Thursday, October 18, 2007
Pusan or Busan?
On the morning, at the beginning, of my very first class here in Korea I asked my students...do you spell the name of this city Busan or Pusan? I couldn't get a straight answer. "Sometimes its Busan, sometimes its Pusan." "Well, couldn't someone just decide?" "Well, yes, that would make sense...no one has made such a decision."
I find myself in a place which is wholly interesting, and downright confusing. BPusan is a coastal city on the southern coast of South Korea. Its the second largest city in the country with, um, about 3 or 4 million depending on who you talk to. I choose to come here because, well, I had already lived in a massive asian city, and I wanted something a bit more down to earth. The photos of the beaches and cool looking mountains were appealing. I expected something like the asian version of Vancouver.
This was kind of a strange expectation, as this place isnt really comparable to anything. Ive been happy enough here, my new job is going well, the other teachers at the school are pleasant enough (although all american), my new apartment is huge by asian standards and only a 5 minute walk away from the school. However, my initial dissapointment in this place on the whole lies in my constant comparasons between here and Japan. Japan had a weird kind of magic, it was something in the place, the people, the history...the girls...I dont know, but whenever I went out of my house in Japan I felt like I was part of some huge futuristic utopia. Korea is a reality check. This country is quite normal by asian standards. Hard working people, busses which are not on time, dirty streets, fruit vendors from the countryside selling on the sidewalk, ugly ugly buildings everywhere...
As far as I can tell, Korea is smack dab in the middle of Japan and China, and its culture seems smack dab in the middle of these two giants as well. Like China, Korea is an industrial country with massive factories everywhere...like Japan, Koreans work really really hard. The Korean language, just by its sounds to my untrained ears, is a mixture of Japanese and Chinese. The temples here are a mixture of the classic chinese temple and the sweeping japanese temple. The food is a mixture of the "everything goes into it" Chinese philosophy and the "everything is clean and neat" Japanese philosophy. Weird. A whole country which seems like an exact 50/50 mix of two other countries.
I have alot to learn about this place thats for sure!! Ill be posting things a couple of times a week if I can. Look for more photos and stories soon!!