Expert on Korea

I’ve been doing a little research on cultural things to learn while in Korea.  Aside from the museums and living museums/folk villages, there hasn’t been too much to go by, since the majority of Koreans live this urban lifestyle.

But I have found a few things and have been running them past my fellow Korean teachers.  These are mostly things they wouldn’t be interested in going to, because it’s mundane to them, and if it’s archaic it can stay that way for all they care.  The history teacher is beginning to become amused by my anthropological curiosity.  “Pretty soon, you will be an expert on Korea and you will have to teach us!”

One interesting project (since I am limited to what’s on-line and in English right now) is called Invil.

It was a project instituted to get remote villages connected to the internet and ultimately keep the villages from dying.  The age of the residents is much older than in Seoul, since many of the children separated from their parents during the economic expansion and some of the parents didn’t want to give up their family homes.  I wonder what the fate of these homes is after the old people pass away, since most young people will probably sell.

It’s about three years into the project, and some of the villages have set up kind of eco-tourism type things.  Homestays and classes are slated in the future.  For the villages around Seoul, I believe they are beginning to become popular with Seoul residents, vs. as a tourist thing.  (One of the girls in my classes actually goes and gardens at one every weekend)  So I find visiting these villages really compelling.

Wednesday Y’s going to take me to exchange my driver’s license for a Korean one.  She didn’t think it was a good idea because I can’t use the GPS in Korea.

Most people here with cars have a GPS system on their dashboard so they can find places, since the street names are irrelevant here.   I’ve watched the cabbies use this, and there seems to be multiple ways of finding an address.  Even if you have just  a zip code, you can at least hone in an an area.  And the GPS system tells you audibly (in Korean) in advance when to turn, etc.

The scarey thing is a lot of these double as t.v. screens and many cabbies are watching t.v. while they drive.  The driving doesn’t seem insane like in Jamaica or Thailand – there is definitely order to everything.  There is quite a bit of rolling through red lights, the buses change lanes as if they were sports cars, and the scooter delivery drivers will show up out of nowhere.  There’s too much horn use, in my opinion.   Also, toll highways seem to be the norm and people use some card to pay.  I am not sure if this is a T-money card or not.  (T-money is the subway card which also works on the buses.  You just refill them whenever they run out.  Used to be you could also get t-money charms for your cell phones, but now your SIM card can double as a T-money card as well, and you can place your phone in a re-charging machine)  I find a card is handier than messing with my phone, but that’s just personal preference.

Then, I will be able to rent a car on the weekends and go visit some of these places.  At these places, I will be able to learn to extract sea salt, catch fish, plant rice, see rural pottery being made, learn straw crafts, stay in a straw hut, forage for wild plants, go mushrooming, etc. etc.  Y saw the photos and cautioned me that these places didn’t look that good in person, and I knew that just from my time volunteering at the organic farm the year before.  But I’m undeterred by all the nay-sayers and think this is a valuable thing to do.  Much more valuable to me than going clubbing on the weekends.  And the idea of going to a place where there are 400 residents, as opposed to 12 million I find really appealing too.

Like everything, I wish I had a Korean speaking friend who wanted to go with me.  Hell, I wish I had a partner in life.  But I don’t.  So I will try and absorb as much of this as I can on my own, even if I don’t know what the hell they are saying to me.

I AM going to learn to make my own straw sandals, damnit!

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