One month being home

I’m mostly over reverse culture shock.  Subtle things are the worst. Like I’m still a little surprised when people hold a door open for me, or say sorry when they just happen to be in the area I’m walking towards.

Then there is the food!  Oh it is so nice to have variety once again.  I can once again walk over to a deli, ask for “some of this and some of that”. There are tons of foods that I want to grab when I’m in a grocery store.  I’m trying real hard with not over doing it. Just but one thing different/extra each week.

I’ll try not to grumble too loudly about the f’ing insane cost of my 10GB mobile data plan…..>:(

I also bought a car. You really do need one in Canada unless you are a hermit.

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Is a 2002 Volvo S40. Only had 159K on it. Need to attend to some minor issues but once the weather is nice out.  It’s a good car and the turbo is fun to play with :)

Also, each week a connect with another friend/family member.  I realize this is a good plan as trying to contact every single person I knew at once would be hard.

Yes, it is nice to be home. Good to catch up with family/friends/food/cars again.  Well see how long it lasts ;)

Hospitals & Car dealerships

Zoning laws here are pretty much non-existent it seems. Apart from two major movie theaters within a 5min walk of each other, or 10 different pharmacies in the same 1 block stretch, or even a house right beside 4 low-rise apartments….things are just whacked.

Today we’ll see how they deal with Hospitals.

The audio kinda sucks but that’s what you get when dealing with background noise of a bus and a device that isn’t really made for making great commentary videos. So enjoy the hospital with the Kia Dealership on the first floor.

Busses and cramped streets

It seems that once cars became affordable, the parking laws non-existent, this bus route never changed but simple became challenged driving down some side streets that is barely big enough for a bus, let along a bus and two cars parked on each side.

Then you get people like this:

Too lazy to walk a block.
Too lazy to walk a block.

 

That guy parked there on a regular basis.  He was just too lazy to talk.  The rule here is that as long as you got your phone number in the window or your blinkers on, it’s legal.  (That’s sarcasm in case you missed that).

Chevrolet is an import now

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It is interesting to see what I once knew as a domestic automaker is now an import (working very hard at becoming a domestic by buying Daewoo. And you thought your Aveo or Epica was North American, heh). Well, now you can learn how to say Chevrolet in Korean.

Everybody: “say-vo-lay”

Women and Car Shows

As most of you know, I am big on cars. I have been since I was a little kid. I distinctly remember my dad and his passion for them as well. I remember many of our past cars. One of them was purple with a white interior vinyl interior. Chrysler called it ‘Plum Crazy Purple’. You’ll see this phrase being recycles on the new Dodge Challenger and Charger models now. Oddly, the most memorable thing about that purple car was the rear ‘package tray’ cover. And by ‘package tray’ I mean the part at the back window where the speakers were mounted and was often where people put ‘packages’ on the inside of a car to carry around. The cover that my dad’s car had was this fake blue/white fur covering. I liked it so much that when dad got rid of the car, I kept that and used it as a covering for my dresser in my room. I had it for many years.

As for the car, well I don’t honestly recall what model it was. I do recall that it had an 8-track player in it and a console shift. We have no pics of the car, which is a shame.

I also recall a time that my dad bought a 1969 Dodge Dart. He was going to race it. So we stripped the car down in our backyard. I remember doing this quite vividly and I am lucky enough to know that my parents have pictures of this (Hey mom, scan them and send them to so I can add them to the post ). I rather fondly recall my dad telling a friend that they should go for a ride because the car had a killer engine. They got in the car and dad backed down the driveway. When he got to the end of it, he just floored it and left two patches of black marks up the whole thing. His friend was rather white-faced and holding on to the dashboard rather strongly for a minute or two after dad had stopped. That was funny.

Update 23-04-2011:

Mom got me the scanned pics. There are two of them. The first shows me in the driver’s seat at 10 yrs of age and my brother sitting on the door sill beside me. The second picture shows my dad(blue overalls) and some friends yanking the motor out for more work on the car.

Then a few weeks later I learned that dad wrecked the car while goofing around. Yeah, some things have never changed except that now a days kids have no idea what they are driving so there is a rather disturbing disconnect between man and machine. There are the rare bunch of guys and gals who actually do their own work but most just pay someone else and have never turned a wrench in their life. The biggest claim to fame is that they ‘modded’ the car by adding a couple of stickers. I have done the whole gamut. I have done my own oil changes, brake jobs, replaced a radiator, water pump, brake master cylinder, interior carpet, headlights, and even took apart a few engines to fix. I have also added lights, LEDs, radios, CBs(yes….I said it…CB….), as well as stickers and headlight strobe lights.

I have kept up with the automotive world and paid attention to trends. About 15 years ago I heard someone say “If the imports ever get styling right, they’ll give domestics a hard time.” Well guess what. Have you seen what the latest line of Hyundai’s look like? They call their style ‘fluidic sculpture’ and I am blown away.

But before we get into ‘now’ pictures, let’s show a ‘before’ shot.

Probably one of the first cars people thing of is the Hyundai Excel (it replaced the Pony). My father-in-law has a 1986 Excel. It looks like this one.

One ad bragged “Our new 3-door coupe looks like a million but costs $995,005 less.” Well, given the fact that my father-in-law never throws away anything that still works, should be a testament to how long a ‘cheap import’ can last when taken care of.

Ok, that was then. This is now.

This is the new 2011 Hyundai Avante(Korean)/Elantra(North American). Do you think they got the styling down pat now? And this is just their ENTRY level car. The Sonata, Grandeur(Korea)/Azera(North American), Genesis (sedan and coupe) and Equus (pronounced ee-koos, a take on the latin word for horse) are all damn well designed cars.

And it’s not just designs. These cars are well-built. Say what you want about imports, but when the number of Hyundais on the road are about half of the total, that says a lot about their build. No matter where a car is built, if it is really as bad as someone says, no company will stay in business long.

So, let’s get on with the show. As I still had our old camera when I took the pictures, I was limited in how many I could take before the batteries died out. (Long story short, the second set of batteries were dead already….). So I really only took pictures of some of the more flashier cars and women.

Wait….what? Women?? (All the guys are cheering right now, all the girls are rolling their eyes….but there is a reason, which I shall explain.)

There is no doubt about the saying ‘sex sells’ and nowhere does this hold more true than an Asian auto show. See, I’ve been to the International Auto Show in Toronto. It’s busy as well, spread over one heck of a venue and showcases the best of the supposedly best. Still, at those shows, you see every car that can be bought, plus a bunch of concepts that you can’t get near. As well as the nostalgic section of Antiques and American Muscle. In Asia, there is an obvious difference. Of course there is no ‘muscle’ section, as defined by North Americans. Displaying a car over here says a lot about both the car and even more so about the company.

One cannot simply put a car on the floor and simply expect people to say “Damn, I’mma gettin me one of dese tings!” (Word). Nope, here classy cars are not enough. You need women.

Now, it’s no secret that the automotive world is dominated by men. This not some sort of sexist statement, it is purely logical that there is a great amount of ego attached to a car and men have ego to spare. So add a pretty woman to a display and instant ego-grabbing attention.

This is the The Daewoo Chairman Limousine. The Chairman is Daewoo’s top of the line (Think Cadillac). Add in a very beautiful girl and stern business types look….”oh, hey, a car is there too. Well, might as well have a gander while we are here.”

Of course, those are the for the cars you can buy. The ones you can’t, i.e. concepts, are a step up. Add in a rotating platform so that you get to see the girl from…car from all sides and people take notice.

Unfortunately I was on a bit of a time-table so many of these concepts don’t have names associated with them. Some will be obvious who makes them.

Asian’s don’t just hire any women, these are professional models. Most looked great, a number looked rather bored. Still, it’s a long day to be just standing there smiling all the time.

Oh, and the parts manufacturers weren’t gonna be left out!

Check out the rest of the pictures in the album below.

Seoul Motor Show 2011

Karaoke & Korea

Karaoke is huge in Korea. So much so that it is to the point of having places that rent out rooms by the hour with large TV screens and speakers, 2 microphones, bright flashing & lazer lights decking it all out. The cost is relative to the number of people going into the room, the more the people, the higher the cost. On Friday night we had 11 people and the cost was $28/hr. Cost per person is rather cheap and it was all good fun. Unlike North American places, you are quite allowed to bring in your own food & drink, in fact, drinking & karaoke are a social norm in Korea. Some people simply went across the street and bought some cans of beer (Case and & Hite) from the corner store. We all took turns singing (except for the 2 Indian guys…who coincidentally were the promoters of beer and buyers of Soju shots). After each song, the computer rated your ability on a scale of 1 to 100. I think the lowest score was 86. I’m am pretty sure the computer was biased and/or tone def.

2.5hrs later, and we were all thinking on moving on. There was talk of going to play ‘electronic darts’ which sounded good but I was getting pretty tired and so what Bharati. So we said our goodnight and grabbed the bus home.

Saturday was a blast. The plan was to go to Itaewon, check out the shops and price out some things we will be buying soon (running shoes in particular). We hopped on the bus at 10am and 1.5hrs later we made it. Along the were a few nice Korea oddities which just _have_ to be mentioned and a regular thing I’m sure in future blog posts…

First up: Mountains. While this pic isn’t the greatest shot, it does give you an idea of what you can see by simply walking out your front door and looking down the street in many areas of Uijeongbu (not to mention pretty much anywhere in Korea).

Besides being a geek, I am also a car guy. While in Korea, I am fascinated by the cars here. The Koreans have evolved their styling way beyond ‘cheap asian cars’ and ones that I highly anticipate owning due to the simply awesome designs. But this picture ain’t about that.

Besides finding it very interesting to see North American cars over here, this one simply has to be shown.

When I was here 3 years ago, I saw a couple of 300C’s and they were all diesels. This one was not and from the sound of the touted up exhaust, it was a 3.5 V6 at best. But the GUY driving it was all tough and with the bumper-to-bumper traffic, he waited back so that he can simply floor it and annoy everyone else around him. It was a painful part of the morning.

Now this I found to be both highly amusing and infinitely practical.

Instead of overpaying some city worker to stand there and warn traffic of the obvious, why not have a fake guy waving people a warning light? Smart idea that I think.

Itaewon is a very large tourist shopping area. With that comes all kinds of street vendors and massive numbers of stores. A friend of mine collects belt buckles and there was one vendor who specialized in them.

These are actually lighters but certainly to raise some questions with authorities when spotted.

Ye Old flask buckle.
Ye Old flask buckle.
A Knife buckle and a skull with multi-coloured flashing eyes.
A Knife buckle and a skull with multi-coloured flashing eyes.

While purveying the many fine wares, I saw this cool hat with a Dragon on it (go figure eh?). When I asked how much, he said 18,000KRW (about $18CDN). I decided it wasn’t worth that much and moved on. I saw the same hat again at another vendor and got told 12,000KRW. That was a more reasonable price so I grabbed it!

Seems to suit me quite well I think!

Of course with all the tourist stores and food, there were bars. This one had a cool Greek name, which should have been an indication of what was to come.

On the side was a more description of who their clientèle is.

After browsing a bit more, we headed on over to Insadong, another tourist showing area. I just had to get more pictures of the Toy Museum. Unfortunately the camera card got full half-way through the store (Bharati hadn’t unloaded the card in a while….). Dave, these pics are for you:

Further down Insadong there were these girls giving out free hugs.

It wasn’t much of a hug really. In Korea, unfamiliar men and women do not hug. It’s very awkward for them and so was this so-called ‘free hug’ that I got. But hey, thought it was rather amusing and decided to give it a shot any ways.

A little later on and the Lantern Festival was underway. I was able to clear out a few pictures to make room for these. Hopefully net year we’ll be able to get more pics of them. You will note that the pictures were taking from above. We were at street level and there was a walkway beside the river. There was a huuuuuge lineup to go down the stairs to the walkway. Maybe we’ll get there early next year to get closer and more pictures.