Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ilsan, Itaewon and Cosco

In the past few days Nolan and I left our little apartment and took a few trips on the subway to neighboring parts of Seoul.

Saturday we went for a walk around Ilsan. This destination was only 6 subway stops away, about 15 minutes. We went here one day with the previous english teachers; they took us to the Frog and Toad Pub for dinner. This time we wanted to see a bit more. There was a nice park, busier streets and a huge outdoor, three level mall-like development filled with koreans of all ages. The mall is called Western Dome and it was so filled with restaurants, palm reading fortune tellers, salons, an IMax movie theatre, shops and vendors that we could hardly walk at a normal pace. My head was going back and forth as if watching a floating tennis match. Plus there were so many lights and people, whom I ran into a few times while walking my tourist-like walk. While walking through this exciting and new mall, Nolan and I asked ourselves why we, meaning mall developers, don't build up instead of out. In a corner block area, Ilsan is able to contain about triple the number of stores than in the same amount of space in the states. True, they do have less space to begin with.
I walked through Western Dome and felt like a little kid in a candy store. Every new thing excited me. The yogurt store with swings as benches behind the tables, and mini escalators taking you to the next level of the movie theatre area. The free internet was a nice perk as well. Nolan and I walked back and forth mostly in order to pick out a restaurant for dinner. We decided on Thai food as a break from the normal Korean, and it was very delicious. mmmm.

Itaewon was our destination for Sunday. We wanted to try out a church we had found on google, so Sunday morning we headed in that direction. After 1 hour of transit we arrived in the central Seoul area. Immedietly we were almost shocked by the many western faces. I found myself being conflicted inside -I felt this obligation to say hi to my fellow westerners but at the same time realized that they didn't find it to be strange at all, so then I had to try not to look at them strangely. I hadn't realized that I hadn't seen another person that looked like me, besides my husband, in 2 weeks. Strange how it hasn't even been very long, yet the sight of a westerner made me think twice. At first there wasn't much time for reflection as we were in a rush to find the church as we were running late. After stopping at the wrong church we did find the one English service we were looking for, but to our surprise it wasn't only in english, but also in Korean AND CHINESE. This meant the American pastor spoke a sentence, then the korean man translated, and a chinese woman translated after that. It was hard to follow at first, but in the end we realized it gave us the extra time to find the page, and reflect. We met our first american couple at church...and they happen to be in their 60's, but they were the sweetest people! They gave us many tips for living in korea, and with them we were invited over to a korean woman's house for tea and fruit. It was wonderful to see our first korean "home" apartment. It was large, with heated wood floors, and the woman had a son who was an orthopedic surgeon who spoke English very well. We enjoyed a good afternoon there, and finished the evening with Quizno's, Coldstone icecream and teacher planning at a starbucks type cafe. On our way to the subway, leaving Itaewon there was this strange feeling, as if we had been in the US for the evening. At Quizno's we sat a booth away from two army guys and their korean girlfriends chatting away in English with american pop music playing in the background. It was so surreal and yet so normal feeling. Getting back in the subway we thought to ourselves that we were experiencing a slight case of culture shoc. We had spent the day on streets that were studded with Subway, Outback, Coldstone, Baskin Robbins, Quiznos, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, and other familiar places.
And strange enough we were excited to return to our more traditionally Korean home town of Wondong.
Until...of course monday night we ventured out to the nearby store of COSTCO only 4 stops away. In brief...overpriced American treats, cereals, and toaster ovens but we did leave with a very reasonable roasted chicken, a huge block of cheddar cheese, 4 hand towels, instant oatmeal for a month, milk, and hot chocolate mix for maybe half the year, filled backpacks, and a feeling of accomplishment!
For now, we must leave the school and its internet, so until next time!
Over and out

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