Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A day in the life

I decided I would try to give everyone a little peek into what life in South Korea actually consists of. I'm always finding things that are specific to Korea, but I haven't documented them for everyone to read yet. So here they are.

-I've been asked what my blood type is by several Koreans. When I say I have absolutely no idea they look at me as if I grew a second head. They're shocked. I guess a blood type tells a lot about a person, so I usually just make an answer up.

-I really can't explain to you the noises you'll hear in Korea. I think my favorite, and one I find most bizarre, is the war-like propaganda I'll randomly hear coming from fruit stands. I'm not kidding. You walk by a little stand in the back of a van selling something like herbs or fruit and there will be a bizarre voice yelling something from a loud speaker. It really is difficult to explain. One friend told me about a comic he read in which two people were walking by this bizarre event. One friend asked what was going on and the other said, "Either the nazis are invading or nectarines are on sale." And it's so true.

-Socks. There are entire tables dedicated to selling socks at various markets here in Busan and I've heard they are a popular gift to give.

-It's totally normal for hospital patients here to leave the hospital for a little bit and roam the streets, gown on and IV drip attached. I've seen patients in restaurants, stores, taking walks. It's just no big deal.

-Service. People here really will do their best to always make sure you're accommodated and comfortable. From my short time in the country, I see that they really do aim to please. My best example of service comes from a man working at a 7/11 right outside my apartment. I go in the store frequently to buy all sorts of items: water, food, candy, beer. One time I went in and the bar code on an item didn't work right, so he gave me a free energy drink for my "time wasted," which was about 4 seconds. Another time I went in to buy just a bottle of soju, so he gave me a bag of potato chips for free, because he didn't want me to get sick. He's the best.

There are so many other things I have noticed about the culture and people, I could go on for days. I make it a point to jot down these observations so I can write about them, share them, remember them. This is just a small chapter in what could be a book about, "Why Korea is so Awesome."

Monday, October 25, 2010

A rock fest and fireworks

I did a bad job of keeping the blog updated, didn't I? Things have been a little busy the last few weeks, but to be honest I just got lazy and didn't feel like updating. I've snapped out of it and have stories to share!

Let's start with two weekends ago: the Daejeon rock festival. To sum it all up, it was an awesome time. There were about 50 Busanites on the bus and I got to meet a lot of great people from all over the city. The trip there and back was about 4 or so hours, including stops. A friend of ours popped in a Beatles CD when we were almost there and the bus turned into a big karaoke session which was definitely a sight to see (and painful to hear). We finally arrived in Daejeon and had a bit of trouble finding our hotel. There was a good amount of traffic and our bus got lost, so we had to turn around. Easier said than done. The bus literally stopped four lanes of traffic backing up so we could turn around. It was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. Finally arrived at the festival and listened to some good tunes. To all of our surprise, the festival was shut down at midnight. We obviously thought it was a joke when an emcee got on the mic and told us all we were being shut down, but alas, it was no joke. Feeling a bit discouraged because we didn't get to hear the band we came to see, we thought the trip was going to be a bust. But with some phone calls and persuasion, we followed the band to a bar named Yellow Taxi where they played to a crowd that danced and sang all night long. I really don't think the show would have been quite as good if they played at the festival. But since it was a smaller, more intimate crowd (that followed them to a bar in an unfamiliar city), I think it was a bit more special. After the show, about 20 of us piled into one pretty big room (divided into 3 rooms) to hit the hay. Woke up, found food, went home. Great weekend.

This last weekend was the Busan Fireworks Festival, and I can tell you one thing. It did not disappoint. There were actually 3 shows, one on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but the last was supposed to be the best. I heard a lot of people would show up, but I didn't know exactly how serious it was going to be. We arrived on the beach at about 4 in absolute shock as to how many people were already there. Long story short, we sat around and played cards, talked, wandered around until about 8:30 when the show began. I really have to say, for as frustrating as it was to deal with such an enormous crowd, the fireworks were beautiful. They lasted for about an hour and it was "an around the world theme," which was pretty cool to see. It definitely topped any fireworks I've ever seen (yes, even Rantoul's display).