Friday, December 14, 2007

Seoul is neat (Tourism day one)

I've had a great time so far in Seoul. I am staying with a nice couple here who are affiliated with a church here that my parents attend a branch of in the US. My parents' pastor reccomended some people to stay with here in Seoul, and now I am here with Jae-sung(Faithfulness) and Sarung(Love). I have wanted to stay in a Korean home, and now I am. They just moved into this apartment two weeks ago, and I have the honor of being their first guest in their new home. For having moved in two weeks ago, they are very well organized; I suppose that the small living spaces in Korea lend themselves to quick and easy moving.

I've spent three days here now, and it has been exciting. I've been taking many pictures- I trust that they will help me to remember where I've been, because I can't remember names in Korean. Today I went to the Korean National Museum and In Sa Dong, a popular outdoor mall. I think all the malls here are outdoor, though. I won't go through the whole thing backwards, though- lets start from the beginning.

Tuesday night I arrived in Seoul by bus- it's actually fairly cheap to take the bus here, and practical, unlike Greyhound. There is a direct bus between Pohang and Seoul, and it takes about 4.5 hours. I spent this time watching Korean drama, a show about Korean farming(apparently a popular show, I've seen it before- a girl goes and spends a day with the old Korean ladies who do all the farming and 'live the life' with them for a day), and playing Sudoku. Note to self: don't forget to print a bunch of Sudoku for the plane) Once I arrived, I had to get to a certain subway station, so I played the game 'look as confused as possible until a friendly, english-speaking Korean offers to help'. I had the slight handicap of 60kg of luggage. After an hour and three friendly Korean strangers, I finally met Boaz and Dongyu in Oksu station(Line 4, orange). We made our way to my host's home via city bus, where I recieved a joyous and enthusiastic reception:

After some socializing over tangerines(quul), Korean pear(peh), and water, I went to bed, thankful for a successful voyage. I'm so glad to be with such a nice host couple- they are very kind to me, and always go out of their way to make sure I'm happy.

My first day in Seoul started by going to University of Seoul, where the group that I'm staying with does their ministry of one-on-one Bible teaching. There was an outdoor art exhibit:

People often asked what my major is, so everyone knew that I liked welding(aka yong-jop). A lot of the outdoor sculptures were welded, like this rose:

Next, we went to the old palace/seat of government- I'm not sure about the name in Korean. The modern seat of government is here too, that is, their presidential living quarters (aka the 'Blue House'). We took the subway to get there, and it (in certain places) is well ornamented:

Here I am right outside the palace. The guards looked very serious, but something about their blades looked a bit funny to me.

Here's a view of a Chinese tour group taking a group photo. This is inside the first wall.

The outer eaves of each building, and at the top of many inside walls, are decorated with a very ornate woodcarving/painting combo. Lots and lots of work went into these! This photo is taken inside the King's chamber.

Here's the throne. (Sorry about the blurry picture)

We also went to the Korean National Folk Museum, outside of which was this neat arrangement of statues. Each statue is an animal(well, animal-headed man) which represents one of the years in the 12-year cycle. Ever heard of 'year of the tiger', 'year of the dragon', or read the placemat at a chinese restauant? That's what these are. I'm year of the rabbit. (1987)

The Folk Museum had lots of neat exhibits, but because I'm Ned, I'm going to show you a picture of the lady who was zooming around on a broom-equipped scooter:

Dongyu was my guide for the day. Here we are after seeing the palace and museum.

This is as close as we could get to the Blue House(equivalent to American White House) . It was right outside the palace grounds. Neat mountain in the background.

Next we took a cable car up to the Seoul Tower, which takes advantage of its position on a mountain(well, more like a big hill) to broadcast maximum cell coverage. As you can see, it was fairly foggy, so we opted out of buying the tickets up the the observatory.

It's pretty tall.
I've heard about this tradition/practice in other places. Couples will get a padlock(or two) and lock it on a fence or any other convenient structure located at some memorable destination. I wonder how many keys were thrown away over this fence. I also wonder how much money was wasted by guys buying the biggest lock(s) available to symbolize how much they love their girlfriend, only to break up later.

Ice cream cone sculpture.

There were several chromed steel spheres outside near the base of the tower. They all were covered in mathemagical formulae and (less so) flower designs which had actually been cut into the (hollow) spheres with a plasma cutter. I don't really know what the significance of these are, but nonetheless- neat.

In Korea, many it is common to use kerosene for heat. Again, I don't know why- I suppose it may be a holdover from older times that the US didn't experience. Anyway, everywhere you go, there are many of the same 20 liter kerosene containers. These little trucks run around the city and sell kerosene. Tiny little trucks, they are. I wish they'd sell efficient and well-engineered trucks like this in the US. Probably not the safest vehicles, though.

Some of you may know about my aspirations to live in an ISO container/dry van trailer. It looks like the company selling real estate in the city elected to use them for portable offices. The top ones are strange, though, as they are not standard width. I can imagine that making things more than a little difficult in nearly every area of dealing with these, as it throws the whole standardization thing out the window. Oh well, they seemed happy enough with them.

In the US we have street food, and the city/state/somebody inspects and licenses them. In Korea, though, street food is much more common and is actually illegal(or so I've heard a few times). That doesn't stop it from being delicious, though. Mmm, street meat.

The particular area that we were visiting was known for its fashion, and one of the companies/organizations hawking their wares to the public erected this giant glowing pyramid over a subway(or underground shopping center) entrance. I wonder how many watts this thing is sucking down.

I think they got a little carried away with this sign. I think that fashion, in principle alone, is complete bullcrap. Not just because I don't want to bother keeping up with it(not that I really have to, as a male), but because it's perhaps one of the most wasteful and useless things ever to exist. The fact that most people aren't offended by 'fashion' offends me. I wonder how many bags of rice the cost of this neon display could have sent to Africa.

And on that note, this day's worth of pictures is over. At the time of this writing, it's actually over a week since these pictures were taken, so I'm relying on the pictures to be my notes. At some point in the evening, Dongyu and I ate Jajangmyeon, which is a black noodle dish with lots of onions. It's a pretty special dish, we had to search for a Chinese-Korean restaurant that served it and wait for a table. Everyone there was eating it, which shows that it's a bit of a specialty dish. I liked it.