Thursday, July 07, 2011

Korea, Day 2

All tuckered out.

I got my first taste of jangma (monsoon) today. It's no laughing matter, this monsoon stuff- it rained for hours today, which I realized that I'm not used to. Everywhere I've lived or visited has had brief showers, not really constantly pouring rain.

Luckily, my residence has (giant) umbrellas, so I had one for the day.

This morning (before the rain), I went over to my new workplace to check it out and meet the people that I've been e-mailing for months on end. The differences in the way that Americans and Koreans do business, deal with visual effects, is astounding and dismaying.

After my morning at the company, I met my cousin, who came over from Seoul. We had lunch (Chinese-Korean, one of my favorites), came back to look stuff up online at my house, then set off in the pouring rain to try and get me a bank account and a cell phone.

The bank account (KB Bank) took a while (I think about an hour and a half?) because we ended up having to see two different people, fill out about five forms, and wait.

In the U.S., we're all about lines. We stand in lines all over the place, even at banks. In Korea, you take a ticket (printed out from an ATM-like machine) depending on what type of transaction you need, then wait in areas with lots of seating and reading material. A worker walked about with little Yakults and teensy straws for everyone that was waiting. I've loved Yakults since I was a wee child, and it was a nice gesture.

After exchanging the rest of my American dollars, depositing most of it into my brand new account, opened with the help of my passport and American driver's license, and getting a debit card, I was exhausted and the bank was long closed.

We traipsed a few blocks away to the big SK Telecom store (not one of the small outposts that are all over the place) to inquire about renting a smartphone. I had a realization over lunch and conversation with my pragmatic cousin that I would probably be really frustrated with a dumbphone.

SK Telecom was a bust, because the only rented phones I could acquire were dumbphones. My cousin said he knew of a way to rent a smartphone online, so he said he'd look into it.

We ran off to Lotte Department Store, where my cousin got on the subway (it's the most amazing thing ever- the subway stop is in the basement of the department store, where there's a food court and (super expensive) grocery store) and I spent a lot of money on very little food. (My mother's going to fall off her chair if she sees this, but I paid more than 18,000 won for grapes and tomatoes. The good news is, the grapes and tomatoes are beautiful.)

Just the fact that my only mode of transportation has been walking has been tiring and somewhat stressful, because I need to always be at least slightly aware of where I am and how I can get home. I'm still having the problem that I mentioned earlier about being turned around- west is east and east is west, and I have no idea why- so that's definitely contributing to my stress of walking everywhere.

What I've realized in my bank and cell phone adventures today is that I am totally not Korean. I speak Korean passably- people at the office were shocked (which I think is probably not a good thing, that they didn't think I could speak Korean at all)- but I couldn't have figured out the forms at the bank by myself. And my cousin was asking questions to a girl at the cell phone store, while I wondered what they were talking about.

All you non-Korean-speaking foreigners in Korea, I commend you. I am amazed by you all, because I'm confused and I speak the language.

Good news, the office is about a seven minute walk from home. Bad news, the walk takes me through a park for only about thirty seconds, then I have to walk through a giant shopping area with a billion stores. I have a feeling that I'll be spending my paychecks as soon as I get them. -__-

I only have a weekend left until I have to actually start working. Sadness. I would say that I'll try to make the best of it ... but I really doubt that I'll want to do anything at all if it keeps on raining (other than get some food at some point).

Tomorrow is the day that I'm going to try to walk down the block to Homeplus, which people say is like E-Mart, which is like a nicer, cleaner, bigger Target with groceries. Or maybe a smaller, cleaner Costco. The rain. It needs to stop for a few hours so I can go!

Watching crazy Korean TV and falling asleep. I'm going to try to take more pictures, but the weather, the fact that my cell phone doesn't work here, and the constant fog makes it impossible.

I'm still not feeling jetlagged, and hoping it stays that way.

More updates tomorrow. I'll try my super expensive grapes and tomatoes- they better be amazing.