(merkit hukassa)

Adventures in Korea

Tag Archives: /b/

Am I making things up?

I just wanted to tell you one thing:

My life outside of Korea is so different I’m starting to doubt myself when I tell about it to my friends… am I making things up?

“But you should see the other guy…!”

I was in a fight, look:

Just kidding. I went to get rid of my wisdom tooth, but they took out two. With the painkillers (I even managed to find a pharmacy and get my prescribed medicine) it cost me 300 000 won. Maybe 250 euros_ Thank you Visa. (Message for my mom: kantsii kohta kertoa paljonko oon velkaa ennenko mennee rahat risasiin hampaisiin) They even gave me an antibiotic shot – after allergy tests. They never bother with tests in Finland. I like Korean system. So efficient.

And my life is a musical! I’m not sure if I already mentioned this, but when I need to get stuff done I go to my Club’s room in New Student Union Building (Yes, building. They have not only one, but two student union buildings – for clubs and student activities. In Finland we barely have a basement cupboard for the student union). There is always somebody – people doing their homework quietly, playing piano, chatting. Then suddenly someone starts a song and people join, singing harmonies, spontaneously. When the song ends they just keep doing what they were doing like nothing happened. And that happens all the time. (Well, it’s GLEE Club so that explains.) Yes, I too join spontaneously now that I know the songs they sing.

And I got my work done too… sat there for whole day working on my mind map and flowcharts – which apparently overwhelms my classmates. They told me Koreans are not good with holistic views but details – in which I suck hard. My mind works in pictures, so I need to process everything through flowcharts and mind maps to actually understand. Tomorrow I have a presentation and I’m still a bit confused.

I took some very random pictures. Here goes:

My Biological Wastewater Treatment handbook. Very heavy, very big, and very boring.

Wrist bands from Everland and Big Show. And Pizza ads.

I’m bored of orange juice and allergic to nestle IceTea, so I switched to this. It’s good, but the pink one tastes like childhood antibiotics. Yuk… YUK!

One very cute Lotta and our dorm room. Check Lotta’s blog too if you haven’t already. In Finnish or in English.

And a postcard to my friend who has her birthday soon. Hope it gets there on time. Yes, that’s only one word there. Saying happy birthday. So Happy Birthday Kemppu <3

PS. I bought PhotoShop smudge effect from the cosmetics store nearby. It’s just foundation, but it gives the exact same effect that photoshop. ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ

Julius and different kinds of pools

My Finnish friend who is studying in Japan came to Seoul for vacation and of course we needed to meet. He was very much the same as back in Finland – it was good to see him again. We went venturing Myong-dong and N Seoul Tower. Here’s evidence:

Lately I’ve been horribly busy with studies. I dropped two of my six courses coz I didn’t have enough time to do the homework. Even now I should be working on an ecodesign project. Basically I’ve been relaxing by playing pool with my friends. My skills suck and the old guys try to peek under my skirt, but it’s fun. There are tons of pool places around the campus, but only one has the normal pocket ball table – here they play four-ball.

Another kind of pool that has been very relaxing is in Jimjilbang – Korean public bath. A variety of tubs with fantasy colored water in different temperatures, very hot saunas where you sit on the floor (comfier than in Finland, IMHO), massage tables, a common area where you can take a nap, several different steam rooms and even an ice room. Apparently the fancy jimjilbangs in Busan even have strawberry milk baths… Well, we went to the nearest jimjilbang (6000w, 4,5 e) with Lotta today and boy it was smooth! So relaxing. It’s gonna be our Sunday tradition from now on.

What else? The magnolias are blooming. Soon it’s the cherry blossom season. The weather is awesome (17 degrees), except for the yellow dust.  And we got our university baseball jackets. Cool, eh?

Anyways, ask me questions and I’ll answer. Toodles.

The fresh air of Gyeong-ju

The Office of International Affairs (OIA) and Ajou Global Ambassadors (A.G.A) organized us a 1 night 2 days trip to Gyeong-ju. The little I know about Gyeong-ju is that it is the spot with most historic sites. They were pretty nice, but I guess I would have enjoyed it more by myself and later in spring – and if I had researched a bit beforehand. But it was great to get away from the Seoul dust – the fresh mountain air was awesome.

The bus ride from Suwon took about 5 hours, with two stops. The highway rest areas here are pretty well equipped, nothing like the shabby gas stations in Finland. There are similarities though – in Finland we have the ABCs, here they just have more chain stores. Fast, that’s the key word.

I spent most of my time in the bus taking pictures of weird things that interest me. Like construction sites and erosion prevention. And load securing on trucks. I wonder if they have any legislation to control it. They barely do it. I have to find out how it is…the girl next door is doing her masters in transportation engineering, I have to ask her.

We spent the night in Kolon Hotel (in the middle of nowhere). They had a sauna/onsen there so me and Lotta had to try it. We only had 40 minutes, but it was worth it. Refreshing. A.G.A held a talent show at the hotel and many groups had prepared something. I have to say I liked the Indonesian dances the most. Colorful, smiling, pretty and they are good dancers too. And they are friendly. I love friendly people.

It would have been fun to do something together with A.G.A people afterwards, but we had fun with our own little group too. I guess I’m getting the first symptoms of culture shock, since I’m starting to feel a bit irritated about stupid stuff. I need to get my ass out of the dorms soon, and do it alone, or I start nagging at people who don’t deserve it.

Here are some pictures of the sights and the people (and food):

Everland… and the Japan crisis

Yes, by far everything is okay in Korea, even though the earthquake in Japan was devastating and the situation in Fukushima nuclear plant is still extremely unstable. Luckily the wind is blowing towards the Pacific Ocean. I find it rather relevant to keep following the wind situation, but no one here is panicking over it. Finnish Embassy in Seoul asked Finnish citizens to update their contact information, so I let them know my local phone number. That’s all I’ve done.

I joined Friends Club and went to Everland with them last weekend. Everland is a HUGE theme park close to Suwon. HUGE. And so were the lines. The main attraction was this:


The T-express

On the first day we waited on a line for 70 minutes and on the second day for 90 minutes (because one of the cars was broken and they operated with only one car). But it was worth it… the first fall was almost 90 degrees and the ride was long enough. Everything else felt quite lame afterwards.

The weather was very nice so the place was packed with dating couples and families. The staff managed to hide their deep hatred towards the songs and choreographies  they had to do while operating the devices. Oh, I think this crew actually had fun, although it doesn’t really show on the picture:

We were hanging out with this group:

They are all really sweet and nice and they look especially cute when they try on cutesy merchandise like Tha here:

or me and Anouk here:

After the dinner we had a house party… they call it member training here. MT equals to lots of beer, soju, music and drinking games. They have a lot of games – most of them really fun. I’ll try to learn them and bring them home.

Here’s what Björn thought of the party:

Every Finn knows every Finn…

Oh man, just a short random update.

I went to see Kiss of the Spider Woman (거미여인의 키스), again. Today it was with 박은태 (Park Eun Tae) as Molina (same as last time) and  최재웅 (Choi Jae Woong) as Valentin. It was still awesome, although I liked 김승대’s (Kim Seung Dae) Valentin more. Him and Euntae had the chemistry thing working and it felt a bit more real – maybe because they are friends in real life. (That’s what they said.) Eun Tae was on fire tonight! Even the stage crew behind us was giggling. And yes, now I understood more, thanks to Sookie who taught us how to ask guys to come closer in Korean – they used it in the play. Oh, and because Puu is awesome, we got a 40% discount  – coz we are foreigners and went to see the play, not one time, but in her case three times!

Puu dragged along a random Finn who is staying at the best hostel ever.  Yes, that girl knew my roommate Lotta. Did I mention there are 12 Finns studying here at the moment. One of them is a class mate of my irc buddy, and one is part of the hobby group I’m sort of involved with – aaand his grandfather used to be my mother’s principal. I would probably find more connections with the other Finns if I dared to ask.

Other things:

  • Food here is good, but I’ve lost weight. Let’s see for how long – the grocery store downstairs sells very good snacks and is open until midnight.
  • Plenty of weird tech, I’m gonna post about them when I have time.
  • Super busy with school… I think I’m taking too many classes.
  • Weather has been chilly. Sunny, but windy.
  • Tomorrow I have overlapping everything – band audition, evening class and AGA meeting. 어떻게~?
  • Tomorrow also: course change period begins at 9:00 AM. I don’t need to wake up for that, I only need to drop some courses and the one I want to enroll for is not full anyways. I still need to ask the professor if I should really take it since I can’t make it to the class tomorrow.
  • Weekend: Everland!

Yeah, no pictures… I’m so lazy.

I accidentally tourist hell

A stream near Euljiro 3-ga

I only had one think on my shopping list when I came here – an acoustic bass. And I heard there is this place called Nakwon Arcade in Insadong. Insadong’s main street is Seoul’s souvenir hell, offering everything from traditional costumes to genuine crafts (most likely made in Thailand). When trying to locate the arcade I accidentally ended up in that whirlwind. It was kinda good though, I needed to buy chopsticks and they had plenty.

Nakwon Arcade was really hard to locate. Mostly because it wasn’t open – Sunday, who closes a mall on the best shopping day of the week? I’m going back there tomorrow, but first I need to check the store in our Subway station. One of the lodgers recommended it.

While walking around I had time to think quite a lot. Here’s what I thought:

  • It was almost +15 Celsius and they are still wearing  winter jackets.
  • The girls wear such high heels they need a boyfriend to keep them from tripping over all the time. That same boyfriend also carries their handbag – which IS NOT what men are supposed to do. Except if they share cosmetics, which might be the case here. Men here are beautiful.
  • There are maps everywhere, especially near subway stations. They don’t operate with street names, more with landmarks. Distances on maps look scary, but are in fact not that bad. Sometimes it’s easier and quicker to walk to the next subway station than try to find the right platform for your transfer train. The stations are endless. Especially Euljiro 3 -ga, never transfer there if you don’t have to.
  • Korean city layout is not meant for Finnish mind set. I would go crazy if I needed to call for directions every time I wanted to visit a new store or company. That’s what Koreans seem to do. And they use landmarks. And the little alleys seem to either not end at all or they just end where you least expect.
  • At least those parts of the city I’ve visited can’t really brag with architecture. The blocks look almost organic – this house grew to fit this place and that house there grew a bit too much…
  • Koreans can park in amazingly narrow alleys.
  • The air in Seoul is really dry and the sun is bright. My nose is full of sand and I couldn’t take decent pictures with the light today.
  • I can’t stop admiring the amount of good fashion I’ve seen by far – both men and women dress really well (and they have an expensive taste). Of course there are other country pumpkins like me, who don’t care what they’re wearing.
  • Recycling here includes blue plastic bags on the streets and cars with loudspeakers.

Also, just to be mentioned. I had the most awful “dinner” tonight, in the form of revolting cheese flavored noodles. Here’s a picture and in the picture blog there are more. yuk
I’ll also update yesterdays entry with a picture from Sisha bar gr8, first thing tomorrow. Yeah, the jet lag kicked in. I’m a mess atm.

People, watching

It was my first “real” day in Seoul and I had no idea what to do, so I just buckled up my shoes and started walking. It was a bit before nine, chilly, a bit of snow on the ground and very few people on the streets: the rush hour was already over. There is smog everywhere and the trees are bare – everything looks delightfully boring.

Smoggy mountains

My hostel is in Hongdae, which is supposed to be the center of nightlife, live music and cool kids. Well, the cool kids were hibernating – I saw none. The University vacation might have something to do with it.  None of the shops were open, except for cafés, so I went to see the campus. It seems Korean students are allowed to draw on walls and leave nightmare based sculptures laying around. (Hongik has visual arts department, that’s why.)

More pictures in my picture blog.

I got bored when I couldn’t find a guitar store, so I took my trusted companion (Lonely Planet), and picked something randomly. I ended up on the opposite side of Seoul, in COEX Mall, which is supposed to be THE Mall here. The ticket was 1700 won – pretty good price for half an hour ride. Yes, the mall was big, but it’s hard to impress me with fashion stores.

Nevertheless, it was a perfect place for people-watching. There is an aquarium in the building too and the visiting preschool kids were just precious. Tiny charcoal eyed mini Asians with big yellow backpacks, holding hands and walking in endless rows. One of them had The Awesomest Blinking Lights in his shoes! WHOA!

Later on the place filled with dating teenagers. The boys seemed really pleased visiting hundreds of girly-girly fashion stores and endless accessory heavens. They probably paid for everything. I feel for them.

I found a good bookstore. HUGE. Loads of English books. Bought myself Survival Korean Vocabulary (by some Korean Publisher).

I ate delicious traditional Korean delicacy, New York Fries’ Veggie Works. Veggie here supposedly meant half pint of cheddar gravy. But anyways, their queue system was the greatest ever – after I placed my order, they gave me a coaster-like plastic thing, with digital number showing my place in the queue. I went to find a table and when my fries were ready the coaster started vibrating and bleeping!

I wanted to go back to the hostel, but I had to gather my guts to face the human rush hour. I sat down for a while and realized two things: 1) girls don’t smoke (publicly) 2) people stare me a lot. Funny and disturbing. The rush wasn’t that bad really, I suppose the peak was a bit later.

I think I saw a gay girl couple in the subway. I can’t be sure since girls hold hands here a lot but well, the other girl was obviously butch and the glance she gave me said “step back you foreign bitch”. The other queer part of the day were the awesome yaoi/K-pop maniac roomies, who went to see a musical with beautiful guys and a gay scene. “It’s a musical and it’s kinda gay”, is how one of them described it. I have to admit the promo pictures were dangerously divine. I’m probably going to see it with them next week – they want to see it again.

I asked the hostel owner if I could stay here for the rest of my vacation, even though the place is full. He said it’s okay as long as I don’t mind sleeping in the male dorm, which I don’t – I’m a Finn. So yay! I’m exploring Seoul very throughly and saving Pusan for spring.

(S)he’s a Lady!

First topic – The thing is: I used to have long hair. Week ago I went to a hairdresser to cut it moderately shorter, in which she horribly failed. I fixed her mistakes at home and ended up with a short, short, short hair. I was planning to pack a couple of skirts with me but I tried them on and with the short hair I looked like a trans-gendered person… only the real mtfs have better legs than I do. So I guess I have to skip the skirts and stick with jeans – and look like a cute guy with boobs.

As much as I might whine, I rather like the short hair and I am more comfortable with jeans anyways so I’m actually quite happy with the result. This means I can drop the high heels, skirts, hair conditioner and all the other useless girly stuff from my backpack and replace them with something useful.

Second topic – I managed to leave my dorm application on time. Me and Lotta are gonna be roommates. We decided this as we both know how tiring the language barrier can get sometimes and how you need somebody to whine to, about the stupidities you encounter – in your own language. They already assigned the rooms, so now I can finally change my address and make the travel announcement to the Foreign Ministry.

My address from 24th February till 23th June will be:

# 5225, Hwahong Hall, Ajou University,
San 5, Woncheon-dong, Yeongtong-gu, Suwon 443-749, Korea

I’ll also put a link on the right hand banner, so you can find my contact information when ever you feel like sending me stuff. Unfortunately I have to refuse letting you crash in our room – the dorm rules were strict: no letting people stay over, no behaving badly when drunk, no dropping by at the guys’ floor (with this part they were very particular), no more tuberculosis and so on. I hope this also means that the dorms are well maintained and at least bit more peaceful than the infamous M-building in Jyväskylä student ghetto.

Third topic – I’m planning my second farewell party. The date is most likely 11th of February. Location… very probably Toppila, Oulu. So heads up and leave your schedule open!

Also, limited amount of rendezvouses with magnifique moi available in Jyväskylä this Friday. Book your appointment with my secretary (comment box).

Farewell party

We had my farewell party yesterday, combined with my new flat mates’ house warming party.  Thanks, all you who participated. Too bad I couldn’t talk with you all as much as I wanted. Leave me your address in the comments or email/facebook it, and I’ll send you all the weird and questionable postcards I can find.

I would post some pictures from the party, but for some reason there appears to be Kim Jong-il in every single one, shadowing my bright future in S.Korea. And posting pictures of him would be, if not entirely inappropriate, at least tasteless. Right? I’ll post some on /b/.

Also, as we played spin the bottle last night, I was dared to tag a set phrase in five different locations around S.Korea, and as the code of netizens says: “Pic, or didn’t happen.” I’ll hide the evidence somewhere here and there.