who ... moi?

a social butterfly: scared of much, but not of many. never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. not a fan of acronyms, snakes and angelina jolie. a HUGE fan of Fathead.

this blog is black for ENERGY-SAVING reasons.

thanks for your understanding.
if it's too dark, put your glasses on old one.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

first impressions

it's probably worth mentioning, at this point, that if you're planning to "pop" over to SK, best you be aware of the the trip ahead of you.  if like us, you go via jhb, expect to be travelling for 24hrs until you reach a place to rest your baggage.  but all in all, apart from a small incident in hong kong which almost had us missing our connecting flight, it was a pretty easy, smooth journey.

so our bags arrived safely on the other side - easily identified by their signature steri stumpie ambassador embroidered patches (thanks to t-bear, dr danger and hamish for their impeccable sewing skills!)

we were met by hans, (the first korean we interacteed with on this side).  by 5pm, the sun has set and it's pitch dark over here.  we arrived at around 18h30 - but our view of the entire trip home was chokker-block neon lighting.  quite exquisite, actually.

it seems that over here, they're quite proud of their architecture, with every stunning bridge's structure illuminated by ever-changing coloured lights.  the ride home made us feel like ants climbing up your christmas tree. 

pretty. but pretty overboard.

so in a nutshell:

this is the new chateau du fathead (revamped to maximise space, as before it looked like a pack house)

here, the view from our room ... yes that's snow. it's pretty fakken freezy i'll have you know, so both of us are rather relieved we spent enough to own shares in cape union mart.

delirius with jetlag we decided to throw ourselves into the deep end, and joined the other teachers for a tipple in town.  they seem to like to trek miles to go anywhere here - something we'll definately not be making a habit of our own.  we walked about a km down the icy hill to the bottom of the school, then caught a taxi into town, where we decended into the underground to catch the subway - getting off the one track and then onto another, then ascended to the streets of seoul only to walk another km to a place called the rainbow lounge.

think grungy bohemia meets rafiki's ... with shoe-less patrons padding about in their socks, squatting on the floor beneath a ceiling smoke, created by the hubbly-bubblies upon every table.  the group next to us comprised of about 10 young american-korean girls ... one strumming a guitar, another on a bongo, and the rest belting out off-tune US top 40 pop hits in pseudo hollywood twangs.  hellovathing.

as they left, our group moved to their spot ... and predictably, the american's amongst us, grabbed the guitar and drum and started their own version of this.

unbelievably, this is one of the most expensive bars in seoul (which is quite a good thing to know, seen as the prices there were pretty steep).

a few local beers later (sorry SAB) and that was our night.

today was more of the same diving into the deep-end, head first.  Fathead and i tried our hand at finding a way around the city of seongnam-si (which is the city "just down the road" from us). 

we went to a 4-floor supermarket, in search of a few left-behind essentials ... towels, toiletpaper and deoderant, to name a few.

it would appear that the men here don't use normal anti-perspirant deo ... and in a flustered shopping decision, old uncle inks purchased a can of "lime green flavoured gatsby powder".

the food hall was daunting, especially considering we'd not eaten since lunch the day before, and it was now 3pm.  all food labels are in the korea symbols, so you have no idea what the packaging contains.  meats are intriguing and scary all at the same time.  you kind of want to study them in morbid fascination - but it's a fine art in cutting this examination time just short enough to avoid your stomach turning in the realisation of what it may be.

we went the safe route - being virginal shoppers - and bought a bag of citrus fruit (what i assumed to be mandarins or the korean version of a naaa-tchie), the worlds largest apples - which we've yet to taste, a bag of corn chips and a box of trail mix. 

the booze section brought interesting news:

good - that you can buy it on sundays.
bad - that it's fakken expensive, unless you're adventurous enough to try their local brews ... like "caption Q wiskie".

well i must tell you - the mandarins are not, in fact, mandarins.  they do, however, taste exactly like apples.  i suppose had we known this, we really could have saved ourselves from shlepping the giant apples all the way back home.  a 2-in-1 fruit! how genuis.

the corn chips are chilli-flavoured, which was a nice surprise.

first bite: spicy.
aftertaste: sweet 'n sour pork.

yup, things are just packed with surprises over here.

so we've decided to eat in the canteen from now on. okay, we haven't actually eaten there yet, but it's most likely to be the safest way to experience korean food without having to try and source it inthe markets, ourselves. 

we've already made a number of comittments to ourselves, actually. 

from now on, we do things our way:

  • none of this taxi-subway-taxi-subway-walk-walk-taxi kak.  it's a really clever way to deplete your moola, and besides, once you're wearing the full winter range from cape union, you're fine to walk.
  • meals in the canteen.
  • learn to convert currency faster (it's rather taxing on the brain: dividing by 1000k, then times by 7 (to get rands) and then times by 6ish to get dollars.
  • learn to read korean signage. 
  • learn to speak it without sounding like a western dipshit.
but we're not going to be too hard on ourselves -
it's only been a day, and already we managed to direct the taxi driver home, not be ripped off at the rate and have survived our first solo day in SK.

if you're ever in town, and you'd like to pop in - tell the driver "say mal young Sue-On yong oh mal" and he'll bring you right to our snowy door step.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Cat!!! It's Louis (The blonder dude who studied Graphic Design with you at Stellies) Are you enjoying Korea? I was there for a year... and it was one of the craziest years of my life... filled with newness, strangeness, wierd food, etc. I must say, it was more of a culure shock coming back to South Africa, after adapting to the 'South Korean Way' of living. I miss it, and I'm considering going back at the end of the year. Hope all is well. God Bless!