September 20th, 2007 – by: szeged6
traditional Korean restuarant
From the 24th floor of an apartment somewhere in Seoul...
I wouldnāt say that the novelty of living in Korea has faded away, but I think Iāve a point where I realized that I am, in fact, living in Korea. I own a Resident Alien Card and I pay my own bills. I signed up for a binding phone contract that comes out of my Korean bank account every month. Iām starting to ride the subway home from work wondering what Iāll cook for dinner (the answer is NOTHING, because I donāt really know how to so I order out). I just got a cell phone yesterday and feel as if I turned a new leaf over here. Itās one of those milestones, I can finally relax and settle down a bit knowing I have contact with people outside my apartment.
My co-teacher (isn't she cute??) and Jin
It was pretty rough living on the top of one of tens of thousands of massive towers scattered throughout an enormous urban sprawl, feeling disconnected from the world. I hate the fact that it takes me ten minutes to get down my elevator, and by then a better have a good idea of what I want to do because itās another ten minutes to get back up.
I ām starting to develop a daily routine, and it goes something like this: wake up between 7 and 7:30, take shower, eat yogurt/Danish and sometimes drink green tea, arrive at the subway by 7:15, get into subway. Let me explain to you a little about public etiquette in Korea....
Koreans, Iāve found, are gracious people. They will chase you down four blocks when they realize youāve left your umbrella at their restaurant, and they will point to the subway station you are looking for when you canāt match the Hangul written on a piece of paper.
Korean food is really good- its very savory, spicy and not too heavy
Most Koreans Iāve met so far have an admirable character. But somehow, when you walk out onto the street and merge into a sea of people, all of that flies out the window. I am pushed and shoved and elbowed by people who refuse to acknowledge my presence. People suddenly stop in the middle of a busy street to send a text message. There is a complete lack of public awareness here that I find startling. This applies double when navigating the subway system. When you get on that train, no one will let you through the door out of politeness. Itās every man for himself. I take a busy line, and the trains are PACKED in the morning. I literally feel like a sardine pressed against another personās sweaty body. There is much confusion and aimless shuffling. Some people, mostly the older ones, find it perfectly acceptable to push and cut through lines to get in front.
the hostesses brought us our food and cooked it on special metal bowls at the table
It's hard not to fund this extremely annoying, or not to take personally. Somewhere swimming in the back of my mind is my anthropological voice, saying āitās just the culture, itās just the cultureā, but it starts to get to you. Itās such a polar opposite from how many Koreans behave one-on-one, so to experience the street behavior is quite amazing.
When I have succeeded in dodging the crowds at the station, I take Bus #10 and walk to Yeoungnam Elementary. Miss Magda arrives at school around quarter to nine and starts to gather her lesson plan materials. The kids really pump me up, but you kind of have to act like a fool to get their attention. Lots of wild gestures and a loud and over-articulate voice. But they eat it up, and plus, it makes the time go by much faster.
Have lunch after noon: so far my food of choice has been ramen or a sandwich from a chain bakery all over town called Paris Baguette. I hope Iām not insulting anyone by not eating the school lunch, but I find the cafeteria food inedible. Sorry guys! After my lessons, I play around the internet until 4:50- Iām usually very tired by the end of school. Get back home around 5:30, eat something, sometimes meet a friend for coffee or watch a movie. Visit the PC Bang (internet cafe) for a bit and crash around midnight.
Starting today I have a six-day holiday for Chuseok, which is Korean Thanksgiving. People return to their family homes outside the city, and Seoul empties out for a week. As for me: I will be trying to get my feet on the ground and figure out whatās going on around me.