Saturday, September 27, 2008

Taking it Easy

Hi All, 

It was Oliver and Jasen's birthday this week, so we celebrated by going out for Chicken and Beer. Suffice to say, much fun was had by all. 

We tried to get out to Seoul to do some puttering about town before going out Swing dancing. Unfortunately, the meet-up group we had hoped to join decided to change the day of the event from Saturday to Friday. The day before the event. Which, as you might guess, was annoying. 

So we went to Seoul anyway, and puttered about Namdaemun market, which is what one might think of as a 'stereotypical' bazaar or market. That is, you walk through the main gate into the market place, and you have dozens of shops and vendors all over the place, all hawking their wares at top volume and offering discounts for those willing to haggle over prices. Since most of them speak a bit of English, and most of us now speak a little Korean, this can turn into an extended affair. I've learned to ask for a couple of thousand Won (a few dollars) off on each purchase, but I don't push my luck. Daniel, meanwhile, is the master of holding out to get exactly what he wants -- he bargained a bag down from 35 to 30$ by simply sticking to his preferred price. Jen, on the other hand, is what I like to call a skilled body language negotiator--that is, she doesn't ask for huge discounts, she just makes it very clear that the merchant can offer a better price, or we'll leave--all with nothing more than a mild frown and a flick of her eyes to me. 

I play the straight man, pursing my lips slightly and nodding, before turning to go. At which point the merchant makes a final offer which we like more.

It's fun, and crazy, and you can get just about anything you want in the market. I recently purchased a Korea Red Devils (the national football--sorry, SOCCER, for the Americans--team) jersey, and a nice hat. I'd been looking for a fedora that works for me for some time.

It still amazes me how much of a contradiction Korea can be. Well, I suppose most countries that are industrialized are the same, but Korea, due to its size and population density, strikes me even more: you can go, literally, from major city to forested mountains to major city, all in the span of 5 minutes on the Highway. Because of the number of people, everything is built straight up. Where, in Canada, due to the amount of space we possess, we can afford to put a parking lot, or to spread our city out, Koreans have to maximize the use of any given space. Hence the tendency of Koreans to have an office building which houses anything and everything from restaurants, hair shops, gift stores, English schools and martial arts dojangs (like our own building), to PC Bangs (Computer/LAN rooms), to DVD and Noraebangs, all in one bloc and often in the same floor.

It's a degree of efficiency that we lack, in Canada, and I wonder if when I return I'll feel agoraphobic from the change. While I don't know if I really liked the number of people surrounding me at first--I've always been sensitive about having enough room to move around and to being able to stand apart from crowds--I'm learning to be more comfortable with it. This is even to the point of being able and willing to dash madly down the street, dodging crowds and free-running where needed to get to a bus before it leaves, shoving my way through overcrowded subway cars, and squeezing into tightly packed elevators. Usually, I'm more than willing to find my own personal space. Here, you make do, and it probably is one of the major reasons for the sense of communalism ever-present in Korean culture: with this many people, it's impossible NOT to be involved in the affairs of everyone around you!

Speaking of people, it's definitely interesting being what is essentially a visible minority. In Canada, and the United States, white people, including myself, tend to take for granted the fact that we're a majority, perhaps especially because of the socio-economic power that whites have traditionally held in North America. For better or worse (and often the latter), white people don't have to worry about and often don't consider the fact that we have privileges in the West. It is part of this obliviousness that, I suspect, has caused the amount of anger that minorities feel at times in Western society. It's easy to support ideas of freedom and equality for all when you're on top--but when you are struggling to make ends meet, when you are discriminated against because of your ethnicity or origins or religion or anything else, no matter how subtle that discrimination may be or how blatant it is, the claims of "anyone can make it with a little hard work" tend to sound like so much bull. It becomes a song full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

I've known many people who have doctorates, master's degrees, heavy-duty certification in trades, and whatever else you can think of, and they still are stuck in dead-end jobs with pay worth absolutely zero and no chance of getting into a better job. Why this is the case is uncertain: racism, certainly, is a possibility, among many others. Perhaps the certification of a Chinese doctor or an Ethiopian dentist is not to the same standard of Canadian universities, but still, if one is simply excluded from entering into work in your field in Canada because of this, it often precludes catching up. University education is far too expensive to allow for most immigrants to simply 'play catch-up' and spend another bundle of money that is already precious on re-certifying. Jennifer, my spouse, is already doing research on just this issue, and if you're interested in the subject, I'd suggest you follow her career blog: 

My point in raising what must seem like a rather large tangent, is this: it's refreshing to see things from the other side. In Korea, while most people are rather polite about it, I know for a fact that I am seen as an outsider. I am fair-skinned, red-headed, and tall. I speak with a Canadian accent, don't know much Korean, and tend to be loud. Often, I do get stared at, by people of all age groups. It's interesting to see how it feels to be on the other side, albeit, thankfully, in a country where courtesy is primary. 

I remarked to Jen that I don't mind being a non-person in Korea, because here it just means I am ignored until I make myself visible or audible. Korean society is heavily-based in Confucian values, meaning that social hierarchy is exceptionally important: how old you are, your position, your age relevant to others in the group, and where you are from, all factor in to how you are treated. The Korean language has several layers of formality, depending on what rank in society you are a part of. Thus a foreigner is decidedly 'outcaste,' in that we have no social ranking whatsoever. Normally, in the West, this kind of Other status means one is treated like garbage. Here, you are simply ignored. Politely, of course: Koreans are happy to do business with me and Jen once we make it known what we want, and once you establish your identity within the hierarchy, you are treated accordingly. 

As one of our fellow teachers has said, however, no matter what one does, one will never be Korean if one is born outside of the hierarchy and ethnic group of Korea itself. No matter how well we integrate, Jen and I will always be the Other, and this position is instructive. While it may be a mixed blessing, I hope that it will teach those of us who come to this country to be more aware of our blessings at home, in the West.

Now, as a by-the-way, I am in no way trying to make this blog about ethnic or racial considerations. I comment on this particular issue because it came up often this week in conversation, and because I have been noticing my "Otherness" a bit lately, especially in bustling Seoul. On a really cute note, when kids stare at me, I get presented with a brilliant chance to break through the cultural barrier: no matter who you are, or where you're from, Peek-a-boo will make any little kid laugh. I've managed to have a little baby Korean kid smile and laugh for a good minute when standing in line next to his or her mom in the grocery store. Guess that's why I'm a semi-decent teacher: humor is a core part of our humanity.

Maybe that's a bit of a moral truism I can take from all this: Korean, Canadian, American, Japanese, European, African... all our differences exist, and we have to overcome them if we want to live together. However, we all can and do laugh and smile, and once we can do that with each other, we often realize how similar we all are. 

Anyway, political rant over.

For fun, here's a rather disturbing image: Dunkin' Donuts is, indeed, everywhere.

And in Korea, it's frickin' three stories tall! 

Best regards, all,


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Hi all,

Well, we had planned on heading up to Hwaseong Fortress to see the other half of the wall surrounding central Suwon, and to check out the palace itself. However, as soon as we got outside, I realized I had made a none-too-modest mistake.

It was raining. Now, at first, it was nothing more than you might expect from a cloudy spring day in Kitchener, Canada, or the same in Timmins or upstate New York. Unfortunately, when it comes to rain, like everything else, Korea doesn't do anything by half-measures. We walked out to Kyung-hee-dae to catch a taxi, and, upon arriving on the main street, decided that discretion was the better part of valour and that we really, really, ought to just go to the Subway station, instead. Because it's indoors.

We arrived at the Station, wandered around a bit more, checking out some neat shops and stores. In addition to the ubiquitous collection of stores like the Gap, which even Korea has not managed to escape from, there's also dozens of smaller stores here and there in every city and on every street that sell cheaper alternatives to Western mainline clothing and other brands.

What would have cost me about six dollars back home for the glue stick, eraser, and thumbtacks I bought for class was a whopping 1,000 Won, or 1 dollar.

I think this country is spoiling me. Let's review: the food here is cheap, and if you're willing to avoid going to too many snazzy restaurants, you can eat out for most meals and pay less than five dollars a person--indeed, one of our favourite soup shops below our school does a great beef and noodle soup for about 3.50. You have to be willing to just go with it, in order to do this. What I mean by that is that you have to be willing to eat what Koreans eat, and be okay with being stared at or laughed at occasionally when you get something you don't know what to do with.

Example: Oliver White, a colleague and friend of Jen and I went out with me to the soup shop. Previously, Jen and I had had a chicken soup kind of thing--it had the texture of chicken put into a blender, but tasted really good. This time, I thought I'd be smart and try the red-coloured one (Jen and I are still having to rely on the "point and pray" method for some forms of communication--we're still learning Korean). It turned out to be extremely hot. One suspects this soup was formerly used for other purposes: stripping wallpaper, preserving the dead, and killing small vermin comes to mind. Now, this does not mean that the food is not good! Despite burning our mouths and leaving both of us sure that our innards would be very displeased with us over the next few days, the food tasted great.

So too a lot of Korean cuisine: the national dish is Kimchi, a side-dish served with literally every meal. It's fermented cabbage, spiced. They do a lot of different vegetables and fruits in the same fashion, mind you, but cabbage is the big one. It's an acquired taste, but we're coming to like it.
My point, here, then, is that if you're willing to dive right in, Korea's food and culture are like an onion. You'll find layers upon layers the further you go. And everything is a thousand-times less expensive, whether it's the five dollar meal, the 1 dollar bus trips, the dollar-and-a-half giant bottle of soju (a form of light vodka), everything can be done on less money, and with more people to do it with.

The only thing that costs a lot is Western-style food, or some of the conveniences one might get at large chains like Home Plus. This may be because of the cost to import: since South Korea is cut off, on land, from China, and because everything has to be shipped in either literally or by air, I suspect the price goes up due to numerous levels of administration and handling fees. An example in a moment.

Koreans are communal, social people. Dinner is done out together, with friends, around the BBQ in your table in a restaurant or over a hot stone bowl of bibimbap, and a bottle of soju. It rubs off on the foreigners at our school, too: we do a lot of things together, and it breeds a strong sense of camaraderie. It's one of the reasons I'm grateful that I'm at a bigger school, because it helps dull the inevitable pangs of homesickness. Jen and I are blessed by the fact that we're married, as this helps even more, and I hope our communalism at the school will help other new teachers, like Oliver, Daniel, and Ashley (Ashley and Sarah pictured above), to adapt.

One thing, however, that I've yet to come to grips with is the sheer amount of smoking going on in Korea. Jennifer and I both are non-smokers. I used to have the occasional cigar and did smoke a pack or two when I was young and full of more angst than brains, but we both can't stand it now. Jen has asthma, as well, so her presence in my life helped me decide not to smoke anymore. Also, there's all the new laws in Canada, especially about not smoking in bars!

After our excursion to the Seoul Subway Station, we went back home. Jen and I went out for Pad Thai, which was pricey: again, if you eat "non-Korean," you pay more for it--now before our friend and host, Sarah, gets mad at me for complaining, yes, the food was awesome, and tasted like home.

We went to the pub, after having some drinks at home (bar costs also high), including an interesting cocktail of energy drink, cider, and soju mixed with ice in a tea kettle. The dancing was awesome, with a ton of happy, semi or fully-inebriated Koreans and foreigners, with good hip-hop, trance, and pop music flowing. The band, a pair of Korean rappers, was also good--I can see why they're famous.

The only bad side of the night was that I nearly passed out from the smoke: everyone in the bar was lighting up, and with little to no ventilation to speak of, and a couple of drinks in me to begin with, I was about five minutes away from turning green.

Still, despite the smoking, it was a fun night, and I will happily go again--I may, however, try to see if I can't wear a shirt saying something along the lines of "designated breather" or something. I'm willing to go local on everything else: the smoking, however, is one area I may have to get used to.


Kim Jong-il remains a mystery, down here: no-one's sure about whether or not he's still alive, or what the outcome will be should he be dead. Last week, I hesitantly put forward some thoughts as to what might happen, should he die. The Chinese have suggested that many of those ideas are bunk: that the regime's main players are not so stupid as to allow the country to collapse into chaos.

Let's hope they're right.

Oh, and on the political front, the election for Canada for October 14th. That's right, the week of Thanksgiving.

And we have to make sure our ballots get in early, because we're abroad.

Thanks, Stephen Harper. Nevermind that your politics, which I completely disagree with. That voting date has officially lost you my vote.

Well, fine, so he didn't have it to begin with. Anyway.

Best regards,


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Beef and Leaf

Hi all,

Been an interesting week. We're into week two of teaching, remember, so we're getting used to it. Where once it took me all of 3 or 4 hours to prep, I'm down to being able to prep a class in about 20 minutes or less, so it's coming along (we normally have about 2 hours before class to do our prep work, so this is definitely an improvement).

One of our co-workers, Sarah, decided to set up a "Beef and Leaf" night, meaning a night out for Galbi at a Korean BBQ. Normally, you would eat food with chopsticks or a spoon, here, but at a BBQ restaurant, you cook your own, raw, meat over coals set into the table, then place the meat and assorted vegetables into a piece of lettuce, wrap it all up, and eat the resulting tasty treat. It's really a neat way to eat, healthier by far than the deep-fried/potato-or-bread combo you normally get in Canada or the US. And it's a lot of fun, since it's communal--everybody's cooking, eating from, and sitting around, the same fire, as it were.

Later that night, and after a couple of bottles of soju were purchased and consumed, we went to a noraebang (singing-room), which is the Korean equivalent to Karaoke. Except better. Whereas the standard image one might have of Karaoke is the Western bar where one goes and has to sing, embarrasingly, in front of dozens if not hundreds of complete strangers, a noraebang is rented out for however long you want by you and your group of friends. You sing, drink, dance, and enjoy yourselves in a rather-well-appointed little room (ours had comfy couches, a good table, solid dance floor, and a rather gigantic TV screen). Of course, finding English songs is a challenge, but that's half the fun, especially when half the English songs are rather obscure--I still don't know how or why that many Slipknot songs wound up on the list.



It's interesting, I think, to note that there's a distinct similarity in the people who come to Korea to teach. Now, granted, this is just first impressions, here, and I may be stereotyping a bit, for which I will apologize beforehand. I must ask, in effect, for the reader's indulgence in my venturing into a little bit of political theory here:

In short, while the people who come to Korea to teach are all of different backgrounds and identities, have different interests and goals, the one thing that is similar is that we appear to have hit a certain "sticking point" or rut in our professional lives back home. Now, there may be one or two individuals for whom this is not the case, and indeed, this is meant as a general observation, and not a blanket statement about "everybody."

Still, though, most of the ESL teachers here are young, 20-35 (and in some cases, 20-40) years of age, well-educated, often with a penchance for or a willingness to do something different, and I would readily comment that almost all of them are dedicated individuals with a good head on their shoulders. After all, one doesn't commit to something as nerve-wracking as moving halfway around the world, with all the potential problems and pitfalls that entails, without being able to not only think quite clearly but also to be daring enough to try something as different as this.

But notice the similarity: we are young, 20 and 30 somethings, well-educated... and we are stuck in low-end jobs with no upward mobility, decent jobs that bore us, or some combination of the two. There's a wonderful book out there called Boom, Bust, and Echo (, which, while its statistics are out of date, indicates the primary reason for this. From a demographic standpoint, the generation of those who become ESL teachers here in Korea are a smaller (relatively) generation of people who are entering into a job market that is already glutted with previous generations--the boom generation is still occupying the top of the ladder, no matter what the field it is you look at, while their children (the bust/echo generations) are struggling to find good jobs that their elders are still occupying and which their own children (us) are already beginning to fight for.

In short, we're not a "Lost Generation," or anything like that, but we certainly are a generation stuck in limbo, waiting for our turn to run the world--which will probably not happen until we're in our 50s or even our 60s. And I suspect that while most people of my generation find this, at the least, an irritant, and at most, distasteful, there's nothing we can do about it for now. The current set-up of most corporations and similar organizations remains strictly hierarchical, where better jobs and better pay requires you to "move up the ladder." I can think of only a few companies which have adopted what foot calls a spiral system or a more freelance-oriented corporate structure--meaning one in which one may, if not move up the ladder, can at least switch into a new role horizontally within the company for equal or better pay. Many people of my generation are already catching on to the fact that we are not going to be able, as so many of our parents and grandparents have done, work for one company all our lives. Not only is this difficult with the demographic issues I mentioned above, but it's becoming increasingly clear that our generation has many members who want nothing to do with that kind of shell game.

Whether it's because we're a post-modern generation or an integral generation (as Ken Wilber calls it) or whatever, many of the teachers I've met here were stuck in these kinds of ruts, or were looking for some way to explore other options while "waiting" for things to open up a bit in the West.

Again, this is not meant to paint everybody with the same colour, but an observation. The interesting part for me, as a political scientist, is this: the ESL boom notwithstanding, there is an increasing mechanization (meaning more machines doing more of the work that humans used to do) in most jobs in the West as well as a diminishing number of good positions available for the younger generations to occupy--and most companies haven't recognized it yet. The danger here is that you can quite easily wind up with a rather large group of under-employed and angry young people in a society, who might otherwise have been rather supportive and active members of the economy. While I would rather not become a yuppie, myself, that option now appears closed to me anyway, and I suspect, to many others in Canada, the US, and Europe. While I can escape to Korea for a year to give the demographics time to shift a bit in my favour, this is not a permanent solution: the job numbers are going to decrease further as jobs move to countries where wages are lower, and as technology continues to advance.

While I dislike some of what he said, in this, Karl Marx was right: there comes a point in any economic system wherein the means by which we produce our goods and which provide the population of jobs cannot be sustained in its current state. He believed that this was inevitable, although history thus far has not been kind to his hypothesis. But corporate capitalism, as it is presently configured, is entering into this kind of crisis period because of the combination of demographics and the level of technology which we have achieved--a level, by the way, that is going to keep increasing and further decreasing the number of people needed to do the old jobs, regardless of demographics. So while the boomer generation all retiring en masse may relieve some of the stress we're seeing in Western (and indeed, also, in Korean and Asian) society, there's still the issue of how we've got our economic system set up (hierarchy and vertical power structures) and the fact that it's not going to jive with the economic realities we're entering into (horizontal movement among workers in order to and in addition to decreasing numbers of available, decent jobs).

Something to think on, and one for which I've no easy solutions. Again, just an observation.


Small world

Speaking of people, Jen and I bumped into an old friend of mine: Chris Joseph, who was one of my fellow graduate students at the University of Waterloo in Political Science. A great guy, he started teaching here about 6-7 months ahead of us, and was one of my inspirations for coming here in addition to our mutual friend Cesia Green, who had, like Chris, also taught in Seoul and really enjoyed it.

He's just been accepted into a University in New Zealand to do his PhD, so he'll be leaving soon, but it's still nice to see how small the world is sometimes. We literally dropped into Itaewon for an hour or two to shop in the "American district," and to go visit Yangan Electronic mart, where we picked up some cheap DVDs, and then ran into him crossing the street. Nifty how that happens sometimes.



Last, we're watching this bit of furor over Kim Jong-il's health with a mixture of concern, modest apprehension, and something that might be considered hope even this cold, cynical little heart of mine.

While specualtion abounds as to the "Dear Leader's" health, as he is called in our neighbours to the North, I'm just as interested in what appears to be a rather royal power struggle in this so-called House of Marx. His children, apparently, are not quite ready to take the reigns of power, although it's possible, while various factions are supposedly vying for power behind the scenes and behind the throne. While which way the North will dodge is always anyone's guess, the possibility that some of the technocratic, reasonably-moderate members of the leadership will take over power (who are apparently somewhat more kindly disposed towards liberalization and the South), instead of the hardliners among the military (who are pro-Beijing and pro-status quo) or one of Kim's sons, gives me a small sense of hope that maybe something might change.

As always, though, the cynic warns me that where power is up for grabs, it's usually the ruthless and the dangerous who seize it, not the just, the righteous, or the wise.

More on that as it comes, I suppose.

For now, I simply conclude with wishing everyone my best regards, as usual,


-----Postscript: While it is only a very small gesture, and not nearly sufficient to alleviate the grief of those close to and who knew him, I'd like to use this space to wish Dan Lungo rest and peace, and healing to his friends and his family. Dan was a friend and colleague of mine from Graduate School at the University of Waterloo, and while I can only wish, in hindsight, that I knew him better, I can say that he was a good man, and one of the strongest I've ever met. Dan Lungo recently passed away from cancer, and I regret not being able to attend his funeral.

Chris Joseph, whom I mentioned earlier, commented that Dan never gave up, even though he knew what was going wrong and what was happening to him--he still pursued his education, up to and including into his PhD program. He was a smart and dedicated young man, and his death is a loss to all who knew him. I always enjoyed talking with him, and I will miss his intelligence, dry sense of humour, and his friendship.

May peace be with you, my friend.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Seoul's Soul

Hello again all,

Well, a week into teaching, and we're already exploring the country. The first week of school went well--I have a few problem kids/classes, but nothing that won't work itself out with time, discipline, and a little bit of ingenuity in creating fun activities. My Grade 5 Senior 4 class is a bit rowdy, but they're getting better. My Grade 8s, meanwhile, refuse to talk overmuch in class, so I've got to keep finding ways to keep them interested.

So. The week ends, we go out for a pint and a pizza at a Western-themed Korean bar. I kid you not on that one... it's got British fare and pub signs everywhere, and it is a microbrewery, so the pilsner was quite good! The company was great as well, since I got a chance to meet and greet most of the teachers in a non-working environment... definitely less stress involved after-hours.

We then went out to a nightclub/martini bar (best way to describe it) for darts, a couple of flaming shots called Cherry Bombs, and a behind-the-bar dance routine by the Korean staff. There was juggling, flames, and a choreographed routine set to the latest K-Pop song.

I admit, I got my ass handed to me in darts, but that's no surprise.

Then, Saturday, Jen, myself, Daniel and Oliver (two other teachers) went off to Seoul, the capital, accompanied by David, one of the veteran teachers. We got on the bus in Suwon, near Kyung-Hee University, and rode it for about 20-25 minutes into the outskirts of downtown Seoul.

Now, I say the "outskirts" of downtown Seoul rather tentatively. Seoul, proper, is 10-odd million people. The city stretches for several dozen kilometres in every direction from the downtown area near Insadong, and we only arrived Gangnam subway station, which is a good, say, 30 minutes on the tube to Insadong and Seoul's bustling heart near Namdaemoon. Of course, there's dozens of burroughs, much like New York City or London, dozens of mini-communities that have their own flavour and feeling and personality.

Insadong has dozens of shops, at least two palaces, and a host of other amazing features, including the arts & crafts "villa," for lack of a better term, where we stopped and shopped for taffy and grabbed a lunch of stone-bowl bibimbap with bulgogi. Daniel was brave and had octopus bibimbap (cooked), and David had what was essentially the same thing, but with Kimchi and Cheese. I guess it's like a Mac-And-Cheese but Korean. Kind of.

I even got a chance to try my hand at helping hammer the toffee into softness. Anything's better than having to do telemarketing back home, right?

From Insadong, we walked downtown towards the centre of Seoul itself:

There are dozens of major streets throughout the city, including one leading up towards the old palaces that have since been restored following the Korean and Second World Wars (not much survived the rather bloody fighting in this part of the peninsula).

There's also the recently restored canal running, literally, through the heart of downtown Seoul. What used to be an apparently filthy segment of town was recently gentrified and restored to its older form. There must have been well over a thousand Koreans wandering the canal, although not so many that we could not find a little tranquility to rest, as well.

We wandered around some more downtown, into several shops and into what has to have been the largest bloody bookstore I've ever seen in my life. It was probably the size of a Montreal mall's entire first floor, for example, like the Eaton Centre, except one store.

Back topside, we also got a cool picture of Admiral Yi's statue--the man who saved Korea from Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasion following his victory in Japan during the Sengoku Jidai (Age of the Country at War) in the 1500s. Considering he had about 6 turtleboats (the first ironclad vessels in the world) against hundreds of Japanese ships, that's something to be able to brag about. I'm therefore not at all surprised to see him get a statue figuratively guarding the approach to the palace.

From Insadong and the northern end of downtown, we walked south towards Namdaemoon market. If Insadong is the cultural and political soul of Seoul, then Namdaemoon market is its beating, bustling heart. En route, though, we stopped to watch the changing of the guard at one of the many palaces and gates within the downtown district. Notice, of course, that the palace is right across the street from a Dunkin' Donuts. After all, the King must have his snacks, no?
From there, we soldiered on towards Namdaemoon. I include the the following picture so that others may know the harrowing size and speed of the streets in downtown Seoul. And, by the way, this is actually a small street for the city.
We arrived in Namdaemoon and Myungdong district to do some shopping--Daniel needed a shoulder bag to hold all the stuff he was carrying in his pockets, and managed to bargain down the shopkeeper from 22,000 Won (22$) to 20,000. I picked up a Korean Red Devils football jersey--something I'd promised myself I'd do. Now I just have to find the right time to wear it in class.
Finally, in Myungdong, below, we looked around the bustling streets for more shopping and to find our way south to the subway station back to Gangnam and from there, back to Suwon.
After returning home at about 7:45, Daniel split off to head back to his place, while Oliver, Jen, and I went out for Pizza Hut. After all that, we felt the need for some North American cuisine, and, deciding against the Squid, Potato, Shrimp, or Mayonaisse and BBQ Chicken pizza, we settled on an old standard: Peperoni (deliberately mispelled as per the translation in the restaurant).
A fun day, although we're all quite exhausted. I've just finished marking my papers as of 11 AM Sunday morning, or 10 PM Saturday Toronto/Montreal-time (recall that this entire adventure took place from 12PM - 8 PM Saturday morning Korean time, 11PM - 7 AM EST).
Just cleaning the apartment for tonight, when we'll have some friends over for some Settlers of Catan, Risk, Soju, and relaxation.
Cheers, all,
--Still looking for a good PC Bang to check out and post about, as well as a Dojang. I'll find one yet, or just head over to the University... they're famous for giving degrees (like BAH, MA, PhD) in Tae Kwon Do, so I'm sure they'll let me train with them.--
Remember to check out Jen's website at for more interesting pictures and stories, as well.