Friday, January 05, 2007

What we learned about The Seoul, Part I

Ok, before I give you the details of our trip, I have one thing to say:
For a country that never even made my list of places to see, South Korea, and Seoul particularily made QUITE the impression on us both. Really - we have ended up wondering if we picked the wrong country to move to!
Not that I am doubting Japan at all. Japan is an amazing country, but the differences between here and South Korea are immense. The food was AMAZING, and cheap, and huge in proportion; the shopping was cheap and cool; the people were loud, pushy, friendly, and outgoing. Everything was great. I really couldn't have asked for a better trip! One downside - Japan has made us was SOOOOOO COLD!!!!!! Oh my gosh it was freezing. And thats not just me talking, because I know I am not the most reliable source for describing temperature - even Ian was freezing!!!! It was a nice relief to get back to Nagoya and its spring like weather! Anyways, I guess I will begin describing our adventure with our arrival in Seoul:

I made a great effort to have everything organized for our trip (we had many tours and sites planned) and for the most part I did ok. Except for one minor thing - since our hostle info was in Ian's email and not mine, I failed to print it off. Soooo we spend the first half hour in Seoul searching the airport for an internet connection! We found one and drew a crude map of where we had to go. We hopped on a bus and made it to our stop safely. However from there we were quite confused. We walked a ways and decided we were lost, so we headed back to the station. This next part will summerize what the people were like to us during our entire trip.
We didn't have any change and needed to phone the hostle so we asked a man if he had any. He says yes, wait here, and takes off running! He runs out of our site...who knows where and then comes flying back with change in his hand. He asked us if we needed any help and we told him our situation. He demanded that he phone the hostle, however the number wouldn't work so he phoned the operator. They had no number listed so we had to yet again find an internet station. We tried to pay, and he refused to let us. We found the map, and he says, oh no...its too far. I will take you.
(Ian says) Around this point I was getting pretty suspicious. The guy seemed SO pushy about helping us. I figured he must be up to something... I suspected he was going to ask us for money after showing us the way... kind of an impromptu tour fee. Despite this, we were at a bit of a loss for options...
So off we go, following this guy down the street. He stopped into a few places asking for directions and even bought us each a hot drink. He continued to lead us all the way to the hostle (a good 15 min walk from the station). He barges in, jabbers something loudly in Korean to the owner and they have a good laugh. Then he turns around, shakes Ian's hand, and takes off! We didn't even have time to offer to take him for a drink! The whole thing was hilarous, and the owner of the hostle was just as loud, friendly, and helpful as him.
I was caught speechless. I wanted to at least offer to take the man out for a drink, but he ran off as quickly as he had appeared. He had been so aggressive, but only insisting that he help us.

The next morning we had our first outing. Yoo's Family (the program that teaches us cooking, tea ceremony, and all that) was our first activity. We found our way easily to the meeting spot and headed with one of the family to the house. It was an amazing old house, actually looking more like a compound of houses in a really nice, older area. These first few pictures are from our visit there.
After an introduction and Tea Ceremony, they seperated the girls and boys and had us try on Han-Bok. Here we are, looking our most Korean!
Hey Mom, Tim, Aaron, Aj, and other highschool folks who might read this: do you think the Korean outfit suits me better, or do you prefer the kimono I wore in highschool? As Tim likes to say...I'm really not helping clear up the heritage confusion issue.

This was the group that did the program with us. 7 of the people were from Bangladesh (invited by the government to South Korea), and the other 4 people were a family. The parents, 2 American's, had adopted 2 Korean children, and this was their first trip back, to see their culture first hand. They were really nice, and the kids were so talkative!

Ian looking like Royalty:
I am great.

After we had changed back into our normal clothes it was time to cook!
Our 2 recipies: Kim Chi, and Korean Pancakes.
The first picture is of Ian attempting to make kim chi. It was a messy process, but it was tasty!

Next it was my turn to try the korean pancakes. They were much easier to make than kim chi, and they tasted DELICIOUS!

As things at the Yoo's place were winding down, one of the sisters asked us if we had any free time while we were in Seoul. We said yeah, and she asked us if we wanted to work for a few hours one night! They offered to pay us and treat us to dinner, so we were like...ummm...yes!
It turns out that they own a travel company, and they make english books about Korean history for children. They needed us to edit the books for them, so the next night we headed on over to their office. It was actually really interesting for us, seeing as we got to read about Korea for 2 and a half hours, adding 'a' and 'the' to every other sentence. Afterwards, they took us to Insa-dong, one of the really popular districts for the most amazing meal!!!
Seriously - I have never seen so much food for only 4 people. This is one of the stark differences between Japan and Korea. In Japan, a quarter of that meal would have fed 8. Hahaha.
After the meal, they handed us 2 envelopes with our money, apologizing that it wasn't much, and that they know we get more in Japan. We thanked them and then went our seperate ways. When we looked at what they gave us, we had to laugh. It was 30,000 Won each which is probably about 40 dollars. More than we would make at Nova!!!

Man, the food was soooooooo goood. Apparently, our host only had to pay for the meat (about 4 racks of ribs), and the rest (a variety of salads, rice, noodles, and pickled vegetables) was all included as extra. You grill the meat on a small round barbeque in the centre of the table. Of the many dishes, everyone is encouraged to dig in with their chopsticks and eat as much as possible; so we couldn't help but feel very at home, and welcome with these people. Everything has a delicious burning red pepper spice to it also, which is quite addictive (if you like spicy food... sorry Meaghan, don't go to Korea! should probably move there for good) so you just keep eating and eating and ..... mmmmmmm......

Anyways, getting back to our first day activities:
After we left the Yoo's house, we decided to head towards the main castle, Gyeongbokgung. It was really neat to see the differences between a Korean Castle and a Japanese Castle. The Korean ones are much more colourful I think.

Yes, the temples were quite colourful. Meaghan, you would like maybe you should go to Korea, just beware of the food, because you would probably combust. Actually, the Koreans need to cut back on the spice evidently, because they have the highest rate of intestinal illnesses in the world. Seemingly, a direcct result of their lust for spice.
Despite being beautifully sunny out, it was sooooo cold, so unfortunatly we didn't feel like wandering for too long around the grounds, but it really was impressive.

These 4 pictures are just a taste of the outside. I will post the remaining castle pictures on the next post, since this one is already super big.
Keep checking the site though, because there is a ton more to come!! This is only 10 out of over 100!!! (I won't really post all 100, but there will be MORE!!!!!)



Arlene said...

So glad you had such a good time in Korea. I have friends who have taught and lived there and they keep on going back! I had a feeling you would enjoy it. It's also true...if I compare my Korean students and Japanese students and if I take into account all of the Korean folks I know here in London...that the Koreans are much louder, friendlier and more outgoing. The Japanese kids are friendly too, but in a much more subdued way. They seem to have a lot more hang-ups than the Koreans.
So, maybe we can expect to hear from both of you when you are teaching next year in Korea?

Aunt Lori said...

Oh guys, that's great!!! Sounds like you had a blast!!
Keep it coming!!!

Miss you,
Love Aunt Lori xoxoxo

aaron said...

Ian I can't decide which outfit I like better but I like the design on the front of the Korean one. I don't know what it means, but it suits you. I'm sure it says a lot about the wearer.

Daver said...

Wow! So far that whole trip sounds amazing, I can't wait to see and hear about the rest of it. Oh and Ian I say the kimono fits you better, but thats just me.

Oh, thanks for adding another place I have to visit! I can't wait to try this red pepper spice :D. I know my body will hate me but I'll be loving every bite of it.

Alexandra said...

Hi Tara & Ian!! That trip sounds AWESOME!!! Well... That's all really I had to say...(lol) Hmm... Well, I really enjoy talking to you guys on msn, and I hope we can talk again SOON!!

LOVE YOU GUYS!!!! xoxo

mom-ki said...

I do like the Korean outfit Ian, but did put so much effort into the kimono it is hard to choose. The hat is very 'interesting'. Tara of course looks gorgeous in everything! I can't wait to share the pictures with my class starting next week hopefully.

Anita said...


I think that you should keep the Korean hat, with a Kimono.

Meaghan said...

:) This post made me smile, so far it sounds like your trip was awesome. haha and no, I probably wouldn't enjoy the food, but the people sounds awesome! I can't wait to see and hear the rest!

Ali said...

Ian, your hat is kick ass in those pictures.

Anonymous said...

hey tara and ian
sounds like you had a wonderful time the pictures are awesome
im jealous of all the great food you are getting to try
we love you
love always aunt judy xoxoxoxo

amy said...

I will say this much about the outfit: that is a very snappy hat. Very snappy indeed.

Hey look! I didn't even swear! Go me!

your friends in Japan said...

Hello friends, sorry for my delayed response. I've been busy creating a special DVD collection featuring all of our video adventures from the past year.

-from Ian-

Arlene - It was really interesting to see the differences between the people. I didn't realize their personalities (at least on average) were so distinctly different. My students have been very interested in my amature socialogical observations.

Lori - thanks, we did have a great time! And, don't worry, there's plenty more to come.

Aaron - You're right! I think mine had cranes on the front, which was a design for a statesman. Tigers were the design for a military officer.

Dave - Fortunately we learned to make a little korean food, and there are korean restaurants in Japan. So at least you can get a taste for it when you come visit us.

Alexandra - I like talking to you too! Haven't seen you online in awhile, but hopefully I'll catch up with you soon! :)

Mom - Yeah, Tara always looks nice... I still think that hat suits me best though.

Anita - woah, you're onto something here. It's like post-modern globalization fashion styling. Can you send me some liederhosen to complete the look?

Meaghan - glad we could make you smile! :)

Ali - THANKS!!! You're always fashionable, so I'll trust you on the hat. You would have loved the shopping markets in Korea... floor after floor of cheap funky stuff. IN fact, whenever Tara and I are in shopping areas we end up saying "Ali would love this!" Because you're cool. COME VISIT!

Judy - I promise I'll be able to show you a few new dishes when we come back.

Amy - Wow, that's the least cursing I've ever heard from you! Nicely done. ;)
You're right. The Koreans invented the word snappy, except in Hangeul (the korean language) the pronounciation is "jijingeulyeongsambak" and you have to yell this word and cough up flem when you pronounce it. It ends up sounding less like a ocmpliment about a gentleman's hat, and more like you're cursing his offspring.