Old News

Final Exam Scores:
Listening (30% of total): 77% (C)
Reading (20% of total): 86% (B)
Speaking (30% of total, based on Interview [80%] and Sanghwangyeokhal [20%]): 83% (B)
     Interview: 81% (B)
     Sanghwangyeokhal: 90% (A)
Writing (20% of total): 70.9% (C)
Overall Final Exam Score: 79.38% (C)
Course Score (does not count Participation, which is 20%): 83.76% (B)
March 19, 2007

A Mixture of Disappointment and Relief

Well, I got back my scores, and the average is 79.38%. I was a little bit disappointed, because I felt GOOD on three of those tests, right after taking them. On the other hand, I didn't really bomb anything. The writing score was a relief, because that test was extremely difficult. I know of at least two ASIANS in that class who did worse on it than I did (one of them got a 40%).

An 83.76% for Level 3 isn't so bad. I was one of three westerners in that class, but one had had over 2,500 hours of classroom time courtesy of the Air Force, and the other one had Korean parents. So really, I'm the underdog, and I got scores that weren't horrible, in spite of that. Oh yeah, and I missed almost a week of school near the end of the quarter. Do you think that had an impact on my grades?

When I chose to study Korean, I knew I wasn't picking an easy thing to study, and I pretty much blew up any chance of getting a bunch of A's when I placed into the Course A with all the Japanese and Chinese.

So I'm a little bit disappointed that this level, my scores dropped another few points, but the difference overall between Level 2 and 3 wasn't that profound. I could drop that much every single level and still graduate Level 6.

And, on a happy note, even if my teachers are satanic and give me a 0% for participation, I'll still pass the class. This means I have just netted myself another 6 college credits towards my degree!

New York Hotdog, a business near my place of residence, quotes an unknown but very profound source on their sign.

This is the exterior of New York Hotdog, to prove that it exists.

March 17, 2007
Well, the finals are all done, and there's nothing else I have to do regarding finals. Therefore, I am somewhat relieved. I think that both my speaking and reading finals went really well, so overall, today was a success, but there was too much extroverted time spent with other people, so I'm burnt out and just want to go to bed (so I will).

After I finished my speaking exam, Mrs. Jeong asked me somewhat rhetorically "so you're going to Daiki Tanaka's recital tonight, right?" Daiki Tanaka is my classmate, and he plays the trombone in the Yonsei orchestra. Well, I couldn't really refuse, because the teacher and everyone else were going. Now, I bet Daiki did a good job (so did everyone else in that orchestra, they were talented), BUT it just wasn't my kind of thing (I don't really like classical music, and I couldn't even glance at the time because I had to turn off my cell phone). And I was told it would be two hours, and it ended up being almost three. There were rounds of applause lasting several minutes, and an encore, all of which stretched it out significantly. Then, the class/Mrs. Jeong wanted to go and eat dinner/go drinking, to which I had to refuse. I had already eaten lunch with my class earlier in the day (at Jessica's Pizzeria, which ended up costing me 11,000 won). They were somewhat disappointed, but I wasn't the only person dipping out early, and I had told the teacher after my interview that I was going to reserve my Geumgangsan tour tonight, so she could probably understand why I was dipping out early.

Well, I got home, and Mijung isn't here, and won't be home for at least two more hours. I can't stay up that late. I guess we'll have to book Geumgangsan tomorrow.

Yes, that's right, Mijung and I have made a deal to go to Geumgangsan, North Korea on April 6. The tour must be booked at least two weeks in advance, so we have to act fast! I'm a US citizen, but supposedly, Geumgangsan is open to both Americans and South Koreans, so Mijung and I can go. That'll be quite an experience, and I'll take as many photos as I can to the point where the size of this site will double. Maybe I'll create a special mini-site just for Geumgangsan. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It took 48 years for North Korea to open up to this extent. If they close back up again, it could be another 48 years, so I have to go now while they're still open!

March 16, 2007: Update 2


I forgot to mention the most interesting part of yesterday: the AIR RAID DRILL. Yes, at about 2:00 PM, the sirens started going (pretty quiet from where I was in Shinchon -- I barely noticed them and figured they were just ambulances or something). Then some soldiers started telling everyone to get into a building or go underground. That's when I knew something was up. I went underground, into the Shinchon subway station, where I heard a PA announcement in Korean only that stated "you cannot go outside." I walked around the subway station, and encountered a group of fellow foreigners who were being prevented from leaving the subway station by a soldier. They didn't know what was going on. Well, I knew about air raid drills (although I slept through the last one), so I informed them. Some people were leaving the subway station anyway, despite the soldiers' warnings. Eventually, I asked the soldier if I could go outside, and he said that I could, but that the roads were blocked off. Sure enough, outside, the traffic was at a standstill, and some of the roads didn't have a single car on them (extremely unusual for Shinchon). I could've just sat down in the middle of the road in Shinchon. If you know what Shinchon's normally like, you're aware that this is impossible at just about any other time.

So that was the air raid drill -- a necessary exercise for a population to engage in every six months when North Korea is 30 miles away.

March 16, 2007
Well, today, I did the following tests:
Sanghwangyeokhal (dialog with a partner that you're supposed to memorize beforehand)
I think I did pretty poorly on the writing test. I think a ton of material was covered while I was out. I believe I'll survive, though. The listening test went pretty well. It seemed much, much easier than the way they'd hyped it up -- I bet I got at least 80% (which they said was in indicator of whether you'd be successful in Level 4). The partner dialog went pretty badly. I had completely memorized all three dialogs, but forgotten them to the degree that I couldn't re-memorize them during the 10-minute break. Therefore, I hesitated a lot when me and Miyuki went up in front of the class. The worst part was that Miyuki didn't know how it's supposed to be done -- when I improvised a line, she tried to correct me (while the teacher is grading us, thanks a lot). For example, I forgot that the line was "yeah? If it does not bother you, may I wait [here]?" and just said "may I wait [here?]" SHE ACTUALLY CORRECTED ME, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE TEACHER. The teacher has no script, and no way to tell if you followed the script or not, except -- thanks, Miyuki. Even so, I'm fairly confident that I passed, although my score might be low. So, in summary of the first half of the midterms, I think I did well enough to pass on to Level 4, although except for listening, I don't think my grades were good. Really, that's okay. This was by far the most stressful level, and Level 4 is likely to be better. Tomorrow, I have the following tests, which I'm not really that scared about:

In regards to other news, I checked out the Yonsei pool today. It's bigger than expected. It's quite respectable for an indoor poor, and it only costs about $46 a month to be a member. It would be wasted money to join right before break, but after break, it's a definite possibility. However, the bathing suit and the goggles (if I go for them) are going to cost me an arm and a leg, it looks like. I checked at Grandmart and their cheapest bathing suit that wasn't some kind of European gay spandex thing was about $38! I didn't buy it -- I'm pretty sure I can do better than that. The goggles are going to be expensive too -- I was quoted about $17 for a pair (they have to be of a special variety because of my western nose that makes wearing the standard goggles for Korean people impossible). So in short summary, joining the actual pool is pretty reasonable, but I should have brought a bathing suit and goggles from the States!

As for other news, I got a Korean bank account today, which currently has a test balance of 10,000 won (about $11). The bank is Woori Bank (formerly Hanil Bank). It's the bank with an ATM in Yonsei, so that's one reason why I chose it. I got a debit card, and supposedly, I pay no fees if it's during banking hours. The problem is, I've been withdrawing huge amounts of cash from my US account to save money (the same $5 fee is charged whether you withdraw $10 or $400). However, carrying $400 in your wallet is kind of dangerous. This way, I can store the $400 in Korea immediately after withdrawing it, lessening the likelihood of theft.

I also paid my Level 4 tuition today. I know I swore up and down I'd never do it again, but it looks like I did!

March 14, 2007
Oh crap, I'm staring into the maw of finals. My goal is to make a B for this term (with an 80% on the listening final -- what the teacher says you need to function well in Level 4). In theory, this should be easy: I already have an 88.14%, so all I need to get a B is a 71.86% on the finals. Normally, this would be a cinch, except that I have missed 16 hours of material out of 100 for this half of the term, and to top it off, I haven't digested much of anything in the last month, because once again, this term, I was an idiot and told myself "I can do 35 words a day." Learn that many words a day and you'll forget them, it's as simple as that, especially when they're Korean words with no relation to English.

The sadists at Yonsei decided "let's have the writing exam, the listening exam, and the partner dialogs all on the same day." Therefore, I have to learn all the grammar and idiomatic expressions, I have to complete all the tapes, and I have to memorize a total of 21 lines of dialog before or on...tomorrow. Tonight, I'm simply not going to sleep -- I will sleep before the test, but instead of sleeping now (it's almost 6:00 AM) I'm going to memorize one of the dialogs and try to complete a tape, and do as much of my practice homework as I can. This is insane. I want break to come so bad. I knew this term would be hell, and indeed it was. Here are some reasons why this term was hell:
I went through enormous stress as I got horrible score after horrible score on the Yonsei practice exams.
I had an ultra-short two-day relationship that caused me to fall into a scholastic slump for a couple of days -- enough to throw me off track for the rest of the term.
I got moved from one place to another. I started out in the twin room, then Mijung moved me into the dorm room. At first I had my own enclosed space in the dorm room. Then she moved the bed against the wall so I no longer had an enclosed space. Then a group of rowdy college kids came and took the dorm, so I was moved to the twin room on Sunday. Therefore, I have had to move my stuff three times this term.
I tried out Sogang for five days and it didn't work out. Basically, this means I missed 16 hours of Yonsei, ignored my Yonsei study, and was put into a bad mood which further impeded my ability to study when it all didn't work out.
This term, we only had only two holidays, so it was basically five-day week after five-day week. This is in contrast to last term when I had a long Chuseok break, and the summer which was dead easy because it was Level 1 (and dotted with a number of holidays).

I feel like my study would improve if I could just get a full night of sleep for once. Geez, I just want this term to be over.

March 13, 2007
I got my new passport today! Oh boy, oh boy! Now I'm good for the next ten years (yahoo)! It has all the latest security features, etc. I scanned it, but covered up and deleted the important information so some scammer in India can't use it.

Finals start the day after tomorrow, and end on Friday. I'm going to do a ton of tapes tonight. Wish me luck.

Margaret (Golden Pond Guest), Me, and Jeongho at the Noraebang

A really ordinary social pic with me and people in it.

March 12, 2007
Another visit to a noraebang last night, with lots of photos. This happens so often, it's not really remarkable, and although the first time or two, it's a good photo op, it becomes about as interesting as photographing a frying pan. Even so, this site needed more pictures in its news reel, so I posted them.

I have three more nights to study for the first round of exams. I've knocked out 2.5 tape sides (leaving 4.5). I am preparing as well as I can for the listening exam. We had a practice exam today and I got 74%, but as I've learned from before, practice exams mean nothing. The teachers are saying this is going to be a lot harder than the last one, because Level 4 is going to be a lot harder (I guess they'll use it to weed people out, great). Maybe they'll just put us in front of the news and expect us to understand every word of it.

As for other notable news, I pick up my new passport tomorrow, so when I do that, I should be set for the next five or ten years (they used to renew it for ten, but I've heard it's now five for everyone). Oh, and when I was riding the subway today (with Dang li), someone vacated their seat and I tried to sit down, but some bitch said in English "excuse me, that's kind of rude." Of course, I enquired what was rude. She was like "I was trying to get that seat." Excuse me, bitch, what entitles you? Is it because you're a woman? Well, if you're a pregnant woman, they have reserved seats for pregnant women right over there. I just gave the seat up, but it pissed me off. Maybe her logic was that I was younger than she was (by this token, I should never sit down, because I'm younger than almost everyone). So maybe she was going on the Confucian angle. Oh yeah, and part of Korean Confucianism is also avoiding confrontations, which she DID NOT do. I hate randomly rude people. I don't think she was Korean -- she just didn't seem Korean in the way she dressed or her manner. Dang li disagrees and thinks she was Korean. In those situations, we always tell ourselves later "there are much better ways I could have responded." I should have just said "I don't understand English" and then said in Korean "why do you think I speak English? Because I'm white?" and then claimed I was French and gotten all offended. That's what I'll do next time.

March 9, 2007


I feel terrible today. I just did something drastic. I hope that I won't regret it, and I hope my reasons for doing it are solid ones. I quit Sogang, and will supposedly be getting a 90% refund within the next week.

I just couldn't stand the class. The actual material itself wasn't particularly difficult, but their teaching system was just so unpleasant, I decided "maybe it's better to stay with Yonsei, because the issues that are arising at Sogang just didn't happen at Yonsei."

1. Every time I looked at a dictionary, I got a scolding from the teacher. This is apparently part of their "method." Apparently you're supposed to discover words by talking to classmates. Look, I'm going to use a dictionary.
2. My teacher for 2/3 of the day was particularly unpleasant. I could bear the first period teacher (she just seemed mildly disapproving of my dictionary use), but the second period teacher, Mrs. Yun, actually told me after class that I was "disrupting" her class with my questions. I think this is, quite frankly, utterly fucking ridiculous. When you calculate the cost of each class, that's about $25 per day. I'm not going to pay $25 per day to learn from other students -- I could hire a private tutor for an hour on that money, probably. Teachers are supposed to be open to questions, especially in a small class that isn't a lecture. In my opinion, if Mrs. Yun has a problem with active, western-style students, she shouldn't be teaching at a school that caters to foreigners.
3. The school lied to me about how this potential problem could be fixed when I did my interview. The interviewing teacher said that if my class was too difficult, I could be moved to another section within Level 4 (not to another level, just another class). Well, when I talked to the counselor today at 2:00 PM, she said this was impossible. Apparently every single class in Level 4 was completely full, so that no class could take even one more student.
4. The school is obsessed with having us spend all this time practicing our Korean with each other. I live with Koreans. I don't need to practice Korean with other foreigners -- that's not useful. I'd rather be learning material, like at Yonsei, than spend large amounts of time talking with people who are at my exact same level.

Anyways, with these concerns, I went to the "Counseling Teacher" at 2:00 today. She was unhelpful at first. I said I wanted to either quit and get a decent refund, or change to another class. She got on the phone and did these BS calls to other departments, supposedly to see if these things were possible. At first, it looked like I could only get a 50% refund. Eventually, I got that up to a 70% refund, which she claimed could not be exceeded because of Korean law. So I said that I'd probably just have to stay with Sogang then, because I wasn't about to flush 363,000 won down the toilet. I asked if I could change to another class. This is when I started to get aggravated, because she did some calls and said that I couldn't, which was completely contrary to what the interviewing teacher had told me. So I got mad and said that I'd been lied to. At that point, she got on the phone and suddenly made things happen -- allegedly, I'll get a 90% refund.

Of course, I'm not out of the woods yet. Sogang, despite being a huge university, is apparently completely incapable of doing an instant or even semi-instant refund. They claim it'll take a week to refund me. Oh, that's just great. So I go back to Yonsei, study my ass off there and hope I can still do well on the finals. If I do, and if Sogang refunds my money, everything will be just peachy (I'll probably have a lifetime ban from Sogang, but I think I can live with that). However, if Sogang decides to change its mind again, then I'll be stuck in their classes.

Well, there's only one thing left to do now -- I'll completely forget about the Sogang material and probably never touch it again. I'll work my ass off at Yonsei and see if I can get a B on the final. In short summary, I don't like Yonsei's teaching method either, but at least the Yonsei teachers tolerate me (quite often they love me because they see me as motivated). I could tell from the five days that I tried at Sogang that it wasn't using some awesome X-method that Yonsei wasn't, so at this point, it looks like if I want to learn listening comprehension, it'll have to be up to me, not the school. Oh man, I have the following work ahead of me:
- Listen to approximately 3.5 tapes to prepare for the listening comprehension exam.
- Read all the short stories in the reading book to prepare for the reading exam, and memorize all the vocabulary. While not particularly hard, I need to maintain the hundreds of other words that we've learned this term, as well.
- As for writing, I need to catch up on the grammar that I missed during my week at Sogang. Fortunately, since I quit at Sogang this week, I'll still have three more days of normal classroom time to get someone else's grammar notes, etc.

It's going to be a tough road for the next week. I hope I made the right decision. Whenever a person makes a decision this big, it's bound to be painful, even if it's the right one, because we always wonder if we could have done better with the new system instead of reverting to the old one.

March 7, 2007
Okay, I'm now considerably more pissed. I just finished up my third day at Sogang. I'm not impressed with their curriculum. For some reason, I thought I could quit within the first week and still get most of my money back, but I must've been thinking of another school. I can only get 50% back if I quit this week. So basically, I'm stuck at Sogang, because even if the instruction sucks, it's not worth flushing 605,000 won down the toilet. Here are the reasons that I don't like Sogang's program:
They have this policy called "hak-saeng-jung-shim" which literally "student focus." That sounds good, right? Well, what it actually means is that students are supposed to teach each other. For example, the teacher said that if I don't know a word, I shouldn't look in the dictionary, I should ask another student. I don't like this system because I hate communicating with other students in Korean. I've lived with Koreans long enough to know what "real" Korean sounds like, and these Japanese, Chinese, and western people ARE NOT speaking correct Korean, and it HURTS MY EARS to listen to it.
Dictionaries are discouraged in general. I just can't learn without a dictionary. I need a translation in my native language. It takes the teacher forever to explain to me what "jung-shim" means, but if I look it up and I see that it's "focus," and that makes sense, that seems like the best method to me. Yet this is highly discouraged and always makes the teacher go on and on about how I shouldn't use a dictionary.
There is too much time spent conversing with other students and not enough time spent on actually learning. I don't care about practicing Korean with other foreigners. Speaking Korean with foreigners is a completely unimportant skill. English is the international language, not Korean, so unless I'm talking to Koreans, it'll be English. Why then, do we spend so much free conversation time talking to each other? I think that a lot of Korean language schools (both Yonsei and Sogang) assume that you're only hanging out with people of your same race, so they assume that you're not getting speaking opportunities outside of class, so they try to compensate for this loads of in-classroom practice. *NEWS FLASH* -- I live with Koreans and have several Korean friends, so I don't need to practice with other people who are also learning Korean. I would rather the time be spent learning, rather than practicing.
There doesn't seem to be much in the way of listening comprehension practice beyond what Yonsei does. We listen to a recording every day and try to answer some questions, but it just doesn't seem like enough time is devoted to listening each day to really make a difference.

Is there a good Korean school in Korea? I'm really starting to wonder. Maybe I'll come to like Sogang. After all, I'm stuck here, because I can't get a refund beyond 50%.

March 6, 2007
Okay, I'm a little pissed right now. I'm not super pissed -- little things have been happening all day to annoy me, and I've boiled over, so I'm going to make an angry post on my website rather than doing something less constructive (like picking a fight with someone smaller than myself, etc). Today, three things culminated to make me pissed off:
At Sogang, the teacher was attempting to explain the "-da boni" grammar pattern without comparing it to any grammar pattern we already know. Of course I didn't understand it. I finally said something to the effect of (in Korean, because we never speak English in class) "okay, if you can't teach it in terms of a grammar that I already know, I'll learn it through translation at home." Apparently this is against Sogang's policy. She was like "no, don't learn through translation!" At this point, learning this grammar had eaten up several minutes and I was getting nowhere, so I said "this is inefficient." Then one of my classmates chimed in and was like "this is why our method is superior to the one you used at Yonsei." Okay, what the hell is this, a cult? Eventually, I got it -- but I could have gotten it in 1/10th the time if I'd learned it either in terms of an already-known pattern, or if I'd just seen a simple translation.
Then, class ended and I was walking through the Sinchon subway station, and I saw a booth with lots of photos of children with wounds and bruises from being abused. They were collecting signatures on a petition. I thought "you know, I'm not a huge proponent of child-beating either, so I think I'll sign." Well, I approached the woman at the booth and asked if I could sign it. She told me that foreigners can't sign, because of the law! I'm serious, foreigners aren't allowed to sign petitions! Okay, so I guess I can't add "signing petitions" to the list of activities that are allowed for me in Korea (currently includes: eating, sleeping, going to class, possibly pissing).
Then I got home and took a nap, because I'd only slept for four hours last night. Mijung wakes me up prematurely and says "sogaehae jugo shipeun saram-i isseoyo." "There is a person that I want to introduce." That sentence is literally composed of four verbs and one noun. That should have been my red flag right there. Okay, so I was tired as heck and didn't want to wake up, but didn't have much choice. The person I was meeting was from Arirang TV. I don't know why Mijung introduced me to her. Mijung kept on asking me ridiculously high-level questions with words that I didn't know, and I felt like an idiot who could only speak Korean at a one-year-old level. At one point, she asked about how a documentary about one day in my life would be. I should have said "I study Korean in vain all day and my brain is going to explode soon." Unfortunately, I didn't have that kind of wit because I was just waking up. Eventually, Mijung sensed that being woken up prematurely and being drilled with impossible questions wasn't going to boost my mood, and she asked me "do you want to get up from your seat?" Of course I did, and now I'm at self-exile in a PC room.

March 5, 2007
Today was notable for the following two reasons:
I did my first day at Sogang.
I applied for my new passport.

As for Sogang, well, it was so-so. I mean, it wasn't bad, but I wasn't extremely impressed, either. You can't really judge a school from the first day. We have two teachers. The main one is Mrs. Choe. Mrs. Choe (and the other teacher) passed out some vocabulary and grammar review sheets (what you're supposed to have learned in Level 3). Well, there is quite a bit of unknown material on those sheets. The vocabulary is easy -- I bet I can memorize all the unknown words tonight. The grammar was the big disappointment. I was sure that because Yonsei is world-renowned as the school that "only teaches grammar," I'd know the grammar already. Out of 35 grammatical forms on that worksheet, there are eight that I don't know. I'm mildly irritated about this -- grammar is supposed to be Yonsei's specialty, and yet, it couldn't even teach several of these forms. Anyways, as for Sogang's actual program, it sort of worries me that we didn't do anything directed related to listening comprehension today. The teachers explained a lot of the procedures and we did some review work in groups, and we sat around in a circle and had people go up and introduce themselves, and other people asked them questions. So I guess my big question is, how is this program going to be more helpful for my listening comprehension? I'll just have to give them a chance.

Then I went to the Embassy and had a great time with good old American bureaucracy. I waited for probably an hour (longer than I'd wait at the Immigration Office). The woman was mildly rude and unhelpful -- not maddeningly so, just that sort of "take a number, you're going to need to fill this out and come back" type of attitude. I had a lot of trouble filling out my forms because I don't know how to write my address in English (English is required for the form), and the form seemed somewhat messed up (it already had a box checked that said that I'd never had a passport before, which is actually not true for me, yet I had to use that form because I was under 16 when the last passport was issued). It was just such a good old American administrative bore. According to a paper that I was given, I should receive my new passport no later than March 13, 2007. That's good, because I need a new passport to get a new visa. According to a letter that I got in the mail about my visa expiring soon:

Please note that overstaying, which means violating the Immigration Law, will not enable you to escape punishment.

Obviously they don't know about my hidden spaceship on the floor of the East Sea! Oh, and, one final thing before I sign off and study my butt off: the haircut turned out well. The barber woman (who was hot, by the way) took a look at several of the pictures on this site and cut my hair pretty much perfectly, for about $7. Why aren't there internet PCs everywhere in the US to allow this kind of convenience the way there are in Korea, which isn't nearly as wealthy per capita? BECAUSE AMERICANS ARE, ON AVERAGE, PARANOID ABOUT TECHNOLOGY.

March 4, 2007
This will be a short post (and you'll see why). You see, I'm at a BARBER SHOP! Yes, that's right, while waiting to have my hair cut for about $7, I get to use the internet on a nice computer with a crisp LG display. I feel served. I hope the haircut goes all right. I start Sogang tomorrow, so things are going to get super busy as I juggle both schools at once.

I just came up with a great idea. Last time I was here, when they asked how to cut my hair, they showed me this book of all these Japanese dudes with trendy haircuts. They wanted me to select which haircut I wanted. Of course, none of those haircuts look good on a white guy with curly red hair, so that was a little bit difficult. They ended up doing a good job anyway, but now that I know they have a computer, this is the plan: I'll just show them pictures from my website of when I had an optimal haircut, and by looking at the computer screen, they'll know how to cut it! Score!

Here's an advertisement on a bulletin board in Yonsei's KLI that's trying to get big people to join the Yonsei football team (and I'm talking real football, not soccer).

Here's my wicked, bad-ass passport photograph that I had taken today.

March 2, 2007
Well, today, I went to school, and I was a little bit frantic about getting my new passport. You see, my old one is about to get to that point where Immigration will refuse to stamp it again because it's too old. I finally got up off my butt today and called the US Embassy about renewing it. They said I can come in without an appointment. I just need to bring in a photograph and some other stuff (like an application form printed from the internet, a credit card, etc). Well, unfortunately, I couldn't get all this stuff assembled by 5:00 when they close (leave it to a US government institution to close way before any of the Korean offices close). However, I did get some cool passport pictures that make me look like a total thug. See the one on the left.

There's really very little else to report. I found a SECOND pencil drawing in my reading book today of a fish. I ran into Akiko (not to be confused with Makiko, who is unrelated to Akiko, or Akiko's younger sister, Makiko), the gal who'd given me the book, and she claims she can only draw fish. I may upload some of the drawings to this site with her permission, because they're funny to look at.

I want to praise Yonsei (for once) for having an American football team. While the Europeans and Canadians are out to prove to everyone that they're NOT AMERICAN by using the metric system, inventing alternatives to US sports like rugby and cricket, and wearing oversized maple leaf apparel, Korea (and Asia in general) is less obsessed with trying to prove that they are NOT AMERICAN, and has a football team. Congratulations, guys -- I think it's an annoying sport to watch (pauses every ten seconds, etc), but at least you guys aren't insecure about imitating the US.

I guess I'd better stop now, while I'm still ahead. Or before some Canadian shoots me.

This is me and Joe (mr_joe, a moderator from the Korean forums at paperwindow.com) standing in front of a Kimbap Cheonguk in Shinchon.
March 1, 2007
First, I'm going to cover yesterday, because that was far more interesting and important than today. I had a normal day of school until 1:30 when Mrs. Jeong took us downstairs to see the Level 2 Song Competition. The group that won did "Run to You" (a song that I knew from Pump It Up, the purveyor of Korean culture). They all had specially designed t-shirts with a Korean syllable on the back which spelled out "Yonsei KLI" in Korean. After school, me and Dang li went to the subway station and she went to teach a student Chinese, and I went to Yoido for personal reasons.

After spending some time in Yoido, I went back to Shinchon to meet Joe (a friend who I know from zKorean/the Korean forums at paperwindow.com). I was so heinously late, it's truly a wonder that Joe waited for me, but I'm glad he did, because we're going to monopolize the free online Korean learning message board industry! You can see the photo to the left (which can be enlarged to 640x480 simply by clicking). We went to a bar and got some beer and a sausage platter, but were unable to go to Mike's Cabin (Joe's favorite place) because it was closed for YAKH (Yet Another Korean Holiday).

Then I got home and there was a guest from Japan, and everyone sat around the table and we drank wine and Sanghaeroju [that's how I read it in Korean, but it's a Chinese beverage]). I had too much to drink and stayed too long and made a fool of myself.

Today, I went to Dongdaemun market and did too much recreational shopping. I didn't realize what a cool place Dongdaemun Market is, because I usually go there at night when it's just clothes and bags and crap. Well, I happened to need a new bag, so I went there. I got one for 3,000 won (about $3). I also got a bunch of other stuff. I got a total of six MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) rations that had been diverted from the US military. Each one was 200 won (about 20 cents). I also bought a CD player for 3,000 won, but it didn't work, so that was money basically thrown away. I'll have to go back there in the future for more MREs.

February 27, 2007
Well, today, we had the Play Competition (the Yeongeuk Daehoe). As previously mentioned, our class did "Inside the Bus" ("Beoseu Aneseo"). It went as planned, but most of the other classes had gone all out, so not surprisingly, we didn't place, but Junko did get some kind of award for her sound effects that she was playing on her laptop (I don't know, maybe she designed them).

After school, I decided to go to Sogang and see what class I had been placed in, and to get a neat little information book. They did not have my class placement information (I know it'll be Level 4, but I don't know things yet like the makeup of my class, etc). They said the book will be given to me on the first day of school (that'll contain some information that I want about the facilities). Once I get that book, I can ascertain things like whether or not they have a pool, etc. I need to get involved in something besides just studying Korean. Speaking Korean is a nice thing to be able to do in this neck of the woods, but studying Korean and doing little else means that life can be a bit monotonous, so I need to spice it up. I've been out on enough dates to know that when a Korean girl asks what I do and I say "study Korean all day," she isn't impressed. I'd like to swim more, or perhaps take some Taekwondo lessons (these are just rough brainstorms at this time). If I did a lot of swimming, then I would always be clean and I'd get fitter (for what it's worth -- I'm not exactly a lard bucket right now). It's already getting warm, and soon, it'll be pretty hot, I reckon, so the cooling aspect might be nice, too. If I took Taekwondo, I could theoretically learn how to defend myself, and that too would make me fitter, and since the belt system is a widely-recognized system, I could actually get some kind of official recognition if I tried hard at it. I know that Yonsei has both an indoor pool (opens in March) and Taekwondo classes, but I don't know if Sogang has either. In regards to other extracurriculars, I am considering taking the hanja class, but I'm not sure yet (contrary to what I thought previously, it's not free if you take the Sogang courses -- it's 200,000-some won).

Yesterday, I learned some fascinating Asian superstition (from Mujin). I already knew about Korean ghosts to some extent (creepy undead women in dresses), but I didn't know this -- they're often referred to as "cheonyeo gwishin," or literally "virgin/maiden ghosts." Yes, that's right, if a woman dies without ever getting married, she becomes one of those creepy ghosts! What I'm not clear on is this: "cheonyeo" also means "virgin," so does that mean that if a woman sleeps around without ever getting married, she can avoid becoming a cheonyeo gwishin? I don't think simply being promiscuous helps, but I'm not 100% sure. I also learned about the creepy, hopping Chinese ghosts (fortunately not present in Korea) are called "gangshi" in Korean. I don't know too much about them. I had previously thought they were vampires, but they're actually not -- they don't drink blood. Well, that's about all for today, and I should sign off now, because I need to return home and get to work on my studying, because I'm way behind schedule, and Sogang starts on Monday, so from Monday on, it's not going to be any easier.

February 24, 2007
Yes, that's right, school on a Saturday! We had practice for the play that we're performing at the Play Competition on Tuesday. It was over three hours long and made me tired, because it was so repetitive (I only have three lines, and one of them is only one conjugated verb long). However, I got a good class photo which you can see in the class pictures photo gallery.

Click here for new class pictures!

February 22, 2007
Here's a summary of today:
1. I woke up and went to class. We had a listening comprehension practice test during fourth period, on which I got a 72%. That's not a bad score for me on a practice test, and it doesn't matter anyway, because the practice tests are no indicators of actual performance on the real thing.
2. I stayed after school for over three hours helping with that damn play. I typed up almost the entire script. It was frustrating because it took so long, and because instead of a written script being handed to me to transcribe, large parts were done through dictation (by a certain classmate with a less-than-desirable accent).
3. I saw a sign on the bulletin board asking to buy the Level 2 listening comprehension tapes at a reduced price. I messaged the girl on her phone and she agreed to buy them from me for 10,000 won. That means that I get rid of the space-consuming tapes and get some pocket money.
4. On the bus ride home, all I had was 10,000 won, but some kind old grandfatherly type gave me 900 won so I wouldn't end up with 91 100 won coins. Have I not said before that Koreans have a lot of jeong?
5. I woke up not too long ago and made some economical sandwiches (two PBJ made with Samsung peanut butter, one kimchi) and had some rice and kimchi to top it all off.

In addition, Japanese people don't understand sarcasm. Yesterday, I IMed this Japanese girl named "Rinrin" who I hadn't talked to in a while. She said something to the effect "I thought you hated me." I almost started laughing. I had jokingly, sarcastically dropped an "I hate you" in the last conversation a number of days or weeks ago, and she had taken it literally and thought I actually hated her! Isn't that adorable? She was relieved.

February 21, 2007

Charles completes a non-controversial upgrade to the website!

Yes, that's right, no dissent allowed! This site is now a frames site, whether you like it or not. I know it seems strange now, but you'll get used to it. Don't give me that "compatibility with Netscape" crap. Any major browser made within the past 10 years should display this site with ease. If your browser doesn't support it, I'm surprised you didn't get wiped out with the dinosaurs. By the way, I wiped out all the advertising on this site except for advertising on pages that only link one-way to this site (ones that you have almost certainly not seen nor will ever see).

February 20, 2007
Today I went to school. I had like three hours of sleep. I was tired. We had practice for the Yeongeuk Daehoe (Play Competition). I was originally one of the two organizers (someone else nominated me, I didn't volunteer), but I DO NOT want the responsibility of organizing a play when I already have enough on my plate, so I let Mai take over. We're going to do the play about a bus with all kinds of stereotypical people on it.

Tentatively, I'm planning to go to Geumgangsan, North Korea with Mijung on April 6, 2007. That's 44 days from now. That's my four-day spring break from Sogang (and what better way to spend your break than with a three-day vacation in North Korea). Before you think I'm an idiot, this is the one tour on which Americans are allowed to come, because it's done through the Hyundai Corporation and not through an official government channel.

Finally, I found out about an AWESOME law that they have here in Korea that you'd NEVER see in the US. If you suspect your spouse is cheating, you can call the police, the police will investigate, and if your spouse is found to be cheating, your spouse can go to jail!

Me at Deoksu Palace (Deoksugung)

My Classmates in Hanboks at the Tourist Center

February 18, 2007
Today is the Lunar New Year! Unfortunately, it was wasted on a weekend. Even so, we still get Monday (which is good because I'm going to need it). Gyeong-seok (Mijeong's GORGEOUS friend, who may be way older than me, but wow) came over and we had some yakgwa, persimmons, etc.

I have a ton of pictures from yesterday that I'm going to post in the class pictures photo gallery as well as the regular photo gallery. Basically, yesterday, I went with everyone to three important places: Namsan Village (a historical Korean village), the Tourist Center, and Deoksugung (a palace). I got lots of pictures. We were out from morning until night, so I came home and basically just slept. Dane brought his ultra-fancy camera along (one of the lenses alone had cost $300). His pictures are bound to beat mine in quality and in the level of skill used to take them, but will his make it to the web?

Today, at 8:00, I'm meeting Dangli from my class to go and eat live octopus. I asked her what she thought of eating live octopus yesterday, and she said it was "fun" and pointed to her tongue and described how the still wriggling octopus tentacles try to grab onto your tongue. I am concerned that there won't be any places open, but we've got to try.