I’ve Moved!

I’ve decided to keep a main blog. But I’ll still write on Korea, and you can find all the related posts underneath the labeled category =)

http://matoki.wordpress.com/

My website is also here: http://www.michellehahm.com/

Art Exhibitions

When I was asking a friend back at home for tips at learning Korean faster, one of the things she recommended was joining a club. By chance I saw flyers for an art club and decided to go. The art club I joined finally had our exhibition for the past few days. I thought it was really cute how they posted paper next to the paintings so people could write comments and post sweets. Some left flowers or other snacks below the painting.

I’m really glad I joined though. Clubs generally eat dinner together after every meeting, and I remember on the first day we gave our introductions. I was so terrified at my poor Korean that I could barely squeak out mine. But everyone in the club was very kind and supportive of me. I was able to practice Korean so much more with the other members.

This was my painting:

sevillebelle

There was also an artist I admired online, and I found out that his work was going to be in an exhibition at Hongik University. It’s very close to Ewha, so I went to go look. By some chance I recognized him from his profile photos and I got to meet him! That was definitely very exciting for me and I’m glad I got the opportunity to see his work in person.

It’s already been three months. December is only in a few days, and finals will only be in a couple weeks.

It’s strange because in some ways the time passed very quickly, and in some ways it feels as though I’ve been here for such a long time. I experienced my first free subtitled Korean movie (“A Werewolf Boy”) courtesy of a local movie theater. I’ll review the movie later, but for some reason I can’t quite describe it left quite an impression on me.

I’ve met some people here that I’ve felt like I’ve known my whole life. I’ve learned things about myself I never knew before.

It’s only been three months.

There are so many interesting juxtapositions here. You can see the modern architecture mixed with the traditional one. You can see English next to the Korean. You can smell the sewage with the heavily fried street food permeating slowly through the air. I can already immediately identify the smell of hotteuk (a fried mini-pancake with a filling of syrup, brown sugar, seeds, etc.).

I remember when I first started to study Korean here, I was frightened out of my mind because I barely knew how to speak Korean. But now I can now at least hold conversations.

In some ways there are some things I miss about home. I miss being understood immediately. I do miss some foods. But I’m already wondering how I’ll be able to leave Korea next year. In some ways I feel very much at home here. I still haven’t yet experienced any of the racism and unfriendliness I’ve heard of from other Korean-Americans. I’m not quite sure why since I go out very frequently and make many mistakes while speaking Korean. I feel as though Korea has been extremely welcoming for me.

I do hope to get a camera though.

On another note, one of my Korean language teachers just got married, and she invited all her students. Here at least is a picture of my Korean class eating the buffet dinner together:

wedding

Life Lessons

I don’t if it’s cause we’re mostly girls or just because dating is probably on most people’s minds, but I feel as though the subject of dating comes up pretty frequently in my Korean class. One chapter was dedicated to our ideal type in potential partners.

Our teacher shared hers. “I don’t like good looking guys,” she said happily. “This way you don’t have to worry about other women wanting them. And skinny guys are too critical of your appearance.”

She described her husband by asking us to imagine Colonel Sanders from KFC. She doesn’t really have photos of him because he doesn’t like getting his picture taken.

Also I’ve been seeing more “No Smoking” signs around campus. I have also seen more people smoking. Often in front of the signs. The ones around Ewha usually say stuff like, “Smoking can cause CANCER and EVICTION”. I personally think they’d be a bit more effective if they took them to further extreme.┬áThere’s this little gem I found in Gangnam’s Dr. Fish bathroom:

After I was done laughing, I asked my friend to snap a picture for me. That’s so yandere

Goong Review

Happy girl meets unhappy guy who becomes a happy guy because of happy girl

 

Though “To the Beautiful You” was the first drama I ever completed, Goong (which I won’t put in quotation marks) was the first drama I’d ever seen. You always remember your first…haha. I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw it. Probably early high school. For most of my peers, this is normally the drama that got them into dramas in the first place. For at least one celebrity, watching Goong is how they started learning Korean. But because it was so enormously popular, it got taken down before I could complete it. Now many years later, I decided re-watch the whole thing.

Holy turnips it blew me away. Not to say that there weren’t any bad parts, but it left a far greater impression upon me than it had when I’d first seen it. I bet it’s because I just have more hormones now. I feel like I’m better with pros/cons charts, so here you go. And of course, spoilers aplenty.

What I didn’t like:
-Repetitive plots.
How many times does Shin end things with Hyorin for good? How often does Yul confess to Chaegyong? Will they never make up their minds? I mean I can understand since I hear the drama was supposed to be 14 episodes before the popularity pushed it to 24 and they had to find some way to drag it on. But maybe a shorter span would’ve benefited the plot. Perhaps they were trying for realism in a way since letting go is often harder than we need it to be. And I suppose I can’t really complain about their indecisiveness since I myself change my mind about as often as I change my clothes.

-Shin’s big sister. I felt like they could’ve done more with her. She just seemed like some stock character for the smart and pretty noona who conveniently was able to take on the crown. I felt like I was supposed to admire her for being intelligent and all, but I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything more than mild annoyance because she didn’t have any stated flaws.

-Chaegyong’s family. They had their moments, but I just thought that they lacked some serious noonchi. I couldn’t really understand why Chaegyong missed them as much as she did, or why she often called out for her mom in her sleep. The mom didn’t really seem like the coddling type.

-The End. To me the ending was a bit of a puzzler. Why exactly Chaegyong had to leave Korea and for how long wasn’t really clear to me. The totally abrupt ending is somewhat understandable as well since everyone thought a sequel was coming. We were sadly very wrong, but that’s what fanfiction is for. In fact, I found this series because of fanfiction.

What I Liked:
-The Pictures where they imitated the manhwa.



-The Soundtrack. Despite the fact that it sounds kind of Irish at some points, it’s beautiful. I never really realized that the celli had such a warm, round solidity in its tone. I’ll probably try to find the CD while I’m here so I can put it on my iPod. It also wasn’t as jarring as “To the Beautiful You” (comparisons are inevitable) where the mood whip-lashed you more often than it needed to.

-The Clothes. Some of the designs were taken straight out of the manhwa! Some of Chaegyong’s clothes were flat out gorgeous and reminded me a lot of some of the things I’d seen Kate Middleton wearing. Not to mention the lovely and super elaborate hanboks.

-The Love Square. Unlike “To the Beautiful You,” I could actually understand how the characters fell for each other and see sort of when the they did.

I imagine Hyorin finds similarities in Shin since they’re both unhappy with their homes and their lives. I think they could’ve had a shot together, but I’ve found upon past observation that when unhappiness brings two together, it’s often what also pulls them apart. Like the song. Not healthy.

For Yul, he doesn’t really have friends, and he doesn’t seem like he’s had a girlfriend before judging by how his mom reacts when she realizes she’s not first in his life anymore (Their relationship had some rather incestuous undertones to me). He’s also never had a stable life since his dad died, he lost his crown, got kicked out of the country, and to top it off his mother tried to kill herself at least once. Then out comes Chaegyong who’s pretty much the embodiment of affection and stability. No wonder he’s a goner. Though honestly even if he hadn’t had a seriously unhappy childhood, I think he would’ve fallen for her anyway. I think guys like happy girls.

Once Chaegyong remarks to Yul that the only reasons she really had for falling for Shin was because she was lonely, saw him everyday, and she falls for people easily. She could have loved Yul if she’d met him first. I was pretty surprised by this since it’s probably the wisest thing I’ve ever heard a drama character say. I honestly believe that we could can fall in love with anyone if we see them often enough (Mere exposure effect and Stockholm Syndrome). But that’s another post, and probably on a different blog.

Shin’s reasons are probably a combination of both Yul’s and Chaegyoung’s. He doesn’t get much love from home, he sees Chaegyoung all the time, and she’s pretty much hope for a happier life. Down he goes.

-The Friends. Not so much the comic relief friends, but I did appreciate the insight and blunt humor the glasses girl brought.

-The Visuals. Made my eyes happy. I was also pleased to see the Korean style watercolors in their fancy arts high school.

-The Teddy Bears. At the end of every episode, the key scenes were reenacted with Teddy bear pictures. I heard you can see them at the Teddy Bear Museum at Namsan Tower.

In the end, this drama will probably always have a special place in my little stone heart. Exploring Korea definitely helped me to appreciate the drama better since I’ve visited Gyongbukgoong (five minutes away from me by bus) where I think the characters are supposed to live. I was also happy to see Namsan Tower in the backgrounds. It’s kind of comforting for me to see Namsan Tower anywhere I am. At one point they mention that Shin has some activity at U-plex and that’s just a 10-15 minute walk away in Shinchon. Unless there’s another U-plex that I don’t know of.

And watching it was also kind of sad too. Since I learned of the tragic ways the Korean royalty met its end, I kind of wanted to believe that somehow they were still alive. That somehow either Japan never took over, or that Korea might have modernized itself in time. I think maybe if the royalty existed today, I could see it happening the way I saw it in Goong. Beloved figureheads with no actual power trying to keep tradition alive. Maybe if they’d been around today I might’ve been able to spot them on streets walking around the way I sometimes see celebrities.

Korean Art Supply Store Reviews

I don’t know if any of my artsy readers are planning to come to Korea, but here are some notes on where you can find supplies. What’s most different about the stores here is that all of the stores I’ve been into offer every paint Schimncke has except their gouache. There’s also a greater variety in Holbein sets. Holbein watercolors are the cheapest here than anywhere else I’ve been to. I can’t imagine them being cheaper anywhere except for Japan. Copic markers and Faber-Castell pencils are also here in sets and open-stock. They also have Winsor & Newton half pans. I don’t know why American art stores don’t offer pans since I believe many more painters are clamoring to have them. I myself prefer full pans since you can’t fit a decent sized brush in a half pan. But there are ways around that.

1. HOMI Art Supply
This is probably the best-stocked store I’ve found so far. They also have a website if you want to compare prices. I’ve heard that HOMI is supposed to be super hard to find, but it was oddly the first store I found when I was in Hongdae. It’s located on 3rd street where there should be a Holika Holika. They also now have signs that are posted on the top of tall buildings.

For the most part, they have a pretty good selection. They have a lot of Schmincke, Winsor & Newton, and other Korean brands (that probably have poor lightfastness). They also stock Isabey mop brushes as well as Raphael Golden Kaerell. You can also find Winsor & Newton half pans as well as some small sets. There are also anatomical little figurines the size of Barbie dolls that look like they would come in handy for studies. I’ve even found Fabriano Tela oil paper here, and I don’t know if that’s available in the States.

They even have the super expensive Williamsburg and Old Holland oil paints. I can’t believe they do since most Koreans seem to be on even tighter budget than Americans. All in all, HOMI is a nice place to get lost in, and if you must go to one store only I’d probably recommend this one.

Another special note is that they offer sets of the discontinued Winsor & Newton Pastels. It’s way more expensive at the Hongik University store, so I’m hoping to buy a box before I go.

*And if you need to use the bathroom, there’s a really gross squatting one a couple floors up. Bring your own napkins/toilet paper. Or you will be unhappy.

2. Hongik University Art Store
This store is right in front of the university if you enter the left side. Then just keep going straight till you hit the back.

It’s pretty well stocked. It has most of what HOMI has. It does have a lot of stationary too, if you’re into that. I also spied some Moleskines.

This is the only store I’ve found that offer sets of Schmincke pans, half and whole. There are also Rembrandt half pan sets along with a pocket sized Winsor & Newton half pan set. Something for me to sigh over. They also have tiny metal travel palettes that you can squeeze tube watercolors into.

3. Alpha Art Supply
This right outside of Ewha’s main gate, so whenever I feel homesick for the smell of art supplies, I normally end up here. It’s decently stocked with stationary supplies as well. I’ve even seen bookbinding supplies. I imagine most of the art majors at Ewha frequent this place a lot.

What’s unique about this store is that in addition to selling Winsor & Newton half pans, they also offer the 24 half pan set. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like traveling a lot with my paints so pans being so readily available warm my little stone heart.

In the paper section, I found blocks of Saunders Waterford Paper. It’s pretty difficult to find in America, so I was surprised to see it here. They have a 12 x 16 inch block that I don’t think is available anywhere else.

*There also little animal finger puppets here. They sort of caught me a bit off-guard.

4. Various little art stores around Hongdae
Hongdae is probably the artsiest place I know of in Seoul, and you can usually see artwork displayed on the sidewalks. Everytime I walk to Hongdae, I always pass by a couple really small (but decently stocked) art supply stores. So you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding things.

*I would also like to note that Korean watercolor seems to favor a certain technique that uses many brushstokes with different colors. A bit different since watercolor is normally taught to be economical with brushstrokes. But this way does seem kind of liberating.

Cults

I realize it’s been a criminally long time since I’ve updated, but here you go. Midterms are nigh, and the girls here are looking a little scrubbier than usual. For me it just means popping in my contacts less when I want a few more minutes of sleep.

But cults. I was warned of them before coming here, and we were all warned at Orientation. Recently I’ve been hearing of them more since one cult called the Mannam tried to get the international students to attend one of their festivals. We were bribed with free Korean and judo lessons. From what I’ve heard, foreigners won’t be forced to join, but they’re used as a cover-up of some sorts. I hear it makes them look more legit to Koreans if the group has international support. Some expats have been pretty dismissive of the whole thing and go anyway for the free stuff. I know some argue “What’s the harm?” since it seems as though the group does community service. It’s pretty selfish to me.

I think Mannam was the cult that beat a girl to death when she wanted out. So yes, there does appear to be harm.

One unnie I was eating lunch with told me that some of the Christian groups on Ewha are cults. She said in her freshman year she joined what she thought was a Christian club and they had some odd beliefs. Like once she had an exam to study for the next day, so she planned on missing an event. Her leader was all preachy and told her that she had to “surrender to the world and follow Jesus” or something like that. So she went. And failed her test. The group also didn’t like members having relationships with people outside the group. Her leader told her she was praying that the unnie would break up with her boyfriend. That was the last straw for her, so she left.

I was having lunch with a couple kids from my Korean class and we shared our experiences thus far. Apparently everyone in the International dorm got an email from the Mannam. So somehow they got all of their email addresses. I’m in the Graduate dorm, so I didn’t hear of it until the International office warned us what it was.

Some groups will only approach you at night. Once right in front of my dorm a couple girls wanted to show me a video and get my thoughts on it. I told them my Korean wasn’t any good, and their English wasn’t great either. I thought they were trying to get me to join a Bible study group, so I said I was already in two. This just excited them more, so I watched anyway.

The video’s argument was that there is a Mother God along with a Father God. The original Hebrew says that in Genesis God says “Let US make man…” and the word US implies other Gods. And they believe the Bride mentioned in Revelation is the supposed Mother God instead of the church. Then they wanted me to talk about my opinions and write my name down in a survey box.

So here is where I started my argument. Wasn’t the Bride the church? “No”, they said. No explanation. Just no. Wasn’t God talking about the trinity? “No”, they said. No explanation. Just no. What did it matter so long as we believed in God? I don’t think they understood that. But I think they answered “no”. That was sort of how our conversation went. And I just kept getting madder cause I couldn’t understand them, and they still kept trying to convert me even though they didn’t know what I was saying either. They just kept trying to get me to believe in God the Mother. A couple more girls joined.

At one point I got fed up, and excused myself. They still wanted me to write my opinions, so I wrote a few words. I didn’t write my name though like the previous people did. I did not want them to come find me. My surname is uncommon enough that it would be pretty easy.

I asked my small group leader about the “US” word, and she told me that just like how the Korean language sometimes uses “oori” (we) for me, Hebrew is similar. For those of you unfamiliar with Korean, an example of this would include how we refer to our parents. It literally translates to “our parents”. My leader said that when she first got to Korea, she went to what she thought was a church, but it turned out it wasn’t. It also had some odd conversion ceremony that was sort of like communion.

Back at home I looked up the cult, and it just sounds so creepy for some unexplainable reason. I didn’t expect Korea, the number two country for sending Christian missionaries, to have as many cult issues as they do. I thought Japan might have more of that. Though I believe most of the cults here are Christian based with elements from the faith. Like the Moonies believed their leader was Jesus coming back. Though that doesn’t make sense, since it’s written that once Jesus does come back, the world will end…

I think in the end the experience made me realize I’ve been neglecting my Bible so much. I barely read it these days. So if any of my readers end up coming to Korea, please stay safe and don’t give your name out to strange groups who approach you at night.