28 April 2007

early days: hooray for cousins and curtsy squats

grocery shopping? no, just how a korean gas station says "thank you".

ive been in seoul for 3 days. what's strange is how familiar and easy the city feels. having a bilingual cousin and living in her fancy flat helps. it's nice logistically (like getting picked up at the airport when you're 1+ hour away and have heavy bags), practically (being able to search for an apartment at my leisure with her help) and emotionally (having family in new environs). i had just seen crazy jayne a week prior while in new york, so seeing her again so soon half way around the world contributed to my general location confusion.

on morning #1, she cooked me breakfast- white rice and yukgaejang, a spicy soup of veggies, egg, tofu, thin rice noodles and shredded beef in a thin miso broth. like most meals here, the main course was accompanied by several banchan (side dishes) of four kinds of kimchee (pickled veggies), some pickled garlic cloves, skinned apple slices, gim (dried seaweed) and myeolchee bokkum (fried sweet and spicy anchovies) yum!

after breakfast i experienced two examples of korea's quirky car culture. first, we got gas. upon approach attendants dressed in black suits and ties bowed, greeted us loudly and hurried the car into a space. with the engine still running, an attendant filled up our tank (there's no self service here) and returned with a hefty goodie bag of snacks and beverages. jayne said that these thank you gifts are typical at korean gas stations. second, we drove to the hyundai mall. as we approached the parking garage, we were met by 4 impeccably coifed babes dressed in english horse riding attire (i guess the theme changes periodically). each of them sported a microphone headset britney-spears style and gave our car a waist bow. what followed had me shocked, awed and laughing. as we entered the garage, another attendant performed an elaborately choreographed dance that i can only describe as a rave arm-dancing/hula hybrid followed by a curtsy squat and topped off by an complex two-arm point in the direction we should travel made all the more ludicrous since it was a one-way on ramp. i love korea.

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