Sunday, June 27, 2010

Drinking at your local convenience store

Drinking at your local convenience store is not something I am used to doing.

Convenience stores are a good place to get cereal, milk and other items that you forgot when you went on your weekly shop. Well, in Korea convinence stores are often also great places to meet up with mates.

So you buy a beer from inside, grab a plastic chair, sit at a plastic table and drink out of a paper cup. For many this wouln't sound like a great spot to spend a Friday night, but it is!

It is super hot in Korea at the moment and the open air is glorious. The beer is cheap and many people seems to gather outside these convinence stores so there is an atmosphere quite unlike anything I have encountered before. It is relaxed and energetic at the same time!

Lately what has made some convinence stores even more appealing is that that they have been airing the soccer world cup on big screen TVs. It is for this reason that the local Family Mart has become our favourite.



Because convenience stores are open 24hours we never have to miss a soccer game! What's more is if the soccer game was inspiring you and your friends can play some ball yourselves.


And if the game wasn't inspiring...well..you can drink!!!

So if you are stranded and in Korea and not sure where there is a god place to hang out! Go to your local convenience store...you may be pleasantly suprised!
Post by Claudia

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Asian Glow

Last weekend, our new friend Grace (left) was kind enough to illustrate what the asian glow is.

Never heard the term before? Well, aparently when Koreans drink they go red....really red! I thought everyone did! But that is not the case.

In essence Koreans will go red a lot faster after having an alcoholic beverage because they are alergic, their bodies simply cannot digest alcohol as fast as your average westerner because they are missing an enzyme of sorts!


Boy, I am happy I have that enzyme. As is I go red when I drink...I think without this precious enzyme I might look something like a red panda.

Grace may have been a bad example as she isn't as red as she thought but this entry made for a good excuse to put a pic up of her.

Just remember the next time you see a Korean that is glowing...chances are they are drunk or well on the way! That's probably why this guy is so excited!



Post by Claudia

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kicking it in Wonju

So after a pretty long string of blog entries about places we've visited and been to and gone to go see, I can quite happily say that this entry will be about our very own hometown, Wonju.
Last weekend, for the opening of the World Cup, we made a huge mission to try and find some people to watch the game with, and after a whole bunch of running around and stressing, we met a group of other foreigners keen to watch the game. We watched the game with them and met a whole bunch more people.

One of the people we ended up meeting at a later date was Grace (http://coupdegrace.tumblr.com/), who was really keen to show us around Wonju. So we figured, hey, might as well check out our own city. We almost know Seoul better than we do beautiful Wonju.

So we met up on Saturday afternoon, and headed off to the local video game arcade. When I say arcade, the first image that might pop into someones head is a somewhat dingy, possibly 'wouldn't let me child go there' kind of place, where most of the machines are broken and have been stashed in some far away corner behind other machines that also don't work. NO! This is different.

For starters, you pay on entry to the arcade. The fee is 4000Won (about R28) for 2 hours. OK, seems pretty reasonable, a small amount of cash for unlimited gameplay. But it only gets WAY BETTER.

The first thing you see when walking into the arcade is a room with ping-pong tables, for you to use as you please (most likely to play ping-pong...)

Keep walking and you'll see the start of the arcade...the Wii room. Yes, a room filled with Nintendo Wiis. Each one with its own game in it and each one hooked up to a ginormous flat screen, HD TV. Beautiful. Remember, still only R28. You can pick one (if it's not busy being used) and play as much as you like. Very cool.


The next area you walk into is the PS3 room. Again, yes, a room filled with about 10 PS3 stations, again each one hooked up to its own very large very flat and very HD TV!!! There are even 2 stations that have couches. Big comfortable sofas, so you can literally lie down on while playing PES on what must have been 40 inch televisons. Insanity!

The last room you walk into is the 'regular' arcade game area. This area is packed with (working, not broken) arcade games, from racers to fighting games and from dancing games to drumming games. It really is just so cool. We even ended up jamming some Street Fighter II.

I can really only say that this place is insane. You could spend hours there and not get bored. If you do overstep your time, you pay a little extra, but it's very possible to just go and renew your time for another R28. Absolutely wicked fun!

There is also a room where you can sit down quite comfortably, buy some food or drinks, and play 1 of dozens of board games that are available. Going to this arcade is a really cool way to spend a day, geeking out amongst the computer games and then sitting down for a game of Rummikub is something that most people could enjoy.


After we had enough of the arcade and it's wonderous offerings, our friend Grace decided to take us to a cool restaurant that she knows for what was, according to her, some of the best Shabu Shabu around.

The Shabu-Shabu consisted of what is basically a 5 course meal, and we ended up paying 8000 Won each (about R54), so in other words, dirt cheap! But amazing, absolutely amazing!

After the dinner it was time for another round of gaming, but this time in a PC Bang, where we pay 1000Won/hour (R7) for the use of their high speed internet, amazingly comfortable chairs, awesome sound systems, and obviously the PCs. We ended up sitting for about 2 hours, playing a whole bunch of different network games! They even let you buy all sorts of snacks and food and drinks, etc. to keep you as glued to your chair as possible. Plus, almost all PC Bangs are open 24hours. For those late night gamers, they offer cups of coffee for 100Won (R0.70). Insane!


The last stop for the night was a DVD Bang in the same building, where you get to choose your movie from a large selection of DVDs ranging from very new to quite old, and watch it in your own private 'cinema'. The DVD rooms usually have cinema style chairs in them, but we got a room with a couch, some blankets and a huge screen to watch our choice of movie! DVD Bangs really are a very cool way to watch movies for a group of friends! Plus, for the smokers, smoking is totally OK during the movie!

That was about it. We stepped out of the DVD Bang at about 1.30 AM, into the pouring rain, but not before buying some Samgak Gimbap from a local 24h convenience store. But more on that in another post!
Post by Oliver

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Drama Drama Drama

Many of you may not know this but Korea has a thriving drama industry! They make many movies and produce several of their own drama series!

Although Oliver and I have been unable to watch the programs, due to obvious language barriers, from what we have heard the dramas are often exciting and compelling!

Not too long ago my director and his family took Oliver and I out for a day excursion. We went to Guinsa temple (one of the biggest temples in South Korea), the Chungpung Cultural Assets Housing, and a drama set. We visited the drama set of Jumong which has a beautiful location in the mountains. The place was swarming with visitors and it was easy to understand why.

Oliver got a great photo of two locals trying their best to be like the fighting heroes in the drama.
The place was so beautiful that you are almost fooled into believing that it is a place of majesty or spirtuality not merely a drama set! The sets are huge and it takes a good hour to walk around and enjoy the sights!
You can also go for a walk through some caves, which are very cramped but fun nonetheless and view one or two art exhibitions! All in all it is a good place to go for a day trip!
Here is an image of what the movie set looked like from the outside!
And here is a shot of one of the inner courtyards

To view more images of the movie set and other great sights in South Korea please visit the places of interest gallery.

Post by Claudia

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shoe Shopping

Ok, so for those of you who have been following us and/or have read previous posts, you might remember that we started exercising at the Wonju Tattoo sports grounds. We started playing Basketball and Badminton, and now we have started running as well! For anyone who knows us, this might seem a bit out of place, but its true.

Unfortunately for me, both the pairs of shoes that I brought with have the cushioning of a kimchi pot, and the need arose for me to get proper sports or running shoes. Also, with the first paycheck having just been cashed I figured why not, let me buy some shoes...

Not as easily done as it is said. In SA I could just pop down to the local Sportsman's Warehouse or Totalsports and buy a UK size 12 shoe. Let me just say, Koreans are a lot smaller than I am...

We made the mission to one of the bigger shopping outlets in Wonju, where there is along row of shoe store after shoe store after shoe store, everything from Nike to Adidas to New Balance to some local brands. We walked into the first store, picked a shoe and asked for it in my size...no.

Next store: Walk in, pick a shoe, ask for it in my size...no.

Next store: Walk in, pick a shoe, ask for it in my size...no. Ok. Ask for another shoe in my size...no.

Next store: Walk in, pick a shoe, ask for it in my size...no. Ok. Ask for another shoe in my size...no. Ok. Ask for ANY shoe in my size...no.

This is what it looked like for about an hour, until we found one shoe in the Adidas store that was half a size too small for me. Oh well, it's the best I was gonna get.

So I parted with my 79 000 Won and got my new pair of 1/2 size too small Adidas running shoes.

Sorted.

And because these shoes are so awesome, being the only pair in my size in the world (well, all the stores we went to, at least) I figured I would show you the awesomeness by showing you this picture of my shoe floating up in the clouds. It really did float...



Post by Oliver

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A kicker of a weekend

This week, as I'm sure you can imagine, Oliver and I were both incredibly homesick. With the kick off of the Soccer World Cup we really wished we could be back in SA watching our country shine!!


Instead...we made every effort to ensure that we got into the soccer fever. I made a couple of attempts on facebook to find other South African teachers who would hopefully be watching the opening ceremony but nothing came of that. So Oliver and I decided to go off to a local sports bar.

Alas, we were the only two souls in the entire place!!! Bummer!! So dressed to the nines in our South African gear we headed across Wonju to the sports grounds...but again..no soccer fever!!! URG! Then we went to a bar which we had heard was popular with foreigners but it was closed. By now we were both getting upset and weren't too sure where to go.


It was in this moment of despair that we stumbled upon a group of foreigners (more commonly refered to as waygooks) chilling outside a GS Mart (similar to a Seven Eleven). A crowd had gathered on the pavement to watch the opening ceremony on GS Mart's big screen TV. So naturally we aquianted ourselves with the waygooks and the night got better and better from there.


We were the only South Africans in the crowd but we stood proud and sang our national anthem on a pavement in Wonju....it was a great moment!


Then we all headed to a local sports bar....suprise suprise...it was the one we were at earlier on in the evening....and there were more waygooks....the atmosphere was definately picking up!


Oh...I almost forgot..Tshabalala you are amazing...you made history...you got the first goal of our world cup!! And it was a beauty!!! Boys...you played so so well!!



Oliver watches the game with sheer determination....


Oh and did I mention we got drunk...very very drunk! Check out the clip below where we try our best to sing the World Cup's official song.



video

On Saturday it was out of our gold and into red. Despite our monumental hangovers we made our way to Seoul to watch South Korea against Greece. What a cracker! We were surrounded by thousands of people at City Hall in Seoul... the vibe was electric!



It was raining but that didn't dampen the spirits of the locals!!!!

video
Korean chant

video

Another korean chant


video

lead up to the winning moment!

And you know what the best part is...there are three more weeks of soccer madness ahead of us!!!

Post by Claudia

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Communicating in Korea

You have probably been wondering how our communication prospects are comming along! Well, our vocabulary is growing little by little! Oliver is proving to be very good at remembering various things, so I leave him to do most of the talking.

Here are some of the basic phrases we use:
  • Hello (An-nyung-ha-se-yo)

  • Thank you (gahm-sa-ham-ni-da)

  • Goodbye (An-nyung-hi ge-se-yo/ga-se-yo)

  • Where is the bathroom (Hwa-jang-shil)

  • How much? (Ul-ma-em-knee-ka)

  • Yes (ne/ye)

  • No (A-ni-yo)

  • Please (cho-se-yo)

  • delicious (massh-e-ta)

Those are just some of the basics and so far they have served us well! However, a couple of weeks ago Oliver and I decided enough was enough! We were tired of walking down the street and not understanding any of the signs, or going into restaurants and not being able to read what to order. So what did we do? We learnt hangul!

Hangul is the Korean writing system and it works off of sounds. The vowels include the following sounds:

  • a/ya
  • e/ye
  • eo/yeo

  • oo/yoo

  • o/yo

  • u/yu

The consonants include:

  • b/p

  • m/n

  • g/k

  • d/t

  • h

  • j/ch

  • ng


You might think that now that we can read what we see, we understand what we see! Well, no. not most of the time anyway! This is oviously because Koreans have different names for things, for instance "bbang" is "bread" and "mul" is "water". So we may be able to read it but if we don't understand the word it won't make much sense.

However, there is a fair amount of Konglish, english words written in Hangul on sign posts. For example, the sign below says Suh-tah-buk-seh Kho-pee (Starbucks Coffee). Pretty cool right!!




And this one says Oh-lea-O (Oreo) cereal...Mmmmm

We still have a long way to go before we will be able to communicate effectively but we are getting there!


Post by Claudia

Monday, June 7, 2010

VIVA 2010

VIVA 2010!!!!

This past weekend we got a chance to celebrate the fact that South Africa will be hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup! At the South African braai in Seoul everyone was kitted out with South African memorabilia...everything from South African flags to vuvuzelas and face paint.

There were South Africans everywhere and most of us were barefoot, you have no idea how good that felt! And yes, there was meat...lots of meat!!!Mmmmmm




It felt like home!
On our way to the braai we saw things that made us realise that the rest of the world is also excited about the upcomming world cup!!! The excitement....yeah...on Saturday we got a glimpse of what I imagine South Africa must be like at the moment! Crazy soccer fever!

First up...Zakumi!
Then we saw on of the Hyundai balls....covered with signatures

And then we wrote down our wishes and dreams for the World Cup

We love you South Africa and we wish you the best of luck for the massive festival heading your way. For all of you back home...I hope you enjoy every minute of it!!!
This is South Africa's turn to shine....although we can't be there is person, we are there in spirit!


GOOD LUCK...we will be watching!!!! MAKE US PROUD!!! Whooohooooo
Post by Claudia

Past World Cup Soccer Balls


This past weekend we went to the capital of South Korea, Seoul, again. This time we didn't go for a Korean festival, we went for something a little closer to home. We went for a huge South African Braai. There were apparently over 500 South Africans there. Really awesome!

Getting there is no easy task. Well, actually it is, but it's not as straightforward as one might think. After getting off the bus from your city, you climb down a few flights of stairs and into the amazing tunnel system that is the Seoul subway system. It really is an amazingly efficient sytem, that lets you get pretty much anywhere in the city within a relatively short space of time!

While navigating this underground system, and climbing on this train, or getting off at this station, we obviously go through a lot of different stations. The stations range from very basic transfer stations from one line to the next, to massive shopping and restaurant areas, with all sorts of advertising and displays happening everywhere!

At one of the stations we came across what I reckon is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. From far away it looked like just a Kia display, showing off two of its latest models, but upon walking closer (which we did to take photos of the large Zakumi) I noticed that they had a whole bunch of soccer balls as part of their display. Turns out, as you can see, the balls were all the official soccer balls, that have been used in past World Cups, from 1970 all the way up to our own ball, Jabulani!

Properly awesome if you ask me.

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Post by Oliver

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When in Rome...make rice


According to the old saying when in Rome you should do as the Romans do! Well, we have been applying this same logic in Korea: When in Korea, do as the Koreans do!

One thing Koreans do really well is make rice. I mean it's what rice dreams are made of! Sticky and gorgeous! Dare I say that Koreans have perfected the art of rice making.

How you might ask? Well, its with a nifty gadget called a Rice Cooker.

In South Africa people love their coffee, you can get a super expensive coffee maker and enjoy the luxury of a good cup of java in your own home or you can buy an ordinary coffee machine and have a cup of coffee that is still pretty amazing but doesn't cost you an arm and a leg. Well, it's the same thing in Korea, with Rice Cookers.

When Oli and I went shopping for our Rice Cooker, we were blown away by how advanced some of them are. They had enough buttons to confuse you (some with like 30), others where the size of microwaves, and looked really slick and important...and let me tell you they carried a price tag to match!

We opted for an ordinary Rice Cooker, it is compact and cherry red...and yes, it makes amazing rice! It has only one button, the on/off button! Thank heavens, because it came with a Korean instruction manual that we couldn't decifer if we tried!

When I showed my director's wife a photo of our Rice Cooker, she described it as "cute" so I don't think it matches to the awesomness of some Rice Cookers but we don't care...we love it!

How it works...you clean the rice, throw it into the machine, add some water, and leave! Easy peasy!

The funny white spatula thing next to the Rice Cooker is a Rice Fan...you use it to dish up and mix your rice! Yes, rice is an art!

Now we can make amazing dishes at home! How awesome!

So Oliver and I are very proud to own our very first Rice Cooker.

Post by Claudia