Thursday, July 31, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
But if we hadn’t been carefully scoping out the street, we would have missed this bar on the second story, above "Kraze Burgers." Give the name of the bar a good look and tell me you don’t wish had come up with such an awesome title:
Just down from the Beer Hunter, tables and chairs were plopped down all over in the street – which wasn’t officially closed off -- essentially making the area a sprawling, de facto sidewalk café/street fair. The pedestrians take over in the evening, really.
Here’s the street scene:
And what are they enjoying, you ask? I investigated:
Bins and bins of mussels and snails. Yum. Sea creatures.
I’m thinking about Drew, my 6-year-old niece who has always been way cooler than I ever was. When we took Drew and her brothers to the Zoo in DC earlier this summer and walked through the Invertebrates House, she peered into tanks at all manner of slimy, leggy, spiny sea creatures and declared, “Mmm, I want that one for my dinner.” Time to bring that girl to Seoul!
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The food here is amazing. Ordering it has been fairly disastrous. Generally I don’t know what’s on the menu (if there is a written menu), what I’m getting after I order by pointing to a picture or a word, or what to request about anything I order. I did manage to tell a waitress that our meal was delicious. Knowing my language abilities it probably came out as “food good.”
But the whole operation is fun so far. Yes, every time I come home I frantically hit the Korean textbooks and try to cram in a few new lessons because I don’t like being so language deficient, but even that is a good challenge. I’ve learned the words for rice and noodles, which, as far as I can tell so far in this country, are the most important basics.
We’ve found a little grocery near our place that stocks a lot of wrapped-within-wrappers prepared foods and other home goods, along with an entire aisle of seaweed. The produce looked a little withered except for the leafy-green bin, which contains carefully stacked and perfectly coiled bundles of greens. Chard and spinach are among them; as for the rest I have no idea. There’s a lovely steady stream of mist all around the greens to keep it, well, green:
Meat, hard-boiled eggs, broth, rice, and vegetables make up the elements in almost every meal. Dairy is limited. There’s no cheese to speak of in our little grocery, a few prepackaged, sweetened yogurt containers (I’m much more inclined to the plain type), and small containers of expensive milk. There’s also a milk-yogurt hybrid drink (kefir?).
Austin wrote about the noodle soup, too (below), so you can hear about it from both of us!
It’s been about 48 hours since we arrived in Seoul, and we’re still feeling the effects of jet lag. Vic conked out around seven o’clock last night with me following suit about an hour later. And, of course, I was up at 5:30 a.m., wide awake and ready to go, so I spent some time organizing the apartment and studying a little Korean.
After a leisurely morning, we headed out for lunch and stuttered and stumbled our way through ordering. OK, actually we mostly just pointed, nodded and said thank you a lot, but as there was no menu to order from, we basically just accepted what they brought us.
This soup is called naeng myeon (냉면), which literally means “cold noodles.” The noodles are made from buckwheat and the dish is garnished with sliced pork, a boiled half egg, and sliced cucumber, sprinkled with sesame seeds. As its name suggests, it’s eaten cold – ours actually had frozen broth cubes floating in it. Very refreshing for hot, humid summer days.
Yesterday, fellow Georgetown colleague and upstairs neighbor Glen showed us around downtown Seoul and gave us a brief tour of Sungkyunkwan University [see link in right sidebar]. Here’s Glen standing outside the front gate to our house:
SKKU’s Campus is beautiful, at the same time both ancient and modern. Near the front gate of campus stand the original buildings that were built in the 14th century as a place for Confucian study. Up the hill, the 600 Building stands, built in 1998 on the 600th Anniversary of the founding of the school.
After wandering around downtown Seoul and SKKU’s campus for the better part of the day, we were feeling more than a little overwhelmed, somewhat by the masses of people, but more so by the feeling that only comes when you are surrounded by a language you cannot comprehend. So, you can imagine how comforting it was to spot at least one familiar word when I arrived at the building in which I’ll be teaching.
For those of you who are interested in exactly where we live, or for those of you who share my nerdy love of geography, cartography and all things Map, I encourage you to check out interactive Seoul map [see link in right sidebar]. (You can use the page’s Category Search feature to find Sungkyunkwan University.)
OK, so TESOL is technically an acronym (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), but it was comforting nevertheless.
Well, that's all for now. I should go wake up Vic from her jet lag nap.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Our 14-hour flight went well. We woke early, unpacked our suitcases and explored our apartment (we found a few treasures, including “Richard Simmons – Sweatin’ to The Oldies 2”). We also discovered that the window in our room opens to let in a little light, which brightens things up a bit. Our apartment isn’t too bad – though we did have to heat water on the stove and bucket-bathe last night because there’s no hot water, and that was a big throwback to Peace Corps. It’ll be fixed in a day or so, we’re told.
It’s not hot here but the humidity is very oppressive. Dry skin? Never here, especially in monsoon season, which is the whole month of July. They weren’t exaggerating the description of this season either – today is the sixth straight day of rain. Today when we went out exploring, it let up a bit, but right now it’s at it again. We walked down our narrow, winding street, past old brick houses and Austin’s university, Sungkyunkwan University, which is only a few minutes' walk from our place.
If you google Sungkyunkwan, the school’s web site says “Since 1398.” In DC, our apartment building was constructed in 1925 and it's considered historic. Maybe the marker for historic here is closer to 500 years? Sungkyunkwan is in the northern part of the city. It’s a fabulous location and the old parts of the school are quite beautiful. These photos overlook the downtown area of Seoul:
This is an awesome sign on one of the buildings:
We took the subway, which, despite the appearance of the map image I’ve included, is the easiest subway system I’ve ever used, and beats New York’s system (especially Penn Station) by about a mile in frustration and confusion.
We heard before we came that we would be able to get just about anything here, but what no one told us is that they have three-story Dunkin’ Donuts! For real. Also American Apparel, Starbucks, and loads more.
It’s still exhausting to walk around even for a few hours because it’s crowded everywhere and everything is in Korean, which I am trying to read.
The pictures are from around our neighborhood and venturing into the downtown neighborhood called Myongdong. More soon!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
We got pics of the new place today -- check 'em. The kitchen appears to be considerably larger and nicer than our DC apartment, and I like the idea of a washing machine doubling as both laundry device and kitchen counter.