Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Ok, so I'm getting waaay behind in my posts. Summer is in full swing here, so just like back home, it seems like every minute is filled with activities. Some of the highlights: I went on a Han River boat cruise. The Han River is a giant river that cuts through the city and pretty much divides it in two. It's very beautiful (however dirty it may be) and there are lots of parks and trails lining it. There are also several places to hop on a boat cruise. We went on one at night when Geoff's sister was in town. It was nice. Nothing like the booze cruise in Milwaukee, but it was still nice. :)
This past weekend was another World Cup game for Korea against Switzerland. It was a crucial game, determining if Korea makes it to the second round. Since the games are being played in Germany this year, the times are all inconvenient. This game was at 4 a.m. on Friday night/Saturday morning. Since it was a weekend, about 10 of us decided to get a hotel room downtown in the midst of the action. We all live in the city, but the last game we watched from downtown we had to walk an hour and a half to my friends house afterwards because the public transportation was impossible. Couldn't get a taxi either for the life of us. Guess that's what happens when 640,000 people are watching it from the same location in the streets.
So anyway, we wanted to watch it outside in one of the squares again so we got a really nice hotel only a five minute walk from City Hall Square. Since it was a Friday night, we decided to just stay up all night to catch the 4 a.m. game. We went swimming in the hotel pool (which was the nicest pool/swim area I've ever been allowed to use) and then partied in our room as well as busted out the body paint---we were going alllll out for this game. We got out there around 3:30 am to be greeted again by masses of people in red. However, I don't know if it was the time or the way Korea was playing, but this game just wasn't as fun as the first one I went to. The crowd wasn't into it. It also didn't help that Korea lost. So that was a real letdown. The sun was coming up by the time the match was coming to a close. We even left a few minutes early as it was obvious Korea had lost. I crashed as soon as I got back to the room, but all of the guys we were staying with decided to go for a 6 a.m. dip in the hotel pool. I'm a tiny bit glad that Korea didn't win, just because I don't know if I could have mustered up enough energy to watch more games!
This weekend for my birthday we're going to check out one of the beaches on the West coast. I hope the weather cooperates!
Pics are from Han River and obviously the soccer game. And YES, I DO feel like I need to deface the Korean flag everytime I go out. (insert evil laugh here).

Thursday, June 15, 2006


WOW! World Cup MANIA has hit the city!! In 2002 Korea hosted, so I can't even imagine how that was if it's like this now. The first game was on Tuesday night at 10pm (since it was played in Germany) against Togo. We were allowed to wear full battle gear to school, since many of us were going to watch the game after. Right after work, a bunch of us went downtown to City Hall where 640,000 people (that's right) went to watch the game. That's how many people live in the city of Milwaukee. Woah. There are huge TV screen on buildings all over (like in Times Square or Miller Park) :) Everyone was wearing red and so many glowing devil ears....They closed off several lanes of the street (but kept 2 open) and it was really interesting to watch the crowd behavior. We arrived about 2 hours before the game, and it was already packed (to be expected). People that were in the street were expected to sit down on the dirty pavement. WHAT?? But the people on the sidewalks can stand. We were standing and then all the rows in front of us started sitting by request of the riot police so we had no choice. Luckily, there was a Korean flag already on the ground so I just sat on that, but was quickly berated by a Korean sitting next to me so I replaced the flag with a piece of newspaper. ("but the ground is diiiiiiirty....") After sitting for about 5 minutes, my friends and I realized that we weren't going to want to watch the game sitting down, so we took off to find standing room. No problem. It was great. The Koreans have many chants and they use "thunder sticks" (balloon-like rods that make noise when you hit them together). "Tae-han-min-gook!!" was a really popular one, meaning "The Republic of Korea". In addition to watching the game among 640,000 of my closest friends, Korea WON, 2-1, so it was CRAZY after. Red devils dancing and chanting and singing and shooting off fireworks. Soooo many people stopped us (the foreigner Red Devil Fans) to get pictures with us, and thank us for cheering on their team. We really, really felt like celebrities. It was insane.
A funny side note: I got a Red Devils bandana to wear....and oddly enough, it says "We are twelfth" on it. Huh? I'm thinking, who would broadcast that they are ranked 12th?? But later I found out that there are 11 players on the soccer team, and 12th means that the fans are like the 12th player. Ok. Get your grammar right next time you print a million bandanas.
The rest of the games are at crazy times (like Friday at 4 a.m.) so I doubt the crowds downtown will be quite like they were on Tuesday. I'm glad I got to be a part of the mania (and it was just to watch the game on TV)!
If you look closely in the group shot, you'll see me in the middle! The other white people are Geoff and Gilles.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The World is so small

My friend Maria just moved to London. It's amazing. We met in University and have been friends ever since. She moved to Chicago after graduation, and I'd visit her once in awhile over the past several years. When I was thinking about coming to Korea, she was dreaming about moving to England. Within the past few months, she found a job there and now she's there, living her dream. Amazing. I just called her and when I got ahold of her she was standing in front of Buckingham Palace! London is a wonderful city. I've been there once, and now I have a reason to go back (not to mention a place to stay)!

Speaking of people who live in exotic locales, my friend Geoff's sister is in Seoul right now visiting. She's a native Canadian who got a job transfer to BERMUDA. She's lived there for a year and last night we were talking about how interesting it is to live in another culture.
I think it's incredible that we have such opportunites, to travel and see the world and live in other places (especially overseas)! I am amazed on a daily basis how much I am learning and discovering. It's like the world is my classroom! Few people in this world have such opportunites, and I'm so grateful that I do and I have taken it. It's scary at first and it takes a lot of courage but now that I've done it I don't know why I hesitated for so long! I still can't believe I live in Seoul, South Korea.
Life is good. :)

Saturday, June 10, 2006


One thing that really blows my mind about Seoul is the lack of diversity. I'm sure you've gotten the picture when I say that people stare at me more than the burn victim on the subway, but when I sit back and really think about it, it's not just racial diversity that's lacking. It's also social class diversity. Last night I watched this PBS Frontline documentary (you can watch 'em for free on their website) that followed around 2 lower class teenagers from an eastern Kentucky trailer park. It made me think of just how diverse America is. That really isn't present here. There aren't huge gaps (that I'm aware of) between the classes. I'm sure there are to a small degree (like working class and white collar), but it's not as apparent as it is back home. In a city of 18 million (including metro areas), there really isn't the token "bad" neighborhood (slum or ghetto). I asked my Korean professor from UWM about that before I moved here. I wanted to steer clear of the bad areas, but he said there really isn't any, and I do believe he's right. It's pretty crazy. In a good way. Now, I don't mean to say that there aren't any homeless people here (because there definitely are those people begging for money) but it's a REALLY small percentage of the population. Any other big city I've been too (NYC, Paris, London, San Fran, etc...) the numbers of beggars I'd see was waaaaaay higher. And regardless of how you measure it, this is one of the biggest cities in the world.
Although I don't think social class diversity is a great thing, I really do miss the diversity of America, in OTHER ways, like people who dress differently and express themselves in different ways. Like just thinking about a normal highschool back home (which is sort of a microcosm of American society), you'd get the jocks, the preps, the burnouts, the skaters, hippies, computer nerds, not to mention all of the different races, etc...stereotypical, but true. Here, people don't really stand out or express themselves. Seoul is like the private school that requires the students to wear a uniform. Everyone here pretty much dresses the same and looks the same. It's rare to see someone with piercings, tatoos, bleached hair, or individual style of any kind. It's kind of sad that people don't feel free to express themselves in terms of their appearance, especially in such a MASSIVE city. The society is just so conservative that it's not really socially acceptable to do so, whereas in America, it's almost expected or weird if you don't. I think it will be much different when I go to Tokyo over summer break. It will be fascinating to compare such large Asian cities.
Just an observation. A little deep for a Saturday morning.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Welcome to Penis Land

Ok, so this little excursion happened on the way to the rafting trip, but I thought it was important enough to deserve its own entry. You make the call.
So, we're driving along through the countryside of Korea and we see a giant cock. That's right. So we pull over (duh). Talk about a Kodak moment. Anyway, if that wasn't bad enough, we go inside this large building to use the bathroom, and it's basically a penis museum. Am I in Amsterdam, or socially conservative South Korea, where people wouldn't even think to kiss in public??
It was quite an inconsistency. But it was hilarious. We were like kids in a candy store (or adults in a penis store). We couldn't stop laughing and pointing and taking pictures. There were things like penis salt and pepper shakers, mugs and glasses with penises inside, (would you like a cocktail??) penis statues, etc...the list goes on. It wasn't like a nasty porn shop either (not that I've ever been...) but it was all very arty and (sort of) tasteful. Anyway, I think the pictures speak for themselves. Beware of the angry penis.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rafting Trip

I went rafting this past weekend with 12 people from my school (6 Koreans and 6 foreigners). Despite a string of bad luck, we had a blast! The bad luck:
1) We took 3 cars. On the way to pick us up, one of the drivers got into a small fender-bender. Although it wasn't serious, the person she hit decided to go to the hospital and milk it for everything it was worth. She was on the phone with her insurance company most of the day Saturday.
2) We had a campfire Saturday night. Thomas decided to take some logs that were evidently from a special garden that the townspeople had constructed/planted. We didn't know. This turned into a big ordeal when the owner of the pension we stayed in yelled at our group in Korean for 30 minutes.
3) One of the guys in our group broke his toe on one of the rocks in the river.
4) A normally 3 hour car ride on the way home turned into an 8 hour ordeal on the way home because one of the car's radiators overheated (and cracked) so we had to get it towed. Then we were forced to shove 12 grown people into 2 small hyundai's. After doing that the traffic jam got so bad that it took us 2 HOURS to drive 11 kilometers. That's like 7 miles. I'm not exaggerating.

But REALLY, REALLY, it was still fun. Hard to believe but the people I went with are so fun and positive that we turned all of those situations into a good time (even, well, especially being crammed into the backseat of a car for 5 hours).
Rafting was awesome. The river's water level was pretty low, so it wasn't a tough course, but it was great. I had never gone rafting before. Each of our boats had a guide so that was pretty helpful. We also got to swim in the river on both Saturday and Sunday. The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and about 80 degrees. It was so beautiful where we were, about 3 hours out of Seoul. It was so green and mountainous. It was wonderful to get out of the city, even though traffic going back in SUCKED. I really have never seen anything like it.
Here are some pictures. Unfortunately, my camera isn't waterproof so I wasn't able to take it on the raft. One of the guys had one so when I get those pics I'll post them.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


We had a day off on Tuesday, so I went to Everland with some friends. It's a big amusement park comparable to Disneyland. There are several in the Seoul vicinity, but we decided on Everland because it was voted by Forbes as one of the world's best amusement parks. I've been to Six Flags Great America (of course) and Busch Gardens, but I haven't been to Disney. I'm more of a roller coaster person than people dressed up in cartoon costumes/parades/kiddie rides kind of place. Everland was more of the latter. It was still lots of fun, because they did have a few coasters and nice rides (like a giant bobsleigh and some water rides). They also have a zoo inside, which makes it pretty cool. In addition to that, there is a "Safari" ride where you take a ride into a large protected area and can see lions, tigers, bears, zebras, elephants, giraffes and "LIGERS" (lion - tiger hybrids) roaming around. All the animals were pretty lazy because it was a sunny, warm day. It was great!! But I still do love Great America with all the coasters....
Here are some pics. Baby tiger....awwww. Beautiful lazy lion and me and Gilles.