COEX Aquarium

So I am not a big fan of museums or aquariums or events in general where I cannot interact with the art so COEX Aquarium was just a 3 on a scale from 1 to 5. It cost 22,000 won, so about $22. It did have a lot of different aquatic animals like fishes, sharks, octopus, seals, penguins and sting rays. I am listing a few things on the top of my head, so the aquarium probably does offer more than listed before.

My favorite was the seals because they kept doing cycles of back flips. I am unsure if that is just how seals are suppose to swim naturally but it felt like a little show for me. My second favorite would be the Good Doctor fishes that nibble on you, they remove the dead skin cells. I have always wanted to try that and to be honest I was a little bit of a coward so I am glad I got this little exposure before trying a whole container of them nibbling on my feet.

Adding on, there was the Love Machine evaluating machine. I do not think that was accurate because me and the group of friends I came with to COEX all matched well. This just shows more of the couple culture that is prominent in South Korea.

From Dankook University to the COEX Aquarium it takes about an hour and a half – taking the 8101 bus to Gangnam Station then transferring to the train. So it is a bit of a commute but definitely worth it because COEX is also a shopping area. Now if you are not into animals or shopping … this place is not for you. There are Korean souvenir shops – a very small Insadong, Korean souvenir district, in COEX so you may want to pick up a few items to take back home there. In addition, everything in South Korea is reasonably priced, there are not overpriced souvenirs in COEX, and the prices align well with the prices of the items in Insadong.

More travel posts to the coming. For now …

안녕, V

English Village End, Classes Begin

Back in Jukjeon. First day of classes.

Transiting back to Jukjeon campus was hard because there were a lot of Global Village teachers that I was not able to know while I was away in Cheonan campus. Day by day, I learning their names and their personality but for the most part, I tend to stick to the friends I made last year and the Cheonan teachers.

I also had to relearn the geography and transportation of Jukejon, but because I came here last year, I still remembered a lot and it was not that difficult getting around again.

This year, I decided to take only one class so that I would be able to travel more of Korea. So far, I am loving that decision because I was able to really travel and explore.
I am currently taking a mindfulness training class. Essentially, we learn about different personality types and about meditation. It is a pretty chill class. We spend the first 10 minutes of class meditating, which helps get into the mindset of this class and I love doing “nothing.”
I have to admit that in the beginning I was skeptical about this class and whether I would really like it or not because I never thought personality tests were accurate. In this class we focus on the Enneagram, which has 9 types of personalities and a scale of each 9 types. However, after a few days in, I like that the professor says that we do not have to agree with the Enneagram, but it is knowledge that we essentially gain about a personality type.
I am hoping that by the end of this class, I will learn about myself and learn how to improve myself for my future.


Late Post, Only One More Week Left

I’m down to the last week of teaching, and although it has only been two weeks of teaching in South Korea, it feels like two months. I am surprised at the rapid growth of my relationships with my students, and other English Village teachers. To be honest, I wish the English Village lasted a little longer, I still need my students to show me around South Korea! I will be taking a Korean language during my stay here, so hopefully I will be able to grasp onto the language ad utilize it to survive everyday here.

Since last time I posted, I have been to Myeongdong (명동) and saw the musical Ghost, which one of the three casts was Joo Won, an amazing actor. 명동 was a little too crowded for my liking, and even though I am from New York and Soho is just as comparable, I rather not have to go through crowds regardless of where I am at. WARNING: if you come to South Korea and walk through 명동, you will get lots of free samples! You do not even have to go that far to 명동, and even walking through the city of Yongin will gain you some samples. I do like that 명동 do have not only Korean fashion and cheap items, but there is also Forever 21, Uniqlo, H&M, Zara, and American Apparel. So if Korean fashion is not your style, or not the right fit, there are still western brands. I also really enjoyed the underground market. The $10 clothing rack was my best friend last weekend. Transitioning to the musical. Sighs, I was not able to see Joo Won perform, but I did see Joo Won in the flesh. Me and my friend bought tickets for the last show, thus all the cast came out on stage. The musical itself was spectacular. The settings and the props used was amazing, and it was definitely worth $112 – I was pretty close to the front and little to the side but still had a great view. I could tell this production cost a lot of money and the immense amount of effort put into this production so even though I bought the ticket expecting to see Joo Won perform, I am not even mad.For now, I am looking forward to getting a haircut, going to Insadong (인사동), going to COEX Aquarium, and exploring all South Korea has to offer me.

안녕, V  

P.S. Follow my instagram: viow9 for pictures!

A Quick Recap on my stay in South Korea – Lots of 8’s

I am posting this 8 days after I have landed in South Korea, and I wanted to briefly mention a few of my initial reactions and my journey here.

So before I was even allowed on board, I had to change my already paid flight, and I had to buy an additional new flight because my original flight had me transferring twice in Russia. I do not have a Russian visa, thus, I could not step onto Russian land twice. Already my trip seemed to be going down hill. I had an 8 hour flight from JFK International Airport in New York City, to Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, Russia. Then I had an 8 hour layover till my next flight which would get my to South Korea. Slowly my phone began to die, and because I did not have the correct plugs for the outlets in Russia, I could not charge my electronics: LESSON LEARNED, BRING NON-TECHNOLOGY TO KILL TIME – I will have a 22 hour layover when I return. After the dreadful 8 hours of waiting till my next flight. I finally got on board and was given a window seat, which I used to take many pictures of being in the clouds.

Finally, after a long journey, I landed in Incheon Airport, and went through customs, and baggage check. I also exchanged a bit of money at the airport – I suggest people to exchange from card to cash so you can take out a little at a time, this avoid losing money and in case you do not use up all the money you exchanged, there is no need to change it back to your home currency. I had a Dankook University student pick me and two other students at the airport, they were German and were teaching at the Cheonan Campus, I stayed at Jukjeon. I was excited to meet people from out of my country because it does not hurt to learn about more than one country while going abroad. Right across the highway from Incheon Airport to the rest of South Korea, we passed a mud flat – it was already 2 in the afternoon, so I was surprised that the river did not sweep over it yet. As we got closer to campus, I realized that South Korea had amazing infrastructure and landmarks – that was only the beginning. I finally got to campus and am currently living in the Woongbi Hall with my roommate, Susan, who is also from SUNY New Paltz.

To be honest, I still do not feel that I am in South Korea, despite the volume of Koreans, Korean language, and Korean words surrounding me. Instead I feel that I am in a really huge Flushings in Queens. The only possible distinctions other than the overwhelming Korean culture would be the infrastructure, and the amazingly priced food.

I have started teaching for the English Village and in my next post I will be mentioning a few things about how the English Village and teaching has been going.

안녕, V

►01: Pre-Departure

Well, I can’t say this is going to be an exciting entry.

As of right now, I’m still sitting in bed, nothing’s packed and I haven’t really thought much about moving. It’s pretty relaxing, I have to say. Though documenting all of this doesn’t really make a great impression of me, nor this blog. But what can i say? I really am still sitting at home.

It’s going to be a week before I leave, and honestly the hype comes and goes. Sometimes I’m excited and drag my hands down my face like “oh my god I’m actually going to [South] Korea, hasta la laters family” and other times I wonder why I’m even awake. I haven’t left the country in years, the last time was about eight years ago to China, give or take a year. And my earliest memory (and practically only memory) of being on a plane was when I threw up. I was a wee child, so I don’t know how accurate that still is despite having  gone on planes after that. But a memory’s a memory and I’m sharing.

I suppose I should sound a little more enthusiastic about this trip, and talk about all the things I want to do, but I don’t want to ruin all the surprises for this blog. A little goes a long way, show don’t tell, and other miscellaneous sayings I learned in English. They all fit pretty well with the situation, and I’m going to have to write so I guess it’s appropriate. I think I’m more worried about the airport than anything, what if I lose my luggage? That would be the worst. But I guess I’d have to have a suitcase to lose first.


Crossing the bridge when I get there seems like a pretty good way to deal with these things.

In a State of Disbelief

In less than 10 days …

I really cannot believe I will be going to South Korea. Every time I get an email about the English Village in Dankook or about my arrival, it reminds me again – I am really going to South Korea.

It feels weird to me because South Korea is a place I have been wanting to go to since high school, approximately 5 years ago. Just a year ago, I was telling everyone that once I go to South Korea, I will never come back. Of course, it was a joke and I never knew I would be going so soon. Plus, my mom would never let me stay in a foreign country, alone, for a long period of time. Actually, I am really surprised with how supportive my parents have been on my decision of studying abroad – though I am pretty sure they have expected this from me anyways.

As I count the days till my trip, I am both excited and nervous to be going on an international journey. I have never been abroad alone before, especially to a country where I do not know the language. But this will be a learning opportunity for me and I will keep you posted on my study abroad in South Korea!

안녕, V.

The Day I Crossed Into North Korea

Contrary to the title of this post let me make a disclaimer: no, I have not defected to North Korea; however, I did have the privilege to step a few feet into North Korean territory (while escorted by the toughest looking South Korean/U.N soldiers you’ve ever seen in your entire life) during my trip to the DMZ. For those of you who are unaware, the DMZ stands for the “Demilitarized Zone,” which serves as a no-arms 4 km wide territory that just so happens to be the border between the Republic of Korea (aka ROK/South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka DPRK/ North Korea). The trip started with the touring of excavated tunnels North Koreans dug under the DMZ going into South Korea under the ruse of being a “coal mining shaft” (in reality, they were built for impending NK  invasion plans, which were foiled upon their discovery in 1974). The trip 300 meters underground (which could be accessed via a trolley system or walking down a very steep ramp) was certainly not for the claustrophobic. The other major component was traveling to the JSA, the area within the DMZ known as the Joint Security Area (specifically “Panmunjom” –a complex of U.N and North Korean buildings that overlap the technical boundary of each country, also the location of the infamous Panmunjom Axe Murders in 1976). The shuttle ride between each area was surprisingly the only “nerve racking” component of the trip; perhaps it was due to the “WARNING: ACTIVE MINEFIELD” posts that outlined the wooded areas to each side of the road we were driving on? Panmunjom itself seemed more of a ghost town–one that had North Korean guards on the opposite side of the border, glaring at you through ridiculously large binoculars. We were escorted by our UN/ROK guards into a UN-controlled building that historically housed [failed] South-North Korean reunification efforts/peace negotiations. Then came my venture into the communist North–simply by standing on the far side of the building, I had entered the land of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un (some buildings exist on each side of the border, this is how I technically entered North Korea). Of course, relaying this experience to my mother (via Skype) earned me a scolding, but who at New Paltz can say they have been to North Korea? At least one person can now.

Pictured: (Top Left) Yours Truly accompanied by a ROK solider during my “border crossing”;  (Top Right) Panmunjom, blue buildings are controlled by UN, building in the center is the North Korean headquarters of Panmunjom; (Middle Left) UN Guest Badge, sadly I was unable to sneak away with it as a souvenir (I was NOT going to go against the UN soldiers who looked like they could snap my neck with one taekwondo kick); (Middle Right) UN Consent Form, essentially a contract stating that I was aware that I could be kidnapped or killed by NK soldiers at any time and my family could not sue the UN over my death, fun times right?; (Bottom Left) DMZ Sign, self-explanatory; (Bottom Right) Wall of Well-Wishes,  a series of ribbons with notes from separated family members on SK side, peace advocates, war veterans, etc.

038 032 031 001 008 024



Pohang: City by the Sea and “Love Motels”

Just an hour north of the aforementioned historic Gyeong-ju lies the city of Pohang, a destination for many tourists (not of the Western variety mind you) that exudes a unique charm. The beach of said city was surprisingly clean (I for one am accustomed to the litter-ridden sand of Atlantic City, Virginia Beach, and the like). As I said in my previous post, once you exit the Seoul metropolitan area and head southeast, you encounter Koreans who have little experience with (Western) foreigner encounters; Pohang was no exception to this rule. Having braced ourselves for negative if not quizzical glances from the locals, my group was not all too surprised that when walking by outdoor seafood restaurants our presence would make the locals literally stop eating their food and stare at us (mouths still agape from chewing their food). Not to be deterred, a few of us headed toward a patio restaurant that had a direct view of the ocean/beachfront. The moment we stepped onto the pavilion, the other patrons started. . . cheering. If only you could have seen the confused looks on our faces as the restaurant erupted into whistling, cat calls, and laughter–I think it was a positive response, seeing that our table was given free drinks thanks to generous diners.

Above (Left-Right): Friend and I on Pohang Beach; Pohang City

147  146153 160


Above (Left-Right): Pohang Pavilion, had a walkway that led to the pavilion which was quite a few yards into the ocean; View of Pohang from the Pavilion

As the night went on, a select number of the group opted to stay on the beach for the entire night (in other words they decided to not sleep and catch the bus back home at 10am); and since I have not the endurance for such shenanigans, some of us made our way into the city to find a cheap hotel. Something we couldn’t help but notice when we would pass a hotel was the fact that the parking garages had these ropes dangling from the top, obscuring the view of the cars inside. love motel garage(The above photo is a stock image I found on Google, it was too dark to take a picture of the actual garages that we saw, but they had the same coverings).

We immediately asked our coordinator (of the English Village, who planned the trip and accompanied our group) what the deal was with the garages. She plainly stated that the majority of hotels in Korea are “love motels” aka the place that you take your significant other for. . . bonding. Seeing as that many young Koreans still live with their parents until they themselves are married, the purpose of the motel makes sense, but that didn’t clear our confusion as to why the view into the parking garage was obscured. Apparently, “love motels” are where you take your mistress, and the obstructed garage view ensures that any passersby would be unable to recognize who you were fooling around with. This emphasis on privacy was further demonstrated when we went to get rooms (not for funny business, the rates were very cheap compared to American hotels and we were too tired to look elsewhere) and the welcome window was completely blacked out save for the money slot. The speaker box that you spoke through also distorted your voice (creepy much?). To add to further strangeness, with room purchase you received your key, two toothbrushes, a razor, and a . . . ahem . . . contraceptive. The hallways leading to the rooms were adorned with vending machines that dispensed. . . ahem. . . “adult toys;” I think it is safe to say that love motels are not where vacationing families make reservations. A really interesting (albeit slightly creepy) feature of the rooms was you had to insert your key into the wall as you walked in (note that the keys were traditional keys that had large pieces of plastic attached, the latter of which you slid into a wall crevice) and boom lights suddenly go on (and then dim for mood lighting. . . ). Needless to say, I avoided touching all surfaces that I didn’t need to touch, slept in my clothes, and refused to use the provided bathrobes/ shower gels (thankfully I brought my own soap). I think the experience was fascinating considering the general “hush hush” vibe regarding sexuality in Korea (the maximum of PDA you see is holding hands, even then my students said it could be “scandalous”). So the next time you ever need to slink away to a private location with your mistress, you could book a 14-hour flight to Korea and settle into one of the many swanky (and sketchy) love motels the country has to offer (for just $40 a night with a beach view!).

Gyeong-Ju: Ancient Temples and “Foreigner Celebrity Status”

I was fortunate enough to travel (5 hours) southeast of the Korean Peninsula to the wonderful cities of Gyeong-ju and Pohang (the latter to be described in a later post. . . trust me, the stories are worth the wait). Around twenty other English Village teachers as well as our wonderful coordinator were also in for the once-in-a-lifetime journey (though I suppose I could and should go back to see the sites I missed). A bit of back history of Gyeong-ju: the area is known as a historical site that was once the “cradle” of the famous Silla Kingdom (dating 1st century BCE to the 10th century, CE I believe) and it is also home to absolutely beautiful Buddhist temples, royal gardens, excavation sites, and equally stunning works of Korean architecture. The night in Gyeong-ju was spent in a “pension,” a traditional Korean lodging guest house (luckily, ours was furnished with a modern kitchen and bathroom, while sleeping was done as tradition–on the floor, which was surprisingly comfortable).

Something that I found endlessly amusing while in Gyeong-ju (as well as Pohang, but more on that later as previously mentioned) was the shock and awe a large portion of people had when they saw foreigners who were not of Asian descent (while Gyeong-ju and Pohang are popular tourist sites, they are primarily popular with Chinese and Japanese tourists, there are very few Western tourists). I cannot count the amount of times a Korean (most of the time a middle-aged woman) would approach me or another person in the group, stare intensely, raise their camera, snap a picture, and then zoom, they run away faster than you would figure to be physically possible. Some simply gawk, but it’s always the Koreans who try to “discreetly” capture the strange looking foreigners on film that always elicit a chuckle from yours truly. Being in the eye of the [Korean people] paparazzi isn’t as bad as Hollywood chalks it up to be. . . *Note that this phenomenon rarely occurs in the Seoul metropolitan area, Koreans there are much more accustomed to seeing/interacting with foreigners than their southern brethren are*

A noteworthy change in pace here in Korea is the fact that the English Village teaching program is over and I have already begun taking classes (a rather late update I admit). I miss seeing my students on a daily basis immensely, however we keep in constant contact (thank you Facebook and Kakao Talk [a very popular Korean messaging system/ social site]) and make lunch/dinner plans at least once a week. It is incredibly strange to shift gears from teaching to being the student (an adjustment that I have yet to fully grasp, I sometimes wake up in a panic because I forgot to plan my lesson for the day, only to remember that I am no longer responsible for that sort of planning).

Below (left to right): The Pension; Water Basin Outside Buddhist Temple, supposedly the water’s taste tells each person about their soul. . . . it tasted quite sour. . .; Buddhist Temple (pictures prohibited. . .  shhhhhhh. . . DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT ENDORSE TAKING “ILLEGAL” PHOTOS, BUT EVERYONE ELSE IN THE TEMPLE HAD CAMERAS FLASHING, AND TO MY CREDIT I TOOK THE PHOTO COVERTLY. . .  ERM. . . I MEAN I TOOK THE PHOTO OUT OF RESPECT, YA KNOW, FOR FURTHER APPRECIATION?. . . please don’t report me to the South Korean government. . . )

013  0841016373_10151678253845480_1393081397_n


Above (left to right): Excavation Area, complete with interior display of recently discovered [and polished] jewelry; Temple on a Lake; Closeup of Ceiling Tiling