Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Music Professors and My First Non-Subbed Korean Movie

Today, I finally got to meet a music professor at Hanyang University. The story of how I got in touch with him in the first place is pretty wacky insofar as how many coincidences it involved... really feels like the workings of fate, God, or something ^^.

Back when I was corresponding by email with my Korean host mom, I asked if I could bring a violin to practice at her home. She said that her older daughter (currently in the US) actually had left behind a violin that I could use, but she suggested that I bring my own strings in case the violin's strings were too old. Well, I had never actually changed a violin's strings before (lazy me always got it done at a shop), so I decided that rather than accidentally destroy their violin, I should probably learn how to change strings first. So during the two days between coming home from college and leaving for Korea, I took my violin to the local shop (Potter's Violins) and asked them to teach me. The guy who was assigned to change my violin's strings was a nice, young-looking Asian man I hadn't seen there before. My mom, as she told me later, had a sneaking suspicion that he looked Korean, so as he was finishing up, she casually mentioned that I was going to Korea over the summer. Immediately, he said, "Oh, are you Korean? So am I." As in Korean-Korean (born and raised in Korea) - and his father just happens to be a professor of trombone at Hanyang University, which just happens to be a 15 minute walk from my host family's apartment O.O Being the super nice and helpful guy that he was (really), he gave us his contact info and offered to put us in touch with his dad if I was interested in finding a good violin teacher for the summer. Yep, I feel pretty lucky...

Anyway, so I met his dad today, and he in turn kind of blew my mind with his own genorosity. Not only did he take half an hour to have tea with me (and my language-partner-turned-temporary-translator, the high school boy I met through my host mom - let's just call him DH), but he also called a colleague of his right then and there, a violin professor whom I'll meet on Thursday. Plus, he offered to pick me up from my apartment building and drive me to her studio since I don't know that part of the city. Plus, he mentioned that he's the conductor of the university church's choir and instrumental ensemble, and that I'd be welcome to join the ensemble if I wanted to (which of course I do; I was wondering how I could find an ensemble to join in Korea). Plus, he took DH and me out to lunch, at a really delicious restaurant (with the cheesy name of Bulgogi Brothers - it's a chain, but a good one). And then drove me back to my apartment. I don't think I could say kamsamnida enough times. 

Later in the day, I also decided to stop by the neighborhood gym to register as a member. My host mom had told me that there is an English-speaking trainer there every day until mid-afternoon, and she called ahead to tip him off that I was coming, thinking that it would be good if he could explain the machines to me in English. When I entered the gym, however, the guy behind the desk didn't seem to have any expectation of who I was, so I just did the registration transactions in Korean and left, figuring he must be a different guy. About half a block away from the building, though, someone came running after me, and it turned out to be the "English-speaking" trainer (whom I hadn't noticed in the gym). He explained to me (in rather difficult to understand English - eventually we switched to Korean instead) that he wanted someone to practice English with while exercising, so we traded phone numbers and we'll meet up at the gym again in the future.

This kind of thing, IMHO, is one very real advantage of doing homestay (which I hadn't necessarily expected): it's like I'm automatically being plugged into this great network of human connections. I feel like I'm meeting and interacting with a much broader slice of Korean society than I would if I were only living with and hanging out with other students (foreign or not). And it's probably extra-advantageous for someone who tends to be kind of quiet and shy like me... I usually don't "put myself out there" very much, so I might not have met all these people if I were left solely to my own devices. 

As a last note on today, I saw my first non-subbed Korean movie. I went along with my host family to the Lotte Cinema at Cheongnyangni train station (I think it's the one on the Jungang line), and we saw White: The Melody of the Curse (화이트: 저주의 멜로디). It's a horror flick, which is honestly my least favorite kind of film. But I was happy to understand perhaps 10% of the movie (and the key plot points that I couldn't follow were explained to me afterwards by my host mom). The movie probably wasn't bad as far as horror films go, but it wasn't exactly anything especially groundbreaking or fresh; the "horror" aspect was pretty standard, with sudden loud noises, eerie music, hyperventilating breaths, screams, gouged eyeballs... yeah, you get the point. Not the kind of thing I personally would ever want to see again, but if you're into horror and happen to be in Korea, give it a try.


  1. Korean horror films are the worst, they are either overly exaggerated, or just not scary and actually just pretty creepy. Good stuff though! I'd love to meet music people when I go to Korea.

  2. That's incredible how one thing led to another, Elena! I'm so glad you are crossing paths with what sounds like genuinely kind people offering you so many resources - seems like God is really opening up doors for you! Also you must have some sort of sign on your forehead that says "I'm friendly and speak English - feel free to practice on me!" :D

    And yeah, turns out some things, like horror movies, are pretty much the same everywhere...

    As always, missing you and thinking of you! And please be safe! If someone funky runs up too close UNLEASH THE INNER TIGRESS if necessary... as gently as possible, of course. And HI MRS. PERRY if you're reading this too :)))))


  3. Hey Lydia,

    I'm so glad you found my blog!! I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to talk on the phone before I left the US. Do you have Skype by any chance?