Week Three

I realized upon writing this blog that I often do not have the names of the exact restaurants we go to. The main reason for this is that we don’t often plan daily excursions, we just pick a new place to visit and see what we can find there. Sorry in advance if you wanted to visit any of the unnamed places!

Excursions

  1. Transferring Universities

I started this week off by visiting Sinchon with my roommate Nadia. Sinchon is where Yonsei University is, and where I believe a lot of the youngsters go out to have fun. We ate Japanese food, which is plentiful and delicious, and had some waffles, which are a lot posher in Korea than they are in America. 

Figure 1: Me practicing my archery skills at an arcade in Sinchon

Upon completing our meals we decided to explore around and burn off some of those calories. On our adventure, we discovered an arcade like no other! This arcade did have claw machines and video games, but the main focus of it seemed to be more physical games. It had a game where you have to hit a baseball that goes flying towards you, one where you have to shoot a ball at a target, it had an archery game(which I won a small prize for, not bragging), and much more! Probably the coolest arcade I have ever been to.

  1. Return to America?

I will not lie: After around a month in Korea, I missed American food. Cheesy foods, avocados, bread that isn’t sweet: these are all things you will have trouble locating within South Korea. And thus, with this excursion, Nadia and I visited an American restaurant. It was interesting to see American food sold as foreign food for once. Also whilst eating at the restaurant we saw at least 5 other foreigners eating there, which I believe is a testament to their quality. I had an overpriced but incredible avocado and cheese sandwich, and some mac and cheese.

Figure 2: American food in Korea

  1. Sight

The following day, I realized that I was tired of having my glasses on all the time.

I was told, by multiple sources, that perhaps contact lenses were cheaper in Korea than they were in America. Unfortunately, after looking in 4 different stores, I simply could not find such a deal (perhaps my previous deals were just too good). I would say it cost me perhaps $25 per box, so $50 for a 2 month supply of 2 week-long contacts. The employees at the store were very nice and used my glasses to determine my prescription. Nadia assisted with communication with them. The important thing to note is that there are vision stores around every corner; you probably will not need to travel too far to find a place that sells contacts. 

  1. A Ewe-nique cafe

Come Friday and Nadia, Busa, and I all decided to visit a sheep cafe. The cafe was called Thanks Nature Cafe and was located in Hongdae. The sheep were in a pen outside of the cafe, so you go in, eat your food, then go out to hang out with the sheep. It was very cute! The food was good as well, and cheaper than I expected. The sheep were very soft and friendly!

Figure 3: Thanks Nature Cafe in Hongdae, Seoul. Pictured in both pictures is Busa (left), me (center), and Nadia (right). The sheep are Moderna (left) and Pfizer (right).

Once we were done hanging out with the sheep, we decided to explore around Hongdae some more, and let me tell you, arcades in Korea are just built different. They have a great atmosphere, are cheaper than American arcades, have more people, and are a lot more fun! We also bought some clothes, Hongdae seems like a good place to buy cool clothes for an affordable price.

Figure 4: Visiting an arcade in Hongdae. On the left: Busa and I playing Dance Dance Revolution; on the right: Nadia and I playing a shooty gun game.

  1. A New City

We had coordinated with everyone within the NSF IRiKA group to meet up on Saturday in Daejeon, where Matt and Nat live. We had heard from many people that there was apparently nothing to do in Daejong, that it was a boring place to visit… I disagree! Daejeon is beautiful and very peaceful. The entire city is a lot more open and planned out than Seoul is; Daejeon is a breath of fresh air.

In Daejeon we visited Sungsimdang Bakery, which had more good-looking pastries in it than I could even imagine — it was all really good. 

From the bakery, we visited the National Science Museum. We spent a good 3 hours in the museum without even noticing. Every exhibit was interactive and enjoyable even when you can’t read what is going on. There were more museums and even a planetarium that we didn’t have time to visit.

Figure 5: The gang taking a picture near the rocket outside of the National Science Museum in Daejong.

Figure 6: The gang taking a picture on the Expo Bridge in Daejong

After the museum, we visited the arboretum, which is a large garden area. Really nice and peaceful, I would recommend visiting!

Figure 7: View in the arboretum overlooking a lake.

We all then went to get Korean barbecue and spent the night in a nearby hotel, preparing ourselves for our greatest adventure yet.

  1. Hiking or Trekking?

When I told my mentor and professors in the lab that I was going to go hiking that weekend, they couldn’t understand what I meant. Apparently, trekking is a more commonly used term here. In my head, trekking means a more extreme version of hiking and after this trip, I can understand why they use the word trekking instead. 

We woke up at 3:30 in the morning and prepared to go trekking up Gyeryongsan Mountain, which is about an hour away from Daejeon. When I first saw the entire mountain, I thought that we wouldn’t climb to the entire top. I thought the trail would simply lead us to a smaller peak, we would get to that, be impressed by those who can go further, and go on our merry way. Unexpectedly, we actually climbed to the top of the entire mountain. Even more unexpectedly, we climbed to both peaks of the mountain. After this trek I was more sweat than human; I was so exhausted that my legs didn’t even feel sore anymore. And yet the view from the top was simply breathtaking. I have never seen anything so nice before in my life. I didn’t think that I would ever climb an entire mountain. I am very proud of myself and everyone else in the IRiKA group. I greatly enjoyed this adventure! We pushed ourselves further than we thought was possible. The entire trek took about 7 hours for us, after which we ate dinner at the foot of the mountain and all went back home. I would definitely recommend future IRiKA researchers to take the time to take a nice long hike somewhere, if not up at this incredibly large mountain then maybe some smaller mountain closer to Seoul.

Figure 8: The gang at the tallest peak of Gyeryongsan Mountain.

Figure 9: View from the top of Gyeryongsan Mountain.

Working in the Lab

So far working in the lab has been great! I am learning a lot from my mentor and his TA, Viduu, who has been taking the time to teach me about how to use the YOLO algorithm. Last week we set it up so that I could run the algorithm already trained on the COCO dataset on my computer and tested it out with various videos and images. This week we shifted focus onto actually training up the algorithm with our own images and data set. The lab already has some of the images required for the dataset, so they taught me how to train the algorithm with those images so I could do it on my own. This upcoming week, the focus will be on obtaining more images for the data set. They showed me how to properly obtain, sort, edit, and input different images for the algorithm to use. Next week, after obtaining all the images, I will be actually training the dataset. 

Professional Communication Workshop

Along with having daily excursions and working 8 hours a day, I have also been taking Dr.Moser’s Professional Communication Workshop (this is part of IRiKA program) along with the other NSF IRiKA students. So far this class has been enjoyable, we learn a lot about how to better formulate your thoughts when you speak and how to tell stories in a way that makes them more interesting to the listener. I look forward to learning more from Dr.Moser. Apparently, at the end of the class, we will put together a presentation about the entire trip. I look forward to doing this as it seems like a good way to help remember everything we did to look back on in the future. 

Current Takeaways: 

  • Take some time to just walk around and explore different places, you will probably find some interesting stores.
  • A lot of cool stores/places to visit are underground, where you have to go down a sad staircase to get to them. Don’t be afraid to check out what is downstairs in shopping centers!