2 Canadians in Korea

Welcome to our blog. It's designed to give people back home an idea of what it's like living in South Korea and to allow you to follow us on our journey.

I've been blogging a lot of facts and I feel I should say that some of it is copy pasted from books, the internet and the signs that I took pictures of at the tourist site itself.

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To view larger images just click on them.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Mountain again

This explains our journeys up the mountain. I might not be drawing the lines properly and where the stops are exactly but it's gotta be close. This picture is taken from our apartment window on the 12th floor of our building. Click on the picture to enlarge.

The Skate Park

As we were walking towards downtown Changwon in South Korea we found a skate park so we went to check it out. A few things that we found interesting was that no one had a skate board but everyone was on roller blades (makes me wish I brought mine). There was a dozen kids skating around on the Sunday afternoon and I think they were all between the ages of 7-12. There was not one teenager which made me wonder where they all were and then I realized that I rarely see anyone between the ages of 13-23 and I was told that it is because they are all in school. The saying is if you get more than 4 hours sleep a night you aren't studying hard enough.

As we approached the skate park everyone stopped and looked at us in amazement which happens a lot in South Korea, if I walk past 10 Koreans during a stroll I will hear 5 "hello, how are you"s as they marvel at the opportunity to talk with an English speaking Westerner. Angèle feels like we part of a freak show sometimes.

Back to the skate park, I had my camera out and I signaled to everyone that I wanted to take some action shots of them and the crowd went wild. Everyone started yelling with excitement hoping they would impress me with their "mad skillz." They each took their turn rolling around and taking 6'' jumps off some ramps and I snapped away. They all gathered around me to see their picture and one kid didn't have one. Well, imagine the sadness, I sent him off to do his thing and he got the whole group excited with what he said he would do and I was a little worried that he was going to do something too dangerous. I placed myself where I thought he was going and he zoomed right by me going 100 miles per hour and I got my best shot of the day but it wasn't what I was supposed to get since he took a high jump of about 1' high off the top ramp. So, I had to reposition myself and he had to do it again and this last picture is what he did. He got to look at his picture and everyone was happy so we said our good byes and went on our way.

As we left Angèle asked me, "Did you notice there wasn't any graffiti"? Not one spray of graffiti could be found anywhere in that skate park. Just goes to show you how innocent and wholesome their way of having fun is.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cabs in South Korea

This is kind of interesting. Taxis can be found all over South Korea, obviously. There are a few spots like right in front of my apartment building where there will always be a cab. As soon as it leaves another pulls over to take it's spot. I have yet to walk past that spot and not see a cab. They also drive around and when they pass pedestrians they honk as if to say "do you need a cab?". If you want him to pull over all you have to do is a wave and dance that says yes and the cab will honk again to say "10-4" and the cab does a U-turn or drives over sidewalks or whatever it takes to get to you before another cab gets there. The cost for cabs is ridiculously cheap too. It cost us about $3.50 cnd to get as far as $20.00 cnd would have got us in Kitchener, Ontario. That's probably why a lot of people travel by cab. At that price, I don't see the need to ever purchase a mode of transportation.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Higher up the Mountain

This is just a nice picture from our hike today. We went 0.6 KM up the mountain the first time and this time we went 1.5 KM up the mountain and this is our picture from the hike. The trail kept going for another 0.8 KM however we were too tired but we plan on doing it sometime.

Moving in South Korea

We woke up this morning to some really loud noise and decided to find out what was playing the alarm clock today. We were shocked to see that someone was moving. It wasn't the fact that they were moving that shocked us but how they were doing it was completely out of the ordinary for us.

They have 2 trucks, 1 is to load their stuff in and the other truck clamps into the ground like backhoe doing some heavy lifting and raises a ramp to the required floor. A shelf moves up and down the ramp as required effectively bringing their things down from the 14th floor to the ground. I'm thinking they bring down the furniture through the elevator though as we saw a big pile of furniture near the security guards hut yesterday and people were tearing through the pile looking for gold, and that's were we found our new mirror.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Waste Disposal

Yes, that's right, waste disposal in Changwon, South Korea, is complicated enough to merit a blog post. I'm told that the process for waste disposal is different depending on the building you live in so this post is how waste is collected in my building which is several different ways.

- First, there is a bin for used clothes, blankets...
- Second, there is a bin for organic waste (compost),
- Third, there is a bin for used light bulbs,
- Fourth, there is a container for used liquid waste (oil, bacon fat I guess),
- Fifth, there is a pile for used large items like ironing boards, baskets, buckets...
- Sixth, on Friday nights every building in our subdivision piles their cardboard along the side of our building (we are closest to the main road) and it's collected Saturday afternoon.
- Seventh, on Saturday I found large canvas bags filled with glass bottles however I don't know how to get those bags yet. (added Feb 4th - On Friday nights/ Saturday morning there are 6-7 canvas bags for various recycling options in front of a neighboring building and the security guard monitors the area to ensure proper disposal. They open and clean milk cartons, they save every piece of plastic wrapper and they separate glass bottles from liquor glass bottles. We just started piling everything in one big bag that we will bring to separate everything on Fridays.)
- Eight, I have only guessed that plastic containers are placed in a separate bag and disposed in the large trash cans. I'm probably wrong on this. (see above)

Ninth, regular trash deserves it's own paragraph. First you must purchase blue waste disposal bags as shown to the left with my 9 1/2 slipper next to it for scale. These blue waste disposal bags can be found at most convenience type stores and grocery stores and cost 480 KRW which is about $0.48 cnd each. Why you ask? I heard someone using the term "paying the garbage men". So, you fill your little blue bag up and place it in the large waste containers when you are finished. This kind of makes sense, if you can't recycle it, you pay for it.

Most of all this is placed in a specific location around your building and is unique to each building. Our spot is in the far corner of our parking lot (top right of the parking lot picture in the "Apartment building" post) and I think the garbage men come by daily to pick everything up as I hear them just about every day.

And that's waste disposal in South Korea. I might learn that I'm doing something wrong at a later date and will change this post to reflect my new findings.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

South Korean Malls

So far finding things in malls has been quite the challenge. The malls look more like small apartment buildings covered in signs. The signs advertise what store, shop, school, restaurant, gym, pharmacy, dentist, pool hall... etc is in that building. Most signs have a number on the bottom right and the letter F which tells you what floor the business is on. This makes it very difficult to find things since I don't read Korean and not all signs are self explanatory with images. I found myself having to walk up each floor of a few buildings to see what they had and it's amazing how many stores they can fit in one building.

I really enjoyed figuring this out because I always wondered what all the lights and signs on city buildings were for in movies that have a set in Asia, now I know.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hike up the Mountain

On our first weekend in South Korea we decided to hike up the mountain that we can see from our apartment. As it turns out a lot of people hike up the mountain and there are several trails. The first thing we saw that we thought was quite interesting is that they have a Gym set up at the start of the trail and we saw a few people lifting weights before or after their hike. We aren't sure if it's free yet because we haven't tried but we saw a sign-in book and there is a guy watching the area so we think there is a fee or he just makes sure everyone signs in.

As we hike up the mountain we pass a lot of other hikers but the funniest thing we saw was forest advertisements. There are banners hanging in the trees as advertisements. They advertise everywhere around here. It's worse than Toronto with all the apartment flyers.

The mountain goes up pretty high. There isn't any snow on it however just a few cms below the dirt there are ice shards.

We hiked as far as we could and turned back. I think we made it almost halfway up the mountain. We plan on hiking this mountain weekly if not almost daily for exercise.

Apartment Buildings

Apartment buildings are way different than in Canada. There is only 1 row of units per floor and some buildings, like ours, are not closed in as you can see by the pictures. The first picture is of our lobby and the second is from the elevators leading to the "hallway" and you can see all the buildings around us. There are groups of buildings (6-8) that form small sub-divisions and ours is called "Green Vill".

This is a picture of the parking lot and you will see that people park wherever they can and I must say there are no parking restrictions like in Canada. I think the rule is you need to leave your parking break off and your car in neutral so people can move it to get out. I'm going to revisit apartments at a later date.

The Flight

The flight was painfully long. We flew 5 hours to Vancouver and had a 3-4 day layover with André which was great and good for the rest. Then we flew out on January 14th and followed the sun during the 11 hour flight to Seoul, South Korea.

We landed and went through customs. I get asked more questions at McDonald's than I did at the S. Korean Customs. We picked up our luggage and proceeded out of the airport where we handed our declaration form to a strapping security guard at the gate. We had checked yes to: Illicit drug such as opium, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, cannabis, or any medicine such as diet pills that may be prohibited or subject to restrictions by law. (Angèle didn't want to hide anything, just in case) The security guard said "Hey, hey, what's this?" Angèle said "Advil for headaches" and he said, Ok, and let us go. I thought I was going to have my first cavity search.

We then had 1 hour to run across the airport reading Korean signs to find our way to our domestic terminal that we didn't even know what number it was. After 10 minutes of following Angèle, who was speed walking with her few pieces of luggage, we finally made it to the check-in point. We gave them all our luggage again and got our ticket and proceeded through the security check, which was just a metal detector. They barely even looked at us and we moved on. We then took our 1 hour flight to Busan where we were picked up by a representative from the school who brought us to our apartment.