Today or tomorrow –not exactly sure– marks the half way point of my nearly two month business trip to South Korea. Figured I’d spend a little time today reflecting on my experiences.
Six Foot Two Inch White Guy:
I guess I fall on the taller side of the height spectrum being 6’2, but when my Dad is 6’5 and my little brother is 6’7, I’ve never really felt that tall. That was until I stepped off the plane and entered Incheon Airport. I guess I’ve never really realized just how much of a melting pot America really is. No one stops and stares in America at someone for being Asian, or Black, or Hispanic. We are so accustom to diversity, we don’t even think twice about it.
South Korea is a different story. I stick out like a sore thumb. It’s really odd being the only person at a restaurant with Blue Eyes or Dirty Blonde hair. In fact, I had my feelings of “that guy doesn’t fit in here” confirmed when a random Korean citizen came up to me and asked if I was an American. When I told him “Yes.”, he asked if I would take a picture with him (which I did). Definitely the minority here 🙂
Subway rides really are THAT crazy:
I remember years ago, passing around a video I saw on YouTube of a bunch of people trying to cram on a train in Japan. Here’s one such video…
I guess I’m kind of naive because I always figured the video was fake. Boy oh boy was I wrong. I had to take the train one day and everything in that video happened on my ride. There is no such thing as personal space when it comes to public transportation here. Hop on an American bus or train and you know that every other seat is going to be open because Americans hate sitting next to each other. Definitely not the case here. In fact, the dude next to me on the train was so uncomfortably close to my “no-no” zone I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant. At least I was entertained by the other American on the train who was having a mild panic attack due to the claustrophobic conditions.
There is no guessing in Korea:
I’ve done some time in Canada, Aruba, Mexico, France, and Germany. While I only speak English, I was at least able to reason my way to what some of the local words meant. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that “aereopuerto” means “airport”. But how in the hello am I suppose to reason my way to 닭고기 meaning chicken? If it isn’t in English, I’m out of luck. Sucks having to hope they can speak my language, when I should be the one speaking theirs (I am trying to learn though). This was the sign that welcomed me off the airplane, something tells me it was probably something important to know…
Cold does not equal snow:
I love skiing. I haven’t been able to do enough of it over the last eight years since San Diego is obviously not known for having epic powder sessions in the winter months, or ever for that matter. On one of my weekends I decided to go be adventurous and hit the slopes Korean style. Hyundai Sungwoo Resort was the closest mountain and I figured it would be worth a go.
It’s been really cold here (Suppose to be 2˚F on Wednesday) so I assumed the mountains would have plenty of snow. I got to the resort, put my skis on, and started treading my way to the chair lift. I was pumped for a day of skiing. It wasn’t until I got to the top of the chairlift and looked at my surroundings that I realized the resort was all man-made snow and the neighboring hills were completely snow-free. I died a little inside. I would have never taken the trip had I known I’d just be skiing the Korean equivalent of Big Bear (the closest skiing to San Diego). Here’s a shot I took from the top of the lift…
I have stepped out of my comfort zone and tried some of the local Korean dishes like Spicy Beef Bulgogi, which was actually pretty good. I was also told I had to try some Kimchi while I was here. I gave the Kimchi a shot, but after a few bites just couldn’t convince myself to keep eating. It wasn’t so much the taste that bothered me, but more the fact that I was eating fermented vegetables. Psychologically freaked me out :(.
I have, however, had some incredible Italian and Turkish food. Oh and what would a trip to Korea be without getting some Mexican food…haha. Took me a while to track a place down, but I was super pumped when I found myself some steak fajitas. Oh and to make it worse, check out my view from the Mexican joint….
Everywhere you go there are a million street vendors selling just about anything and everything you can imagine. It seems like some of the most common items I see for sale are American sports team jerseys, mink blankets, scarves/beanies/gloves, leather jackets, custom tailored suits, and fake purses. American money is highly desired here. So much so that one of the places I bought something from refused to take Korean Won when I offered it. Kinda weird being in Korea and not being able to use Korean money everywhere.
The most incredible thing I’ve seen so far is a painting a local vendor did that is so realistic and detailed it looks like a picture. Homeboy’s got some mad paintbrush talent and I’m seriously considering hiring him to paint something for me. Check out his work…
That about wraps it up for now. I still have another 3.5 weeks in this place so I’m hoping to take a tour of the DMZ and do some shopping in Seoul before I head back for the states. While it’s pretty cool here (both figuratively and literally), I think Germany takes the cake for coolest business trip location so far 🙂