2.5 months in Seoul, South Korea
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Korea: Days 1 to 4

After a grueling 24-hour plane trip which involved 14 hours of me being squashed next to an obese male passenger in United Airline's child-sized "Economy Plus" seats (what does "Economy Plus" mean anyway?), I'm finally here!

At Newark International, before our looooong flight that stopped at Chicago, Japan, and finally Korea.

I was actually planning on making a post my very first day in Korea, but I didn't anticipate our housing experience when we arrived in Seoul... The description the landlord had given us when we'd made reservations had sounded great--individual air conditioning, internet, safe area, etc. What we saw when we got there was much different, and one of the many amenities that the place lacked was INTERNET. He was pretty mad when we moved out...pissed off Korean=scary.

I'm now in an awesome place called Cherryville Living-tel. Living-tels are one of many "tel" places (like Office-tels and Goshi-tels, hotels, and motels) which rent out small single rooms to students and other Koreans. This place is unbelievably clean, like most of the facilities here in Korea. When we got there, the owner was vacuuming the floors, which were already practically shining. To keep the floor spotless we have to take off our shoes before entering and put them in locked shoe cupboards outside the doors. I have a room key and a shoe cupboard key.

If we want to go up the stairs the owner provides special slippers to wear, and there are also a different set of slippers for the bathroom and shower!

Thinking back on the huge dust/dirt/hairballs on many Yale students' dorm floors, I think Yale could probably invest in a couple thousand pairs of slippers..

My actual room is much bigger than I expected--it has a bed, desk, and furniture along with a TV (Korean TV!! more on this later), a refrigerator, and window. I pay about $325 a month, which when compared to the cost of American hotels and apartments, is minimal.

There's also a kitchen on my floor with a rice-maker that is always full, drinking water, and a refrigerator full of kimchi. =)

But I still haven't eaten in the kitchen yet because there are tons of places to eat in Sinchon, the area of Seoul where I'm staying. Since Sinchon is the student district of Korea, I've been going to a different place for each meal...everything I've tried so far has been inexpensive and delicious! Some examples:

Korean barbecued chicken - Dak Galbi: This is a popular dish which I hadn't tried once in America..

You get a bowl of spicy raw marinated chicken, green onions, mushrooms, and other vegetables, along with a hot wok-type grill. The raw stuff goes on the grill at your table, cooks in front of your eyes, and you can eat the barbecue straight off of the grill!

As you can see, they even give you aprons! If you go around Sinchon, you'll see tons of places with a sign saying Dak Galbi in Korean.

Shabu-shabu: This is similar to sukiyaki, if you've tried it. It's the same type of deal as the dak galbi: the food cooks at your table. We ordered kalbi kalgooksoo shabu-shabu (beef and sliced noodle) which also came with onions, mushrooms, and bok-choy. You put the raw ingredients in a boiling pot of broth, let cook, and enjoy!

"Toast"- This isn't the puny toast that we eat in America with butter and jam. The Korean version includes a hot vegetable egg omelet with cheese, ketchup, and mustard sandwiched between two grilled pieces of bread. Only 1,500 won ($1.50 US)! Lately we've been picking it up on the way to class in the mornings.

And who could forget the food chains?? Korean versions of American food chains:

- Baskin Robbins: Extremely shiny and cute inside. Baskin Robbins is pretty popular in Korea, as are all types of yogurt, smoothie, and ice cream places.

I got a Kiwiberry "cooler", which is a kind of fruit smoothie. Compared to American smoothies, it was much lighter, fruitier, and more refreshing! Delicious, but didn't load up on fat and sugar like a smoothie from a New Jersey Dunkin Donuts or Orange Julius might.

The garbage system here is pretty complicated. Every time you throw trash away, even in a fast food restaurant, you need to separate all of the components, spoons, napkins, cups, etc. They all go in separate bins; Baskin Robbins has a cute little trash container near the exit.

Drew Barrymore advertises for Korean Baskin Robbins..hmmm.

- Burger King:

Instead of the U.S. Burger Kings' light colored orange/red/white interior decorations, it's mainly black and white inside. For some reason, it also has an Elvis (emphasizing American-ness?) shrine on one wall. The menu is similar, but includes orange-ade, which another popular Korean drink, the "bulgogi Whopper", which I ordered (it's actually the exact same thing as a regular Whopper, but with a different type of sauce), and patbingsoo.

Patbingsoo is a Korean shaved ice dessert, and I think it replaces the fruit parfait on the American menu. They top the shaved ice with sweet red bean syrup, fruit, and whipped cream; it's yummy, although the photo does look a little strange.

- Pizza Hut: Because American food is much more expensive than Korean food in Seoul, places like Pizza Hut have turned into semi-gourmet restaurants. The Pizza Hut menu includes five courses PLUS a wine menu!! Anyway, we got the bulgogi pizza for lunch..

The meat on the pizza may look like sausage, but it's actually Korean marinated beef.

The wall decoration confused us..The frame is of cheese, which I understand for a pizza place, but the chef inside is holding oranges...? Also he looks like a pig, an animal which we've been seeing everywhere on posters, decorations, and products here.

When it was time to go, they boxed up our leftover pizza like any other Pizza Hut, but... they put a red ribbon on it like a gift! The ribbon had some Korean on it, which translates into "Let's be happy with Pizza Hut". Haha, as long as I can eat like this I'll be happy!

So, do Koreans really eat dogs? They do in the countryside but in Seoul, dogs get pretty princely treatment! We passed this place called "Tokyo Dog College" with the cutest miniature dogs..

I'm not really sure why it's called a dog college. You can buy puppies and pet supplies there, and also get your dog groomed. Puppies were being displayed out in the windows:

*awwww* These dogs are practically the size of my hand!

Apparently in the region of Seoul called Apgujeong they have dog cafes where owners and their pets sit and enjoy snacks and drinks (doggie snacks for the canines, people food for the owners).

Some people are a bit too lenient when it concerns their pets...see this dog? doesn't it look angelic?

Ha! It tried to bite my hand off when I tried to pet it..the owner's response was an indulgent laugh and petting =p

Here's a gadget that I found in the airport bathroom: the Etiquette Bell.

There's one Etiquette Bell in each toilet stall...the purpose is that if you're concerned about others hearing any noises that you might make while you're in the toilet, you push the button and it makes a flushing noise to mask any lesser sounds. Unfortunately, the sound that emits from the machine is BLATANTLY FAKE! Haha, the beginning of the flush sounds like a bad radio and it ends on static.. I wonder if it's better for someone to actually hear your fart or for someone to hear a fake flushing and know that you've just farted?! Hmmm..

And of course, the ubiquitous Korean version of the American term "sexy"-- "SHEKSHI", which comes up in numerous billboards, advertisements, and even conversations! Shown below, Gangnam district's "Shekshi Club" sign:

Tomorrow's Friday! Class from 9 am - 1 pm and then it's the weekend. More on class and me learning Korean later =)


posted by Jane @ 7:18 PM  
  • At 1:26 AM, Anonymous Josanna said…

    Jane!! I'm talkin to u on AIM at the same time. I just read ur blog....haha!! That was funny when u said that the dog was nice but ended up tryin to bite ur hand...haha!!! And then u start talkin about the etiquette bell...haha!!! I was laughin so hard....i almost fell off my chair! Ur gonna be there for 2 more months and ur gonna end up eating everything there! I definitely wanna see u when u get back. U might start talkin to in korean to me and the only thing i'll understand is ahn-nyung..haha!I wonder how many pictures u took already....maybe like 550! JK!! I kno ur havin fun over there. Just be careful and don't get hurt. U have to come back here in ONE PIECE!! ttyl and e-mail me to keep me updated!!

  • At 1:48 AM, Anonymous your super hot roomie said…

    Aww, Korea looks so cute! You're so going back with me someday, okay? Hee hee, we can eat cute ribbon-wrapped Pizza Hut together! ^_^

  • At 12:38 AM, Anonymous Marianana said…

    Jana!!! I want some Korean food.....I miss it. Oh ya, and I miss you too. I'm coming to live with you becuase I can't take it here in Hell without you anymore. I love you!!!!

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Name: Jane
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