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Monday, August 18, 2008

Day 42: the not-so secretive underground market

"Meet me at the underground market," she said. Underground market? Most black markets aren't that easy to find, so i asked how to get there. "just ask somebody..." she said, ending the conversation. I guess it was easy...

after asking 2 or 3 people, i found out which subway stop i should take. after getting off the train, i directly looked up, and there was a sign that said "underground market this way." i followed the signs and came upon tunnels under the city that were lined with shops. thats why it was the "underground" market, because it was literally underground. duh.

it contains the biggest flower market in korea (you wouldn't think that flowers would do so well in florescent lighting, but you'd be surprised.) there were thousands of people there. i met up with Kim Young and we shopped for 4 hours, and we still didn't see it all. then we took a break, got some 만두 (korean style potstickers) and went back out. we shopped until 2 in the morning and there was much more to be done. that lady has stamina, and she's 52 years old!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

days 39-41: the rooms of all colors

i have compressed the past 3 days into one entry mostly because: a.) it was too crazy to separate which days i did things and b.) i'm just lazy.

The BYU interns all finished on thursday night, so i've been hanging out (more like living with them) a lot. One of my buddy's roommates moved out, and so i moved in for the weekend. i couldn't turn down the offer to sleep in a bed that my legs actually didn't hang off. most of the time, we ended up watching the olympics during the day, and going out to the different specialized rooms at night. they have DVD rooms, Karaoke rooms, billiards rooms, computer game rooms, and board game rooms. with how much fun korea is, i didn't think that i missed having full conversations in english, but it felt so good to speak to someone without pulling out a dictionary.

I joined them for church at the english ward and got hit on by a 32 year old lady named Di who teaches english here. my BYU buddies say that she's tried to put the move on every single white guy that comes in, and its funny to watch. i guess i was todays show for the spectators.

afterwards, i came home, took a nap, and then left for dinner. i looked at the subway map, and dinner didn't look that far away on the little piece of paper, but i sure was wrong. it took me an hour and 45 minutes by subway to get there. i met up with Son Kisick and we had cow intestine stew. (Yummy... uh, wait a second...)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

day 38: the resting place

this one is for mom. today we went to Jean's Grandma's grave. I wasn't depressed because of the thought of the deceased, but because i had to drive with Jean's dad again...

when we arrived, we walked into a huge church where they showed us to Jean's grandma. she was in an urn in a wall with thousands of other people. Jean grabbed a mat and we did some traditional bows. then he turned to his dad and told him that i was going to do some stuff for his grandma. i looked at him a little weird, so he said, "remember when we went to your temple. you said you do stuff for people that die. well, go ahead." i tried to explain that we only do that stuff in the temple, but Jean didn't see the difference between the huge church and our temple. his dad shared the same feelings. I didn't know what to do, so i said a short prayer, and looked up. they looked disappointed that that was all. Jean asked me what i prayed for, and i said, "you know... stuff about fire and brimstone, the celestrial kingdom, and being patient while she's in the spirit world." (which wasn't at all what i prayed for, but i love to see Jean's reaction when he doesn't understand a word i say.) he said, "huh?" and i just told him not to worry because it was a good prayer.

then we all went out to VIPS, which is an upper class version of sizzler. Jean ate probably ten pounds of meat, while i gorged down the salad. (not a specialty of the koreans... so when i get some good type, i chow down.)

day 37: the midnight shops

you would think that 4 square miles of malls would be enough shopping for a city. well, you'd be wrong. when the sun goes down, the tents go up. the streets are lined with vendors who sell anything and everything; from halloween costumes to to camping gear to designer purses. i started looking around and stumbled across a concert. i guess if you get bored, you can sit down and watch a show, buy some drinks, and go back out. (i was told that most of the tents start to go down around 5 am.) since the subway closes down at 12:15, most people stay the whole night shopping until 5 am when the subway starts back up again. anyways, the concert was one of the weirdest things i had ever seen. what caught my attention was the rock music that centered around an aboriginal didgeridoos. then they moved to a guitar keyboard and had people start doing back flips. for the hour i watched, they probably used every instrument imaginable with all kinds of dance styles to amplify to night filled sounds. i moved out to the shopping area, and i was thinking, "hey, i could probably get hooked up with some sweet Louis Vatton knock off ties or maybe tiger fur for the new hard would floor in the family room." well, i would listen in, and then and hear the price. but because i'm white, they would always start high. that is one skill i haven't mastered yet... the art of bargaining.

day 36: the waste basket

usually, when i see a waste basket i don't mind it. after studying today, we went to go see "The Dark Night" (the new batman movie). well, after sipping down a huge cup of korean juice, you can guess what i had to do. well, i accidentally knocked over the waste basket and found the most disgusting surprise. the waste baskets here are actually human waste baskets. they don't flush down their toilet paper, they throw it away. when I told Jean that there was no way i was cleaning it up, he agreed that that would be a good idea.

Monday, August 11, 2008

day 35: the 2 kingdoms

they said it was at SoeDaeMun. i checked the adress again and we kept asking people where it was. it wouldn't have been a big deal if it hadn't of taken us over an hour to get there. then i heard someone say, "are you lost?" i turned around, and there were the missionaries. i explained how it had taken everything in me to get Jean to go to the temple with me, and then i couldn't find it. turns out we went to the wrong subway stop, but still got what we were looking for. Jean said, "that is so strange that we were looking for your church and then your missionaries were just there." that little Jean has so much to learn!

we showed up to the temple and i knew that since it was monday that there wouldn't be anyone inside. i was atleast expecting there to be someone there in the visitor center. well, it turns out that they don't have a visitor center, nor do they have visitor center missionaries. the only person that was there was the head of security. he was a nice guy and let us walk around the very small grounds and take some pictures. (pretty much what you see in the picture is all of the temple is extremely packed in.) Jean was highly disappointed that we had come this far, and that was all there was to see. I think its a good thing since it will just raise a lot more questions in his mind.

Then we hopped back on the subway and rode it to InSaDong. We got out and were completely astonished by the difference. we had arrived to the king's palace. the buildings are massive and there was a lot of history. unfortunately, a lot of it is under renovation and some archaeological digs, so we didn't get to see all of it; leaving me with a lot of questions in my mind. (mostly because we missed the english tour and jean had no idea what anything was for.)

we finished up our day by shopping at the art district. they have these streets that are lined with people's drawings, crafts, costumes, statues, etc. I think adam would have loved some of the interior design stuff, and matt would have loved the artsy stuff. you would go for a couple of shops, then a couple of restaurants, then there would be a little art gallery. then it would repeat. the streets were packed with foreigners; our stomachs were packed with korean candy; and our shoes were packed with swollen feet. (we had been on our feet for almost 10 hours.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

day 34: the end of the world?

you know in the movies when all of the people gather around the tv to watch uniforms performing various sporting events. it was the women's archery that was how its the end of the world? today was like that. i was walking down the street and i came across a huge crowd gathered in front of a TV store. there was very little room to walk around on the side walk, and people were climbing trees to watch what was being shown. Taxi cab drivers were even stopping their cars and getting out to see the TV. I was thinking, "did the president get shot? was there some natural disaster? Am I on TV again? (that last one was a joke...)" i made my way through the crowd to see people in different colorcurrently being shown. a little history that i learned was that since 1980, the koreans have never lost this competition. the reason? i was told it was because koreans use silver chopsticks which give them a better grip. ha ha. whatever the reason, they do a good job.

i was also informed about every other korean gold for the day. the teenage swimmer (previously mentioned in another post), Park Taehwan, won the first korean gold medal in the 400 meter. and then there was the sweet Judo wrestling match where the koreans dominated.

i love to be in a country where everything stops for pride.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

day 33: the folk village pleasantries

The Amish might still live in the 1800s, but the koreans have found a way to outdo them too. This morning we went to a traditional folk village in Suwon. Kim Young and her friend Grace picked me up and we took the hour drive in fond memories of california traffic.

there was a large castle like wall that surrounded the village and all of the people were wearing traditional clothing. there was pottery, bamboo toys, oriental fans, and pretty much anything you could think of. they grow all of their own food. they raise animals. they even have oxen to pull, plow, and grind down grains. the picture to the left is of a korean guy selling things that he had made out of bamboo/wood/weeds. i thought it was funny that he didn't have any outer walls, but still had a modern door between rooms.

Kim Young and Grace had seen this place more than they could
remember (Grace grew up next to the village) so keeping their attention was a toughy. however, when it came to jumping on the see-saw, shooting archery, making pottery, swinging, seeing the calligrapher write words in chinese, or eating buckwheat noodles, they were all up for it. (we had this noodle soup that was in cold water/vinegar and cayenne pepper. spicy, delicious, and refreshing!)

Grace and Kim Young pretty much threw their towels in after a couple of hours, and we just drove around the wall and other sites. it was funny because they planned on looking at a lot of things, but you had to get out of the car. they didn't want to do that since it was hot, so we would drive up to the entrance, they would tell me what was behind the wall, or on top of the mountain, or whatever, and then we would drive to the next site. there is nothing like the korean pleasantries in life!

day 32: the korean swimming pool

there has been some concern for the welfare of my soul. i'll let you know that i am perfectly safe, and intend to be that way. my writing must be very captivating for you to worry, but think of it as only dramatic elements. i have never been more happy, healthy, or intact in my life.

having said that, today Jean and I went swimming today. (don't worry, i wore sun screen and there were no sharks either.) there is this huge water area near the river that everybody hangs out at. Jean came to my house and then we took a bus over to his buddy's. we waited and waited and waited. (Korean standard time is very similar to mormon standard time.) jean said that this was the first time he saw me not smile, so he took a picture. when we were about to leave, his buddy walked up the stairs. turns out that his buddy was waiting for us at Jean's house. (and i thought i couldn't communicate in korean.)

the place was packed with all ages because it is summer break right now and its about 100 degrees every day. when we walked in, they made us all buy hair caps. there were huge posters of the korean olympic swimmer everywhere. i was thinking that they just made me buy the stupid hair cap because they want everybody to look like the famous Olympian. i was looking forward to at least swimming some laps in my stylish new fashion, but was disappointed when i found out that the deepest pool went up to my chest and that koreans find speedos to be appropriate for public places (plus, there wasn't any room to actually swim that much with how many people were in the water.) we splashed around a little bit, and jean got his buddies and a lot of little koreans to try to take me down. little did they know how adapt i am to to water fights.

we came home, dried off, and went to Mcdonalds. (my idea, since i am getting a little sick of kimchee every day.) it still didn't taste american, but was close enough to make me happy.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

day 31: the most dangerous meal

Silk worm larva? check. Dog meat? check. Live octopus? check. what else could there possibly be left?

I asked Jean what we could go eat for lunch. "what do you want to eat," he asked. "uh... something new and exciting," i replied. boy, was i in for a treat. we took a taxi to this restaurant called a 복집, which means "pufferfish house." by being educated by the simpsons, i knew that pufferfish/swellfish (or Fugu, as the japanese call it) is one of the most dangerous meats on planet earth. there is very little that is actually eatable due to poison that runs through the fish. one little slip of the knife can leave a person in a comatose state, or could just simply kill him. I think this is wear Jean and i really bonded. he could totally feel my excitement.
we walked in, where we were greeted to the chef. (this is a common practice since you are putting your life in their hands.) turns out that Jean's mom is really good friends with them, and we got the meal for free. which is really good because swellfish is super expensive. (wouldn't you feel guilty if you charged your friend's son for a meal that killed him? i sure would.) on the wall was a few facts about the blowfish. here are the few that i could remember:

* A six-pound tiger swellfish has enough poison to take out at least 32 healthy adults.
* Swellfish is still widely banned in europe for consumption.
* The amount of swellfish poison required to kill a man can fit on the head of a pin.
* In modern Japan, it’s illegal to serve fugu to the emperor.
* All uneatable portions must be locked up and disposed by authorized officials.
* All chefs must be certified and must display certification.

They brought out the fish raw in a large pot. then threw in all sorts of vegetables and spices and cooked it in front of us. Jean and i could hardly wait. i took a big breath and took a bite. it was by far the best tasting fish i had ever tasted.

and considering that i'm sitll alive is a definite bonus!