Saturday, July 28, 2007

Getting Settled

So today I was on my own and had to take the "dreaded" walk to school. I'm not sure if anyone realizes coming into Korea exactly what they're getting themselves into- I sure didn't. And not in a bad way, just in a "wow, there's no way I could have ever known this without having previously been to Korea" kind of way. Firstly, one is usually under the impression that all Koreans love English and will go out of there way, if not to speak, at least to have certain menus and signs translated into English. Not so much. Sometimes, on things like a bottle of coke, there will be Korean on one side of the bottle and English on the other side, but I think that's mostly for copyright purposes. So on the whole, I'm feeling a little timid about going into a store or restaurant alone and ordering a meal or buying an item.

Also, the driving- as I have mentioned- is crazy. So crazy that one, in my opinion, is not even safe on the sidewalk, let alone a crosswalk. So I have been very timid about leaving my apartment and walking down the street (my fellow Canadians assure me this will pass).

I've gone way off track. Even though I was dreading walking to work today, it turns out I didn't even have to. Having slept for about 15 hours (from 7PM to about 9:30AM), I was just getting dressed and getting my makeup on when my doorbell rang. I wondered who it could have possibly be, since no one knows where I live, and it turned out to be Jay!

I really like Jay. He's the school's financial dude, and speaks very little English. Having said this, I have understood everything he's attempted to tell me over the last few days, which is a lot, and he's absolutely hilarious. Like, I don't have to fake laughing at his jokes (he often gestures so I understand what he's saying). He was there to pick me up from the airport, and on the way back we went through an entire repretoire of Korean music- the staples: the cheesey Korean ballad (very karaoke, or in Korea- NORABANG!), the Korean Gangsta Rap, the American song translated into cheesey Korean ballad, and finally American 80's music (think the Wedding Singer soundtrack). Then Jay brought me to my apartment and pretended to throw a fit when I mistakenly walked into my apartment with my shoes on- "No, Janine No! I clean, I clean!". When I told him he had dropped some money on the floor he explained that in Korea it's good luck to have money on the floor of a new apartment- something about well wishing and prosperity. Then he took me to E-Mart (the equivilant of WalMart) and helped me buy makeup, which was hilarious because he was the one who had to speak to the saleslady.

Anyways, I thought Jay deserved a proper introduction because Gad knows I'll be talking about him in the future! What a card.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The First Ten Things I Noticed About Korea:

1. This doesn't really have anything to do with Korea, but the planes from China look exactly like the planes from Russia. Coincidence?

2. The toilets at Incheon International Airport have seats that spin, so that they are sanitized for each new user- very nice!

3. There is ivy covering entire mountainsides- it makes everything look incredibly green and lush.

4. If I thought driving on the 401 in Ontario was scary, it was nothing compared to driving on ANY Korean highway. I'm still shaking from the experience.

5. Koreans are mad about golf, but there are very few courses in the country itself. Driving ranges, on the other hand, are everywhere and the nets go so high one wonders if anyone is ever able to drive a ball like that. It might be helpful for the big egos.

6. As you drive by busy highways, you can see ancient family burial grounds on the side of the road.

7. The sides of the road are landscaped! With shrubberies! And sometimes flowers.

8. My bathroom, as expected, has no shower- just the nozzle and a drain in the floor.

9. Koreans are the sweetest people alive! So so so so so so so nice.

10. I'm homesick and jet lagged and am experiencing culture shock I never thought I would experience. But I'll get over it.

Pictures will follow! Love you all.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The countdown is on. Shit.

I got a phone call last night from my school's director saying he arranged my flight and I'd be going in less than a week! I knew that this was a possibility, but for some reason i didn't really think I'd be leaving that soon. I'm finishing up my current job tomorrow, getting all of my stuff packed (somehow- there's a lot of it), and heading to Halifax where I'll be flying out. I doubt there will be time to have a proper send off- probably no pub nights out with close friends, and definitely not going out to visit my vast number of family members.

Am I leaving with any reservations? Not really. I've been reading other ex-pat's blogs constantly, trying to get my head around what I'll be experiencing in less than a week. My main worries include: my quick Visa Run over to Japan, jet lag, not having anyone to show me around, and not having enough money with me. Even with all these little worries at the back of my mind, I know deep down that I'll be fine, and I won't have problems meeting people or getting around. I have one friend, Scott, who is 15 minutes away, and another friend, Clint, who is in Seoul (just a subway ride away). So bring on South Korea. I'm excited for the change of scenery!

People I'll miss: Mom and Dad, Rory and Sar, Matt and Margret, Zaphyl, Mandy, Andie, Moni, Stef, Shellbell, David Rankin, and countless other Acadia people. And my Aunts and Uncles. They're pretty great.

People I won't miss: Jerkface tourists, a certain co-worker, awkward past flings, the blackflies at my house, and the town of Baddeck in general. Stay tuned as the last comment may change as the year goes by (but I doubt it).