Ok, so this week was crazy long! I was only in the lab on Monday and Tuesday. I spent this time creating my presentation for this coming Tuesday. THIS TUESDAY!!! I am so close to being home! I can’t wait! Ok. Not so random tangent over now.
On Monday, after lab, we all went out for dinner to celebrate the work of a couple grad students. The food was good and, while I couldn’t talk to the others much (the whole language thing), the people were nice. Which reminds me of something else that I will get into later.
Tuesday was pretty much just lab work, but on Wednesday, we woke up bright and early to take the KTX (a really fast train with few stops) to Seoul. A trip that usually takes us three and a half to four hours took only a little over one! So we arrived in Seoul in no time. We had to do a lot of walking though, so I am extremely glad that the grad students gave me an ankle brace.
The University of Seoul campus is quite beautiful and, like most other places in Korea, sits on a mountain so it has a lot of slopes. This makes the campus look wonderful, but makes it a pain in the ankle to move around through. After a lot of walking and asking for some directions, we found what we were looking for. The building in which a scientific conference was being held. We got to watch a lot of people present their findings on the research that they have been doing. The first couple were in English, but most were in Korean, so it was hard to understand and I dozed off quite often. These naps along with my frequent snoozing on any public transportation we take has apparently earned me the nickname The Sandman from Dacotah, who is surprised at my ability to sleep just about anywhere. Anyways, there were two presentations that I could understand and follow along with at an acceptable level. The first was about the cell growth cycle of a new organism. It discussed the effects of not having certain necessary nutrients during the first stages of development (embryogenesis). The absence of one nutrient (I sadly have already forgotten for sure which, but one was glucose and the other pyruvate) stopped the cell from dividing past the two cell stage, and the other stopped the growth right before the blastocyst is formed (if I remember correctly, I was still pretty tired at this point).
The other presentation talked about the different types of wasps in Korea. It discussed the difference between the varying species. Apparently finding new species by discovering phenotypic differences (visual differences) was a big topic at this convention, because over half of the posters I saw were discussing it with various types of organisms.
At the end of the day, we headed to the jjimjilbang that we would be staying at. Just a heads up, I was pretty much perpetually tired throughout the trip. Hobbling around throughout Seoul can do that to a guy. So below, you can see me sitting on the floor of the subway propped up against my pillow because I was hella tired.
By the way, a jjimjilbang is a Korean bath house. So what that means is that you pay a fee (10$ equivalent in my case), then you go into gender segregated bath areas where you strip down to your birthday suite and shower. By the way, everyone just walks around the gender segregated areas this way and they all just hang out. After the shower was the hot tub, then cold tub, then on to a sweat room and finally a sauna. It was definitely a freeing experience. It isn’t so bad being completely naked when everyone else is and they don’t seem to give two shits. So why should I? So that was enjoyable. Then I threw on my clothes and explored the commons area. And I found a wondrous thing. A small library of books, with over half of them being comics! If only I could read Korean, I would have not gone to sleep that night! But I did… eventually.
I forgot to state this earlier, but this entire stay happened with me, Dacotah, and Hangyu (one of my wonderful lab members). Hangyu bought Dacotah and I each a sweet rice drink that left me wondering exactly how to feel about it. Because it was sweet! And then it was rice. Eventually the rice aftertaste left me unable to finish the drink. But I am glad I got to try it.
Next up, Hangyu showed us the small movie theater setup that was downstairs. What was on you ask? Only Mad Max 2, the Road Warrior! Not my favorite movie ever, but it was enjoyable and it gave me a better understanding of the character, Mad Max.
After the movie, we decided to just sleep in the reclining chairs there since it was much quieter than the upstairs option of sleeping in small cubby-holes.
In the morning, we woke up, I hopped in the cold room to wake up, and Dacotah and I parted from our comrade. It was a sad goodbye, because I knew that the chance of me ever seeing my friend again is slim. Because he won’t be at the lab this week, along with Dong-Young. At least I got to say goodbye to him though. I didn’t really have the chance to say goodbye to Dong-Young. I am going to miss him a lot. He was like an older brother to me in the lab. Such a nice guy. I am going to miss every one of the lab members. I couldn’t have asked for better people.
Anyways, enough with the sad part of the weekend and onto the fun parts!
After parting with Hangyu, Dacotah and I did some gift shopping and then we hung out at a small restaurant with wifi and waited for James (one of our friends from the states that have research in Seoul). Once he finished up with his work for the day, the three of us went off to watch a baseball game! And let me tell you just how much we in the states lack in enthusiasm compared to the Korean’s and their baseball. For one, the stands are split up into the fans of either team. And then, during every inning, the fans of the team at bat chant and chant and chant! During the entire game! They just don’t tire! They had a lot of different chants, none of which I could understand, though one was clearly to the tune of Indiana Jones. In the first inning, the home team (which is where we were seated) kicked the game off with home run and another run in for a total of four points in one inning! They proceeded to shut out the challenging team almost every inning and gaining at least one run almost every inning as well! I definitely enjoyed this baseball game more than any other before it. And it helped that I got to munch on home run balls (little puff snacks filled with various things like cheese, custard, or as bellow, chocolate).
Afterwards we ate and I zonked right out. The next morning, we planned to go to Caribbean Bay water park. It is one of the largest water parks in the world! So we woke up, and headed straight on over. After our hour long trip to get there, part of which will be on my Facebook page, we arrived! The only problem, it was a Korean holiday. We were told that we wouldn’t be able to enter the water park until 5 p.m. It was noon. After talking to some people that worked there however, we found out that we would be allowed into Everland (the theme park directly next to Caribbean Bay) while we waited at no extra cost! This was fantastic! A normal Caribbean Bay ticket was the equivalent of seventy some dollars. A multi-pass to go to both the water park and theme park would normally cost ninety some dollars. But with our situation and the fact that we were foreigners, we were allowed the deal for thirty two dollars! Holy buckets! And it was a blast! On the first ride, I incurred such a head rush that I couldn’t see anything for a few seconds! A little freaky but hella cool! Then we rode a wooden roller coaster that dropped us at a ninety degree angle to the ground! We also got to see a water show and a Tae Kwon Do demonstration! They were a little showy, but it only made for a wonderful show. They were doing back flips and breaking boards and kicking apples all at the same time! Once we got to the water park, I enjoyed the long lazy river they had before heading over to one of the two slides that we rode on that night. It had a five minute wait! Basically, you stepped into this death chamber where you stood almost straight up while leaning against the wall of the chamber. You can’t hear much anything besides the flow of water around you and the blood pumping through your head as the adrenaline starts going. Then, a loud voice booms “THREE…. TWO…. ONE!” before releasing a loud cackle and dropping the floor out from under you. After this I couldn’t see much anything but the feeling of dropping almost completely unsupported for a few seconds really made me wish I was wearing my brown pants just in case. The ride was only a few seconds long, but it was a lot of fun. So we did it again.
The other ride we went on had a long wait and wasn’t really worth it, so we just spent the rest of our time goofing around on the lazy river. The big ride they had looked amazing! But it had a three hour wait. And there is no way I am going to spend that much time in line for a ride that looked quite similar to the hurricane from the wilderness lodge in the Wisconsin Dells.
The next day we spent some time in the lab that the boy’s from Seoul work at. Dacotah and I worked on our presentations and I fed the bird that they housed in their lab. It was pretty cute, but everyone else just found it annoying because it would squawk every time it got the faintest bit hungry, which was often. After our day at the lab, we meet Matt’s friend Juno for dinner. Juno is a pretty cool guy and he taught us a few things about Korean drinking culture, including one game where you take turns flicking the part of the beer cap that is broken when you open it. Once someone is able to flick the part of the cap off, the next person in the line drinks. Out of the five caps we used, I won three times, forcing Juno to take three shots on my account. After this, we all went out for karaoke! Wow that was fun! I wish I could upload videos to this site, but you will just have to check out my Facebook post.
This morning, Dacotah and I said so long to Seoul and our friends there. But we will be back on Friday as we leave for home!
On the bus ride back, Dacotah and I were surprised when a girl sitting behind us started talking to us. She could tell we were foriegners (who couldn’t?) and offered to tell us about some great restaurants in Daegu. So we talked and found out that she planned to visit the U.S. sometime soon and she was going to tour all of the major cities alone. Talk about awesome and scary! I don’t think I could do that in the U.S. Which brings me to the thing I wanted to talk about earlier. People in Korea are just generally more respectful than people from the Twin Cities. I’m not saying that there aren’t nice people ( oh hell ya there are!), but I would never travel through the city on my own, at night. Especially not knowing a thing about the area. The same goes for any major city in the U.S. It is just too dangerous. But in Korea, I have never once felt worried or threatened. It helps that guns are illegal to have except for hunting (and even then the guns are kept in the police stations when not in use). But even beside that, I never feel in danger. In fact, just the opposite! People are generally quite generous! For one, there is a thing called service here in Korea. And when I say this, I mean that if you go to a restaurant more than once, they usually give you stuff for free to keep you coming there! I’ve gotten free bulgogi (steak), Coke, and even an entire noodle dish! At the karaoke place, they gave us a half hour for free when we paid for an hour! And it isn’t just businesses either. I’ve had people just walk up to me and offer assistance in trying to find where I was headed on many occasions! And just today I met an old couple that made sure we got their seats on the subway once they left since we had a lot of things we were carrying. I love the people here! Not to say that I don’t love the people back home, but I wish I could run into more people like these here that just offer help out of nowhere.
That’s my two cents anyways. Hope you are all doing great and I can’t wait to come home!