2009년 1월 27일 화요일

My Apartment! Pictures

I thought that it's about time you see what my apartment looks like! So I took some pictures. Here it is! If something in my apartment looks strange and you want to ask me about it - please do! As a foreigner, sometimes I get tricked into buying things I don't want, so I just end up keeping them to be practical!


A picture taken from the entrance. The big pink thing is my futon. It's in its "reclined couch" position right now. The big pink blanket is something I bought... I couldn't pass it up! I don't really care for the color or design... but if you could touch it, you'd understand. It's SOOOOOOOOO soft!!!

That "junk" in the right corner isn't mine. I'm storing stuff in my apartment for a friend who moved.

I installed that fan myself. It's right below the air conditioner, so in the summer, it blows the cool air around the apartment :)

You see the back sliding door. There are a bunch of windows there, but I put some light green paper on the window because it's right across from a gym and people can see inside, perhaps. I enjoy privacy. if I want to see outside, I can just open the windows. That little room isn't good for much - but it's good for storage and for drying my clothes.

A picture taken from another corner. I'm standing near the fan you see in the first picture. You can see my little refrigerator and my washing machine.

Just another view!

That's my TV. It's 32" - I like it. I bought it for $100, used, and it has an S-Video input so I can hook it up to my computer and watch videos.

To the left you can see my door and the little area where you're SUPPOSED to take your shoes off.

That big white closet to the left of the door is actually for shoes... but I almost never put shoes in it. I just leave them on the floor, there. The closet is great because it has a bunch of shelves, but it reaches from the floor ALL the way to the ceiling! So I have lots of shelves to store stuff. :)

Also, my door is VERY secure, so I can stick magnets to it. That's particularly useful because now I have a markerboard on it, and when I leave my apartment I have to look at the markerboard and it reminds me to remember things. :)

Last but not least is my bathroom. It's pretty spacious... especially compared to my PREVIOUS bathroom, in Korea! Thats my shower. It's pretty traditional, if you've ever done some traveling. I've seen similar things in France and Egypt.

All in all, I'm pretty darn happy with the place I got! There's just one exception... and that would be the fact that my building is PRE-WIRED for high-speed internet. As I've mentioned, Korea and Japan have the fastest internet in the world. Well, the biggest internet company in Korea is called "KT" - and I HATE this company. I STRONGLY recommend against getting their service, if it's at all possible to avoid it! I'll make a separate post regarding my personal experience and opinion as to why I hate it. I wouldn't want to spread any misinformation, after all.

In any case, I'm forced to get the KT service, because of the way the buidling is wired. -_-

Playstation 2 Cafe: POST AMMENDMENT

I recently posted about a Playstation 2 Cafe that I went to. One of my Korean friends read that post and went out of his way to send me a facebook message telling me that the game is NOT FIFA. LOL!

Okay, so the popular soccer video game isn't FIFA... it's another game that I don't know the name of. Apparently, FIFA isn't as good as this other game because, in the new game, you have more options and can use more strategy.


Korea is a FLOOR oriented society

The history of Korea has always been grounded in... well... the ground.
Lots of Korean culture is based on doing things from the floor. In Korea...

Families eat dinner together by sitting on the floor around a table.

Apartments are heated by a special system (with a special name that I forget) where the FLOOR is heated, and that's what heats the rest of your home.

Brooms are half the size of a person.

I'm sure there's more that I'm neglecting to mention, but you can get the idea. I recently went to a friend's house and ate dinner with his family. Whenever they eat as a family, they cook, and then gather in the TV room and all sit on the floor to eat together. You'd never see this kind of thing in America, so it's pretty interesting to see. That's why I took some pictures for you!

Don't confuse China or Japan with Korea

Most people I know... know I'm in East Asia. Most know I'm in Korea. Most know where Korea is.

Few know much more than that.

So let me give you a few basics. The East Asian countries are similar in the same way that USA and Great Britain and France and Australia are similar. You can group them... East and West, in many ways. But don't let that trick or confuse you into thinking there aren't many differences.

There are PLENTY of differences, not the least of them being different languages. I won't talk about languages right now. In fact, in another post, I'll give you a snippet of the Korean Language. And in another post, I'll give you a snippet of Korean history.

Right now, I just want to say: Don't be confused into thinking that Korea is much the same as China... or that it's much the same as Japan. It's not. I don't see it that way, and neither do the Korean people here.

Many East Asian countries celebrate a "new year" according to a lunar calendar. Because of America's economic courtship with China, and because of the frequency at which anything about China appear sin the US news media - many refer to this as "Chinese New Year". However, I'm not in China. I'm in Korea, and in Korea, they don't celebrate the Chinese New Year. They celebrate the Lunar New Year, which I believe is more politically correct terminology, seeing as how China doesn't own any rights to the celebration. :)

In any case, language matters. How you say something can be just as, if not more, important as WHAT you say.

Also, there is some disputing here about what is and isn't Sushi. LOL. I spent too much time talking about this. It was really annoying. ;)

Food: Delivery... and pick-up???

In Korea, when you order Korean food from a local restaurant, they will deliver the food to you in plastic/glass dishes on a tray. Then, you pay the person, and take the food in and eat it. When you're finished eating, you take the dirty dishes, place them back on the tray, and set them outside your door. Later, the restaurant will come back and pick up the dishes from your house.

Sounds pretty crazy to foreigners!

And the food isn't expensive. Keep in mind... most Koreans live in some sort of apartment (flat, condo, apartment, studio... etc)

This idea is really cool... although it sounds like a lot of work for the restaurants. But, think of the practicality. They wash the dishes instead of creating more trash/recycleables for everyone. Perhaps it saves money. In any case, here's a picture that reminded me to tell you about this aspect of Korea.

2009년 1월 3일 토요일

A Playstation 2 Cafe... ?

Young Korean guys (especially) love video games. If you can remember back to my first year in Korea, I posted about the Korean professional gaming. If you don't know what I'm talking about - browse my 2007 posts and look for something about Starcraft.

Anyway, Ellie and I met in Gangnam recently (that rich district of Seoul) and saw the movie "Yes Man" - with Jim Carry. It was good. Funny. You should go see it. And it's particularly appealing in Korea because Jim Carry learns Korean, so there's a part about that and it's pretty funny.

Anyway, while Ellie and I were waiting for the movie to start, I saw a Playstation 2 sign above the door to a business.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Aw, right! I reckon it's a place were you can play Playstation 2," Ellie said in her British/New Zealand accent.

So I went down to check it out... and sure enough, there were 20+ flat screen TVs in there with comfy chairs and a bunch of people playing Playstation 2.

And as if THAT isn't amusing enough - there's something much more interesting.

When you walk in, there's a little book where you can choose what game to play. There were quite a large number of games. Of the 20+ tvs, about 8-10 were being used... and EVERY SINGLE person was playing the newest FIFA game on it!!! I kid you not. That FIFA game is SOOOOO popular here. Everyone comes in to play THAT ONE game... and nothing else. Hilarious! So I secretly snapped a picture. :D

My Favorite Building in Jongno

Here's a picture of the Samsung Building in Jongno. At the very very top there's a restaurant that I haven't been to, yet. This building really looks great and you can see it for miles and miles around. In fact, if I walk just 10 minutes from my apartment I can see it. My apartment is about an hour walk from the building.

Click on the picture to make it REALLY big.

It used to be the headquarters of Samsung in Korea - but only a few months ago, Samsung moved their headquarters to a nice new building in another district of Seoul called Gangnam. Gangnam is what I like to call "The New Seoul". It's the up-and-coming. It has all of the new businesses and buildings. It's an INCREDIBLY rich area. If you own a business in Gangnam, or a building, you're rich.

I'll show you some pictures of Gangnam in another post, and I'll talk more about that. But this post is just to show you that picture. :) Taken on New Years Night!


First of all... HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU! Let 2009 be the year that blesses and elevates you immensly!

On New Year's Eve I went to the center of Seoul, South Korea... which happens to be a few blocks from where I work. The area is called Jongno. Across from my favorite building (the Samsung Building) is a big bell that they traditionally ring on the New Year. Supposedly, there are LOTS and LOTS of people there.

So I figured... hey, if I were in New York - I'd have to go to Time Square for New Years just once. Since I'm in Seoul, I'll go to Jongno. And actually, I was in Korea for New Years LAST year, too... but I just can't remember for the life of me what I did - which probably means I did nothing of importance at all. :)

All my students and pretty much everyone I talked to said, "Oh no! Don't go to Jongno for New Years! There's too many people!"

And I said, "There's too many people everywhere in Seoul. There's too many people in Jongno normally."

And they said, "but it's different. There are even MORE people!"

And I said, "oh. So it's like Myongdong." (Myongdong is the most famous and popular district to shop in all of Korea, I'm guessing. It's immensely busy year round.)

And they said, "No... more people than that!"

Sure, when I got there, there were lots of people. But it was just like the mosh pit if you've ever been to a concert. You stand shoulder to shoulder and move with the crowd and follow the flow of it and share the energy. It was fun.

One thing that was funny was that they had police men EVERYWHERE. But they weren't actually police men. I mean, their jobs weren't to police anybody. Their job was to make a wall - a human baracade - so people could only go where there were no "police". It was crowd control, more or less - but there were THOUSANDS of police men, I'm not joking. I wanted to take pictures of them but I only snapped a couple because I felt rude.

I made it pretty close to the bell... perhaps 100 yards away or less. I was told that when they ring it, you can hear the bell in Dongdaemun (which is probably a 30 minute walk or longer. I'm not sure because I never walked there). I found a nice spot to stand and there was a huge building nearby with a large projection on the front that displayed the countdown from 2 minutes.

Okay - up until this point, I had a lot of fun. Now let me tell you about two pretty big dissapointments.

1) When the clock struck midnight... I was utterly shocked at the complete lack of enthusiasm. I was in the middle of a HUGE crowd (pictured below), and nobody started yelling at the top of their lungs and nobody started jumping up and down or such like that. It's like... I felt like everyone was expecting something EXTRAORDINARY to occur at the stroke of midnight. They just stood there, relatively quiet. I'm used to concerts where you go nuts. Otherwise... what's the fun?

2) I didn't hear the bell! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT! I have a conspiracy theory that they didn't actually RING the bell. I was told it would be loud! I was maybe less than 100 meters away! And I didn't hear it ring! Man... bummer!

Afterwards, one thing I realized is how meaningul a new year is to people. I passed one young man who had red watery eyes. I thought to myself, "was he crying?" And then as I walked, I started to notice that LOTS of people were teary-eyed. I mean... I guess I understand. There have been years where I have felt like that. I guess I was just surprised because this wasn't one of those years for me and I forgot about that particular reaction.

Okay - now for some pictures! There were lots of people dancing traditional Korean dances, banging drums, and wearing the traditional white costumes. All in all... it was a good, fun night.

Above: a shot of the large crowd in downtown Jongno.

Above: At midnight, they let loose some balloons and stuff into the sky.

Above: In the far back you can see some kind of glowing traditional Korean building... that's where they have the big bell that they supposedly ring.

Above: a shot of the large crowd in downtown Jongno.

Above: a shot of the large crowd in downtown Jongno.

Above: In the back you can see a wall of police men blocking the way.

Above: Traditional Korean drummers and dancers.

Above: You can see on the far left the police men - human wall!

Above: Traditional Korean drummers and dancers.