**Disclaimer** I am in Seoul, South Korea. I am going to update with MY experiences and MY opinions on MY trip. I am in no way an expert on S. Korea or their culture so please take this as what it is: MY personal travel diary of what I experienced.
Day two, my friend Megan had to go teach English from 8:30am to 4:30pm, so I was on my own! I got up and took a shower, which is it's own experience! In Korea, the bathrooms are sunk down a few inches from the rest of the house. Why? Because the whole bathroom is the shower:
The water comes from the sink, and you pull the lever to make it come out of the shower head, and the water just shoots onto the floor of the bathroom. So you shower in the whole room! One corner of the bathroom doesn't get wet so there is a hook for your towel, and you wear special shower shoes in there. There is a big drain in the floor so everything just washes down. Megan says it is convenient because she never has to clean the bathroom, it is self-cleaning! Just make sure you put the toilet seat down, as Megan warned me she has knocked her shampoo in it once or twice if she forgets and leaves it open!
Megan and I had taken the bus and the subway together on Sunday, so I felt okay about taking them, but I was still really scared! The subways stops are written in English, but they are very long complicated words and I don't speak a word of Korean! So I set out with my subway map:
And my emergency piece of paper, Megan's address written in Korean in case I got impossibly lost and needed to take a taxi home:
I got to the right bus stop, took it two stops, found the subway entrance for the green line, labeled entrance 2 and was on my way!
I transferred to the blue line going in the right direction, found the right stop, and found exit 5, and headed to the Namdaemun Market! The market is HUGE! Just blocks and blocks of every kind of vendor you could imagine! Most of them are outdoors but there are MANY huge indoor ones that are four floors of the same shops! Jewelry! Scarves! Tights! Toys! Fish! Fake designer purses! Fake designer underwear! Seriously, Louis Vuitton and Chanel (or Chawel!) make EVERYTHING here (allegedly)... socks, underwear (men's and women's), shoes, pajamas, dog clothes and leashes, etc. You name it, they have a logo knockoff of it...and anything else under the sun!
In that last picture, notice the little old ladies on the right side of the picture... they are what's known as "ajummas" which is a bit of a derogatory term if you use it for someone who is younger (30s or 40s). They are known to be short, stocky, tough old ladies who throw elbows in the stores and subways. They are stereotypically known to be shameless hagglers and wear big sun visors. They are EVERYWHERE and they are so cute! I love the ajummas! The longer I am here, the more I hear people talking about them. It's such a funny little thing!
After a few hours of walking around and buying a shirt, jade rose ring, and scarf:
I randomly ran into the subway entrance I needed to get back to Megan's and hopped on! I found my way back to her house and it was already 4pm and Megan was home by 5pm! We stopped at the convenience store below her house and bought a beer (Cass is one of only a few Korean beers, and it tastes like any American light beer. Those boxes of Kraft mac & cheese, I brought for Megan. She said they are the one thing she can't find here that she sometimes craves from America.)
We drank out of her McDonald's Batman mugs (the apartment Megan lives in is provided by the school where she teaches. Teachers have lived in her apartment for the last 5 years. When one teacher leaves and the next one moves in, they typically leave anything that could be of use to the next teacher. So when Megan arrived, there were already dishes, a toaster, an ironing board, hangers, etc in addition to the bed, TV, refrigerator and desk that were provided by the school.
We headed off at 7pm to meet Minam, a friend of Megan's who is from Korea. She took us out for potato soup, which is yet another thing with 14 side dishes that you cook yourself. We sat on the floor and had a huge bowl full of potatoes, pork still on the bone, rice noodles, mushrooms, and vegetables. I have some pictures but they are on Megan's camera so I will upload them later. It was awesome and I got to try two new kinds of kimchi. Minam then took us around to some of the more traditional markets where the Korean's shop and that are very old and don't sell all the modern things like the market I went to this morning. We also walked around by the University and saw all the future lawyers of Korea! Minam was super cute and interesting to talk to and get her perspective on things, plus she speaks English very well because she studied abroad for a year. Alright, I am off to go see the BIG palace today and do a walking tour of some of the old traditional Korean neighborhoods. More subways on my own, so wish me luck!