse. In Korean style, of course. Meaning they were generally also respectful to the winner and only said that Yuna’s was better (for the most part). And then turned the topic to Victor Ahn.

On a lighter note, though, I’m noticing that Koreans are amazingly honest. Today while shopping in Costco with my host family, we left our cart totally unattended with all of our personal belongings in it for several minutes while selecting a laundry hamper and trash can. When we came back, it was all untouched. They also have a system in the grocery stores where patrons have to pay a few won to take a cart and then reattach their cart to the others while returning it. You are probably thinking, “There’s no way that works.” Well, you’re wrong. It’s amazing.

Speaking of my host family, I’m finally moved in to my homestay! I love it so far. Here are a few pictures from my room.

My Room 1

My room 2

My room 3

My host parents are lovely people. His name is Kwang-su, and he decided beforehand that I should call him KS because it sounds more natural in English speech. It doesn’t, but that’s okay. Kwang-su is a numbers guy for SC Johnson and works something crazy like 12 hours a day every weekday. My host mother’s name is Gye-young, and I call her Kay. Kay is an English teacher at a private academy here. They have two really cool dogs, Jang-gu and Coco. They lived in America for eight years, so what that means for me is that today’s breakfast included bacon. They’re very, very nice and they’re always trying to give me things, which I think is sort of a staple of Korean culture, but I’m still not quite used to it. They are also immaculately clean (they listed one of their ways to spend free time as straightening up the house), so I’m very pleased with that. They live in a nice apartment complex in central Seoul near Namsan Tower, so they assure me that it will be really easy for a taxi driver to find this place if I should somehow not be able to use public transportation correctly (they know me too well already). Kwang-su likes to tell me things I probably already know, and Kay tells me just to let him do this because he is stubborn. They’re really fun, and I think this will be an awesome place to spend a semester!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Mystical WC–Comparing Culture One Stall at a Time

Image

In the informal poll I held recently, public toilets won out for the topic of this blog post over the Olympics. I’m not sure what that should say about my readers, but I’m keeping you all at arms’ length from now on. Below are some notable differences I’ve seen between bathroom etiquette in the US and here in Seoul.

1. Koreans don’t flush their toilet paper–I think I have mentioned this one before in my list of observations (not stereotypes, fine line I know). Instead, the toilet paper goes in the wastebaskets which appear in every stall. I assume this makes life much easier for groups of people like Transy’s Bathroom Squad (or whatever they’re going by now…The Water Closet Warriors? The Commode Crusaders? The Artist Formerly Known as Prince?), who seek bathroom equality of opportunity for people of all sexes and genders. Go them! I’m also absolutely positive that this is not South Korea’s motivation for not flushing their toilet paper, as I think it probably has about 100% more to do with the fact that their septic system just can’t handle millions of tons of toilet paper, but I like to be optimistic and say they probably thought of that as a side benefit. Anyway, it’s not so bad right now, but I’m guessing the subway bathrooms get way raunchy in the hot summertime.

2. Traditional toilets still appear in Korean public stalls–These look something like this

Image

and are really, really difficult to use, especially if it’s your first time and you’re also scared in the hospital trying to hit a tiny cup without a funnel to give a urine sample. Also they are predictably super insanitary, and I now understand at least one reason which we must take our shoes off all the time. I don’t want pee all over my house either, and I must assume that all surfaces where shoes have been are also surfaces where pee is.

3. All of the Western-style toilets have lids–This is so you can close it to flush the toilet and therefore trap some of the germs in. The lids often have some kind of sticker or design on the inside to make it cute, like a cat or something. Like most things in Asian culture, this is mostly adorable but also kind of weird.

4. Most bathrooms in Korea have a touch-free hand dryer…–and you must be a magician to activate it. Koreans also like bar soap, so sometimes they’ll have a bar of soap attached to a metal rod in lieu of liquid or foam. Making use of this soap is an activity that can, in the right company, seem a little suggestive, so choose your bathroom buddies wisely.

5. Koreans love bathroom-y stuff–This observation is based on things like the aforementioned poop-themed cafe, the Suwon toilet museum (lovingly known as Mr. Toilet House), restaurants where the bowls are miniature toilets and the food is shaped like poop…I could go on, but I won’t.

So the point is that Koreans are very particular about bathrooming, and like most things, they take it a little far. But that’s why we love them!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: