Sunday, August 10, 2008

Seoul Searching Experience

Thursday was kinda boring. We had 3 lectures on how to teach elementary school kids. One of the meetings was done by an American guy, so he was brutally honest about all things, and told us that we would be teaching the kids after school, which was a total relief because the other lecturers made it seems like we were going to have to teach the kids math, science and history as well as english. We felt the pains of being teachers until we heard that we are to be giving supplemental English lessons. That was really nice.

Thursday was also the day that we brought the bank to us and signed up for our accounts. It is direct deposit, but because the banking system is different, then I had to open an account for the money to come flowing into. I'm still not sure how I'm going to get any of that money home, but I will ask the moment I get a chance. None of the banking people spoke English and since there were like 100 people who needed to get the account at the same time, I just let it go.

It felt strange to have a paper that I didn’t understand at all as I stood there in front of the desk. I signed like 6 times and wrote my name like 20 times on a piece of paper that I couldn’t read. Since I had to fill out the paper work or else my money doesn’t get to me, I filled it out, but I was curious to know a little bit about what I was signing. But like I said before, no one spoke English.

In other news, I decided if our Korean Coordinators could just randomly select English names for themselves, then I could just randomly select a Korean name for myself, and after long deliberation and confirmation of its validity as a good name I took on the Korean name "Beom Joon" (pronounced BOM JUNE). My roommate, who is Korean, came up with it after long deliberation and going through 10 names that worked, I asked people what they thought of Beom Joon, Tae Joon, or Tae Jin, and without knowing that I was looking for a name, all 7 said I looked like a Beom Joon...if I was Korean that is. It’s funny because I don't know what a Beom Joon is supposed to look like.

Anyway, turns out that Beom Joon stands "Handsome Tiger". The coordinator, Angela, laughed when she heard the name and asked me if I knew what it meant. I thought maybe I got named "craphole" or something, but then my coordinator Danielle (whose real name is Jihe) told me what it meant.

Everyone is calling me Beom Joon here now.

Okay, maybe not everyone, but a large collection of people.

Anyway, Saturday was a full day in Seoul. We took a tour of the old and new parts of Seoul, first visiting the Changduk Palace (pictures on my Flickr account), where the Joseon Kings and Queens did they’re chillin’ and leadin’ Korean-style, then we went to Insadong, where we ate the best freakin’ Korean food I’ve ever had before, followed by a shopping trip in the same area, in which my roommate bought bootleg movies, 4 for 10 dollars. I could make a friggin’ fortune with the ones that I have here in this country. Thing is, none of mine have subtitles because they are for English speakers by English speakers. Anyway, we moved on to take a tour of the Blue House, which is the South Korean White House. The President apparently wanted to have coffee with us, but since the Beijing Olympics just started, he’s in China right now. I’m surprised about the close proximity to Kim Jong-il, but apparently their secret service isn’t worried.

Anyway, our Blue House tour was cut short because it just decided to go cloudy and rain on us, but that was okay. We got to stand under the cover of a really cool building that was apparently fairly old and had seen more dignitaries than you would imagine. But we got to stand around and take pictures with the security dude, in his white uniform and stuff. Fun.

After we finished the tour, we got to spend the evening however we wanted, so Simon, Andrew, Lee, Glenn, Amanda, Yano, Thomas Smallwood, Hana, Jackie, Gus and some others decided to go out clubbing/pubbing, but it turned out that everyone except Glenn, Amanda, Yano and I wanted to get their dance on, so the four of us left the group paying the 20 dollar cover charge and instead went to a bar for a while to sit and chat and have some drinks. I downed this drink called the Golden Medalist, which is a non-alcoholic cocktail of strawberries and bananas, and it was good. At around 1am, we began trying to find our way to the JinJilBang (a bathhouse, like a Japanese Onsen) where we were supposed to meet the rest of the group, but we utterly lost. After wandering for a while, we decided to ask some taxi drivers, but none of them knew where it was. That’s when we got saved by a Good Samaritan.

His name was Dong Cheol, and he was trying to find a place to stay for the night because he too was stranded away from home after the subways stopped running. He was standing there watching us talk to the Taxi drivers and kept looking at me, so I said, “What’s up?” He responded and we got to talking. When Amanda asked him if he knew of the place we were going, he said he did not, but called them to find out where they were. But he didn’t just find out, he walked us all the way there, and since he’d gone through all that work, we decided to pay the 10,000 won is cost for him. (that’s like 10 dollars) We stayed up really late talking to people there at the bathhouse, and I found a chair to sleep in, but every hour or so, I got moved to a different location, which meant that I didn’t sleep well.

But in the morning, Dong Cheol got us close enough to our home that we were able to get back fine. Nice guy. I spent all of today sleeping. Man was I tired. But the coordinators ordered pizza when I asked them to, so I got to have a good dinner later in the evening than normal. It was good stuff, but really expensive and small. Sigh, I’ll just have to get used to the Asian sizes again.

Happy Trails everyone, until we meet again.

No comments: