April 22, 2003

Saturday night, I really didn't sleep at all. I got up around 10am on Sunday morning, and wrote my journal entry for that day... on paper. I'd left my laptop in Glenn's room the night before, and Glenn wouldn't be up for a few hours yet, so I couldn't type it; writing it would be necessary. It was fairly long, so his took me about 3 hours. After this, Sunday was pretty much a wash for me, because finally my tiredness had caught up with me, and I slept on and off for about six hours, resulting in me missing Eun-Ha's birthday party. I had been looking forward to meeting a few of her and Glenn's other friends, so this was disappointing. When I finally woke up sufficiently for communication with others, Glenn had already returned with Eun-Ha, and she had already gone home for the evening. Glenn and I stayed up for several hours looking at photos and small movies he'd taken that night with his digital camera, and talking about his night out and numerous other topics.

Monday was interesting. Having slept the day before, I didn't really sleep during the night. I got up at around 10am, and got ready to meet the day. Glenn woke up shortly after I was done, and I read some e-mail while waiting for him to get ready, so we could go eat some lunch. He brought me to this little restaurant, the name of which is Chung-Mu Kim Bap. This is another Korean fast food restaurant. For those who might be wondering about what I may be doing to my health by eating at all these Korean fast food places, I need to point out that Korean fast food is really nothing like American fast food. It's generally not deep fried, and it's got lots of rice and vegetables. It's much, much healthier than US fast food.

The particular dish I had was called jae yuk dap bap. It was some sort of pork dish, like a panang curry you'd get at a Thai restaurant at home, served with vegetables and white rice, in a sort of red pepper sauce. It was moderately spicy, and very tasty. The price was nice too, at 3000 won (about US $2.40). I don't think I've mentioned before that in Korea, there is no meal tax, and no tipping. So, if the menu says your food is 3000 won, when you leave you end up paying 3000 won. In fact, Glenn explained that if you try to leave a tip, the restaurant staff will likely chase you out the door and try to return your money to you. They really have no concept of tipping...

Glenn really cut his work schedule close, so after quickly sucking down his food, off he went to impart knowledge of our language to small Korean children. Meanwhile, I did a little sightseeing, for which the weather couldn't have been better; it was a beautiful, sunny day. Nearby to Glenn's apartment, there are several Confucian temples, and a Confucian school. I walked along a route suggested by Glenn, and visiting the temples. Glenn had suggested that the temple grounds are generally open to visitors, but it was probably not a good idea to enter the temples themselves. So I did get some nice pictures of the outsides of the three temples, but none of the inside, and I somehow failed to find the Confucian school.

In a small park nearby to the third temple, some branch of the South Korean military was apparently having some sort of training. A man flanked by two others was standing in front of troops, barking out some sort of message to them. The troops were sitting on the ground, wearing camo, listening very attentively to their leader. I envisioned Glenn's English class going something like this...

After walking around for a bit looking for the Confucian school, which Glenn had promised would be the most impressive and interesting structure of those he had mentioned, I gave up. I found myself in a part of the city that I was sure I had been at before, though I was at that point not familiar enough with it to recognize where exactly I was. It turned out that I was only about 30 seconds walking distance from the Dong-A department store, which was on a very familiar street, but I had no way to be sure of that. So rather than risk getting lost, I walked back the way I had come, enjoying the scenery along the way.

During the walk back, I noticed a number of things that I don't often see in the US. There are several seafood shops along both sides of the road, and they have tanks right in their front windows that display their primary wares. One shop had crabs dancing frantically in their tanks, another had large fish of some sort which more or less could only lie on top of eachother, given how large they were and how small the tank was. This would strike me as cruel, were it not for the fact that they're about to be killed and eaten anyway. It doesn't get much crueler than that.

There was also a flower shop on one side of the street, with plants outside on steps, as well as inside. As I walked by, the most adorably tiny dog poked its head out at me, and then walked just outside the door and sat down next to a plant. I took a photo of it, and it seemed as if it wanted to be friendly with me. So I approached it to take a closer photo, and to pat it, but it seemed to get nervous and retreated inside the flower shop, so I didn't pursue it further.

After this, I decided to go and do some shopping. Because of my size and slender waist, it's normally very hard for me to buy pants that fit me, in the US. I also wanted to obtain a pair of shoes that would work for both casual dress and more dressy attire, but decent shoes in the US tend to be very expensive. Of course, many Asian men are slight, and there are many shoe factories in Korea, so I figured I could obtain both of these items fairly easily and inexpensively here. Glenn had told me of a shoe store over near the Dong-A department store, so I walked back in that direction. I realized later that I had basically walked in a circle, since the last temple I had visited earlier was right around the corner from the shoe store...

As I walked up to the shoe store, my lack of sleep really hit me pretty hard. I went in anyway, and the polite salesman pointed me to the back corner of the store, where the men's shoes were. There was an array of shoes here, but most of the styles were represented by a single shoe; if you found one that you were interested in, you are required to ask the salesman to bring you a pair of that shoe in your size. Now, I'm generally pretty self-sufficient, and I really hate dealing with sales people. Also, Koreans measure shoe sizes in millimeters, and I had no idea what my size was. Having started to feel extremely tired, I decided I would rather not deal with this just then. It seemed appropriate that I should go and take a nap, so I left the store and headed back to the apartment.

On my way back, I encountered another adorable little dog, on the shoulder of an older Korean woman, who flashed me a smile when she noticed me. Koreans apparently love their little dogs. I also noticed a pet shop nearby, and started in that direction. Lots of little dogs in there... Anyway, I made my way back to the apartment, and took a nap. I woke up just in time to meet Glenn in front of Dunkin' Donuts at 8pm, which is when his last class ends.

After meeting Glenn, we stopped to pick up some photos that I had developed. My main motivation in having them developed here was to make sure my film survived the various security inspections at the many airports I went through on my way to Korea. However, I will probably have all my photos developed here, since the 2-hour development here is no more expensive than the typical film development service at Stop 'n Shop. We looked at the photos, many of which were of trees, or of dishes that I'd prepared -- the sort most of my friends have gotten to know and make fun of... Only the end of the roll was taken during my trip.

I noticed that a few of the pictures I'd taken didn't come out, as I made a mistake opening the case before rewinding the film. Now before you make fun of me, I am well aware that you need to rewind the film before opening the camera. The particular camera I had been using is one that I don't use that often, and I'd forgotten how to rewind the film. I thought that the button for opening the camera would automatically rewind the film for me. It didn't. I had a really nice shot of the Golden Gate Bridge that didn't make it, and one or two other shots that also didn't come out. Another problem I seem to have with this camera is that the shutter trigger requires a fair amount of pressure to operate, and if I'm not careful, this causes me to jiggle the camera as I'm taking the photo. Well, I'd forgotten about that, and in many of the shots, I wasn't careful enough...

After this, Glenn and I rented Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and went to a little restaurant over near the shoe store, which served some sort of noodle dish that Glenn really likes. It contains two different kinds of rice noodles, and ramen noodles, served in a typical Korean red pepper sauce. Like virtually every other Korean food, it was also served with pickled daikon radish, and a few other sides. I had had a Snickers bar and a Coke while waiting for Glenn, and it turns out I wasn't as hungry as I thought I was. The noodle dish wasn't bad, but not really to my taste, and not worth stuffing myself over, so I ate only a little of it. Then, back to Glenn's to watch Harry Potter, and then off to bed (to again fail utterly to sleep). For sheer amusement, we watched part of Harry Potter in Korean, with English subtitles. This made the movie seem more like an old Japanese samauri movie, than a child's fary tale. It was quite amusing.

Last modified 4/23/2003 © 2003 Derek Martin