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Top 7 to Fear:
First on the list is seafood in general. While there's plenty of delicious seafood around, there is however the sketchy stuff. For example in the streets, you can find vendors with a shelf of squid, Like so. If you're going to a restaurant and don't want to eat something with tentacles comfortably laying in your food, know what the word 오징어 is in the menu, because it means squid. Also, there are places where you can eat LIVE SQUID. Of course, this causes a lot of controversy with my peers since there's that slight chance the squid decides to save his/her own life and stick in your pipes. Anyway, it's something to try ; I haven't. Lastly is 멸치 anchovies served at the cafeteria or restaurants (pictured above). Not bad until you realize halfway into your meal that your food is looking at you.
6. 번데기 "Bundegi"
Infamous street food that is cooked pupa - yes, insect larvae. This is something I've wanted to try, since my friends said it was good until they realized what it was. However, walking around in the street and seeing (and smelling) them, my taste buds have rejected this idea. ><
I'm talkin' the ones next to traditional Korean food restaurants - that don't look like they've been cleaned in a month, need the soap dispensers refilled, have a BAR of soap instead of dispensers, use rolls of toilet paper instead of hand driers or paper towel dispensers, use CLOTH towels instead of disposable towels/tissues. Also the squatting toilets. Just... yeah. I heard this is much more popular in Japan, so I feel blessed to only have witnessed a few.
4. Exam week
Unlike Penn State around midterms, Sogang university has a week set aside for midterms, which most classes have (rather than quarter-terms or tri-terms). This week and the week before, you lose all your Korean friends because they're actually being good students while you continue to be on vacation in Korea.
3. 찜질방 Jjimjilbangs (Spa/saunas)
Okay, JJIMJILBANGS ARE AWESOME as I've said in previous blogs. You stay here as long as you want and overnight for at or under $10, rather than a $160 hotel that you end up staying at for 5 hours because you hafta catch a bus to Daegu city. But foreigners instantly rule this option out for this reason: nudity. When you enter the men's locker room (unless you're female :3, you right away see naked Korean dudes strolling around making no effort to hide their untamed bodies. And then everyone is staring at you because you're the only foreigner to be in the building all week since you're not in Seoul anymore. And then you go up to your locker with your friend who's showing you your first time at a jjimjilbang and you get to see him naked. And then you enter the spa to shower and then go to hang out in the hot tubs and see those old dudes just laying on their back taking a nap or something. And then you lose your friend which is a whole 'nother story. And then groups of middle-aged guys say only "hello," showing off their English skills. And then you wear unattractive (yet comfy) spa clothes and enter the massive sleeping room where the ladies are too. And then you sleep on either a mat, a towel, or the wooden floor with a small pillow (unless they've all been grabbed, leaving you with nothing). And then you wake up at midnight thinking it's tomorrow afternoon and go outside because you're an idiot and hafta somehow convince the person at the front desk to get back in WHICH IS A WHOLE 'NOTHER STORY. I'm gonna hafta tell you guys these stories in the next blog. Anyway, jjimjilbangs are amazing and I wasn't as weirded out by the nudity as I expected. But many people new to Korea would find this the nudity to be too much.
2. 할머니 Grandmas
They all have the same haircut and when they speak it sounds like they're using the last of their breathe even though they're speaking at the average conversational volume. You'll find some who are super conservative and are probably not very welcoming of foreigners walking in a dark back alley in front of their house at night (I was super lost :3). They're also known for shoving you out of the way as you stand in the middle of the walkway looking lost in the subway. The grandmas I see daily are the lunch ladies and the cleaning staff working for the university in aprons and green latex gloves, and they're friendly if you try to ask them something in broken Korean.
1. 이태원 Itaewon district in Seoul
This is the home of all the nightlife, especially for foreigners. Yes, there's so much to do with your friends, but you're gonna spend... a lot. The scary part about this district is the special-case people you'll see:
- A gross Korean guy who goes up to you while you stand somewhere waiting to meet your friend, staring at you until you look him in the eyes, at which point he will start dancing waiting for you to join
- KoreanGirl/ForeignGuy couple who are obviously drunk and openly making out in public which is absolutely unacceptable outside of this district
- KoreanGoodLookingMale/ForeignBusinessMale <ㅡ not a typo... waiting at the subway who are chatting until they start kissing
- And the most striking moment of me in Itaewon -- the transgender sector
Let me explain. Korean plastic surgery is very powerful. Very. VERY. Powerful. To the point where some of the "lady boys" in the transgender part of Itaewon look exactly like the stereotypical sexy Korean girl image portrayed in some media. I'm having a hard time explaining this, so here - take Exhibit A. While some of the girls in this part of Itaewon may look like this, the rest have male-sized heads and arms and may make you instantly uncomfortable. If you're in Seoul, go to Itaewon to experience the nightlife - it's completely safe. Just be prepared to be disturbed in some cases.
I made this list while eating from a box of 오레오 오즈 "Oreo Os" cereal. Yeah. Only in Korea.
Okay so this weekend I was outside of Seoul for the first time since my second week.
I went to Andong to see a Buddhist temple and then to Yeongju. Both are very countryside.
This was our hotel stay. (Ignore the different display on the tv in the reflection ; it's a panorama). The kitchen has a rice cooker and kettle for boiling water and fridge and microwave. There are no couches or beds - we slept on provided floor mats and blankets - Korean style ! (pretty comfortable). The trick is to fold them in half and put an extra layer of blankets under you. And of course watching Korean Saturday Night Live without captions is always entertaining. [Interesting - there's so much pressure for beauty here but when it comes to being funny on TV, the actors value the OPPOSITE of beautiful. I guess being "ugly" while holding a smile makes you funnier.]
On the trip, we walked into a restaurant in the countryside that instantly smelled like fish and gross vegetables. I've never had some of these veggies before in my life, but at least the kimchi was pretty bangin'. xP
This week's Korean music is J Rabbit.
J Rabbit is an internet duo known as the adorable singer and talented multi-instrumentalist. I've been listening to this playlist while making this blog. If you like jazzy stuff, try their cover of Take 5. Aside from most of their popularity being on Youtube, they recently played at a K-indie festival. Their constant smiling and laughter during recording makes them stand out in cuteness from some of the greatest KPOP idols.
"Engrish" quotes from this weekend:
- ENGLISH MENU. WE HAVE. (posted in front of a restaurant)
- "If every day you eat one apple, you will not have to go to the doctor" (our tour guide's recitation of the English expression about eating apples)
And enjoy some amateur autumn photography:
This blog has been brought to you by the letter 번 "bun"
오레오 오즈 cereal