This weekend I went to a part of the city called "Itaewon". This area is very popular with foreigners as it is very close to the military base where the American soldiers are stationed. This is by far the most diverse area I've seen. Many, many different races...Indian, African, American, Canadian, Australian, European, etc... it felt like I was in New York City. Also, most shopkeepers speak English, so this is the place to go for things like a haircut, Western foods, cheap phone cards, etc... there are a variety of restaurants there, Indian, Thai, Mexican, even down-home American cooking...like pork chops and mashed potatoes. You can't really find that where I live. It's mostly Korean food or chain Western restaurants like "TGI Friday's" or KFC. This is definitely the place to go when feeling homesick.
Today, I got my haircut there. There are lots of salons by my apartment, but with the language barrier, you never know what you're gonna get. Things like haircuts are risky. A friend of a teacher at our school went to a Korean beauty shop and walked out with a mullet that could not be fixed. (and she's a woman---not that mullets are any better on men...)
Kristen and I walked into a beauty shop above a Burger King. A Korean male stylist walked out and we asked if we could get cuts. He said "Why not?" and so we were whisked away. Very similar treatment to back home, except 1) you have to take your shoes off at the door 2) the stylist cut my hair in under 10 minutes-yikes, and 3) it worked like an assembly line. One worker shampooed, another cut, and a third styled and blow-dried. Uh yeah...about that styling...she just went to town on me and got me all curled up. I ended up looking like Farah Fawcett, Charlie's Angels era. Ok, I didn't look like her but my hair did. Check it out...
Anyway, it was a great weekend. I had awesome Indian curry on Friday night, Saturday I went Christmas shopping and bummed around at Starbucks (see picture of Korean Starbucks- yes, they are everywhere). Saturday night I went to a party and met a lot of other foreign teachers (stayed out til 5am, went to a 24-hour diner after for food--it was no George Webbs, but it was cheap Korean food!) and today I went to Itaewon.
For the most part, I really like it here. It's very interesting and exciting experiencing new things all the time. I'm meeting a lot of people with similar interests (love of travel!). Sometimes it gets frustrating with the language barrier (my building security guard/manager has tried to communicate some information to me several times and he thinks that by speaking louder or closer to my face I will understand--not so much), but it's eye-opening being in a different position and not taking for granted the easy things back home. Being understood, knowing exactly where to go to shop, where you are going, etc...
At the supermarket, I can't even figure out which bottle is the laundry detergent and which is the fabric softener! The writing is all in Korean, and I bought one thinking it was the other...I had to take a picture of the bottle to show my supervisor to clarify...and FYI, it's fabric softener.
So I am definitely a little challenged here. But in a good way. It's almost like I'm seeing what it would be like to be illiterate. Can't read a lot of the signs, labels, menus, etc...thank god for restaurants with pictures on the menus!