I'm picking out a thermos for you

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Rough Life...

So far, life in Korea has been pretty tough on me. For example, after my week of wining, dining, and sightseeing thanks to the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation, I finally got to my lab last Friday. At last, I was going to have to settle down and do some actual work!

Or, maybe not - because I arrived just in time to attend the lab's annual retreat! Yes, after one afternoon spent in lab, I went along with everyone to Danyang, famous both for being in the middle of nowhere and for hot springs.

We listened to a few science talks, ate some traditional Korean foods (these people are big on soup, not so big on drinking water), and stayed in a sweet hotel, where I finally experienced sleeping like a Korean: on the floor. Surprisingly, quite comfortable (and good for the back, I'm told).

And we fulfilled the whole "Asian tourists on a bus" stereotype, by trekking around to a ginormous Buddhist temple, Cheondong cave, and a weird pagoda on top of a mountain. Lots of pictures with the V sign were had.

And finally, I visited Aquaworld, the only indoor water park in Korea. Complete with "hydro zet" and "basher wall system", whatever those might be.

Other notes from the weekend:

- Koreans love wearing clothes with English on them, but I'm not sure if everyone understands what their shirts say. Case in point, the woman I saw on Sunday with A-cup breasts wearing a shirt that said, "I see you've already met the twins." I thought it impolite to take a picture, so you'll have to imagine.

- Speaking of English, can I interest you in some:

(I'm entitled to make fun, since my Korean is perfect. Take, for example, this weekend, when I was playing a drinking game with my labmates. At the start of this game, you are supposed to yell "shijak," meaning start. I, however, insisted on yelling "shikdang," which means food. "Food! Food!" They must have just thought I was hungry...)

- The concept of "going Dutch" has not made it to Korea. Instead, it's the responsibility of the oldest or most senior member at dinner to pick up the check! Needless to say, I have been loving this - I haven't bought a meal yet! This is despite of the fact that I'm actually older than some of my labmates, because the rule doesn't seem to apply to foreigners. Before certain people start accusing me of being cheap (it's happened before - you know who you are), I have forcibly tried to pay on several occasions, only to have my money refused over and over again. In the meantime, I'll just keep on trying to pay, and enjoying it if they don't let me...

- And on the topic of food, during the trip to Danyang, we stopped for food at a Korean rest stop. Since I didn't recognize anything on the menu, I just picked something random. And then I became very confused during lunch, because everyone seemed overly concerned about me: "Is it okay? Are you sure? If you don't like it, we can get you something else, etc. etc..." Turns out, I had unknowingly ordered the spiciest thing on the menu, and they were all worried that the white man couldn't handle it - but I am proud to say I slurped every last noodle and downed every last bit of random, pickled vegetable (it's very unlike me to not join the clean plate club). I am white man, hear me roar!


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