Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blog 13 -April 26

After three months living in Seoul I am still very happy and feel privileged to have the opportunity to immerse myself in another culture. We are making friends - you've probably noticed the usual suspects in my photos. We are living a rich and full life, where every day is different and we are learning patience and reticence. as we negotiate the Korean systems. I had thought I'd write for three months, however this experiment has proved an excellent way to document my life and feedback has been positive. So I will continue for now anyway.

Dongdaemun Market has a plethora of specialty shops and I had a wonderful choice of wool, most of it imported from Australia and New Zealand.

Here is my knitting project. Before I left Australia, my friend Helen gave me a knitting pattern for a throw rug that has 99 different squares. So far I've finished 39. Only 60 more to go! It's been great fun and been very therapeutic over the winter months. Perhaps it will be completed for next winter. Below is my knitting group hard at work! We meets weekly or when it fits us all. Esther and Sophia are neighbours here at the University apartments.

We woke at 5.30am for the traditional ANZAC Day dawn service at the War Memorial of Korea. About 200 attended and followed the ceremony with a sit down breakfast hosted by the Australian Embassy. ANZAC Day is an Australian memorial to those who have died in battle over the years. One of the Embassy staff told us there are 2,000 Australians in Korea. We then visited the War Memorial Museum that seemed very appropriate and a fantastic history of this country's involvement in the Korean War and others such as Vietnam. This ship below is a turtle boat developed for the numerous wars with Japan.

Does Pilar look surprised? We helped organise a surprise birthday party for our Spanish Australian friend who is about to finish as the Executive Director of the Australia Chamber of Commerce. Pilar's husband Bob, in the background, is the only other Australian academic at SNU and the brother of our friend, Heather who died a few years ago. We met almost by accident here and discovered our connections. Floors stay clean as you will notice we don't have shoes on as the Korean custom is to remove all footwear inside.

Below is an image of Maria (on the right) and Diana (who we discovered is also from Damien's small home town of Warnambool) rescuing burning precious meat pies that were a rare indulgence for non-vegetarian party goers.

Our outdoor coffee shop across the road at Hoam House opened this week following its winter hibernation. Our apartments are in the background and the green bus number 2 will become very familiar to those who visit as it takes us to the subway. Some of us try to walk the 15 minutes to the subway for a bit of much needed exercise! I plan to take my own cup next time as only paper cups are available there. I wonder how my Korean will go and whether this request will be too weird for compliant Koreans.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blog 12 - 19 April

We went to Yeouido Island in the middle of the Han River to join the hordes to celebrate cherry blossom. We sat on the ground with everyone else and ended up buying a CD from this group - their first release.
Here is Damien showing off his latest landscape design!

Even though it was grey and windy with a maximum of 12 degrees it did not deter people from celebrating the springtime. It really is very spectacular.

More eating! There is a plethora of snacks of such variety. This huge bag of rice and corn cakes set us back 2000 won (AU$2.00)

The Seoul Arts Centre is an enormous and very classy venue that hosts lots of cultural events. After seeing Mahler's symphony number one and Rodrigeuz harp concerto on Friday night, this courtyard fountain matched the music with the water movements. It was hilarious!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blog 11 - April 12

This week I attended a YEOL lecture at the Korean Museum of History. Y√ČOL' is derived from Chinese characters meaning a 'desire to preserve our long and illustrious heritage' and is a not for profit organisation dedicated to helping disseminate Korean culture, art and history. The topic this month was 'The Korean Way of Tea'. Tea was introduced to Korea in 780 AD with Buddhism and is intended as a type of meditation, to be taken alone and with a certain amount of ceremony. The demonstration was beautiful, however not very practical in the hurly burly of everyday living, but a wonderful reminder to take time over a pot of tea. Tea with rice cakes, which are glutinous and not very flavoursome, were also served. Here is the link

After visiting the Korean Design Museum, I went wandering around Hongdae, a university nightclub area that looked a bit sad and grey during the day. This glorious magnolia juxtaposed in an interesting way with the Korean nightclub and delivery of supplies for the night.

Our Korean language class ended with a trip to learn drumming at The National Centre for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. This photo captures exactly the passion, humour and fun of the teacher. He only spoke Korean - that was part of our lesson! Some people came from more advanced classes, however, I had no idea what he was saying. We got the general idea as did Hirose, my Japanese classmate, pictured in the corner.

Damien also got into the spirit. The Korean teachers were very keen to meet him as a professor is most esteemed in this culture. A professor from the Seoul National University is even more eminent as it is the most prestigious university. Status is extremely important here as is age, so Damien is respected on many levels! In terms of the expat population, it is a different story, however. Business and corporations are also highly valued and the fact that Damien is a public servant seems weird to many foreigners. When I tell people where we live, no expat has ever heard of Gwanak Gu. On the other hand, all the locals know where it is. So we mix with a diversity of people - some expats who have a house with a garden, their own driver, maid and private Korean tuition lessons and others who are locals and keen for us to experience the best their country has to offer and in particular are keen to know how we like kimchi!

The Korean equivalent to buskers is salespeople touting their wares in the subway. I've seen cough mixtures, elastic corsets and back supports, plastic non slip inner soles and today a man selling Korean CDs which was pretty entertaining. Never a dull moment!

This life of leisure is about to end as I begin working as an organisational development consultant with Adaptable Human Solutions. I'm really looking forward to this next part of my journey here and hope to see a different view of Korea. The website is Stay posted for updates on Korean business culture.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Week 10 - 5 April

These painted eggs are about as close as we've come to Easter eggs. There are no chocolate eggs or bilbies ( an Australian tradition) or hot cross buns ( are these an English tradition?) in the whole of Seoul. Or if there are we haven't found them. In spite of the fact that almost 30% of Koreans are Christian, there have been no public holidays and the weekend has been ' business as usual'. We managed to round up some friends for another wonderful meal at Club Italia, thanks to Maria for inviting us. I was having too much fun and forgot to take a photo until we were all about to leave!

Recycling is big in Seoul. Each apartment is provided with these cute canvas containers which we dutifully take downstairs when they are full.

Everything then mysteriously disappears, although elderly people are often seen carting cardboard and other scrap along the footpath in wooden trolleys. I wonder where he is going?

A highlight this week was seeing Bob Dylan who performed in Seoul for the first time. We were so far away this is what he looked like! If you'd like to hear him as we did, here is a video for all the old hippies!

One of our farewell gifts (thanks Lyn and Peter) was three packets of seedlings. After planting these on Tuesday, the first lettuce sprouts appeared on Sunday. No sign yet of tomatoes or capsicums. Yes - you will need a magnifying glass however I was pretty impressed with my gardening capabilities that they came up so quickly.

So as we mark 8 weeks of living in Seoul, we continue to be very happy here. Every day presents new challenges and fun, we are making new friends, feeling more at home and finding ways to get things done.