Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hahoe Mask Museum, Andong

At the entrance to the Andong Hahoe Village there is the Andong Mask Museum. For 2,000 won it's probably worth it to walk around and check out what they have for about an hour. 

Not only do they have an extensive collection of Korean masks, but also masks from around the world.

I didn't think to take photos of it while I was there, but their American halloween mask section was quite amusing. Who knew the things we sell for $5.00 at the local pharmacy could be put on display in another country?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Byeongsan Seowon, Andong

Byongsan Seowon, a school for Confucianism was founded in 1563 and moved to it's current location, several kilometers from the Andong Hahoe Village in the year 1572. It was an academy dedicated to the study of Confucianism  and was founded by local scholars.

The day we went was very misty and a little rainy. We took advantage of the weather to get some beautiful shots of the local scenery.

Then we found a path that lead to the Hahoe Village and thought it would be a good idea to walk, we figured we'd arrive at the end of the 4 km walk around dusk. We though it was flat, and at the time it wasn't raining. Turns out, after a bend in the road the path went up into the hills. Then it started raining. We realized we weren't going to make it back before nightfall, so we turned back.

Before getting in the car, we hung around the riverside, in the rain, having a little fun. It's a great area just to see the sights. And the best part is, there are no entrance fees to enter the Byongsan Seowon. It is accessible by local bus from the Hahoe Village or by a quick drive up the hill by car.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Is Your Blood Type?

Here is a quick cultural insight I wrote up for the boyfriend's book which will hopefully be published in the next few months. Though I'd share it with you.

What is your blood type?

Have you been asked this question before? Koreans love to ask and guess people’s blood type or 혈액형. This is not only found in Korea, but is also a common question in Japan as well. Blood type is often used to judge a person’s personality and character, so when you’re asked this question, they’re trying to figure out a little more about you, much like asking one’s zodiac sign in western countries.

Here is a quick summary of the traits of each blood type. Be sure to ask your Korean friends about their blood types!

Type A:
Type A blood types tend to be extremely calm, seek harmony and are always courteous to others. They are also very responsible and like taking charge of the job at hand. They are perfectionists and have a hunger for success. Despite this, they tend to be shy and uncomfortable around groups of people.

Type B:
Ask any Korean woman how they feel about Type B men and they’ll tell you to stay clear. They are known as 바람둥이, players, and are known for being quick tempered. Many women won’t even consider a date with anyone who is a B형. Besides this small detail, B types are known for being very practical. They are specialists at what they do and they pay special attention to details.

Type O:
Folks with blood type O are thought of as the most even keeled of the lot. They are outspoken, but also value the opinions of others. They tend to be self-confident and like to be the center of attention. They are also optimistic for the future but prepared for the worst.

Type AB:
AB types tend to be a bit of everything. Some have described them to look like a B형 on the outside, having a quick temper and changing their minds easily. At the same time, they are A형 on the inside, trustworthy and responsible.

What do you think? Does this fit your blood type?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Some Korean Book Recommendations

I was thinking lately that I needed to post up some recommendations of some of my Korean books. I've been studying Korean since 2006 (a little) and been studying pretty hard for the past two years here in Korea so, I've gone through a lot of books, good and bad. If you're in the market for a Korean book there are millions nowadays to choose from. While I've only studied from a small percentage of those, I hope this might help you in your decision when buying a new book.

Teach Yourself Korean

 Teach Yourself Korean: This was the first book that I used for studying Korean. It's one of the few available in an average bookstore in the US, or at least it was one of the only ones back when I bought this in 2006. Despite it's modest appearance, it's a great book. It has excellent explanations of grammar, lots of exercises and great dialogues. But, there are three problems with this book. a) It doesn't teach hangul well. b) It expects you to have trouble reading and it writes some of the exercises in romanized form. It's good at the beginning, but hopefully by the time you get through a few chapters you shouldn't need it anymore, but they use it throughout the book. c) At the time, this went a little too fast for me. I only got through a few chapters before things got above my head fast. As I wasn't in Korea and I was only studying when I was bored, I couldn't keep up. Anyway, despite these faults, it's a good book, probably the best that's commonly available in the US. 

Beautiful Korean 2-2 and 3-1

Beautiful Korean: When I started studying in Metro Korean Academy, the first book series I used was Beautiful Korean. I studied this from 1-2 up to 2-2. It's a decent series and I like it because they don't overwhelm you with vocabulary or grammar. Each chapter has two grammar points and a reasonable amount of useful vocabulary. In the lower levels it also has grammar explanations available for English, Chinese and Japanese speakers where most university textbooks rely on Korean explanations in the textbook. One downside though is that there are not many exercises to practice vocab or grammar. It's probably better for a classroom setting or with a conversation partner rather than self study.
Sogang 3-A Student book, Workbook and Student book supplement

Sogang Korean: When I moved into level 3 at Metro, we switched to the Sogang series. I was quite pleased with this book. The only downside to using this in conjunction with the Beautiful Korean series was that Beautiful Korea didn't teach reported speech in level 2 (which I think is a good thing personally) but Sogang did, so we had to play catch up. It literally took two months to learn all the reported speech conjugations while we studied the rest of the book which was kind of distracting. Anyway, the Sogang books themselves are great. Each chapter is divided into speaking, grammar, listening and reading (not much writing to be found in the text book). The stories are interesting to read and there are lots of illustrations and photos. I think as far as interesting textbooks go, this one is one of the best I've found. As you can see in the photo above, there are actually three books you need to buy if you get the whole set. The student book, the workbook (which is great for practice if you have the time to study), and the student book supplement which is available in English, Japanese and Chinese so that you can have explanations in a more comfortable format. Overall, it's a great series, but only for classroom study. There are lots of discussion pages and it's kind of hard to discuss a topic by yourself. The price also adds up when you include all three books. When I studied in level 4 I decided not to get the workbook since I didn't have time to do the exercises.

Sogang 4-A and 4-B

Ganada Intermediate 1 (level 3)

Ganada: I only studied this Ganada book for one month in a Saturday course at Korean Language Academy in Gangnam. I wasn't particularly impressed by the book or the class and I switched back to Metro. The book has very few illustrations, short, uninteresting dialogues and exercises that need to be done in a separate notebook because they don't give you space in the book. While I did not like this book much at all, my boyfriend was quite happy with it. As he teaches Korean classes on Saturdays, he often uses this book when he teaches level 3. While it's not intriguing, it does have good explanations of grammar, in English, in the book (no supplements necessary). The exercises are also good for doing orally in class. So, while I was not a big fan of this book, it may be worth studying in the right environment. There are also Chinese and Japanese versions of this book available.

Yonsei Leveled Reader: Upon the recommendation of a classmate of mine, I bought this Yonsei reading book. It comes in six levels and actually is great for reading practice. When I went to Kyobo to buy this, they didn't have the level 3 which I wanted (reading is not my strong point) so I bought the level 4. When I flipped through the book in the store, it looked fine, but as I actually read through it I found it way over my head. All the word definitions were explained in Korean, not in English, and some of those words weren't even in my dictionary. This actually was a good way to learn some vocabulary, but I found that I needed to look up every third word and I realized that that is not an effective way to study.  If I find the time to do some more reading practice, I'll go back and buy the level 3. I have since seen it at Kyobo bookstore and it looks much more appropriate for my level.

KIIP Textbook: This is the book that I have just started studying for the 사회통합프로그렘. As it's Intermediate 1 (Level 3) it's a little on the easy side, but even in just the first chapter I've already had one grammar point that I was unfamiliar with (and one that I use everyday and was quite bored during the hour that the teacher went over it). It's also nice because they don't just talk about language, but history, culture and geography as well. Our first week's lesson was learning the provinces of Korea. This was good for me since I have heard of most of them but I could never have found them on a map. I should probably study that map a little more because that's some useful stuff. I hope to write a post about this class as I get further into it and I can write more about the book then. Unfortunately, this book is not commercially available and is only provided, for free, to the students of this government run class.

유학생을 위한 한국어: This is another new book to my repertoire, I just bought it a little while ago and started studying with it with my conversation partner. I mainly bought it because, while it is a text book, it mainly focuses on grammar. After doing the first chapter I practiced three grammar tenses. One which I had never heard of, and two that I'd learned before but rarely use. It's also got some worthwhile vocabulary here too. If you want to study on your own this could be a great book. Unfortunately, it doesn't explain the grammar at all, so for me it's best do to with my conversation partner.

Complete Guide to the TOPIK: This was the only book that I bought to practice for the TOPIK exam. It's basically just a practice test book, though perhaps better than some because it has English explanations for the first test (there are three tests). But, this test is based on the old format of the test, not the new one, the writing questions were much more difficult than the ones on some of the newer tests. Really, when it comes down to it, when you can download all the old tests for free online, is it really necessary to pay for a book of practice tests? If you're looking for TOPIK practice, it may be better to buy a book that focuses on one subject like reading, writing, listening or grammar.

원고지: Ok, this one isn't a book, but rather writing paper. For westerners who are not familiar with writing on this paper it's really important to buy this before taking the TOPIK test and to practice writing some essays on it. Korean proficiency tests judge the length, not by the number of words, but by the number of syllable blocks (자) used. My Japanese friend found it very surprising that I had no idea about the rules for writing here, but this paper is useless for writing a roman alphabet. I guess it's also commonly used in Japan as well so she had no problems figuring out the rules. For example, all punctuation is considered one space. Leave one space between sentences. Leave one space to indent a new paragraph. I'm still not clear on how to write English letters here properly. Anyway, get a Korean friend to walk you through it and correct your essays on 원고지 rather than on lined paper, since you'll need to be prepared to use that on the real test. You'll also find that while 400자 (minimum amount for the 중급 TOPIK) sounds intimidating, it's not so long when you add in all the spaces and punctuation.

Hope this helps you when you go to buy your next book. While it's only a small sampling of the books that are out there, it covers a lot of the most popular books out there. If you have any other recommendations for Korean books, please leave them in the comments!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

World Food Festival Today at Hansung University Station

It's a little late maybe, but today if you have some time, head over to Hansung University Station on Line 4 (one station north of Hyehwa station) to get some food at the World Food Festival. It's open from 1-7pm today. I'd take photos to share with you later, but my camera is in the shop. :-(

Maybe you'll bump into me there too...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Konkuk University Annual Festival

Last week my friend who teaches at Kondae invited us over to the student festival that was going on for three nights last week. Evidently every university organizes a similar festival and it is the biggest drinking event of the year. Each club (and these universities are huge, there are tons of clubs) sets up a tent where the freshmen serve food and drinks. And more drinks. Students go around from tent to tent visiting friends, drinking and socializing. Thursday night, the night we went, was the biggest drinking night of the three day long festival and we saw the campus buzzing with excitement.

While it's a student run event, techically anyone can party crash if they wish. We walked around looking for something good and finally settled on the International Student Association's tent. It was run almost completely by Chinese students and had all sorts of Chinese food to try. We were lured in by the 양꼬치 (lamb skewers) but once in I asked the "waiter" what he recommended. He told me that there was one 특기한 요리 (special dish) that I could try if I were daring. I said ok, and the following was what I wound up with.

I found out later that I this is called a thousand year egg in Chinese cuisine. Rather than explain to you the process of making it, which I am just discovering now as I write this blog post, I will direct you to the wikipedia article if you are more interested in this black substance that I ate. In short, it's a slightly pungent (but edible) egg preserved for weeks to months accompanied by tofu. Actually, I found the eggs to be good enough to eat a few times, but not good enough to eat them all. Half were still left after we finished eating.

And of course, how could we not order 양꼬치? And a bottle of TsingTao to go along?

After eating, we just walked around to take in the party vibe. We felt a little old to actually participate, but it was fun to remember the old college days. Lots of spontaneous dancing and drunken antics to be found everywhere. The only difference between my college's parties and this one was the food that comes a long with it. I guess it's a much healthier way to drink if you've always got some anju to accompany your drinks.......

Culinary Sights of Nanjing and Suzhou, China

As usual, this trip to China was all about eating lots of good food. Generally speaking, food here is dirt cheap. We had one expencive meal which came out to be $26 total for the two of us, but it was well worth it. Everything else pictured here was less than $4.

Breakfast on day one. Some kind of thin pancake filled with veggies, egg and lots of yummy cilantro. at less than a dollar, I'd say we ate well.

First lunch on Day 1, Chinese ramen and tea. There weren't a lot of options around the Ming Tombs for food.

Lunch number two on day one. We found a restaurant near the Sun Yat Sen Mausaleum. At about $1.50 we felt it was a bit overpriced. It wasn't great. 

The above photo and the two below were dinner on day 1. The top one was pretty good, but had some unknown things that we left behind.

I liked this one a lot, kind of like Chinese seasoned cold roast beef. I learned something I never knew about the boyfriend. He doesn't eat cold meat. So I ate it all up myself.

This was supposed to be crab. We asked him if they had crab, he pointed to it on the menu, and we ordered it. But, it was some sort of curried chicken. Delicious, but not crab. We found out later crab is out of season now, it seems he was too embarrassed to tell us they didn't have any. Or he told us and we didn't understand it.... Also a possibility.

Breakfast on day 2. The best dumplings I've ever had, I think. I love that they are filled with some soup like filling. But it makes it rather dangerous when they break open before you get them into your mouth. Oh, and the soy sauce is totally unnecessary. I wish I could say the same for Korean mandu. This was about $1

The cute mandu boy. He seemed a little embarrassed to get his photo taken, but didn't say no!

Lunch on day 2 near the city walls. I may call this restaurant some Chinese answer to a kimbab chonguk... lots of cheap, quick Chinese food at cheap prices. It tasted good to us!

Pineapples were everywhere in Nanjing and Suzhou. We tried to eat as much as we could while we were there.

Ah, finally we come to our one "expencive" meal, our dinner on day 2 just after we arrived in Suzhou. We would call it hot pot or shabu shabu, but the Chinese name is Huo Guo.

I think this may be the same chain as what I have seen in America, otherwise there's one in America which looks remarkably the same with a little lamb as their mascot (has anyone seen it, in China or America?) It gets expencive because you order every vegetable, noodle, etc separately, and of course you want to try as much as possible! 

Yummy yummy Huo Guo!!!

Lunch on day 3, the above soup and the below spring rolls. Nothing fantastic. I was a little weirded out by the blood chunks in the soup, but it tasted much better than 선지국 (beef blood soup) I've had here in Korea.

A snack as we left Suzhou to go back to Nanjing. Kind of like a Chinese burrito.

Our last dinner. Four dishes; mushroom soup (not pictured), bak choi (above), Disanxian (pictured below, translates to three seafoods of the earth, meaning potato, pepper and eggplant), and a ground beef with green pepper dish. Plus two big beers. Total price, $7. And for those of you at home, there's no tipping in China.

I often wonder if I could live in China, the food alone would be worth it. The cost of living is so cheap, as long as you're not doing touristy things. Just those summers... I think I'd have to escape the summers....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Results from Antique Shopping

Some of my readers wanted to know the results of my shopping excursion in the Dongmyo Flea Market from a few weeks ago. Well, this is what I wound up with! I'm quite happy. These five things came to 210,000 won or about $200. I think I did OK, what do you think? I love shopping for other people... I'm too cheap to buy these things for myself, but when I go shopping with other people's money, I think I'm quite good at finding cool stuff. We were able to bring the price down by about 50,000 won by buying in bulk and a little more haggling. Oh, and perhaps it's hard to tell the scale here, but they are about a foot tall or so each.