Hello Everyone! It’s been quite a week, so I hope you’re in the mood for a lengthy update! Caleen and I just had a wonderful four-day weekend, of which, three were spend in
Before and since coming here, many people have asked Caleen and I about Korean food and what we were going to do concerning our diet situation. For those of you who don’t know, Caleen and I have been on highly restrictive diets (for health reasons) at some point over the past year, and we’ve just been trying to be cautious since then. Anyway, when people have asked about it, we would generally tell them how we thought sticking to our dietary guidelines in
We also don’t have many alternatives in the event of a sugar-craving attack. They have a dismal selection of the sugar-free foods that we would normally eat when we were craving things. In fact, we’ve only found three. The first is the nastiest chewing gum you’ve ever had. It’s made with xylitol, which is great; but it also tastes like a cheap menthol and eucalyptus cough drop. To my bewilderment, Caleen chews it all the time, which I think speaks volumes about her sad gum-chewing addiction. The second is Diet Coke, which normally gets the job done, but the third alternative is my favorite and hardest to find, sugar-fee dark chocolate. As far as I know, it can only be found in these small convenience stores called Family Mart, where there are usually few to none. The outer packaging had been opened both times we’ve found it, but we were desperate enough to buy them anyway. We’re cracking way down on our wheat and sugar consumption from now on, but I just wanted you to know that our resolve to eat well while we’re here has considerably weakened at times. If you are at all bored or feeling generous, you could join our cause by either praying that we develop a taste for Korean food and/or sending us pounds and pounds of sugar-free dark chocolate. You can buy it in bulk at Winco. :) Just kidding…
Okay. Now that that’s out of my system, I’ll talk about the things that you really want to hear - or read.
As Caleen mentioned in our last email, we are in the middle of the school’s Summer Session, which to our dismay (namely mine), has greatly prolonged our working hours to nearly 10 hours/day. Despite our feeling perpetually tired, we’ve adjusted pretty well. The middle of the week is, by far, the hardest part. We largely look and feel like zombies for all of Wednesday and Thursday, so for those days, it’s helped to crash immediately after eating dinner. That way we get about 10 hours of sleep before the next day and are less likely to think the rest of the week impossible to get through. The Summer Session is not nearly as harried as a normal work day, but the days certainly go slower. We’re definitely looking forward to our normal work schedule. Only three more weeks to go!
As far as our social life is concerned, things have certainly improved. (Praise God!) There’s a new Korean teacher at the school who’s been a student in the
There’s also another English-speaking Korean woman, who we found out lives right next to us. She’s just moved here for work and seems in want of company. We haven’t gotten the opportunity to hang out with her yet, but she seems nice and very eager to get to know us, though I think we’re a bit more desperate to know her.
In all, we’ve been doing pretty well. We’re starting to battle homesickness and the tendency to view everything through the lens of ethnocentrism, but who doesn’t when they move to a radically different country? For now, we’re just trying to stay optimistic. We’ve even come up with the Caleen-and-Ashley’s-10-Best-Things-About-Living-In-Korea List.
1. The people of
needed help, someone has miraculously appeared or been more than happy to
assist us when we’ve solicited their help.
2. Caleen and I re-did the math and found that, hypothetically, we’ll be able to
obliterate most, if not all of our debt and may even come home with some money.
3. Our new friends, David and Christine. They took amazing care of us while we
4. The humidity in the air makes it so we don’t really need lotion.
5. The people here are really respectful of the elderly. They bow lower to them
when addressing them, serve them first, accommodate their needs, and even speak
to them in a specialized way (honorifics system).
6. Public transportation is great, even in Chung-ju. A cab ride across town is
only around 2,500 Won ($2.50 USD).
7. Tipping is not expected or required anywhere.
8. So far, men have been very respectful toward us. Unlike walking around in the
9. Eating out is usually inexpensive. Street food is usually around $2-$3, and a sit-down meal is not normally more than $8.00.
10. Because Caleen and I just work and have few friends, we lead very simple lives. We’re not constantly running in and out of the house to meet people or get things done. It’s a slower pace of life that’s allowed us to do things we haven’t been able to do in a long time. For instance, Caleen is trying to pick up painting again.
*11. Bonus!* The produce here is immaculately beautiful. Caleen thinks I’m silly for
putting this on here, but it’s true! You’ve never seen such huge, pristine fruits and
vegetables in your life! They taste good too!
I know, some of that’s a bit weak, but we can say with all certainty that every one of those are good and true things about living here so far.
Now on to our adventures in
As we may have mentioned in our last blog (I should really read what we’ve told you already), our dear friend, Shirley Moon, helped us connect with some friends of hers in
Because Chung-ju is a small city that doesn’t benefit from the ease and efficiency of a bullet-train, Caleen and I came to
First, we stopped at the hotel to get ourselves checked in and settled in our room. David was so cute as he told us about how reasonably priced and strategically located our hotel was. He reminded me of our dad when he gets really excited about telling us something, all quiet, but still enthusiastic. The hotel, it turns out, was pretty cool. It’s down the most narrow street you’ve ever seen in your life and centrally located in
On our way to Insadong, David and Christine told us that not only had they intended to get us settled into our rooms and take us out to lunch, but that they’d also planned to spend the entire day with us. David had it all planned. We were going to go to Insadong for lunch and shopping first, The Blue House second, the
It turns out that Insadong is a street as much as it is a district. There are small traditional shops, art galleries, restaurants, tea houses, antique shops, and other specialty shops crammed up and down the street. There are also people everywhere. Though the narrow street is primarily a tourist destination, this street is also fully functional during the week. So having come on a Friday, we toured Insadong though great crowds of people and moving vehicles. After eating a good, traditional Korean meal and looking at a few shops, Caleen asked if going to tea houses was at all a tradition in
After seeing Insadong, we went to The Blue House next. The Blue House, it turns out is where the President of South Korea lives (The White House…The Blue House, get it?). However, we didn’t actually get to see much of The Blue House. I’m not sure exactly why, but we couldn’t go beyond this gate which stood in front of the building which blocked our view of The Blue House. We could only see a fraction of the roof beyond the building in front of The Blue House, which was, indeed, blue. However, the great part about coming there that day was seeing a parade in which soldiers or mock-soldiers were dressed as warriors representing each of the
Next we went to
The last place we went to, Itaewon, was actually the only place Caleen and I went to for all of Saturday too. It’s largely considered the Westerners’ district. The U.S. Army has a base right along the street, so there are tons of American soldiers, not to mention people from all over the world who have set up shops and restaurants to cater to them. This was a little like paradise for Caleen and I. We really missed American, Thai, and Mexican food, and I was eager to find some clothes that fit. (Clothes run quite small here, and even the clothes I found turned out to be hideous and ill-fitting, at best. They’re also extravagantly over-priced. Caleen feels the same way.) We also hadn’t really seen many Western faces since moving to Chung-ju, so seeing so many came as a surprise to us. After looking at a few shops, David and Christine took us to their favorite Thai restaurant, where Caleen got to have her Pad Thai and I got to have my Thai curry. It tasted more authentic than any Thai food I’d had in
After dinner, Caleen and I took David, Christine, and John to Coldstone for some ice cream. We had passed it on our way to the Thai restaurant, and David had never heard about it before. After that, they dropped us off at our hotel and said our goodbyes. We would see them again on Sunday when they picked us up to go to an English-speaking church, which proved to be a major highlight of the trip. Caleen and I hadn’t been to church in nearly a month, and we were in need of some encouragement.
After misunderstanding one another about which church we wanted to go to and getting lost on the way, we ended up at the
When the service was over, we had just enough time to eat lunch and sightsee around the terminal before our bus left. It was nice. We ate, drank smoothies, and then got to watch the beautiful, green Korean countryside flash before our eyes as we headed home.