Sunday, June 21, 2009

First Weekend

Pretty awesome weekend. I went to Insadong on Friday, Dongdaemoon on Saturday, and the COEX Mall today.

Insadong is the traditional shopping district (ie: tourist trap). It was pretty fun, mainly because Zach and I went with two classmates. We had some traditional food (I think I have a picture of some of it, it was pretty good), walked around a lot, they bought us some honey-candy (I intend to get some more to bring home), and we went out to tea (Amazing. There was a 5 fruit-tea, a citron-tea, a sweet fermented-rice tea, and a Chinese Quince tea. All sweet and delicious, as well as unique). The girls were a lot of fun and very sweet (Leibe and Hrul Hang, both names are likely misspelled). Hrul Hang took my camera and took pictures pretty much all day, so they're...interesting to say the least.

Dongdaemoon was interesting, but I liked the first market (Nongdaemoon or w/e) better. It was raining all day, so we didn't go to the palaces like we had originally hoped...and I really just spent most of the day holding onto some heavy Dolsuts (Traditional stone bowls, you heat them up and they cook food while you eat it. It's great.), but I still enjoyed myself. Also, an older Korean woman hand fed me when I ate her food poorly (certainly a highlight of my trip.) Later that night a few of us (Stephanie, Tanesha, Deahna) went to Green Pasta (Italian, recomended by my buddy, Sue) and stuffed waffles/kipingsu (shaved ice topped in syrup/fruit topped with vanilla ice cream), all of which was extremely delicious (and fairly inexpensive).

COEX mall was a blast. There was a big group of us (Zach, Sue, Namin, Jang Mien, Randall, Jinsook, and eventually Sue's boyfriend, whose name escapes me right now). We went to Uno's (expensive!...but not bad), an aquarium (loads of pictures, and I learned various animal names), a coffee shop, and just generally hung-out and had a great time. I got some gifts and wished father/Steve happy father's days. I think I know what I am bringing home for everyone now, so I just need to pick things up. The day, of course, ended at a waffle house withfruit-shaved ice drink (basically a one-fruit smoothy), and some weird bun with melted butter in the middle. Also hot dogs. All pretty tasty and inexpensive (pretty standard for food in korea).

So far so good, though class tomorrow. I sort of just want to hang out around Seoul and have fun, as there's a lot to do and so little time to do it. The law students went to Jeju Island, home of Jeju Land the adult amusement park. They had lots of fun, so I really want to go now. I should also be meeting up with Prof. Jin Park sometime before I leave, she's going to show me around Korea Uniersity (Kodai) where she will be teaching. Final news, my Korean is finally improving. I am very happy about this, as it has taken a while. It's thanks to a mix of renewed effort/language tapes Zach gave me.

Anyway, more to come soon. Also, if you know a good image site for mass uploads please tell me. I don't want to just do facebook or image shack if I can help it, but I'm not sure of the alternatives.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tea Ceremony

I didn't mean to go so long without posting, the internet is pretty bad in my room.

Anyway, yesterday I went to a traditional Tea Ceremony. It was pretty interesting, we learned how to bow, and serve tea properly, and we got to wear the traditional clothing (Hanbak). Although there are a lot of pictures, I have none. I forgot to put the battery in the camera. Though, some friends said they'd share their pictures with me, so I should get some soon.

Today a few of us are going to Insadon (a traditional shopping market), which should be really cool. Tomorrow we're trying to get to the DMZ, and Sunday we want to go to the COEX Mall. It should be a fun weekend!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Electronic Market

The Electronics market was alright. Everything was about standard price, though, apparently because we didn't have a korean with us to haggle. It was like a giant mall of laptops, mp3 players, gps's, etc. I'm not certain if it was the right place, though, because there were street signs that listed the station we got off and the Electronics market separately.

While we were in the area we went to Hooters Seoul. It was expensive and quiet, not very good, and funny in a depressing way. It is as funny as it is depressing to see a Korean girl dressed in the Hooters clothing, with like, no customers. It's sort of awkward and embarassing.

Conversely, classes today were good. My cooking class seems like it will be a lot of fun, and we got to eat some traditional food towards the end of it. Citron Tea, Da (Rice balls, like Mochi), Sangpyan(I may have butchered this, they are delicious though), and Pumpkin Da (Harab Da? I forget how to say Pumpkin). The professor also told us to ask if there was anything we want to try, and we will make it, which should be awesome (there are various kimchis and such that I want to eat that I likely won't get to eat).

My other class, a History one, seems like it will be pretty good. The teacher's very laid back, and the girls (all Sookmyung students) are very nice. We got candy (maple-sugar candy, as the prof is Canadian) so I can't complain.

I need to open a Korean bank account to get my scholarship, and take out money tomorrow to pay off the rest of my fees. I tried to today, but I couldn't take out more than 500,000W (about $400). I'm a tad worried, as my balance showed up wrong on the receipt, but correct when I checked online. Hopefully it'll be alright.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Folk Village, Itaewon, and Night Life

Yesterday was an extremely intense day. I woke up around 6:30am, and we were all on busses by about 8. We went to a traditional Folk Village -- of which I have over a hundred photos. In it, buildings were set up to be like a traditional peasant's house and a traditional rich man's house, as well as various shrines, mills, performance arenas, and a Buddhist Temple. There was even an amusement park with a Viking Section (didn't go), and a Haunted House (did go, it was...alright. Really long.) Early into the trip I met my buddy(Sue) through SISS and some of her friends(Jin Tsu and Chon Ye, maybe. I probably butchered both of those), I pretty much stuck with them for the entirity of the Village.

While here we got to see a traditional music/dance performance, which was amazing -- I have a few videos of it, but they don't do it justice. The traditional outfits are all colorful, and they have various hats on their heads -- one with a few colored pompoms, like a clown, one with a giant flower, and one with large streamers. It was like something out of Dr. Seuss.

Afterwards we got to see a traditional tight-rope walker guy. Apparently what he said between crossings was hilarious, and the show was a mix of comedy/suspense. Sue translated some of it, so I can vouch it sounded pretty funny, but it's really not the same as knowing the meaning as he speaks. Oh well.

We went to a Traditional Wedding Ceremony, which was sort of interesting. The man and woman didn't really touch or get very close at all during the procession, and the whole thing was fairly short. Not my favorite part, but it was alright.

It was pretty cool hanging with Sue and her friends (and some of my friends), they were very helpful and sweet. Also, two of them speak Japanese (Better than me, Sue's major is Japanese), so I can get even more practice.

When we had some free time, we checked out the haunted house -- already noted somewhat of a dissappointment, and the Buddhist Temple. The Temple was amazing -- even the path to get there was great. We had to cross a river, and it was surrounded by woods, and the gates and buildings were all magnificent. I can't do it justice through describing it, nor do my pictures do it any justice. It was amazing.

Afterwards we went back to campus, and a fee hours later I went out with a group (Rommy, Ara, Juin, Steph) to Itaewon. Itaewon is the foreigner's district. It has pretty much everything not Korean. A lot of things were American, but the mix of countries was still rather wild. For example, there was a Turkish ice-cream vendor working the street. We ended up going to an Arabian restaurant, as it's Rommy's favorite (Rommy, Ara, and Juin led us around since they have lived here a while. Rommy and Juin for some numbere of months, Ara wasborn and raised here.) It was really good, and pretty cool. It was something of an authentic restaurant, the staff all spoke arabic and such, which was rather surprising considering the lack of foreigners I've seen before this.

Later in the night (we stopped at the dorms than left) we went out to this Night-club district near Sinchon. I really wish I knew what it was called, but I don't. I'll try to find out. It was crammed with restuarants, bars, and clubs. Extremely bright and vibrant, it was amazing. We ended up going to a bar for a few hours, and then a nightclub.

The bar was not especially interesting, but the nightclub was really cool. Thumping beat, strobe lights, a laser light show, blacklights, and fog machines were on the dance floor (and pretty much everywhere), and the bar was littered with clear monitors with LED's in them with a menu(They changed color too!) the whole thing was an awesome first clubbing experience.

A lot of interesting stuff happened in the night club, as I'm sure is standard, so I'll try to avoid getting into too much detail. However, it is of note that there were craploads of foreigners, and gay Korean guys. The first because we met a few (we ended up dining with one and her Korean friend after the club), and Steph was nearly picked up by an American In-Fighter (and some of his friends, though they also tried to pick up Ara for a while, and Juin before Rommy stepped up). The latter because I was hit on by a plethora of gay Koreans. One even danced with me for a while, and then tried to buy me a beer (There was some misunderstandings going on. At some point in the night I think he sent a friend to ask if I was gay, though I couldn't hear the guy so well and didn't know they were affilliated, so I didn't really answer. Later we found him at the bar, with the friend he sent nearby, and he sorta punched his hand in the air like we did when we were dancing. I did too, he punched a beer into the air, Rommy did too, as we thought he was just sorta doing a cheers to us for dancing with him. Then the guy ordered a beer and tried to call me over. It was all rather awkward). For the record, just about every Korean there was at least as awkward a dancer as me, if not more so. Which, to anyone who has seen me dance, certainly must be hilarious.

All-in-all, it was a pretty cool night, though I was exhausted from it. Today I should be going to the Electric Market, finally, with Steph and Zach. Tomorrow classes start, so I'll probably go out a bit less often/subsequently have less to say.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Orientation Day

Today was orientation, which was pretty cool. I met a lot more people, we had an awesome (free) lunch, toured campus (it is huge -- I had no idea how big it was -- it has multiple museums in it), and went to a showing of Nanta. For the record, Nanta is a musical show borrowing from stuff like the Blue Man Group. It has a premise of chefs working with a deadline with the manager's nephew added last minute as a chef, though the story is somewhat unimportant.I met some AU students, too, and have had various chances to practice Japanese. (At the market yesterday, with some students today). I've exchanged numbers with one of the AU students (Jim) and we all intend to go out, sometime. Should be cool. After the show, a few of us went to dinner, which was great like all the other food here. We ordered one and a half chickens, which was cut up and cooked in a fairly spicy black sauce with various vegetables and clear noodles. Out of the 4 of us eating it, I don't think we managed to eat half of it. Afterwards I picked up a "T-Card," essentially a SmartTrip card that works in subway, bus, taxis, and some stores. I don't have many pictures from today as I was mainly on campus. I will, however, take pictures of the campus at some point later on when I explore it again on my own.

Tomorrow we go to a Folk Village out some ways from Seoul, and on Sunday we are going to try to find the Electric Shopping District. I have been told both that I have to go there, and that it has everything/anything I would be looking for. Monday classes start, and I will probably start posting less frequently.

As for my impressions on the country so far, it is pretty impressive. I'm rather comfortable being here, as things feel rather familiar. I think it's because of the time I've spent travelling alone in NYC/DC, and my trips to Tokyo and Italy. Cities are cities, and language barriers arepretty simple to deal with (when you speak English, might be harder if my only language was Swahili). Also, although I am loving the food, I fear i might hurt my stomach if I eat like this the full month. Everything is spicy, lots of things are sour and/or salty. We'll see what happens.


P.S./Edit It may also be worth mentioning that almost everyone here is aware I missed my plane, somehow. It was mentioned by a Korean girl during orientation, without name mentions (I had not met her), and was brought up a few times by concerned faculty that wanted to make sure everything was alright (I did arrive yesterday).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

1st Day Continued

My roommate and I did some exploring and ended up in Namdaemun Market. It was HUGE and AWESOME. If (when) I go back I will come back home with a gaudy fur vest. End of story. Also we got Bimbimbop, which was pretty tasty. Vending machine drinks are mad cheap (as is everything). I am enjoying this all so far, though I think I will rest tonight. Orientation tomorrow, which includes Nanta singing.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Flights and Early Impressions

Hey everyone, I’ m here!

Those of you especially astute will know I should have been here for about 17 hours, whereas it has been less than six. Clearly there were some issues with my flights. In Albany, we got delayed about an hour - boarded a bit later, and were forced to wait another 40 minutes. I ended up arriving in JFK with 15 minutes before departure, mixed with some misleading directions (I asked when I got out of the plane, I am directed to a terminal, the woman there is on the phone and then runs away, security guy tells me to go a different rout that takes me out of the security zone. Apparently I was supposed to take a shuttle to the terminal, who knew?) and my lack of experience in JFK, made it an impossible feat. I got a good chance to run around JFK trying to arrange my flight though -- they tried to scare me with “The next flight to S. Korea is at midnight,” and “Korean Airlines employees don’t work from 2pm until 11pm (2pm being when my flight departed. Apparently I had been pushed into a flight to LAX with a connecting flight to Icheon, just no one told me/told me the right person to ask. In any case, it ended up alright. I just lost 11 hours due to the delay (5 additional hours in air, 6 additional hours in stations).
Moving on, the flight to LA was alright -- I was next to a woman with loud toddlers, but they slept most of the flight (including the woman, who sat protected them like a bear or lioness, and thus slightly on my leg). This big, dark-skinned, male flight attendant was pretty helpful/sweet to the little girl, which worked out nicely for me. I watched both “Taken” and “Milk” on the flight, the latter being a tad more enjoyable than the former.

Flight to Korea was extremely long. Thankfully, I met a nice woman on my rush to catch the flight (would have been interesting if I missed that one, too), and sat next to some nice people as well. I traded e-mail with the woman who sat next to me. All good.

In Incheon, normal stuff. Got my bag (which got there before me), exchanged money, got my phone to work, got hassled by a taxi driver. Took a bus to near the school, took an hour, then spent about an hour trying to find my dorm. I learned in this full process that Sookmyung can be pronounced many, many different ways.

Finally, got to the room where I am now. It is pretty amazing, way better than my dorms at AU (perhaps even better than Federal 301 - though that’s pushing it). Came with sheets, towels (which my roomie has apparently used), bunch of shelving, a TV, A/C, a bathroom, slippers, a refrigerator…it’s just awesome. Only two real issues, and one sort of fake issue. I don’t have adaptors yet, the wireless internet is more-or-less a lie (I didn’t bring a cable because I was informed it would be awesome), and I have a roommate (I was told I would be in a single/double room with no roommate). Except the internet, these aren’t really big concerns as they gave us much more than I expected. There is even a common room filled with frigs, a stove/oven (I believe I was told we wouldn’t have that) and rice cookers. Hell, there is even a floor heater! Also, my netbook makes scarce internet hardly a problem. I should have some pics up over the next few days -- just need to figure out how I want to upload them.

Also, beginning to think I should have brought my full keyboard. Totally not used to this guy yet.
Further plans for today: Maybe go for a walk around the area, meet some of the others in the dorm, eat something, go to this electronics shopping district with my roommate (his name is Zach, for the record), upload this.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Last night in the USA

Well, today is(was) my last day in the states before I leave for S. Korea. I'm mostly packed, the left will be for the morning. I'm pretty excited, not too nervous. Feeling pretty good (I normally feel rather ill before traveling, for whatever reason. Just always had a week stomach). My father gave me two cameras to bring with me, so I will have pictures (and possibly video), I made my bank aware of my trip, so I should have money, my cellphone is capable of super roaming and I have skype (as well as a headset as of tonight), so I'll have phone access (Please please please do not call my cell phone while I am gone unless it's desperately important. I will not be happy to hear from you. However, do add my to skype so I can try it out. daniel.ryan.shor), I'll have my netbook so I should have internet right away (and in the airports). I just need to check-in, throw some stuff in my bags, and I'm good.

Most likely my next post will be in S. Korea, but if I get bored and something interesting/relevant happens in the airport/something goes wrong, it might not be the case. I'll try to take some pictures so I can put them in the post, as well.


P.S. If anyone reads this, please comment so I know! I'll give you a shout-out or something.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

South Korean Visa Mission

Was successful! I went down to NYC yesterday and just got back about an hour or so ago. I would have tried posting on the go, but Megabus as shoddy wi-fi. At least they are trying though, right?

NYC itself was nice. Walked around a lot. Met up with some of my brother's friends, saw his place of work, met up with Seta (no one else, though...). Won't be going to RIT this weekend, plans got screwed. That's all, just wanted a quick update on the state of things.