Sunday, March 2, 2008
vivian, lost in seoul
away from home, once again, ten years later. this time it's quite different, a complete culture change. i still feel all the same things i felt back then in indiana, but everything is just more intense. i don't understand the language, i am not familiar with the food, and i look so different. i get so many stares and compliments everywhere i go, which is nice but a bit overwhelming. i am surprised at how little english is spoken in seoul- since it's a huge city, i was expecting most people to be quite fluent, but definitely not. hence i have decided i should learn korean as much as i could. i started memorizing the alphabet and sounds, and i can proudly say i can read some words here and there. i can also say hi, please and thank you, but i mostly just bow and smile a lot.
the first few days were exciting, but overwhelming. on top of being jetlagged, the apartment was not ready, so we stayed in a guest house (inside the school!) for 4 days. we were finally able to move into our apartment last night, after making some major improvements. the apartment was rather disappointing, or in aaron's words, a shithole. we demanded some renovations and changes, and with a few trips to costco and home plus, it now looks decent. perhaps even cozy.
we did not have to work for the first week, but we attended several meetings and gatherings at the school, all pretty odd. at the teacher orientation, we were offered a snack that consisted of tomatoes and vitamin c juice. at the church meeting (our school is christian, they asked us to attend a ceremony on saturday, but it was the first and last time!) they gave us toothbrushes. another funny thing is, we walk around everywhere in the school in slippers! no shoes are allowed inside, so there goes my fashion sense. all my pretty shoes will have to stay home, i felt kind of ridiculous (perhaps vulnerable) teaching in a nice dress, tights, and.... slippers.
speaking of clothes, the fashion is just crazy here. girls all wear high heels, guys are totally dressed up like designer ads, and you can get away with wearing the shortest skirts ever. the shopping is insane, and i've only seen a minor portion of it. most stores are open late at night, and in the dongdaemun market area, they stay open all night! aaron and i ventured there for a few hours, i had never seen anything like this in my whole life. so many stores, so much people, i doubt i could even buy something there.
and the food, oh the food... it's been very good so far, i just need to get familiar with the different names. at first i was scared at the amount of white rice we would eat all day, but i noticed i don't eat very much sweets around here. the only thing i feel odd about is korean food for breakfast-- they eat kimchi (fermented cabbage), soups, and california rolls for breakfast. maybe i'll get used to it, but i bought some good old oatmeal and cereal for now. my biggest fear is to get sick of the food, but as aaron pointed out, there are so many options. and it's insanely cheap! for 3-4 dollars, you can get a full dinner, including apetizers, and no need to tip. as for alcohol, same thing: a bottle of soju costs like 1$, and it's as strong as vodka (41%). i cannot even drink a whole bottle, it's way too strong. you can find soju pretty much anywhere, they have depanneurs on every street corners, including "seven-elevens", where you can find pretty much anything.
my last observation for the day is regarding.... showers. aaron had explained it to me before we came, but you have to experience it... you actually shower right in the middle of the bathroom, no shower curtain, no bathtub, nothing. the shower head is right over the toilet, so you stand right there and everything gets soaking wet!! then if you need to brush you teeth afterwards you must wear sandals to walk around. it's kinda crazy, but i like it. i bought some clear purple shower sandals, which i wear every time i walk into my bathroom.
heading back to my apartment now, gotta get ready for teaching the first real day tomorrow!