Friday, September 7, 2012


I know I haven't yet blogged about most of my vacation, but I wanted to shoot something up here about how I've been moved to class number two at the YMCA! I am officially no longer in the 'beginner' class. Cheongju's YMCA has several levels of classes, ranging from "uhhh, what sound does the little 2 shape make again?" (class zero) all the way to "I'm pretty darn good at this" (class five, I think?), and I am moving my way on up.
I don't think I've mentioned it before, but one of my goals before I leave Korea is to pass the beginner TOPIK (Test Of Proficiency In Korean) test. Depending on my progress by the end of this year, I may change that to the intermediate test, but I'm not gonna set my goals too high. One thing that has been disappointing about Cheongju for me is a lack of options for learning Korean outside of the YMCA.
Many cities have universities which offer courses for foreigners wanting to learn the language, but this is not one of those cities, unfortunately for me (but probably fortunately for my savings account). It's not that I don't enjoy the classes at the Y, but they're a bit too laid-back for my learning goals. It works well for people who want to go a few times a month and pick up a bit, but I definitely feel like I could have been working faster (and now I'll probably be in over my head in class two).
I do a lot of studying outside of class on my own, as well (I have a good amount of free time here), and I keep finding new resources to help me with more relevant vocabulary (I'm currently working on a reading activity related to housing, with words for rooms of the house, furniture, and things like 'real estate' and 'contract'

~language happiness~

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Let's start at the beginning

Alright, I know I've done quite a few interesting things recently, and people have been bugging my for pictures/blogs/my first born/etc.
Two outta three ain't bad, right?

I figured I'll write first about my summer holiday, before moving on to some of the smaller things I did in the weeks before the holiday. Since it was a bit of a long holiday, and since spanned three countries, I thought I'll split up the post into a few smaller, easier to digest bits.
Logically, then, Ill start at the beginning:


Shopping at Ben Tranh market in Saigon
I really didn't get to see, well, ANYTHING that most tourists see in Vietnam. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam's biggest tourist draw, is about an entire day of traveling (minimum) away from where I was, in the south.

Met this guy while wandering around Saigon.
I flew into Saigon, eventually (sidenote: there will be another post about my traveling ordeal), and once I got there I only had a few hours to walk around, in which I saw some pretty gardens, did some shopping, and had some pho.
French influence, anyone?
I also went tour-company shopping. At 6am or so the next day I left (with my decide-upon company) for the Mekong Delta region, the rice-basket region of Vietnam, where the majority of life still depends on the river.
A boat like the one I was touring on
I know it sounds super cheesy, and parts of it were, but I did feel like I could extrapolate from what I saw (the really touristy stuff) to imagine what life is like for the actual residents of the Mekong region. At least, I feel I can imagine better than I could before, or than I imagine others can who have not been.
I held some bees
I also drank vodka with SNAKES inside.
It was pretty vile.
I also did a home-stay on this tour, but contrary to what I had been told, this was nowhere near the highlight of my tour. It could not have been more fake, and all I got out of it was some really bad alcohol and drunk tourists to go with it. I mean, it only cost me what it would have cost me for a single room in the hotel that I would have stayed in otherwise, so I can't really complain, but a glimpse into rural life it was not. Regardless, I had an interesting time in Vietnam, and I would love to be able to see more of what seemed like a lovely country (truth be told, it's certainly in the cunning for Christmas vacation).
Here's a bit more of a glimpse of what I did on my tour (the captions should let you know what you need to know):

Alligators. Caption totally necessary, right?

Fruit. The skinny yellow one on the near end gave me a
 terrible sore throat so I didn't try many of them.

I wore a stereotypical hat.

This was my underwhelming homestay (the room was fine,
the experience is what was unimpressive)

I wore another stereotypical hat.

This is the bit of a glimpse I got into real Mekong life,
boating down a random river the morning after our homestay.

Doin' some fishin'.


Making rice paper

That's a bridge. A very skinny one. Hold on to those
railings (and your camera)!

We also went to a fish farm, where this little dude got so
excited for breakfast that he flopped out of his cage.
My favorite Buddha

We finished up with a visit to a minority
Cham village. This is their mosque.