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Good morning, Internet! I am currently packing, listening to Christmas music and getting ready for a short trip to Norway to work and then spend a couple of days with my family before returning to Seoul and school. The language institute at SNU doesn’t do Christmas holidays however, so I am skipping some classes in the process.

While I am getting ready for snow, Christmas parties, budget meetings and mulled wine, I wanted to share a bunch of photos from different adventures around Seoul, to show you some of the fun that this city has to offer. One memorable event involved the Pokemon Championship Day at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, after a Korean player won the official championship earlier this year in Washington DC. 5 Pikachus were scheduled to perform (and dance), but it had to be cancelled about half way through because the crowd was too big. I got a photo with Pikachu though, so I was happy (Best. Day. Ever).

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

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knitting

As I’ve mentioned earlier, this fall has seen a new addiction entering my life: knitting. While the general knitting craze started with the “Skappelengenser” in Norway two years ago, my newfound appreciation didn’t hit me until I moved from my island of eternal summer to a place that can actually distinguish the four seasons from one another. Korea has recently moved from a perfectly beautiful autumn (with only 2 or 3 days of rain) that colored the trees in red and yellow, to a crisp winter season. Evidently it rarely rains in Seoul, and while that was amazing during the fall months I am now wishing fervently for snow to fall more frequently and stay longer.

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Like a large percentage of Koreans (and Asians, and a growing number of Westerners and Latinos), I too watch Korean drama series. Kdrama has become the Hollywood (or Bollywood) of the Asia-Pacific region, and most of the Indonesians, Chinese, Russians, Mongolians, Kazakhs, Arabs, Malaysians and Latin-Americans that make up my language classes at SNU decided to move to Korea primarily because of the influence of Kpop and Kdrama. It’s gotten to the point where a Chinese state official reportedly said that the fanaticism sparked by the insanely popular show You Who Came from the Stars “hurts our cultural dignity.

Most Korean drama series are highly addictive, often horribly cheesy and most definitely firmly planted in my “guilty pleasure”-category, but they’re also highly educational if you want to get a feel of what the “Korean dream” is, the same way that The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl represents American or Western ideals.

Here are some of the less educational things I’ve learnt from watching a multitude of Korean drama series the last couple of years.

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While we’ve only had two days of snowfall so far this winter (and that snow didn’t stick around for long), the city is getting ready for that special time of the year. Even though Christmas isn’t a traditional holiday in Korea, the many American expats in the country combined with the rising popularity of Christianity has influenced a holiday culture that mirrors that of the west. Fun fact: according to my Korean friends, Christmas Eve is considered a major date night in Korea.

While the major department stores and shopping streets are decorated with magnificent light shows and employees dressed up like elves and reindeer, the decorations in Bukchon Village (북촌한옥마을 – one of the old parts of the city) were more subtle and cozy when we visited.

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“Boy, those French! They have a different word for everything.” – Steve Martin

After 4 weeks of vacation, winter semester at the Language Institute has officially started again, and I am once again trying to make some of the vocabulary and grammatical rules I learn stick to my teflon brain. Korean is no joke. From time to time I find myself regretting my choice to study this language instead of French or Spanish, but then I remember that Korean will look far cooler on my Facebook “About me”-page than any of them and go back to my homework. The fact that I’m struggling with it also serves as a great way to motivate me to try even harder, like William E. Hickson (and more importantly: Aaliyah) said: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”

So while I’m cramming Korean vocabulary, here’s some photos from another side of Korean culture: Gyeongbokgung Palace.

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Another bucketlist-point was checked off my list while my visitors were here: try on traditional Korean hanbok. Hanbok comes in several different version (from everyday to formal, cheap to luxury versions), and was the primary casual and formal wear until the 19th century, according to the internet. After a day roaming the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace, we felt it would be appropriate to try out some costumes from the Joseon area in Insadong.

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Yesterday it was finally time to cross “visit dog café” of my Seoul to do-list. My only problem now is that I might have to put it up on my weekly to do-list instead, because I can’t not visit these puppies ever again. Two hours of tea and dogs was enough to temporarily soothe my dog abstinence from Embla (the family dog who died last year), but now it’s back in full force, and all I want is to adopt one of them. Or all of them.

My BFF was a miniature poodle puppy who spent 30 minutes sitting next to me before she dared hop up on my lap. While most of the other dogs ran around and circulated among the guests at the café, she stayed by my side until I had to leave, leaving me heartbroken. I’ll be back for you, puppy who’s name I don’t know!

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In a city of 25 million people, a green oasis can somehow seem hard to locate. Seoul however has done an amazing job of creating parks, ponds and digging up rivers to create green lungs in the asphalt jungle. One result of the “think green”-mentality is the repurposing of the landfill by the World Cup Stadium, that was turned into a park a decade ago. Haneul Park to be specific. Sunday morning we headed over to take stroll among the tall eulalia grass that grow there in the fall. Taking a break from the noisy city life and breathing in fresh air was a perfect way of ending a busy week, and starting the next one.

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instagram-favorites

Interrupting my usual self-centered musings to share my 4 favorite instagrammers (as of right now). I am always looking for new people that can offer me some carefully designed and meticulously picked trinkets from their everyday lives, and these 4 certainly do.

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dmz-1

My inner alarm clock woke me 5:35 yesterday morning, which was a good thing seeing as my actual alarm clock had decided to stop working. Why was I waking up at 5:30 on a Saturday? Because this was the day I was going to get to see, step on and take pictures of the border between North and South Korea.

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