Where should I begin or matter of fact where should I end this? Being in South Korea now for 3 weeks has opened my eyes to people quite different than I but yet the same. We've all heard negative things about South Korea or just Asian people. I won't go into details with those because like any negative comments about people of a different ethnicity there are lies and some truths. What made me feel a little "warm hearted" today was that there are people out there in the world who don't mind helping a stranger find their way. At first in my mind I thought Koreans are not always nice, but I actually stopped myself and made myself rethink that statement. Some Koreans are not nice and others are nice folks who will help a stranger. That statement that I just mentioned about some koreans being nice is true for almost all the world. There are some folks who are ignorant while others try and move past that wall into understanding or at least try to. Today brought about that idea that there are nice people out there who will try and extend beyond the line even if different languages to help someone in need. During my travels today I rode the subway with another american girl. Not having much practice by myself in the subway and the other girl being a newbie too I decided I would lead the way. Actually we both did our parts in getting confused and finding our way.
The start of our journey to the Immigration Office began sour as we tried to find which track to ride and finally looking at a bigger map I traced where we had to go. I don't know why but a feeling of "you're in the way" came over me and sure enough there were two guys behind us also looking at the map. "You're fine," the one guy said, relief that he spoke English I asked which way to get to the other track and graciously he pointed to the other side of the path. Thanking him we headed for the other side of the pathway. Our next mistake came when we got half-way to our destination and this time we were on the wrong side of the tracks. After asking one elderly guy which side we moved down the hall alittle and started speaking English. The funny thing about being in a country where some of the people speak English and the rest don't, it seems the ones that you think don't speak the language, actually do. While we were speaking another elderly guy turns his head and looks at me, nothing unusual on my part, this is a common thing in Korea. But he doesnt turn once to look at me but again as if trying to grasp what we are saying and I know my face had the lost look on it. So what the heck, I leaned forward a little and said where we needed to go and oh my gosh he answered in English. Actually he did more than answer in English he followed us to the escaltor and told us to go to the other side. If we werent in a hurry I probably would of hugged him for helping us. I guess it goes to show that some of the older generation are trying to move into the 21st century but heheh at their own speed.
Now I know that South Korea is modernized and technical savy but some of their people are like some Americans. You pass them on the street and they look at you curious as to who or what ethnic group you are. What really bothers me is when you are somewhat dazed as to where you are and go to ask for directions from them; they blow you off and keep walking the other way. Now where is the kindness I don't know and it's not like I was trying to sell them anything; hahaha I didnt have anything to give. We did eventually find our building funny thing was it was a block down the street we were on. So we really didnt need those girls help but I guess it was more of a mental comforter if they would of helped. After the longest time in the Immigration office we had to return to the subway and somehow manage to not get lost which we didnt really.. hahahha.
There are a few things I like about South Korea, and will give them some credit, when the promoters for new restaurants or stores are out they don't bother me. I was with a girl who looks Korean and they gave her a flyer but didnt even pester me with one. I guess I didnt matter but hey I am not complaining, the less paper I have to carry.
Finally I made it to Yonsei University and have settled in; but I did more than settle in, I made friends. No sooner had my Korean host mom put the van in park and wonder inside a wrong building another lady who spoke English approached saying that this other building was where she thought internationals students went. Following her lead my sister and I proceeded to the building the Korean lady told us and I met up with a girl who was from Singapore. I just did what came natural and started conversation and that is how I met her, otherwise the elevator down to the next building would have been boring. Dead end for me.... I thought the building below would be my home too along with the Singaporean girl, but it wasnt. I headed outside and my sister was waiting, " You're suppose to be upstairs, I asked the lady at the desk." There was hope for me! Using the elevator again I went upstairs and the lady did have my information and was waiting for me. Getting everything I needed from her I went up to my dorm and surprise--- small room.. Good news is I have a girl from Singapore as a roommate and she is super sweet! Saying goodbye to my Korean mom was sad but at the same time it had to happen. Now being at Yonsei has made me miss my Korean mom and her endless Korean chatter. Here there is English and other foreign languages that I could pick up, but nothing is the same as my Korean mom.
First night out in the city and I don't know what to do or where to go but Im in luck. Two of my Korean friends from MC are in the city and they come get me and show me Seoul. I get to try spicy noodles which it's name says it all and we go see a movie-- Step up 4 revolution (in English with Korean subtitles). My day has gone well and after we split ways, I am again with another friend from MC--Eun and we enjoy dinner together at an Italian restaurant. The day seems to have been a dream but a very good dream.
The days seem to float into the next without me realizing it. That seemed to be the case until the day Yuji flew into Seoul. It seemed I was once again a newbie in Korea, enjoying the sights and exploring as a kid would. That day seemed to be the drinking day as well, in Korea it is the culture when with friends you eat and drink. I was with friends and we did what was part of Korean culture. Like all things it had to end the next day and we split paths once again.
Indian Giant Squirrel
University of Hyderabad, India
This is an excerpt from Harper's post "Monsoon Vacation"
Our very lofty goal was to see wild elephants, but it's best to see them in the early morning and even then only if you're lucky. Almost as soon as we began our hike we saw a Giant Indian Squirrel (which is classified as threatened). It was cool, but mostly just weird lookin'. Not too cute. That and a snake that Kaia nearly stepped on (just a teeny-tiny brown one) was the only wildlife we saw. However, we saw signs of elephants everywhere, including elephant poop from that very morning! and tracks leading to the river.
If you've ever gone hiking with me, or just walked with me outside, you'll know that I'm a very slow hiker because I have to see and touch everything. So me and one of the guides brought up the rear, which turned out to be just fine because he told me neat things about what we were seeing and hearing. one of the coolest things was a low-laying branch that was polished smooth by elephants scratching their backs up against it! Our trek culminated in a beautiful, giant waterfall. Our guides didn't really speak much English, but they made it clear that I wasn't supposed to go to near the waterfall. However, I thought that was dumb because I was wearing my bouldering shoes and I know how to climb on slippery things. Once Diana said that she wanted to go closer as well I made my move. I don't think I ignored our guides, I just feigned ignorance as they motioned for me not to go further up the waterfall. Then Diana followed me, so we kind of pressured one of the guides to follow us up the whole side of the waterfall until we were way up and behind it. Right before we left I got my first chance to wash my hair since we left the boat (and by "first chance" I mean that I refused to shower in the freezing water in the guesthouse, and by "wash" I mean stuck my head in the river and beat my hair with rocks).