09 August 2012

Top 10 Things I Miss About Seoul

It's been a little over a month since I left the Land of the Morning Calm. So much has happened since then and I am thrilled to be back home, but I've also been thinking about all the things I miss, so here's my Top 10...

10. Fastest Internet in the World -- Nope, I'm not kidding! With an average connection speed of 13.8 Mps, South Koreans enjoy the fastest connection speed in the world! Canada's not even in the Top 10.

9. Korean BBQ -- Galbi, Dahk Galbi & Samgyeopsal, oh my! Sure, we have Korean restaurants in Montreal, but it's just not the same.

8. Stuff on Sticks -- This may sound strange, but some of my favourite food in Korea comes on a stick. I took this photo of candied strawberries in Edae and yes, they're even better than candied apples! But wait... there are even more things on sticks in Korea! At any convenience store, you can find cheap (under $1.00) and delicious ice cream on a stick and I don't mean popsicles. I'm talking silky, smooth, delicious ice cream in flavours like pistachio, walnut, melon and of course, chocolate. Street meat also abounds in Korea. I like the marinated chicken skewers and the giant sausages. The best invention though, has got to be potato chips on a stick! Watch this video to see how they're made...

7. Ondol -- Best. Invention. Ever. Ondol is underfloor heating and it was invented in Korea thousands of years ago. In fact, the earliest use of Ondol has been found at an archaeological site in present-day North Korea. A Bronze Age archaeological find, circa BCE 1000, discovered in Unggi, Hamgyeongbuk-do, in present-day North Korea, shows a clear vestige of Ondol (formerly known as Gudeul) in the Excavated Dwelling unearthed at the archaeological site. How cool is that? Now, why doesn't every Canadian dwelling feature underfloor heating? Good question.

6. Shopping -- Okay, okay... so I love shopping everywhere, but you don't get free stuff everywhere, do you? Although Tokyo, London & Paris are my top three favourite cities for shopping, Seoul makes it into my top 10 for the free stuff alone. I didn't buy as many clothes as I did in 2008, but that's because mu luggage was lost in 2008, so I had no choice. Long story. Korean skincare and cosmetics shops such as Skin FoodEtude House and The Face Shop are what I miss the most, again, for the free stuff alone!

5. Historical Landmarks -- I certainly miss going by not one, but three of Seoul's grand palaces every day on the bus ride to work. I can't quite put into words what it's like for someone who comes from a country that is so young by comparison to have had the opportunity to live in a country so rich with history. I felt the same way living in Japan and on my travels in Europe. Most people take these things for granted. I don't. To the left is a photo I took of Gyeongbokgung Palace in 2008.

4. Public Transit -- It's cheap. It's efficient. It's amazing.

This is a map of the Seoul Metro...

This is a map of the Montreal Metro...

Enough said.

3. Jimjilbangs -- I have a spa addiction. I'm not kidding. It's a very serious addiction. The trouble is, in Canada, spas are a luxury -- with a price tag to match -- so I don't get to go as often as I'd like to. In Korea, jimjilbangs are a part of everyday life, so they are very affordable. I was once locked out of my apartment for almost 24 hours and what did I do? I went to a local jimjilbang, of course. I had a bath, brushed my teeth and had somewhere to rest my weary head, all for about $5.00. Granted, I slept on a mat in a room full of strangers, but nonetheless. I love jimjilbangs so much that I chose to write about them in my final piece for a local Gwacheon newspaper during my 2008 Korean stint. You can read that article here: It's a Spa, Spa World. It's on page 13 and it's rather easy to find, as it's one of the only articles that's not in Korean!

2. My Colleagues -- I can't speak highly enough of my colleagues at Maple Bear Canadian School. They are a dedicated, caring, loveable bunch and I miss them terribly! Life wasn't always easy during my year abroad, but they kept me grounded and they made me smile every, single day. When you're far from home, being surrounded by supportive people means more than words can say. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have met them and to have worked with them.

1. My Students -- I get choked up just thinking about how much I miss these kids! I didn't update this blog as often as I would've liked to during my year in Korea, but when I did, I often spoke of them. I honestly feel like these kids taught me a great deal more than I taught them. I will remember them, always. 

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