A night out in Seoul

As my time here draws closer to the end, I decided that I needed a good night out with one of my friends.  And thus was planned the random about town adventure.

It started with going back to that Ramen place for some awesome, awesome noodles.  I was really hungry and those noodles hit the perfect spot!

We then walked around the area, to work off that full feeling and did some casual shopping. At one point I saw a game machine that had Minions in it. Had to play it!

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I plunked in 5000won and got 12 tries. I got so damned close many times but ultimately didn’t get one. My friend also tried and got one on the first shot. Technically I set of up for him. This was one of those “shovel” types. See that metal plate on the back, left of the pic? That would move back and forth. So essentially you had to pile minions in front of it and eventually they would get pushed off the ledge. He had more tries left then proceeded to get three more minions to fall off after! By this point we had a small crowd of Koreans watching us and we all cheered. He gave all three to those watching. Totally worth the 10,000won we spent together. We continued our adventure.

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I wanted to get a new hat, looked in a bunch of places, only saw one that had the type I was looking for, she wouldn’t haggle at all! My first hat cost me 11,000won, my second 15,000 but there was no way I was going to pay 20,000 for the same thing!  And who the hell doesn’t haggle here???  Meh, no skin of my back, we left and continued on with our night.  Having had enough of Hongdae, we got into a taxi and hit Sincheon. 

Sincheon had recently shut down a street and turned it into a pedestrian walking path. I love this setup. It promotes more business and more people to come to the area. Also, is generally more pleasant to hang out around and enjoy the night.

We again wandered the area, looking for a bar my friend had been to before but we could not find it. So we settled on a place called Occult. Couldn’t resist a place with a name like that in Korea!

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We walked up the steps to the second floor and my friend commented ” Oh, this is a place where they read Tarot cards for you .”. Strange but I thought, meh, I’m game and we went in. Was a little concerned about that sub-sign though…

The place was pretty much dead. Just one other patron and us.

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The Korean waitress , who spoke really good English, was cool. We chatted with her for a bit bit since the place has an upstairs and she had work to do behind the bar, she asked if we wanted to move over to the bar to keep talking. We said sure and moved on over. So it was the former owner who did the tarot readings so they have stopped. Hence the name. We sat there for about two hours I think. Had a few drinks (never had Amaretto & Coke before…. Tasted kinda like Dr Pepper!) and then we decided to move on.

We were going to go to a casino but when we realised it was midnight and the casino was quite a ways away, we decided to hit Sincheon area instead. Only one subway stop away but we took a taxi. Just quicker and not really that much more on cost. Subway would have cost us 2200won, taxi was 3000won.

We wandered around trying to find a bar my friend has been to before. Not finding it after walking around a lot and setting such artwork as this:
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And the wildest Alice in Wonderland decorated building:

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We eventually settled on a place called Blue Monkey. The steps going down were concerning. There were solid metal steps and I’m thinking that knowing how drunk Koreans can get (indeed after seeing two of them passed out in front of a bar literally sleeping on the ground, their friends standing around while police officers tried to wake them up, unsuccessfully) these steps are pretty much a hazard.

The place was kinda dark but one section has a little slide in it. While amusing, again I questioned the sanity of the owner and how lucky these people are that as far as I know, there aren’t any laws regarding safety rules and such compared to back home.

So another cute waitresses showed us to a table, we sat down, ordered some drinks and cheap cheese nachos while watching music videos on the screens and discussed deep thoughts of the universe.

3am rolled around and we called it a night. Didn’t feel like staying up till 6am when the subway starts again, would have been a total waste of that hotel room I paid for too. So back to a taxi and we ended a good night out.

I grabbed a shower and went to sleep. This was a great night out.

Now this is a day and a half!

Lets start with the literal start of the 12th of June….midnight.

I was out with sure friend, eating food, decided to do a bit of odd school video arcade, grab done ice cream from somewhere.  All in all it went really well.  Now, it was getting late, my knee was bugging me a bit, I was feeling lazy so i decided to take a cab.  Trying to get a cab, in Seoul, between midnight and 1am is impossible.  Spook the fuckers wasn’t is long-distance fares and they will ask you where you want to go before you get in the cab.  Their doors are locked so you can’t even get in and then tell them.  They will simply just drive away.  This even happens to Koreans, so its not a foreigner thing.

So after years of complaining, the government finally opened up a hotline that you can call.  Great…..except that when I called, they were closed and it was forwarded to a stand-by tourist hotline person who sounded like I just woke her up and chorus do nothing for me.  So essentially the help line was useless when you needed it most. Thanks Korea.

Ok, so now what?  I decide to call one of the cab companies.  I got the number off one of the local cabs i know that drive around Seoul.  Even withmy bad Korean, the lady knew where I was and where I wanted to go.  I Hang up and wait.  After 15 mins I get a text message that failed to translate worth a damn.

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I forward this off to my Korean friend, where I was staying, as he was waiting for me. He tells me that the message said there are no taxis in my area.  WTF?  There are literally like thousands driving all over the place!  Mostly ignoring everyone.  Even saw the shady looking mini-van, unmarked, with a taxi “available” windshield light on. 

Ok, now what are my options? I could just keep on trying…..find a motel to stay at….i certainly could not walk back to where I was staying.  Then, out of the blue, one of the Seoul taxis speed in front of me to let some people out.  Well, I wait and while doing so, this other Korean wasps up from the other direction thinking he’s going to grab it.  HA!  Fat chance buddy!  I tell the driver my location and he says ok.  Sweet!  I give him and extra tip and was just fine paying $7 for that taxi ride.

Fast forward sleeping and the bulk of the next day and I get a message from the girl who is doing my tattoo that she can’t do the second part today.  The reason?  Her younger brother tried to commit suicide and she had to go to the hospital to be with her family.  Wow.

Quite the day indeed!

Shhh! Don’t disturb the natives!

S. Korea put to the test for high-pressure exam

South Korea fell silent for annual college entrance exams Thursday, rescheduling flights and restricting traffic as 650,000 students sat a test that will define their adult lives in an ultra-competitive society.

Preparation for the crucial exam starts from primary school, and so does the relentless pressure which has been blamed for everything from early burnout and teenage depression to suicide.

Success in the exam — meaning a secured place in one of South Korea’s elite universities — is seen as the key to everything from future careers to marriage prospects.

With so much riding on the outcome, the day of the test — simultaneously in 1,257 centres nationwide — sees the entire country go into “hush” mode.

The transportation ministry bans all airport landings and departures for a 40-minute period to coincide with the main language listening test.

The military also reschedules airforce drills and live-firing exercises and traffic is barred within a 200-meter radius of the test centres.

Public offices and major businesses, as well as the stock markets, opened an hour later than usual Thursday to help keep the roads relatively clear and ensure the students arrived on time.

Anyone who did get stuck could dial the emergency number 112, and request help from police cars and motorbikes on standby to rush them to the centres.

At Seoul’s Pungmoon Girls’ High School, junior students put up good-luck banners and lined up to shout encouragement as their seniors entered the exam room.

For the equally-stressed parents, for whom their child’s result will partly be seen as a mark of their parental aptitude and devotion, there was little left to do.

Mothers, one flicking through her Buddhist prayer beads, prayed outside the Pungmoon school gate, while others went directly to temples in search for some divine intervention.

The approach of the exam day tends to renew a perennial debate in South Korea about the country’s obsession with education and the pros and cons of the college entrance system.

The bottom line for many is that the examination itself is fair. Everyone takes the same paper, which relies on the multiple choice system to prevent subjective marking.

Security is absolute, with the hundreds of exam setters sequestered for more than a month in a secret location, which they are only allowed to leave once the test has been taken.

They are kept in total isolation, denied phone contact with their families and with everything down to their food waste subject to rigorous examination.

But if the exam treats everyone equally, critics say preparation favours the rich, and can be ruinous for poorer and middle-income families.

According to the Education Ministry, South Korean parents spent 19 trillion won ($17.5 billion) on extra tuition for their children last year — equivalent to about 1.5 percent of the national GDP.

Students average five hours sleep a night as the test nears — a level of physical fatigue that, coupled with the mental anxiety, leads to a discernible spike in suicides around the exam period.

Educational reformers also voice concern over the validity of the exam and the sort of students it produces, pointing to the lack of importance given to creativity or critical thinking.

An editorial in the New York Times on Thursday called the South Korean exam “brutal” and noted that the system goes into reverse after entering college, where graduation is almost guaranteed with even minimal study.

“The paradox is these ridiculous tests don’t necessarily lead to demanding college classes,” the editorial said.

“Rigorous thinking, reading and writing too often is simply not expected. Doing away with rigid entrance exams is just the first step. What needs to be debated is the quality of education once the students are admitted,” it added.

ckp/gh/pdh

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131107/s-korea-put-the-test-high-pressure-exam

Some #Korean news

S Korea ‘regrets’ North’s response to talks

Seoul – South Korea voiced regret on Thursday at North Korea’s decision to spurn an offer of formal talks on removing goods from a joint industrial complex closed by military tensions.

You know, it’s a kinda goofy thing to regret someone else’s actions.  It’s like seeing a bully beat up a kid than YOU regret his actions.  Makes no sense.

Spotlight falls on S. Korea’s gender divide

SEOUL – A South Korean presidential spokesman who was fired after inappropriately touching a woman during a U.S. trip blames a “cultural difference” with America. Other South Koreans say the fault for such incidents lies with a society that lets powerful men get away with harassment.

Yeah, it’s still very much male-dominated here.  That is changing but it will be quite a while before it’s more common place to have gender equality here, more so than other countries and mainly because of 5000 years of history that has to be fought against.  See here for an idea of resistant to change, despite being exposed to the whole world.

Kim Jong-un’s secret daughter: North Korea leader claimed to have fathered love child

It must be hard when you have your hand on the nuclear trigger to keep track of everything.

Today it was claimed North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un fathered a baby girl in 2010 with an unknown woman, two years before his wife gave birth to the couple’s first child.

Oh this should go over quite well in about 17 years or so….

Gay South Korean Film Director Marrying Boyfriend, Breaking Taboos

South Korean filmmaker Kim Jho Gwang-soo announced plans to marry his partner of nine years on Wednesday, a largely symbolic gesture since gay marriage is illegal in South Korea.

This guy has guts.  Good on him!

And what news brief would be complete without a little bit of humour at least eh?

Rodman Rips Obama Over Lack Of Communication With North Korea

Dennis Rodman revealed last month that he is planning another trip to North Korea in hopes of getting through to Kim Jon Un. Now, the former Celebrity Apprentice contestant is ripping into President Obama for his lack of communication with North Korea’s leader!

I find it interesting that for the most part, politics has completely failed in trying to resolve world issues(I mean, how many times do I have to read the phrase “The UN has tightened sanction to stop nuclear parts from getting into North Korea”. Seriously, you guys didn’t know this the FIRST time you started this ‘tightening’??).  Now businesses are stepping up and trying to do so themselves.  This became obvious when Google went to visit North Korea (if you missed that posting the first time, you have to see the cartoon there!  Priceless) and Rodman’s first trip(soon to be a second one).

Americano does not have milk

Ok, let’s take a break from all the hyped-nasty stuff and talk about coffee.

Coffee is a drug

Coffee is a huge hit here.  So much so that when Canada’s national icon, Tim Hortons, came here, they decided against opening.  I suspect it was due to the fierce competition that exists.  When we lived in Seoul, we had not one but TWO major coffee chains in the first floor of our apartment building (Caffe Bene and Tom n Toms). within a one-block radio, there was 2 more major chains (Dunkin Donus and Yogerpresso).  Add one more block heading towards the subway station and you can throw in yet another major coffee chain (Ediya).  That means I can walk by 5 major coffee chains in a 3 minute walk to the train station!  How the heck can you compete against that??

Then there are the coffee types themselves.  See you can’t get a black coffee here, you can only get an ‘Americano’.  Which is black coffee.  The Koreans are genuinely shocked when I tell them they don’t call it Americano in America.  “Really?”  Oh I am so tempted to use that sheeple word again…..

And they also don’t use cream….ever.  If you want a coffee with milk…well….watch this xtranormal video.

That pretty much sums it up nicely if you walk into a coffee shop and want to order a ‘regular’ coffee.  Here there is a lot of self-serve, so if you want sugar in your coffee, you go to the self-serve stand, add in your own (they also have this cool liquid sugar, I find it mixes quick and better).    Don’t even think about asking for a ‘double-double’, you’ll just be greeted with blank stares.

 

Stop with the hype already…geeze….#North Korea ain’t going to do squat

The term Sheeple is insanely accurate when it comes to those who listen to the news.  It is absolutely ludicrous for anyone to be afraid of a war actually happening.  Do you know why?  Let me tell you:

First, and this should be a rather LARGE clue.  Not a single embassy has issued a travel advisory.

From the Canadian Embassy Site:

SOUTH KOREA – Exercise normal security precautions

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for South Korea. Exercise normal security precautions. (emphasis mine)

Unlike their warning for North Korea.

NORTH KOREA – AVOID ALL TRAVEL

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to North Korea (officially named the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) due to the uncertain security situation caused by North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program and highly repressive regime.

There is no resident Canadian government office in the country. The ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is extremely limited.

Do you SEE the difference?

Here’s the US Embassy in Seoul.

A Security Message for U.S. Citizens

The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK). (emphasis mine)

The US Embassy on North Korea:

Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of

March 14, 2013

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens about travel to North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK).(Actually, they go into rather LARGE depth in their warning.)

So stop your belly-aching and whining and fear-mongering about North Korea.  The news is NOT your friend in this (or any other really) matter.  They are there for one reason and ONE reason only….to make money but oh, they got you sooooo good.  There are people who are listening to some fear because of fancy words put into the media, fueled even further by paranoid families that they have decided to quit their English teaching jobs here and go home.  They don’t put a single, solitary REAL thought into the possibility of it actually happening.  They only listen to the media (yay for profits!) and give up to their fears.

Have a nice flight home you people.  Those who don’t bother to look into things for themselves.  Those who let others make decisions for them.  Those who have no spine.

War does NOT make a ruler popular.  The Kim dynasty has a history of making threats after leadership change.  This is all ‘sabre-rattling’.  It is a ‘war of words’.  It is all talk.  If you think the vast majority is poor now, how do you think they could possibly handle any-type of prolonged fighting?  Hell, even China is getting pissed at them, and China is their only real friend (not counting the Iran connections…).

Nothing is going to happen.

If it does, you have my explicit permission to say “I told you so.”  Till then, Grow a pair!

#South Korea banks

South Korean ATM (Image courtesy of travelpod.com)

The security in banking here is a mixed bag.  Sometimes it is overlook, other times it is laughable.

In Korea, you don’t pay bills, you transfer money to a company account.  Amounts to the same thing in the end but there is a difference, subtle as it is.

First, just to look at the bank website, you are forced to install their software.  It is a combination off key logger and firewall.  Last year the government finally the banks to let people use a browser other than only that insecure IE one.  This is good news :)

While online, the software monitors your habits, obstensively to make sure nothing ‘funny’ is going on that might compromise the security of the site or your browser.

What is interesting is that unlike North America (or at least Canada), you don’t automatically get internet banking.  You have to ask for it.  It is an added feature with no extra cost.  They give you this security card with a bunch of numbers in a couple of sets of columns.  When you go online, the website will ask for random parts of those numbers.

The card you have will look like this but obviously without the dots :)

Ok, so once you have mastered this little bit, you also need to know that you have to ask for shopping privileges.  Yes, it is also something you have to ask for so that you can use your card to buy things.  It’s almost like “Well, what the hell can you do with your bank without asking for a feature?”  Desposit and withdrawn.  That’s about it.

Now, back home we have these keypads in which to enter in our PIN code so that we can approve the purchase that it was done by us.  Reasonably secure.  Here, Korea decided to get all “high-tech” and go with a digital signing pad (like you see with the UPS guy when you sign for your package).  The sad thing it that it’s a wasted technology.  The Koreans, they just scribble any old line…with their finger nail.  They don’t even bother with the plastic stylus.  Hell, at one restaurant I handed the bill with my bank card (expecting him to bring a machine to my table) and when he brought me back the receipt I asked him about signing.  He replied “I already did for you.” with a pleasant smile!  Yeah, it’s a pathetic system which just means, don’t loose your damn card!  To be fair, it is severely unlikely that anyone would ever do anything and steal money from your account.  That is just not the way things happen here (unlike that time I lost $200 from my account in Canada because I forgot my card in the machine and the cops could care less about it…).

The other day I saw something new and something that every bank machine and bank website should have!

Now this is smart security!

Sorry for the glare, couldn’t be helped.  This simple screen, shown when you chose the option to transfer, would severely cut back on those Nigerian Scams! 419 Eater does an amusing job at trying to strike back but having a screen like this would make a few more people stop and think.

Can’t leave #Seoul yet it seems…

I’m currently on a bus back to Seoul tonight.  The plan was to stay in Icheon till Wednesday, head into Seoul Wednesday night, stay at a friends and get the early morning bus down to Sacheon.  This has been changed a fair bit now.

See, my wife had some training to go to before she officially starts her contract.  Her contract starts on three first but the training is on the 28th.  Because of how far away it is from Seoul, there is no convenient way to get to the bus terminal, and get on a bus that takes 4 hours, and get to her city in a trainable time for training.

Yesterday we found out that her training is not in her city but Changwon(the capital of the province) 2 hrs away (I think it isn’t that far, it was an exaggeration on their part).  So she gets Todd she’s has to be there instead.  Ok, not a big deal but kinda confused about our stuff arriving in the other city the next day. Then they tell to have me meet then in this same city.  Doesn’t make sense for both of us to be there only to travel again another two hours for me.  Whatever, this process is getting tiresome.

So, now too why I am heading back to Seoul a day early.

A friend of mine has an apartment near where my community club is located.  She only uses that place for most of the well.  She got a real good deal but stays with get parents on weekends or her boyfriend.  Now she is getting rid of the place and has offered her bed (insert obvious joke here) to me for the club.  This is excellent running add I plan on coming back to the club twice a month for the language exchange class I am holding, and of course I won’t travel back down south the same day.  So since she needs to move out this week, I have too come back to Seoul early to move the bed.

This has got to be the single most complicated move I have ever fire.  Even more so than leaving Canada!

Roughing it in #Seoul, #South #Korea

Since we are moving, and that our stuff had to get stored yesterday, we have pretty much packed up everything.  Breakfast this morning was a toasted bagel with cheese.  Yet, how does one toast a bagel when one has no kitchen utensils?  It ain’t pretty but check out how I did it.

Two cheese bagels from Paris Baguette, some butter and a multi-tool!

 

Oh yes, we cut the bagels with a common utility tool. Of course I washed the blade thoroughly.

 

These cheese bagels have cheese inside of them too!
Yup, toasting them over the oven because the toaster was packed yesterday.

 

Toasted…not perfectly but it’s better than not at all.
Some butter and a slice of cheese for mine and breakfast is served!