Korea has been a true gift. This experience so far has been a once in a lifetime moment and it has only been two short weeks and I just feel so connected to the people and the culture here in South Korea. The sheer brilliance of this place is almost beyond words. More specifically, today we spent our time site seeing and in a lecture and getting to know the likeminded citizens here that also attend school here at Hansei University.
Due to jet lag and just being a little unsettled in a new environment, I woke up at 3am this morning. This is unusual for my regular schedule as I would usually sleep until 8am. Many of my friends were very interested in my experiences here and what we were doing and the tie here, as they were heading to bed for the night. When Andres and I got up at 7:15 to get breakfast, we noticed that everyone was up and preparing for work and in a hurry to get to where they were going. This is the same as the United States mostly. The difference is that the students were dressed in uniforms. I thought it was very odd that the college students were dressed in uniforms to go to college. In the United States, the students that must wear uniforms are usually private institutions that have a mandate for the students.
It was still very refreshing to be in a busy area where the people felt a purpose with their life. They seemingly felt like they belong in this busy society, later I will talk about how that was contrasted. Down the street from Konkuk University, where we are staying, there’s a little coffee shop called “toast and coffee” that looked quant and nice. It was run by an older couple that probably live just above the shop. The menu was posted on the outside and that is what drew me in. There was only a stop and go ordering system, a walkthrough. It was 7:53 and the man was setting up the counter for the window, he seemed excited to have us. The few other patrons were business dressed women and men and seemed comfortable ordering. I ordered the pizza toast. It was to cooked slices of buttered toast, a beef patty, mustard, ketchup looking red sauce, and egg. The woman was very nice and understanding of the language barrier and so was the man. Neither were frustrated with my flawed Korean pronunciation of hello, “Anun-hi-c-oh”, which is correct but maybe I answered in a bad tone. He answered with a mono tone smile and took my order using visual cues and mutual understanding with me pointing at the menu and him pronouncing pizza as “papa”.
After breakfast, we convened together and I convinced my colleagues to go to the same place. Most did, and some suited for themselves. It was quite the experience. The portion given was too much for me and I did not have the appetite a person that had not eaten in 15 hours might have had. The sandwich lays in our mini fried this very moment. After being awake for 5 hours, it was finally 8:30 am in South Korea and we met with our professors Dr. Kang and Meadows as well as our international liason Mr. Chang. He was to present us with an orientation of Korea (South). It was lengthy and the most undesirable part of the day, but we lived. I must also mention the hot choco (“choco latte”) ordered from Toast and Coffee, it was to die for. I digress.
After Orientation, we began our travels to Suwon and Hansei University. Suwon was the land of the kingdom that was a sort of hiding place for the former Kings of Seoul. Hidden by tree cover and protected by a wall. Filled with much history and a lack of clear cost of admission. It was definitely a great tourist site. Our travels lead us across town where we were caught in a difficult time to get taxis. We persevered and made our way. Unlike taxis in the US it is more less, run by businesses who incentivize certain routes and make it so sometimes the customers attempting to go a certain distance are not worth it and are undesired. Whereas in the United States, drivers usually never turn down passengers. We were turned down three times. Another difference is the Taxis only go in the direction that they are aligned in the street with. They do not necessarily turn around. They go straight and if your route turns then they will, but never completely around as it may inconvenience them. Business in the USA clearly does not work that way as the person performing the service is more submissive to the customer and their needs.
There is more to this story from today, but I will discuss further contrast and cultural differences in other writings. Some of these will shock most Americans as they are unspoken taboos in the west that are seen unfrequently, but are predominant cultural context hear. This experience is what I want in life. I have never felt more alive here and seeing something new, something exciting, and something I can really enjoy on another level. The risk and thrills of Seoul, South Korea.
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