05.04.2010 - 24.05.2010 20 °C
We arrived in Seoul in the beginning of April, which coincided with the end of Winter in South Korea this year. After one night spent in Seoul we went down to live with Bomi's parents who live in Chinju, on the South Coast. Her parents fortunately seem to like me well enough. That's a great relief in a society where centuries of Confucianism have deeply entrenched the ideas of patriarchy and filial obediance. Anyway, we were just in time for Spring season, which is extremely colorful and beautiful in South Korea:
I really like the cherry tree blossoms. But it lasts only for a week or two, then all the white petals fall to the ground.
Bomi's parents own a cabin in the hills, one hour west of Chinju. We spent some days there, it's very relaxing:
These little mounds are everywhere in South Korea. They are tombs. People here like to bury their relatives in places that are in concordance with Feng Shui principles.
Bomi's brother started his two year military service 5 month ago. On one of his free week-ends we went to visit him. We visited a National Park and stayed the night in a cabin there. Here are some pictures from the north of South Korea:
The nature is usually very clean in South Korea. It's a welcome change from India.
Bomi, her brother Xi, and his girlfriend Jong He.
Yep, the beard's back on Bomi's insistance. She says it make's me look more human and less like a robot.
There's a Buddhist temple inside the National Park. It has become such a tourist attraction, it must be a real challenge for the monks:
All the temples in South Korea were colorfully decorated for the Buddha's birthday, which was May 21st.
All of us together with Bomi's parents.
Bomi's father is a sword-fighting psychology professor and poet. He practices kumdo (the Korean version of kendo) every morning. Needless to say that both his children excel at it too and know how to kick my ass. Here are pictures and a video of kumdo practice:
WIth food and shelter assured, it was time to start looking for a job. Thanks to Bomi's help I managed to contact some climatology professors and asked them about post-doctoral researcher positions. I got a couple of offers and decided to start working at the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute (KORDI), which is located in Ansan, just outside Seoul (forests and parks around and still reachable by metro). After some battles with South Korean bureaucracy I managed to convince them that I am not an illegal cheater and lier, and I hope to get my working visa tomorrow. Bomi and I also found a small apartment in Ansan and we're going to move in tomorrow. It looks like I am going to spend at least one year here in South Korea. I am afraid this means that for now this blog will be updated a bit less frequently, since my day-to-day life is unlikely to feature many wacky adventures anymore. I will still update it once in a while, though, when important stuff happens.
My future plans are uncertain. I should have enough money in one year to continue on to the American continent. However, I may like it here. For now the only relatively certain thing is that I will be here for one year. Enough moving around, now it's your turn... Come and visit me :-)
Some random things about South Korea:
Koreans are big fans of hot baths. Thus there are spa-like public hot baths everywhere. They are open 24 hours a day and feature hot baths, sauna, massage, fitness equipment, cafeteria, internet, TV, cartoon books, and even dormitories. They usually cost less than ten dollars and you can stay there as long as you want. I love them!
Koreans in general have the proficiency in English that you would expect from Uighurs or Pygmes. For people that are extremely well educated, this is quite astonishing.
Korea was called the "Hermit Kingdom" in the past because they didn't get involved in international affairs and did not care for external influence. Although this is now changing, this part of the heritage is still present in North Korean reclusiveness and South Korean ATM's that have worse international connectivity than even Mongolia.
The Korean alphabet was scientifically invented over 500 years ago to help increase the literacy of underprivileged people such as peasents and women. It's logical structure makes it very easy to learn.