Some things I do to pass the time

Being in a country where you can’t legally ‘earn income’ does put some limits on my activities.  So, between looking for legal ways to be a productive and contributing member of Korean society, I also try to integrate creativity into my life.

First, I am a geek.  I spend a lot of time with my computer, specifically learning Linux.  I love the idea of free and the software is more than mature enough for anyone to use without much fuss.  I, of course, go further than just ‘browse the Internet and read email’, so that means I like to get frustrated a lot when things don’t do what I want them to do :)  It’s part of the fun of being a computer guy.

Second, I try to be social.  While this too can be hampered due to lack of funds, I utilize the goodwill I have built up and make use of a community space I have set up called Don’s Open Brain House.  Here I organize events and group meetings.  Currently the Uijeongbu Foreigner Book Club meets there and shortly we will have a Language Exchange group meeting there as well.  I am working hard at turning this into a creative space where people can express their imagination.

I also have volunteered at some Hogwans (private educational institutes).  This has been fun and I have met some pretty cool kids there.  I also help a friend with the kids she tutors a couple of times per month at the Open Brain House.  In turn, she has help with the club by donating a table and some other things.

At some point last year, I felt the urge to do some drawing.  Having no particular education in this skill, I just found some simple designs and expanded from there.  This lead to the creating of a stick-man comic idea of a Knight who constantly tries to save a Princess from the clutches of a Dragon.  I just put up the first comic online today, please take a gander over there and leave some feedback.  Sketchbook Scribbles.

Of course I like to read and with the Book Club at the Open Brain House, I have no limit on books to read from :)

I am also looking into going to a University here.  More on that as it develops but right now, I am considering Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and their Digital Information Engineering course.

Oh, and obviously studying Korean as well :)

Minimalist by nature

Korea has pushed real hard for their people to be conservative. Even to the point of suffering at times. Some of it on purpose, some of it by design. Lets take something as simple as a bathroom.

From Random Korea 2012

This is a typical apartment bathroom is a single n bachelor placed, this is the bathroom from our first place actually.  There is no tub, there is no dividing wall/glass doors. Everything just gets wet.  Trying to keep a place dry is a task that is daunting.  A friend once asked us how we keep our bathroom so dry.  I told her we keep the bathroom fan running nearly all day and the door mostly closed. It’s the only way to generate any airflow to draw out the moist air.

See, there is no central heating.  There is only floor heating.  It does an admiral job but all that humid summer air just sits around.  You have to buy a fan to move air throughout the place and even then, there will be done dead spots that will start growing mold.

How do Koreans deal with it?  By opening up windows.  In the middle of summer or winter.  It is insanity at its best when your conservative nature goes so far that you open classroom windows in the dead of winter or during the hottest and most humid part of summer.

I won’t even go into details how all the young girls wear skirts and don’t zip up their coats then complain that its cold during winter.  Fashion sense ranks higher than common sense it seems.

Snowfalls, Haircuts and Shopping

I got my first haircut in Korea. I reallllly need to work on my Korean as well as not assuming that hair-clipper setting #3 in Canada is NOT the same as clipper setting #3 in Korea.

I’m no “Ox Baker” but I’m sure he would approve. I think I now have more hair on my face than on my head. Ah well, in 4 months, I’ll be able to get another trim….just not this short.

Like all of the US, and some parts of Canada, they sell Alcohol in all their stores.

This is our local grocery story (GS Supermarket). By far, Soju (Rice-based alcohol) is the cheapest. Typically around $1 a bottle and has an alcohol content of about 20%. I tried a little shot of it awhile ago, not terribly pleasant and it easily explains how easy it is to get drunk over here.

And here we see the first real snowfall of the year.

The snowflakes are huge. No the picture is not zoomed it, this is my ‘view’ out our window. I can almost touch the next building.

While we don’t have Tim Hortons, we do have Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.

Starkbucks in Korean(n)
Starkbucks in Korea(n)

This, I believe, is the first Starbucks in Korea to use the Korean script (Hangul) in its title. This one is in Insadong.

Western food chain stores continually expand over here. This is Korea’s first Taco Bell in Itaewon.

And right by it you have Quizno’s along with Cold Stone Creamery.

Quiznos & Cold Stone Creamery
Quiznos & Cold Stone Creamery

I have had one and almost a second bad experience in Quizno’s (One in Canada and the second here). I’ll just avoid them in the future.

Itaewon is a major tourist/shopping area. They have a TON of street vendors all with these large carts. Here you see them taking them from their parking location to their street spot. They all have little electric motors to help move them.

Let us not forget the ubiquitous Hard Rock Cafe.

A side note on this. The Hard Rock cafes have a saying on each building that says “Love All. Serve All.”, this one does not.

I continually try to meet new people. One of the guys I have met is in the US Military (there are a whole bunch of US bases here). If you are married and have a child, you can get a bigger and much nicer place. He lives in an apartment building but his place is two stories. It’s rather large (I would dare say bigger than our house from Hamilton) but just no backyard. It’s very nice, lots of wood used in decorating, and not the cheap wood either. That being said, the view off his porch gives a bit of an idea of what housing/apartments are like around the Itaewon area.

Had to get the sun rays poking through the clouds

Can you spot the white bunnies on the rooftop? Not gonna speculate on what they being used for, but who knows. I know of some foreigners who keep bunnies as pets here.