Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Writing contest in Vienna - 2/3

Today was the day of the contest!

The contest was in the morning so Celine, Charlotte, and I arranged to meet in the morning and have breakfast from the big breakfast buffet.

Aaaah there is no better way to start your day than with a good meal. I would like to have stayed longer and eaten more but around 8.40 we had to meet up in front of the hotel to take the bus to the contest venue, which turned out to be the first, closed, Korean eating place that we had gone to the day before.

The bus taking us was a mini bus and so we had to stand outside while the bus drove the first people to the venue, Korea Kulturhaus Österreich. Suddenly I head a voice to my right, asking me where I was from - in Korean, of course. The girl asking me was Irina, a sweet, brown-haired girl from Bulgaria.
We exchanged a few questions and answers in Korean before my limited knowledge on Korean small-talk made me switch over to English.
Irina had come there alone with her teacher. As I think I mentioned in the first post, the schools would usually send two students and their teacher. So I turned around and introduced her to Celine and Charlotte, who had started a conversation with two model-like Latvian girls.

At the venue we were led into a room with name plates and what do you know, I was seated beside Irina!

Eeeey Korean name plates!
And of course since Sungkyunkwan University was doing the whole event, they had put folders for their summer school, bookmarks, and other things on our tables.
We would be writing our essays on these interesting looking pieces of paper with squares for each character. The boxes in the top were for our names, school, birthday, and year. There was one of the boxes that Celine wasn't sure of so she went over to me. I wasn't sure of it either so we asked Irina, who told us that it said "full name".
And from then on we knew that we were screwed.
But of course we tried our best anyways!
There were a bunch of men (likely from the university), who walked around. taking pictures of the event.
Last year the topic they had to write about was so hard that most of the students didn't understand it. So this year they had the topic written down on the big white canvas up front. They revealed in a most dramatic fashion and then an important looking man stepped up and explained the topic (in Korean).
After his explanation, the contest began!
We had two hours and absolutely no aids (translator, dictionary, etc.) to write an essay of any length about the word: "나눔" (= sharing)
I think we were about 30 people participating. All girls.
Charlotte was sitting further up..
while Celine and I shared the back rows.
It was a complete miss for me. I read the word wrong for some reason and understood nothing. So I switched tactics and instead wrote about who I was, why I studied Korean, what I had done and seen in Korea and so on. I had to write something, right?
There was a tense atmosphere outside the room. Some people were quiet and others talked with each other or their teachers. Even if I didn't understand anything, I could tell by their body language it was the nervous chitchatting people do when they try to get their mind off things.
I left the room before Celine. When she came out I asked how how it went but instead of answering me, she went straight to the corner and faced the wall in shame.
Celine, too, had not understood the word!
For a moment I felt happy because I wasn't the only loser and as we waited for the rest to leave the room, we did a ♪ we're a couple of looooseeers, we understood noooothiiiing ♫ dance.
Another glorious bonding moment.

Next thing on the program was a special 2-hour'ish lecture from the Institute for the Translation of Korean Classics. A man started out talking about ... I think the "book" that had been put on our tables. But ughhh especially middle-aged and older Koreans can be hard to understand - especially when they have an accent! After him a woman was talking about an app. I understood more about that one but not so well that I, 6 weeks later, remember any of it.

Afterwards was the city tour!
Back outside they had arranged for on of the big tourist buses to pick all of us up.
A Korean lady sat down in the front and from the moment the engines turned on she talked us through the entire 3-hour tour, talking in Korean about the city of Vienna. By the end of the tour she also tried to teach us German and a bit of Austrian slang and it was super cute to listen to! They were very basic things and some of us already knew it so it was entertaining to listen to her trying to pronounce the German sounds.
I had a few times of spacing out but I'm actually really proud that I understood some of the things she talked about!
We drove past museums and famous/important buildings and places in the city.
Since it was a full-day program we had talked about when we would be able to have lunch - we were delighted to learn that our first stop was at a restaurant.
Here we had probably the most Austrian meal ever consisting of sauerkraut as a starter
and chicken drumsticks, spareribs, ham(?), sausages, potatoes, and more ham.
A homeless-looking man came in carrying a newspaper that I think he tried to sell us. We didn't need a newspaper so we declined and he went on to the other tables... but he came back, this time articulating via hand hand gestures and pointing to our leftover food. Charlotte was about to give him a piece of the ham when a waiter came and shooed him away.
Lately I've gotten really sad every time I see a person like that, fearing that one of my loved ones for some reason would end up like that some day. Ugh, let's shake that thought off.
We'd been finished with our food for a little while and the waiters were carrying away the leftovers and empty plates. Naturally, we thought we were about to continue our tour until the waiters came back with small, simple ice cream desserts consisting of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

Next we were taken to Schloß Schönbrunn - a UNESCO World Heritage site and residence of the late Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, Croatia, and Bohemia (now part of Czech Republic).
We gathered like a group of penguins keeping each other warm while our tour guide explained something again about the place (at this point my eyes were too curious for my mind to concentrate on the words).
Okay none of those girls look very interested in the picture but I swear we were all listening!
After the presentation of the castle we were given 40 minutes to roam around by ourselves.
We started off our adventures with pictures for the memory of it.
I loved the look of the stairs and had to climb them. Celine and Charlotte quickly joined me and then we pretended to be the princesses that we all aspired to be as little girls.
But it quickly turned goofy..

The view was majestic from up there!
A quick shot of our own princess paparazzi, Irina~
Celine has this thing about walking into my pictures, locking her eyes on the camera and look as unimpressed as possible.
To the right side of the building was a big garden where you could sort of walk inside the hedges. It made for beautiful pictures.
Much impressive. Such green.

Me: "You have a completely idyllic picture and then there's a trashcan."
Charlotte: "You have a completely idyllic picture and then a Louise in the middle."

I'm almost sad that the grey clouds made my picture so dull because even though it was the end of September, the grass, trees, and flowers beamed with colour.
And look! There was a bride! On a photo shoot!
Walking back "inside the hedge", we reached one of the big, dark 'gates' and as we looked up, we were impressed by the painting in the ceiling.
It was challenging to take a full picture of the roof but also extremely entertaining to see the others squat down and crawl around like Chinese photographers in the memes.
To the right of the garden was a wide path leading to an open area with statues from Greek mythology.
A wild Semi-awkward Celine appeared!
Before we continue with the story, let's go back to the second and much more dead-looking, walk able rose hedge.
Ha! I caught Celine looking goofy! (Totally not revenge for the infinite amount of goofy pictures she has of me).
Irinaaaa ^ㅅ^
This was meant to be yet another goofy picture but I ended up liking it a lot once I ran it through Photoshop.
I went over to look at one of the roses close up and realized what a perfect angle it would make for a picture. In excitement, I loudly announced my discovery and ended up being the focus of Irina's picture.
*puuf!* a wild Irina!

Now back to the path and the many statues!
Before attending Korean studies, Charlotte studied Latin for a while and told us about the different Gods that she recognized.
The path led to a vast area with a lot of statues and even more tourists posing for pictures.
ㅋㅋㅋ goofy pictures of Charlotte as well.
The building you see in the middle is the Gloriette - In pictures it looks beautiful but sadly it was under restoration when we went. It should be done by December this year though!
I decided it was payback time and stepped into one of Celine's shots too.
The last statue we got to inspect before we had to meet up at the bus was this one that Charlotte named:
'Your friends (left) and you (right) when you make too many memes'

Continuing our trip (while the the guide continued her speech), the bus took us to Stephansplatz, where Celine, Charlotte and I had lunch the first day.
Here we were given just 10 minutes to take a walk around Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) and return outside.
The church was everything but as in the picture. There were a lot of people lined up outside the fence parting us from the middle of the church (which is pictured). To the sides were elder people praying and stands with several lit candles. You could pay... maybe 50¢ to buy a candle and light it. The whole place also felt a lot darker than pictured so the many small candles really glistered.
It took a couple of minutes for us to gather where we were supposed to. Celine had, while walking from the bus to the church, seen a Lush store and REALLY really wanted a bath bomb since their hotel room had a bathtub. She wanted me to sneak away with her as we were waiting for the rest of the students but I chickened out... one of the tall, model-like Latvian girls went with her though so everything worked out!

Back at the venue they had prepared big, round tables for us to sit at. We ended up sitting with two German girls, Irina, and their teachers, who both happened to know our 최 선생님 (=teacher).
The important looking men sat down at the table in the very front of us - that is all of them but one. And when the last one and most important looking man came over, all of them stood up, one pulled out the chair for him and once he sat down, they rest of them sat down again as well. Piece of Korean culture right there!
Then it began! Names were mentioned and one after one, different girls went up on stage until they had a little group. There was a long awkward moment where the Koreans were trying to figure out how to stand and where to have the students stand. My best guess is because they wanted it to look more scenic in pictures. Charlotte was one of the students called up! Each of the girls were then called over again. She would receive a diploma, a small present, and bow to the Koreans before going back in the line.
Pictures were taken.
I didn't want to go in front to take pictures like the other people so I was happy when we received a mail some days after the event with 39 or so pictures. How Korean!
Here we have the girls and their teachers.
They did the whole thing again - calling up a group of girls and giving them diplomas and presents - so this time Celine and I thought they would just do a couple of rounds like this until all of us were called up. They didn't. This was the second and last group called up - and their teachers!
After this, they announced the main winners of the contest (the other girls were 'just' the ones who had 'done exceptionally well' as it was stated on the diplomas).
I believe the first girl to be called up was from Turkey. She won 3rd place and was SOOO happy! 
2nd place went to our very own Irina from Bulgaria!
When we talked to her earlier during the day, she told us how she hadn't been to Korea yet (and I believe she was a 3rd or 4th year student) so we were really happy to know that she won this.
The 3 main winners each received a scholarship for their master's degree so I can imagine how this suddenly made her life so much easier money wise.
The 1st price went to a girl from either Slovakia or Slovenia (I really can't remember anymore).
Of course we also took a group picture!
When we thought we were done, one of the Koreans suggested we did the 화이팅 (=fighting) pose!

Now that the formalities were out of the way it was time to eat!
Outside the room we were sitting in, they had set up a big buffet eith Korean food.
I didn't even taste half the food we could pick from but as you see there was more than enough on my plate already.
I chose a lot of things: kimchi, glassnoodles with fried vegetables, spicy chicken, spicy beef, purple rice, sushi?, a Korean meat/vegetable pancake, fishcake slices (I forgot the proper name), beansprouts, and a clam.
I'd wanted to be all adventurous and try new interesting food but I could not eat that clam. Celine 씨 called me a loser.
For dessert they served 3 kinds of this: a pink one, a white one, and a yellow/orange one.
The outside layer was very gooey and didn't have much taste to it. When looking at it, it looked like s 'solid' jelly cake but once I cut into it with my spoon, I realized there were milky, almost transparent cubes mixed in with a second type of white jelly.
Celine thought it was love fruit but we weren't sure. It had a fresh and sweet taste unlike the berries on top that were all a little sour.
The days program ended here and we were free to return to the hotel. Some people were already leaving so we finished up and returned to the hotel.
Celine and Charlotte wanted to celebrate that the competition was over over a drink - and we went by Irina's room on the other side of the hallway to pick her up. We didn't feel like going all out but instead went down to the bar, U-ONE Bar, in the lobby where a not-bad-looking-at-all waiter served us.
Irina said that she felt like paying for drinks and so she ended up buying drinks for all of us!

Charlotte had a mojito, Irina a.. I think it was a bloody Mart, and I don't remember what Celine got.
I had a so called 'virgin cocktail' named Cinderella and it is easily one of the best drinks I've ever tasted. At that time I was able to give a perfect description of its taste but now I can only remember that one out of the two main tastes was like that of strawberry yogurt.
We were sitting there and chatting away as time flew by and soon it was time to call it a night. We said our goodbyes because the day after we would be going home earlier than Irina and we had a few things we wanted to do before leaving.
Cheers to a fun day with great people!

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