This week is by far the busiest week I have experienced since moving to Seoul. One of my friends from Denmark is visiting this week, and that has been an excellent excuse to tour the city. She’s actually here on business, but nonetheless we’ve managed to spend two days together. I greatly enjoy sightseeing in Seoul, which is something I now do much too rarely after having actually moved here. I guess it’s true when they say that you’re never really a tourist in your own city.
Since Monday was a public holiday here in Korea (개천절) there was plenty of time for us to explore the city. My friend and I met up at Sogang station in the morning and headed to City Hall, where we took a stroll along the beautiful Cheonggyecheon stream before entering the even more breathtaking Gyeongbokgung palace. So many people were dressed in hanbok and they looked adorable. From there we went to Bukchon where we had lunch followed by coffee in Insadong. After a little shopping in Myeongdong we went back toward Gyeongbokgung and made a quick stop at Jogyesa temple before having dinner in one of my favorite restaurants near Gwanghwamun.
Next day I was teaching in the morning, and had a lot of desk work in the afternoon. Then on Wednesday I met up with my friend again after giving a talk about differences in teaching styles between Denmark and Korea to a delegation from Denmark. My friend arranged this, and it was so much fun to share my knowledge and experience with people so greatly interested in Korea and Korean culture. After the talk and a tour of Sogang campus, my friend and I headed to Jamsil where we saw the Lotte World Tower. From there we continued the evening in central Gangnam enjoying a lovely meal of samgyeopsal and soju followed by traditional bingsu (Korean shaved ice) at a nearby dessert cafe.
This morning I was teaching at Sogang before taking a cab to Seoul National University, where I had to give a seminar. The campus there was humongous, and it seemed to be surrounded by a lot of nature. Absolutely stunning. Two of the local professors took me out for lunch when I arrived. We quickly switched from English to Korean, since I was already warmed up from 40 minutes in a cab with a very talkative cab driver, who kept telling me that “우리 손님은 참 대단해요!” (You’re so amazing!). One of the things that I love in Korea is that economists seem equally happy to talk about K-pop and K-dramas and economic theory, so the lunch conversation covered econometric estimation strategies , Korean boy band EXO’s popularity, my PhD thesis, my concert experience with Psy, the Danish labor market structure, and my favorite K-dramas. An excellent choice of conversation topics indeed. When I confirmed that I have entered a Korean karaoke bar more than once to sing in Korean, they quickly agreed that I should be awarded honorary Korean citizenship. Haha.
After lunch I had meetings with several of the local professors, and one of them was so kind to show me around campus. It was really beautiful, and this week the students were having their fall festival, so some of the guys were practicing the choreography of EXO’s recent single “Monster” on stage. What an awesome place!
At 4:30 it was finally time for my seminar, and several professors and graduate students had gathered in the meeting room to hear my talk. When my host professor introduced me in Korean, I rolled with it and started speaking in Korean before switching to English. The seminar went really well, and I received many interesting questions and positive feedback. After the seminar, my host invited me for dinner together with a handful of his students. We enjoyed a lovely meal with a well-deserved beer in a great atmosphere at a local Italian restaurant, and this time, the discussion topics covered anything from international politics to the attractiveness of Korean celebrities. Especially the latter made for a heated debate. Haha!
In between all of this I’ve managed to cram in a few sessions with my new Korean tutor whom I’ve found here at Sogang University. We meet a few times per week and practice conversation in Korean and English. It’s so practical that we can meet on campus, since that allows for a lot of flexibility.
My former language partner has been promoted to Korean best friend, but he still manages to inadvertantly teach me Korean through text messages. Just the other day we were whining to each other about how busy we both were. I complained that I had a 20 page report due in 10 days, to which he asked if it was in English or Korean. “Duh, English!” “Well, that should be easy for you!” to which I sent a resolute “아니거든! 내용은 힘들어! ㅠ” (No it’s not, it’s the content of the report that’s difficult. – as if I can just write about anything) This prompted the following reply “ㅋㅋㅋㅋ 음성 지원 되는 거 같기도 하고” This is an awesome piece of Korean slang, which the team from TTMIK beautifully explain in the video below. You can use this to tell someone you know very well, that their text message was almost like hearing them say the words in real life.
I’ve had my first 12-hour work day in Korea today, and I had originally planned to watch the next episode of “moon lovers”, which I had saved for today as my prize for getting through the seminar. I’m just way too tired, so instead I’m going to apply a face mask and go straight to bed.