Here we go- I’ve successfully navigated one week in this exciting, vibrant, strange new country and I’m on my way to mastering a second. It’s hard to believe I’ll be here over a year- but the beauty of it is I have so much time to explore- I’m not limited to hopping from spot to spot, trying new foods all day, and trying to squeeze every last thing into a brief sejour. I’ll get to know this country more intimately and leave with a deeper understanding of its people, culture and lifestyle.
It’s far too soon to make generalizations or definitive statements, but I do think I’m going to enjoy my time here. What once felt like a somewhat chaotic blend of skyscrapers, hurried drivers, hidden little alleys and neon signs in foreign letters is starting to become more familiar. I feel welcomed for the most part- locals are quite willing to attempt to help a confused foreigner, and are amused by my clumsy attempts at communication rather than annoyed. One can never know for sure, but I’m fairly confident they’re laughing with me, not at me! Anytime I stand around looking confused and trying to orient myself, people tend to try to help- I’ve had strangers make meal recommendations when I stood outside a restaurant slowly puzzling out the menu written in Hangul (한글). For the record- I’ve improved a great deal from the days when I felt incredibly proud to recognize mandu guksu on a menu and know that the place had dumpling soup. (Yum!)
Speaking of food- it is faaaaantastic, ubiquitous and affordable here. Kimchi, pickled radish, noodles, gimbap, soups, and oddly enough, the king’s dessert- candy made by spinning honey and rice flour or corn starch into tiny, tiny threads, and wrapping this concoction around crushed peanuts. Overall, I’ve yet to try a meal I don’t like. I feel like I could dedicate an entire second blog to Things I Have Eaten And Loved!
While I’ve been somewhat limited by my lack of a cell phone plan- soon to be remedied, I hope- I’ve started exploring nonetheless! Seeing as I’ll only be in Giheung (기흥) for a few more days, I spent Saturday afternoon and evening playing photographer as I wandered on nature trail along a stream and checked out new sidestreets. On Sunday I visited the Yongin Folk Village, which I would certainly recommend. (Related posts to follow!)
Because PDA is less common than in other countries, some couples will show their affection by coordinating their outfits- you’ll see couples with dark pants and baseball caps, or white shirts and Converse sneakers. I wish I had a picture documenting this phenomenon, because it’s rather adorable. ^_^
I love seeing the ajjimas with their wide-brimmed visors to keep the sun at bay. I love seeing people on walking/biking trails- like as not, they’re decked out in high-performance clothing rather than a simple t-shirt and cargo shorts. It’s fun to be on the subway and recognize hikers by their colour-coordinated neon sportswear.
In conclusion- Korea is a land full of surprises and new things to discover. I’m sure I’ll encounter many frustrations along the way, but as long as I can appreciate the good in every experience I believe this will be a year to never forget!