Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gyeongbokgung & National Folk Museum


So far things are going well. The job is alright (easy but tiring) and I have had a few encounters with the local fauna (absolutely pillaged by mosquitoes within the first couple days, and I saw my first cockroch scutter across the floor last night). Other than that, nothing more that's blogworthy, except for the touristy stuff.

Today I went to Gyeongbokgung and the National Folk Museum of Korea, with fellow Kim & Lee teacher Jagjeet (from BC also). It was pretty impressive, although it was spitting rain the entire time, but we couldn't really complain because as soon as we got back outside after touring the palace and the museum it really thundered down. You'll see what I mean in a bit (see last photo -- aftermath of five minutes walking in the torrent).

Obligatory historical background: Gyeongbokgung served as the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty (if you're interested) and I'm not going to go into it further but you can learn more about it here if you're so inclined. To people not familiar with the culture, it was lots of green oriental style buildings, some of which had pretty things inside. Further photos below (starting with a couple random subway station shots):

So that's a bit of Gyeongbokgung for you. In English it's Gyeongbok Palace, thus giving me the impression that the word "gung" in Korean means "palace". I'm fairly sure my intuition is bang on this time. Next few photos are the museum and some of its contents. The chair with the single wheel and the four sticks for servants to carry you around with is clearly the only way to travel. If you attached an engine to that.. it could be a high speed impaling unicyclic war machine. Just saying.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

First Impressions


This weblog (henceforth called "blog") is here to inform people who are interested in my South Korean adventures without pestering the people who don't want it shoved down their throats.. and it'll also help me remember things that I'll probably forget in a year's time. I feel incredibly pretentious having a "blog", I don't like people who "blog" and I find them very snooty and self-centred, but I'm having one anyway, for the reasons mentioned above.

The flight was awesome, due to the fact that the ten hour Vancouver-Narita flight upgraded me to first class. A giraffe could have comfortably sit in the space I was provided, and I got a four course meal (appetiser, lunch, wine & cheese (wine and cheese!!) and dessert). I watched The Other Boleyn Girl and Horton Hears A Who!, whilst gorging on a selection of eight different wines and champagne and three kinds of cheese. The two hour Narita flight was pretty cool too, as no one spoke English. But there was plenty more of that to come.

My room and neighbourhood are pretty cool. I conveniently have several photos to describe them:

Left: The bathroom also doubles as a shower! Notice there is a separate nozzle that attaches to the sink for showering purposes. The hot water switch, conveniently, is located near the front door. I hadn't discovered this for a couple days after arriving, in which I had been taking ice cold showers before another teacher had informed me.

As you can see, it's not the most spacious of accomodations, but it's very pleasant and I particularly enjoy the air conditioning which I have been using extensively in this sweltering hot and muggy climate. The neighbourhood is really nice, there are enormous high-rise apartment complexes (one of which consists of 20 separate buildings and house approximately 30,000 people in my small neighbourhood. The cost of one of those is about $1 million).

All the teachers at Kim and Lee live within a 5 minute walk of my place, with the same sort of setup as me (one big room, one bathroom, one tiny little room with a washing machine in it). It's actually a lot like being in residence at a university, so it's not that big a change really.

The neighbourhood is really nice, we've got little convenience stores all over the place and it's funny when they get their English wrong (e.g. a laundromat across the street from me has a large sign that says "Any Clearing"). I live fairly close to an elementary school which is next to a highschool, and there are a couple paths I walk through in which I finally get to the larger centre in which Kim and Lee school is located. The next few photos are taken in succession from my house (the grey building on the very right of the first photo) past the school, and then to Millenium Plaza where the school is located. See if you can spot Kim and Lee.

At night the place transforms itself into a blinding plethora of Hangul signs, (in which the word "sexy" appears far too many times) and the occasional drunken Korean businessman staggering around by himself yelling at signposts. There are also several fish stores with live animals in outside aquariums (sea cucumbers, large exotic fish, scallops, squid, cuttlefish and octopus) all grimly awaiting their impending doom. Photos below: