|Above is a panaroma shot of our new apartment taken from the living room. The entry, guest room and office are down the hallway. We're located just outside a suburb of Ulsan called Hogye, in a typical apartment complex. The surroundings are nice at the moment, but I suspect it will be enveloped in urban sprall by the time we leave. After two months I have just about figured out all the controls and gadgets for the place, including the remote controls for the TV, DVD player, sound system, satellite, lights and air conditioners. The main control panel is still kind of a mystery, but I can buzz the chicken delivery guy in so that should do for now. The trial and error has been interesting at times. Apparently the lights can be used as an alarm clock, which I found out when they all came on at 3:30 AM. The less said about the fifteen button toilet control the better, but damn it one of them must mean "happy ending". Another control panel in the bathroom apparently has an emergency alarm, which I found out when my apartment started yelling at me while I was brushing my teeth. At times I feel like the apartment is made by the same people who made HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, although I don't recall them having an absolutely unneccesary built in ultrasonic fruit and vegetable cleaner. Even the fridge starts bitching at you if you have the door open for too long. If they can get it to use military terms in everyday conversation and tell crying children that it will give them something to cry about, the Koreans will have perfected an electric replacement for Blaine.|
Besides the language barrier there is no major culture shock here, it is more a case of alot of small differences to get used to. Some are confusing, others I just find funny. My favorite so far is that couples often dress alike, like the Nike couple below. This couple is far from the best I've seen, but it was the only one I've had the camera ready for. In the stores you'll even see mathcing underwear for sale. I keep finding myself wondering where the dressing alike fits into the dating sequence. Is it a sign of "going steady" or is it a big step along the lines of moving in with one another? After a break up are you alllowed to wear your half of the matching pair?|
Marketing in general here also provides me with endless entertainment. Why is that CGI turnip yelling/rapping at me about cheque cashing? I guess its no worse than "three bucks on a hun, and its open late". Why do I want a beer with fiber, and how is it "exclusively designed for well-being of young generation"? Why are apples available individually wrapped, and how can they possibly be Disney branded? Why does every store sale require scantily clad young girls dancing on platforms out front (not that I'm complaining)? I'd like to buy a USB extension cable, do you take visa or should I just stuff some cash in one of their wastebands?
T-shirts with english writing on them are also quite popular, the only problem being most of them make little to no sense. I suspect the same is true of most the asian writing tatoos people get back home. I'd love to get pictures of some of the more absurd shirts, but I'm a little old to be going around asking young girls if I can take a picture of their chest. This afternoon smoothie actually came out my nose when I spotted a portly old lady sporting a "NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A CORNER" shirt. I almost asked her if I could take a picture of her chest.
|Ulsan is very much a modern industrial city, but the contrasts can be quite striking. Within 100 feet of giant apartment complexes you'll find rice paddies and vegetable farms. On the coast in a matter of a few minutes walk you can go from traditional fisherman, to one of the worlds biggest ship building yards, and shipping ports, to a beach, and keep going to the whaling port. Downtown the giant produce and seafood market is about a block away from a giant modern department store (complete with ferris wheel).|