Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Korea7 | Day 3

Today was a bit of an angry Lucy day.

A couple of things didn't go as planned. First off:


And it wasn't due to jetlag or something of that sort.
Nope. I was sharing the room with two Chinese and two Vietnamese girls that night and for some reason it was suuuper hot inside the room. This is actually something I want to look into when I go back because especially Chinese people, from my experience, seem to sleep in MUCH higher temperatures. It must have been at least 25°C in there and I could not sleep. Nor could I find any A/C or windows.

But the heat was not all that was keeping me up.
One of the girls was talking/singing in her sleep, which was actually a bit cute. She did it in such a soft, low voice.
But another girl was LOuDLY packing her bags at 2AM WITH THE LIGHTS ON.
This annoyed me slightly but..

as if that wasn't enough, the girl sleeping in the bed below me had the most horrible alarm that I have ever heard. It went off SEVERAL TIMES around 4AM in the morning AND NOT ONCE DID SHE TURN IT OFF. I woke up 3-5 times from this and every time I did, THE LIGHTS WERE STILL ON.
(Days later, when I was sleeping alone in the room, I found two windows, hidden behind the curtains in two of the other beds, and also the light switch, which could only be accessed from the bed below mine - pretty impractical when someone is sleeping there)

I'm still amazed that I managed to get up without troubles after having slept so little. But I did and even managed to snap a picture of my outfit before heading out.

I was a bit grumpy from being disturbed in my sleep, however, and especially today where I had a full schedule and I felt like I'd need extra mental power for my meeting at the embassy. You see, I'd originally planned this trip for leisure but it just so happened that I'd be in Korea at the same time as some very influential Danish sound companies that my group and I were hoping to possible work with for our final exam paper.
This semester, I'm taking a subject on Intercultural Business Communication and for our final project we're supposed to work with a Danish company in Korea to help them overcome cultural challenges.
Before coming to Korea, I'd been in contact with Martin Hoxer from Innovation Centre Denmark Seoul and he'd allowed me to join the final meeting between them and the sound companies before the latter continued their business trip in Japan.

Before going to the embassy, though, I went on my way to buy a mask to avoid slowly dying from the yellow dust (미세먼지). Here's a screenshot of my weather app warning me about the air last night. On my way out, I met Sojeong (소정), who told me about the nearest pharmacy (약국). I went there but at 10am they still hadn't opened so I figured maybe I could find another pharmacy on my way to the embassy.

In September this year, the Danish Embassy moved from its old location in Yongsan-gu (용산구) and into Seoul Square (서울스퀘어).
Only the basement and first two floors were available to people coming in from the street. After that, you'd need a specific card to get past the guarded gates in front of the elevators. The Danish Embassy is located on the 11th floor so I quickly checked-in at the reception and got a fancy visitor's card.

A 'short' list over the different floors.

Getting to the embassy proved to be harder than I'd thought. Every time I made it to the 10th floor, I'd be brought right back to the first floor again. Fast forward 10 minutes and I discovered that it didn't go all the way up and that I'd have to switch to another elevator on one of the higher floors.
Also, there were no people around to ask for help so I was stuck in elevator hell with these HUGE, metallic elevators and their fancy yellow lights. I swear they were like 2½m tall or something.

FINALLY having escaped the Hellevators™, I arrived at the embassy. A group of young embassy workers, both Danish and Korean, greeted me in Danish outside the elevators but basic human interactions were hard today so I quickly replied and went in.

In the initial room inside the embassy, hung a picture of HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

There was also a big lego model of Sungnyemun Gate (숭례문).

The people at the embassy were very nice and although I was there a bit early, they let me inside.
I was honestly very excited to go to the embassy today and made sure to be there in good time so as to come off as responsible and professional. Only in my confusion due to the lack of sleep, I had managed to come an hour too early.

Feeling flustered from the elevator experience, I didn't want to go back down to the foyer only to come back an hour later. At the same I also couldn't leave the building since I'd then have to return the visitor's card and thus would have to go through check-in. Instead, I went to the basement where one of the embassy workers told me that I could buy a mask in the convenience store. On my way, I walked past the group of embassy workers that had seen me confused moments earlier but I believe that I managed to sneak around them without being seen. Hopefully.
Going to the basement was an experience in itself. There were so many little eating places and all the fancily clad people were lining up nicely out front, waiting for their turn to eat.

About an hour later, I returned to the 11th floor.
They let me in once again but as time approached noon, we found out that Martin had either misunderstood the schedule or mistyped when he'd told me the time of the meeting. He and the others wouldn't be coming in before yet another hour later.
Right inside the door hung a picture of Jutlandia, a Danish hospital ship stationed in Korea during the Korean War.
I was given a glass of water by one of the Danish guys, who had seen me outside the hellevators, and then introduced to Jennifer, the Innovation Officer, who had been in charge of the Korean part of the sound companies' business trip.

Jennifer was extremely helpful and sweet. She booked a room for me so I wouldn't have to wait outside in the lobby.
The view from the room was just beautiful. Look at all those colours!

Soon Jennifer came in to give me a quick briefing on the companies, their purpose of coming to Korea, and what they had been doing here so far. Martin hadn't told her exactly what I was there for so I told her about our project and we chit-chatted a little. It turned out that we had both gone to Yonsei! In between the talk, she mentioned that I should try to apply for a position at the embassy later. If I get the chance, I definitely will! And I'm going to show those elevators.

An hour later, I went to the meeting with Martin. He brought me to a small room with three completely normal looking men sitting inside, drinking black coffee.
Suddenly Martin asked me to pitch in front of these super chill men. I'd imagined just joining the meeting to listen to them but suddenly I was the one being listened to. It wasn't something I had ever tried before but it was a very positive experience. Heck, we even joked. The first thing one of them said when I came in was: "We are normally dressed a bit more formal than this" and pointed to his polo.
"Except yesterday when we were also lazy," said the one beside him.

Because of my appearance, people often underestimate me. During today's meeting, everyone's attention was on me. They listened, asked questions, and all treated me like a potential partner that should be taken serious. One of them even complained about the weather and I made a quick comment about it being due to the yellow dust to which Martin replied: "See, she's the expert!"
It's hard for me to express just how proud I felt in that moment.

When I was done, Martin asked me to wait outside while they finished.
Once he made me aware of just how important these players were in the sound market, a sudden mix of embarrassment and pride washed over me. Had I just pitched in front of these people?
He told me that they all seemed very interested in working with us and that Innovation Centre Denmark Seoul, too, would like to work with us.
Pride. Pure pride.

After the meeting, I rushed to meet Olivia, whom I mentioned in yesterday's post.
Olivia is a friend of Jasmin that I also had the pleasure to meet this summer when the three of us + Olivia's friend went to Caribbean Bay ((캐리비안 베이) the world's largest in/outdoor waterpark) together.

Today we had planned to hang out. Since I have already gone to most of the most famous tourist attractions in Seoul, she wanted to show me the Seodaemun Prison History Museum (서대문형무소역사관).
This prison was used by the Japanese to punish and torture Korean independence fighters during the annexation of Korea.

These days it's a pretty big place where stories and relics of the past are put on display.
It was a very interesting place to go. Sadly we didn't have too long before closing time so I didn't get to read and look at everything there.
This room had pictures of many if not all of the former inmates.
Men and women of all ages were brought here.
The place has a lot of gruesome history and today's weather really helped bring out that serious feeling.
Previous cells had been transformed into small rooms dedicated to stories about individuals.
Rather than reading the little signs, Olivia explained most of my new knowledge to me as we walked through the buildings.
Before this, we had walked around the torture rooms where I heard of methods that I hadn't thought humanly possible to come up with. One being a box with spears all over in the inside. You'd put a person in there and just shake it. Another was something that looked like a coffin but standing up. The sign said that it was made to be crooked so that one couldn't stand completely straight. Then there were the more common methods like confinement in tiny rooms and waterboarding. Just things done by horrible people in a horrible place.
I didn't take pictures. The stories had all my attention and I don't think I would have liked to take any anyways.
Although my mood was pretty dimmed while walking around here, I could also feel just how much honor the present Koreans assign the independence fighters. This was a place of memorial.
The last thing we saw before leaving was the place where they hanged people. I recently read the book Our Happy Time by Korean author Gong Ji-Young (공지영), in which she describes how death by hanging is one of the worst ways to go.

After visiting the prison, Olivia asked if I wanted to see her university campus. Of course!
On the way, we walked through a small local market. Places like this is where you can truly feel the culture of Korea.

Olivia is seriously the best tour guide ever.
Her campus isn't very big so I think she showed me around all of it, showed me the chapel, and told me the history behind the school and what people studied here.
The sign of Methodist Theological University (감리교신학대학교)

Hanging out with Koreans can be a bit of a whole-day experience.
Our next stop was dinner at a witch themed restaurant that she had told me about before meeting up. She had also taken Jasmin here, who loved it!
The place is called Witch's Kitchen (마녀주방) and is actually a chain. Now, two weeks later, I can't remember which location we went to.
The place was just as fantastic as I'd hoped. Sadly, seeing as I'm not good friends with flash cameras, many of the pictures I took tonight came out not sharp and not as colourful as in real life. I still want to share them, though. Maybe one day you can go experience it yourself!
This was the menu (inside were pictures and descriptions of the dishes). As you can see, they had a big event on Halloween. Olivia told me that that's something they do every year. How fun that must have been!
Look at this skeleton! I love it!

Since my picture didn't do the food justice, here are the ones she took when she went with Jasmin.

And here are my own pictures~ This might have been the most committed-to-the-theme place that I have ever been to. Absolutely everything added to the creepy witch vibe.
The drinks came in alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions and if you ordered this kind (which also came in green and pink if I remember correctly), the staff would instruct you on how to control the drainage.
Look at the lamps!
Olivia is such a beautiful person inside and out. I'm so happy to know her.
Our water came in a flask that made it look regal and dangerous at the same time.
It didn't take long for our food to come out. We ordered 3 kinds of dishes and in the end, Olivia insisted on paying.
This was kimchi chili rice.
Thigh steak. The breakstick made to look like a finger did everything for me.
Lastly, we ordered pane cream pasta. The bread looks weird in this pictures compare to Olivia's but as you saw before, it was supposed to be a coffin.
We paid 40000₩ in total for the food but I don't remember the drinks. It was a bit more pricey but definitely not too bad!

Our last stop was Naksan Park (낙산공원). I believe we walked to there but I'm not entirely sure.
The Seoul City Wall also goes through this park. I told Olivia that we should go touch it and take pictures but now that I think back, we forgot to.
Even though the air was bad today, the night view was still beautiful.
You can see the Namsan Tower (남산타워) on the mountain to the left.
Olivia confirmed what I'd heard about the Namsan Tower changing color depending on the air quality. That orange-red colour was definitely an ill omen.
Although I love the clean skyscrapers in Seoul, I also like looking at the small houses that look as if they have been randomly stacked together like these.
Right as we were about to leave, I looked down and noticed this metal clover molded into the ground.
Seoul is like that for me; if you don't look up (or down) once in a while, you could seriously miss something cool.
We walked to the subway station together and parted ways there. Olivia hugged me and made sure that I got on my train first.

As I was leaving the subway, someone called out to me because he saw my Yonsei jacket. An American, who'd migrated to Korea as a child. Very interesting person. After a chat, we exchanged kakaotalks and planned to talk again another day.

Despite the things that went.. different than first planned, today was no bad at all.


•°☆~〜Music of the day〜~☆°•

← Return to Day 2                                                                                                        Continue to Day 4 

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