Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tea. Nudity. Temples.

I'm on vacation! What? Indeed, though I just got here, I have technically been working for free up to this point-I am a trainee. BOO. My first official PAID day here is on Wednesday, which kind of sucks, seeing as I am having to live off of the cash I brought with me. Which should be enough for a month--still, I've never "lived paycheck to paycheck" before, thanks mostly to my generous parents. This new lifestyle of budgeting and penny-pinching is relatively takes some getting used to. Definitely making me feel super-spoiled/entitled/ect.

But arriving here before vacation is kind of wonderful, because I have had a long weekend to soak up Seoul (a mere hour and a half away), get oriented here in Uijeoungbu, and spend time my some of my lovely co-workers.

Some Interesting Things I have Done, implying that there have been many more Interesting Things which will elaborated on in the future:

Went to Seoul with my new Kiwi buddy Charles for the day. Infuriatingly, I forgot my camera, which was unfortunate--we did some serious walking and more of the aforementioned neck-craning. Thankfully, the Internet can help me fill in some of the gaps.

This is Namdaemun Market. Clothing, mysterious pork products, fruit, antiques, basically anything you could ever want compressed into eight blocks or so of humanity. Glorious.

Cheonggye Stream, an expensive urban-renewal project aimed at beautifying downtown. Mission accomplished, I'd say.

Boshingak, a bell pavilion constructed in 1396 which still remains in the city center.

I came home and walked around Uijeoungbu with my co-worker Krystafre (yes, that's Christopher...I like it). Did you know that Dunkin' Donuts is everywhere here? And Baskin Robbins, and McDonald's and Burger King? And yes, even Starbucks? Globalization is crazy and kind of horrible in its reach...anyways, that was fun.

The next day we woke up and went to Daejon (about two hours to the South of Seoul), where Krystafre's sister is working. This time, our Korean co-workers Irene and Jenny came with us, which made things amazingly more mad gesturing to salespeople or taxi drivers. The bus drive down was LOOOOONNNGGG because of vacationers leaving Seoul...turns out, most of the country is on vacation this week, too.

So we met Krystafre's sister in front of Lotte Mart, the Korean version of Wal-Mart here...except much, much classier. More like Saks, really. There are Lottes everywhere in Korea, but this one was the biggest I've ever seen, and the classiest, too. Big name brands, like Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuttion, ect. Plus a floor on the very top of the building devoted entirely to scores of restaurants, where we ended up eating at T.G.I. Fridays. Yes, it's the same as at home...but twice as expensive. Poor dining decision.

So then, we decided to go to Yuseon Spa, a public bath heated by the natural Yuseong Hot Springs.

Now, I've seen a lot of naked women in my day, given the eight years or so that I spent on swim team, changing in locker rooms, ect. None the less, it was a tad shocking to arrive at this spa and ordered to take off every stitch of bathing suit I had intended on wearing by a dotting woman at the front desk. So shocking to Krystafre and her sister, in fact, that they refused to go in....I was the lone foreigner in this venture. After several deep breaths about five minutes of shock and self-consciousness, I realized that no one was looking at me in a sexual way. And you know what? Maybe if we had something like public baths in the U.S., women wouldn't be so insecure with themselves...I saw so many normal, healthy looking people. It made me feel better about myself. That, and the most adorable old Korean woman told me in Korean that I was "beautiful," according to my partner teacher. Did I mention that I've now seen Jenny and Irene (my co-workers) naked? Ha.

How could sitting naked in a bath of green tea make you feel anything but great? There were also super hot saunas (one was 194 degrees Fahrenheit!), a cold bath that made my chest hurt, and hundreds of shower stations where mothers could sit with their kids and bathe them. There was also a room where you could go and sleep...Jenny and Irene told me that many Koreans will stay in saunas overnight in lieu of getting a hotel. It's perfectly normal for people to rack out in these places for hours.

The next morning, we woke up and went to Gyeryong National Park to see Donghaska temple. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

From left: Jenny, Krystafre, Irene, me


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