Posts Tagged ‘Daegu’

A couple of weeks ago – on my first weekend back in Korea – I went up to Seoul on the subway. Quite impressively, Line 1 of the Seoul subway system comes all the way down to Cheonan and beyond. My journey up to central/north-eastern Seoul took two and a half hours.

I met a couple of friends for a few, too-brief minutes to pick up a box of things I’d left with them. I packed all the stuff into my small suitcase and left the box behind. I realised I’d forgotten to bring with me a box of chocolates I’d bought in the UK for them.

Afterwards, I headed to Apgujeong and to the HSBC bank (which stands, I’ve recently learnt, for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation; I never knew that, but it explains the Chinese imagery in their adverts) to use my credit card to get some money; Korean banks don’t generally work with foreign cards, in my experience.

Back in Cheonan, I did more shopping for household items – especially kitchenware. On Sunday, I cooked my first meal in my new home – spaghetti bolognese … actually, specifically vegetable bolognese with fusilli tricolore. I’ve been cooking a fair amount since then – mostly vegetable curry and vegetable bolognese.

Yesterday, I got my first bread, cheese and eggs and had a lunch of fried egg on toast with Philadelphia, green olives and extra hot sauce. It was so good, I had the same again today. Need more bread, now.

Last weekend, I travelled to Daegu on the train and spent the weekend with Peter. On the Saturday, he was having a get-together, for which he made lentil soup and a Chinese aubergine dish. One of his other guests made chocolate cookies – in front of an audience. Later we watched a film (Brick, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt) that I became certain that I’d seen at the cinema when I lived in London; I didn’t recognise any specific scenes or actors, but it was nevertheless strikingly familiar.

Later, the cookie-maker led us in a joyfully politically incorrect game called Cards Against Humanity. Later still, that same gentleman took us to a bar in Daegu. The following day, Peter and I played Magic: The Gathering and, in the evening, he rushed me back to the station, where I was just in time to catch the 20:01 train.

I’ve been writing every weekday morning/lunchtime. I haven’t found a perfect place to write yet, though. The two branches of Starbucks in/near Shinsegae are too far away (I could go by bus, but it’s money I don’t need to spend); Ssangyong Library was far too quiet when I went there (it didn’t help that a man came and sat too close to me when he had practically a whole, quite large room full of empty seats to choose from); the Tom N Toms had lame coffee and loud music and overlooked a main street that filled up with students (by which I mean that young, Korean women are distractingly attractive); I thought the Caffe Pascucci at Ssangyong Station was pretty good on my first day, but, subsequently, the music got louder and more intrusive (even when I had my earplugs in and my headphones on to block out sound); I was excited to find a Starbucks in the E-Mart in Ssangyong yesterday, but today I found that the only power points appear to be built into a table in the middle of the café, and it was also extremely cold.

I hope to find the least worst place to write soon.

The only weekday I haven’t spent my pre-work hours writing recently was last Friday, when my boss met me at the hospital, where I picked up my medical report, and took me to the immigration office to apply for my Alien Registration Card. She paid for the taxi trip, but I had to pay for the immigration stamp (₩10,000). I can return to pick it up on or after the 14th of December – next Friday. Hopefully, very shortly after that, I’ll have a bank account and health insurance.

Work is going quite well; pretty chilly, though.

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A couple of weekends ago, Habiba and I went on one of the Korea Foundation Volunteer Network’s ‘Culture Classes’. November’s event was making kimchi. Kimchi is fermented Chinese cabbage heavily seasoned with spices and red pepper and it’s supposed to take a long time to make – it’s left outside in pots for weeks.

This kimchi-making experience was at a kimchi museum near Insadong. The kimchi we made involved pre-fermented cabbage – a quarter of a head each. Wearing long, plastic gloves, we smeared spicy red paste between the leaves, put the kimchi in a plastic bottle and that was it. We also fried up some ddeokbokki – a cheap street food snack of rubbery rice flour sticks (not a great description; not an especially great food, either).

After that we took to the streets in teams and headed to a market to hunt down various items – the most Korean thing in the market, the cheapest thing and so on. One of the things was a stall that sold 마약 김밥 – drug kimbap, so-called for its addictiveness; which turned out to be the blandest kimbap ever, with no filling other than rice. This was followed by a brief meal at a pajeon (savoury pancake) restaurant. The whole event was quite nice.

The following day, we, along with one of Habiba’s colleagues, went to see the Body Worlds exhibition at the Korean War Memorial (which is actually a museum). Body Worlds is a display of plastinated human bodies and body parts – which means that they are real human bodies – taken from donors – that are treated to remove all the fluids and to prevent them from decomposing. This process was invented by Gunther von Hagens and has become quite famous in the last decade or so – I saw the TV programme where he autopsied bodies when I was at university.

The exhibition was divided into areas relating to certain parts of the body or bodily processes. The first part was the pre-natal body. There were various plastinated embryos – starting at a tiny, few-week-old thing smaller than a grain of rice – and foetuses, including a couple of well developed babies with hydrocephalus and anencephaly (the latter having an ugly  little lump of a head with no brain).

Thereafter, there were plastinated lungs and hearts and venous networks, and, of course, full bodies – except not full because they had been stripped of their skin and often a lot of their muscles, too. There were also salami slices of bodies affected with various conditions illustrating how, for instance, tumours can fragment, enter the bloodstream and take root in other parts of the body; there was a cross section of a pelvic area showing a presumably fatal case of constipation.

The bodies were gruesomely fascinating, but hard to take as real – even though I knew that they were: the dryness of the cadavers made them seem, appropriately enough, I suppose, made of plastic. They were often posed in playful positions.  A male and female couple posed as Leo and Kate in Titanic; one man had been divided in two and his left and right halves were playing chess with each other; another couple were having sex – the woman had also been split in two lengthwise, so you could see the position of the man’s penis inside her.

It was an interesting show and I’d recommend it if you’re not squeamish.

The weekend after that I did some gift-shopping for my family; at some point I’ll wrap and post the presents, too. Last weekend, I went down to visit my friend Peter, who lives in Daegu, a city in the south-east of South Korea.

Because he lives down south, I haven’t seen as much of Peter as I’d have liked since he returned to Korea with his Korean wife and daughter (who has now multiplied to become two daughters (that may not have been the exact process)).

It was good to see him and to have a long conversation without the distractions of gaming or other people. We went up a tower in Daegu that is much like the N-Seoul Tower at Namsan; it gave a good view of the city and its lights. Daegu is much smaller than Seoul and seems much like any other provincial city in Korea. We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. There are many Vietnamese noodle soup places in Korea; this place was cheap and dingy by comparison, but it was staffed by real Vietnamese people. Later we played a Space Hulk card game called Death Angel – it was fun and neither too complex nor too simple; we ended up beating the game fairly handily.

The following day, Peter made us breakfast and later drove me to the bus terminal to catch the coach home. We made plans for him to come over to dinner in the new year – which I’m looking forward to.

Last night, I met Josh and Zach and Matthew and we all went to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. We went to the newly re-opened CineCity cinema close to where Habiba and I live; the whole building is pretty fancy now and sports a Tous les Jours (a Korean chain of bakeries) that has a range of bread and other stuff that look very classy and tasty (whereas you usually find little more than some halfway decent baguettes).

We saw the film in the ‘Beats by Dr Dre’ auditorium; the USP of this screening room was that you listened to the sound on headphones. This was initially a little strange, but you get used to it. It creates a kind of sonic cocoon that isolates you from random extraneous noises. It also highlights some bits of dialogue that seem to have been overdubbed after the scene was shot.

The film itself was an enjoyable action blockbuster crammed with great sequences like Tom Cruise climbing up the outside of the Burj Khalifa and the climactic scene in an automated car park tower. Afterwards we got some tofu kimchi and makgeolli at a restaurant/bar place and talked until about 3 am or later.

As I write this, we have plans to meet Zach and Josh for dinner and watching 50/50.

Next weekend is some sort of religious holiday, so we’re going to a couple of pot luck dinner/secret Santa things. Then I have week’s holiday – Habiba’s starts in the middle of this week and goes on until the new year.

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