The Intrepid traveler- A Learning weekend!

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October 24th 2008
Published: October 24th 2008
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The Korean Rocker @ R&BThe Korean Rocker @ R&BThe Korean Rocker @ R&B

A huge voice for such a small chick....she would be perfect at the Doors!

It would seem things are settling into a bit of a routine after three and a bit weeks of being here. Iyay I got my card today so I’ll be connected as of Monday and I’m saying roll on next Friday for payday I can’t for that either wait!!

Last weekend was fairly chilled, well chilled in the sense that I wasn’t out till all hours the entire weekend but that’s not to say the weekend was without some eventful occurrences. It was Hazel, the Irish girl I met the weekend priors’ farewell last Friday night. I had been in touch with the girls and was awaiting final plans. Without a phone it’s such a hack cause I’m reliant on people posting weekend plans on good old facebook, which is very tedious since I have to specially head to a PC bang to check. Needless to say I was without confirmed plans as of 6pm that Friday night. No confirmed plans meant no huge hurry to get ready so I took my time and made a stop in at the neighborhood market on my way home from school.

Here in SK they have these mini neighborhoods made
Elvis is backElvis is backElvis is back

Not sure hopw well you can see but check who's sporting an elvis do!
up of blocks of high-rise buildings clustered together with a basketball court, they usually have a little nursery school with a convenience store and green grocer at the entrance. In this one neighborhood near my school in particular, they have a little market on a weekend. So I popped in to check out the fresh produce and to watch this crazy rice cake maker machine, yeh I’m a loser but it was intriguing!! This machine looks like a giant press-stud machine (cause I know all of you are very familiar with what a press-stud machine looks like ;-)) anyhow, the spot where you would place a press stud is about the size of a chips ahoy choc chip biscuit and they fill the space with some yellow powdery stuff, the thing then clamps down at a rate of knots and next thing you know there is an explosion of and a Mug and Bean choc chip biscuit size rice cake looking thing! Its really rude not to sample things so I duly taste a hot one and next thing you know I was walking off with a Pick ‘n pay packet full of these things for a buck (I suspect
Market trawling Market trawling Market trawling

This is a lovely street I pased while on my way to Sinpo market in Incheo-dong
she was trying to get rid of them cause after I took my packet she tried to hand me 3 free hot ones as I was walking off…as if I didn’t already have enough!) After making myself sick from weird rice cakes and after I had seen everything I needed to at the market I headed to get a couple of things from the conventional store (including another towel which is ironically more absorbent than the one I bought back home and lugged all the way here after being told you can’t get absorbent towels here) and then off home to get ready to go out. I was quite exhausted and in two minds about going out, specially since the plans weren’t finalized but I gave myself a stern talking to cause its early days still and I can’t pass up opportunities of meeting new people! A quick stop in at the PC bang to check my mail, got the low down on the plans and merrily started out on my journey. I was racing the clock a little so that I would be sure to make the bank, which I was told closed at 11 and then I was
Sinpo MarketSinpo MarketSinpo Market

This is looking down the ally nto the market
meeting Bianca and we were heading off to Bucheon. I made it to Bupyeong at 10:45 and low and behold the bank closes at 10:30 so me and my T-money card and my W1000 were in a little trouble! I called Bianca and told her I was heading home cause of the lack of available funds in my wallet and she assured me that she had cash I could borrow and give back to her the next day. So I accepted the offer f a loan albeit it with a little reservation and I met her outside the subway and we headed out to Rhythm & Blues in Bucheon.

Rhythm & Blues is a westerners jaunt, tones of Americans, a couple of other nationalities and this very very loud Korean Rock band…. the lead girl was dressed like a proper Goth complete with sculls, leather boots and chains while the guys in the band were sporting the most classic Elvis curl back poofy fringes and bowling shirts, guys the Elvis look is back get yourselves kitted out!! The band was pretty good but you had to scream at the person standing right next to you if you wanted to
Sinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicacies

Don;t be alarmed at what they look like cause they actually taste ok dispite the colour. These are some kind of rice flour bread/dumpling things!
chat so all in all it was a fairly average place to be honest, very clicky bunch of westerners all hanging out in their little groups. After one exorbitant drink I milled about a little and chatted to a couple of people and then at about 2am I decided it was home time. I had the sum total of W5000 on me (Bianca turned out not to have that much money on her in the first place) and I was feeling too bad to ask Bianca for more money in fear of taking her last bucks so I hunted Hazel down to say goodbye and to subtly find out how much it would cost me to catch a taxi from Bucheon to Bupyeon (I had this grand idea that I would use my T-money card from Bupyeong home like last time). I was thinking how much could a taxi possibly cost like W5000 clearly I was very much mistaken! Hazel informed me that it would cost anything from W10 000 so she loaned me a couple more bucks and I headed out to catch a taxi home. I hailed the 1st guy who I was convinced told me the fair
Sinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicacies

Had to take a close up....and they say these are good for you....0 colourants in this lot......
would cost W2000, which I was very happy about, so I jumped in the car and luckily after 100m I double checked the price with him only to find out that the shlenta actually said W20 000, man they take chances. So I got out as quickly as I got in and hailed the next guy who wanted to charge me over W10 000. Having remembered that I needed a couple of bucks to pay the difference of the fair from Bupyeon home I told the guy I only had W6000 for the fare. He just packed up laughing and basically told me…your joking right, in Korean of course….. So there I was standing weighing up my options and I think the driver who had just said no way felt sorry for me and eventually told me to get, he said he’d take me for W6000. I have never been more stoked or impresses with my negotiation talents but more than that I was just relieved that I didn’t have to go back to R&B to kill over 3 hours till the sub-way opened.

Initially the taxi driver guy seemed very chilled, he was being fairly decent asking me
Sinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicacies

How good does this fresh fish look....I was specially contemplating the squigie squid...what ever
random questions in his broken English about where I came from etc. Then came that dreaded question no girl traveling alone in a taxi in SK wants to hear….. “Are you Solo”. This question is even more unsettling coming from an old Korean man dressed like an American trucker complete with his perfected chewing of the cud!!! I managed to be very convincing about the fact that I was meeting people in Bupyeon and that unlike him I was not solo!! After 15mins and a mere W6000 I got out safely at Bupyeon without any further propositions from the trucker!

I have decided that this next paragraph must be called the eternal pursuit of the T-money card reading taxi. The T-money card reading taxi is a very rare species and it decided that there was no way on earth that it was going to rear its ugly little head for me this very early Saturday morning. I’m not exaggerating when I say I think I tried to swipe my T-money card in at least 30 taxis, if not more and none of them would read my card. After realizing that there was no way I would be lucky enough
Sinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicacies

Finally something I would buy...the fruit here is really really good!
to find a cab home using my card and having only 2 bucks on me I found myself weighing up my options for a second time that morning….3:30 am and only W2000, what to do…..after a little deliberation I decided what better place to hang out and maybe even get a hot-choc and wait out the 2hours for the tube-station to open than Mac Donald’s. Ok, right now I sound like a complete hobo but what could I do!! So I headed off the Mc D’s only to discover another 5 taxi’s lined up outside so I decided this would determine the fate of my next two hours, I would try all 5 taxi’s and if I still couldn’t get my card to swipe then Mc D’s would be my haven. After trying the second cab in the line and having no joy the cab driver asked me if I didn’t have cash, like I would be randomly walking from taxi to taxi swiping my T-money card if I had cash….so off I went again explaining to a hysterical taxi drive that I was trying to get from Bupeoyong to Jakjoen on 2 buck. I think I made his night,
Sinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicaciesSinpo Market - Some Korean delicacies

While I was saying I'd buy the fruit and veg there are some exceptions......
he though I was the funniest thing trying to get a cab at that time of the morning for next to nothing, he had decided that I had spent all my money on Soju and that’s why I only has W2000 on me (little did he know). After entertaining the discussion around why I dind;t have cash on me I had resigned myself to the fact that those comfy plastic chairs in Mac D’s were worth it when through his laughter the taxi driver suddenly offers to drive me to Jakjeon for W2000. I’m not going to lie I was very skeptical, at 1st I thought he didn’t hear me right so I pulled my measly W2000 out and showed it to him tom make sure he heard me correctly, next thing you know he takes the money and we’re on our way. Man alive I was so happy cause I was exhausted and not really looking forward to the hobolike behavior that I was about put myself through.

So Mr Kim (that really was his name, cant remember the other three syllables) was being friendly, introducing himself formally and we were having a chilled chat and he asked
Sinpo Market - getting rid of flysSinpo Market - getting rid of flysSinpo Market - getting rid of flys

You see the random pink tassels suspended above the fish....yip home made fly swatter!
how old I was so I told him and he said something about a daughter so all in all I was feeling a little relieved thinking he had daughters and then he said something about his shift ending at 4am so he was happy to drive anywhere for any amount to make the last bit of his shift go faster (so all in all a pretty sound story for why he was offering to drive me forW2000) well so I thought until next thing you know he pulls out the same seedy questions as the trucker from the last cab “Me solo, you Solo?” I then realize what he was saying earlier was not that he had a daughter but that I could be his daughter, at this point I was starting to feel very very freaked out and decidedly stupid! I played my very convincing “no I’m not solo” card while trying not to let my South African paranoia set in, perhaps he was just being friendly and making chit chat…..until he started saying, and I quote, “Bupeoyong to Jakjoen W5000 you W2000, me tip?” lucky I had my level head on and I managed to convince him to give me his number and I told him I would call him and get him his money the next day while also pretending that I would call to make arrangements for a later date…all I can say is as soon as I had my bearings I made him stop the taxi, pretending I’d reached my destination, I jumped out of that taxi and I think MR Kim is still awaiting that phone call!

Biggest learning so far….A) never ever miss the bank, B) never ever accept a discounted taxi fare from an old “Solo” Korean taxi driver and C) make sure you are always meeting some one on the other end, even if you aren’t, really use that as your intro line and if you can throw in a couple if Korean words as well then you really are in the business of avoiding getting picked up!!

I thankfully made it home safely at 4:am, in a mild state of panic after the sheer stupidity of negotiating a > W15 000 taxi fee from Bucheon to Jackjeon down to W9000, accepting the discount and having to endure two dodgy propositions. I vowed never ever again, T-money card reading

My 1st encounter at you wish are wishing you were here ;-)!
taxi I blame your virtual non-existence for this incident!! I opted for a leisurely start to Saturday given Friday night and Saturday mornings proceedings.

I finally opened the very cool book on SK that I got given before I left, its brilliant, it gives details about where to go, how to get there etc and all kinds of other helpful tips. I the book to pinpoint some markets, made a quick trip past the bank before it closed again at 1pm (what’s with that closing ATMs and I thought this was a 1st world country only too happy for people to spend what’s in their bank accounts!) I then headed off to scour some local wears at all these supposedly traditional markets. I worked my way from the bottom of the Incheon line all the way to the heart of Seoul and I am still looking for some traditional Korean finds! The markets are interesting but dodge, you have a fresh fish stall next to a sock and underwear stall (pretty much like you find in Mozambique) except here they have these nifty homemade motorized fly swatter jobs that look like mini helicopters with blades made of plastic bag

How busy is this place and they tell me it was quieter than normal!
that successfully propel the fly’s from the fish to the next-door socks…. lovely!! On the up side the markets do have amazing fresh fruits and veg even if I wouldn’t touch the fish or meat!

My last market stop was Namdae-mun. This is the craziest market of them all, a fascinating place with 100’s and 100’s of stalls and even more people. Most of it is the usual cheap clothing but there are some very very interesting restaurants and in the underground section you can buy all kinds of imported goods and super cheap perfume (and it is real they just love to bargain). Although it was an interesting visit I still didn’t come away with anything much and I managed to misplace my very nice book! Oh and I managed to meet another Irish on the tube going to the market, walked around with her and her two mated (one an Irish and another an Ausie) after about half an hour of listening to the crass Ausie I chose to part ways but all in all a fairly good day albeit fruitless from a purchasing point of view! After a long trip home I spent the night in,

These traders will go to any lengths to get rid of their masses of cheap clothes!
I wasn’t in the mood for a night out and I had to work the next day which brings me to Sundays entertainment!

You know they used to have those white French poodle acts at the circus? I think that is the best way I can paint the next picture of Sundays English Camp! I arrived at school and was very excited to see that we had 3 other foreign imports, specially brought in for the English Camp day! An Englishman, an Irishman, a Texan and me all ready and waiting to be displayed to parents paying a fortune to have their kids at this school. After some quick introductions we headed downstairs for our “briefing”. Each of us were designated a profession for the afternoon, I was a chef, Martin the Englishman was a pilot, Beau the Texan was a doctor and the Irishman, Rob, got to be a scientist along with crazy James, as he named himself (he was a Korean teacher). After being given our really kiff outfits we were particularly briefed on how to do the Hookie Dookie. Now for those of you very uniformed readers the Hookie Dookie can also go by the name

Another view of this crazily busy market and stalls
Hokie Pokie….ya!!! Crazy James proceeded to show us how we were going to stand in front of all these kids and their fathers and make large actions to spur on the crowd if I say he was specific about what actions we should do I would be understating his anality (if such a word exists)! Basically what his demonstration translated as was…. whatever the actions on the CD say you are supposed to do, do the opposite ie when you are supposed to put your left arm in well according to james you must take it out and this went on throughout. James really had no clue what he was doing but who were we to arguer, us uninformed western hokie pokie doers what could we possibly know!! Crazy James also emphasized the fact that we had to slot in this bang bang sound and gun hand action between the put your left arm in and the oh hookie dookie part. All I can say is picture those poodles and you can just picture exactly what we felt and looked like standing up there in front of all those people there we were turning around like idiots in out chef,

This is one of the many food/ restaurant allies I must go back and eat at!
doctor, scientist and pilot outfits screaming “and you do the hookie dookie and you turn around that’s what its all about… bang bang show your cowboy gun fingers and gyrate those hips:-D). At one point I erupted into fits of laughter when the thought crossed my mind as to what your faces would have looked like if you were only there to watching me….as they say in the visa add chefs outfit W40 000 watching Jools do the Hookie Dookie, priceless!! I can’t wait to see the pictures they are going to be classic.

The rest of the afternoon I spent handing out bread to 100 + 5 and 6 year olds under the watchful eye of their dads while they recited a script about making hamburgers when they were actually making sandwiches and having to explain how I had lettuce for them to put on their “hamburgers” and not cabbage like the sign under the bowl said. I think Sunday might count as one of the longest 9:30 - 6 jobs I have ever done, an man I’ve done some boring jobs in my life (Like promoting Nedo, so this has to tell you something) even the 3

If you want take out if you can;t stop at the food allies for a sit down then you can have some fresh sturfry on the go...
hilarious renditions of the Hookie Dookie didn’t help the time go faster! I was exhausted by 6pm but low and behold no rest for the chef cause the principle had booked dinner at this larnie Chinese restaurant after work.

After a mass cleaning effort (here the teachers do all the cleaning work at the school and that includes the boggs not cool, I;ve managed to escape this!) bunch of us headed off to this Chines restaurant. It’s safe to say I ate for 7!!! In JHB you go to a nice Chinese restaurant and you order a set menu; you have chicken sweet corn soup to start, a battered prawn on a lettuce leaf, some sweet and sour pork with fried rice and maybe some beef sterfry to share between you and then you end off with some jasmine tea and a bow tie, that’s not the case here at all!! Round 1 some kind of soup I couldn’t identify except for the masses of frothy egg white topping (it but pretty good). Jasmin tea and a shot of some horridly strong alcohol to clean the pallet between courses (you are supposed to sip the shot throughout the meal)
The arduous trip homeThe arduous trip homeThe arduous trip home

Good idea, exploring Seoul worst idea taking the train home at 6pm!This is just an idea of what the station looks like, once on the train we were so crammed in the train and they insisted on sqweezing more people in I was crammed against the side wall and could hardly breath crazy!
and no it wasn’t Saki but rather some distilled meths I think. Round two some king of sharksfin and mushroon dish more jasmin tea and meths, round three some king of mixed seafood and green pepper dish, more jasmin tea and if you could handle it, more of the meths. Round 4 some kind of cold glass noodles with a couple of shrimp and some battered muscles on the side. Round 5, two huge battered prawns on salad with more jasmin tea (I had opted out of the meths by this stage), round 6 some beef stirfry with a big rice bread dumpling and more jasmin tea, round 7 a big bowl of your choice of either noodles in black been paste source or seafood gumbo. Finally round 8 some sweet meats and coffee. No words can explain how full I was it was crazy and there is just no say I can’t eat more! All in all it was very delicious and nice to taste what real up-market Chinese food tastes like but make sure you haven’t eaten for a week if you are planning on going there for dinner, I wish they had warned me before I tucked
A night out eating ChineseA night out eating ChineseA night out eating Chinese

A few of the teachers and myself out for Chinese dinner. Linda who is my official translater is to my right and my princaple is to my left.
into my favorite lunch of Kimbup.

The meal ended and somehow Linda the head teacher had managed to negotiate me an extra days paid leave over Christmas and I was given Monday off in lieu of working Sunday. I happily headed home after picking up some DVDs.

Having Monday off was brilliant, I did a bunch of admin things including heading to the SA embassy. This week has flown by so quickly, which is nice cause it looks like there is a fun weekend ahead. I’m taking it easy tonight and then heading off to Seoul in the morning for the remainder of the weekend. Looks like we are going to join in a little touch tomorrow morning (weather dependant it has just gotten cold and was raining the past couple of days) then I’m going to make a quick stop in to meet some Gaelic football players so that I can line myself up with a little Gaelic footballing next March and then off to Mikes big birthday bash and I think I might find myself at another South African day on Sunday….man I think I may be finished by the time Monday comes!

So that’s
My Principle and her Hubbie My Principle and her Hubbie My Principle and her Hubbie

We have given here and English name so she has gone from Myeonghee Kim to Helen
about all for now, as usual I think I have kept you reading for long enough if you have even gotten this far! Lucky Monday sees the installation of my internet connection so looking forward to chatting to you all more via more channels than just my blog!

Looking forward to hearing news from SA! Lotsa of love to you all back home and I’ll keep you posted on this weekends intrigue hopefully no more close encounters with the SK taxi driving kinD!


24th October 2008

Hayibo this is cool! I love the market pics..although the meat/fish displays would make me a veggie!

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