I was wholly unprepared for the heat of the Korean Language Institute. The 45-minute walk to campus gives me just enough time to work myself into a state of stark panic.
As far as my presumptions about having a lax personal attendance policy, it has been challenged by Yonsei’s own pitiless standards. Lateness means that you cannot even enter the room. Miss five classes and you are not welcomed back. This has put a serious spike in my plans to take off to travel for a bit.
The breakneck pace of the process has also left me completely befuddled and coughing on the dust of my more advanced classmates. Four tests later, I am still working out the alphabet while the sonsangnim expects sentence formation after just a week of class. Asian standards! In Oviedo, no longer.
Despite the fact that I sweat just thinking about going to class, I am happy to be picking up on words around Seoul as the cryptic text loses its geometry.
Seoul Base Camp has been rocked by an exciting discovery this week: the jug o’ soju. This 3.6 liter vessel can be purchased for 11,000 won (a little less than $11) and can send an entire hostel of people spinning into total darkness.
Luckily, I have help from Min with Korean practice. Dustin has been teaching him English. There is nothing like waking up to a good “Hug me, bitch” or “Good morning, little slut.” The result of a week-long marathon drinking session has made us feel closer than ever. In my “cultural exploration” I have learned that soju is here a tool to cope with immense stress. When in Rome?
Because of all this, Min has posted three house rules:
- No K-Pop
- No Kimchi
- No Vomit
Also: snoring in the hostel. Jesus.
I live in an atmosphere with about 40 other people, 35 of which change every few days. I learn words from languages of every region of the world over waffles. This is also a situation that makes me feel grateful for knowing English as a first language—it enables communication where many other languages falter. A lot of the time, I forget to even exchange names until I have seen someone a few times (bad habit). My living experience is my favorite part of Seoul life thus far. And the five that remain, well, feel like a family.
Sunday’s skies showed a sunny façade aside from the week’s biting winds. We went biking along the Han River past Apgujeong and Gangnam on bike lanes winding between lawns littered with families flying kites, throwing ball, and hiding in day tents. True to its appeal to couples, tandem bicycles were abound. On weekends it is congested with activity. Finally, manicured green spaces.
Also: a massive yellow dust cloud has arrived from China. Because of increased desertification in Mongolia and China, this phenomenon has engorged with each passing year. My eyes have been itching like mad, and I am trying to resist the temptation to join the Japanese with their surgical masks.
Also, we continue to make jokes about nuclear fallout here at Base Camp. Despite the escalating threats, all is calm among the civilian class.
I think it’s time to GTFO of the city and not for this reason–I am headed to Busan this weekend for for a slightly warmer seaside escape with an Aussie named Sally.
James Blake Overgrown was released today and its dark layers and smoothness give me heart palpitations. Give “Voyeur” a listen. I’ll be spinning this on repeat. #boyfrand