Monday, October 4, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things....

Okay, so..... I thought I would write some random wonderful things about Korea. As most people know, I have decided to sign another year contract with MoonKkang and I will be moving to Daegu at the beginning of December. So I thought I’d share what’s so great (and unique) about Korea. Aaaaaannnnd why certain people living at home should come to visit and check out a new view:

First, for those of you who may find yourselves wasting time on the computer, Korea is a great place to surf the web and update your blog with high speed internet in most cafes and restaurants you go to... sometimes even local parks have a wifi zone that my ipod picks up. Fast internet is always awesome when you’re far away from family and friends.

Next, public transportation is easy to come by, and it’s quite affordable. A bus will cost you roughly a dollar to get you from one side of the city to the other, as well as the subway. Also, taxis start at about two dollars and climb up ten cents every so many seconds or meters. Bicycles and mopeds are quite common modes of transportation as well, however, due to the way Korean drivers drive... you’d never catch me on either.

Also, Korean is the easiest Asian language to read. I didn’t say understand... I said read. You can learn the symbols and sounds of the Korean alphabet in roughly two hours and have it down. Once you can sound out each syllable, sometimes you even get lucky with a Konglish spelling like so: KO-KAH-KOL-LAH :-) 코카콜라

In addition, English t-shirts with random prints are quite popular here. You just never know what you’re going to find on a t-shirt, and most likely 90% of these t-shirt wearers don’t realize what is exactly on their t-shirts.
Food. The food here in general is so different from most things I ate at home. If you knew me at home, I was one of those “play it safe people” who ate toast or cereal for most meals and grew up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, however, I have tried so many wild meat soups, spicy kimchis, and fried street foods... those of you at home would never recognize me by what’s been on my plate.

People you meet in Korea are kind, helpful, and always more than happy to help out a confused looking face. As in any country, be weary of sketchy dudes chasing you down a dark alley... (but do yourself a favor and avoid dark alleys...) I’ve gotta say that I feel just as safe as I ever did in Farmington, Maine... if not, safer. Everyone here just wants to know where you’re from and if you’re enjoying Korea.

There are certain things here that are just different from anything you’d see back home in the states... for instance: DVD 방 this is a room you can watch a movie in. It’s like a movie rental place, except you stay there. After you choose you’re movie, you’re led to a room where you’ve got your own personal movie showing. They always have some older movies hangin’ around... but they also always seem to carry those movies that are fresh out of theaters and not yet out on DVD ;-)
"we love DVD bangs!"

Do you like Karaoke? Well you can also rent a singing room too! These nifty rooms are called 노레방= no lai bahng (but they spell it like so: nori bang) It’s karaoke in a room with you and your friends only. Drinks, snacks, and sometimes a dinner menu is offered... and then of course there's lots and lots of singing.

Another unique thing about Korea are the street vendors and markets. Like you saw before, during my mention of food... a lot of street vendors sell different kinds of fried foods which are always fun to try. I prefer 튀김 (pronounced twee-gim) which is deep fried veggies. In relation to these street vendors there are also many market places where you can get better deals on fish, produce, and even meat (which I prefer to buy in the supermarket) In many markets you’ll see many little 아주마 (ah-ju-mah... or old women) sitting on short stools or just crouching near the ground with their sell of the day spread out in front of them. It’s always a cool place to visit, especially when a new fruit is in season so you can save some money (once you’ve learned money talk!)

찜질방 said: jim jeel bahng is a new thing I’ve come to love. It’s not necessarily a new discovery... but more like I became brave enough to dive in. A jimjeelbahng is kind of like a spa that you sleep at. First, you put your shoes in a locker, then you have the option to change into the stylish (usually creamy-orange) t-shirt and shorts they provide for you and go straight into the sleeping room OOOORRR you can put on your birthday suit, purchase some shampoo, soap, body wash etc. and find your way to the shower room where you’ll find showers, a hot tub, a warm tub, a cold tub and a sauna... and you can spend as much time as you please soaking or scrubba dub dubbin’! I went to a jimjeelbang and a spa in one week. The difference with a spa is you pay a bit more sometimes and they also offer massages or other special treatments like foot scrubs or exfoliating back scrubs. Oooooo! Ahhhhh! Anyways.... I’m a fan.

Next up: Temples. The wood carvings and hand-paintings in Korean-Buddhist temples never cease to amaze me. This past weekend I got to visit 해인사 (Hay in sah) temple which is located outside of Daegu. The road on the way there goes over a mountain or two with twisty turvy curvy swirly roads and it was well worth the drive. Every temple is. There is something wonderfully peaceful about the sound of a monk chanting and playing the moktak (see below) It has this lovely wooden hollow sound that could just lull me to sleep or put me in a trance.
I’ve never felt any kind of spiritual connection in any church I’ve visited... but there’s definitely something special about the temples. It’s just something you’ve got to experience to know.
It also must be said that the night life is quite exciting here considering places don’t close at 2am like they do at home. A normal night with your friends usually starts to fade out around 6am or later/earlier... however you want to look at it.
There are so many places to choose from due to the fact that businesses seem to open up overnight here in Korea. They start building a place on a Monday and by the time you walk by it on Friday they have welcome signs in front with hired Korean dancing girls to lure you in to try a new noodle shop or have your prescriptions filled at a new pharmacy. no joke.

Finally, at the end of the day in Korea, you can always visit the comfort of the 24/7 EMART and kick back in the comfy chair section (there are also massage chairs that are quite powerful on the achin’ back.)
So, for those of you who have been debating whether or not to visit me, I hope I’ve convinced you to come :-) I know I will always miss my lovely family and friends at home, but for now, Korea just seems like a fit. Sending my love (and invitations to visit anytime!!!)
-Angie... and Ben xoxo