365 DAYS OF SEOUL SEARCHING

March 31, 2011

SEOUL AUTO SHOW 2011

Filed under: 365 Days of Seoul Searching — Tags: , , , , , , — beckylanglais @ 9:40 pm

There are certain events that you see a poster for, or hear about and it is months away.  At the time the thought, “oh that might be fun to go to,” crosses your mind but truthfully most of these events just get stored in the great abyss and the prospect of attending them eventually disappears.  Well there is one event that since the moment I saw the first posters go up in Seoul I have been waiting anxiously for this weekend to arrive.  The Seoul Auto Show is the type of event that I’d go out of my way to make it too!

I’ve attended many car shows in my lifetime but never Seouls’ so this is not a review (yet) but a suggestion with some information on something you might look into doing this weekend, enjoy!

Seoul Auto Show 2011

April 1st – April 10th, 2011

10am – 7pm

KINTEX Exhibition Center

Directions: Orange Line 3 to Daehwa

Ticket: 9,000 (Sold on-site)

QUICK! WE’RE GONNA MISS THE TRAIN!

I have a love-hate affair with the subways in Seoul. The system here is advanced, easy to navigate, signage is in multiple languages and quite frankly it puts many of the US subway systems such as Boston and New York to shame with its convenience and efficiency.  These are all the reasons why I am in love with South Korea’s subway system.  There is only one reason why I hate this system, but sadly it is a pretty big reason…I am freaked out on the possibility of being crushed by a South Korean subway system door.  This may sound a bit extreme but let me take a moment to explain myself.

In other subway systems people load onto the subway and an alarm signals the doors will be closing, at which point the doors start to close.  If the doors hit something such as a person or a briefcase or whatever, the doors then open, an announcement is made and they begin to close again.  This action continues on until the doorways are cleared and the doors close freely.  Here in South Korea the station makes the sound announcing the doors are closing and then, they close.  That’s it.  They close.  If you are in the doorway; if a purse, a bag, a body part is in the doorway, they close and that’s that.  It quite honestly freaks me out.  I see people trying to cram into over-packed carts all the time but for me if the cart is close to being full, I just step back and wait for the next one.  Why?  Well, i kind of like having all of my limbs still attached to me.

Don’t believe me?  Here are two stories, one funny and one sickly just to put this situation into perspective.  By the way I personally know both of the subjects in each story and in the sickly story I got to see first hand what these doors can do to a body part…

Hmmm should I go humorous or disturbing first.  Alright we’re going with disturbing because I’d rather you all left me on a positive note.

Disturbing:

I knew a man, his name was Jon.  He was a big man, built like a football player and strong.  He worked out and was in good shape for his age and size.  One afternoon he was rushing to get onto a subway cart and although he could her the announcement sounding that the doors were going to be closing he chose to proceed anyway.  He made it onto the subway cart, but, not all of him.  The doors closed on the back of his foot right behind the ankle.  They did not reopen.  Shock followed by screams of agony erupted as the train took off from the platform.  We are in Korea though and so as he stood, foot pinned in the metal doorways, screaming, he looked around and found a cart full of Koreans just staring back.   Of course no one got up to help, come to his rescue or really do anything at all.  (Lack of assistance for others is quite common here but that perhaps is a story for another time and place.)  So as mentioned above, Jon, being the big guy that he is, used pure force and adrenaline to reach behind himself and with one concrete motion he pried the doors just a bit apart, enough to unlock his foot from the clamp…The bruise, even two weeks after the incident when I saw it was ridiculous.  Behind his ankle was a massive welt, black and blue like ink.

Humorous:

David, a quirky English teacher in his mid-thirties was riding the Seoul subway system home one day.  He hoped on-board but somehow didn’t pull his jacket all the way into the cart in time and the metal doors closed on it.  Not too big of a deal right…well turned out that the subway train continued along its path stopping at each station however, the loading and unloading platform for every single one of the stops was the opposite site of the subway cart.  For 45 minutes David was forced to simply stand and wait for his side of the train to pull into a station where his doors would open so he could free his coat and finally gain his own personal freedom from the underground!

If you learn anything from these tales I hope that it is that the five minutes you might have saved by getting onto an overpacked train is not worth the possibility of losing a limb!

March 26, 2011

SEOUL OLYMPIC PEACE PARK

Open 365 days a year / sunrise to sunset
Subway line 5, Olympic Park Station (This exit lands you at the opposite end of the park from the Peace Gate but allows you access to many of the sports areas for events such as concerts)
Subway line 8, Mongchontoseong Station (This exit lands you closest to the Peace Gate and Museum)

Subway line 2, Jamsil Station, Seongnae Station

The weather is starting to turn and the same thought is crossing everyone’s mind: where can I go to spend quality outdoor time?  The nice thing about South Korea and Seoul, in general, is that unlike many other huge cities that just feel like block after block of a concrete jungle, the Koreans have actually taken the time to incorporate an abundance of parks and gardens into their concrete jungle.   One of these places is Olympic Park.

In 1988 the South Koreans built Olympic Park in order to host the Summer Olympics but unlike many other momentarily loved facilities created for this great honor, but forgotten soon after, the Koreans have and continue to invest into the park and it is used and still enjoyed daily by many.  The sports arenas have been maintained for current and future athletes to work on their skills.  Throughout the year the arenas also host a variety of concerts featuring some of the world’s greatest musicians.  The park is much more than a bunch of sports arenas though.  There are also ample amounts of places to go sit and read a book, walk a maze of trails or rent a bike to glide around the grounds in the beautiful weather.

Situated within the grounds are the Seoul Olympic Museum which commemorates key moments of the 1988 Summer Olympics as well as the World Peace Gate.  The Peace Gate towers 27 meters in height and 37 meters in width.  The underside of the gate’s wings are adorned with paintings of a dragon, a phoenix, a tiger and a turtle.  The Peace Gate was painted by renowned Korean artist Paek-Geum-Nam. Paek-Geum-Nam chose to paint the winged monument in the artistic style of Dancheong which is a traditional decorative coloring that is used to adorn many of the temples and wooden buildings here in Korea.

A few restaurants and coffee shops are scattered about the park so if you are looking for a nice way to spend an evening or weekend afternoon Seoul’s Olympic Park has much to offer and the best part, it’s free!


March 25, 2011

The Newbies Have Picked Their Names

Filed under: 365 Days of Seoul Searching — Tags: , , , , , — beckylanglais @ 11:32 am

In America the new school year ends in June and starts in September but here in South Korea the school year ends in February and the new one begins in March.  There is a slight break for a few weeks of vacation and then the kids are back to the grind.  It was odd walking into Emart; Korea’s version of Kmart or Target; and seeing all of the “Back to School” supplies on display in February.  At our Kindergarten the kids returned the second week of March and with this came a busload of newbies.  Last year I shared the responsibility of being the 5-year-old and 7-year-old teacher with one of my Canadian co-teachers but since our school continues to grow at a rapid pace, this year I am only the 7 seven-year old speaking teacher and my Canadian co-teacher has enough students to be only a teacher for 5 year olds.

The 5 year olds, which are really 3 year olds American, are adorable but challenging because this is their first time being separated from home and because they have never been exposed to a foreigner or to English.  She has quite the challenge ahead of her!  At some Kindergartens in Korea the foreign teachers pick the new students names but here at our school we let the parents pick the names.  This always allows for a bit of humor and a bit of shock in their name choices.  It also creates a pattern for us foreigners to spend the next three years trying to convince everyone that the names should be spelled appropriately based on phonetic sounds versus just on what looks nice on paper to the parents.

Here is this years list of names that stand out:

Cuty  (Cutie)

Butter (Yeah like the yellow stuff you spread on bread!!!)

Bicky (This one drives me personally insane since I am a Becky myself)

Brian Igloo (Brian Igloo is actually one of my 7 year olds and last year he was Brian but this year he arrived with a name change to Igloo.  For the life of me I couldn’t get him to give up on Igloo so we compromised on Brian Igloo.)

Another unique trend has been European foreign names.  We currently have:

Lola

Luchia

Lucia

Francois

Andrea (pronounced like Andrea Bocelli)

 

There you have it, the names of the future generations to one day run and lead this fine peninsula!

 

March 23, 2011

꽃샘추위 Winter is Jealous of the Blooming Flowers

Filed under: 365 Days of Seoul Searching — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — beckylanglais @ 2:21 pm

There is a story here in Korea to explain why after the first few warm days in March there is always a spell of three to four freezing days.

The story goes that in the spring when the flowers start to bloom the cold of winter becomes envious of the beautiful flowers.  It is so envious that it fights to come back but of course there is no beating spring and the warm weather wins finally giving an end to the brutal winter.

March 22, 2011

THE FLYING PAN

The Flying Pan

7:30am-9:30pm Monday to Friday / 9:30am-9:30pm Saturday / Closed Sunday

Subway Stop: Itaewon / Exit #2 / Walk straight and at the first street (alley) take a left and it is located next to the My Thai restaurant

For the most part adjusting to the diet and food here in Korea has been quite simple.  Korean food is delicious and when the cravings of things from home arise there are many Western fast-food chains scattered around the city such as Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell, Burger King and McDonald’s.  Plenty of supermarkets and import stores carry most of the ingredients that we cook with in the west so as long as you are willing to pay astronomical prices and do the legwork of finding these items then it is not an issue of never having it but instead an issue of how much work are you willing to do and how much money are you willing to spend.

This being said, most things can be cooked and modified at home but there is one thing that no matter how often I cook it and no matter how delicious it is, it just is never the same as going out and having it cooked for you.  This is breakfast.  A real western breakfast, be it home fries, over-easy eggs, french toast drizzled in Vermont maple syrup, crispy bacon with the fat still sizzling on the edges when it arrives to the table, fresh squeezed orange juice or a black cup of joe loaded down with sugar and creamers.  This is what I miss.  This is what I crave.

So on Saturday when my co-teachers called to announce that they were on the hunt for eggs Benedict my taste buds immediately began going psychotic with anticipation.  Our destination was Itaewon, i.e. Little America and if you think I’m kidding for even a moment about how highly anticipated a breakfast of this degree is let me just explain that from where we live it takes 45 minutes by public transportation, each way, to indulge in a delight of this sort.

My Canadian co-teachers had heard of a little joint called The Flying Pan so off we headed.  The Flying Pan was tucked into an alley and probably missed by many people just strolling by but having done the research ahead of time and knowing our ultimate destination it was a short walk from the subway exit and quite easy to find.  The restaurant is simplistic with white washed walls and wooden tables.  A few chandeliers were strung from the ceiling and overall it was nicely decorated.  The menu was an All-Day Brunch with prices ranging from approximately 14,000 won and up.  This did not include a drink so realistically we probably spent in the vicinity of 20,000 won on breakfast per person.

At this moment I should probably interject that if you are looking for a greasy, fat filled Western breakfast this is perhaps not the right destination for you.  This was more of a health conscious bistro breakfast that you might find in a trendy artsy neighborhood back home.  I ordered the eggs Benedict smoked salmon which was composed of poached eggs, smoked salmon, hollandaise sauce, grilled tomato and spinach all served on a toasted white bread.  It was mouth-watering and amazing.  However, and this is a big however, there were a few tiny diced potatoes on the side but nothing of real substance.  All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our picks but were in unison that there just wasn’t enough food on the plate.  Perhaps it truly is the westerner in us who love to gorge on food and feel utterly and sickly full after indulging in a true western breakfast but that was the one place this restaurant did fall short on.

Overall The Flying Pan was a good experience.  The food we ate was well prepared and the restaurant itself was clean and easy to find off the subway.  If you have the opportunity to go I would definitely recommend trying it out but that being said now that I’ve tried it there are a million other places jumping onboard the western breakfast train in Korea and a “good Western breakfast” just might not have what it takes for a return visit when I am on the hunt for the “best Western breakfast in Seoul!

March 21, 2011

“I Love You”

About every three months we test the kinder kids.  Each of the foreign teachers creates a 10-20 question test and we spend two days during the week pulling kids into the hallway to issue the test while the others remain in the classroom doing coloring sheets.  If the idea of testing a five-year old, which is really a 3-year-old in America, seems odd, trust me it was hard for me to get used to as well.  At 5 years old the kids haven’t quite been exposed to parental and social pressure and just think of the experience as one on one special time with Teacher Becky and really have yet to understand or feel personal or external pressure to perform well.  They receive praise regardless of if they answer questions correctly and for me it always is quite an amusing experience.

For example the other day I was testing Daisy.  “What is it?” I said as I pointed to a picture of a toothbrush.  “Toothbrush!” She regurgitated.  “What color is it?” I said as I pointed to the green velcro wall we were sitting beside.  “Green!” She shouted.  Then I held up a picture of a pink heart.  “What is it?” I repeated.  She paused and opened her mouth with me expecting her to say, “heart,” seeing as we had recently learned the shapes.  Instead a big smile washed across her face and she yelled out, “I love you!”

I couldn’t help but giggle.  The answer was off course “heart” but how could I not give her full credit for such a lovable response.  This once again reminded me of two things here in Korea.  First that kids are full of pleasant surprises and second that marketing and the way one image can represent an entire frame of mind is very strong even at 5 (3) years old!

January 19, 2011

Time Is Running Out

Filed under: 365 Days of Seoul Searching — Tags: , , , , , , , — beckylanglais @ 10:04 pm

Unable to sleep, I found myself sitting awake at 4am the other night.  At this point I had done all of the internet searching and Facebooking that one can possibly do before going slightly insane.  I sat, in my egg-shaped lime green chair, looking out onto the neon lights of Seoul and once again my mind wandered to that impending thought: the end is drawing near.

Most of the time in life, we as human beings never focus on an end point, well unless that end point is a means to a greater, bigger adventure such as graduating college.  Here in Korea the end is drawing near but it is a bit surreal because with the end, at least for me, comes nothingness.  It brings with it just a large black hole and once again the always present question of, “what’s next.”  Funny thing is I never do actually know what is next.  Life for me is completing one thing and then hoping a door randomly opens to help guide me into figuring out what to do or where to go.

My school keeps begging me to stay another year.  My friends here in South Korea keep begging me to stay another year.  The weird thing is that although I really am having a great time, loving my life, currently have a very cushy lifestyle and have no real other opportunities pending back home it still feels like this chapter is headed towards its end and I’m okay with that.  I feel like I’ve run this course and sure it has been a good one but now it is almost time for something new.

So there I sat in my one night of insomnia, thinking about the end and feeling okay about it when I started to type The List. The List, that is of the things that I would like to try to squeeze in before I go.  I have decided that if I don’t get to do all these things I am okay with that.  I am posting my list below but please don’t think of this as the list of top things to do in Seoul.  Seeing as I have yet to do them I don’t know if they fall into that category for me.  I am sharing this list because these are mostly places and things that I have heard of in passing or that have always been in the back of my mind and figured that perhaps some of these places might hit a note with one of you and be something to try that you hadn’t considered.  The List is now on the door and each time I do something on it I pull it off the door.  Perhaps this is just my way of slowly, mentally preparing for the end…

1.    Haedong Yonggunsa Temple
2.    See a tea field in bloom on a hillside
3.    Go to Busan
4.    Go back to Hyehwa for lunch
5.    Seoul Forest / Dream Forest
6.    Temple Stay
7.    DMZ Tour
8.    Suwon Fortress
9.    Tiger World (Indoor snowboarding)
10.    DVD Bong
11.    PC Bong
12.    Have a Traditional Tea in a Tea House in Insadong
13.    Seoul Tower and Namsam Cable Car
14.    Baus Café
15.    Dr. Fish
16.    The Blue House
17.    Wolchulsan Hiking & Suspension Bridge (Spring Activity)
18.    Seodaemun Prision
19.    Snowboarding at least one more time on a Korean Mountain
20.    63 Building (Wax Museum / Seaworld / Sky Art Gallery)
21.    Mount Suraksan Cable Car (Spring)
22.    Cherry Blossom Festival
23.    Korean Folk Village
24.    Olympic Stadium
25.    Jegi-Dong Herbal Market
26.    Once in a Blue Moon Jazz Club
27.    Seoul City Bus Tour
28.    Visit a Korean Spa

December 28, 2010

The Weirdest Thing You’ve Eaten in South Korea?

A question repeatedly asked from friends back home is, “What is the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten while living in South Korea?”

The answer to this one is actually quite simple…”I don’t know.”

Many times I have had food put in front of me and truth be told, I have absolutely no clue what it is that I am actually eating.  Take the photo below for example; four months after eating this mystery food and I still have no clue what it was.

Was it delicious you may ask?  Well delicious is a strong word.  Let’s just say that I ate it and in times of desperation I would eat it again.  Will I go hunt this mystery food down for seconds…no, I really don’t think so.

December 11, 2010

HIKING SOYANGHO LAKE – Seoul Hiking Group


In late October a friend mentioned that he had signed up with the Seoul Hiking Group for a daytrip out of the city to go hike the Soyangho Lake area.

If you are new to Seoul and have had trouble making friends I would definitely recommend joining up with a group or meet-up. There are hundreds planned all over the city each year. I have now done a couple of them and for the most part the trips are well planned and you meet a number of interesting people. There are always a few stragglers too which makes it easy to meet others. Although I went with a friend he is a more avid hiker than I am, so he ended up taking off with a small group ahead of the pack and I hung back and did the hike at a slower pace with three other girls. It was great to just enjoy the outdoors and make some new friends.


This particular hike cost 37,000 won. The fee included transportation, a semi-guided hike, a ferry ride and dinner. It was well worth the cost.
The way the meet-ups work is once you learn about them; most likely from the Internet or Facebook; you RSVP online. Then in the trip’s write-up there is money transfer information. I always just write this information down on a post-it, bring it to my bank (KB) and the security guard helps me do the transfer on the ATM.
On the day of the trip everyone meets at the same subway stop and exit number and then boards a bus as a group from there.
I am not quite sure how you would hike the Soyangho area if you did it on your own but if you like to hike it was a beautiful area. The trail we took ran along the ridges of the mountains and overlooked the river below. There was this bizarre fog that settled in along the ridges, which unfortunately I couldn’t capture the truly amazing beauty it presented to us in my photos. The beauty of life though is that some things just can’t be captured. They are only for the memory!

If you are interested in this group just search “Seoul Hiking Group” under Facebook and their page should pop-up!

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