Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Neighborhood 2#: A walk to work

About a month ago now, before I came back to the states, I decided to walk to work (because I've become a lazy slug and stopped walking many many months ago even though it's only about 20 minutes) and take some photos of what I see every day on my way to work. For those of you at home, it might give you some idea of what my life here is like, if you're curious. This goes more or less in order from my house to my work.

Here's a gas station. I took this photo about a month ago. The price of gas/ liter is 1638 won/liter. That's $1.42 per liter, or $5.37 per gallon... though I'm not sure which grade of gas that's for. I think my boyfriend generally pays about 100,000 won for every time he fills his tank of his little Kia.
Right across the street from my old building is a whole neighborhood (and I mean a WHOLE neighborhood) which has been set to be demolished, obviously making way for some ginormous apartment complex. I bet at least 1000 people must have been kicked out of this neighborhood... no, probably a lot more. Kind of sad. It's really creepy to walk through too. You would expect that many empty, gutted houses would be full of squatters, but... they really don't seem to be... it's just eerily quiet back there...
Near Sangwangsimni Station there are lots of machine shops... I don't know what they could possibly be doing, but they tend to make a lot of noise doing it... not to mention using their blow torches and hack saws (or whatever the thing that makes lots of sparks when you play with metal is) in the middle of the sidewalk. It seems dangerous to me, but what do I know?

Here's the Gynecologist I went to, right by Sangwangsimni. His English wasn't great, but he has been practicing for 30 years and seems to know what he's doing, even if he is a little rough...

Here's my old dance studio where I used to go back in the day. It was a lot of fun and good exercise, but I'm happy with my Korean class now. I can't really be taking two classes.... that's a little intense... though I am hoping to find a salsa class when I get back....

If you're not familiar with Korea, you might be happy (or unhappy to know) you can get all your favorite American food here, like McDonalds and Pizza Hut. McDonalds is mostly the same as home with some new additions like the bulgogi Burger and the Shanghai spicy chicken sandwiches (I generally avoid these places, but they are good... ).

On the other hand, you might find Pizza Hut to be quite different. Korean pizza is just a little strange... sweet potato filled crust, seafood and corn for toppings, but (save for the seafood) I have really grown to like Korean pizza. Though, not the price of Pizza Hut (try PizzaSchool instead... much more affordable).

Here is the Enter-6 Mall at Wangsimni Station. Wangsimni Station is going through some gentrification. It's the intersection of three subway lines, eventually it will be home to 4 lines, aka, a major hub. Therefore they are going through a process of modernization. Here at Enter-6, which opened about a month after I arrived last year, there is an E-Mart (there is always an E-Mart), "Renaissance Themed Mall", golf range (see the big half dome... its supposed to be huge), water park (yup, you heard me)/ jimjilbang, CGV cinema, not to mention all the big name Korean restaurants like VIPS, Marisco (is that really a big name?) and some others.

Here is the park across the street to my school. No grass really to speak of, but there is so much foot traffic through here, it would probably be decimated anyway. Down here we take our preschoolers out to play for gym.

In the upper part of the park all the old men gather to play their board games. On any day there might be 10 to 50 old men out here playing. Women don't seem to be invited. Soju usually is a normal part of the day for these men, so I try not to come too close (I took this photo with my zoom). Sometimes I get creeped out a little here because there are a lot of homeless men (really homeless) that live in this park... the number seems to have increased since I arrived and I dont know if that's an indicator of the economy or what. The homeless men here tend to be drunk/drinking whenever I pass. The lack of laws regarding public drunkenness in this country is probably my biggest complaint, I like almost every other aspect of living in Korea that I can think of...

Here you can see Lemon Plaza where I used to work. My school is SLP, and upstairs from us is Olympiad. They stole a lot of our older kids when they first opened, but since they don't have a preschool they weren't competition for us there. Those poor folks who work up there work until 10 or 11pm. I couldn't do that... not anymore at least...

Here is the new Lotte Super. It used to be called Lemon Mart (because this is called Lemon Plaza) but a few weeks ago it magically changed. It's really nice to have a supermarket in the building where you work, because you can just stop by on the way home from work. God I love this kind of life...

All the lovely places downstairs from my hagwon. First on your left is Paris Baguette. This is a coffee shop/pastry shop. Personally I hate almost everything here, except their chocolate chip muffins and their baguettes (since they are the only place I can get a baguette conveniently). Next is the 약국 or Pharmacy. The folks here are very nice, I like going here for my pharmaceutical needs. Next is the best Korean food restaurant on the face of the Earth. It kind of looks like a Kimbap Chonguk, but the food is 1000x better. I ate here every day at least once a day while I was an afternoon teacher (sometimes twice... shhhh).

Here's the Ear/Nose/Throat doctor I used to go to. I stopped going when I realized that she diagnosed everyone with tonsillitis... even in Korean when we brought translators. And it didn't matter what you went in for, you walked out with a prescription for 5 different drugs, one always being an antibiotic... for a cold... a cold people. Colds are from viruses, antibiotics are for bacteria. I'm not a doctor and I can tell you that. Haven't you ever heard of Antibiotic Resistances? How 'bout MRSA, does that ring a bell for you???

Anyway, long story short, I gave up going here and treated all my colds the old fationed way... doing nothing and waiting for it to pass. Now that I'm home I got a neti pot and it's been working wonders... definatly coming back with me to Korea.

Here is the church inside the same building as my old hagwon. Coming from a Catholic family, it seems really strange to have a "church" inside of another building, because my idea of "church" is some big stone building with a steeple and stained glass windows, but I guess there are plenty of small protestant churches in the US too that meet in the basement of other buildings.

I hope I don't come off too negative about my neighborhood. Yea, it's not Apgujeong or Gangnam, but I'm happy I lived here and I'm looking for apartments around here for when I return. It's a little less classy than other areas of Seoul, but it feels like real Korea to me, not some ultra-modern tinsel town. I think in 10 years, this is going to be a very different place though... we'll see.

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