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17 September 2004
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Korea Life Blog - John's Update


John saw a request from a reader to keep my readers posted on his progress in Korea. John took it to heart and spent the last few hours writing this. He was on such a roll that he never even bothered to hit enter for a paragraph break. He also included his notes from yesterday too.


Hi Everyone,

Today is day four here and I'm still not over my jet lag. I woke up at 5am here and forced myself to sleep until about 8am then I got up grabbed a fresh peach at Yeokgok Outdoor Market and headed over to Yongsan Electronic Market. Yongsan has every gadget and gizmo you could ever need in about 5 large 3-6 story building and all surrounding streets. Video games, telephones, camera's, computers and accesories. You want it and almost everyshop here has got it. If you walk slow they will suck you in and try and sell you something. I ended up getting an 256MB LG Ultra High Speed Compact Flash Card for my new Canon S410 camera. I also had to get an adapter for the charger so I can plug it in here so I brought that with me. After saying the word adapter about 50 times in my head in Korean on the way of course I forgot when I arrived. So...I just pretended to plug my charger into the wall...biffed myself on the forehead and said "Babo" which means dummy in Korean. After laughing he got the point and gave me one for free. After going the wrong way on the subway on the way home I finally made it back to Yeokgok where I hade more Kimbab. You can't beat the price of less than a dollar for a full meal! I heard back today from one of my recruiters "Jennifer" that always attaches "from Korea" to the end of her introduction. She said she still has a job starting October 1st if I'm interested but I forgot the details and asked "Jennifer from Korea" to send them to me. "John from Korea" will keep you posted. Earlier while I was waiting for the train I had one sided ten minute conversation with an ajuma (older korean woman). I kept telling her I don't speak Korean but she persisted untill eventually she ran out of things to say. Other than that not much new. I'm going to try and call my friend Bin Kim later on. It's about 6:45 pm here (5:45 am EST) I think she works till around 8pm, can't remember, and i'm not sure how to use the phone in my room, or if i get charged for local calls? I guess i should try and figure out how to ask the guy that owns the place if there is a phone number, and if its free. He's a really nice guy. Poor guy and his wife actually live there in the office. They sleep on the floor Ondol style. They have all their clothes on shelves and even have a shower and head in there, but its about half the size of my room. Life for Koreans isn't grand for all I guess. Its nice to be a westerner here. Well with all that said. I'm freakin starving! I need to grab a bite to eat before I fall asleep at the keyboard like the guy next to me.

Let me get my notes so I can actually remember what i did...ok. Unfortunately nobody in my little hotel speaks even a word of English so when i need something i have to put together the sentences in advance and prepare some back up answers and responses based on their response. Needless to say it can be difficult at times to get things done here when you don't even know how its done. For example one of my recruiters asked me to fax her a copy of my diploma yesterday. That was a half day project. There is no such thing as a kinkos in korea so if you don't own a fax how do you send one? After wandering around Yeokgok for a few hours looking for some clue I gave up and went back to my room. I picked up my trusty Berlitz Korean phrase book and looked for something about fax machines and low and behold it told me I needed to go the post office to send a fax, Hoping this was true I taught myself how to say I need to send one document by fax and prayed they wouldn't laugh at me if they didn't send faxes from the post office. After sitting for a few moments what appeared to be the young lady qualified to send faxes came out. It seems that in Korea everyone has their purpose at their job and it was clear that the women I first spoke with was not the "faxer." Once the faxer arrived everything went fairly smooth and for 300 won or about 25 cents my fax was sent. I decided against Kimbab for lunch and got mandu guk or dumpling soup. it was yummy and if I ever get a chance to upload my photos I'll show you all the pics I'm taking. Later on that day I met up with Bin which I'll get to eventually. I met Bin online about 7 months ago. I'm not sure how exactly but we have been chatting ever since and we decided to meet up and grab a bite to eat. She had asked me as a favor to get her some Godiva choclates before I left the states. I searched boston and finally found a store at the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall. Now lets jump ahead to my 3rd hour of my flight on Korean Air. In the third hour it is duty free shopping time and of course what are they selling? Godiva Choclates! Early that day I figured I should try to get some of my dirty laundry done. I spent 15 minutes teaching myself how to ask the ajuma's where the washing machine was and she brought me into the closet and showed me a ladder. I'm not sure exactly why she thought I may need a ladder in my room for but eventually she realized I wanted to wash some clothes but insisted that the "ajuma" do it for me. Hesitantly I wondered as to why this old lady wanted to wash my stinky socks and underwear but she seemed very please to do it for me. I went back to my room, collected my dirty things and handed them to her and she scurried away with a smile. After I went for a walk in Yeokgok Market. It was about 5pm and at that time of day everything is bustling. Most of the students are out of school by then parading throught the streets. Echoes of "Hello" and "Hi, how are you?" fill the air and many of the young students are thrilled to pieces when I simply respond "Hi." Their friends seem more impressed that I can speak English and respond to me "Wow! pretty good." After my walk I called Bin. She was just getting off work and suggested we meet up. She told me to go to Yeongdeongpo Station and meet her there. Of course I was there in about 10 mins and Bin in about oh say 60 mins. I managed to catch the express train and Bin rightfully figured it would take me longer since it would usually take about 30-40 mins plus add on for lack of experience using the subway. Eventually we met up in front of a Pizza Hut then decided to get some sam gyuep sal, basically grilled pork with lots of little side dishes and some sauces. You grill the onions pork and garlic right in front of you on the table and then wrap everything up into a nice little lettuce or persimon leave package pop it in your mouth as gracefully as possible and chew. Very yummy. After dinner we went down the street and had some beksoju, a traditional Korean wine, with some Kimchi Bokum, wich is stirfried kimchi with pork and steamed tofu on the side. Neither of us were hungry but in many of the more traditional places they force you to buy food with drinks but I'm glad they did because it was the best kimchi bokum I've had yet. Ah yes I forgot to mention Bin also got me a gift as well. She baught me a cool book "The way Koreans talk" that teaches you idioms and and funny phrases that Koreans use to get the point across. Bin and I had a good time but I had to catch the last train home soon enough. I arrived home and flicked throught the channels and found a Korean movie that had just started on MBC movies. The movie was Nabun Namja, a sort of love story set in the backdrop of the darker side of Korea's sex trade. It was moving, shocking, disturbing and upsetting. It was very well made and you don't need to understand Korean to know exactly what is going on in the movie. I'll try and get a copy to send home, it's definitelly worth seeing again. I fell asleep and missed the ending cuz I think I had a wee bit too much soju. The next day I did little but meet up with shawn, julkie and james later on. James is from Britain and works here at the airport in incheon. Shawn stopped by Yeogkok and we weent on to Songnae where he had to pick up his bill of health from the doctors office. His job required that he have a full physical to prove his health and he's gonna make it another day it seems. After we grabbed a pitcher of beer at a chicken restaurant and waited for julie to arrive. We ate anju (complimentary snacks) and drank beer untill Julie arrived then went to the Toona department store to meet James. Once together we went to a great Kalbi (beef) place. Similar idea to the sam gyuep sal but with beef on a wood fired grill that is in the middle of your table, and we were outside. The food was delicious and the company was great. After many bottles of soju we headed of to a norebang (kareoke room.) Being a westerner and born ina country that shuns public displays of bad singing I was a little nervous but Shawn reassured me it was nothing a shot of soju couldn't fix. After my first song I loosened up but realized that I suck at singing and shawn kept getting scores in the mid 90's while I was getting 70's. Next time Shawn...next time... I also forgot to mention that we played one of Koreas great tension tamer games that are on the side of the street. Koreans like to beat the crap out of machines to show how macho they are. I thought this was very silly to start but then realized how fun no addicting it can be. The three of us kicked the crap out of a socker ball and again shawn beat me by 4 points...damn. Later we walked by the same game and these little Korean kids were kicking it harder than all us big western guys. Damn Koreans and thier taekwondo...lol. Made us look silly. Next time. After the three of us were thouroghly drunk julie put us all in cabs and sent us back to our homes. Julie is the designated driver even though we always walking. I guess what I'm trying to say is since she doesn't drink she makes sure we are all safe and happy and that everyone gets home ok. She's a really nice girl and patient to put up with us three drunken monkeys. Thanks Julie! This morning Bin awoke me from my hangover coma at oh sometime just before 9am. It was wierd to hear the phone ring but refreshing as well. I watched a few movies then ended up here at the pc bang. just a few mins ago I heard my name and shawn walked in to the bang. He went over to my room looking for me figuring I would be sleeping, but i was here. I managed to lose my battery from my camera while i was running across the street. It popped ouit of my pocket fell out in the road and i didn't notice. Now I need to go back to Yongsan to buy another if I get in the mood. Thats all for now....

ttyl John




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