Saturday, November 28, 2009

Korean Paradox

There are things I love about Korea and there are things that drive me nuts about Korea. Here's the list so far, which I'm sure will be edited/added to as this year progresses.


-The food. It's fresh, spicy, mostly healthy and very cheap. That is, if you eat locally. I live in a neighborhood with many Western restaurants too, so the options can be bad if you so choose. I've only succumbed to them a couple of times. I blame being homesick :) I'm hooked on gimbap, ramyon, kimchee, fresh tofu, pickled radishes, bibimbap, just-laid speckled brown eggs, seafood that is still swimming at the restaurant or grocery store, amazing fruits and vegetables and meat that isn't plumped with hormones and salt water.

           Gimbap - like Korean sushi, filled with pickled vegetables, tuna, kimchee ... so delicious!

             Ramyon - wayyyy better than Top Ramen and very spicy. It's my favorite "junky" Korean food.

Bibimbap - a ricebowl with veggies, meat and spicy red pepper sauce, topped with a fried egg. The small side dishes are called banchan and are served with almost every Korean meal. Kimchee, pickled vegetables, soups, sometimes even things like macaroni salad!

-The people, for the most part. My Korean coworkers are so sweet, helpful and kind. The store owners have been patient while I learn basic phrases, handle Korean money and always smile and wait while I fumble around with my wallet.

-The weather. Although it's almost December and pretty chilly, most days here are sunny and bright. Compared to Oregon winters which are rainy and miserable, the sunny days here have been glorious. Although I've heard that July and August is monsoon season so I'll probably be eating my words while everyone at home is enjoying perfect summer days.

The beach in Busan! Gorgeous!

-The subway. It's clean, fast, cheap, efficient and very easy to get around. There are signs in English everywhere and it's not complicated to figure out how to get from here to there. It's awesome for people watching too, which is one of my favorite things to do.

-Heated floors. Probably one of the most genius inventions ever. The heating systems run under the floors through water pipes, so it's efficient too. There is nothing better on a cold morning than climbing out of bed, your feet hitting the toasty floor. Milo loves it too.

-Showering in the entire bathroom. I thought it was the weirdest, craziest concept when I arrived, but now I absolutely love it. You don't feel boxed in, it's super easy to clean the bathroom (just spray with cleaner and literally hose the entire thing down) and you're forced to keep all your stuff in the cabinet. Good for people like me who have lots of products!

-Keyless entry. My apartment door has a code to get in, so I don't ever have to worry about forgetting my keys at home. My current place has a key fob for the front door, but my new place has keyless entry for both the main door and my apartment. Score!


-The people, sometimes. For the most part, people are great. On the other hand, there are some that ruin it for 90% of the others. Last week, an old woman (called ajummas) followed my coworker from the subway station (she had been following her for 5 stops), yelling at her and basically telling her to get out of the country. She continued this into our school building, until the nice cleaning ladies stopped her from getting into the elevator with my coworker for further berating. That same day, a friend told me about how an ajumma pushed a special needs man off the bus steps, onto the street, flat on his face and then walked over him while yelling at him. This story almost had me in tears. I am all for respecting your elders, as long as they give respect back. I'm glad I wasn't present to witness either of these situations firsthand, because I don't know what I would have done. I'm sure there will be a time that I will witness these things and it makes me very sad.

Most of the old ladies here are wonderful and sweet, like this one. It's too bad that some ruin the reputation for the others. I guess that's true for any group of people though...

-Totally ignoring signs. On the subway steps, there are clear postings in English and Korean that say "Keep right," as in the flow of foot traffic. Everyone literally does the opposite. It's so frustrating! I've mastered the art of dodging people left and right, and don't even apologize anymore when I ram into others. Maybe it's an Oregon thing, but the blatant disregard for anyone else on the street or in the subway is baffling. I'll do really well when I visit New York someday!

-High heels. Specifically, the ones worn by women in my apartment building. The stairs are made of granite and there is constant click-clacking up and down, over and over and over again, at all hours of the day and night. I really hope my new apartment has more foreigners and/or tenants that like to wear flats. However, I don't think my odds are good. Women wear the highest heels imaginable here. Everywhere. The beach, hiking (seriously), on the street, in the subway. Everywhere. This place is a podiatrist's nightmare.

-No dryers. I miss warm, fluffy towels and wrinkle-free tshirts. Doing your laundry here means thinking ahead at least 24 hours. And jeans? You're looking at a two day drying period, minimum. Mmm, crunchy clothes.

-No ovens. I miss roasting vegetables and making tuna melts under the broiler. I was never really that much of a baker, but I've had the urge to make cookies more than once since I've arrived. No croutons with old bread ends, and forget about a turkey for Thanksgiving. Sigh.

That's it so far, but I'm sure it will be amended and added to as my experience continues. Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment