Last time, I introduced you to my recent adventures abroad in South Korea. Now, I want to let you in on some of the Korean cultural experiences that were on offer to me as a student at PKNU International Summer School. Was this a cultural exchange program or a humiliating test of skills…?
Tae Kwon Do
For our foray into the renowned Korean martial art, we were taken to a high school perched on top of the steepest of hills (my footballer-like thighs came in handy powering me to the summit). The charismatic teacher introduced us to the sport and we changed into our tae kwon do uniforms. Not my most attractive outfit. The high school students demonstrated some typical moves for us. They were lightning-fast, so when it was our turn to mimic them we mostly just erupted into giggles at our inability to keep up… or look cool like the students did. We finished off our “training session” with some sparring. That day, I kicked a teenage boy in the stomach – and apologised immediately afterwards. So uncool.
Verdict: I’ll never be a tae kwon do champion.
This is a traditional form of music made using only four different percussion instruments (two types of gong, two types of drum). We were treated to a performance by PKNU students who practice the art as a club activity at university. I was impressed by their synchronicity and the quality of the sound they could make using just four people with four instruments. Afterwards, we got to choose one of the instruments and the students taught us how to play a song. My talent for playing the small gong was dismal. For some reason, I just could not master the first of my beats no matter how many times I tried. From there, I was convinced every time I struck the pan-like gong I was producing a sound that was way off what I was going for. At least my teacher was cute.
Verdict: My lack of rhythm is cringeworthy.
We spent an afternoon at an activity centre to make handicrafts, try on hanbok (traditional Korean clothes) and practice some etiquette by learning how to bow. My craft-making attempt turned out well so there’s no fun in telling you about it here. The clothes and the bowing on the other hand… I was fairly excited about trying on hanbok, imagining that somehow it would transform me into a beautiful lady of the Joseon era like I’d seen in the movies. Umm, no. Sadly, I thought the dress was an unflattering shape for me. And then, while I was in the midst of perfecting the art of demurely lowering myself to the floor to execute a respectful bow, I kind of managed to get my legs caught in the long skirt and nearly came toppling down.
Verdict: I’ll never be a “proper lady”.
For one of our final fun-filled lessons, my Understanding Korean Culture class joined with the Korean Language class to learn some K-pop choreography. I was pretty keen to try my hand at this because I’m big into K-pop, and yet, I had never tried to learn one of the dances before. Given my track-record, I predicted I wasn’t likely to be very good at the dancing either. But at the very least I was keen to know what song/dance our teachers had chosen for us: Crayon Pop’s Bar Bar Bar. Awesome! It was massive on Youtube a while ago – check it out:
It’s all about the jumping. We had a special guest teacher come in to show us how it’s done, but naturally, my old problem with coordination flared up again so I couldn’t quite follow all the moves.
Verdict: I’m feeling optimistic. If I keep practicing I think I could smash this.
We visited a culinary school to learn how to cook a couple of common Korean dishes: bulgogi (marinated beef) and hae mool pa jeon (seafood pancake). I appreciated the simplicity of the recipes because it meant I only really needed to cut things up and make sure I didn’t burn anything. I’m totally going to recreate these dishes at home! And although we may have lost points for our presentation (and we didn’t because it wasn’t actually being judged), I’d give our meal 10/10 for taste.
Verdict: It was a team effort, but…nailed it!
In the end, it seemed I didn’t have a lot of skills where our Korean cultural activities were concerned. But PKNU International Summer School was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I had to make the most of it. Really, I had so much fun trying all these new things. Even if I did suck at most of them.
Join me again for Part Three when I will show you some of my tourist experiences in Busan!