Things I miss in Korea

Food: Triangle Kimbaps in the convenience stores 

Samgyeopsal or pork belly on the grill is amazing. Better than bacon. 

Street food that is heavily fried and the fish broth soup that comes along with it. Amazing pick me up at night or in the middle of the day if you are feeling down. 

Safety: I always felt safe in Korea. Even walking alone at 4AM in the pouring rain without wifi or any direction, I was never looking over my shoulder. I see kids as young as 8 walking alone or biking alone through their neighborhood, even at night. I just had a feeling of safety at all times, compared to even a place as safe as Toronto. There were many things I would not have done such as try to find a location at 3AM in Gangnam, in downtown Toronto.

Public Transit: Taking the TTC was a little disappointing when I got back to Toronto. The system in place in Korea for transit is just so much better. There is signal at all times, there are accurate train arrival times, the T-Money system, multple lines, I could go on and on. You don’t need a car in Korea, subway and buses can take you literally everywhere. It makes me sad in Toronto because I know that in order to get to that level, billions would have to be spent upgrading our current system. The KTX system works wonders as well. There was a train from Daejeon to Seoul almost every 15 minutes. That is an hour ride on the KTX at 300KM/hr. It is so convenient and the efficiency is amazing, everything runs smoothly. 

Clubbing and Nightlife: Of course I miss the nightlife in Korea. It never ends, I feel safe so I have no problem walking around in the mornings and everything is always open. If I come out at 4AM and I feel like a fresh burger or some Bingsoo, no problem! The clubs are often fairly cheap (excluding Gangnam) and high quality with lasers, and smoke. 

 

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Last day best day

My last night in korea was one of the best I have had. I took my luggage to Incheon and met up with Ian. After getting dinner and walking around a bit we decided to go to Hongdae. It was still early when we arrived (10PM) so the plan was to retrace my steps and see how I managed to get to a highway the week before. We also met Tasteless and Wolf on our walk (professional starcraft casters) which was cool as I loved to watch them a couple years ago.

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Sc2 casters and us

I remember walking along a river so looking at google maps, we found a river 40 minutes away (by foot). Along the river there was a path we found up to the gate I remember which turns out was a religious compound. Discovering my path felt amazing, like the end of a thriller movie where they reveal the twist. All in all it was around a 2 hour adventure, amazing I made it in the rain and at 4am.

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Highway of destiny

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River of dreams

We walked back to Hongdae and went to a park to hang out before going to Cocoon. There was no line so we didn’t know if it would be crowded on a Tuesday but there were still a ton of people. Cocoon was crazy as near the middle of the night, we went to the front of the stage and were the only ones up there beside the dj. We basically were hyping up the crowd as we were on an elevated platform above the rest of the people and everybody was looking towards us. It was an insane experience and it was one of the best nights in Korea.

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Front of the club turn up

Unfortunately when we left, Ian had lost his wallet in the period of time between going to a convience store and a taco bell. We ended up back in Incheon at 7am, just in time to get some sleep before my flight back to Toronto.

Club Club Club

What do you do in Korea? Well I eat, meet strangers and go clubbing. 

Friday: On Friday I met up with Ian and David and we hung around Sinchon/Hongdae. We went to a western style bar where they had beer pong, pool and foosball. After, we had some lamb skewers which were pretty tasty. Ian and David got a bet going on their baseball prowess, who could hit more balls in the batting cage and who could throw a faster pitch. David ended up with a 133 km/hr pitch and Ian hit more balls in the batting cage. David had to leave early so we took him home and then went clubbing at Papa’s which was pretty bad that day. One cool thing was Ian introduced me to the Korean street food, which includes a cup of soup that you can refill. I’m not sure what the soup is but it’s so good and the food is fried and re-fried when you want to eat it. It’s also very cheap, usually coming out to 2 dollars or less for a sizeable portion.

Korean Street food.

Korean Street food.

On the left you can see fried squid, the middle is mandu (dumplings), on the right is the soup. In the back right is some doekk and I’m not sure what the middle back is.

Saturday:  Saturday I met someone from the R/korea kakao group. He’s an actual teacher as opposed to the ‘korean’ english teacher. We had some drinks at a bar we met at and then got some Korean bbq in Hongdae. Went to the club and some really big Korean guy recognized me. I’m not sure how I knew him but he was pretty insistent and pointed at my hat as proof that he knew me. I also met a Larry(?) at the club because he knew my name, which again is very weird. At clubs in Korea there is this chant which involves call and repeat. It goes BA-ba Ba-ba BA and then the club goers say it. There is some more to it but I can’t recall it. I was very confused what this was but apparently it’s to show that you like the DJ and atmosphere in the club.

BBQ is killer

BBQ is killer

Sunday: It was raining extremely hard during the day so I didn’t think I would end up going out. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) it stopped raining so I asked some friends in Canada if I should go out or not. Their responses indicated I should go out so I went to Cocoon, a club in Hongdae I had not visited before. It was pretty good for a Sunday, very busy, acceptable music and still fairly cheap. When I was leaving the club, I stopped for some street food and had the pleasure of seeing a belligerent korean student get arrested. The police actually allowed him to leave after they stopped him the first time but when they tried to drive away, this genius started swearing at the car and hitting the windows.

smart guy

smart guy

Tomorrow I am going to Incheon as it is closer to the airport and there is an island Ian has promised to take me to!

  

Last day in Daejeon

It was so sad seeing all the little kids for the last time. They came up to me and gave me a hug, one of them even asked my coteacher how to say something and he came up to me and said, “I am sad.” I gave out the rest of my Canadiana such as stickers, badges and pencils.  This seemed to cheer the kids up!

For breakfast the family made ssaemgyeopseul or pork belly, one of my favourite dishes in Korea.  It’s bacon but better. For dinner, the Happyzone school threw me a ‘chicken party’ which is just we eat fried chicken and cake. It’s a bittersweet leaving, while I will enjoy the freedom and party of Seoul,  I will definitely miss some of the kids. It was an amazing opportunity working with 1318 Happyzone and gave me newfound respect for teachers.

Thoughts on the internship and Korea

And thus proceeds my thoughts on everything that doesn’t warrant it’s own topic.

Food: Koreans love fried chicken. The kids love it, the adults love it, you can’t walk around for 5 minutes without seeing a chicken and beer place. I have probably ate more fried chicken in the past 3 months then I have in my entire life leading up to it. 

The soups are very hit or miss. I find them to be either very salty and spicy or just plain and bland. 

The family: The family I live with are community leaders. There are always people over at the church and the family is well respected. I feel important with them although sometimes I think people have a joke at my expense. (usually in reference to my age or ethnicity) 

Nightlife: North America really needs to embrace the Korean nightlife mentality.

1.There is no last call so people can actually get a cab when they chose to go.

2. There are no open container laws.

3. You can buy alcohol everywhere. (Corner stores right outside the club sell it!)

It’s a really great time, no drugs as laws are so strict here, people are nicer and the prices are certainly better. One thing that isn’t as great is a lot of people here tend to ‘wallflower’. Go to any club and you will see many people against the wall, checking their phones, smoking and awkwardly looking at people of the opposite sex. Perhaps you say we have this in NA but it’s much more so in Korea.

Clothes: Streetwear is pretty big in Korea. It’s also a little cheaper, not a lot but a little. There is a ton of hypebeast stuff and way more stores carry it. There’s also a ‘uniform’ for Korean guys. It’s a loose fitting white shirt tucked into black shorts with an informal belt. You see so many people wearing the same outfit it’s a little funny. 

Transportation: Traveling from Daejeon to Seoul is so easy with the KTX. The high speed train takes a little less than an hour to get from one stop to another. The public transportation is also amazing. There is a system called T-Money and every city uses it for public transit. You buy a card and fill it with money and just tap to pay. You can also use T-Money to pay for lockers at the station, taxis, pay phones and more.

Friends: I’ve met some amazing people in Korea that I honestly did not expect to meet. By a chance of fate, I have met some great friends and as well, have strengthened the bond with old ones

Coworkers: My coteachers are so funny. The limited English they know makes for some hilarious conversations, especially when they pull out a word I don’t expect them to know. Some of them are trying to improve their English to go to Canada and America so I try to talk using online translators and gestures. I wish they came sooner and not just in the last 3 weeks.

Why isn’t Octagon the 8th best?

Saturday starts off by meeting David at Yongsan and travelling down to Hongdae where we meet up with a bunch of TalK teachers. We end up getting some ramen and pork cutlets for lunch at nice place near exit 9. 

Yum yum

Yum yum

After a nice late lunch, Matt, Jiyong and I go to get our hair cut. I decided to do something different because hair grows back. I got my hair dyed a dark brown, it’s very subtle. The cut and dye was only $50, I was very surprised as something like this in Canada would have been much more expensive. The salon was very nice and they even did the hair wash. The regular cuts were only $15, a great deal.

Hair dye

Hair dye

We made our way to Itaewon after, the foreigner area of Seoul. We went there as our hostel was booked there but honestly none of us were big fans of the large amounts of foreigners (kind of ironic). Our hostel was overbooked so I had a mattress to sleep on.

The plan for the night was to go to a casino in Gangnam, get some dinner and then go to club Octagon (the 9th best club in the world). We got all dressed up and set out to the casino. 

TalK teachers + little old me

TalK teachers + little old me

Unfortunately, when we got to the casino, I needed either a passport or an Alien Registration Card, neither of which I had. (Casino is strictly foreigners only) Matt, being the nice guy he is, came out and hung out with me while the rest of the group went to the casino. We found a little hof (korean style bar) and talked until the group was done. The group came out in the green with a little extra money and we decided to get some dinner. The place we planned to go to, an AYCE sushi restaurant, was elusive so we ended up at a pasta place near Gangnam station. My seafood pasta was spicier the more you ate and at the end I was struggling very hard with trying to finish it. 

Octagon, the 9th best club in the world according to DJ magazine. Cover after 11PM is $30 but you get a free drink ticket. The club is huge and even has a swimming pool on the first floor. The lights and smoke were great and the DJ/acts were extremely good compared to their counterparts in Hongdae. We ended back at Itaewon at around 5AM and went to bed.

The next morning we had lunch at a pub where I got a croque Madame. I thought it was a little overpriced but it was still good food. The TalK teachers were leaving so there were some emotional goodbyes. Hopefully I get 2 more weekends with some of my friends and some great memories, then I am off to Canada.