Changing of the Guard
Only Starbucks in Korean, all others have to say "Starbucks"
It has been some time since the last post, but in all due respect, I have been traveling, and adjusting to a place 6000miles away from Atlanta. I now live in Korea, a place of great beauty, and the most welcoming culture. My city, Incheon, is located 30 minutes by train, from the center of Seoul. Coming here, I did not know what to expect, and decided to take it all as a day-by-day experience. At the Incheon International Airport, I was greeted by Adam, a Brit, who has been in Korea for 4 years, and Mr. Park, the director of the school, holding up a sign with my name. Walking out of the airport, I was caught by the most piercing chill. Since, the chill has all but disappeared, with snow blanketing the city only once, and melting within a few hours. I live in a small, but rather homely apartment, with a second floor, whose ceiling is 5cm too short of which I am tall. Because of this, I decided to move my bed downstairs. Hitting my head was annoying; but it serves as a great closet, and storage space.
The first night, Adam introduced me to the other foreign teachers, of which there is Jimmy, Brooke-Taylor, Ashley, Elease, who left for Australia not too long after I arrived, and Colin, another Brit who arrived 2 days after me. We all went drinking that night at the local bar, Tadori. The preference of drink is the local Soju, a comparable taste to Vodka, but milder in alcohol content, and relatively cheap, 3000won ($3) for a bottle, it is 1000won in stores. Also, Cass beer, the local brew again. We have since, drank every night almost. I tried to abstain, but Adam, has a great and persuasive ways, which are quite funny. Also, the proper way to drink Soju is to pour to your elders first, holding the bottle in one hand, while using the other hand as support underneath. (This is also the way to hand money when paying for your goods). The elder then pours, with one hand only, to the younger person. While this is the tradition, at times of meeting new people, the older person will pour with two hands as a sign of respect.
The end of the week, Friday, Mr. Park and his wife treated the whole school to a traditional Korean dinner, in a place where shoes are taken off, and sitting on the ground is proper. We were served Soju, and Cass. appetizers and many other native dishes, which are very tasty and some strange. Kimchi is served with every meal, and most of the time is spicy. In fact, most of the food in Korea is served with spicy ingredients. Be careful of cheese-dak-galbi which is extremely spicy, but so delicious, and once the dish is finished, rice is added to the sauce left over, and more cheese is melted, it is then called cheese-dak-paap.
Over the weekend, I traveled to Seoul to meet with Jen, whom I met on the plane from Chicago to Korea. She was my tour-guide, and showed me many parts of the city. But before I describe the city, I must say that the trains are the best I have ridden, clean, quiet, spacious and the seats are warming.
We started in Insan-dong, a traditional district busy with people and tourists, serving traditional food, and traditional tea-houses. Locals were selling the wares, showing of their art and on one occasion, promoting a new magazine issue with Beiber on the cover. Jen and I ate noodle soup and dumplings, and afterwards had tea and coffee. Then she took me to Myong-dong, a young district full of modern Korean culture and fashion. Afterwards, Gwanghamoon, a district with statues of the general Yu-Sun-Sin and the creator of the Korean alphabet, Sejong the Great. It is in Gwanghamoon also, where the president of Korea lives. After seeing Gwanghamoon, Jen took me to a newly built water stream area, where many locals and tourist walk, but being a mildly cold day, only a few people were out. In the summer, people gather here for a festival of fireworks, and laser-shows. 8 hours of walking, Jen and I separated and I was invited to come to Itaewon, a place full of tourists, and everything western, from Dunkin-Donuts, to Quiznos and Burger King. Also, a great many pubs and bars. We were here for a half hour before making our way to Hyundai where our bar hoping really began....