Dane and I, two chemical engineering students at UF, were sent to South Korea for two months.
Web oseasinkorea.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In here, please

So, it has been decided that further posting shall resume in here and only there.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


This is my last week in Korea :(, I'll be posting some stuff later on this week.

For now, enjoy the pics from the FIRST week in this country.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

From good to cubicle

It seems to be that every time Korea plays, my overall experience watching their game decreases significantly. Nothing can surpass, in my opinion, that glorious night in downtown Daegu when Korea defeated Togo 2-1. I mean, there was everything: victory, chicken wings and pizza, lots of cold beer (HITE), some actual females (!), lots of yelling (and hugging), and...did I mention victory with a cold shower of beer included at the end? Well, there was...

From there, Korea's second game wasn't all that great, mainly because I had to stick with the elitist, cocky bastard of Junho, and also because once the game ended (at six am), I had to return (walking) back to the university. Walking for an hour and a half is not bad, walking for an hour and a half, half-drunk and with no sleep during the last twenty four, twenty five hours, is a pain in the ass! Despite these minor difficulties, the game was still somewhat descent, as Korea managed to provide the audience with a goal, and the game ended in a promising 1-1 against France. Also, I got to see a facet of true, soccer love (well, not really, I just want to sound dramatic), as school girls in their uniform were walking to their school straight from watching the game:


Last night, however, things really did reach rock bottom (?); I went to have some delicious, Korean dinner with a fellow friend whose name I can't recall (typical), and who, after paying for it,was kind enough to drive me back to my studio (saving me the usual twenty minute walk that I must undertake twice a day from the lab to my studio and vice versa). After a long and refreshing shower, I decided to take a quick nap.

Bad idea.

I overslept, and when I returned to the lab (three hours after), everyone had already left to watch the game (this was eleven thirty pm, the game started at four am!)! I tried to call some other people, but one of them had to take a test the following day (Won Chul), and the rest simply didn't answer (the bastards!).


Of the three Korean games I could've missed, I chose the right one; Korea lost 2-0 against Switzerland, and with that, their chance to play in the second round of the World Cup. It would've sucked to have been up that early in the morning, and then walk back to the university just like last time, without a goal to reminisce on. So I guess the free dinner and the long, relaxing nap WAS good at the end. As they say, "it's all good!"


Also, I got to watch the game in a somewhat comfortable cubicle, where I didn't have to worry about the strong, cold breeze blowing through Daegu that night, or of walking endlessly back to the lab at six am, and--even thought I wasn't surrounded by the traditional sea of red composed by all "them Koreans" with "them Devil shirts"--listening to the Korean commentators DID add a little bit of excitement to the whole thing:

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Impromptu Seoul

So Song-heong's "hometown" is Korea's capital, Seoul, and his "conference" was more like a US-visa application.

I can't say I was disappointed at the prospect of staying two days in the said city; I mean, I rather stay in a metropolitan area rather than revisiting the previous experience of farming for Won Chul's mother. Nothing wrong with that; I mean, when you come from a third world country, you should be able to perform some basic, farming tasks, right?

Not really.

Anyhow, the trip was hectic to say the least. We left YU at seven pm to reach Seoul station by 7:45pm. The trip was uneventful, and once there, I was confronted with the following scene:

Big ass screens are to Seoul streets as PC rooms are to Geyongsang's; these massive, digital canvases were everywhere and they were playing all sorts of crazy shit on them. For instance, I saw some clips of a woman hitting her husband's mother on an approximately 200 inch one, as if this was your typical Barney-meets-Mickey type of scene. Aside from that, the colossal concrete monsters dominated the rest of the scenary, and the overall vibe I got from Seoul, far surpassed that from both Daegu and Gyongsang.

We took a cab to his condo, which compared to what I've been living in thus far, seemed as an extravagant amount of space. I got a big room (with no bed but plenty of floor) with its own desktop and a few hundred, hard-back cover books. Seon-heong told me we were going out, which in my mind translated as: be ready to indulge yourself in all imaginable endeavors of a debauchery nature, but at the end was more like: let's get a pitcher of beer and some snacks (which in this case were Corn Flakes), and sit on our asses and watch Italy kick some Australian, kangaroo ass.

After the first half, our over-indulgence in the aforementioned goods made us quite sleepy; so we proceeded to sleep.

The following day I woke up the earliest I've been able to for the past month, at eight am. We had a quick breakfast (nothing), and headed to Seoul's metro station. We got off in some station of unpronounceable name and had some overpriced coffee (Starbucks). Seon-heong left to the consulate, and I was left to tour the city by myself. I headed to Gyeongbokgung Castle (henceforth referred to as GC for obvious reasons), which at first I thought would be nothing but a deja-vu of my Yeongnam trip, but at the end, resulted in something quite different:

To get to GC, I walked through this main road that had some hilarious, Korean art:

When I did get there (thirty minutes after), I crossed paths with a Saudi Arabian delegation. If you think Chinese people in general go berserk with taking pictures and stuff, you've seen nothing yet. Saudis are worse, much worse. Literally, once they had gotten out of their tour bus, they started running wild across the castle. These were thirty year old, hairy men posing as if they were some hot, Brazilian chick in the middle of a Sports Illustrated Magazine (Swimsuit Edition) photoshoot, laying on the castle's green areas, demanding that pictures be taken of their euphoric, silly selves PRONTO! Not the greatest scene by any type of standard.

As the castle was quite big, this took most of my allotted two hours of touring. I had agreed with Seong-heong (I think this is the third time I've spelt his name differently, but its all good!) to meet him in front of the US Consulate at noon.

I thought this would be easy, since in my previous experiences with US consulates, these were known for their gargantuan, American flags being paraded proudly all across their freshly-mown, green grass.

The American consulate in Korea was nothing like that: no green grass, no flags, no "welcome to America" type of stuff, this building looked like a prison:

I was lucky to find it thanks to Seoul's citizen's knowledge of English (which surpasses, by far, those from Daegu), but not before experiencing some Korean rioting on my way there:

Finally, we met up, and we headed to the metro, yet again. We met with one of his friends who was kind enough to invite us to lunch, and who gave us some World Cup memorabilia, and with whom we went to see a bad-ass, gangsta movie, Korean style:

Despite the lack of subtitles, scenes like the above one, and the typical he-loves-her-but-can't-have-her-because-people-want-him-dead plot, made 80% of the movie entertaining. Once the two hour long blood bath ended, we parted ways and we headed to the metro station where we proceeded to bounce back to Daegu.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

The day's beginning

As my days in Korea are reaching an end, I've become more and more aware of the daily things that surround me here in Gyongsang. Hence, I've decided to narrate with pictures (and some words) my daily route towards the university, a long twenty-minute one (by the way).

I usually wake up at eleven or eleven thirty am (my alarm starts at seven, but I always manage to neglect it). When I do wake up, I am usually on the following bed:

This is my little room in Won Chul's micro-apartment. If you think you live in a small place, chances are you've never lived in the apartments surrounding Yeungnam University before. Small is this:

But despite the lack of square footage, the apartment serves its roll well; it gives me a place to crash every night, and hey, the damn thing is free, so I can't be complaining, can I? Also, despite the concept of a tub being anathema to students in Gyongasang, the hose does provide an adequate amount of warm water with an adequate amount of pressure.

About thirty of the aforementioned, micro-units can be rented for under four hundred dollars a month in this building:

And these are the streets I walk on in order to reach Yeungnam:

Something to note about Korean streets (at least the ones I've been on), is that PC rooms (a place where you can get internet service for under 50 cents an hour) and mini-markets are quintessential in daily, Korean, college life:

The first street that I walk on is Gungdang street; from there I take a right on Daedong street, and after walking for about two minutes on it, I take a left on Chaongon street. After a few more, minor streets, I reach the gym:

For forty bucks a month, this place offers daily exercice clothing (so you don't have to worry about the dirty stuff afterwards), a spa, a sleeping room (truly a reflection of Korean genius), a reading room, and--of course--the actual exercising place:

I don't work out much; mostly, I try to run for 30-45 minutes, then stay 15 or 20 minutes in the spa, followed by a nice, warm shower. Following the said algorithm, I usually go to either Isaac or Jakob's, where--for under a dollar--you can get a descent vegetarian toast.

Following this, I have to cross a main road to get to YU's main gate. On the main gate, there are several stands that serve extremely cheap and delicious Korean food (some for as cheap as sixty cents). This is where I usually get a banana or strawberry smoothie.

Once, I've indulged my culinary cravings, I proceed to head to the chemical engineering building, which to my demise, is on the opposite side of campus. So I keep walking on the main road, where some American love is displayed:

I pass the big screen, the economics building, another main road, and I am yet to reach the damn thing:

I continue on, leaving behind me the main engineering building, the textile technology building, and the architecture building, and only till then, am I finally within sight of my academic abode:

In it, we are blessed with even more Korean traditional stuff, such as my dear companion, the toilet:

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Here are the rest:

What's promised becomes debt, or so goes a Guatemalan saying; hence, it is time to pay mine. These are the rest of the lab members:

Sung-heon is the lab's heung (or older brother); he's the one that gets stuck with the most work in the lab, which at times can mean that he gets to play two more hours of quake than everyone else, or at times it means he must stay an entire week sleeping in the lab in order to meet the deadlines. He's also the one that lends me the headphones in order to use Skype and call Katie in the US, my sisters in Guatemala, and my friend Jorge in Sweden. Sung-heon, meet the blogger world, blogger world, meet Sung-heon:

Sang-heon (similar but not the same) will soon be heading to USC in California. There is not much to say about this individual, only that he's nice and has high expectations of the US; I guess, at some given point in our lives, we all do:

VU, as in voodoo! He's Wen's brother (you know, the guy we got drunk and crazy with Dane on our trip to Geoungju). I don't interact much with him, mainly because he's not invited to most lunches and dinners. He's treated as a second-class researcher her in the lab (because he's not Korean but Vietnamese). Despite that, however, I think he's a good person, and he deserves to be known to those of you who read these words:

Meet Shams, Dane's nemesis here in Korea; this is the guy that makes him read his 40 pg. + papers for grammatical corrections; he made me do that once, but I gave him a little bit of Guatemalan attitude, and I guess he got the point, because I have never been asked again. Like Vu, he is also discriminated from time to time...never mind, make that all the time! He speaks funny, but perhaps is the only guy in the lab that gets some actual work done. See him for yourself, he looks like a laborer:

Also, this other guy, but I forget his name...I just asked and it is Gi-Sing (or something similar). About him, I can only say that I am certain this must be the Korean that looks the most like butthead; I have placed here some pictures so you can decide for yourselves; I've also added a video just to make sure you get as many agles from this dude before you decide that I am wrong.

Finally, there's MK (Korean name, also unknown). He didn't come today to the lab, so I was unable to take a picture of him, but there is really not much to say about him only that he plays some mean starcraft, and defeated my neophyte ass at the second minute of playing against him; you are still my brother MK!

I'll post his pic later, when I also introduce the undergraduate gang. As for now, I leave you with yet another moment of unending labor:


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Meet the Crew

I thought it was about time I introduced the guys that I am with most of the time; you know, those that I sit around and vegetate in front of a screen with, and in the process of doing so, get paid a descent amount of money. Also, you must know that until now (and because of this post) am I able to actually name (some) of these people. Yes, I agree, it's sad that I've been here with them for over five weeks and, until this day, I actually bother to learn their names, but later is better than never. So without further ado, here they go...

Meet Jeff (Korean name unknown); he's small, thin, but very nice. He's English is the best in the lab, and from time to time, I like to tease him with my camera (he despises to have pictures taken of him). But that didn't help his situation, as while he was escaping from my lenses, I managed to get the work of art displayed below; contemplate....

It is time for Junho, the darkest Korean known by me; he's got those dark rim, retro-looking glasses that give him a weak aura of punk-wannabe, but he's still my homie. He can be an ass sometimes, but most of the time he just sits there, a mere decoration of this lab; if it wasn't for the fact that he joins us to eat, I would probably be unaware of his existence; he also likes rock (an intuitively obvious characteristic, derived from the following pose):

Gui-gin (or so I think) is my personal favorite of the gang; he knows no english, so I speak to him via my own, impromptu sign language. He doesn't talk much (just signals a lot), but he is nice as he always gets me coffee, chocolate, or anything that may be good after lunch such as ice cream and the like. He wares this classy lenses of color pink, which fit well with his extremely white (to the point of anglosaxon-niss) skin. See for yourself.

Thus far, these are all the names I've been able to learn. As most of them have left already, I will go ahead and ask them tomorrow, and post their information as soon as it is known by me. For now, enjoy some of the scenes of our never-ending, arduous laboring at the lab: