Main road through Uijeongbu, about a block from my house.
My neighborhood is really cute and I’ve noticed that a lot of the clothing stores are golf themed. There must be a big boom in golf here, and it will probably get bigger since the Korean golfer beat Tiger Woods. I passed a golf course or two on my way here from the airport, and another driving range type of place. So Dad, when you come visit, you can get some practice in and maybe be the next to beat Tiger!
After walking around my neighborhood I was still bored and had some time to spare so I thought I would try to go into Seoul. There’s a train stop only a few blocks from my apartment, so I figured it would be easy. HA. I got to the station, and self-service kiosks are entirely in Korean. I tried clicking the American flag on the screen that I assumed would change everything into English but no such luck. Nothing happened when I clicked the flag, and I stood there for probably 10 minutes trying to figure it out and I could not. So I gave up and went home L There’s a big red button next to it that says “call for personnel” and so I figured next time I would try pushing that. It has to be directed at Americans because it was only in English, not Korean. I also managed to buy a hairdryer. The little old lady at the shop only spoke 2 words of English and one of them was “English” so that didn’t help me much. But through sign language and lots of pointing and nodding I completed my purchase. I really do feel bad that I can’t even attempt to speak Korean. I can barely say “thank you”. Most people seem to understand that I don’t speak Korean and so they usually just point out the price to me and it works out ok.
So Sunday I attempted yet again to go into Seoul. I went kind of early because I’m still jet lagged, and woke up at 5am. I managed to wait til 10 to leave the house though. English still wasn’t working so I pushed the call for help button, and just said “English please!” into the speaker. The guy sounded angry on the other end, but a few seconds later someone was there to help me. All he could manage to say was “English out of order”. I told him which stop I wanted to go to in Seoul and he just pushed all the buttons for me. I can sort of sound out Hangul (that’s Korean writing), so I’ll have to remember to do that next time. Go figure, of all the stops, the one by my apartment doesn’t have English on the ticket kiosk. Now that I've gotten my "t-money" card I should be able to avoid all that mess. The metro ride there was hysterical. I wish someone else had been there to laugh with me. There’s me, literally the only white person on the train with all the Koreans laughing and talking, and then out of nowhere come these people selling what is absolutely the most random and useless shit I could ever imagine. One man is selling water bottle cozies…and not for nice Nalgene-type water bottles. No, this is a cozy for your plastic water bottle. Mmmk. And then came some lady with these crazy sleeves and gloves you could buy. Mostly in pastels but then there was this really ugly camo sleeve with purple hands. I mean really…do people actually buy this stuff? And finally was a man selling these weird fuzzy fringy cleaning mitts…or something. Why don’t they sell useful things on the subway? Like actual water, or popsicles, or gum? I was trying to keep from laughing but nobody else seemed very fazed by it. I guess it won’t faze me either soon enough, but I honestly thought it was hilarious.
But finally after all that commotion, I made it to my stop. Turns out that Lonely Planet Seoul book I bought was useful after all! It led me right to Bandi and Luni’s Bookstore. Basically a Barnes and Noble. The majority of the books are in Korean of course, but there’s an English section with mostly the best sellers, but also some basic fiction, history, computers, etc. There’s also a small section with flashcards and beginner books for teaching…I might have to hit that up again. So I bought a few books to keep me occupied until I get my TV from my school, and cable, and internet, and phone. The bookstore was underground, so after I left, I went out of the subway and had my first look at Seoul!! And I must say, I am unconditionally in love with this place.
Luckily there was a really tall Samsung tower just outside my stop that I used as my landmark so I could wander without needing to keep track too closely of where I was going.
I mosied around, stopped at a 7-Eleven (yep they have those here!) to buy some water, and then made my way to Cheonggyecheon Stream. Its this little stream in the middle of Seoul and its so cute. There’s a few vendors down by it, but mostly just people. Kids sort of splash around in the little waterfall and its just really peaceful even in the heart of such a big city.
Standing in the middle of the stream!
I picked a great stop because there are tons of restaurants (even some random American ones, like Outback Steakhouse).
I really want to see Seoul at night, because there were so many signs and I’m sure it would be awesome all lit up. Then, I found a great shopping area. There was a whole street that they had blocked off..and finally I found it. What has become my Mecca for shopping that I seem to run into no matter where I am. Zara!
I fell in love with this store in Italy, mostly because I love the European style of fashion. More stores are going up in the U.S. now, so soon it will be popular and not as cool to run into, but man was I happy to see it in Seoul. It also means that I will be doing some serious damage to my bank account in the future, but I managed to control myself and only bought one shirt. On sale. So there. I thought it was funny though because it was playing American music from like 12 years ago. Old Wyclef Jean and even the Spice Girls! Another store I found had to have been targeted to Americans because it blaring "Blame It" by Jamie Foxx and a Keri Hilson song simultaneously...haha can you say overload? Starbucks is about as common as it is in the U.S…basically on every other block. Dunkin Donuts is unbelievably popular here too. I thought maybe it was just coincidence that there happened to be one near my apartment, but man, they’re as common as Starbucks! After all that shopping I was hungry, so I stopped at a little stand on the street and wasn’t exactly sure what exactly I was looking at, so I purchased what I knew would be a nice safe skewer of ttoekbokki (finally figured out the spelling on that one…its those pressed rice cakes with spicy sauce from my first night, but the way they pronounce it the k's are really soft and you almost can't hear it. Weird huh?). So I followed what everyone else was doing and had a seat on a bench just outside a big department store. I felt so Korean. Then I went back to the subway where luckily the English was working at the kiosk, and made my way home. Overall successful first day in Seoul!
Bosingak Bell Tower - 1396
"Once in a while I sit back and think about the planet and most of the time I trip on it. To kick back and think about how massive it all is...well how many other are on it?" - No Doubt