Happy New Year!
Saehae Bok Mani Badeuseyo (새해 복 많이 받으세요)!
For my New Year’s resolution, I wrote down a list of to-do items. I was going to get out of the dorm and go places. I was going to meet people. I started signing up for several Facebook groups that centered around life in Korea and nomadic travelers traveling throughout Asia. The only problem was that I could spend hours reading posts about other people’s adventures and I didn’t have to experience my own.
The next two weeks passed by without any issues. I got into a routine of waking up late, going to the faculty cafeteria for lunch and then going to my Korean language class from one to five in the afternoon. Then I would go back to the faculty cafeteria for dinner; then back to the dormitory.
Occult Recruitment – January 19, 2017
I don’t know what it was about me that made them approach. For the first time, two Korean men and one female said hello as I walked past. Maybe it was the fact that I was walking alone to the student cafeteria or that a mean Ajusshi (old man) had yelled at me earlier for not separating my trash improperly.
How could I know I needed to buy two separate trash bags for food and waste. The whole encounter with him left me feeling frustrated and misunderstood. Because of the language barrier, I couldn’t explain to him that I wasn’t trying to disobey the rules; I didn’t understand them. I later learned at the nearby 7 Eleven I was supposed to buy white trash bags for regular garbage and yellow trash bags for food waste.
They said they were also students at Hankuk University. I actually was so shocked that someone was talking to me in English that I didn’t become suspicious about their true intentions. I answered question after questions about my educational background, where I was from, how long I planned on living in Korea, my age and whether I was married or single. I even handed over my cell phone so they could figure out how to add their KakaoTalk I.D. I had friends, which was one of my New Year’s resolutions. That’s all I cared about.
Until I started listening to a gut feeling. It took some time to hear, I didn’t really want to listen to it. I had friends and they told me they were glad I came to Korea. They invited me to come to hear them play and sing at an event. The event was taking place at six o’clock at night at a church they frequented. I received directions to the event, which involved taking the subway and a short bus ride. Taking the bus was still a goal that I had not accomplished and I didn’t know how to use the Kakao Taxi app. I decided it was too far and it was snowing outside so I informed them that I couldn’t attend the event.
Over the next couple of days, I received continuous text messages. It was overwhelming. I started to feel like the girl in the group was upset because I didn’t come to their event. Why couldn’t she understand that I never experienced a real winter and I was cold? I just wanted to stay in the dorm room where it was nice and warm. Whenever I went outside, either my hands, or my nose, or my ears were cold. I was never completely one hundred percent warm. Every time I needed to walk to 7 Eleven to get a bottle of water and snacks it was a battle of sheer wheel power. I had to choose between having drinking water or being cold and let’s just say that some days I went without water.
Chinese New Year – January 28, 2017
It was finally the New Year weekend. The University was closed for the first time since school began. They invited me to go and have a traditional Korean rice cake soup (Tteokguk). However, the day before I was to meet up with them I went to the local grocery store. I couldn’t find sweet potatoes (Goguma) that were already cooked so I decided to buy a bag of dried yams. This is not something I would normally do. Whenever I went to the grocery store I bought the same items: chips, cookies, yogurt and tuna kimbap. That night I don’t know if it was fate or divine intervention but for the first time since coming to Korea, I became sick.
That night between trips to the bathroom, I finally started to question how little I really knew about my new friends. On New Year’s day, I decided to finally start asking questions to see if I was on the right track or just being paranoid. I asked for the name of the restaurant and where it was located. I received vague responses about us deciding on the place once we all met up together. Next, I asked what day school started since the University classes were separate from my Korean language program. Again, I was given another vague reply. I know from my experience I always knew the day school started because I needed to purchase books beforehand to avoid the long lines at the bookstore.
I decided not to go to our scheduled New Year’s lunch. Something about it felt wrong. I deleted the chat group and blocked their numbers from my Kakao account. I didn’t verbally confirm if they were in an occult group that recruited foreigners. Later, I read similar stories on Facebook groups about occult groups who were targeting foreigners at Universities and major shopping areas. I don’t know if I was wrong or being overly cautious, but I don’t regret my decision. There would be better days ahead.
If you want to continue reading about my life in Seoul, South Korea check out:
- Myeongdong Shopping District
- South Korea Customs Experience
- Emergency In Flight
- American Misconceptions About Living In South Korea
- South Korea School System Pt. 2