Do I Know It’s Christmas?

Holidays are coming, holidays are coming, and yet I have not seen the iconic Coke ad that is the signal to all and sundry that the Christmas season has well and truly begun. I’m beginning to wonder if I know it’s Christmas at all!

It makes me feel truly odd that it’s already the 8th of December and I’ve only heard a few Christmas songs and seen a few paltry decorations in the more Western chain stores, that is to say  Starbucks and any retailer looking to cash in on the Christmas buzz.

However, that said, Korea doesn’t have much of a “Christmas buzz” for they don’t have the Catholic or Christian roots so strongly evidenced back home. Christmas here is view as one of two things: a holiday for Westerners and the minority of Christians and Catholics, thoroughly part of some culture other than that of the natives; or something cutesy for couples to indulge in. Either way there’s not a whole lot of traction for the Christmas industry’s wheels to gain.

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The Weekend on Wednesday

Halfway there folks, it’s finally Wednesday! Although, that said, it’s also already Wednesday and it’s taken me until now to get myself in gear to post the pictures from last weekend’s adventure.

Having had a lazy Saturday going to the “pictures”, as they say in dear old Ireland, to see Gone Girl, we decided to use Sunday to visit the Children’s park for the first time, as we mistook the Citizen’s park for it last time (here’s the scoop on that).

Front Gate

“Reports show Rubik’s Cubes, Hello Kitty, Pooh Bear and Disney are among the best-selling toys. Which should we use in the statue ma’am?” “Yes!”

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Scene Unseen: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Thailand!

First off, apologies for the somewhat prolonged silence on my blog, I’ve been having too much fun (and not enough sleep) to keep up lately, but I promise I will try harder in future. I know how much the world needs one more travel blog!

What I have been doing with my time is exploring more of Korea than I thought existed, and so I’ll enlighten you by sharing my experience of the Korea we don’t usually get to see.

Come on get to the point Emmet, I ain’t got all day! Ok, ok, reader here it is: Bijindo Island Korea:

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Seoul Day 1: Stress and the City

It may have taken me just over four months, but I’ve finally done it, I have visited Seoul for longer than the minimum amount of time required to get from one airport to the other. I’m going to file this success away with other small triumphs, like never having worn odd socks while living here (that however is another story). Visiting Seoul has been one of those things that just kept getting put on the back-burner, sometimes it was too expensive, other times it was just inconvenient, but this time I was hell-bent on getting there and so J had no choice but to accompany or be left behind like a Busan bumpkin.

Busan to Seoul bus tickets

Thanks to my co-workers getting bus tickets to Seoul was less of a hassle

It was thus that we rose bright and early on Saturday morning and leapt onto the bus bound for the capital of the Neon Republic. I may have been ever so slightly naive about just how long 4 and a half hours on a bus could be and so I did burn off most of my excitement in the first two hours and ended up mired in enthusiastic, yet sleepy limbo for the remainder of the journey. Luckily for me though, the rest stop about an hour before our destination put the spring back in my step and I was once again ready for our trip to the big smoke.

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Culture Shot: Mind-Boggling Menus

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I am still in the process of learning to read and speak Korean, albeit a process more akin to glacial migration than serious language acquisition, but I’m a busy man. I mean those jelly beans don’t eat themselves! I digress, however, and return to today’s theme: reading menus.

Usually, when I am in a restaurant I can pick out what is tasty based on the picture which is conveniently located next to each menu item. What happens when those pictures aren’t there and the menu is not provided with convenient English subtitles? Well, let me tell you now.

What does this even MEAN???? I think it says “Go to McDonald’s”

Guesswork. Lots and lots of guesswork
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Four Months in Photos

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To this I arrived those 4 months ago…well after some redecorating

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I got to know my ‘hood

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At first I wasn’t sure if this was a first aid tent or a restaurant… It’s both.

The Diamond Bridge shines so bright Rihanna would be proud

The Diamond Bridge shines so bright Rihanna would be proud

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This Means WAR!

Many of us Westerners here in Korea have no idea of the events or timescale of the Korean war prior to our arrival, myself very much included. As such I’ve decided to bring together some of the main points of the war into a series of posts, largely by condensing Wikipedia articles.

When I last left off, we had seen US and Soviet troops pull out of the newly established republics of North and South Korea, leaving behind them an uneasy division along the 38th parallel, as well as unrest among communist parties in South Korea.

As the withdrawal of troops occurred in the Summer of 1949, I must backtrack slightly to the Spring, specifically March, when Kim Il-sung approached Stalin for support in order to reclaim the southern part of the peninsula. However, due to the presence of US troops and instability in China’s communist rule, Stalin declined to support the war.

Following the withdrawal of forces, the detonation of the first Soviet nuclear bomb and the lack of intervention by the US when communism won out in China, Stalin decided the time was ripe for the North to invade. With one proviso, that Mao, the then leader in China, should send reinforcements to the North’s aid should they be required. China, being in quite a fix while trying to find its feet, needed the Soviet support and had little choice but to back Kim Il-sung’s military campaign.

Looks similar to today’s effigies of the Supreme Leader. Mao was the victor in the Chinese Civil War

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Costco Korea: Wholesale Sure, Wholesome? Maybe Not…

I often think of myself as a culturally-enlightened being, wise to the ways of the world, never baffled by other cultures or what I find there, and then I will experience something that plants me firmly back to Earth with a large thump. Making me realize just how sheltered a life I have lead in Ireland.

Luckily for me, however, I am now in Korea and broadening my previously narrow horizon to encompass all the world’s nuances, one experience at a time!

What was today’s lesson?

Well folks, today, thanks to a great friend (with a membership card), I finally got to experience the Mecca of all expats:

 

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I Hear They Like A Man Who Eats Out!

As I sat here wolfing into a streaky bacon sandwich after my short, I mean super intense, workout at the gym, I began to think about what I was going to have for dinner.

Naturally, this thought put me in mind of my faithful readers who, undoubtedly, would love to hear what’s usually on the menu in Korea!

Well ladies and gents, look no further because I can tell you, having now had a full three months experience in the country.

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“Aww isn’t he precious!! I bet he tastes delicious!”

First off, we have to decide what we’re in the mood for because Korean restaurants come in a variety of cooking styles and dishes available. Before any of you get clever, dog is not often on the menu and the popularity of this delicacy is in major decline. However, once I find a place that serves it I’ll report back.

There I go again, putting my readers before my morals. Who am I kidding I’m running low on both of those.


So, our first option is: Traditional Korean
Traditional Korean restaurants are wonderful, often requiring diners to sit on the floor at low tables. This seems mind-boggling to us Western folk as we are used to seating our delicate posteriors on cushioned thrones designed to make us feel sophisticated while shoveling whatever was put in front of us down our gullets.

So once you’ve settled carefully on the floor, and found the least uncomfortable way to stash your knees while sitting cross-legged without upsetting the entire table, it’s time to order.

Now, on my first weekend in Korea my boss took me to such a restaurant with her family and asked “Emmet, what would you like as your main meal?” “Oh. God. Do I make up something and pretend I know even one smidgen of Korean cuisine?” I thought desperately. Luckily for me, Jina elaborated “Rice or noodles? Which do you prefer?” Thank God I didn’t begin to ramble or ask for something Japanese.
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