Wednesday, 31 March 2010

So now we never promised blogs in any sort of chronological in the spirit of higgeldy-piggeldy blog posts: this is a photo from our first ever night in South Korea. We are at Jeonju University, 15 floors up, looking at the snow.
We were lucky to experience snow on our first night ever and thus like mature, newly recruited to the working world adults we went outside and ran around in the snow. Attempted to throw snowballs at each other, froze our hands off and got a wee bit wet. Oh and Huke slipped in the snow too.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Kim Chi - Really?

On numerous occasions, when playing games or asking questions in the classroom, I have heard students say, “my favorite food is Kim chi”. No it’s not, please let’s be totally honest with each other. I’m not going to lie to you so please don’t lie to me. I completely admire the patriotism, but a country can only expect you to stretch yourself so far. It’s fermented cabbage. ‘Mmm, I could really go for some fermented cabbage’ – I think not.

I am the foreigner here so I am to a degree, expected not to like it. I am still granted forgiveness when the principle very inquisitorially asks me, ‘you no like Kim Chi?’, and with a winning smile and an apologetic nod of the head I reply with comments of ‘too spicy, too spicy’. The Korean students however have clearly been forcefully dragged through the ‘you will grow to like it/the more you eat it the better it gets speech’ one to many times. Yet I watch them as they eat. Silently they suffer, with the sole consolation that everyone is suffering around them, all in the name of maintaining an idea: We are Koreans, we like Kim Chi. Really…

Sunday, 28 March 2010

While we were in Seoul we visited an area called Insadong which is the area that is clearly aimed at tourists. Everywhere you look there are 'tradtional' tea houses, shops selling Korean souvenirs and stalls selling Korean snacks. But just down the alley, housed behind the quaint tea house, Huke and I booked into our, um, luxurious love motel.
Now don't get me wrong i was grateful for a bed, and one with a lovely warm electric blanket at that. But the half-used lotion and body oil were worrying. Worst of all was the red light bulb emitting it's dim, seedy glow that seemed to say "yes, you will perform all sorts of depraved sexual acts...just as the many others before you have done". But seeing as how i have yet to come up with any odd rashes or an intense need to scratch, i feel like a came through a stronger person.
One highlight of our stay in Insadong, apart from the 7000 won cup of tea, was coming across a band busking to a fair sized crowd. Now we are unsure if they're called Four Brothers or Poor Brothers, but we enjoyed them thoroughly. There was a damn good rendition of Jason Mraz - I'm yours and then some Korean pop covers (i think). But the highlight was the bands own song...the only words of which we could make out were What Whaaat Whaaaaattttt! sung by the vocalist and then screamed in a variety of imaginative ways by the bassist. I must say it was a very memorable song. From now on 'what' may never be a dull-sounding word...thanks Four/Poor Brothers.

Pizza Anyone?

Well the weekened is over, and I am attempting to come to terms with the fact that half my pay cheque is Holly said, orgies and such cost money, and I have yet to remove the taste of weed and hooker spit from my mouth. Thanks Peter, I owe you one.

While goals were achieved, and costco somewhat (but not at all) conquered (when you are paying them money you are always losing my dear), I cannot help but feel that there is something more to take away from our little sojourn. As foreigners I think we all, to some degree at least, attempt to fit in with the culture...with the people, the places, the language, the ways of eating and drinking. We wish to be accepted and taken in with open arms, and to some extent we are. But as a result of our high noses, bright eyes and big heads, we will always be seen as somewhat different. I could have lived here for ten years, after having completely assimilated into the culture, and still be greeted on the streets with "wow, welcome to Korea". So why not embrace it, life is more fun that way.

When you realise that you are being stared at because you are sitting on the side of the street, next to a bicycle rack, eating a pizza which would feed a family of 4, but costs the normal price of 1 come to realise the beauty of the situation. We are now travellers. This revelation only to be reinforced when on public transport, we reach into the free plastic packet we have bummed from a Family Mart, and feed on the crusted remnants. People say day old pizza, some say cold pizza...I say pizza out of a cheap plastic packet: traveller/hobo, who can really make the distinction?I may have turned into those I so regularly berated. Although I cannot help but feel that there is something slightly more dignified about eating pizza as opposed to the incessant knawing and sucking on chicken bones...but that's just me.

Triumph in Costco

So this weekend we decided to head off to Seoul, just having received our first real world pay cheque and all. Now i'm not sure how common it is to make a 4 1/2 hour bus ride each way for a day...but that is indeed what we did. So in total (including the time spent in the subway), according to my astute calculations, we spent 12 of our 36 hours in public transport. Was it worth it? Depends what knocks your socks off...

Considering that after such a short, brief, miniscule time in the city...and half our pay cheque later, perhaps not. However, a day of ecstasy, orgies and multiple shots of tequila and bungee jumping for just under a million won each isn't too bad by my standards. Ok, maybe that was an exaggeration of our day. But i must say that we achieved all we set out to how many of you can say that about your days???

Ok, so we each set off with a particular goal in mind. Huke's aim was to acquire a brand spanking new acoustic guitar, naturally with the aim to win the hearts of the koreans with his serenading. I, however, took a far more devious route. My aim was to buy a laptop and with this new, shiny (yes it is shiny) computer I plan to win the hearts of Koreans mastering Starcraft and WoW.Yup, the computer comes with geek speak included. lol.

The only thing that may have slightly dampened the beauty of our trip was our Costco experience...our first ever. So we hear that there is this wonderous place called Costco where you can purchase such things as oatmeal, almonds and giant jars of peanut butter for wholesale prices. With gleaming eyes we venture through Seoul to find this shining gem and it is everything we dreamed, with tasters. Eagerly our eyes peruse the shelves and shelves of western delicacies, we push through the masses of korean families to get our paws on whichever taster is nearest, all the while planning our shopping list. Only then do we find out that it costs 35000 won per year for membership, and seeing as how we live in Gwangju which has not been graced with the presence of the bountiful Costco, we figure its not worth it. Tired, harassed and dejected we wade to the exit...but before we reach it our eyes alight on a giant pizza box. The biggest we've ever seen, and the bonus is it's only 12 500 won. So take that Costco, you giant conglomerate, we may not be able to shop in the hallowed aisles of your stores, but at least we can eat your giant, greasy, cheap pizza. So there.