Friday, May 20, 2011

Thoughts on Seoul, Day 1

I'm terrible at sleeping on an airplane. I'm not sure if that's fortunate or not, but by the time we got to Seoul a couple nights ago, it was 11 pm and I was ready to sleep. I think the fact that I was ready to sleep at nighttime has helped keep the jetlag somewhat at bay, but I'm still waking up before 6. Since we have a while before we have to be anywhere today, here's a sort of mind dump from our first full day yesterday.

Seoul is an amazing city. Sorry America, we think we're big, but we don't have a city in the top ten. Seoul puts even New York to shame. It's huge and it just keeps on going. But what's astounding is how clean it feels. I saw a number of what must have been city workers going around a sweeping up what little trash there was on the ground. Also, the people are very friendly and walking around feels very safe.

I'm still not used to the fact that we are in a definite minority. Not only that, but Susie and I stick out incredibly. I've yet to notice someone as tall as me, and you don't see much blond hair, so I feel like we're a little bit of a curiosity here. I've noticed some people blatantly staring at me in the subway. We went to the National Museum yesterday and there were a number of school groups there. Twice we had middle schoolers come up and ask us where we were from. One girl wanted her picture taken with us.

Being a big city, the traffic can be a little crazy, and I'm not merely referring tot he roads. One thing I find interesting is that motorcycles and scooters drive on the sidewalks here. So you have to kind of keep your head on a swivel even when you're walking around.

The public transportation system here is incredible. It's huge and ongoing, yet it's very easy to use. Even though we don't know much Korean, the signs are easy to follow and there's enough English to make transfers uneventful. I made quite a few transfers on my own yesterday and didn't get on any wrong trains, so that's doing ok, right? The buses are a little trickier since there's a lot less English on the bus signs and there are multiple types of buses, but we did alright there too. Another thing is that it's very cheap to use the public transportation. You could easily live here and not need a car.

I'm convinced that one would have to make an effort to be overweight in Seoul. Heavy people are just not the norm here. In America, you have to make the effort to find healthy foods that are fresh and not prepackaged with tons of preservatives. It's kind of the opposite in Seoul. Korean food is quite healthy for you, and very delicious as well, but since it's not loaded with starches and white flour and sugar, you don't feel bloated, even after a big meal. Now, after saying all that, not all of the food is what we'd eat in the US. Last night we had something that is pronounced dae chang (or tae chang, I'm not sure). It's either the stomach or intestine of a cow, and it's marinated in a lot of spices, then grilled at your table. Very interesting flavor, but kind of rubbery. But we didn't come to Korea to eat burgers and fries, so we're enjoying trying new things.

These are just a few of the many interesting cultural differences we've already noticed. I could go on about how interesting the National Museum was and how cool it was to see artifacts that were so OLD. But it's time to get ready for day 2! I don't have time to post pictures right now, but hopefully I can get some up in the next few days. Annyeong!

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