Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chuseok Holiday

My co-teacher walked me to my school from my apartment so that I would know how to get there. She tole me a little about the scenery on the way. My school is named “Joongang” Middle School meaning “central.” Apparently where I live used to be the center of Daegu. Now downtown is considered more of the central area. We got a taxi from the school to downtown, which ended up being only about 7 minutes. Taxis here are WAY less expensive than at home. It only ended up being something like $3... tipping not necessary here. We got to this mall that was kind of like a big Nordstrom, with a bunch of other stores connected. We went to the Apple store to try to find a converter for my laptop. Their only solution was a 98,000 won (about $85) new plug. No thanks. We headed downstairs and eventually found a cheap converter to use with any of my plugs. Sun Young then took me to a Japanese restaurant for lunch.

Alright guys... figure out how to
write my address on an envelope
and start sending me presents!

Today is Chuseouk. A day where families give thanks to their ancestors. From what I gathered, they usually go visit graves and give offerings. They also have large feasts similar to our Thanksgiving. Unlucky for me, I don’t know anyone in Daegu, so I am left to fend for myself from today until Saturday. I was going to wander around Daegu for a little today but it is POURING outside so I decided to unpack a little and do some blogging. I’m watching what little TV I have. Depending on the programming, I have anywhere from zero-5 English channels to watch. There may be some sort of option for subtitles in English but all of the buttons on my remote are in Korean so.... who knows. 

Actually, every button on every appliance in my apartment has Korean writing on it. So it becomes somewhat of a guessing game. One thing I will need help with is the washing machine (too bad... no dryer!) Every appliance also makes some sort of cute beeping noise when turned on/off or a button is pressed, including my door buttons.

Check out some of the wonderful commercials I get to see on TV here:
Daily Lemon Water (this one gets stuck in your head when you hear it 50 times during one show)
KB Good Day Card (gotta love how pop-ish Korea is)

I’m also pretty sure I’m sleeping on a box spring. Either that or Korean mattresses are very very hard. Another thing I don’t get is the trash. Apparently the Korean government is a stickler for recylcing due to mass pollution. I think it is a great idea, I just don’t know how to use it. Yet another time when reading Korean would come in handy. There is a tiny recycling can in my apartment with a bunch of words on it. 


So the past few days I have spent wandering around the area where I live. Apparently people here don’t see many foreigners. I get stared down everywhere I go (except the downtown area.. ill get to that later). It is mostly the older generations who stare, but there are some younger ones too. South Korea is unlike America, where people are of different and mixed ethnicities. Korea has one race.... Korean. Sure there are some people of other Asian descent, the occasional American/Canadian/Brit/Kiwi/Aussie/Irish, and oddly some Arabs, but the main ethnicity is Korean. Thus, I get people staring bluntly at me as if I were the walking plague. This is especially true in the area surrounding my apartment due to its small town-like feel and I’m assuming not many foreigners are actually LIVING in the area. Even though Daegu is the third largest city in S. Korea, it definitely does not see anything near as many tourist and foreigners as Seoul. If I end up seeing more white people, I will let you know. 
Another observation: the people of Daegu do not or will not speak much English. Granted, my general knowledge of the Korean language can be summed up with “hello” and “thank you”... and I added “yes” to the mix, but I thought things might be a little easier. There is such an urgent need for learning the English language yet no one will speak it. Therefore, I get by with a little hand gesture here and a little charade-like action there. For example, yesterday I did a little shopping at a convenience store (FamilyMart) near my apartment... think Korean 7-11, even though there really are 7-11s here! I bought some apples and some beer (found some Heinekens!) The lady at the counter was just chatting away in Korean, maybe even asked for my ID... who knows. I just shrugged my shoulders, exchanged some blank stares, looked at the register to see how much it was, and went on my way. This describes the majority of my interactions sadly. Time for some Korean lessons ASAP! Maybe once my apartment get internet! 
I also still dont know how this whole trash thing works and my kitchen is starting to stink :( I’m waiting to ask my co-teacher when she arrives to pick me up tomorrow to take me to the train station. Tomorrow I am taking the bullet train to Seoul for orientation. Six days of workshops and lesson planning lessons. At least maybe I will be able to meet some people. Not knowing anyone in a foreign country gets a little lonely after awhile!! 
What I also found today was a beautiful park near my house, maybe 15 minutes walking distance, with the Daegu public library sitting right in the middle. 
Gukchae-bosong Memorial Park
built in honor of the
National Debt Repayment Movement
Sunflowers!! So pretty

I love that there is so much
GREEN all over Korea's huge cities!

I haven’t figured out the bus/rapid bus/metro system, so walking will do for now. The downtown shopping area is about 30 minutes walking distance from my house. I am not kidding you when I say there are hundreds and hundreds of people there at any time. Do these people not have school or work because I was there in the middle of the day!? Anyway I found anything from high end boutiques to the Gap and Zara to little shops where you can bargain. SO many stores and I only saw a handful of what was actually there. I realized I have to pretty much buy a whole new wardrobe because I am too scandalous here. California wardrobes do not translate well to Korea. Girl Korean dress= high necklines, hardly any shorts, longer skirts or dresses, and heels or sneakers (bye bye rainbows? I still wear them but I get weird looks). Almost ALL Korean girls around here wear heels at all times... how they do it I will never know. My dress code for work is jeans or anything else not too short (“remember these are middle school boys and they are curious” says my coteacher) and a nice-ish top with a high neckline.
Well, hopefully at orientation I will be able to get these blog posts up and going. Until then I am typing offline in a word document. What did people ever do before the internet?? It has only been one week and I am going through withdrawals and feel like I am completely disconnected from all of my friends and family!! Ahh... I will be back online soon, I promise!!

1 comment:

Sannie said...


I just wanted to let you know that I'm a high-schooler VERY interested in pursuing a trip to S. Korea after I graduate college (or maybe during, if there is such an exchange program). I am starting your blog at the very beginning and so far I'm engrossed. :) Just to let you know that a lonely straggler is persevering through your writings!!!!

lumos-maxima (Reddit username)