I think I may have mentioned a few times that I am taking a Taekwondo class here at Yonsei. (Okay, maybe more than a few times, because I’m really excited about it!) I’m taking an international class so we have people from all over the world and of all belt levels. In case you don’t know anything about Taekwondo (and I didn’t either until 3 months ago) here’s the basics:
1. It’s pronounced “tay-kwon-do”, not “tai-kwon-do”
2. The main purpose of Taekwondo is to stretch your legs as ridiculously high in the air as you possibly can and kick the crap out the other guy. When you fight it looks a lot like this:
3. The secondary purpose of Taekwondo is not to let the other guy kick the crap out of you. Follow these three rules and you’ll be a martial arts master in no time!
I came in with no experience (as did many students) so I started with a white belt. I looked something like this:
However, last Friday I finally took my belt test to show I can do the basic blocks, punches, and kicks, so I am now officially a yellow-belt! That means I am one step closer to mastering all four elements!
Besides the regular exchange program (that’s the one I’m doing), Yonsei University has an intensive Korean language program where you can take Korean classes all day for 3 month sessions. The spring session started a little over a month ago, and so we got lots of new students a while back, including half a dozen of these adorable little Japanese girls. No, really, they are soooo cute. Like little dolls. Or like characters from a Hayao Miyazaki movie (think “Kiki’s Delivery Service” or “Whisper of the Heart”, not “Princess Mononoke”. Yikes, that would be scary!) Though I found out not too long ago that even though they don’t look like it, most of the Japanese girls are actually older than me, so they think I am the cute one because I’m the youngest.
Anyway, the good thing is they’re here specifically to learn Korean, so I have people at my level to practice with! The bad thing is I’m expected to kick them during practice but they’re so little and cute that I just can’t bring myself to do it.
Our Taekwondo master, Master Kim (or “김 관장님”) is a pretty cool dude. He’s been doing and teaching Taekwondo for decades so he’s a 500th degree blackbelt or something. He is also into biking and mountain climbing and all sorts of other stuff so he likes to arrange weekend day-trips for us sometimes. Two weekends ago he took our class hiking on Ansan Mountain, which is normally an easy hike, but it just happened to be like 2 days after I climbed Bukhansan, so that was a struggle. Turns out Master Kim also has this thing for taking pictures. He organizes the same trips every semester (or sometimes twice a semester) and when we get to very specific spots on the mountain he makes everyone stop and pose for a picture. Later he showed us the photos from the previous trips and they were literally all the same, just with different students.
Even when we went out for lunch afterwards he snapped the SAME picture of his lunch, which was the SAME kalbi stew he has every time after a student trip to Ansan. Oh well, it’s not like I would ever complain to him about it because he can totally beat the crap out of me if he wanted to. I’ve already suffered an accidental kick from Master Kim during training and let me tell you, that was NOT pleasant. (Though, it was kind of my fault: we had an odd number of students that day and so I was paired with Master Kim for kicking exercises and we were facing each other and he specifically said that he would kick first and then I was supposed to kick second but I totally blanked and kicked anyway and so naturally we collided and Master Kim almost took out my kneecap but luckily he hit me about an inch to the left, which is the only reason I’m not confined to a wheelchair right now. For a practice kick, it was pretty painful.)
Anyway, here’s the pics from Ansan:
Then last weekend we went biking along the Han River, which is one of those things you’re supposed to do as a tourist in Seoul so I was pretty excited. But again, Master Kim had to get those perfect photos so sometimes he would stop us just so he could run ahead and stand on a specific hill and snap a photo as we all rode by.
We rode out for about 2 hours before stopping at a noodle shop for lunch. On the way back we were supposed to stop off at Seoul’s World Cup Stadium for another photo shoot, but one unlucky student fell off his bike in a particularly gravelly area and got really cut up, so we had to cut our trip a little short. On the bright side, I learned how to say “there is a lot of blood!” in Korean.
That’s all I have about Taekwondo for now. It’s been getting really hot lately so class hasn’t been as much fun when the gym you practice in feels like a greenhouse. It looks like the soul-crushingly hot Korean summer weather has finally arrived! I’ve heard it gets even more hot and humid and then July and August are monsoon season, where it just rains constantly (I am NOT looking forward to that!) It also doesn’t help that Yonsei has this “no air conditioning until June” policy, so the classrooms are really hot as well, and everyone in my Korean class is practically asleep by the end of the two hours. I think the lack of air conditioning has something to do with trying to save energy but honestly, I’ve seen how they crank up the heating during winter so if they’re looking to save energy I know where they could start…
Starting next week I only have two more weeks of class left, and during the second week we have two days off from school for a local election day and Memorial day, so really, school is pretty much over (at least, in my head it is.) I’m even soooo done with this semester that I’m leaving the country early next week! Bye Korea!
Did I scare you? Let me explain: when I got my student visa, the embassy gave me 4 months starting from my arrival date, which is the standard amount of time for a single-semester study abroad student. However, I came to Korea two weeks earlier than the average student (remember I took that language class?) so my visa actually expires right in the middle of final exams. I figured it was probably best not to get deported in the middle of finals so I had two options: either go through the immigration office and fill out lots of paperwork and pay some fees and possibly have major translation problems and then get a 30-day extension, or fly to Japan for a day, give up my alien registration card, and come back on a 90-day tourist visa. Hmmm… paperwork or weekend trip to Japan…
Surprise: I’m flying to Osaka next Sunday!
I won’t be gone long (only about 24 hours) but I’ll have enough time to spend a long afternoon in Japan and be back the next day in time for Korean class. I kind of wish I had more time to spend there but the only words I know in Japanese are “domo-arigato”, “wasabi” and “kobayashi maru” and I don’t even have a travel buddy so I’m going to play it safe this time. (Okay, I also know “konichiwa”, “sushi”, “bonsai” and “bonzai!” for a grand total of 7 words, so I should be able to get by: I don’t believe in no-win situations.) I will tell you all about my trip when I get back!
Then after that I’ve got a few final exams and then summer vacation! I’m planning on spending the summer doing a work-stay in Busan (more on that later) so I should keep this blog updated through mid-August. For now, here’s a Konglish pun:
In what country do people have 4 arms?
(Hint: copy and past “네팔” into an online translator. Read result. Then add a new line (not just a space) between “네” and “팔”. Read result. Realize I made a really clever pun. Laugh until you pee!)