Thursday, 3 September 2009

A block around my Seoul

Well, I've officially been in the Land of Morning Calm for two weeks. Can you believe that? I can't! It seems like so much longer, but in many ways, it feels as though I just stepped onto that plane at Pearson International.

My first solo, international flight. I never thought I'd see the day. It wasn't so bad though... I lucked out and got the most direct flight across the world to my home for at least the next one year.

My 10-day orientation is officially over and I'm inching on the one-week mark of living at my new home.

I should probably give you all a visual of what my friends have come to know as my "Livable Manolo Shoebox".

Yes, I think my apartment for the next year defines the notion that South Korea is shy on space and is a mostly vertical-neighbourhoods community.

I live in a teeny-tiny apartment... but it has everything I need. If you imagine a shoe box and place all the amenities, a bed, a study table, a shelf, a closet, a window and a bathroom in it, you'll pretty much be able to visualize it.

Here's a photo if you need some help. What you don't see is the washroom (I'm taking the photo from there) and the front door, which is to the left of my fridge, at the bottom left of this photo. It may be small, but I'm thankful to have a space that I can call my own.

I live in a brand new apartment building in Anam district. Directly to the north of me, Korea University (a private university) shows off it's large buildings and brilliant architecture. It's quite parallel to my neighbourhood, which is just across the street.

For all my fellow Torontonians, I suppose you could say I live in what we know as The Annex. It's the cool place to be for young, hip university students. It's loud at night, and the neon lights never stop shinning through my window. Actually, now that I think of it, I don't think any of the stores in South Korea turn their neon signs off at any point.

My building, which is still under construction, is off an alleyway. It's gated and has a coded entry, but once past the gate, I come face to face with the back ends of overpriced coffee houses (or caffés) and restaurants.

When I walk along the street to the east of my building, I sometimes feel as though brand-chains came by and threw up two of each on the street.

Examples? Well, I have two 7-eleven's warring across one another, a Starbucks, a 24-hour McDonald's, a Dunkin' Donut's, a Holly's Caffé (which ended up being my kryptonite during the days without Internet)... and the list goes on.

On the same street there's also a handful of PC-bangs (Internet cafes) and about six coffee shops, each filled to the brink with cool and trendy university students. Oh, and I also lost count of all the Italian restaurants. True story.

Flip to the street on the west side of my building. It's kind of scary because of all the bars and open patios that are filled with students and older Korean men, alike. I think this part gets excessively loud at night, but I've begun to drown them out.

All the neon signs in my area have had me walking around in circles a lot. Everything tends to look the same after a while. I've started to look for landmarks to remind me where I am. It's pretty interesting, though, because if I walk through the alleys and side streets between the large neon signs and brand powered chains, I find cute older Korean women selling fruit and items in stores at a much lesser price than the ones that cater specifically to Waegooks (foreigners).

I've also begun to become immune to the three (yes, THREE) billiard halls that I can see directly out my window. I'm on the 5th floor of a six-storey building, so I'm at eye-level with these rooms, which exist on top of cafés and restaurants.

I walk to and from school. It's about a 20-minute walk each way, but I don't mind it. I think overall I lucked out with a pretty good area in the sense of proximity.

I'll have more on my first two weeks in Seoul in upcoming posts.

Till then, thank you for reading!



  1. This is the post I have been waiting for! It is great to see a sneak peak into your life there. Your apartment is adorable, with some cute decorations it could become quite the hot spot. Also, the 24-hour McDonalds and Starbucks made me laugh, can we ever escape them??? Anyway, can't wait to hear about your class :)

  2. I'm picturing a j-school par-tay in your apartment. How's February 23, 2010 for you?

  3. Shoebox indeed... I'm feeling thankful that my place is square-shaped and not a rectangle.

  4. A shoebox but, it is your own so I would say it's a good place for the location.


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