Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hongdae Free Market

Portrait Artist by blueoceanpalm
Portrait Artist, a photo by blueoceanpalm on Flickr.

I visited the Free Market at the playground just outside of Hongik University today for the first time. This is where I saw this cute little guy getting his portrait done. :)

The Free Market has been a place for artists to come and sell their works since 2002. It is every Saturday from March to November from 1pm to 6pm. I'm looking forward to checking it out more often. I didn't buy anything this time, but I probably will next time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Korea 2011

My HostelYonsei Underwood HallYonsei Korean Language InstituteGwanghwamun PlazaGwanghwamun PlazaGwanghwamun Plaza
Gwanghwamun PlazaGwanghwamun PlazaGwanghwamun PlazaGwanghwamun 광화문IMG_0415Gwanghwamun 광화문
Painting on the inside of Gwanghwamun경복궁Gyeongbokgung 경복궁, Heungnyemun Gate북촌 Bukchon북촌 Bukchon북촌 Bukchon
북촌 Bukchon북촌 BukchonMe on some colorful steps in Bukchon북촌 Bukchon북촌 Bukchon북촌 Bukchon

Korea 2011, a set on Flickr.

I'll put photos I take during this trip into this set on Flickr. Enjoy.

First Full Day in Korea

Greetings from Korea! I got to Korea on Thursday, June 16th at about 3:45pm. Ugh, that flight from home was KILLER. It took approximately 24 hours for the whole trip, most of it spent on a plane. I didn't get much sleep on the plane, but luckily, on my longest flight, I had a really cool person sitting next to me and we chatted for most of the flight. This guy was recently retired in the Air Force and he spent 2 years in Kwangju. He was going to go on a tour in China for a week and spend the rest of his month in Asia backpacking around Korea. Sounds fun, right? I wish him the best of luck.

I was so glad to be off the plane. After I got my rental phone and stuff at the airport, I boarded the airport bus to Ehwa University Station. The bus ride wasn't as bad as I thought...last time, I almost got car sick, but I was fine this time. It took no time to find my hostel and I checked in at about 5 pm or so. The hostel that I'm staying at is pretty new. I've got a private room with a separate bathroom, and it's pretty nice. I wasn't very tired when I got here, so I went for a walk around the area to get rid of the rest of my energy. When I returned to my room, I was ready for some rest.

The next day, Friday, I woke up at around 5:30am. I hung around my room for a few hours and I watched my drama that I missed while I was flying. At around 8, I left my room and headed to Yonsei University, about a 20 minute walk. I heard that I might be able to open a bank account on campus, so I headed there first. The bank didn't open until 9:30, so I had to wait for a little while. While waiting, I got some kimbap from the convenience store for breakfast. When the bank opened, I found out that I at least had to have a passport and a student ID to get a bank account, so I'd have to wait. I changed some money anyway and then headed toward the KLI. Last time I was there, there was a lot of construction because they were building a new dorm, and now it's finished.

After stopping by Yonsei, I figured I had better start looking for a place to stay for the rest of my time in Korea. I had done some Internet research on several places, and called one of my first choices. The guy said that they did have rooms available and I could go see them, so I walked through Ehwa University from their rear gate to their main gate and found it pretty easily. It's only about a 15 or 20 minute walk from the KLI and maybe a 5 minute walk from where I'm staying now. The rooms were super small by American standards, but there is a private bathroom, bed, Internet, cable TV, air conditioning and some storage in the room and they provide free rice, kimchi, coffee and laundry facilities. I know I shouldn't pick the first place I look at, and I planned to look around at other places, but this seemed like a good place, so I paid the guy a small deposit and I move in on Sunday.

I went back to my hostel afterwards and dropped off some stuff before heading out again to Gwanghwamun. One of the places I was looking forward to seeing when I got to Seoul was the newly-renovated main gate to Gyeongbokgung, the largest palace in Seoul. The area around Gwanghwamun is the heart of old Seoul, and Gwanghwamun is the center of it all. Gwanghwamun Square, right in front of the palace, opened in 2009, almost right after I left. People were playing in the fountain in front of the statue of General Yi Sun Shin and it was generally a really nice area.

I then headed toward Bukchon, a neighborhood with a high concentration of hanok, traditional Korean houses. The streets there are very, very narrow, but it's a really nice place for a stroll. I would have stayed longer, but my camera's battery was dying. I will definitely have to go back there. On the way back to my hostel, I stopped in Insadong for dinner. Insadong is a traditional area with a lot of shops that sell traditional crafts. It's probably one of my favorite places to shop.

I don't know what I'm going to do today yet. There's so much to see and do, it's sometimes overwhelming.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two songs that are currently stuck in my head and won't get out

Here's a couple songs that I just can't seem to get out of my head:





This is "Americano" by 10cm. It's a simple, lighthearted song that is SUPER catchy. Can you blame me for spontaneously singing the lyrics out of nowhere? This song is so catchy, I've even made it my ringtone. Ugh...maybe it might never get out of my head. :)

The other song is "나를 잊지 말아요" (Please Don't Forget Me) by 허각 (Huh Gak). It's from 최고의 사랑 (Best Love), one of the dramas I'm obsessing over right now. This isn't the first time Huh Gak's got one of his songs stuck in my head. 언제나 (Always) is an awesome song too. Both videos are below...





Damn, maybe I should have put the happy song at the end. Just listened to 나를 잊지 말아요 again and now I'm a blubbery mess. Hand me a tissue, somebody! :)

Perpetual Writer's Block

It takes a lot to get me to write. Especially in length on a particular topic. I'm pretty good at spelling and grammar, but there's just something that keeps me from getting my ideas out. It must be some kind of inner insecurity that I have and just haven't figured out how to break it yet. Many times, I start to write something, but when I go back and read what I've written, I see it as stupid and end up erasing it all. There are a lot of posts on this blog that ended up that way. When I absolutely must write something, I usually get to a point that I just absolutely can't go on and have to stop. Then I usually just have to click send if I'm working on an email or just turn in the paper I'm writing.

My perpetual writer's block is so frustrating. What do I do?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Cell Phones in Korea

I leave for Korea in less than a week. Leading up to my trip, I joined a couple groups on Facebook about the Yonsei Korean Language Institute and I made some contacts who will hopefully turn into some cool friends. What to do about getting a cell phone seems like a recurring conversation.

One of the things that you must have when you're in Korea is a cell phone. I know it sounds like peer pressure, but it really is hard to connect to people without a cell phone and public phones can be hard to come by sometimes.

So what does a foreigner do to get a phone in Korea?

First, you must know a little about cell phone network infrastructure: Most of the world uses GSM cell phone networks, which uses SIM cards. SIM cards hold all your subscriber information, can be removed from the handset, and theoretically you can switch SIM cards around in multiple handsets without changing phone
numbers. I say theoretically because in order to successfully switch SIM cards around in different handsets, you've got to have unlocked handsets. The difference between locked and unlocked is that GSM providers normally sell phones that are "locked" onto their specific GSM network (i.e. AT&T or T-Mobile). Unlocked phones can be used on any GSM network. Unlocked handsets are usually more expensive than locked handsets that you get when you subscribe to a provider. Don't worry too much though, you can usually unlock your handset by calling your provider and punching some codes in your phone. They might charge a small fee for unlocking your phone, but once it's unlocked, you can use different SIM cards in your handset. GSM phones are convenient for world travel because you can either get a prepaid SIM card in the country you're visiting and use your own handset or you can rent a handset and use your regular SIM card.

CDMA, on the other hand, is a different type of network entirely. It is not as widespread around the world as GSM, but it is the most widely used in the US and Korea. CDMA providers sell phones that are locked and it's very difficult or impossible to unlock them. CDMA does not use SIM cards to store the subscriber's information, instead the information is stored directly on the handset. In order to travel internationally with a CDMA phone, you should contact your provider to make sure there is a roaming agreement between
your provider and a provider in the country you're visiting and find out what fees are like and what features will not work when you're there. For example, Verizon and Sprint have roaming agreements with Korean providers, but while you might be able to send/receive text messages using Verizon, you can't on Sprint.

I imagine Korea only really has a GSM network in order to please foreigners because it's the most widely used type of network in the world.

There are many options now available to foreigners visiting Korea.

First of all, there are convenient mobile phone rental kiosks in the airport. There are at least three companies that rent phones to foreigners and they have several options for rentals. You can rent a prepaid phone, have a temporary account which you will pay at the end of your trip, or you can even rent a Korean GSM handset which you could put your own SIM card in. Here is a site from the Korea Tourism Organization that will lead you to the rental companies. If you make a reservation online, they usually give you a discount.

If you have a family member or friend in Korea, it might even be a better option for you to get them to put you on their plan, like adding a line.

The other option is to somehow get a Korean SIM card and put into your unlocked GSM handset. This likely involves getting an actual contract with the cell phone provider, and I'm not real sure how that works because when one of my friends tried to buy a SIM card, she was unsuccessful.

I have Sprint (CDMA) service in the States. Last time I visited Korea, I was only there for about a month and a half and I didn't know anybody there, so renting a phone was my best option. I could use my BlackBerry Curve from home there with no big problems, but it was expensive to make calls and use data, so I only really used it when I had to. My Korean phone was just a simple phone and it cost me about 2,000 won a day, which included rental fee of about 1,500 won and the little bit that I used the
phone for calls and te
xts. This time around, I'm going to rent a prepaid phone for about 50,000 won plus how much ever I want to prepay. I have an Android smartphone now (the awesome HTC Evo 4G, pictured left) that I can use to get on WiFi networks, so I can hopefully keep my Sprint bill from giving me a heart attack.

At any rate, it pays to do a bit of research before you get to Korea.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Preparing for Korea

Namsan by blueoceanpalm
Namsan, a photo by blueoceanpalm on Flickr.

In about 8 days or so I'm going to be hopping on a plane for the first time in well over a year and going to Korea for 3 months to study again at Yonsei University. I'm super excited and I'm pretty much already packed.

This time I'll be attending the summer regular program instead of the summer special program, so I'll be in Korea for the whole summer instead of just a month and a half. This summer is probably one of the last free summers I'll have because I am planning on getting my associate's degree in the winter or spring of next year and beyond that is a big, vast plain of uncertainty. Better take this opportunity when I can, yeah?

When I get to Korea, I'll be staying at a hostel for the first four days or so, and in that time I've got to find somewhere else to live for the rest of my time. I'm thinking about a goshiwon-type place, which is kind of like a dorm room, but off-campus. I'm hoping I'll have a more authentic Korean experience at this kind of place because when I was staying at the dorm the last time, I spent WAY too much time speaking English. I probably won't be able to distance myself too far from my mother tongue, but I can try my best.

At any rate, I will probably have better Internet access in Korea than here at home. That said, I will try my best to post stuff like blog posts, pictures and videos while I'm there, but I will be pretty busy going to school and traveling around as much as I can, so there is a chance that I might not update very often. We'll just have to see how things go.

One time when I went to San Francisco, I stopped periodically and wrote what I was experiencing in a notebook. I tore the pages out of the notebook after my trip and sent it to my mom. I wish I still had those pages, but it was so relaxing to just stop every once in a while and write about what I was doing. I've gotten myself a notebook and I've been writing in it a lot lately. Maybe while I'm in Korea, I'll share some of my notebook entries. This blog is called blueoceanpalm's notebook, after all...

Nancy Wood Poem

Hold on to what is good
even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is
a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when
it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when
I have gone away from you.

- from Many Winters, 1974

I wrote this in one of my notebooks so long ago that I don't even remember when. I should read some more of her work.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Song of the Day: Three Little Birds



It's been a while since I had a song of the day, but I thought I'd post this anyway. This video is cool, but the song is awesome.

I heard this song today on my iPod and I thought about destressing.

"Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing is gonna be all right..."

One of my friends recently quit her job and she's having a lot of changes in her life all at once. A stressful time indeed. She wondered how I managed to not get stressed out over much. I do get stressed out a lot, but I guess I'm just good at hiding it or naming it something else, like sadness or hopelessness.

I have sad thoughts a lot, and I worry about a lot of things. I worry a lot about my world crashing down around me. I worry about completely failing all my classes and not ever being able to find a decent job. I worry about going broke.

It's songs like this that help me remember to not sweat the small stuff (which all that stuff is) and just smile. Everything happens as it should and it will all work out in the end, so try not to worry so much and don't lose hope. :)

Monday, April 04, 2011

Spam Commenting

I've been neglecting this blog for a long time and it appears my commenting system was too lenient because I've had a crapton of spam comments on a few of my posts. I think I've cleaned them all up now and I've changed my settings for comments. Be careful out there on the Internet, folks.