Friday, August 30, 2013

It Always Will Be Vague

The soft yellow and red lights became so very suffocating
Gentle eyes and half-smiles that appeared
Unforgettable images, like fireworks, suddenly assaulted me

The chill of some moment was precious
A chorus of maybe's and suggestions
I will turn away from it, perhaps never to return

For that time, every thought of this place dissolved
Caution became a kite on a spring afternoon
He found his place in the blue sky and took to the breeze

Instead there were the lights and the summer air
And a soft voice in my mind, a word of comfort
Never quiet but never too loud

Balancing so perfectly on each fencepost, just for peace
Walking the tightropes so well, swallowing your words
In the end I only see myself, my happiness, and my dreams,

If I could go back to that moment, to that time
I wouldn't have seen the assaulted, but the observer
Not chilled but warmed, not too quiet but actually rather loud

But we only have what we see in the spontaneous present
The magic, confusing moment of intense wonder
When we realize that our hearts are beating, we are truly alive

I don't know you but I know I can't go onward
I see the future but your memory causes pause
I don't have a reason but I no longer feel recklessness

Oh, may I fall in love with the future so that I am completely blind
So that I no longer go in these unreasonable circles
Tied up in fears, disgust; a fruitless attempt to analyze each glance

I want to see all of your faults and all of your imperfections
That way I don't feel so ridiculously cautious
I could approach love without regret only if I could understand it

I've returned to this sort of place, this place I hated with passion
Feelings that for a brief moment I had forgotten
Franticly rethinking it all, running from simple commitments

I replay my golden memories; I pray for their return
Does a good kind of greedy exist in this world?
If so, I have twice as much greed as new knowledge

I no longer see the wishes I had
I no longer act without consequences
I can lose and be lost, frightening and binding as it may seem

Yet I can't rid myself of the glow blocking my vision
The painful softness in every word and the quietness
Glimmer of the starry lights in a stranger's dark eyes

Argentia Krystofel 8/28/13

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day 1 in South Korea-Samgyupsal in Sinchon

오늘 친구하고 신촌에 갔었어요. 삼겹살 먹었어요. 맛있었어요.
Today I went with my friends to Sinchon. We ate samgyupsal. It was delicious. 

Okay, enough of the embarrassing Korean short journal. XD I did a lot more on the first day besides eating 삼겹살 (samgyupsal), but I am lazy and don't feel like writing much more than that. Neither am I willing to go through my textbooks to find the 'proper' speech level to use when writing. I'm not writing...I'm talking to people? Something like that.

Anyway, I woke up at around 7:45 AM and hurriedly got ready. My room-mate was already awake, doing her hair and makeup, and so I felt like I had slept in. We had to be outside our dorms waiting for a guide at around 8:30. When we left our dorm we found a guy that looked a lot like this-

(imagine him without the panda hat, bigger glasses, and red hair)
who was just standing around looking like he was waiting for someone. I had no idea if he was the person we were supposed to meet but somehow we found out that he was. His English was pretty good, and he told me he was waiting for one of the other students to come. The other student arrived, introducing himself as Chris, from Hong Kong. I can't remember the name of our guide, just that he was really friendly and immediately started asking us questions like "Where are you from? Are you in college? Where are you going to college?" and making sure we didn't have any questions about the program. I couldn't help but notice he kept glancing in each parking mirror and building window we passed by and he would occasionally fix his hair. I don't know if he'll ever read this but it was terribly funny (and I don't know why he was worried about it-his hair was perfect and his face was so cute!). However, I kept looking in the mirrors too-and noticing how incredibly red-faced I was! But I had an excuse-South Korea was humid and hot. Every morning the humidity was somewhere around 100% and I think it was near 80 degrees Farenheit.
We arrived at the Graduate Building, where our classes and orientation would be. We sat in the lounge while waiting for the teachers to prepare for us to arrive. Here I was, the innocent (and extremely hot) American, expecting that when we walked in the Graduate Building, it would be air-conditioned in the hallways. I'm not sure why I expected that-winded and breathless from the air that was thick enough a knife could've cut it, I suddenly remembered that they do not heat or air condition hallways in South Korean schools. I had several 'revelations' like this throughout my time in South Korea. I'm not sure what I was expecting, because I had already done a lot of research on Korea, but during the plane ride and being lost I seemed to have forgotten everything!
So we waited downstairs until it was time and then rode the elevator up to the 7th floor (we were on the 3rd floor. I soon discovered there is no 2nd or 1st floor in the Graduate Building of Hanyang University, just B1 and B2-why they named the ground floor the 3rd floor I sort-of understand but it seems weird anyway)
I walked into Orientation and was immediately greeted in Korean. I just replied 'Hello!' and hoped they didn't say anything else to me. Wow, was I in for a surprise because the entire Orientation Ceremony was in Korean.
Oh, of course they translated a few things for those of us that spoke English-but it did make more sense for them to translate everything into Chinese first. I discovered after sitting down that I was probably the only American at the camp and I assumed I was the only English speaker. I was happy that after the ceremony and our speaking and writing tests were over, I got to talk with some other members of the group-finding out half of them were from Hong Kong? Delightful! English speakers!
I ate  비빔밥 (bibimbap) for lunch. If anyone is wondering what bibimbap is, here's a picture and if you follow the link, it's a Wikipedia article about the dish. Ours didn't look this good, but it tasted awesome. :) I accidentally put on too much hot sauce and not enough rice, so I nearly cried while eating it. =P
Once I had begun eating, a girl who I had noticed earlier sat down across from me. She was tall, a lot taller than most Korean girls, and she didn't look like she was only of Asian ancestry. She started talking to me, and immediately I recognized that she had a European accent. My first assumption was that she was a German.
Well, her name is Sandra, and she's Swiss. Her mother is Korean, but she didn't really like being in South Korea when she visited as a child. However, she visisted again two years ago and fell in love with the place. I didn't know it then, but we became quite the travelling buddies! We even took several selcas together. :)
Sandra sat down and we had talked for a bit, another fellow sat down next to her. I had heard him talking on the phone behind me earlier and knew from his accent that he was Korean-American. His name was Hughbo and we talked a few times throughout the two weeks there-his father is a diplomat, so he's lived in a LOT of places. It was impressive to hear some of the stories he had to share about his life around the globe, and he could be pretty funny and interesting-and he was American, which somehow was comforting, despite the fact that I normally complain about us. XD Sadly, he wasn't there for some of the camp due to a family emergency so we never got to actually talk.
After meeting Sandra, we decided to go to a cafe. There I drank my first iced caramel latte ever (they're amazing) and we decided that Sandra, myself, and her roommate, Winnie, would walk around campus and visit each other's dorms. It turned out that their dorm was quite a walk from mine...however, Sandra was the voice of reason for me, because at this point I was pretty confused and frustrated with all the walking, the random rain, and my aching feet. She gave me a few tips for things I would need while there, and I'll be honest, I never took those same walks across campus again, but it was really beautiful. After stopping by our dorms, we decided we wanted to visit Ewha Women's University because we had heard that there are a lot of girl-oriented shops and a great student atmosphere there. It was a Monday, though, and we quickly learned that a lot of stores are closed on Monday in South Korea (yet another thing I had read about but forgot). We had a great time-we walked to Sinchon Neighborhood to eat supper in hopes that there would be some good restaurants there. We were searching for a tofu restaurant but couldn't find it. I was feeling relatively indecisive and not very hungry until we walked past a barbeque place. We were peering at the menu from the street when one of the workers came out and handed us a menu-in English. You'd think I would've been happy but as soon as we came in the restaurant I grabbed a Korean menu because I couldn't understand what dishes they were talking about on the English menu! XD

Steps at Ewha Women's University

It rained a lot on this day, but it was still really hot! I didn't have a camera this day. I talked with some of the program directors and they told me I would get my baggage delivered soon! I was relieved because my outlet converter was in my bags and my laptop battery was slowly going.

We settled for a set of different cuts of pork. It was incredibly good-and I got to eat samgyupsal, a kind of thick bacon, for the first time! We got a bowl of dwoenjangjjigae on the side, but we didn't eat much of it because there was so much meat! Something about the kimchi gave me an appetite, thankfully.

I was amazed at how much thicker it is than our bacon, so I wanted to prove it to Mom. :P
 Sadly, once we got back to Wangsimni Station, the area where my friends were dorming, I got entirely, utterly, hopelessly lost on my way back to my dorm. Even though we were at Hanyang by 10PM, it was nearly 11:30 before I found my way back to the dorms. The epic isn't over yet, though-read about the next day to hear of the night I managed to help a Chinese student find his way to a building I had never been to by word of mouth before I actually found my own dorm. 

More on the complete hopeless of me coming soon....

Ahem, thanks for reading. :)


Monday, August 26, 2013

What It Means to be White

Saturday night at work I was confronted with a very fascinating question: what does it mean to be 'white'?

 It's confusing for me to just randomly throw this out there so I will give the reader a bit of context: One of my coworkers has what he claims is his 'permanent, natural tan'. He can show you how permanent and natural his tan is by unbuttoning the top of his shirt and showing off that there is no tan line, which of course he did. Because he has such a tan, he claimed he isn't 'white' to my 'white' coworker who was at the moment filling up pans of mayonnaise for the sandwich makers. He was told by her that he is actually white on the inside, as if he shouldn't concern himself with it anymore and it's a-okay. At this point, the discussion spiraled into my 'white' coworker squirting leftover mayonnaise on the chest of my 'tan' coworker in order to 'make him white', of course, since that makes perfect sense (hear my sarcasm coming through the page?). From there it didn't get much prettier as you can imagine and I do often wonder why the managers don't call them on some of their antics.
Aside from realizing that a man with mayonnaise spread on his chest is not very attractive (yeah, I want to gag just remembering it), I soon noticed that tonight wasn't going to be busy. If it isn't busy, then I am given a lot of time to think to myself. So of course, the first question that came to my mind was: what does it mean to be 'white' ?
Here's a hint: the answer is not covered in mayonnaise.

To me, race can be defined with three C's. Of course, this is my personal definition of race, but I feel like it's pretty comprehensive of what a racial label actually is. The three C's are as follows: culture, color, and class.

1. Culture
Each 'race' has it's own culture-even in the 'melting pot' of the United States. We commonly call this culture a 'racial stereotype'. Latin Americans like dancing and blacks like basketball. Asian Americans talk about engineering and think they're 'the simple types' while white folks seem to really like skiing and golf. If you doubt me on this one, check out this link-
As I was saying, each 'ethnic group', to be politically correct, has its own culture. When you have people like my coworker, who are 'mixed', you get a fork in the road, so to speak-he can either be culturally 'white' or culturally 'tan'. Or he can be both, which is quite a feat of balance and requires a lot of self-confidence, but is doable. As my 'white' coworker unwittingly implied, the 'tan' guy can still be 'white on the inside' if a form of 'white culture' has instilled itself within him. In the same way, a child of a completely different race can grow up within a different 'racial culture'-such as in mixed-race adoptions, or when a small minority of a different race slowly integrates itself into the large majority.What 'culture' you end up in relies on so many different factors that I'm sure I couldn't even pinpoint them all.

2. Color
My coworker and I both have brown eyes and darker colored hair. We don't really blend in with the blonde/red headed, green/blue eyed people that live in this small town, but for the sake of classification I am white and he is not simply because his skin is a darker tone than mine. His brown eyes and dark hair suddenly become all the more noticeable when coupled with his different features; nose shape, eye shape, bone structure, skin tone, height, and weight. Everything that could be otherwise unremarkable about him or just slightly different suddenly becomes 'tan' because his skin is tan. This is the most self-explanatory aspect of 'race'-it's not hard to look at someone and realize they are different. However, even among each 'ethnic group' there is always a great amount of variance in the way people look. I can see a certain 'white' person and say 'she definitely doesn't look like me!' just as much as I can say a black person doesn't.

3. Class
We finally reach the summit of this post-class. Oh, what a devil class is.  My sociology book, which of course is the expert on a secular perspective of class, claims that your class is determined by the color, culture, and income of your parents. The class you are born into is inescapable until the 'rich white man' is destroyed and your color and culture takes over his. Every notion that hard work and a good education can propel you forward and possibly into a new 'class' is completely ignored. "Blacks, Native Americans, and Latinos have the least education, the lowest rate of employment, and the lowest incomes of all the races!" with this cry for justice, sociologists fuel their problem by implying you must be 'white' to have success. From a secular point of view then, my coworker is racially trapped in his class, and no doubt he's had this hammered into his head by the public school system his entire life, and he probably believes it.

My coworker isn't really 'white' and he isn't really 'tan' in his class. Instead, he fits into the same class as some of my other 'white' coworkers regardless of his color or his culture. The 'white' coworker he was talking with is actually from the same 'class' as he is. He may have a greater chance at working his way up the class ladder than she does, based on factors like education, family, and religious background.
Here's the error of my liberal sociology textbook's attack on the 'white' man-the 'white' man the book attacks might not actually be 'white'. Instead, this person is any successful, hardworking, middle class individual, regardless of culture and color. The 'darker' fellow they're crusading for could be a lot like some of the 'white' folks I see every day in this area.
I would like to take a moment to point out that the religion of Christianity, which of course came to America with the horrible white guy in a black Puritan costume who hated everybody, really encourages climbing the class ladder and a better future for everyone at its center. People who are completely hopeless and helpless to change this are made by the grace of God into productive, happy people who can start a new life for themselves and their children. What do you think about that?

In conclusion, class is the greatest frustration in the end, but it is not a frustration that cannot be dealt with. I'm not surprised that one kid's insecurities over his racial background and habit of showing off in front of ladies coupled with my summer sociology course has produced this huge blog post that I don't require any one to read. However, I do hope I'm not the only one who thinks about things like this with such little prodding on a boring night at work. =P

Oh, and fyi, I really don't want to eat anything with raw mayonnaise on it for at least a month.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

South Korea-The Journey in Detail

So, because I am very bad at keeping my friends updated on my life, I am writing an account of each day of my journey here on this blog to let people know what was going on for two weeks of my life.
Today it feels like the entire thing was a dream. I have to look at pictures to remind myself that I'm not crazy-and then, of course, I get excited all over again, thinking about how truly wonderful it was.
Despite the fact that I am now suffering from a cold only two days after coming home and am exhausted, that excitement has caused me to begin writing these accounts of my journey. Sadly I have a really bad computer that is unwilling to let me write while listening to music without locking up and refusing to save my posts, which is inconvenient, but I'm going to get past that and begin writing anyway.

The night before I left was August 2nd. I had a bad cold that week and actually my mom packed all of my clothes for me-partly because she loves making me look fashionable and partly because I was in bed the entire time.
In an effort to adjust to the timezone change before leaving, I stayed up almost all night. I even talked to a few of my Korean friends while staying up, and I finished watching the drama 'I Hear Your Voice' with my mom, who kept me company with her awesomeness while I was about to drop from exhaustion.
I tried incredibly hard to get better before I got on the plane but I couldn't and it ended up being the worst plane ride of my life. I was terrified of TSA, Immigrations, and anyone wearing a uniform. I was even afraid that the flight attendants might charge me for the drinks they were handing out so I only drank the vitamin water I had brought with me. XD It was pretty hilarious looking back on it. I also didn't realize that entertaining myself with a book and my tablet for a 5-hour plane ride wasn't a good idea-I had zero battery when I reached South Korea and I wonder if I will ever pick that book up again. When we began to land the consequences of deciding to fly while sick came to me in full-an intense pain filled my ears and I couldn't pop them no matter how hard I tried. I thought I was going to scream and I couldn't hear anyone or anything by the time we had landed. Thankfully, as soon as we quit dropping in elevation, it stopped getting worse. However, my ears felt like they were full of fluid, I couldn't hear anyone clearly, and every time I leaned my head to the right side it hurt. I was about to drop from sickness and lack of sleep at this point, so when I arrived in San Francisco to board the plane and go to South Korea, imagine my distress when I discovered that Expedia had scheduled my flights too close together and I would never get my boarding pass from Asiana since they had already closed thirty minutes prior. Thankfully, the helpful albeit grouchy U.S. Airways folks managed to get me scheduled for a flight on Singapore Airlines. (I think they were just worried because the lady at International Flight Information had told me to tell them that I had rights to meals and a hotel room near the airport and they didn't want that going on their track record. If I worked in airlines, I wouldn't want to be responsible for it either, but that's the way life goes) I still had to race across the airport without my shoes on-it's funny and really epic at the same time when I look back on it. I was hot and sweaty and in a lot of pain when I finally arrived at Singapore Airlines' desk. I got my boarding pass and made my way down into the crowded boarding area where I heard a lot of people speaking Korean. I took a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief when I boarded the plane. I had already cried in a little corner of the airport earlier when I had thought I would have to spend the night in San Francisco alone. I'm not sure how alone in San Francisco was scarier than alone in South Korea but it somehow was and still is incredibly scary. XD
 After my adventure in San Francisco I didn't even think about what it would be like on the Singapore plane. I thought for sure they would starve me and I'd not sleep a wink, but I was shocked when they gave us warm towels to wipe our hands and faces with and fed me two free meals. I slept really well, watched three Korean movies and listened to lots of music, and I thought my stewardesses were just soooo beautiful. I still remember how I nearly cried in my first meal. =P
 Then.....I arrived in Incheon. Yes, I still remember when the landing gear first touched Korean soil. It was exciting and terribly scary at the same time, but thankfully I made a friend who helped me understand that you get on a train to go get your luggage and you go through immigrations before coming to the baggage pickup. I'm still indebted to her for being so courageous and speaking English to me even when she was intimidated about doing so. Of course, my difficult entry into South Korea doesn't end there, because somehow my baggage got lost in San Francisco. So I headed off to Hanyang University after the fall of darkness because I was an hour late and then spent an hour in the airport searching for my bags that weren't there. My tablet battery then died so I was no longer able to contact my family and I couldn't get wifi on the subway anyway. I also somehow messed up my subway ticket so that when I arrived at Hanyang I couldn't get in the gates. I didn't jump them, though, instead opting for riding a stop further and asking a security guard there for help (I didn't realize at the time that Hanyang University subway stop actually has a security guard that speaks really good English but of course, I hadn't researched that I could get through the ticket and wrong stop problems with the handicapped gate, either...I learned so much that first week).  I made it onto Hanyang University Campus, but then I realized it was 10:30 at night and nothing was open. I had no idea how to follow the map I had to my dorms, so I began walking in what I thought was the general direction and hoping that I could get in someway. I found myself completely lost, hopeless, and worried my mother was pulling her hair out over me.  About thirty minutes later I found myself in front of the Engineering Building. I had gone in hoping that someone would be in the office but no one was there, and I was about to give up hope and call mom on the pay phone, when I hear someone come out of the building. I started to walk away in hopes that this strange person wouldn't bother me since I figured they didn't speak English anyway. This was not the first instance of kindness I received while in South Korea but it is one I won't forget easily simply because it wasn't only the kindness of the person who helped me but really the providence of God that the right person came along just when my mother was praying for me back home and I was certain I would be wandering the campus all night.
He said something like 'Hello, what were you doing in the Engineering Building?"
I ended up telling him I was lost. He knew the area where my dorms where and said he was heading that way. He offered to drive me there.
Yes, I thought about being captured and I thought about the prospect of having to pummel him, but then I prayed about it and decided, in my jetlagged brain, that it was about as safe as wandering the campus alone all night.
Obviously, I'm alive today. He drove me to the other end of campus and asked if he could take ten extra minutes to show me where some stores and restaurants were. I was still ready to beat him over the head with my back pack if he said the slightest thing wrong, but so far we had only talked about learning foreign languages and so I figured he was harmless. After showing me around, we drove back toward the dorms. Before getting there he abruptly said 'you know, you're very pretty'. I didn't understand his pronunciation of the word at first (it sounded more like 'fretty' in my mind, which I was willing to concede to as well since I thought I would die from nerves about then), so I asked him to repeat himself. 'You're very beautiful!' he eventually said in exasperation, and I chuckled awkwardly because what do you say when you're in humid South Korea for the first time, sweaty, dirty, and lost, about to fall over from exhaustion, and this guy you don't know just randomly tells you 'you're pretty'? He laughed back at me and commented 'I think you are happy that I say you are pretty', which is true of course (I was thinking to myself that he must be blind to think I was pretty at that moment), but I was also terrified of everything and everyone at that point. XD Looking back it's hilarious; I made it to the area and stood around until I saw two guys-Western and Arab-walking down the street and stopped them to ask where I could get a key for my dorm/where my dorm is. Thankfully, the Western man was a Slovakian who spoke terrific English and some Korean. I made it to the dorm office to get my room keys at last.
I took a shower and collapsed in bed, grateful for my computer, wi-fi, clean hair, and somewhere safe to sleep. I barely said anything to my room-mate (who I became pretty good friends with later!), only discovered she didn't speak much English. At this point I had said one Korean word my entire first evening in South Korea-감사합니다 (kamsahapnida) and it means 'thank you'. Yeah, I wasn't doing so great. =P

Day 1 to follow soon.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Seoul-Bound Traveller

Since I am trying to adjust to the South Korean timezone while writing this, it is currently 3:30 AM, or 4:30 PM Korean time. As you can imagine, I'm not blessed with very good self-expression abilities at this hour, so I'll put it simply.

I'm going to Seoul for two weeks!

Actually, I think a lot of people knew that already. What people might not know is that I've wanted to go overseas since I was really young-I actually can't remember when I first started wanting to! So, this is like a lifelong dream come true-not just because it's Seoul, but because I've got my passport and I'm getting on a plane and I'm traveling!
More details: I'll be studying at Hanyang University in a language and culture program. It's a short summer stay and even though I'm worried, scared, happy and delirious all at the same time I know it won't last for long. Pray I'm safe, I don't worry too much, and I enjoy it to the fullest! Hahahah

I'll try to keep my blog updated with stuff but I'll probably be rather bad at it, since I say that a lot when I go places but I never actually update. ^^