Noticeable happenings

This has been an interesting trip for the budding scientist in me. I have noticed, besides the obvious cultural differences, the affections of the Korean culture. I have read in my textbooks about the differences between my culture, individualistic in its nature, and the Asian culture, a collectivist society. I value the independence I have and I exercise this freedom regularly. I do, however, spend entire days fantasizing about what it would be like to have a family to go home to that invades my personal space on a basis so often it become the norm. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t already have one, perhaps it is this freedom that allows me to falsely believe that I don’t need the constraints of one. But when I am here, I walk though the streets and I see people touching each other in passing, so affectionately. Everyone wraps their arms around each other like they are the clothing covering them. Men hold hands with other men and girls hold hands in groups of three or four. People cup each other’s elbows as they cross the street. Yesterday, I noticed a man driving a motorcycle reach back to graze the leg of the woman behind him while he was stopped at a light. Even policemen hold hands as they walk. I am in awe and with jealousy as I see the human connections this culture has.

Another major thing I noticed here (it is quite obvious actually), is the lack of helmets worn by anyone on bikes. I have even seen many men smoking while riding their motorcycles or scooters without helmets. I find this behaviour to be quite callous in comparison to the other things I have noticed. This also extends to cyclists. I have yet to see anyone ride a bike with a helmet. Last night, while I was running, I watched a father ride down the trail I was on with his toddler riding in the back, exposed and vulnerable without any protection from unforeseen accidents. I have to say, I felt some judgments that were deeply Canadian grown. If I didn’t wear a helmet five years ago, I would not be alive right now.

I will now mention one social norm that I would like to see in Canada. In Seoul, if a man is walking with a woman he will carry all of her stuff. This includes purses, shopping bags, and umbrellas. Whatever the size- they carry it all. It is a truly fantastic thing, I think. I saw another cool thing today while I was walking home. I watched six boys in school uniforms play rock- paper- scissors. They were laughing hysterically and pointing fingers at each other as they blocked the entire sidewalk. I had no idea the game was so universal. These subtle reminders of Canada help foster the growth of a deep love for this culture.

The campus here is rather clean. Everyday there seems to be women cleaning and sweeping all of the grounds. For the most part, there are only leaves to be swept, but they are swept almost everyday. It is really hard to grow grass here, but there is a sizable circular patch by the student plaza. There are signs surrounding every three feet of it, written in Korean. I can only assume they say “do not step on the grass”, but that is like an invitation to do it! It is far too tempting; I just want to roll in it every time I see it and throw a picnic. Here is a pic of a small section of my campus, taken from my classroom. The pic after it is my view on the walk to and from campus. Oh, and the circle of grass.

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My personal favorite observation since I arrived here: Any water bottle lid will fit on any water bottle bottom (regardless of size or brand name). Which is actually much more handier than I thought it would be. Because we don’t want to buy a bunch of things (our stay in dorm is only a total of 4 weeks) we reuse everything we acquire. I don’t have to sort out the tops and bottoms like I do at home with the Tupperware. This is super handy, trust me! It makes me smile every time I grab a bottle in the morning to take water to school. Especially since I left me reusable water bottle on the plane in Tokyo.

My last observations for today’s blog? Dormitory cooking. My dorm-mate and I can cook with limited ingredients and almost no bake ware. We decided our mad survival skills were at a level high enough to start experimenting with food. We strived to move past rice, veggies, and tea. The two over-ripe bananas we discovered at the back of the mini fridge may have also fuelled this experimentation. So we made, OK tried to make, banana pancakes the other day. We were very excited as we stirred the mixture in the only bowl we had (now we have 2!). Granted, they did not turn out how we envisioned they would when we planned it out, but they tasted like banana pancakes! This taught us some new ideas for future breakfast making and I am confident that next time we can pull it off. Here is a pic of what we had to work with:

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I have also figured out, that as long as you have water and a pot you can cook up all sorts of throw- it- together suppers. My dietary intake keeps me at home for almost all my meals (I have only eaten dinner out twice), so this is a key element to survival. My favorite throw-it-together-supper right now involves mixing water, rice, some sort of veggie assortment, and raisins into a pot together and cooking it for 20 minutes. Add some seeds or nuts on top when it’s cooked and grab those chop sticks! Tonight’s dinner contains rice, broccoli, carrots, bok choy, yellow peppers, and sesame seeds. Delicious.

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