Life in Korea
... And life goes on. Here are some more sights, sounds, and experiences
from the other side of the globe:
Remember when the Karate Kid and Ninja movies were all the rage and
everyone was wearing shirts, hats, and especially headbands with Chinese or
Japanese symbols on them, but had no idea what they meant? The oriental
writing just looked so ``cool''? Well, it's the same way here, but with
English. As a result, we see the strangest things written in various places,
especially on stationery. (Koreans seem to love to buy huge amounts of
stationery supplies, judging by the half dozen successful stationery stores
in Hamyang). Here are some examples, ranging from simple typos to
incomprehensible philosophical statements.
- MY FRIEND
You and I have to love long long. It is I get to road to you deared face.
- I like to stay in touch with my lived ones.
- Boy went to the toilet walk with hurried steps ``Mammy, waste paper!!''
- He picked a lock. Just moment - ``BOO'', ``DEAR ME!'' (Who knows him?)
- An earnest man come to me still mine.
Some where silent nod I am closing
the door you stare at me with alone eyes calmly.
- When you problem, Remember I'll always beside you
We are friend forever We play together all the time
More traffic follies (Actually witnessed by us):
- a man riding his big old Schwinn bicycle in the pouring rain holding
a huge umbrella in his left hand
- 2 teenagers riding a moped in the rain; the driver steering with
one hand while holding an umbrella in the other, the passenger not holding on
at all because he was carrying a pizza off to one side with both hands
- late in the evening, a car stops in the middle of an intersection.
A big guy gets out of the back, drags a much smaller man out of the driver's
seat, and proceeds to yell at him loudly while throwing him repeatedly against
a brick wall. Then they both get back in their seats and drive away.
- at a restaurant we had sora - a large edible sea snail (bland and
chewy) for which our apartment building is named (Sora Aparta)
- KFC copies abound: Donkey Fried Chicken, Mickey (Mouse) Fried
Chicken, Pelican Fried Chicken, Bunny Fried Chicken
- boiled bugs for sale in the open market on special days; they smell
quite awful but we are told they taste good
- ``hamburger'' from Pizza Pam/Burger Plaza around the corner:
beef(?) patty, ketchup, mustard, pickle, coleslaw (!), scrambled egg (!!),
slice of apple (!!!)
- I drank a can of Pocari Sweat, some sort of sports drink (I don't
know what a pocari is, nor do I want to).
- A man sells fresh crab from the back of a pickup truck parked on the
sidewalk in the main intersection some nights. Other nights there is a man
selling a huge array of plush animals spread along the sidewalk lit up with
- Korean food delivered by restaurants is brought to you in a large
metal box by a man on a moped. The food is in non-disposable plastic dishes
with metal cutlery, all of which you place outside on your doorstep after
the meal and the man comes back later and takes them away. (We say that
we are putting out our dirty dishes for the Dish Fairy to clean).
- we went out for eel (okay but they fed us too much) and sushi
(raw sliced fish with almost no flavour of its own served with sauces which
we did not find tasty).
Christmas is a very minor holiday here; only one day off (the 25th)
and no awareness of such things as Xmas Eve or Boxing Day, both of which were
teaching days for us. The stationery stores do get into the act, however,
selling all kinds of wacky Xmas cards. Our Xmas vacation took place the week
after, because the 1st and 2nd were already holidays (that's right, two of our
``vacation'' days fell on national holidays). During our vacation we went to
Pusan (the nearest metropolis) to buy English novels and eat non-Korean food.
It took us two days, but we actually managed to find 2 stores selling English
novels and one restaurant with Italian food. We also took a tour of ``Russian
Town'', a neighbourhood where many Russian sailors shop for consumer goods to
sell back home. Many of the stores have bilingual signs (Korean and Russian)
and we were mistaken for Russians by a real Russky because of my Russian-style
fur hat (he addressed us in Russian but apologized in English when he
realized we weren't comrades).
The big holiday here was Sollal (lunar new year), which fell on the
first week of February. We had no plans and most stores were closed so we
went to Pusan to visit Mr. Lee's relatives. They spent Saturday morning
worshipping their late ancestors in an elaborate ceremony. They spread out
a great variety of fancy foods on a big table and then said prayers offering
the food to each generation of ancestors while doing huge bows. They also
bowed to their oldest living ancestors, and we bowed as well since ``they
are older than our parents and our family isn't here for us to bow to''.
The kids were rewarded with cash for bowing but we didn't get any. They
served the same holiday foods for every meal and snack for three days, so
although we thought they were good at first, by Sunday we were quite sick of
them. We went sightseeing around Pusan from the back of a van for several
hours, with one short stop to get out and look over the ocean and one long
stop to eat lunch (and get drunk) in the back of the van.
mathNEWS Foreign Correspondent, Asia Office
© 1997 mathNEWS