For anyone wondering, I am truly living my best life in Seoul. I have basically no stress, I am living out my cafe culture dreams by consuming an ungodly amount of coffee and tiramisu, and generally just thriving. A lot of things have happened since my last post - like joining a Taekwondo academy and competing in a competition this last weekend, joining YES (Yonsei English Society), and working my way through the city's art museums.
First - Taekwondo
I have accidentally gone slightly Taekwondo crazy recently because I now do Taekwondo four times a week - twice on Wednesdays. Because the gym situation at Yonsei is a little whack I am using Taekwondo as an alternative and I have found that I love it. This is my first time doing a martial art and it is so rewarding and so different from the other sports I have played. Taekwondo murders my hamstrings but I can now consistently touch my toes (for those who don't know - I have never been able to touch my toes) which is a big win for me. I have also made some really good friends and it is nice to feel ridiculous sometimes and be able to laugh at myself knowing that it is all part of the process.
Warming up before the competition at Kukkiwon (the Taekwondo headquarters).
Second - Cafes & Food
I have found that tea is unreasonably expensive in Korea and so I have taken to drinking Americanos. Because of my need for a drink when I am studying/reading/existing in public, I have become somewhat of a cafe connoisseur and have found both my favorite cafe in Sinchon and on-campus. In Sinchon I can usually be found at "Favorite" on the weekends and it is coincidentally my favorite cafe. And, at school, I go to the terrace cafe on the top floor of the new library building during the week. Here I am such a regular that they know my order and they make good coffee and it is cheap which just makes it all the better. At most cafes there will be an assortment of cakes - basically, I have tiramisu every day (offsetting any Taekwondo advantages) and so far the best is at Holly's which is a Korean chain that can be found pretty much everywhere.
At this point, I think that I know what I am eating maybe 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time who knows what I am eating. But, I haven't been let down yet. I think the best things anyone can eat here is anything involving chicken. And also anything that is spicy. I love spicy food and Korean food doesn't disappoint. I have also found that there is often a range to spice levels within restaurants so my less spice inclined friends can still eat comfortably. I know some people here who only stick to foods that they have already had and that is no way to live. Everything here is good - just eat. A word of warning though - if you are white trying to order spicy food the wait staff will try to talk you out of it because there is a general belief that white people can't handle spicy food - so you have to be adamant about wanting it.
YES "Membership Training" location somewhere in the mountains North of Seoul.
Third - YES & Museums
I joined YES not really knowing what it was but wanting to meet new people. It turns out that YES runs a musical each semester that is completely optional and has meetings on Thursdays that involve food and drinks. Also, Korean clubs hold what is called "Membership Training (MT)" that is supposed to "promote friendship" that involves an overnight stay somewhere, no sleep, and a lot of alcohol. For the YES MT, we were in the mountains and I was awake until six in the morning. It was a rough Sunday for me due to the intense lack of sleep. But, friendship was definitely promoted and I met many good people that I don't think I would have met if I hadn't gone to MT and just went to regular meetings. The meetings are optional and you can stay for however long you want which is super good for those who have busy schedules or, like me, prefer to sleep at a reasonable hour.
I have also been going to a different museum every weekend and have so far only been mildly impressed. Both the Seoul Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) were interesting but neither has a permanent collection which I find rather odd considering the size of both museums. I would highly, highly recommend the National Museum of Korea because you walk through the entire history of Korea and they have a huge collection of ceramics and sculpture works. The National Museum of Korea and the Seoul Museum of Art are both free, and the MMCA is free for students which makes them all very accessible and I will definitely be going back once the exhibits change. I have plans to go to the Leeum (Samsung's art museum) and walking through the numerous galleries in central Seoul. One thing I have noticed about all of these museums is that their gift shops are really good. I know I probably shouldn't judge the quality of a museum on account of the gift shop but they have many cool souvenirs and things that typical museums usually don't have.
I love Seoul. I love my life here and I could honestly see myself living here at some point. I have a newfound love for Korea and an appreciation of Korean culture. I am hoping that by learning more of the language I will be able to enjoy and understand even more of what is going on around me because there is always something happening.