AKA The Good, the Bad, and the Weird
I’ve been to a few places away from campus and even been adventurous to go out on my own a few times. One of my favourite places is Myeong-dong, a really upscale shopping district geared toward younger people. There are actual sidewalks and nice architecture, and a lot less neon than Shincheon. I could never afford to do actual shopping there but there is nice eating and the movie theatre is there.
I’ve been to see two movies (one was at another theatre), both Korean. I wasn’t able to follow most of the dialogue at all but it’s very easy to figure out what’s going on anyway. Yesterday I saw a blockbuster-style movie called “The Good, the bad, and the weird” which was a chinese western, if you’ve seen the Jackie Chan movie “shanghai nights” or whatever it’s called it’s a very similar feel of humor and direction.
If you are interested, you can see the trailer here. It was actually a really awesome and hilarious movie and I didn’t even see it with subtitles. It starred three of the most famous A-list stars here, all really good actors, and I enjoyed it a lot. It’s about three guys who are all trying to get to this spot marked on a mysterious map. They all have different motivations, though nobody even knows what’s at the place. The three main characters all interact in hilarious competition though there’s a whole lot of other people trying to get there too (the Manchurians, and the Japanese army). You can probably tell who is the good one, the bad one, and the weird one- hahahah.
Shincheon is the name of the part of Seoul near campus which has a really big night life. I will describe a little bit of it to you. Because it’s near campus it’s got a ton of businesses packed in together but there is a limited selection in the kind of things there are to do. For whatever reason there are at least 15 drug stores all together around the closest intersection, and a million bars, coffee shops, karaoke bars, and “pc rooms”. There isn’t a lot of shopping to do right by campus but there is close by. At ni
ght time street vendors come out with their carts selling food and tons of cheap jewelry, socks, and accessories. I have been out almost every night and the streets were just packed with people. Apparently the thing college students like to do most all day is sit at coffee shops buying REALLY expensive coffee (5 dollars on average for something very simple) and talking, and then when they are done they just go to another coffee shop and do the same thing. At night everyone seems to just drink a lot. But there is a lot of cheap eating and an AMAZING bakery that I must admit I’ve hit up at least 3 times in the last week.
After Susie opened my eyes to the wonder of the subway the city got even more amazing. First of all, the subway is actually a mall. Underground there is a whole new selection of shops and restaurants and coffee shops to choose from. The grocery store is there– a real one, with tons of fresh produce and meats etc Around campus I’ve only been able to find convenience store type food and fruit that people are selling out of produce carts. The subway system itself is very simple. You can charge either your student id, bank card, or even cell phone charm and then you just wave it over the gate and it’ll deduct a flat rate of 900 won (90 cents). Depending on how far you ride when you get off you wave your card again and either get charged nothing, or maybe 100 or 200 won if you rode very far away. The same card is used for riding the busses and even most taxis have a reader that you can pay for your ride with your subway card.
Yonsei University – Main campus, seen if walking north up main road
I have officially been here for one week now, and my impressions of Seoul have only improved since I arrived. Because classes don’t start until today I had the entire week to explore the city to the best of my ability and get some errands run. The first few days here everyone tentatively tried to make friends with other people in the international dorm since these are the people we’ll be in close quarters with for our entire stay. Last Tuesday we had orientation and were introduced to a bunch of clubs on campus that are oriented towards the international students. The faculty are all extremely kind and helpful and the Korean Yonsei students that are in the international clubs are really friendly and outgoing as well. I was sitting at orientation watching these introduction videos being overwhelmed by the “korean-ness” of it all, which I don’t really know to explain, other than that it was exactly what I expected. I love all the English catch-phrases that are used everywhere in slogans and sign-age that probably sound cute to Koreans but are often silly to me. Everything here is packed full of extremely positive, light-hearted and ‘cutesy’ messages. The night of orientation they were having a welcoming party and it was really strange to attend a school sponsored event where they offered us shots. The legal drinking age here is 19 and I think you have to be 19 to be an exchange student, but that was still pretty bizzarre.
I hung out with Laura, my roommate Haruka from Japan, and a girl Susie across the hall who is American but speaks Korean fluently. Susie has been incredibly helpful to all of us and helped me when I was trying to open up a bank account, showed me how to ride the subway etc etc. It’s hard to sleep in here at the dorm because there is construction outside that starts at 6:30 every morning as well as the sun always comes up and shines directly on my pillow at roughly 7:15. As a result I’ve been up and ready for the day extremely early and spent a lot of time exploring campus and the areas around the campus.
The campus here is so beautiful. It’s got a lot of beautiful landscaping and is a lot more lush than I thought it would be, though for the most part the rest of Seoul is pretty devoid of plant-life. People who live in roof-top apartments grow a lot of plants (you see that all over the place) and some people who are lucky enough to have houses have “yards” which are actually patches of grass planted on top of the first floor (a lot of the older houses have a tiered design, it’s kind of difficult to describe). Susie actually took me and Laura to meet her grandparents which was one of my favourite experiences so far. They were soooo kind and completely adorable. Her grandmother kept offering us bananas and apples and trying to make us stuff our faces. They live in a really nice older house with a yard as well. On Thursday there were graduation ceremonies at Yonsei so there were street vendors all around the gate selling flowers and people walking around in the Yonsei robes etc. I’m not sure if they traditionally do graduation at the end of the summer or if it was just a small portion of people graduating after the summer, but I’m pretty sure their school year goes from fall to the end of summer, without a break, unlike ours.
testing to see if the date shows up o.O