Seoul, Nanta!, Recovery, Departures

Well, it looks like a week two wrap up is in order. I didn’t mean to get so behind, but you know how it is, when you’re sick, you don’t really want to do anything. I still had to work full days, but I didn’t really have an appitite after work and I haven’t been watching my Korean shows when I wake up. Nor was I posting as much as I like. I was tired.

But not any more!!! I’m now more or less recovered. Well, the bad part is over. My throat is alright and my voice is recovered, which are the important parts. I’ve still got a bit of a cough and a little mucus, but that’s nothing that can get in the way of my everyday life.

So! What have I got to tell you, dear readers? All kinds of stuff. I’ve already relayed my pharmacy story, and I’m sure some minor cool events were missed, but let’s just jump to the biggest events of the week. I’ll make up for the other stuff in the coming days.

This will probably be a long post, so I’ll go ahead and put the break here.

March 1 is a national holiday in Korea. The closest we have in the states is Independence day, but in reality, March 1 is one of four independence related holidays. March 1 is when the first public displays of resistance against the Japanese Occupation occurred. It is actually a pretty fascinating bit of history, and I would implore those with an interest in history to read up on it (look for “Samil Movement”) but I’ll give you a quick and dirty run down. Basically, a group of Korean nationalists made a declaration of independence and were then arrested shortly afterward. A large number of protests and demonstrations started, which the Japanese army attempted to suppress. They failed to suppress the sentiment, but they did massacre a large number of Korean nationalists. Korean books give numbers around 7,500 deaths, 15,800 wounded, many more arrested. Japanese books give numbers of around 500 deaths, and around 15,000 arrests. This was really a fairly tragic event that I wasn’t too knowledgeable about, so I found it fascinating. It also didn’t seem to be that somber of an event either.

Which brings me to point of the above history lesson. Thursday was a day off for everyone, so we purchased tickets to see Nanta! in Seoul before Sarah left. I had already purchased the tickets, but I was sick, so I wasn’t sure if I should risk the long trip to Seoul. I buckled down and decided I’d do it, so we stopped at a pharmacy [see last post] and then boarded the subway. The subway was fairly similar to what I had seen in Tokyo, although there seemed to be more safety precautions around. The subway ride was a nice hour long trip and then we were in Insadong, Seoul. Insadong was fascinating and crowded, with the Korean flag all over the place to celebrate the holiday. There were also children drawing pictures of the flag and traditional music and reading of the declaration of Independence. It was a solid display of proud patriotism that I just didn’t see very often at home.


Take, for example, these flag trees

I would have loved to wander around Insadong longer, but we were on a tight schedule, so we kind of just passed through. I’ll make a return trip…maybe next weekend. So we went on to Nanta!, although i can’t remember which theater we were at. But I’ll tell you this, if you visit Seoul, make sure you set aside some time to see Nanta!. For those who haven’t heard of it….it’s a musical….play…performance…thing. It is a musical, but there are no lyrics, nor is it really that much like any broadway style show I’ve seen. It is a play and tells a story, but there is more or less no dialog. It is definitely a performance, with dancing, knives being thrown, juggling…even cooking going on, but it isn’t exactly a circus event either. What it definitely is, is a show. It was entertaining as hell. It was hilarious, with an excellent slapstick sense of humor and it was an amazing display of skill on the part of the performers involved. We bought VIP tickets and sat in the second row and still only payed 60,000W (roughly 60USD) which is a steal considering that many musicals have tickets that cost 100-300USD. Granted, Nanta! wasn’t quite as long as, say, Cats, for example, I had more fun seeing this. Best of all, it felt very Korean, but was very accessible. I’d love to attach pictures, but they didn’t allow cameras during the performance. (A curious note for expats: If you attempt to order a ticket on the English language version of the site, they will not allow you to use a Korean card, you have to use the Korean language ticket reservation if you want to use your Korean bank account, which is strange and inconvenient)


N Seoul Tower from below.

Following Nanta!, I had more or less depleted my stamina and I was supposed to have my other batch of medicine before bed, yet my current dose had more or less worn off. Regardless, we all wandered for a while, then got a taxi to N Seoul Tower, or Namsan Tower. Cabs are relatively inexpensive way to get around. Curiously, it is impossible to take a car up to N Tower unless it is a tourist bus or a taxi carrying foreigners. This is to reduce the mountain traffic. So the taxi took us all the way to the top. The admission price to get to the observation deck was about 9,000W, which was pretty reasonable when compared to CN Tower and Tokyo Tower, the other two notable towers I’ve been to the top of. N Seoul Tower isn’t actually THAT tall, but it is on top of a mountain. It also has the fastest elevator in the world. We were told to look up and they played a 3 second video during the trip. I thought that was a bit strange at the time, but now that I think about it, it might have had something to do with pressure. My ears popped, but it was almost a delayed reaction because of the speed of the elevator.

Anyway, N Seoul Tower had one of the best views I’ve ever seen. Tokyo Tower was during the summer and it was so muggy. I had been up Tokyo Tower twice and at the time it was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen, but CN Tower’s superior height and visibility was a bit more impressive. Even though N Seoul Tower wasn’t quite as high, the night view, relative cost, and another factor that I’ll return to in a second, may mean it is my favorite tower I have climbed thus far.

As for that other factor? Tokyo Tower and CN Tower were being visited by tourists when I was there. Families. N Seoul Tower is a date spot. It only costs 9,000W, making it at least as affordable as a movie, and the gift shop is set up with adorable date stuff like “love locks” that couples sign and hang on trees outside the tower, or “love tiles” that are signed tiles (wooden ones in the observatory, ceramic ones at the base) that couples write messages and then immortalize on the wall. It was actually slightly awkward because our group consisted of a couple (who did a love lock) and two single people (one of these was me). On one hand I wanted to give them a bit of space, on the other hand, I was sick, at least an hour from home, didn’t currently own a phone and could hardly speak any Korean. I wanted to stay close.


The view of Seoul, at night, from N Seoul Tower.

Following the fantastic (but tiring) trip to N Seoul Tower, we rode the cable car back down. This was not a pleasant experience. I covered my mouth to avoid coughing on anyone, but we were really jammed in like sardines. I’ve actually got a fear of heights, which I’ve largely got over, but a swaying cable car jammed with about a hundred people is a bit much. Once we were safely on the ground, we took a taxi all the way home.

Today, about two days later, we said farewell to Sarah, the teacher I’m replacing, and Ben, her boyfriend. They left a few hours ago for the Philippines. I’d say the feeling is bittersweet. I’m excited to get to teaching without a shadow. I’m excited to have my own bed room. I’m excited that Sarah gave me her cell phone to use while I wait for my Registration Card to arrive in the mail (one of the missed minor events was my trip to the immigration office). But I liked working with Sarah, and I’m grateful for the help she’s given me since I’ve arrive in Korea. She really helped me feel welcomed. And I knew Ben for even less time, but he was also incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. I hope I can keep in touch with them, even if I don’t get to see them again.


~ by James on March 3, 2012.

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