Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Stories from November 2007

Things here are going well. Shane is 6 months now and is sitting up and wanting to crawl. He is tearing around in the walker we borrowed from the base and it is too funny. He wants to be doing everything that Weston is doing and gets so mad when he can't. Weston turned 3 last month and has been using the toilet for over a week now. He can't wear underwear though or he can't tell when he needs to go so he just goes commando. I am a little under the weather from the 'Korean Crud'- apparently a common affliction among people who have just arrived. It has been lingering for several weeks and I am hoping it will go away soon. It is an annoying cough and sore throat. It is very dusty here and some people think that's what causes it. It is so dusty that there are new dust bunnies showing up almost every day. Think of it, I can have here overnight with no effort at all what it would normally take months of neglect to accomplish!

Our apartment is nice- it's small but cleverly laid out so it is roomy enough. Several of the rooms have glassed-in finished balcony-type rooms on the outside wall for storage. The floors are a wood laminate and the walls are light, with wallpaper over some kind of manufactured non-wood, non-sheetrock product. I know this because I have repeatedly tried to tack things up and have only managed to bend the tacks. There are lots of big frosted window, so lots of light but you can't see outside. One of the funny things is the bathrooms- we have western style toilets but there is no shower stall- the shower is just mounted in the corner and there is a drain in the floor. The appliances and cupboards are all very sleek and modern looking. We had to have a dryer installed specially- most Koreans don't have them- they use a folding rack that unfolds into what looks like a circular clothesline. I would like to have one but don't have anywhere to put it. Maybe in one of the glassed in storage/balcony rooms, but we have them stuffed full of junk already!

We have cable with about 40 Korean stations and three English channels (the Air Force channel, Discovery, and one that plays reruns of sitcoms sometimes. The National Geographic channel sometimes has shows in English also). The Korean channels are interesting- several QVC type channels, lots of game show channels and lots of animation. We find the QVC channels especially intriguing because it is so much the same, yet so different. The hosts have the same faux-sincere enthusiasm in their voices and joyful expressions on their faces and some of the products are similar. When they are selling kitchen gadgets and food, they show lots of fish and seaweed and of course the screen is covered in Korean words. There is also a fishing channel, and a channel that shows Korean soap operas, which are very over the top in dramatic expression.

The terrain here is hilly and the roads are narrow. There are lots of little garden plots right on the roads and there are often people and dogs sitting right by the road as you go by. The driving is crazy- people blow right through the stop signs, and pedestrians (and there are a lot of them!) don't even look before they cross or step into the roadway.

Recycling is mandatory here and apparently everything can be recycled. There is even a bin for clothes. You can get a fine of up to $500 for failing to recycle. Garbage has to be put in special clear bags so "they" can see if there are any recyclables in the trash. I believe "they" is the city government but I'm not certain. We haven't been brave enough to throw anything away yet.

The people are very friendly- they come right up to see and touch Weston and Shane. Shane eats it right up, but Weston doesn't love it so much. He is getting more tolerant of it though. I have a phrase book but I haven't tried to use any words yet. Even a simple phrase has a lot of syllables and it's a very fluid language. Around here everyone speaks enough English that we wouldn't have to even try Korean, but if we get away from here nobody speaks English. We went to Emart the other day so Lloyd and Weston could get fishing poles. Emart is a huge store like a Target or similar, and it looks like a small sports arena from the outside. They had people outside directing traffic in the parking lot and tons of employees inside- many more than you would see in the states. To get a shopping cart you have to use a 100 won coin (approximately a dime) to release it from the cart corral. It took us a while to figure it out, then we didn't have any coins, so we went without a cart. It has two floors and has an inclined moving ramp to get upstairs, instead of an escalator, so you can take your cart (if you were clever enough to have obtained one, of course….)

We have eaten at some Korean restaurants and also at McDonald's (okay, twice). I am a little embarrassed about coming to Korea and eating at McDonald's but I can justify it in the name of research. I was very curious about whether it was the same. And, it is- mostly. The fries are the same, but the burgers are slightly different. I think it is the ketchup, which is thicker and sweeter (in my opinion at least; Lloyd does not necessarily agree), and the bun, which is denser and thicker. The coke here is the same but the diet is different- it tastes as if it may have ginger in it. Of course I have no idea, because I can't read the ingredients.

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