Sorry for the late update. It has proven quite a challenge to be able to sit down and tell Astrid (my computer) about my day/week. How do people that are into journaling DO THAT??? I will never know. Anyways, let me tell you about another magical week in South Korea:
Move over Disney, there is a new “happiest place on earth” in town and it’s called Daiso.
Don’t know what it is? I don’t blame you. Only a few states in the West Coast of the United States have been graced with stores. Daiso is a Japanese company that has quickly become my savior and doom when it comes to spending in South Korea. I have no better words to describe to you the Daiso experience than the ones from their website daisoglobal.com:
“Wow, can I really buy all these things for such a low price?!” Customers enjoy looking here and there for special products. Providing quality, variety and uniqueness. This is what we do at Daiso. We create stores that help our customers “find surprises and fun” in a way that is unrivalled.
And surprises and fun it’s pretty much all I have found at Daiso. Imagine a dollar store but cuter, filled with Korean stationary and just very pretty boxes that you will never need, but that are basically calling your name, and then add every necessity that you could have. Ever. Yeap… you just got yourself a Daiso. I can spend hours in that store and not even realize it. To make it worse, there is one every two corners. My favorite one? The one next to SPAO at Sinchon Station.
Frankly, I just don’t know what’s so appealing about Daiso, but once you are inside the store, you just feel that there are so many things that you just NEED. So obviously you buy it, because not only you need a new makeup bag (although you barely wear makeup) and a new eraser, but they are just so cute and it’s only 3,000 won ($2.80). So next thing you know you have spent over $10 at Daiso this week. Don’t worry friends, I have come up with a plan to fight this; from now on, I’ll just give my wallet to my friends once we walk in, that way they’ll stop me from going on a spending spree. Right? Maybe not.
Talking about spending, this is the next thing I want to share with all of you: studying abroad is EXPENSIVE. Not because food or clothes are pricey, quite the opposite, but because you go out so often! I mean, there is so much to do and only a semester to do it. There are foods to try, places to visit, and kpop concerts to attend. So if a friend tells you to go to a shopping street nearby after lunch, you do it because the Ewha University Campus is so pretty and they have bags and purses for less than $10. And of course, though your friend is the one shopping, there is this jacket that is just begging for you to buy it and it’s only about $10 dollars. To make it worse, you need this really nice shirt to go with it that it is also $10. 30 minutes into the trip: your friend has probably spent less than $20 and you had to give your wallet to someone else because you need to stop. Like, C’mon Metz, what happened to that girl who cannot stand to spend money on herself? Did you leave her at the airport? Apparently, I did.
The one thing I will not regret spending money on is kpop merchandise, or kpop concerts. This is what I came here to DO fam! I have yet to attend a concert, but when I do, you will hear all about my fangirling tales.
So far I have been to four shopping street-like areas. Two near my school (Hongdae and Edae), another one a little further away (Myeondong) and one in ‘foreigner land’–or Itaewon. If I had to describe them, I would say that Edae, as it is by Ewha Women’s University, it is very fashion-oriented. More like in a girly/professional clothing sort of way. Hongdae is more of a trendy spot, so you will find edgier (is that still a term?) clothing, and the FUNKIEST OF HATS. Like for real, the English on those hats is HILARIOUS. Myeongdong is full of actual retail stores insted of small vendors, but it is street food heaven and the underground station is kpop merch paradise. Itaewon… well, itaweon is a little bit of everything.
So let’s see what else? Oh, yes. My new church!
If you know me, you know that finding a church is CRUCIAL for me and my sanity… and the sanity of those around me. Church time is not only for faith growth and being closer to God, but for me it brings stability to my life. I know I can pray and talk to God all I want, but doing it in a community just makes it that much more special. That’s the reason why I had spent weeks googling where I could go to an English mass. Although Korea is a very Christian country, a large portion of those are protestant churches, so I had to look around a bit to find a Catholic church.
My first hit was the cathedral at Myeondong, but the English mass was at 9 am on Sundays and after that 7 pm mass at Newman back in Chapel Hill, I have been spoiled. So I kept looking around and I found the St. Francis Catholic International Parish of Seoul. My spring break with the Franciscan priests and novices in Colombia this past March has left its mark, and given that I carry the Franciscan Tau around my neck daily, this seemed like a sign.
After going into their website, I found that they celebrate mass in 6 languages. 6 LANGUAGES, FAM. To make it better, the Spanish mass was at 12:30 pm versus the 9 am and 11 am English masses. As much as I love the Newman Center Catholic Church at UNC, going to mass in Spanish is still my favorite thing. Songs are just much more exciting, I think. So obviously, no contest. Mass in Spanish while in South Korea it is.
Normally, this would be the end of my little story about finding a church, but this is me we are talking about. So no.
Two Sundays ago, when I first visited the church, I had the hardest time waking up (may or may not had gone to sleep at 5 am). This resulted in me arriving to the Hangangjin station at 12:20, after which I was supposed to walk 15 minutes until I reached the church. Under regular circumstances, and with people who do not walk like they are being followed by zombies, this would probably take 20 minutes if you are not familiar with the area. But I was not under regular circumstances, I actually walk pretty fast, and I refused to be late. So I made it to the church (sweating my life away, by the way) with two minutes to spare…
Only to find out that the Spanish mass has been moved from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm and the website had yet to be updated. Once again, classic Metzli.
Thankfully, being early is not that bad, so I got to cool-off and let the sweat dry off (it is quite hot in South Korea). My only regret at the time was that I was STARVING, and I had not seen any restaurants while walking over. Once again, God to the rescue, there was a free barbecue going on at the back of the church and they were nice enough to invite me. 20 minutes before mass, I was wondering why did I not see people setting up in the main chapel, so I went around and asked where the Spanish mass was going to be held *pats self in the back.* I was then directed to another chapel upstairs (how did they expect me to figure that one out on my own? no idea) and I sat down to wait.
Ever since I have done my first communion, one of my favorite things to do in mass is to read the scripture to the assembly, so imagine my delight when this woman approaches me randomly and asks “quieres leer la segunda lectura?” (for those of you who needed to pay more attention in your Spanish classes in high school, she asked if I wanted to do the Second Reading). I am as shocked and pleased as they come, so I mumble my way through a “si claro, no hay problema” and then spend the rest of the 15 mins before mass looking over the lecture and freaking out a little on the inside because each church has a different approach to how to do the readings. I mean, they are always in the same order and during the same moment of mass, but some have all three readers bow together, or you have to get up from a specific place, or read something at the beginning… you get the idea.
Anyways, the mass starts and I recognize the first song right away, which already puts a smile in my face. When it’s my turn to read, the lady gives me this head-nod and I approach the altar and step to the ambo. As it happens when I read at church, I can’t really remember much of what I said or how it went, so I’ll skip over that part. Throughout mass, I recognize most songs and that already warms my heart. They ask all newcomers to stand up and introduce themselves and, at the end of mass, the priest is greeting people outside.When he shakes my hand he says “Bienvenida a Corea, gracias por venir. Espero verte la proxima semana”. I mean, I was already planning on going back because I loved his homily but HE WAS SO NICE that I just knew there was no way I would consider another church. Fast-forward to last Sunday when an older gentleman introduced himself as a newcomer saying that he was in Korea for a congress and although it would be his first and last time at the church he felt “como en mi casa”. In the back of my head, all I could think of was ‘same homeboy, same.’
To close this off, because I’ve written way too much already, classes are going well, and I have weekly vocab tests that are a pain but I secretly like it–don’t tell my friends I said that. Other than that, I am preparing for Chuseok (Korea’s Thanksgiving Holiday) so I’ll let you know of my adventures then.
Bueno, don’t forget to leave a comment! Adiosito!
PS: while I was writing this post, there were a couple earthquakes in Gyeongju, South Korea. The first one had a magnitude of 5.1 and the second one was of 5.8. The area is located to the south-east of the country, not very close to where I am. I did feel some slight movement for about 10 seconds or so, but I am completely fine; some people near this area did not feel it at all. According to the news, there have not been any reports of casualties. This seems to be the strongest earthquake in the nation’s history, but so far the only worry is regarding the nuclear power plants in the area. The authorities have said that none of the reactors were affected, though. Keep South Korea in your thoughts, friends!