WHATS GOOD PEOPLE!! Wow, can you believe it? I recently concluded my last full week in South Korea… It feels like yesterday that I put my clothes in my dorm room for the three-month long summer ahead of me and I can’t believe it’s almost reached its end. I would say that we ended the summer with a weeklong bang and we still have one more to go! This blog will be full of adventure, heartbreaks, re-made hearts, hope, and happiness. Oh, it will also be extremely long; I only add this snip-it as a forewarning for you guys reading the blog. I recommend that you find somewhere warm (or cold if you’re one that likes the chilly environment), but most importantly somewhere comfortable. Here goes nothing… My last full week in South Korea wrapped up into a few descriptive paragraphs.
I’m going to start this blog with the dinner we shared with all of the graduate students on Monday night. We went to a meat restaurant where I ate until my stomach was near explosion; however, I didn’t eat as much as I did at Professor Suk’s apartment… I’ve never eaten so much as I did there… I was uncomfortably full… Anyways, we all sat around a long table that stretched the length of a back room and we all conversed, well they conversed in Korean and I got their attention by making them laugh with my inability, however eager attitude, to speak and learn the Korean language. We ate a LOT of beef, and when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. If I was to guess, I would say that we ate a whopping 4.62 whole cows. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but it would only be plus or minus 2 cows. I sat next to Hyung-bae, DUH, and drank lots and lots of beer. In fact, I’ve found a liking to the taste of beer during my stay in Korea, it’s unfortunate that I will be underage back home… Someday my time will come… For now I get to enjoy the freshness of a Capri-sun packet and the tasteless goodness of water. Unfortunately, I have done so much analysis that it needs to be discussed in my culture section… After I ate dinner, after working countless hours the weekend before Monday night and Monday during the day, I had to return to lab and work on my analysis a little more. Good news is that by Monday night I finished the interspecific and intraspecific genetic distance analysis on excel 2013. Enough of the research talk, it’s not even time to introduce the brutal work yet. Next thing on the agenda? Tuesday night.
Tuesday night I, once again (surprise surprise at this point), was in lab until 11:30pm to conclude a 13.5 hour day in the lab…. Yikes. However, this isn’t why I’m bringing it up. Actually, this was the last night I spent with Hyung-bae until this upcoming Wednesday. Unfortunately, when I give my presentation to the lab members, along with some other professors in a lecture hall about my research, Hyung-bae won’t be present (sad face). Also, I need to express my uncomforting position while I write this blog. I’m currently beginning this blog on the bus ride back from Seoul and Kyle is on my right. I now call Kyle “Sandman” because this kid sleeps EVERYWHERE. It’s quite fascinating actually. Somehow, during our times in-between travel, bus ride, subway right, standing on a bus, waiting for everyone to leave for lunch at lab, Kyle ALWAYS sleeps. I have found out that he quite fond of his naptime! It is truly miraculous how he finds time to sleep in any environment. He’s currently sleeping in his chair pressed up against my right arm and hand and therefore it is causing my left hand to cramp as I type this… I felt the need to explain this to you guys because I love all of you and I make sacrifices. Alrighty, back to earlier this week-the Tuesday night dinner. Hyung-bae, out of the kindness in his heart, ordered delicious and expensive chicken for Har ri, himself, and me. The chicken had a delicious Korean chipotle sauce and the other chicken was plain with honey-mustard and salt dipping sauce. It wasn’t the chicken that made the meal so interesting, however. Instead, it was the conversations that we all shared. We talked about everything, a lot of it personal, but it brought us three closer in our friendship. The biggest thing we spoke about was the impact this trip has already taken on me. I spoke with Har ri and Hyung-bae as if I’ve known them my whole life. I couldn’t stress enough that it was because of them that this experience has become so unforgettable. Day in and day out I have looked forward to seeing them smile and making me smile by being themselves. So, if you’re reading this Hyung-bae or Har ri, I want to thank you again for making this trip so amazing for me! You’ve consistently taken time out of your busy days to hang out with me and truly bring me into this Korean culture; I love you guys! Next on the agenda? Seoul with Han-gyu.
We started out travels to Seoul bright and early in the morning, 6:30am to be exact, with Han-gyu picking us up. The main reason, in the beginning of the weekend in Seoul, was to observe graduate student, doctorate, and post-doctorate presentations. I have found out throughout the summer’s research that my interests are not in phylogenetic analysis. In fact, the first presentation that we observed was on the biological processes of the mitochondrion. Immediately the presenter grasped my attention. The presenter, most likely a post-doctorate researcher, spoke on the processes of the mitochondrion and how the emphasis on it being “the powerhouse of the cell” is greatly over-exaggerated. Interestingly enough he brought in the processes of metabolism, which I covered briefly in my second biology class at St. Thomas. Moral of the story, my greatest interests in biology reside in molecular cell biology and not phylogenetic analysis. As long as I can slowly weed out my likes and my dislikes I will slowly narrow down what my future may hold, which this trip to Korea has done with perfection. Anyways, we sat with Han-gyu through a couple presentations given in English, while the rest were given in Korean… Although I couldn’t understand them that much, I think it was the experience that made it the most beneficial. On a side note, language freaks me out. I don’t understand how people can speak a language to eachother that I don’t understand and I can speak a language that they fail to understand as well. The fun parts of the day didn’t begin until later in the evening… The all- mighty and powerful Jimjilbang.
WARNING: I talk about naked men and my experience at a Jimjilbang, there is a visual and descriptive writing of my actual experience in this bizarre “public restroom”! Jimjilbang-the land of naked men, a movie theatre, Korean sweet drink, and a bunch of Koreans enjoying the cheap stay, open living hotel. As I walked into the Jimjilbang, I walked in blind. The only information I received previous to my stay was a video that the graduate students showed me and that included a locker room and a bunch of naked men-a locker room essentially. So, expecting that it was a normal locker room, I thought “Hell, I was in football. I can handle this without a problem.” Well, partially. The difference between an American locker room and this Jimjilbang is the comfortability that the Koreans have with one another. I figured that I would be naked for maybe a few minutes as I put my towel around my waste… Well, almost, again. In the Jimjilbang, it’s actually common to walk around butt naked. Ok, I can do that. I took off my clothes, a little embarrassed because I was quite exposed at this point, and started walking to the large opening past the mirrors, and gel and a TV and all that jazz. Ok, so we’re in the large room at this point and there were showers to my right, three huge hot tubs to my left, a cold tub (definitely an ice bath) straight ahead, and in the top right quarter of the room was a steam room and a sauna. Definitley a huge place. Oh! As a little more of a description, the floor and walls were made out of a dark stone with small contours and a shiny finish. I would highly recommend the Jimjilbang to anyone who is planning on coming to Korea in the future. It’s a big change off of the norms we have in our American society. I believe that in America we focus a lot on our own privacy. As I have seen in South Korea thus far, with not only the Jimjilbang, but the fact that you can see directly into the public bathrooms of both sexes that we focus on our own personal space and privacy. It’s an interesting change, among many, that I have slowly picked out during my three month long stay in Korea. I think, as my mom told me behind her reasoning for me studying abroad for a whole semester, that it takes a couple of weeks to become accustom to a culture. Therefore, I think that I have truly lived in the Korean culture given the 11 weeks I’ve stayed here. Back to the land of naked men and open living corridors. After the three of us guys showered, we headed for the hot tub. I’ve never sat in a public hot tub naked before… Or switched pools of water and a steam room naked… It was an interesting experience to say the least… One that I will never forget. After the hot tubbing, steam rooming, and cold tubbing, we showered once more and changed into our assigned scrub clothes or the rest of the night. As I walked into the sleeping corridors, it was a new world. They had three places to get food and drinks and we first stopped and got something called a “Korean sweet drink,” which is made out of rice and other stuff that I’m not sure of. The taste was… Interesting to say the least… I’m not too sure that I would try it again, but I’m glad I tasted it. After the drinks we went down into the basement where they had a mini MOVIE THEATRE! I know, crazy right? We watched Mad Max 2, older than the one that came out recently, and funny enough, also slept in those chairs for the night. Ok. So gross. In the basement-movie theatre area-I was surrounded by snoring people. I’m not sure what it is, but snoring is quite unsettling and pierces my precious ear drums so I can’t sleep… Even worse than that, in the middle of the night, someone started making reptilian noises when they slept… I couldn’t believe the sounds were originating out of a Korean’s mouth in front of me. It was a mixture of someone grinding their teeth and screeching… Horrible to say the least. Anyways, we woke up a few hours later, and actually the Jimjilbang was POPPING and energized until at least 12:15AM…. Being the one of the reasons we crashed in the movie theatre… We woke up, showered, and headed for the subways. Sadly enough, this was the last time we got to see Han-gyu… We said our goodbyes to him on the subway before Kyle and I went souvenir shopping on Insadong street… I’m going to miss you Han-gyu! Thanks for everything you’ve given us to this point J. Next on the agenda? Professional Korean baseball game, oh yeah.
The game hosted the hometown team Nexon Heroes and oh my lanta were they good. First plan of attack at the stadium, locate our seats. The next plan immediately succeeding the first plan? Beer and chips. Crazily enough, Korean baseball games don’t charge you $12 for a glass of beer. Instead, James and I bought 7.5 glasses of beer, combined, for $12. WOOHOO! However, Korean chips are hecka expensive so we bought one for $10… That hurt the wallet a little bit. Anyways, the game was delayed for an hour due to torrential rain that fell on Mok-dong stadium an hour before we arrived. Not only did the game get delayed for an hour, but the first inning took a half hour to complete… Holy smokes. BUT. No fear because the home team put up 4 runs in the first half of the inning. Apparently, the Nexon Heroes have the number one home run hitter in the league on their team, which is cool. Also, Korean baseball is ROWDY. Baseball has cheerleaders and a single man that stands on top of a platform in front of the crowd and blows a whistle while yelling and starting chants. I couldn’t believe it! What a change from American baseball! If only we had dedicated fans like this back home for baseball…. Also, interestingly enough, the crowd is divided in half for each fan section. However, thinking about it, it’s cool that fans can travel their entire country to support their baseball team. The United States is definitely large enough where traveling to a lot of the away games for your professional team is restricted… The baseball game was another great experience to tack on my Korean adventure list. Next on the agenda? Caribbean bay and Everland.
Holy smokes, what an adventure this was. So we planned out the trip last week, James and I, and ended up going to Professor Suk’s house for a home cooked meal. Taking the information that we discovered last week, such as the fact that we could take the subway for an hour and a half to Everland for $4, came into effect Friday morning. When we arrived to Caribbean bay, in the massive amount of people flying around us, we found the entrance to Carribean bay only to be handed a slip that said there was a waiting list and we couldn’t enter for 5 hours… Are you kidding me?
So it’s not the end of the world… We can hang out around outside of the entrance until we get permission to enter… NOT THE CASE! Kyle, as the amazing person he is, went to talk to the tourist desk and found out that because there was such a crazy waiting time to enter the water park we got to go into the theme park for FREE! Crazy, right? Yeah, tell me about it. I know. So we went and enjoyed the AWESOME, WONDEROUS ADVENTURES OF EVERLAND, SOUTH KOREA. We walked inside and it felt as though I walked into Disney land… Seriously. If it wasn’t for the massive swarming population of Korean people I could convince myself that I was in fact inside of Disney Land.
The first ride we rode on was an EXACT replica of the Corkscrew ride at Valley Fair; however, the seats were more comfortable and this ride went faster. In all honesty, I think that Valley fair is a little bit better than Everland. I say this because I think Everland is catered toward the younger population, sort of like Camp Snoopy on theme park steroids. But, if I was about 5 years younger, that is most definitely the place to spend the rest of my life. After the Corkscrew ride, which apparently “blacked out” Kyle, “because of the tremendous amount of blood that rushed to my head”-unquote Kyle Schneider, we made our way to a ride that I would compare to the Renegade at Valley Fair. Wait! Before I continue, there was a sign that said “An Adventure to America” that had the Corkscrew ride in it amongst many fast food restaurants! You nailed it Korea. Nice work. Alright, “the Renegade” look alike. This ride was INSANE. James took a GoPro onto this ride “shhhhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone” and he recorded the insanity of the roller coaster. At the beginning of the ride there was a 90 degree drop off that led to bends and twists that lurched the coaster over the top of each hill. Definitely a fun wooden rollercoaster. Hmmm, what next. We tried to make our way over to a ride that resembled the log chute at Camp Snoopy but the wait was an hour and a half…. No thank you… Instead we decided to make our way to a shooting game that resembled the Ghost Busters shooting game at Nickelodeon Universe… I won by 2000 points… No big deal or anything… SIKE. Super big deal! Take that Kyle and James! Wait you guys… I totally forgot to mentions something! Right before we entered the waterpark, we got to watch a martial arts performance that Korean martial art samurais (not really, but they were nuts) did. This group did stunts that I thought only happened in the movies. This was the epitome of Asian stereotypes in a good way. The flew through the air and kicked 4 boards at once! At one point, a guy broke 6 sheets of cement with his karate punch… Epic, right? I will try and post a video to Facebook on this spectacular group! Anyways, after the martial arts show we made it into Caribbean bay!
I’m going to be honest, I’m glad that our original plan didn’t work out the way we planned because the park had 20,000 people there… It’s a big park… but not that big… We walked into the park, got a locker in the men’s locker room and became a part of the stampede of people. First plan of attack? Entering the wave pool. Unfortunately, we needed to buy life jackets to go deep into the wave pool because the wave was too large to not wear a life jacket. When I say large, it was so large that people crashed over each other when the wave broke so James and I stayed back and enjoyed the show from a far before we headed for the lazy river. We enjoyed our time in the lazy river and then moved on to a couple of water slides… I forewarn you guys, this wasn’t the most exciting time because of 20 some thousand people in the park… For a slide that is advertised on TV the wait was THREE HOURS LONG. Can you believe that? I can’t believe people actually waited three hours to get on a ride that lasted no more than 30 seconds… Crazy people I tell you. Anyways, the coolest water slide that we went on was a water slide that shot you at 90kmh (about 55mph)! In order to climb into the waterslide we needed to climb into this time-capsule looking thing… A voice counted down “3..2..1..” and the floor dropped out from under you! I moved so fast throughout the slide that I couldn’t see anything. Actually, I didn’t know the ride was over until I stopped moving because of the excessive amount of water rushing in my face and the fast orange or yellow blur from the slide! Once we finished that ride we moved on to a couple other water slides, but the lines took about an hour each so it got boring to wait in line pretty quick… It didn’t help that we decided to go on a Korean holiday… It’s a holiday weekend, but we figured that the waterpark wouldn’t get busy until Saturday, but we were wrong… It still turned out to be one hell of a day in general. Dead tired, but ferociously hungry, James and I went to a Korean barbeque to get some delicious grub! Man, I am going to miss the food here… If you have the money to drop $10 bucks on a meal, it’s the best $10 you could possibly spend on a meal. Haha, on a side note, I would HATE to clean the dishes as a kid here. In Korea, it’s normal to have a main dish and then many many side dishes that are refilled at a restaurant. What’s my favorite you may ask? I am a die hard fan of the bean sprouts here. My oh my do they know how to prepare bean sprouts. Also, at a restaurant that we visited frequently with the lab, I love to eat the anchovies that they give with the meal as a side dish, delicious. Next on the agenda? Saturday fun time in the lab and a great night out with the boys.
On Saturday, we went to the boys lab because they needed to finish up some lab work! Meanwhile, I sat in my own little desk and pounded away at my presentation that I have to give to the lab members this upcoming Tuesday! Scary. After we hung out at their lab and the boys finished their work we went out with Matt’s high school friend Juno who lives in Daegu, but happened to be in Seoul for the weekend. First, we went out to a Korean barbeque where Juno taught us some of the ways of Korea! We ate some delicious beef that we cooked for ourselves and had seaweed soup, a spicy soup, kimchi, and rice as our dishes! It may exist only in Korea, but I am beginning to like eating the mushrooms here… They have to be soaked in grease, however, or else I’m still not a fan… Anyways, after we ate our meals, Juno began to teach us some fun Korean drinking games! He also taught us how to make Seol-megs, which is a shot of Soju with the rest of the glass full of beer! The drinking game we played, the one that required the least amount of the Korean language, involved the top of a Soju bottle, which is twisted and then flicked. The person sitting next to the person who flicks off the metal brace around the top has to drink a shot of Soju. Juno lost FOUR times! He claims that there is always someone that has the “bad luck” and he for sure had the bad luck during the game. I almost forgot! In Korea, it’s a huge thing to provide “service” at restaurants that you dine at. With the “service” the Korean chefs provide free food or drinks to the diners to try and persuade them to come back, or it’s because you’ve stayed there for a long time (which we did) and it’s their way of saying thank you. Saturday night we got 2 bottles of free coke and two bowls of cold noodles! Once we finished eating the night got way more interesting. After the delicious meal we moved on to sing Karaoke in the basement of a building for an hour and half. Juno started off the karaoke with a Korean song and we sang our hearts out for the next hour and half with American classics such as “Lose yourself, Sweet Caroline, Thriller, Wrecking ball, Party in the U.S.A., and We Will Rock You!” A great way to end the night and a great way to finish the weekend in Seoul. Next on the agenda? Traveling back home and ending a fantastic weekend…
Sunday consisted of waking up at 11:30am, watching Bo Bernham, and taking the 4 hour bus ride back to Don-Daegu… On the bus ride, however, we met a nice girl named Yunmi who, out of the blue, tapped me on the shoulder from the seat behind me and showed me her phone which she wrote a message on in English saying something along the lines of, “Do you live in Daegu? I want to make sure you have the best time in Korea so I will show you some restaurants. I am traveling out of the country and I would like to talk to you about it,” but obviously in a rough translation of English. So I turned around and Kyle and I talked to Yunmi for about a half an hour about her life and her future plans! It turns out that she is taking us to Korean barbeque this week sometime and I’m going to give her some tips about America. During this trip I’ve slowly come to the realization that America REALLY needs to figure some things out… We truly aren’t the best in some cases. For example, I’ve never felt more safe than during my entire stay in Korea so far. It’s been a fantastic experience. I see girls jogging or walking around the track at the college alone multiple times a week; that is something that isn’t possible back home because they need to worry about their safety. Things such as this really make me hate America because it’s humanity that can’t be trusted. In a country where freedom is so important and individuality is entrusted to each and every person there also comes a great consequence. I’m extremely glad that Yunmi reached out to me because I believe that, especially because she’s travling alone for the first time to the states, it’s easy for her to make a mistake… I’m going to try my best to make sure she is well informed of some of the cultural dangers in America. It’s a great place to live, but you need to make sure that you do it right. Anyways, that’s all that I have for you guys. It was a long one I know so if you skipped through any of the sections I don’t blame you J. I appreciate that you all took the time to read this!
Well, well, well… A lot has happened you guys. By a lot, I mean A LOT. It’s the last week so, as you may know, I have to give a presentation this week on the research I conducted over the summer months in Korea! Unfortunately, as I may have mentioned last week, Hyung-bae won’t be able to attend my presentation, but Har ri is going to video record my presentation so Hyung-bae can watch it forever and EVER AND EVER AND EVER. MWUAHAHAHAHHA! No, but seriously, that way he can have it forever and I can bring a copy of it back home! At the end of the Fall semester of my sophomore year in college, in order for me to acquire the full research credits I have to give a presentation in front of the UST Department of Biology… Now that is scary stuff. I also think that this will give me the opportunity to make myself and my dedication known to the biology professors at St. Thomas. I am going to use this research, which will hopefully result in the publishing of two papers, as a stepping stone into my future! As a more focused in view into my research, I am drawing the conclusions that, from my intraspecific data, that T. koreensis has a distinct lineage. The intraspecific distance at the cytochrome b (cytb) gene for this species is 0.105, which is much greater than the rest of the species in the Tanakia genus. Also, I am using the interspecific data from the genetic distance calculated by MEGA6 and organized using Excel 2013 to draw the conclusion that cytochrome oxidase I (COI) is a better DNA barcoding marker to classify the Tanakia genus. It more clearly shows that the species T. latimarginata and T. koreensis are separate species, as the genetic marker should. Although cytb shows a high distinction between the species, relative to the minimal genetic distance shown between the other species it is not as clearly portrayed as when the COI gene is used. Another conclusion that I will show from my research is that the species T. lanceolata is morphologically AND genetically different from the other species in the Tanakia genus.
Interestingly enough, I made a first discovery in history through my molecular work. I extacted two populations from the Nakdong river from two different locations on the river. In the second population, Nakdong individuals 31-40, I discovered that they actually belonged to the T. koreensis species as a separate lineage than the other subgroups (or reference groups) calculated using the NCBI gene bank. The T. koreensis species sampled from the Nakdong river have a separate lineage than the other subgroups. Why is this so important and why did I say it twice? It just so happens that people believe only Nakdong bitterling (T. latimarginata) distribute in the Nakdong river; however, my results prove that T. koreensis also distributes in the Nakdong river. Well, you might be thinking that someone artificially distributed the population there, right? Actually, although it is only a hypothesis at this point, but strongly backed up and justified, the T. koreensis species showed distinct enough to create a separate subgroup among the other reference data sequences used. The other sequences used T. koreensis sampled and sequenced from the Sojin, Mangyeong, Tamjin, a Geum river; however, the species still registered as a separate subgroup. If the species were to have fallen into a category with the other T. koreensis fish, it is very possible that the fish were artificially distributed into the Nakdong river, but that certainly was not the case. It is actually highly unlikely that that happened, but rather we may potentially attribute it to historical distribution of the fish species.
As I also stated earlier, I will continue my research into the Fall of 2015 with not only DNA barcoding, but also a phylogeographical study. In this study, as my data shows in the DNA barcoding of T. somjinensis and T. limbata, the fish species are of the same classification, which points to a review on the taxonomical classification of the fish species. The fish species T. limbata is actually an endemic species to Japan meaning that it is only found to distribute within Japan on the Western portion of the archipelago. It’s fascinating because my work will include using a Haplotype network and mismatch analysis to find the original species and which species migrated to which country. And THAT, my dear friends, is everything. I thank you so much again for sticking out with me to the end (for those of you who did) because I know it was a lot of information to take in! Until next time, which will be my final blog post of the summer, anyeunghekaseyo.