Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Prix fixe

I was planning on writing this last night, but I was so tired that I just fell asleep. =/ I guess jet lag will do that to you.

I spent most of the day relaxing. It was quite low-key since Jung-soo had a final to attend to and I needed the day to recover from jet lag. Hopefully it worked!

I went to Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU - 성균관대학교) to listen to a lecture by Nobel laureate Hideki Shirakawa. Dr. Shirakawa was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2000 for discovering and developing conductive polymers. Since his award, he has dedicated his time to innovative educational experiments rather than research, which I think is quite commendable. He shared one of his short experiments that is supposed to be used as a teaching tool and a way to engage young scientific minds. It was quite fascinating.

After his lecture, I decided to explore the campus. And with the help of my friend's dad (he's a professor at the university), I got to go to the library. Usually, anyone who isn't a student isn't allowed inside, but I was able to get in. The library was amazing! SKKU was founded in the late 1300s (what??) and was recently supported financially (sponsored?) by Samsung. That means there are a ton of new buildings--including the library!

This picture of the library was better than mine. Thank you, Internet!

I wandered around to the 5th floor, where there was a really nice café and an even nicer view. Not wanting to seem annoying/touristy, I didn't take a picture. There were plenty of students studying, too. I did manage to get a couple pictures of the views from different floors and a picture of the foyer.

After the library, I had lunch with Jung-soo's parents. It was a Japanese lunch a prix fixe and there were plenty of dishes that came out with things I didn't recognize. But it was all delicious. During lunch, Jung-soo's dad explained that Koreans were dynamic. I see this dynamism attributed to the strong nationalism present throughout the country. It's truly incredible how Koreans (in Korea) can become so united and really change their country. And it's equally incredible how they seem to unite as one voice (and perhaps covering the weaker voices...). I also think the dynamism often translates to multitasking and efficiency. Everyone who is driving is doing something else besides driving (i.e. talking on their cell phones, watching TV o_O, etc.). Perhaps that's why there are plenty of car accidents in Korea. Plus, drivers are impatient (the car horns in Korea are slightly muffled since so many people use their horn unnecessarily).

For dinner, I had a Korean dinner a prix fixe with my aunt (my mom's cousin). It was definitely some sort of theme in terms of food. That meal was waaay too big for the two of us to finish. It was intense. When I thought they had run out of food to bring, they just kept bringing out more. And then there was dessert... I also think the jet lag didn't help. My body wasn't used to eating so much food at that time (it was about 4:00 AM PST).

After I came back from dinner, I went out to get Baskin Robbins with Jung-soo as a way to cool down and celebrate her finishing her final. We probably ordered too much but got her mom to pick us up on her way back to the apartment. We had walked there and didn't realize how far it was...so the walk back seemed quite unappealing.

Jung-soo's younger siblings were at "cram schools" (학원) so they didn't get back till late...probably some time after midnight (by then I was already asleep). This is typical of Korean middle and high school students (maybe even elementary school students?). Korean students are always studying, it seems. And they have plenty of reason to do so. During their last year of high school, students take one college entrance exam to determine where they get to attend college. Education is extremely valued here and it's not taken lightly.

Today should be a very different day, though and I'm excited! Jung-soo has planned a bunch of things so I can't wait. I included a picture of where I'm staying right now.

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