Sunday, August 28, 2005

This April, Ian came to Ireland and while he was there he took a number of pictures. Only recently did I learn how to upload images to my blog, so here are a few pictures. The first is of Bunratty Castle followed by Adare Manor, Universty College Cork, and Kilkenny Castle. Yes, there are many castles in Ireland and Ian was dragged along to only a select few ( lady luck was on his side), and was told to enjoy himself and take lots of pictures. I
The weather here is suffering from a nasty dose of schizophrenia. One minute hot,the next cold. Last week I was waking up shivering, but today smacked all that nonsense out of me and provided a pleasantly warm day. Seeing as it was warm I decided on a trip into town to peruse new clothes in stores. what a mistake. Koreans in large numbers annoy the hell out of me. When walking around the main shopping areas of Daegu, the foothpaths are thronged with thousands of people, all ambling along on their two speed gear sticks- go slow and sudden unexpected stop. Now beacuse there are thousands of them and because the streets are a tad on the small side, everyone is compressed sardines in a tin style. You are constantly being pushed, elbowed, smacked by bags, having toes and heels trodden on and worst of all..... when a team of girls that have been blocking the entire street, see a frilly pink hideous fabric number, disguising itself as a "blouse" ( didn't think there were still such things in the world, but rest assured they are the backbone of the Korean women's fashion industry), in a store window and suddenly slam on the brakes causing everyone behind them to bump into them. That sucks. Oddly enough no one here seems to mind. Even if, like me, you purposely push others out of the way just to get through crowds with both shoes on, they appear oblivious to your actions and continue with what they are doing. Wierd. Also evident here are the blatant lack of manners. No one and I mean no one here holds a door open. I was leaving a rather snobby department store today with my arms full, what with shopping bags, bag, phone and stupid Christian fliers in my hands. Two men walked out the main door before me, letting the door swing in my face and while I grappled with said door and my belongings, another guy pushed passed me to get out before me. However, this is not just with me, i have seen Koreans do this to their fellow Koreans and no one seems to care...again. Also on the bus this afternoon, all the seats were occcupied by men in their 50's to 60's. A bunch of old ladies got on the bus at one point, one with a walking stick and another with a dodgy hip and were they offered a seat by these men? No. The saying is that "Manners maketh man", well here it appears to be " Man who is rudest will maketh it". Strange how these things still annoy me even though I have been here so long, but I guess there are other social annoyances that I have become immune to- such as toilet paper on a restaurant table instead of napkins, the inability of the people here to eat with their mouth closed and other such social treats (!) I am excited about Don ( friend from Ireland) coming here as I cannot wait to see what he will have to say about the place.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

This week I managed to get a new alien card, which means that the evil bank witch, daughter of Satan HAS to give me my new ATM card on Monday. Mind you though I am realising that lots of my store cards are gone, so now I really will never know the point of the Body Shop card. In store, each time I purchase something, the Body Shop employees swipe my store card and inform me of my point status. So a few weeks ago I asked if I could use my points for discount purposes and the mare working the counter neighed at me in laughter. So I'll de damned if I know what the purpose of the card is. I hope it's not something fun that I am missing out on due to language barriers. Snort.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I am minus a new bag, various clothes, all my make up, my discman, keys to my apt,my cell phone, all bank and credit cards, Ralph Lauren perfume and the lord knows what else.
Yes, I was robbed. Well not quite robbed, more broken into. On Saturday morning, someone got into Ian's apartment and made off with all my stuff that was in a bag. We presume that the thieves came in to steal his stuff, but got spooked and grabbed the first thing they saw, which happened to be my bag. I am gutted and devastated and I am finding out that loosing your identity is one of the worst things to happen. I have to go through a lengthy process reporting my alien card as missing to the police before i am issued a new one. Without my alien card, I cannot get a new bank card, so today I lost it(temper wise), with the bank staff. I refilled all the forms, the staff matched my information to my previous information, showed them my passport etc and still they refused to issue me a new card. Yet, without a second thought they happily handed over money from my account. Does anyone see the logic here? Cos I really don't.
Also, had to get the locks on my apartment changed door as they got my keys and my identification. Generally, an enormous headache that would easily be remedied were I able to speak the language and not deal with idiots. In KOrea, I am unable to get a new bank card from the bank next door to my school, but I was able to ring my Irish bank and within a matter of minutes a new series of card had been issued. There's red tape and then there is the most illogical thinking ever to grace the planet. Between guys leering in my bathroom window, getting robbed, dealing with the most inefficent people I have encountered in some time, I am just so tired. Just to validate my point regarding inefficiency, when I entered the police station with a rep from my school, the whole police force was seated on their backsides, reading the paper and regarded us as such an inconvenience. When presented with the matter it took them a quarter of an hour to inform us that no, they couldn't help us. More or less they said that their little stamp would not do on my form,as the head honchos in Police HQ,which I presume is somwhere in the "Metropolis", had the bigger better stamp, and that would look so much prettier on my form.

I am rather aggravated at the moment so feel obliged to end before I end up insulting an entire country.

Friday, August 05, 2005

So following my trip to Seoul, Ian and I decided on a whirlwind tour of Busan ( coastal city in Southern Korea, second largest city in the country), and what a delightful cultural insight it proved to be. First insight was the presence of a condom vending machine in our hotel room. Yes, IN our hotel room. All you had to do was insert 1,000 won and out popped a pre-boxed condom. Being the inquisitve person that I am I of course had to insert my two coins and unravel that little number with the speed of ….well.. a person with a great need for speed. Now, the box was a little on the small side and the contents of the box weren’t too far behind. To say that it was a “tight” looking number was an understatement. Ian stared at it in horror, recoiling from its cling film consistency and earthworm sized girth. Still though an innovative way to earn more money. I was surprised by the owner having such items in her hotel rooms, seeing as she was a little old lady that had all the hallmarks of being the two time winner of “Iron Mammy”, such was the level of care being shown to her residents.

Seeing as our room wasn’t really of a 5 star standard, never mind 1 star, we decided to amble around the beach known as Haeundae. Imagine a beach half the size of Tramore beach. Yes? Then pack 800,000 people at least into that confined area and that is life at a Korean beach at peak holiday season. And oddly enough, despite the place being more mobbed than Penney’s on Christmas Eve, it was a strangely enjoyable experience. Ian and I joined in with the “gang” and bought a beach mat, that looked oddly like that tin foil stuff that you put over a person when they are in shock. Neh, kill two birds with one stone and all that. We found a spot on the sand and set up camp with a few beers and indulged in some people gazing. And there was where we learned cultural insight number two. People. In Korea. When at the beach. Go swimming. With all their clothes on. So there I was sitting on my little mat, when I noticed that someone had fallen into the sea and had gotten himself and his clothes and shoes all wet. But, as I started to scan the sea/ sand line, I noticed that at least a few others had suffered this mishap. How careless, I thought, until Ian pointed that the whole 800,000 were doing the same thing. How bizarre! Remember as kids, when your Mum or Dad would kill you for getting into the sea with clothes on, seeing as you could possibly drown to the excess weight. Evidently not a problem in Korea. People here are made of flotable materials. Duh.

I also discovered here that Ian is anal about sand. Well, he is Canadian. I am worn out telling him that a “beach” on the edge of Lake Ontario does not qualify for “beach on the Atlantic” status. At Haeundae, I wasn’t too pushed about the state of our mat, but if I got shouted at once, I got shouted at a hundred times by Ian for getting sand on the mat. It was brilliantly obvious that Ian was oblivious to the fact that we were sitting on SAND. Mind you though, it was rather funny to watch Ian loose his temper every time the Koreans trampled over our mat/shock defense system dragging the better part of the beach over aforementioned mat. Titter.

Also the national obsession with looking perfect and a camera has spread to the beach. A trio of girls sat next to us at about 9pm and spent a good hour or so taking pictures of themselves with the three cell phones, two digital cameras and one Polaroid number they had in their possession. Each picture was determined to be unsuitable as after examining each picture they would all immediately start rectifying the part of their person that was a little camera shy. Hair was brushed, make was reapplied and those all important pouty lips and sulky expressions were perfected. Hilarious.

At about 1am, Haeundae beach was completely thronged. There was barely any moving room. People ranging from those in nappies to those back in nappies were out and about shakin’their thang on the beach. Music was playing from a huge stage at one end of the beach with a spectacular fireworks display in the night sky. It put the Cork Culture Thingy to shame ( even though Cork did set a ship on fire….). I oohed and aawwed with the best of them, staring at the show with child like wonder. And then to bed I went.

The next day we hit the Busan Aquarium. The aquarium was really impressive as it houses so many varities of tropical fish. My personal favourites, apart from the really cute penguins, were the angel fish. These little critters are about the size of a baby’s finger nail. They are transparent with a little coloured blob in their chest cavity and to top it all off, they really do have angel wings! And they swim like angels floating to heaven. My Catholic upbringing fell in love with those little guys. The mock turtles and sharks had me fascinated as well as the eerie looking crabs. We were allowed to hold starfish…. Genuinely like holding a little coloured rock. However, it was not just the fish that amused me. It was interesting to see a stunning 6ft lady with little or no English on the arm of a most unfortunate looking gentleman at the aquarium. A case of Russian prostitute and guy who has no shame. Believe me, Russian Prostitutes stand out a mile here. Although I have been repeatedly questioned regarding my “Russian” nationality……………………

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I have just finished my week long vacation here. Due to unfortunate financial circumstances, I was forced to stay within the borders of Korea and was surprised by the right rollicking good time I had within them. On day one, I stayed in bed far too late, so achieved nothing, day two went to CostCo and almost wet myself over discovering blocks of real cheese, and day three went to the Korean Tesco to buy socks. Seeing as there was genuine danger of me overdosing on fun, Maebh came to my rescue and so we decided on a trip to Seoul. We took the KTX there,( think TGV). CIE needs to send its engineers on a field trip to Korea. The rail network here is incredible- it is fast, efficient and more than half the price of Irish rail. Maebh and I also noted that the KTX appears to be immune to the "leaves on the track" phenomenon. We were able to complete a Cork-Dublin (distance wise) trip in less than an hour and a half, ( incl. stops) for about E20. Got to Seoul and decided to amble around the city for a while. Ambling was easier said than done. It was far too hot for me. I was dripping sweat, grumpy and dying for some form of air conditioning. We visited Deoksugung palace in the city, which is a beautiful blend of Korean traditional and English Georgian architecture. Following that we watched a re enactment of the changing of the Korean guard. It was stiflingly hot at that point, but my inner pain was temporarily halted by the sight of one of the guard's on "drum" duty accidentally smack himself in the eye with his little drumstick number. I swear, if I knew the proper names of the "drum" and drumstick" I would place them here, but seeing as I never listen, that just is not going to happen. However, en route to a subway we found a huge bookstore with a dazzling selection of English books. It was not the books that did it for me, but the tear inducing choice of magazines. I left clutching three copies of Marie Claire. I though Maebh was going to have to hit me with a shot of Ridlin to calm my excitement. We ventured to Insadong afterwards, which is noted as being the art centre of Seoul. Perhaps because I am European and have come to learn that "art centre" signifies multiple galleries, street painters, crafts etc.. on display, was the reason for my disappointment in the area. Every single store stocked the exact same produce and seemed to exist for the sole reason of draining tourists of their money. Seeing as there was nothing there to hold our attention Maebh and I travelled to a super area in Seoul called, Sinchon. It is a student area of the city so is littered with lots of bars and restaurants. We found our hotel, settled in and then journeyed to Itaewon for some food. Itaewon is one of the most hideous places I have ever been to. It is the "Western" part of Seoul, so called because of all the Western bars and restaurants there. Also of note are all the American GI's and sleazy lecherous Pakistani's. Maebh and I were looking for an Italian restaurant, got lost and ended up on Hooker Hill ( don’t think I need to explain that one) and then down some dodgy side street with less then honest looking individuals. After we almost ran screaming from the area, we came across the Italian. It was a cute little place, but infected with loud-mouthed, rude Americans who were hell bent on making the waitress’ life hell. Americans wonder why we dislike them, and while in a foreign country I am open to all and sundry, but it is people like that who tarnish a country’s image. I could continue at length about the Korean hookers and the persistent GI, but that just brings back far too many nasty memories. We made a rapid escape to the Sinchon area where the only thing we had to avoid were tipsy, silly Korean students, determined to yell “Hello” to the two foreigners.