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Seoul Searching

SOUTH KOREA | Wednesday, 1 February 2006 | Views [2426] | Comments [6]

Seodaemun Independence Park

Seodaemun Independence Park

I'm in Bundang, a suburb of Seoul, Korea, and I will be for the next 11 months. I took a job teaching English at a private school for young kids in order to be able to live in Asia and make some money to fund future travels. Seoul is wild in a concrete jungle sort of way and although I'm a small-town girl at heart, I like it. I've met a lot of people here already, especially other English teachers. I work, live with, explore with, and party with the same people. Everyone's been great; lots of positive vibes and all that jazz. It seems that everyone who comes to teach English here came for two main reasons: to make money and to have a good time. That sums up my intent; the trick is balancing the two.

Besides teaching (really, playing games with) the cute little gremlins I now call 'my kids', I've been spending my time exploring the enormous city of Seoul. The first place that I was shown was Itaewon. Itaewon is the designated tourist area of Seoul, and conveniently offers many services in English or those which are tailored to the needs of foreigners. It's crawling with English teachers and American soldiers. It is also a favorite bar strip of several of my co-workers, and therefore, I've already spent a fair bit of time there. However, it's not really my thing. Rather, I prefer the small winding cobblestone streets of Insadong, another area of Seoul which is full of craft stores, art supply stores, restaurants, and themed or traditional teahouses. 

Alisa, Jelena, and I went to the Flying-Bird Teahouse, a small traditional type of teahouse, stuffed to the rafters with Korean crafts and antiques. As the name implies, it also contained several little song birds that could fly wherever they pleased within the house. Patrons sit on the heated floors around their table and are served tea and snacks. It was beautiful! I can't wait to visit the other teahouses!

A word to the wise, or more importantly, to the ignorant, like me, who use the washroom at this lovely place: First of all, please be careful not to pee on the poor goldfish stuck in the cement bowl on the ground a foot away from the toilet. Secondly, don't do like I did, and pick just any button on the device that looks like a remote control attached to the side of the toilet. I assumed that one of the dozen buttons had to have been the flush, but as it was in Korean, I was having a hell of a time trying to figure out which one to press. I chose one that I thought looked promising and before I time time to react (ie. jump a safe distance away), a small plastic spigot rose up from beneath the back of the toilet seat and sprayed the crotch and thighs of my pants (I had already pulled them up at this point) with cool water. Oh why didn't I know the Korean word for bidet!! I carried my sweater strategically in front of me on my walk of shame back to my table and explained to Jelena and Alisa that the toilet had peed on me. 

I also went to a fish market along the Han River in Seoul. Yes, it smelt bad. Yes, it was disguisting. However, it was oddly intriguing, and much cheaper than an aquarium. I'm thinking about going back there to buy a baby octopus to keep as a pet. All I need to do is find out what they eat.

When I asked my Korean friend to explain why Koreans like to eat alive baby octopus, he replied that they have no taste, but it has a special texture, and they like the feeling of it moving in their mouths. He said it goes 'boom, boom' in your mouth. I'm gonna take his word for it.

The 63 building is another site in Seoul that I've checked off my 'to do' list. I had read about this building, 63 floors high, which houses 10,000 people. As someone whose hometown had a population of 2000, this is something that I find hard to wrap my mind around. Since it contains every amenity that a person might need, it is truly a city within itself. A vertical city. Like something out of science fiction. It contains a 'Seaworld' in the basement and a 'Sky deck' on the 60th floor. Both were dissapointing. Seaworld ended up being more than just an aquarium. It also has seals, penguins, otters, reptiles, and other creatures that I didn't expect, and didn't want to see packed into the basement of a high-rise building. The seals had a pretty sweet underground playground (although not as sweet as freedom). However, the caiman was housed in a small terrarium with barely a lick of water. I had just seen a caiman for the very first time 6 months earlier in a jungle river in Costa Rica. And now I wish that I had not supported the place with my tourist buck. The sky deck would have been awesome, if it had not been for the thick layer of smog blanketing the city, leaving us with not much of a view to be awed by. Later, we found out that the best time to visit the skydeck on the 63 building is in spring, after a rainfall.  

That's it so far! Many more tales to come.... 

Tags: Country Introduction

 

Comments

1

Yeah! Seoul is top-level!

  kevin Feb 5, 2006 11:24 PM

2

It's wonderful to keep up with your travels and insights. It's important to keep your eyes and ears open but it's more important to experience life with your heart. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Enjoy! MAC, LW and K.

  K. Feb 19, 2006 11:51 AM

3

Sounds like you are having the time of your life, a wonderful adventure, paid too. Why not! Enjoy, we are thinking of you.

  Kevin & Brenda McLaughlin Mar 9, 2006 6:42 AM

4

Hi,

I am moving to Imaedong in the next few weeks to start teaching at Kindeschule, an english kindergarten. I have been told I am the only western teacher at the school. I m from Australia and am 24, do you know any esl meeting groups around bundang, am I correct in thinking that imaedong is an area of bundang?

Anyway, while I am on the beach at the gold coast in oz waiting for my visa, its great to hear about your adventures.

thanks in advance if you do have any info,

jane

  Jane Mar 7, 2007 2:01 PM

5

Yes, Imae is part of Bundang... only one subway stop over from where I used to live. I don't know of any ESL
meeting groups, but if you're looking to meet other English teachers, Dublin Irish Pub in Samsung Plaza at the Seohyeon subway station is a good place, or Itaewon in Seoul is the designated foreigner's area- there are always hordes of English teachers there.

  realeyes Mar 7, 2007 9:34 PM

6

Dublin Bar in Samsung Plaza, anytime after 10pm its stuffed with esl teachers and it's a blast. You should check it out!

  Bretters Sep 26, 2008 10:21 PM

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