So yesterday was the 2 month mark of me being in Korea, not that I'm counting or anything, so I figured it's time that I do a blog about my thoughts on Korea. I was originally thinking of doing a "what I like/what I don't like" but I have a feeling that could be another novel like last week's post, so I will focus on the positive and hopefully that will keep the post shorter.
#1. Being able to walk everywhere/having readily available public transportation. Ok, so the first part of that has to do with my location in Ulsan, but it is great to be able to do all of my shopping, eating out, drinking/socializing within a 15 minute walk. It's also amazing being able to go to other parts of the city by bus or taxi and have it be under 6 dollars (generally speaking).
#2. Soccer, or as the locals call it, chuk-gu. It's amazing to live in a place that actually cares about soccer. I swear at any given moment there will be something soccer related, whether it be highlights, actual games, repeats of actual games, bloopers, or whatever. I swear of I've seen highlights of the 2002 world cup 20 times by now, and I continue to watch it even though I already know what happens. Fear not you non soccer loving people, they do show lots of golf, billiards, korean basketball league games (mens and womens), and volleyball.... Ok, maybe it is better to be a soccer fan. One more thing on this subject, it's great not having American ESPN, we have MBC ESPN, whatever that means. Just picture waking up and turning on sports and seeeing highlights instead of seeing T.O. breakdown in a press conference, 30 days of Brett Favre footage or baseball players "testify" in front of congress. Awesome!
#3. Gogi-Jip, or B.B.Q restaurants. By far my favorite Korean food and the whole experience is so enjoyable as well. You get a grill in front of you, grill your meat and then wrap it up with some chili sauce, small chunks of garlic, green onion, all in a mint leave. I will now move on or I will end up drooling on the keyboard.
#4 Ondol heating. Most places in Korea have what's called ondol heating which is heating that comes through the laminate floor. At first I was a little reluctant but it's perfect for someone like me that always has cold feet. Plus, you throw your blankets on the floor before you go to bed and they get all toasty. I even know some people use it to dry their clothes.
#5. K-Pop, also known as Korean Pop. This is a guilty pleasure but K-pop is so cheesy but it's so damn catchy and sugary. It's impossible to walk down the streets, especially the cell phone shops that generally play the music, and not hum the music for the rest of the day. I don't even know the lyrics for most of them but that doesn't prevent me from humming them all day.
#6. Korean Baked goods. Who would've thought, right? I've already written about papa roti, which i haven't had in a while but it is delicious none-the-less. I also put in a picture of the delicious fried pancakes on the blog, which are possibly the tastiest things on earth. Hoo-ray street food! Another big thing with my co-teachers are roll cakes, and mocha roll cakes are the best. Lastly, a new favorite are these little croqutte rolls which have savory foods inside. Some of them include spicy chicken, curry chicken, and vegetable. I know it sounds weird and I was reluctant to try but they are tasty. Think of them as the Korean meat pie/empanada.
#7. The English Translations. At my English School, there is a sign that says "Don't open the windows or you will hurt". An English School! Most recently I saw a sign in a restaurant that is on the second floor of a building, that said "When descending, take care the foot". These are the ones that stick out but some people wear stuff on their t-shirts where I'm sure they have no clue what's being said.
#8. The people. I know this is cliché but the people are really friendly and welcoming. According to Lonely Planet, Korean people are innately xenophobic or suspicious of foreigners but most people have been super nice to us. The first instance that suck out was when I was having dinner with some waeguks and a korean guy and the owner brought a bunch of cokes to our dinner table, which is a bigger deal than it would be in the states because fountain drinks don't exist outside MacDonalds or other fast food joints. There's also the owner of the Thai restaurant across the street who will offer me a coke or coffee free of charge and since I'm usually there once a week, he'll give me a small discount as well. Also, my first soccer game with the wonshot wonderers, some team brought us a plate of b.b.q meat, which was a nice gesture if nothing else because I was not going to eat some meat before our game.
Apart from the discounts, most people are excited to see foreigners and love to try and talk to you. If you even try and speak Korean, they love you even more. In some ways it's kind of like being celebrity to a lesser extent. I usually don't mind it but sometimes when I'm eating I feel like people are watching me. It probably doesn't help that I suck with chopsticks so that probably brings some more attention to myself.
Outside of the Koreans, I obviously spend a lot of time with waeguks, and I have met a lot of cool people. I've also met some obnoxious, token Americans, but I've met some cool ones too. I find myself hanging out with mostly British people, it may be from playing soccer, but that's usually how it goes. I've probably spent more time with Alick, a bloke from London, who you all met in my most recent posting if not before, which I attribute to him and I arriving at the same time and kind of being in a similar position. I've also befriended this couple from outside Kent, England, named Mal(colm) and Lu (Louise), and they're a blast to hang out with as well. They actually have been traveling all around Asia, been to China and Russia recently, so they're always good for an entertaining story. And then there is Craig, my co-teacher and fellow country-man who has been like a godsent, as he knows where to go to eat, which buses to take, etc. I'm pretty sure I'd be in a ditch right now if it weren't for Craig.
I'm sure there are some other little things out there that slipped through the cracks of this post, but I think I hit on some key points here. I'm sure I'll post some more little things as they come about. Hope you're all well.
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