Tuesday, December 22, 2009

South Korea Week 2

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I will have better picture later, It was my first time traveling around so I did not take many pictures, because I wanted to experience Seoul without taking pictures on my first visit.

Tuesday Dec 22, 2009 7:00PM Korean Time, 5:00 AM eastern time zone.

I finally got my computer back to working again. My computer cord snapped so I could not charge my battery. Dell is not a major computer company in South Korea, Apple, HP, and Sony are among the major companies which most will be able to identify with. Anyways, it was difficult not being able to have a computer for the first week or so moving into a country as foreign as South Korea. Sorry I have not been able to update everyone as much as I would of liked. I will update everything from the last time I wrote. I have traveled to Seoul, the Korean War Memorial, around Suwon, and back into Seoul. Last Wednesday a bunch of us at the Korea Herald School went out to dinner. There were six of us. One girl did not speak any English, so she seemed bored throughout the whole time and left early. (It was funny because I tried including her in the conversation by asking another Korean speaker to ask her questions, then the vice president of the school decided to tell everyone that I liked her, I think everyone at the school likes her) I started to ask two of the Korean teachers (who are fluent in English) about Korea. My biggest question was about the bars. Bars in South Korea are known as hofs, and they are very different then American style bars, or you could say western style bars. Korean traditional bars (hofs) do not have an actual bar in them; it is basically a group of tables. So this makes it tough to go out and meet other people while going out. Koreans go out in groups and tend to stay with that group throughout the whole night, rarely talking to other groups. I guess you could picture this as tables at a restaurant, Koreans stay at the same table all night long. Koreans, as opposed to Americans do not interact with other people at the bars; this caught me by major surprise, but it did not matter too much because of the language barrier. Koreans say that they are group minded people, which is why they have theses tables for a group to enjoy. Yet, these tables; individualize each group. So they go out in groups but the groups themselves are in a sense individuals, which in my mind takes away the fact that they think they are group minded people. Also, the little of the western style bars in Suwon are for the most part empty. Except for a bar called Now Bar, which is a foreigner hang out; this bar is in a different part of Suwon that I have not gone to yet. Suwon is a pretty big city, it has a little over 1 million citizens.

Thursday Dec 17- I have been here exactly one week, and it is amazing all the thoughts that have gone through my head, and thee smells. Some are pleasant with all the restaurants and some are absolutely disgusting. Most of my thoughts are still when the hell am I leaving. (Which is common for a while) I started teaching myself some Korean tonight, it is tough because the alphabet is completely different, which is going to make vocabulary really difficult. Every Thursday night I can hear the karaoke room downstairs, (there is one on the second floor of the apartment complex.) And the walls are razor thin. The karaoke room is pronounced Norebang in Korean. The norebang in my apartment, since I am in the red light district is filled with business men and hookers. I am told these rooms are very expensive. You might get an idea of the area I live in is a run down place. The apartments are not to nice, but it in no way is run down. It is however interesting, with love motels, massage places and the norebang all close neighbors to me. And of course the school is located within all this. ( It is about a 30 second walk to school.)
Thursday night we went out to dinner. Two Korean teachers, an American teacher and I. We went to TGI FRIDAYS, which is right down the street, which is nice; there is also an Outback Steakhouse down the street. Both are really expensive especially compared to Korean food, which you can get a good meal for 6,000 Won ($6) we all got Cheeseburgers, which are around 13,000 won. And we all got raw Cheeseburgers. We all ate half of the burger, and then I asked if anyone else’s was raw. Everyone had the same response. John from Cleveland ate his whole burger raw (that is how exciting it is to have a Cheeseburger in South Korea.) We sent ours back and they cooked them and gave us free fries.

Saturday Dec 19- Seoul
Seoul is a major city, it has ten million people and it is absolutely huge. I can not describe how big it is. Transportation is dirt cheap in Korea. It cost 1700 won to take a bus into Seoul. A little less then$1.70) the subway is also very cheap. As we walked into the city of Seoul my friend Mark (from London) and I got stopped and was asked to do an interview for a television station. They were asking us about our hometown and every question you could think of about Asia and our feelings on it. It was quite entertaining. The whole day was spent walking through Seoul, (which seems you could do for days) we went to about four districts of Seoul. Had lunch in Itaewon, which is where the USA military base is located and has a lot of influence on the area. We met up with a lot of US soldiers and played pool and hung out with them for a while. After spending time there, there was more walking around Seoul. Around 8:00 Pm, we walked into a bar called rainbow; which is straight from the 60’s. It is a big reggae bar, and is very very different. There were no tables, as you sat on the floor, which was located in the basement and there was a jazz band playing. I felt like I went back 4 decades. They did however play a bunch of live Christmas music which was pretty cool. After spending two hours there, we walked around and enjoyed the bustling nightlife just by walking on the streets. Seoul is a very busy place. It is amazing how close the buildings are to each other and how high they go. We made it back to Suwon around midnight.

Sunday Dec 20.
On Sunday we went to visit the Korean War Museum, which is a very special place. The memorial is amazing in sight, and all the planes, tanks and guns that are around the facilities are absolutely amazing. We got there late so we only spent a few hours there, but I will definitely head back there. They had a major section obviously devoted to the Korean War, but they also had every Korean War in history in the museum. It was a moving memorial, with the huge statues of soldiers fighting and the peace memorial in between the soldiers. Because of this war the economy in South Korea was crippled, which only gained its independence from Japan after World War Two. After the cease of fighting (the war officially still goes on today, no peace treaty was ever signed) South Korea’s economy all but died, and the North’s economy was flourishing. That did not last long, the south turned their economy around which is growing at an amazing pace now (one of the Asian Tigers) and the North has spiraled out of control, with basically no infrastructure in the North. The North is really in a bad place right now. South Korea currently is between the old traditional values and current modern day values of a global economy and it is very interesting to see the growth before your eyes. There are literally small family restaurants everywhere. There might be 50 on my street. They are priced very low and in high volume. They are starting to make the turn to the western philosophy, with fewer, higher prices restaurants but it is more of a vision then a reality right now. There is also an outdoor fruit/vegetable/live fish market within a five minute walking distance from here. I buy fruit from there and it is absolutely amazing. The bananas, (which I never ate at home) strawberries, and oranges are awesome. They have so much flavor in them. “Domchim” is the name of the game the kids play on the teachers, I wrote about it earlier, I am not sure if I spelt it right earlier. The kids get a kick out of the game and the teacher gets really embarrassed. Another funny thing is no dryers. Apartments in South Korea for the most part do no have dryers. Yet we have awesome radiant heated floors which dry the cloths very well. So one day a week I crank the heat up on the floor and dry my clothes. It is not the ideal situation, but it is about adjusting to life in a developing country.
Christmas time is coming, and we have a party dinner tomorrow night, and then everyone is going somewhere on Christmas Eve or Christmas. I will probably head into Seoul on Christmas. Next week is school vacation week, I am most likely heading to Japan, to see a few things I did not see when I was there a few years ago Also a trip to the DMZ could be organized, I will definitely go back to the Korea War memorial again soon, if not on this break .Basically the weekends entail going to bed early Friday, waking up early Saturday, traveling, and try to go to bed early Saturday and wake up Sunday and travel again. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a great Holiday! I will write soon and I will have better pictures posted. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!


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