What Is Going On??: COVID-19 and Coming Home

Hiya, folks!

Soooo, a lot has happened since my last post—both in terms of my life and the world. With much sadness in my heart, I decided to come home to the US because of the COVID-19 outbreaks in South Korea and all around the world. I really wanted to have my semester abroad, but I know that it’ll happen someday, and I’m grateful for the time I had abroad while it lasted.

Me showing a thumbs up outside a bus stop, wearing a mask.
My first time outside after my two-week quarantine! Waiting for my bus to the airport.

First, I wanted to address a few things regarding COVID-19. While it’s most dangerous for older folks and immuno-compromised people, it’s still important to take care of yourself and others to help stifle it before it spreads to an astronomical level. You can help by washing your hands for 20 seconds, coughing/sneezing into your sleeve or a tissue (and then dispose of the tissue), keeping a physical distance between yourself and others, and being considerate of others. Click on this link for more information from the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

I understand that it’s easy to be scared of what’s going on—you just want to protect yourself and your family, so you resort to behavior that might not be normal for you. Or, you don’t want your life to change so you continue doing what you always do.  Fear does that. But, I encourage everyone to think past themselves and about the bigger picture. There are shortages of toilet paper, masks, and other supplies that many people and, especially, healthcare professionals need in order to do their jobs. By limiting contact with others, you can help stop the spread of the virus. Please think about the consequences of your actions is all I’m saying.

Another thing that this fear and panic have brought out in people is subtle and overt racism towards Asian people—especially Chinese folks. Asian businesses have been suffering from a lack of customers, Asian people have been verbally and physically attacked, and Asians all around the world have been denied certain services because they’re Asian. As an Asian-American, this is all extremely disheartening for me to hear and read. To be honest, I was a little afraid of coming back to the US for fear of being looked at weirdly or treated badly because I’m obviously Asian. Just hear me out—try to recognize and acknowledge your biases and fear and then think about how you can not let those control you and your actions.

OKAAYY, so what have I been up to, you’re wondering?

Well, it’s been weird and ironically funny. So I was in South Korea doing my two-week self-quarantine in the dorms mid-February. There was someone that delivered food to me and left it in front of my door, and I wasn’t allowed to leave my room at all (except to open the door to get the food). Fast forward to a few days before the end of the two weeks. I had been mentally preparing for anything to happen because the COVID-19 situation was escalating in South Korea, and I knew it made my parents nervous. So a few days before the end, my parents and I decided that I should come back to the US. With the help of IPO, I was put on a flight back to the US the day I got out of quarantine in South Korea. Then when I arrived home in Alaska, I was put into another two-week quarantine because I had arrived from a high-risk country. FOUR WEEKS of quarantine…like I said it’s kind of funny how it worked out.

So, now I’m done with my two-week quarantine/isolation, and I’m planning on taking online classes until the fall. Part of me has been not wanting to write this because I don’t want to admit it’s all over. But, alas, even as the world is on fire, the show must go on. Thank you all for the support, whoever is reading this. I wish you all the best in these times of uncertainty. We can get through this together.

Best,

Alecia

Alive and Thriving?

Welcome, everyone!

(Warning: This might be kinda long.)

My name is Alecia Barlow, and I cordially invite you all to join me (virtually) throughout my adventures in Japan and South Korea. This spring semester, I am set to study abroad in South Korea; however, starting early February, I galivanted around Japan for three weeks on a quest to visit friends and explore as much as possible (more about that coming up). I’m currently in South Korea, and I feel as if I should briefly address the elephants in the room before I carry on with my blog.

  1. Yes, I do know that the coronavirus (aka COVID-19) is spreading throughout East Asia and is becoming quite a hot topic. I am and have been taking the necessary precautions to keep myself and others around me healthy, but I also don’t want to let fear get in the way of me experiencing new things. I’m realistic about my situation, but I’m also not going to let fear control my life.
  2. Yes, I do know that Kim Jong Un exists and is a possible threat. First of all, I think that’s the least of the world’s worries right now, and I can promise you that I won’t cross over into North Korea—though I might be tempted to go to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) ;).

I will most likely talk more about these topics later on in my study abroad experience, but for now I’d like to talk about other fun things that have happened.

SO. Japan…WOW.

PART ONE

(also I apologize for the quality of some of these photos because I can’t seem to keep my hand steady for some reason)

What a time and a half. I arrived in Japan around 6:45 p.m. their time, and my friends Isis Hatcher and Emi Kishi picked me up from the airport. Emi went to Linfield as a Japanese exchange student and Isis is a Linfield student doing an exchange at Aoyama Gakuin University for the year. Naturally, the first thing I had to eat in Japan was…conveyor belt sushi. Try the cheesy salmon nigiri—it’s delicious. And, yes, I’m lactose intolerant, but sometimes I like to test the limits of my body. What can I say? Cheese is cheese.

For the next couple of days, Isis, Emi and Marina (another Japanese student who did an exchange at Linfield), and I stayed at Emi’s uncle’s apartment in Kanagawa. We explored some of the surrounding areas and ate good food like Ichiran (basically ramen but fast-food style), cheese dog, and more ramen (lol I love ramen).

Me, Isis, and Emi at an Ichiran counter with bowls of ramen in front of us.
Ramen is life.
My friend Emi eating a cheese dog on the side of the street
I ate one bite because I wasn’t trying to die from cheese that day.

We visited a shrine, experienced Shibuya Crossing, and went out to eat at an izakaya with our friends Rei and Zeno who are also Japanese students who did an exchange at Linfield!

Me jumping and striking a pose in front of a wooden torii gate.
Me jumping in front of a wooden torii gate. Sorry to the girl whose photoshoot I probably ruined…oops.
The entrance to the shrine. Magnificent building with lanterns decorating the front.
The entrance to the shrine.
A large crowd of people waiting on the sidewalk to cross at Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing.
Me, Isis, Emi, Zeno, and Rei posing for the camera in a room in an izakaya
Good food and drink with friends!

We also explored Akihabara which is famous for otaku culture, and I got to experience an onsen for the first time!

A mural of cartoons on a wall in Akihabara
Oh, look! A wild Isis and a cool mural.

We went to this place called Team Lab Borderless Museum, and it was super cool and trippy. I almost ran into a few walls.

Flowers are projected onto every surface of the room creating a borderless feel
Flowers are projected onto every surface of the room creating a borderless feel.

Then I went to go visit my friend Minami Yamamoto (another Japanese exchange student who had gone to Linfield). We went to Disney Sea with Risa (another Japanese exchange student who studied at Linfield — oh, the connections you’ll make at Linfield!), the ocean, Yokohama, and Kamakura. We got to see a big Buddha statue in Kamakura, and we ate dozens of fresh strawberries at a strawberry park in Yokohama.

Me, Minami, and Risa posing in front of an Aladdin themed fountain
Apparently, this is a popular photo spot, so naturally, we had to take a photo! ALSO, curry popcorn is officially the best kind of popcorn. I had three bags of it. Too good.
Pretty yellow lanterns hang over the main walkway in Yokohama's Chinatown
Yokohama’s Chinatown!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gigantic statue of buddha with a blue sky behind it and some fruit by its legs
Wow, that’s a big Buddha.

After my time with Minami was over, I went back to Shibuya area and hung out with Marina and Isis. We traveled to Asakusa and went to yet another shrine!

Me, Marina, and Isis in front of the entrance gate to the shrine. The entrance has a big lantern featured in the middle of the doorway colored red and gold.
Another shrine, another silly pose
Melon pan being held up in front of a road full of shops and food places
I LOVE MELON PAN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART TWO

So, now it was time for the road trip. Four girls, one tiny car, driving around Japan for five days.

First, we went to Hiroshima, saw the last standing building after the bomb hit and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was very hard and emotional to walk through the museum and memorials surrounding it, and I encourage more people to educate themselves on the devastating effects of the U.S.’ actions both in Japan and other places around the world.

Ruins of the last standing building from pre-atomic bomb Hiroshima
The last standing building from pre-atomic bomb Hiroshima

Next up was the Fushimi Inari Shrine where we got to see the famous Torii gates. It was nighttime when we got there so the photos aren’t the best, but it’s all about the company right? Then, we experienced the majesty of the Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple, bamboo forest, and Byodoin.

Isis, Emi, and Marina doing a silly pose in front of orange and black arches
The famous torii gates featuring three goofballs.
A golden temple with a nice lake in front and a tree on a mini island in the water
The Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple!
A view from the ground looking up in the middle of the bamboo forest
Bamboo forest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byodoin, a red temple during the sunset
Byodoin—Featured on the 10 yen coin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, we went to the Tottori Sand Dunes…except they were covered in snow!

Snow covered sand dunes with a peak of the ocean
Where’s the sand? This Alaskan came to see sand dunes, but I guess I’ll never escape the snow…

And last but not least…Mt. Fuji! (and another onsen with Mt. Fuji as the view)

A beautiful sunny day with a red/green temple and Mt. Fuji in full view
What a beauty.
Me, Isis, Marina, and Emi posing in front of Mt. Fuji and a red/green temple
What a way to end our road trip!

And that was the end of the road trip! I was so sleep deprived the whole entire time, but it was totally worth it. 10/10 would recommend.

Ok, I know this is already really long, but I only have a little bit more to say. Please stay with me lol.

PART THREE??

So, now I’m in South Korea at Yonsei’s dorms. I’m conducting a self-quarantine, so that means I see and interact with no one in-person for two weeks and can’t leave my room. All I can do is just keep up with the news and keep an ear out for updates from the university or other international students through a group chat I’m in. Am I afraid that my semester might be canceled? Yeah, of course. But, I’ve decided to just take things day by day because that’s all I can do. I will live in the now and try to make the most out of the time I have here.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me. My parents, IPO, my friends—you all rock. Even when I can’t leave my room, have to be dependent on some random stranger for delivering me food, and have uncertainty as a big part of my life, my panic goes away because I remember all of the people who are cheering me on at home and believe in me. Thank you.

Yours truly,

Alecia

A trip to Busan

After midterms, a friend and I decided to take a trip to Busan, which is in the south of Korea. It was a nice weekend getaway from the busy Seoul life. And it was just what I needed after midterms. Although it was a weekend getaway, it was full of exploring, walking, and trying new things.  First, we headed to the Busan Tower. The view from the top of the tower is absolutely stunning, showing the whole city of Busan.

View of the city of Busan around a bay from the Busan Tower
View from the Busan Tower

While at the Busan Tower, a friend and I decided to try on a hanbok, which is traditional Korean  clothing for semi formal or formal occasions. This type of clothing dates back to the Joseon Dynasty period which was from 1392 to 1897.  The hanbok that I wore had made me feel like true princes, I had never in my life worn something so beautiful. It’s pretty custom that Koreans and foreigners alike rent the hanbok’s for a short period of time and take pictures. Since we were at the Busan Tower, it was perfect place to take pictures.

girl dressed in Korean Traditional Clothing called a hanbok.
Dressed in a hanbok, which is traditional Korean clothing.
The Busan Tower stands behinds female student wearing traditional Korean clothing.
Wearing traditional Korean clothing with the tall and proud Busan Tower behind me.
View of the metropolitan city of Busan, Korea, taken from the Busan Tower.
Looking at the view from the top of the Busan Tower.

We also visited the Yeongdo Lighthouse, which is a historical sight where the lighthouse provided a beacon of light to ships around Busan Port for over a hundred years. The air was fresh and luckily we got to see the lighthouse when the sun was out and shining.

Yeongdo Lighthouse
Yeongdo Lighthouse

One of my favorite spots to visit was the Busan Gamcheon Culture village. The tourist guide explained that the Culture Village was once a popular place for war refugees to settle in after the Korean War. Also known as the “Machu Picchu” of Korea, the village is full of paintings and murals on the walls and now has become a very popular tourist attraction. With cafes, shops, and many more businesses filling the area.

Culture Village, or also known as the Machu Picchu of Korea.
Culture Village, or also known as the Machu Picchu of Korea.
Student standing on balcony with the Culture Villlage in the background.
The beautiful and colorful Culture Village.

Overall, my trip to Busan was absolutely exhausting but it was so worth it. It was nice to get away from one of the busiest cities in the world and enjoy the beach and the breeze.

Ill update as soon as I can,

Diana

Chuseok Weekend

This year, Chuseok weekend landed on Friday, September 13th. This holiday is also known as Korean Thanksgiving and it’s celebrated for three days. The day before was Thursday the 12th, and the day after was Saturday the 14th.  Me and my friends used this four day weekend to check a few things off out “bucket list” of tourist attractions.

One of the first things we did was check out Gwangjang Market. This was recommended to us by one of our Korean friends that said it was a great place to shop around a bit and had a lot of great food options. Throughout the market there various Korean foods like mandu which are Korean dumplings. Plus fried chicken, bindae-tteok (Korean fried pancake), fishcake,  gimbap (rice rolls, Korean sushi), and live squid! Although my friends and I were feeling adventurous, we weren’t feeling THAT adventurous. We decided to eat dumplings from Yoonsun Cho’s stand. You might recognize the name if you’ve watch Netflix’s Street Food. Yoonsun Cho and her famous dishes were featured for the episode that Netflix did regarding street food in Korea. And reputation upheld, her dumplings were delicious in flavor and as was her dumpling soup.

Gwangjang Market, a market of delicious food, drinks, and a famous trourist attarctions.
The entrance of Gwangjang Market.
Manduguk (Korean Dumlping Soup)
Yoonsun Cho’s Korean Dumlping soup.
The small banner by the dumlping stand.
Netflix’s Street Food banner at Yoonsun Cho’s dumpling stand.

The next thing my friends and I did was visit the Sky Tower, or also known as Lotte World Tower.  Now that I look back on it, its kind of funny. We thought that because it was a holiday weekend that this attraction was going to be relatively empty. Well after making some stops at arcade, shopping, and getting distracted immensely we finally found the line for the tower. Unfortunately, it was a two hour wait. Every foreigner must have thought what we thought and headed to the Tower on that weekend for the same reasons. So, my friends and I decided to actually go on the tower another time, and watch the view from the outside.

Lotte World Tower
Lit up Lotte world Tower.
My friends and I behind the tower, and large cat.
Behind my friends and I, the tower and a large Cat.

Chuseok weekend was unlike my other weekends. There was a lot packed into four days and come that Sunday I was exhausted. But, it was well worth it. It also started to rain a bit during this weekend, it made me smile and think of home.

Diana Naranjo

Let Classes Begin

The first week of clases started off with an early 9 AM class. Although back at Linfield I’m used to afternoon  classes, this 9 AM gave me the chance for an early enough start and a pretty relaxed schedule. Starting the week off with Law and Justice, my professor made a remark that really resonated with me.

“It is up to us to study the law, and then it is also up to us to determine if that law is just.”

As a political science major, I was interested in learning about law and justice, but studying abroad has given me a unique opportunity to learn about the laws in Korea, while living in Korea. This course also fueled my desire to go to Law School and continue my education. Overall, I’m really excited about not only that course but my other courses that I’m taking while I’m here. Those are, as mentioned Law and Justice, Korean 1, Philosophy of East Asian Literature, and International Relations of the Korean Peninsula.

After the first week of class, reality begun to hit! I was here, living, studying, eating, in a completely different continent, in a completely different culture. I was talking to a friend and she said that the newness wore off and she had begun to experience homesickness. Although, homesickness hasn’t hit me quite yet, I understood. The first week in Seoul, or what me and other kids called “Week Zero,” was almost like vacation. It was enough time for us to enjoy and explore the city. After this week though, there was a new found understanding. Being abroad doesn’t mean that we don’t have responsibilities, it just implies we can experience new adventures while maintaining accountability for our responsibilities.

This week, although all my friends and I were busy with classes, homework, and everything else that comes along with being a student we did find the time for Korean BBQ.  All you can eat Korean BBQ is one of the many delicious meals that is great for big or small groups and is very filling.

All You Can Eat Korean BBQ with plenty side dishes for our table.
All You Can Eat Korean BBQ with plenty of side dishes for our table.

This week also brought a lot of rain that reminded me of Oregon! But here, unfortunately, with a lot rain it’s also really humid. I’m not a huge fan.  This Saturday there’s a typhoon in Korea, so the sports festival was cancelled. And students are advised to stay indoors, so this Saturday everyone designated as a homework and nap day.

I’ll try to take more pictures soon!

Diana

First Week in Seoul

The first week in Seoul was the perfect time to explore the city and get to know the area around us. One of the experiences that I enjoyed the most was taking in the city life. It really is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Mapo-gu, Seogyo-dong
Mapo-gu, Seogyo-dong

Seeing the vibrancy of the city, the people, and the energy of it all was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I think the beauty of these moments is knowing that because it is so new to me I can take in the beauty of what may seem like mundane moment like this.

One of my other favorite experiences this week was when a group of us international students decided to try a Korean night club. We all went to a club that’s called NB2, and it was a lot of fun. All the local people that we ended up meeting were really nice and helpful when we had questions. And although the language barrier is hard to deal with, everyone no matter what loves to dance! And NB2 was a pretty great place for that.

Outside of NB2
Outside of NB2

We also decided to go shopping, and try restaurants near by and some classic Korean foods that were recommended to us by the locals. Overall my first week in Seoul was a lot of fun and exploration, and now I’m excited to start my classes & meet my classmates.

Diana