I woke up at 6.45 after a fairly good sleep. The school director would be coming back at about 11am to show me around, so I wanted to get a few things done first. I unpacked the suitcase and bag and that made the room look and feel so much better. The room came with about 12 different small posters that had inspirational messages on them, so i scattered them around the room and put up some things i brought from London, including 2 things i bought as gifts for the school director but which I will be keeping for now as they make the place feel more like home. I got the tv working - it's pretty terrible in terms of the picture quality, but i found out it has a full digital subsciption including 3 bbc channels, movie channels and some sports channels i later found out have every major sports game you can think of. After unpacking, my first thought was to find a way to tell people at home I am alive and well. So i took my first tentative steps into the unknown. Finally, i felt like I was really in Korea! The streets i live on are so cramped and small, there are no pavements and there's no overall structure or planning involved with the houses, each one has been equally badly designed in a new and original way, so it was a little overwhelming at first. I tried to memorise the way back by using signs and features that stood out. One of the first things i noticed was a park with some arabian style roofs (that would later prove very useful in my imagined trail of breadcrumbs). I found a major street within a minute or two of walking. And it really was huge. It took 32 paces to walk across and i wouldn't have wanted to do it without other Koreans crossing at the same time. But strangely the city was almost desserted. That would be less amazing if it wasn't for the huge number of massive blocks of flats. Each blovk of flats looks almost identical and they are lined up like dominoes. They must be over 20 stories each and some of them i counted later had 115, 116, 117 on them, so there really is a lot. I walked in my first shop, desperate for a drink. To my delight, they had Orange Fanta, which cost about 50p and tasted about the same as at home. There were many phone boxes on the street but I had no luck with any of them, even after spending 1.50 on a phone card. The next shop i found was a bit bigger - again to my surprise, i found pringles and they really did look and taste exactly the same. I also bought some Korean cookies (not great but grew on me), some tooth paste that was Korean but had 'total care' on one end, some cereal that looks like very small chocolate frosted ring doughnuts from Krispy kreme, or like Wheetos with white stuff on them. I found milk too - apparently over here milk belongs to the marsupial family, as each bottle had a sort of mini bottle attached to it liek a suckling offspring. I'm not sure what it is yet, maybe a sample of another product. Anyway, I was relieved to know i could enjoy at least one meal per day. They had a variety of interesting cereals, including one with a Lion for a mascott that clearly wished he was as cool as Tony the Tiger. I tried speaking what little Korean i knew (ang yo ha say yo - 'hello', cum sam ni da - thank you) but i kept getting a bit tongue tied. Walking down the street, I have never felt more like a foreigner before. There wasn't a single non 100% ethnically Korean person around and people seemeed to look at me as though i were a sore thumb, but then maybe that's because my body language probably reflects that feeling at the moment. I walked further and found a few more streets with shops. An asiany smell kept wafting past, like raw meat being processed only a few metres away. It comes and goes. I saw fishtanks outside a few shops which i kept naively thinking were pet stores, only to find some very sad looking eels, crabs and other fish. I knew i would not be able to free every fish from their grim fate, so just had to ignore them. We may eat a lot of fish in the UK but it's rare you see live fish in tanks on street corners.
So a bit about the scenery. It seems no matter where you stand, you will see tall buildings in the distance with mountains right behind them. It's quite an amazing feeling you get seeing such development and technology surrounded by untamable nature. It's like they built as far as they could, but the mountains were too much to surmount. Incidently the pavement on this part of my journey was shocking, to the extent that if i were walking up hill, i'd describe it more as rambling, or possibly climbing. But they don't care, shops actually have uneven floors. One shop entrance was actually a couple of metres of steep downward gradient. It was quite exciting but i don't know how the elderly cope.
Also on my walk i came across a large football field. I call it a field but here's another thing i noticed - Koreans don't believe in grass. They have plenty oif trees, but it seems they have replaced all grass with either sand, paving or some kind of dead grass or weeds. I have yet to see a single blade of the kind of lush, bright green grass you find everywhere in the UK. This football field was actually made of sand, which was good news as i think the school director who plays football every week (seriously, he's 50?!) plays there so i can join in with my astro turf boots.
Eventually i decided to try to make it back by 11, which i almost didn't manage due to forgetting one turn i made without noticing a landmark. Subsequently i walked a lot further around and found a Domino's pizza among other things! Also there are quite a few community parks, one of which i sat in for 10 mins. It has kids apparatus, as well as a series of fitness obstacles, like non electric equivalents of those found in a gym. I'm going to think of this as my new, free membership outdoor gym, which is especially useful as it's a 20 second run from my apartment. Oh and one more thing. I bought 2 AA batteries that said 'rechargeable' in English on them. I thought my charades skills are adequuate for me to be able to ask if they have the plug to go with it. Sadly, they were not. We shared some laughs, but in the end, i left the store defeated with my batteries. After getting back to the flat, i felt rather alone still, but suitably happy to find food and drink that could sustain me until i make some friends here.
Unexpected free time
6 years ago