So I’m sorry to say that, yet again, I’m super tired! I’m not going to go on about that, but I’m going to apologise in advance for any errors that come up! When I get home, I’ll re-go through all my posts and proof-read them fully (it can get a little hard on the iPad, even when borrowing Alyssa’s keyboard!), and lastly, I’ll add all the photos on my camera.
Due to a booked tour around SNU (Seoul National University) at 10.30, we all agreed to get up at 7.30am. I set my alarm but, we all woke up around 6am? Actually, I woke up before that. When I first woke up I thought “Waah I’m so hungry, but I’m still a little tired. Hope I’ve still got an hour to sleep some more”… before I realised that I’d only been asleep for 2 hours! D’oh!
Breakfast in the Inn is quite good. There’s bread (enough for 2 slices each), with numerous toppings, and an egg. There’s coffee and water for free, but you can pay to have another drink if you want. No-one seemed up when we went down, but while we were washing up, a girl from Essex came in. Apparently she’s teaching in Thailand, but decided to spend her break in Korea! I thought that was pretty cool! It’s our first time speaking to someone (staying here) too. Everyone pretty much keeps to themselves, which is a good thing I suppose. Everyone is friendly enough to smile and say hi too, which is good! I suppose we have only been here 2 days… although, in just those 2 days all the guests have changed!
Speaking of smiling and saying hello… in Korea, when someone looks at you, it’s not usual to smile back a ‘hello’. I’m so use to doing so at home, that I have to stop myself here. I’ve done it twice while on automatic, and at least one time the lady was already smiling (which is probably why I did). I’ve been pretty good to remember it otherwise. I don’t think it’s rude, though it may come across as such to other brits. I suppose the good side of it would be that no one fakes sincerity.
And speaking of sincerity… shopkeepers don’t tend to greet foreigners, unless greeted first. They follow you around though, and at first I was a little confused as to why. I’ve quickly learnt that, they try to follow everyone in case they need help, but as most can’t speak much English, they don’t bother speaking unless spoken to (in Korean), or if they NEED to speak English, and then it’s usually one-worded. This too is understandable though! I think it’d seem rude to those who probably think the whole world should speak English. Imagine someone coming into your work place who didn’t speak English. “They’re in England! They should speak English!”. Well, the same applies here. I’m in Korea, I should speak Korean! But, they don’t expect any of us to. Obviously it doesn’t apply with every shopkeeper, I must remind you, but this is just a general observation of mine.
Similarly, yesterday, when in Etude House (a make-up store), a girl was following me. She looked a little younger, and was there with a group of friends. I’ve never had that happen before! It was a little weird! I thought at first she wanted to look at the lipsticks, so I moved, and then she followed me. She was like RIGHT behind me, shuffling. Then I went back to the lipsticks, and she followed me again. Then I turned to look at her, and she ran to her friends. I think, it may be because of my hair and height. I’ve read a little of another blonde girl who lived in Korea, and she reported similar incidents because of her looks too. If that’s the reason I don’t mind, because I guess I understand. In the rare cases I see another foreigner, I’m like, “Woaha! A foreigner!” like I’m not one myself… I realised that I should probably stop thinking that! It’s not that I think I’m Korean, I just can’t see myself so don’t think about how different I look when we’re walking places or doing things.
Everything I’ve written so far seems negative, doesn’t it? And this next piece won’t help either… but, you shouldn’t see it that way! It’s more like cultural observations. I don’t think of them in a “oh, aren’t we a better society?” kind of way. I see everything in an “Oh, so that’s how it works here…” way. At the end of the day, I maintain the belief that culture doesn’t get in the way of your personality. It influences it, but in reality we are all humans. At the same time though, I think everything have a plus side and a negative. No culture in perfect, and it’s not rude or wrong to admit that. It’d be rude or wrong to admit that no culture but you’re OWN is perfect, because you haven’t experienced other ways of living. How do you know your culture is the best when you’re not aware of the other ways it could be?
So with this thought in mind… after we finished breakfast we headed to the metro and getting distracted a little with my story again, it is actually pretty easy to work! And super cheap! They have a card called “T-Money” that works a little like an Oyaster card… only it works for buses too! And instead of charging you stupid amounts, it only takes a little bit of credit each time! Luckily we were already on the right line, so just had to wait a few stops. Then, we switched onto a bus. Still pretty easy peasy! The only thing was… the bus was crowded. Seriously crowded. There was no space, and people were still trying to cram on. (This is where it seems negative again). It smelt of kimchi and smoke, but that was fine to deal with until it came to trying to push our way out of the bus. People would not move, and more people were trying to climb on. Alyssa and Mad were pushing me so we could get through, and it wasn’t easy. I was worried that while we were trying, we wouldn’t make it out on time. Thankfully though, we did!
It was a short walk from the stop to the University entrance, but WOW. From the entrance, the place was already 5 times the size of Winchester University, and this was only the outskirts, and bus stops. The University is so big, that they run their own buses around!
We arrived early, and were told to wait for a little while, before we were greeted by two University students! They were both really nice, funny, honest and helpful. Around the University there are so many cafes and shops and gyms and restaurants and parks for the students. I don’t think I’d need to join the gym considering all the uphill walking I’d have to do. Alyssa and I joked that a morning jog to our lecture halls and back would be enough!
After the tour we checked out a campus cafe, and the Iced Green Tea Latte was preeeeetty good. It was right next to the languages centre, so I told Alyssa that if we got in, we could practice our Korean afterwards over lunch!
We then headed back to our room, but took many a detour. We didn’t want to get squished in the bus, only finding after making this decision that the route to the station wasn’t a simple one. We decided that a break in Baskins and Robins would be a good idea, and then decided to head onwards. Suddenly we were in a really “local” area. The sort no tourists would ever go to, unless driving through. It was nice to see it all actually. I really like comparing simple things like “supermarkets” in different countries. I think there’s something fascinating in comparing how we (humans, in different societies) live. Even down to something simple like crisp flavours. I don’t know what’s so special about it, but I really enjoy it!
For instance, the area we ended up in had a stream down the middle, and next to that, a path for walking, and a path for cycling. Then, at a random point, there was gym equipment alongside a basketball court. I thought it was really nice. Actually, I’ve heard there’s lots of areas like that in the city, and on another sunny day I’d like to go to one. In some, they have pebbles in the ground as it’s meant to be good for your feet. I imagine that leaving in such an industrial city, it’s nice to have small areas for nature still.
We had to ask a man for some advice at a bus stop, but he gladly helped us. We actually missed our stop (the bus was so comfy and we were so tired from all the walking), but thankfully this time we were in view of the station still.
After that, we stopped to take some photo stickers together, and took three lots so we all ended up with a few. It’s really fun to choose your backgrounds, pose with silly head gear, then doodle or stamp the photos with things! We tried a few of the different machines, and I took a photo of the “Bling Bling” booth for you all to see! Cute right?!
Seemingly everything is seriously cute in Korea. Last night we walked past a contraceptive store, and even that had a bubbly pink and pop blue sign with cute cartoon drawings on the window. Then, outside the police station they had two cute cartoon statues wearing police outfits. And even a hospital had a cute cartoon skeleton with bandages on it’s wall. I quite like it though. I know some people don’t (not EVERYTHING is pink by the way!), but it sorts of gives the message of “don’t take life too seriously!’, and not in the bad way. I mean in a sort of acknowledged “bad things happen in life, so let’s add some good to it!’. Ah, no matter how I try to express it, somehow I can’t seem to right now. I’ll take some example photos though, and show you. Oh! And I just remembered, even the road-works signs were shaped like people with cute cartoon faces!
This afternoon things took a not-so-cute turn for me though. We went to Myeong-Dong to shop, but when I went to take money out of the bank, the machine told me “do not honor this card/action”. Alyssa told me not to worry, she knew another machine that might. But that machine didn’t “honor” my card either. Alyssa tried hers, and it worked. I was seriously worried and shopping was suddenly out of the option. I saw things for Alice and Eleanor and was annoyed I couldn’t get them. Even more annoying, the things I wanted for Alice came in the store that had the most freebies! And some of them were SHINee freebies! (grr!)(But why are you complaining? One of their other stores gave you a free SHINee poster!)
So since I couldn’t shop, I took to photographing some of the street scenes, but you can’t see them until I get home. It’s really interesting though. Businesses often share a building, and usually you find them stacked on top of the other. As it started to rain, we decided to go into a Dog Cafe!
… A Dog Cafe? What’s that? A cafe with a lot of cute cartoon dogs and themed sandwiches?
Oh no, it’s a cafe where somebody let the dogs out, and you can go join them with a free drink. When you enter, you have to wash your hands and then order your drink (another iced green tea latte? Don’t mind if I do!) and then get handed a card which tells you the dogs names, and which dogs are more aggressive and should not be petted. (One of them, a big poodle, climbed up onto the seat next to me at first and I was scared! Haha! What if it accidentally touched me, then got angry with ME for that?)
The dogs weren’t allowed to touch your drink, and were pretty good at avoiding your bags if you left them on the table. At first, they just liked to run around or bite the wooden shelf at one corner (even though it meant they got told off. Oh well, small price to pay for some tasty pre-chewed wooden shelf!). They like to run up to you, but will run away if you try to touch them. I wasn’t really trying to be as close with them as others. I was wearing a dress with see-through tights, and didn’t want to ruin them. I was happy enough just to watch them. Mad and Alyssa kept trying to pet them however, and eventually as the dogs grew tired, two climbed onto Mad and Alyssa’s laps. Getting fed up of feeling like a wall flower at prom (not exactly true, I was busy taking photos of Alyssa and Mad), I decided that maybe if I kneeled on the floor it’d be okay. One fussy dog befriended me, and let me pet it before following me. Woo! I finally made a friend! Then another fussy dog decided that I looked pretty comfy, so climbed on my legs. He liked leaning on my arm, but liked his head poking through my arms more! He was really cute, but a bad boy too. He kept leaving me! He was playing push and pull on me! He’d leave, then come back and sleep on me, or rest with me, then leave me again! Alyssa had a huge dalmatian sleep on her lap most of the time, but then my dog and another, younger, female version of him snuggled on her lap. Mad had a possessive dog too, but all the dogs liked her skirt so they kept coming over to sniff it! I wasn’t very popular, but finally the pug I’d been trying to befriend came over to me too!
It was actually a nice place. I wasn’t sure about the idea before I went. I didn’t dislike it, but I wasn’t like “YEHHHH! DOG CAFEEE!”. We’re talking about going again maybe, another day later in our holiday. It was really sweet to just sit and talk with a snuggly dog on our laps. If you’re wondering “what if they pee on you?” well, I was scared of that too. Thankfully mine never did, but Mad got peed on! She didn’t mind though, and we all fell about laughing.
When you leave, they offer a clothes brush, more hand wash and a scented spray. All were obviously needed, especially for Alyssa who was wearing black jeans that got COVERED in white and black dog hair! We stayed in total for about two hours we think, but it went by so quickly. (There were cute dogs, who’d keep track on the time?).
It rained harder on the way home, and had a much stronger and colder wind, but luckily in my “Mum Handbag” I had an umbrella!
Now I’ve finally finished this… I can go to sleep! Woo!
Tomorrow I think the plan is for more shopping… Let’s hope I can sort out my card! If we’re in the area, I would like to go to the “Princess Cafe!” tomorrow! Or maybe the toy cafe… then sometime this week, when the weather is nice, I hope we can see the Hanok Village and the Palace!