Friday, June 1, 2012

First Day in Seoul

It was quite a change from Changsha to Seoul.  For one thing, Seoul is just a massive city.  Apart from maybe Los Angeles, I've never been in a city this large.  I'm pretty sure London even pales in comparison to Seoul, but I'm not sure.  It's hard to explain what makes it so overwhelming.   Perhaps it's because the buildings are often very narrow and very tall.  It's like they squished a whole bunch of little businesses into a small space and then each business is trying to attract attention amongst all these other businesses and so they advertise with bright neon lights.  Everywhere you look, there are people, cars, and lights.  Also, it's very clean here compared to Changsha and I couldn't help but notice the people just look wealthier.  They also look much healthier (a bit chunkier) than the Chinese.  I know my friend Johnny would hate for me to say this, but it is noticeable that the Koreans aren't the twigs that the Chinese are.  I feel more at home here in that regard.  I hear the difference can be attributed to all the new Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts on every street corner.   

I'm staying with my friend Jezreel and his wife Hyeounjin in their apartment.  It is very beautiful and well decorated.  They are clearly above average in terms of income level.  Instead of finding cockroaches in my bathroom, I now see a Western-style toilet and actual toilet paper.  This place is luxurious!  Apart from being a tad allergic to their cat Gogo, I'm really quite comfortable.  

Last night, they took me to a restaurant for this type of meal called Sam Gyup Sal.  They bring you pieces of meat, kimchi, and some other sides and you throw them on a grill in the middle of your table.  Once they are cooked, you use pieces of lettuce as wraps and just load them up with stuff.  The tricky part is that you're not supposed to take bites of it.  You have to shove the whole thing in your mouth and it was a bit difficult at times.  I also struggled with the Korean style chopsticks because they aren't rounded or squared like the Chinese ones.  They are flat and I had so much trouble gripping them.  I also found it difficult to sit on the floor in the restaurant because I never really learned to sit in the old "Indian-style" (is that politically correct anymore) when I was in Kindergarten.  The good news is that the food was absolutely delicious.  After dinner, we walked around the downtown area and looked at the skyscrapers.  We also worked our way down this little river walk.  It reminded me a bit of San Antonio.

The next morning, Jezreel invited me to guest lecture in his Global Business Communication classes at his university.  He wanted to have the students analyze my communication challenges in China and to come up with proposals for future communication.  So, I told them about myself and what I experienced in China.  They were very interested and had many questions for me.  We easily filled the hour and 15 minutes in each of the two classes and I had a very positive experience with the Korean students.  They were a little more talkative than my Chinese students, but otherwise not that different.  

Jezreel and Hyeonjin's apartment on the 18th floor.

A three story Dunkin' Donuts!  Is that really necessary?

Waterfall in the downtown business district.

On the river walk.

We both thought this picture was funny.  I can't remember what we were looking at, but by our facial expressions, it would have to be a mushroom cloud.  

Jezreel told me that they displayed some North Korean propaganda in here.  When we arrived it was the winners of an art contest for autistic children.  I felt guilty for being so disappointed, but I was.  

Just me chillin' on the river.

The setup for our Sam Gyup Sal meal.  

Ok, I'm clearly having difficulty sitting in this position.

"Ok, tell me the second you are done 'cause I'm goin' in."

Prepping my lettuce wrap.

My newest discovery.  They sell milkshakes in a pouch.  Picture a Capri Sun, but with something better inside.

Seoul subway is pretty nice I must say.

Jezreel never looks like he knows where he is going, but we always end up in the right place.

The line to get on the bus that goes from the subway to the campus.  Notice the big change from China.  They actually stand in a single file line.  

On our way to class.

Showing a slide of my beautiful family to the students.  They did the same thing as the Chinese students and let out a big "Ahhhhhh."  Translation: "They are so adorable!"

I'm relaxed and having a good time.

You would think Jezreel taught because he was sweating more than me.  He must know me really well and was worried what I would do in class.  Actually, it was like 90 degrees in our classroom.

The students have left already, so we decided to do a rendition of "Islands in the Stream."

Just outside the building where the class was held.

I'm not sure how much I have here, but I hope it's a lot!

The opening gate to the university.

Cruising around looking for some food.

These are noodles in some kind of ice bath.  You add hot pepper paste to it and whatever else they have (here it was mustard, vinegar, and sugar).  Apparently, you cut the noodles across one way and then the other (like a "T") before eating.  Here, Jezreel demonstrates the procedure.  

My technique is flawed, but I figured it out eventually.  I liked the flavor of my dish, but I think I do prefer my noodles hot.


  1. Why do all your posts make me so hungry?

  2. Right, I thought you went to the East to teach. So many people have mentioned Andrew Zimmerman to me, I think you have a secret agenda. ;)