With YPT’s Troy Collings embarking on our second Pyongyang Korean Language Study Tour for an entire month of intensive study in Pyongyang, here’s the second of his updates on this unique way to experience the DPRK.
Learning complex sentences
We are now nearly two weeks in to our Korean Language Study tour and already we’ve learnt some pretty complex sentence structures, such as “I’m a foreign exchange student studying Korean at Kim Hyong Jik university in Pyongyang,” “Peter’s cell phone is in the bag,” and “Richard and I are reading a book in the hotel right now.” etc. The pace is very quick but if we can reach lesson ten in a month and pass a final test we get an official graduation certificate from the university for Elementary Korean, which isn’t bad for only 20 days of study.
Coping with the weather
The heat has been intense during this time of year, but with so much time we have been able to rearrange our schedule to have study / gym / R&R time in the hotel after lunch and head out to do most of our touring later in the day. It’s the perfect balance of study, rest and fun. Today we will visit Kwangbok Supermarket again to stock up on supplies and enjoy some street food BBQ and beers in the beer garden, surrounded by locals. Something about the normality of it all is wonderful. We’re also due to visit the Kaeson Funfair and Mangyongdae Native Home to balance the fun with a bit of Korean history.
Spending Local Korean Won
In my 11 years of visiting the DPRK, I’ve noticed the local Korean currency being accepted in a lot more places than ever before. Usually travellers must use foreign currency such as euro, USD or RMB, but in this case (and maybe with our newly acquired Korean language skills) we seem to be blending in as “Pyongyang expats” a little more. I also picked up a neat piece of info: locals don’t call it “Joson don” like foreigners do, they call it “naehua,” so anytime I ask if I can use “naehua” I get a surprised smile from the cashiers because it’s rare for a foreigner to use that term.
Getting a tailored suit
I also got measured for a tailored suit at the Changwangsang Hotel, which I’m quite excited about. It’s not a common hotel for tourists, so I’m yet to see the quality of suit, so I’ll be the group’s guinea pig. If it turns out well, a few more of our group may get some made too. The cost was only $180 USD for two trousers a waistcoat and a jacket, which is a great deal.
Things yet to come!
Next week we fly to Mt. Paektu, with a few delegations of Pyongyang’s foreign embassies including the German ambassador to Pyongyang and the British Second Secretary also coming for the trip, which is very exciting! The forecast sadly doesn’t look too good but hopefully its wrong, because Mt. Paektu is stunning on a clear day.
One more day of classes and we head to the west coast beach city of Nampo on Friday night for some classic factory tours, petrol clams, volleyball and hot spas before coming back to Pyongyang to celebrate Victory Day on Saturday morning!