Energy Epiphany and Trip to Gwangju

May 31, 2009 § 2 Comments

It is my belief that if Seoul simply turned off half it’s electric signs, it could use that energy to power a hundred factories. I have no math to support this claim, only gut instinct. Look at how crowded with electric signs this little street is!

Lights galore

Lights galore

Last semester I did a lot of “research” and brushed on my k-pop knowledge in preparation for this trip. While doing so, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many popular singers re-make their songs to become “Energy” songs. Energy songs are basically cute ditties to encourage young people to reduce their electricity consumption and help “save the earth.”

I had my epiphany while at Mokdo, a higher end shopping district in Seoul (see top picture). The clothes were pretty but too expensive for a traveling college student. I am eagerly anticipating my trips to Dongdaemun, the mecca of haggling shoppers in Korea. They sell everything from house ware to clothing and the prices are low. Yesterday I went to Gwangju. I was excited because I learned about the Gwangju uprising at Berkeley.

It was disillusioning when I got there because there was no indication of its rich past but it was still interesting just to be there. It took about 3 hours by car to get there from Seoul. Once we arrived, I met two more cats (Pico and Bijou) and two of my brother’s friends. They are both nursing students and the same age as I am. Even though we are the same age we used formal Korean because we were strangers. Gradually as we became more comfortable, we dropped the formal endings and spoke to each other informally. They were so cute and funny and not really the stereotypical docile Korean girl. We ate dinner at what we thought would be a more traditional Korean restaurant that served an array of Korean side-dishes but it was actually a wedding hall with all different kinds of food.

Food...

Food...

The other girls hardly ate anything and kept on saying they needed to lose weight even though they were so skinny! They were probably 2/3 my size. I feel like that is just the culture here though and I’m pretty used to it now. I think I’m finally at an age where I am impervious to comments like that in that I have no desire to lose weight. After taking Nutri-Sci at Berkeley, I don’t think there is a point in worrying about things like that because losing or gaining a significant amount of weight is just way too much work. Why not live life and just enjoy it? Anyway, after resting and wandering for a few hours we decided to get a Thai massage. It actually hurt quite a bit and was a little strange but I was so tired I just fell asleep. I immediately fell asleep again upon reaching the hotel only to be amazed by….

Amazing!

Amazing!

This is a touch-screen control system. Using this little panel I can look up information about the hotel, adjust the temperature, turn lights on and off, and MORE! I was so amazed. I don’t know if we have this in America. Maybe they have it in the really fancy, nice hotels and I just haven’t seen it before. The lights were the coolest feature to me. I just lay in bed and turned lights on and off for a while. I don’t think So-Min, the girl I shared a room with, appreciated it but she was too polite (or tired) to say anything. hehehe…

I got back to Seoul today and ate at this really good gamjatang (Potato Stew..even though there are hardly any potatoes in it…not sure why its called that). After you finish the meat (pork haunch, I think), they make fried rice with some of the stew and it is really good! I can’t wait to keep one eating more Korean food.

My discoveries

-Korean people drink A LOT. Celebrating something? Bring out the soju! Bored? Bring out the soju! Uncomfortable? Stressed? Happy? Sad? Bring out the soju (or beer)! Drinking is such a big part of the culture that it is hard to have fun without alcohol. I was talking to my brother about this and we have a few theories. First, Korean people are pretty self-conscious and inhibited because of societal constraints and it isn’t until they have some liquor that they feel comfortable breaking out of those constraints. Behavior that would be frowned upon a sober person is accepted by someone who is drunk and will probably not remember the next day. Second, the work day is so long for the common company man that by the time they get out of work (9am-11pm is not unheard of), the only things open are bars or nightclubs. Third, many people’s apartments are too small or dinky to host more than a few people so it is hard to stay in with friends.

-Korean people smoke a lot. There aren’t as many smokers as there were five years ago but I discovered that many kids nowadays even start in elementary school. The two girls that I met both smoked A LOT. They were chain smokers and lit up every hour or so. They knew it was bad for their body and wanted to quit but that is something that is definitely easier said than done. It’s funny though, although there aren’t as many cigarette smokers in Berkeley my age as there is in Korea, Berkeley definitely has more marijuana smokers. However, in Korea very few, if any, students smoke marijuana. In the end, both substances are addictive (either physically or psychologically) and bad for you, but its interesting how they are stigmatized differently in the two societies.

-Gas costs a lot here. Americans wouldn’t complain as much if they knew the premium on gas here. It cost more than $60 to fill my brother’s tiny two-door Hyundai.

-Hulu doesn’t work in Korea. =(

-When I try to play Blockles on omgpop.com, the connection is too laggy and I can’t see my opponent’s screen. =( =(

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