Well, it's been a crazy week. Between four days of orientation, and prepping our first lesson plans, between having to learn enough of the Korean language and written system (Han-geul) to survive and be able to order food or find such basic necessities as water, a power adaptor (the Koreans use 220 Volts, not 110 like North America--you can easily fry your computer if you're not careful), and getting over jet-lag, it's been a hectic week.
Jen and I are starting to settle in to our little part of Asia. Suwon's a neat, bustling city, and the people are just as go-go-go as Seoul, or Tokyo, or New York, or Montreal, if not more so. One can still find people milling about the streets at 2 or 3 in the morning, looking for another place to hang out with friends and coworkers.
You may have seen, on Jen's website, some of the photos of our apartment. Just this Friday, we went out with Jin (our supervisor); her partner Aki; Heya, my academic counsellor and direct co-worker; Naomi, our finance expert; and Daniel and Oliver, our co-teachers, to a Korean BBQ restaurant, and enjoyed a night of chatting, cooked meat and kimchi, and soju. Koreans, I have to say, love to party, and hard. We left the restaurant to go home, whilst our co-workers went out to the spa to relax.The next night, we did a bit more of the same, although this time, we went to a tuna restaurant: the meal was frozen, raw slices of fish with kimchi, veggies, and spices. Everything's spicy at most restaurants here, but you can get the less spicy stuff if you look hard enough.
And today, we decided to try our hand at the public transit system, and make our way to downtown Suwon. We were rewarded for our 1,000 Won/1$ bus ticket with a trip to the wall of Hwaseong Fortress, an old castle and fortification system that surrounds the downtown segment of Suwon.
After two hours of trekking along the Eastern wall, we still hadn't even gotten more than a third of the way around the massive fortifications, and were enjoying some rather spectacular views of downtown. Then, we hit the edge of the southern wall, and walked down to street level--smack-dab in the heart of Jedong and Padalmun markets. Suffice it to say, we immediatly began bargain-shopping. Daniel, one of our co-workers bought, and to his credit, ate, a cup full of silkworm larvae. Probably something I won't repeat again, but interesting. As for me, I just got a green onion and egg pancake to fuel up.
We moved on to Padalmun Gate, below, and hurried across several lanes of traffic, to reach the Hwaseong Haeggung, the Hwaseong Palace of King Jeongjo. We snapped a few pics, and turned back only slightly dejected by the fact that the gates were closing. More to see later--have I mentioned we only saw a quarter to one-third of the wall?
Then there's the party culture. There's a lot of drinking. I think every table next to us, and our own as well, went through at least two bottles of soju over dinner. And why not, when it costs less than 3$ for each bottle, which is more than enough for a shot or two for all? There's probably no better way to get to know and become friends with folks here than to go out for dinner and a drink, and then a trip to a bar for another, and then a trip to a noraebang or DVD-bang for some fun afterwards.