The clothes in Korea are a little different to back home. Sometimes the English on the t-shirts makes no sense and when you find a pretty dress you go to look at the back and just see random frills on it. The clothes are normally unfitted and unflattering to westerners. The Korean’s can pull off anything. No matter what, they always look good! I had a t-shirt tailored to make it more fitted, which cost me ₩8,000. Paul had two shirts tailored which cost ₩50,000, which was a bit much, but the tailor done a very good job.
Why did they have to ruin this green top with the frills?
I have been to Gangnam station market for some clothes, accessories and to look for some shoes. There are accessory shops everywhere, which sell jewellery, hair accessories, tights and even socks. They are cheap and not bad quality either. The only downside about some clothing is that it is one size fits all, or small, medium or large. However sometimes the clothes are elasticated, which is mainly the skirts and shorts.
The shoes are measured in mm and it is apparently hard, however to find shoes that are above a Uk size 7 in stores. You can get shoes made for you in Itaewon, however this will probably cost quite a bit. I also got told that the Korean shoes are not great quality and to not buy them if they are over ₩10,000 as they break within a matter of months. On the plus side, Converse are cheap out here (it’s even better when they are on sale £11.00).
Recently, all it has done is rain. Rain that will get you soaked even if you are using an umbrella. It seems to fall as heavy droplets just aiming for you wherever you are standing. The humidity also doesn’t help. Sometimes it feels like you are being starved of oxygen as the moisture in the air makes your lungs feel tight when you breathe in. However when the sun does come out it is pleasant, and as it has been raining it at least feels fresher. You can never have too much of a good thing; the sun will pop out for a day and then it’s back to rain again. As I have never travelled to Asia before, I didn’t expect the rain to go on for over a week already... I just want the air to feel nice again!
It is a really good idea to invest in some dehumidifier boxes (which are very cheap from Daiso) which help take the moisture out of your room. However they do seem to turn to water very quickly.
A problem with it being humid and Korea itself, are the insects. They are massive and there seems to be lots of them. There are massive crickets, which sometimes have a parasite living inside them which eats the cricket’s brain and then controls them. These are known as zombie bugs. Just a few moments ago I could hear this buzzing sound and I filmed this bug outside on the mesh, which helps keeps bugs out when the windows are open. I have no idea what it was but it was making a lot of noise. Sometimes at night you can hear the frogs croaking, which after a couple of nights you learn to ignore them.
When sending mail, the post office in Korea has envelopes that you can buy (this includes bubble wrap envelopes, as I haven't been able to find them at any supermarket). If you require a box, then the post office has a packaging service, they pack your things for you (yes you will pay for this). Or, you can get a box and use their tape to seal it, maybe even get a little bit of bubble wrap from the packaging service. Once you are ready to send your mail, you must get a ticket from the machine (the one with EMS on) and wait for your number to be called. Just like back home, if you post a weird shaped object it will cost a lot more than sending an envelope.
The Korean post website: http://www.koreapost.go.kr/eng/main/index.jsp
Although, finding post cards is difficult in Korea; apparently there is no business in them, and so hardly anywhere sells them. Cards are easy to find, it's just finding the right one for the right occasion.
Since I have been in Korea for over a month now, and as I could not read any of the signs I decided it was about time to learn the Korean alphabet. I taught myself the consonants and the vowels so far. I still have the double consonants and the complex vowels to learn. However, it’s not as scary as it sounds. I have just been making sure I can write what I have learnt so far.
I have also been learning some useful vocabulary for when I’m out and about;
- Annyoungheegasaeyo – Goodbye (you leaving)
- Mianhapneedah – Sorry (formal)
- Jwehsonghapneedah – Sorry (formal towards elders)
(‘Jweh’ pronounced ‘Cweh’)
- Joosaeyou – Please
- Uhlmahyehyo – How much does it cost?
Most Korean words are spelt and said phonetically. Which, when I have learnt the rest of the alphabet I should hopefully be able to read signs. I can already spell some words, so just by learning a little I can still spell and read some simple words. Hopefully soon I will be able to read a Korean menu when out for dinner!
I have been learning from ‘youtube’ and as I’m not sure whether I want lessons yet, I am going to keep learning this way and then practice on either my students or even the Korean teachers that work alongside me.
However, knowing how to spell something and sound it phonetically doesn’t mean it is the same as in English. So you still have to use translate on your phone, but it’s a lot nicer being able to pronounce words properly and able to spot words you recognise on signs.
I always find dealing with doctors stressful. I feel like its a battle; the Orwellian medical institution on one side trying to deny treatment and get me to bugger off and me on the other trying to persuade them of what I actually need. I'm sure most people from the UK will have some simular experience. A friend of mine recently turned to the dark side of medicine and went private to get his knee fixed. This brings me nicely to why I had to go see the doctor; for some time I'd been in manly denial about my knee getting more and more painful. I finally took notice properly when I went for a walk on the beach and it hurt.
The Korean kids are obsessed with drawing on themselves, Kawi Bowi Bo (rock, scissors, paper) and the chicken game. It’s mainly the girls who draw on themselves, including their faces. A lot of the students are amazing artists.
Mo Chi Pa, is essentially rock, scissor, paper, and this is how the kids settle things, for example when playing a game whoever wins goes first. The Koreans play this game differently, if back home you played scissors and the other person played rock you would lose straight away. In mo chi pa the person who played rock has an advantage over the other player, and plays another hand. This means they change their hand first to rock, paper or scissors and the other person is delayed by a second. Therefore if the person with the advantage changes to scissors and the other person doesn’t change their hand, the person with the advantage wins. The winners are always those with the advantage and when they play the same hand as what the other person plays. The tactical part is guessing what the advantage person will play, as if they play rock and you play paper you’re now in the advantage.
The chicken game is mainly what the boys play, they stand on one leg and bend the other and bring the opposite foot up so it rests on the thigh of the balancing leg. They then hop about and try and knock others out by making the others lose their balance and place the other foot on the floor.
Itaewon is known for its western style of food and clothing and therefore is very popular with foreigners, known as Waygooks here in Korea. We decided to have a walk around and look for any food places that we fancied eating at. Paul had seen a sign for Mexican food, and we both were on the hunt to find some. We came across a little Mexican restaurant called ‘Los Amigos’. The food was freshly cooked by a mexican man (well spanish speaking at least) and it tasted fresh with a tasty, not too hot, spice. The frozen lime margaritas were zesty and refreshing; exactly what we needed after a hard day sightseeing.
On Saturday Paul and I decided, that as we had a non eventful day on Friday, that we should go do something. We went to Seoul on the subway, using our new bank cards to pay for everything. However, this was not the case for Paul as his card did not work on any transportation, which meant having to queue up only for the subway for a ticket. Which when you buy a ticket, it’s a card and you pay a 500 won (about 29p) deposit. After your journey, you put your travel card into a machine where you get your deposit back.
The subway is very well organised, and I wasn’t expecting it to be as clean as it was - probably because I only have the London underground to compare it to. However the subway stations have no characteristics like some of London’s stations, like Baker Street’s for example. The Subway map is also in English, which helps very much when trying to work out what station you need to get off at, there is also a handy app for the Korean subway’s called ‘Jihachul’.
We were heading towards Changdeokgung Palace, which was only a few minutes away from the subway station we got off at. We went for lunch in a small traditional Korean café, Paul had bibimbap (rice and vegetables with an egg) and I had stir-fried pork with rice which was succulent, warm and filling. Both of these meals together cost under £7.
It was Buddha’s birthday on the Friday (17th May 2013) and we got this as a holiday, which meant that the kids left early on the Thursday. The weather was sunny but had a nice breeze to it and so I spent my day reading on the balcony of the flat, as well as trying to sort out my blog. After a while I decided to take a little walk just to get out for a bit. I took my book with me and a bottle of water. I just went round the building of SNET and came across the gardens where a wedding was being held. I actually wanted to sit and read in this garden but as I was rather underdressed I would’ve stuck out. So I then took a little hike to see a good shaded place to sit in the woods.
Cooking the kids pancakes!
My first week consisted of me teaching broadcasting, in the morning, and cooking in the afternoon. In broadcasting the students learnt about the news, and conducted an interview in the ‘SNET studio’. Cooking was very straight forward; I made the students hoddeok (a Korean pancake), I was expecting it to taste better, however the students really enjoyed it. I made one group mix the pancake themselves- total disaster as they made the mixture runny and sticky...So I told them tough luck and cooked the disgusting looking pancake, which apparently tasted great. After Friday, I was glad the week was over, I was so tired and bored of the two lessons I had been teaching all week.
On Friday night, Paul and I got invited out by some colleagues to go for an Indian meal. There were about 11 of us, including David (who is Korean and works with us at SNET) and 3 university students. The university students needed to interview foreigners for a school project, which David helped set it up. As a thank you, the middle school students bought us some dunkin’ donuts which we had back at the flat. This was my first time trying dunkin’ donuts, and I wasn’t very impressed. Then I found out that Korea doesn’t make any sweet things well. The cakes look amazing, but taste of nothing.