over a month in Seoul

well, before i left for Korea, i told many people how i hoped to update my website very often with stories of living here, but i haven’t done a very good job at that yet XD

so it’s been over a month living here. i started school a few weeks ago and really like it! there are over 1000 students here at Yonsei University trying to learn Korean. they split everyone up into 12-13 students per class. the class is 4 hours per day with 3 breaks in between. during the 3rd hour, a different teacher comes in to teach reading. the toughest part of the class for me is memorizing the vocabulary and understanding the speaking parts because it is spoken very fast. i think with more vocab knowledge, as well as practice, i’ll be able to understand the speaking better. my class is a mix of American, Japanese, Mongolian, Spanish, German and Italian. the teacher tries to keep everything spoken in the class in Korean, but sometimes she has to briefly explain things in English. she knows a bit of Japanese too. the Mongolian guys have difficulty with both the Korean and the English… and those without English as their first language have to do some double translating when the teacher explains something in English. the class is very fast-paced, and i worry about even missing a few minutes of the class or i’ll fall behind.

life outside of class has been good for the most part. i still need help finding places to get specific items, and i’m always at a loss when people say “where do you want to eat?” since i don’t know everything that’s offered in this area, so i usually just say “whatever you guys want,” though i tend to always crave samgyeopsal πŸ™‚ i still want to try a lot of places to eat here. in my area, there are many many restaurants. and regarding western restaurants/places, there’s a Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Baskin Robbins and an Outback Steakhouse all within 10 minutes walking from where i live. there are tons of PC bang’s (internet cafe’s mainly used for playing computer games), cafe’s, DVD bang’s (basically a place you can rent a dvd and watch it in a small room there instead of at home. many residents here in college town don’t have dvd players, or even tv’s. i think mainly because the apartments are soo small), and Norae bang’s (karaoke room’s–“bang” means room in Korean. these are different than in America, where it’s a small room rented out that you and your friends can go in and sing karaoke in, and not have to worry about a large crowd of strangers laughing at you when you try to sing).

my “1 room” apartment is small compared to the US, but my cousin said it’s one of the biggest he’s seen when he was here before. i saw some others when i was looking for an apartment, and it is definitely larger than any others i saw. though i pay around $607 US per month for it. it came with AC, a somewhat old tv, bed, rice cooker, small fridge, small single stove, 2 closets, a desk, a washer (no driers in most of Korea πŸ™ ), and a microwave. i can get groceries at the Grand Mart, but it doesn’t always have the same foods as in America. their only lunch meat here seems to be ham (i miss turkey… supposedly Subway Sandwiches are here somewhere). The fruit here is much costlier than in America. so when Korean’s offer fruit to you, it has a bigger meaning than “wanna apple?” a pack of 4 large nice Fuji apples from Grand Mart cost like $9 or $10 i think. and fruit tends to be the dessert after meals in the home. Fuji apples, grapes, nectarines (which they call peaches), peaches, persimmons, pineapple, and strawberries. i’ve always liked eating fruit a lot, but eating it after a big meal really tastes good πŸ™‚

there are many differences to America and many similarities i’ve noticed here. the garbage system is very different. it’s very hard to find public garbage cans on the streets. they’re very very big on recycling, but it’s understandable with the small small country and millions of people. instead of having a garbage can you put out on the street to be collected once a week, you have to go and buy specific plastic garbage bags (which are cheap). there’s a bag for only food waste, and a bag for all non-food and non-recycling waste. and for recycling, you can use any plastic bag. when you go shopping at places, you have to pay extra for plastic/paper bags when you make purchases (only about $0.10). i think this helps cut down on waste. i need to still get a shopping bag i can reuse instead of gathering a nice collection of Grand Mart bags. oh and if the garbage collectors find that you put recycling in the normal garbage bag, and they look through it and find your name/address on something, they will send you a fine to pay (around $100 or so). at restaurants, napkins are very scarce. they exist, but sometimes the table you sit at has only 2 to 4 napkins, and they’re small. you can ask for more, but i think this is another thing to do with trying to keep the waste to a minimum. another difference is the people here tend to use washers only and no driers. they hang their clothes to dry. i’m still not used to this at all… the washers have a spin dry setting that basically dries the clothes enough so they come out damp, but this also causes tons of wrinkles, so i’m always ironing XD walking around Sinchon (an area in Seoul where i live) is interesting. most of the people walk slower than me (i know it’s cause i’m tall and my strides are longer than most…), but in America, i tended to walk slower than most people… the traffic and driving here is very crazy! i never thought i’d miss California traffic, but i’m definiately glad i don’t drive here. many drivers run red lights, and they drive down very narrow streets and come within a couple of feet from people walking. they’ll slow down if people are in the way, and sometimes honk, but you really have to make way for the drivers around here. i’m used to it now, but was pretty surprised when i first experienced seeing people drive here. everyone seems to be used to it and just move out of the way when cars come by. and there are tons of motor scooters here too–mostly for food/item delivering. and they will drive anywhere they can–sidewalks, streets, crosswalks. i even saw one drive into a restaurant (which was empty at the time). they zig-zag through crowds all the time too.

i will try to write more about stuff here soon, but i’m tired and need to get to bed now…