Saturday, November 21, 2009

Episode 35: In Which DFM Helps The Government Of Seoul, And Becomes An Alien

Last Thursday Elise had to meet a friend, so we couldn't meet after work like we usually do. This week she tried to make up for it by taking us to the Ddeok Cafe to celebrate my birthday. The Ddeok Cafe is, like the name would suggest, a restaurant that only sells ddeok.

As long time readers will undoubtedly know, ddeok is essentially rice that has been compressed into sticky, chewy "cakes," which are surprisingly delicious and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. When you think that rice is eaten so often in Korea the name for "meal" is the same for rice, it seems counter- intuitive to then have rice for desert let alone make a restaurant to sell it. Then again, Canada has an obesity rate four times higher than that of Korea, and the restaurant was packed.

After the one week remembrance celebration of my last birthday I went to Ace to take part in the November climbing competition. Unfortunately I forgot that I had taken my shoes home last Wednesday to climb at Summit and that they were under my bed when I left in the morning. Ji-hyeun was kind enough to let me borrow a pair of rental shoes from the gym, but I think they were about a decade old, and the soles had started to petrify. Needless to say, it wasn't the best competition I've ever had, but it was fun nonetheless.

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On Friday I finally got around to picking up my Alien Registration Card (ARC), which was supposed to have finished processing on Monday, but I was too busy all week to pick it up. Actually, I was not too busy, I just didn't want to go.

After picking up my registration card I was asked by a woman to fill out a survey about the experience of foreigners in Korea. I had read the results of this same survey given in spring, and I wasn't sure how six months could make a big difference.

While taking the survey I did notice some flaws though. It took me about half an hour to complete because I actually thought carefully about each question, but after I finished I was left wanting to answer more questions. For instance, how can I accurately give my opinion on the quality of "living in Korea" when the category involves water quality, neighbourhood cleanliness, house quality, etc.? I love the neighbourhoods, and while the houses are small, Americans and Canadians are spoiled with the mini-mansions they call bungalows anyway. However, the tap water literally disintegrates my gums and I've had to be extra careful about not using the tap water to brush my teeth. If I want to give high marks for the cleanliness of the streets and low marks for water quality, how can I do that without averaging the two scores out and making it look like nothing was overly good or overly bad?

And then there was the section for "comments," which didn't exist. I'm not sure how the government is going to know how foreigners think the problems can be solved if they don't let us tell them. After all, surveys don't fix problems by themselves.

My night wasn't done there though. You may remember the MEC Chuseok party back in October when we went to Paju. At the end of that night, Vanilla's swing dancing instructor friend gave us all an introductory lesson to swing dancing. Well, today he was throwing a party at his house, and so Hyenii and I decided to accept his invitation (I'm always up for Korean food).

Hyenii had followed me to the Immigration Office so that she could come with me to the party. I asked her if she could find any signs for the Immigration Office leading up to it from the subway. She could only find one tiny sign in Korean, on the large sign out front, with fifteen other small signs for other companies in the building surrounding it, but nothing leading up to the building that would give us directions as I expected, and yes I'm still bitter about it.

Speaking of bitter, the trip to the party would have taken less than half an hour on the subway, but Vanilla insisted on driving in her car because she didn't like the smell of the people on the subway. I'm not trying to single out Vanilla here, or even Koreans. This is a world-wide problem that I absolutely hate. It seems that as soon as someone makes a little money, he/she all of a sudden thinks that he/she is too good for public transportation. Well, listen people, you're not too good, in fact driving your car in a city with what I consider the World's best public transportation system makes you nothing but a douche bag. That half-hour trip in her car car wound up taking over an hour and a half, because about a million other douche bags decided that they absolutely needed to drive their cars too.

As for the party, it was of course great, once we finally got there. Delicious Korean food + Korean friends has been a recipe for success that has never failed my since I first got lost and taken out for dinner way back in March, and it didn't start now.

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