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Seoul 101: Failing Korean & plans to eat live octopus

June 14, 2010

I have made plans to eat live octopus. In a less artistic manner.

Because I am being a very good student, I am procrastinating by blogging yet again, in spite of the tremendously intimidating workload that is set before me.

I failed my first ever test in my life today. Woohoo! That was going to come sooner or later but it got me pretty bummed out (and thus I am doing all I can to improve my Korean by blogging in English. Right, I have an amazing ability at mental gymnastics).

Because when I took my Korean placement test, I was in between levels 2 and 3 so I chose 3 because I thought retaking level 2 would be pretty “no kick”. Boy, was the adjustment to Korean school life a huge kick in the face. In America, Korean is taught in English so we could always relate the Korean grammar and terminology back to what we already knew. Over here, even the explanations of the vocabulary and grammar are done entirely in Korean and my first day passed in a complete haze of worry and confusion (they even referred to “verbs”, “adjectives” etc in Korean). It felt like a rerun of the same horror movie that was my life for the month I spent in Beijing when I was 16 crunching out Math Olympiad problems in Chinese (How did I even survived is one thing, how I even qualified for the program was yet another big unsolvable mysteries of all time). But anyway, while I’m getting more used to everything being in rapid-fire Korean and having crazily hard-working classmates (The girl next to me told the entire class she studies 10 hours of Korean every day and stays in campus till 8pm to study daily before making the 1.5 hours journey back to her home OUTSIDE OF SEOUL. Kill me, somebody, please!), I was faced with yet another slap in the face that Korean wasn’t quite as manageable as I thought.

I did well for the parts that I studied for, but I did not realise that Level 2 stuff were also going to be tested. Stuff that I did not prepare for. Stuff that, Lord forbid, I did not know. Apparently alot of others in my class who had gone through the Level 2 sequence failed also so we all have to happily sit for a retest this Thursday. That was what the teacher said in a sincere attempt to make me feel better, and she added quickly “잘하셨어요! (You did very well!)” Let me tell you, that did not make me feel much better (Oh BTW, I am getting the hang of typing in Korean! Still very slow since I’ve only practised for a few days but I don’t have to refer to the keyboard anymore! One milestone conquered!).  What happened to an enjoyable, relaxing summer?

This afternoon, I honestly thought I should just throw in the towel. Being my melodramatic self, I was swamped by waves of depression and self-doubt. WHAT AM I DOING HERE? My brain cried out. WHY ARE YOU TORTURING YOURSELF? My heart echoed the sentiment. YOU SHOULD RELAX, IT’S SUMMER! My soul morosely intoned.

Thank goodness, God made a chance encounter with a Malaysian girl, Xinying, (who incidentally lives right next door to me) on the shuttle back home possible. She told me how her first semester as a regular SNU student was as torturous and how she felt like she should have stayed on in a Malaysian university and topped her cohort rather than come here and be plagued with Bs and Cs (foreigners hardly get As), translating exam questions took a literal hour, and she still doesn’t get lectures. She also expressed amazement at the lengthy periods of time SNU students are able to study – I can attest to that. I wake up at 8am and pass by the cafeteria and there are tonnes of students asleep on the table from pulling all-nighters. It’s ridiculous! But she is still here, slogging through. I guess I’m not the only one with language problems. It is as Luying said, “哑巴吃黄莲,有苦说不出.” Because we have such limited vocabularies here, there are alot of things I can only hope to convey to my Korean language teachers (who understand minimal English) about my level of Korean, but I cannot. It’s a handicap, really. 😦

Oh, so anyway, because I am Chinese and bargains naturally make me happy, I am delighted again because Silvia and I headed to the cafeteria for dinner and got cheap CORDON BLEU for only 3,000원! Awesomeness. Now I’m full and ready to face another arduous day of Korean preparation.

Oh and before I forget, people must be wondering what in the world is the featured image about if I have not talked about it yet?

It’s about a Korean delicacy – sannakji, otherwise less euphemistically termed “live octopus” in English. It is a Korean delicacy and health food (cos it’s live, and not deep fried y’know?). Today, Ensook and I decided to have a hearty meal of sannakji after her papers end. She was (morbidly?) fascinated when I told her in Korean that I wanted to try sannakji and dog’s meat here. She really loves sannakji and told me light-heartedly that only some people have died eating it – brings new meaning to “hey, you only live once!” I still have to hit Joshua Kim up for a Seoul 개고기 reunion.

If any of you are interested in a stomach-churning visual experience of sannakji, feel free to watch the scene from Old Boy below. You should hope that I won’t devour it like that. Kudos to the actor, it must have been gruelling. :

Okay, I gotta go save my Korean grade!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2010 9:59 am

    AHHHH DONT EAT DOG MEAT PLEASE You wait I go look for evidence in the Bible that it’s not allowed!! LOL

    • June 15, 2010 10:18 am

      Leviticus 11:9-12

      “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.”

      No prawns, no shellfish, no squid, no octopus, no lobster, no crayfish… 😀

  2. June 30, 2010 9:46 am

    That pic is pure high octane nightmare fuel.

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