Good morning, well, it’s 6:34am here as I start writing this post. Since the vast majority of my faithful readers know me, you are probably asking yourself ‘what is she doing up so early, on a Sunday?’ Well, the answer is I haven’t been to bed – one of my friends, Paula – had moved into a new apartment a few weeks ago and she threw a house-warming party last night that was a great success, fun and lots of people eating and drinking and making merry. Afterwards, most of us headed to S2 – our favorite dance club – at the early hour of about 1:30 and danced there until the group slowly dissipated. I left at 5:30ish with three friends – April, Anna and Nam – and we grabbed a bite to eat (4 hours of dancing makes you hungry) and Nam was a sweetheart and drove us all home. I hopped into the shower – Observation #1: Non-smoking laws are great (more in a minute) – and here I am, trying to wind down so I can sleep (or decide if I want to stay up as it is suppose to be a beautiful day).

Back to Observation #1: Non-smoking laws are great. I was ambivalent to them when Peterborough and then Ontario brought them in. But after being in a country that doesn’t have them and where everyone and their brother smokes like a fish (love that phrase), I now love them. It was great to come home from a bar or pub or club and not smell or rather reek of smoke. Here, I don’t notice the smell so much at the bar – although some times I have to reach for my inhaler – but when I come home, egad! I immediately throw my clothes in the laundry room and hit the shower.

Observation #2: Being woke up by loud music isn’t fun at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday. Okay, it sounds obvious but the story is in where the music is coming from. Korea is in the middle of elections and there are city ones on too. Candidates and their supporters drive trucks around town slowly or park them on a corner. The truck have huge signs that are basically a huge picture of the candidate. Not a big deal except the trucks also blare music and they start very early – I can hear them now.

Observation #3: Different people/cultures have different eating habits. Okay, so these observations aren’t rocket science but I think they are interesting. There is a melon in Korea – it’s small, about the size of a large orange but oval-shaped and yellow with darker yellow stripes – that is really good. Koreans eat it by cutting off the skin (peeling it) and cutting it into slices. It’s eaten seeds and all which is different as we always throw the seeds out (or save them to plant again) and just eat the fleshy bits. It’s delicious and since I am so used to eating different kinds of food here, I just followed suit. And yesterday at market, I bought a dish (fruit are often sold by the bowl) of them. Which leads me to my next observation.

Observation #4: Markets here. Towns and cities in Korea are divided into neighbourhoods called dongs. Most dongs have their own market, although some are better than others and they all seem to keep different schedules. The market in my neighbourhood is every 5 days which is great because I never have to buy veggies in the store but every 5 days is harder to keep track of (the market in my work’s neighbourhood is every Thursday which is much easier to remember – and it’s one of the better ones). Mine is great for fruits and veggies but not much else. All that isn’t really the observation, merely setting the stage, so to speak. At home in the markets, you can generally buy the quantities – example, 3 peppers or a 3 liter basket of cherries – you want. Here, you buy a small bowl full or a large bowl full of whatever fruit or veggies. I love fruits and veggies so it generally isn’t a problem but it does limit the amount of choices you should purchase. If you are buying a small bowl of apples – which is about 6 huge or 12 small – and a small bowl of yellow melons – about 8 – you really shouldn’t buy any other fruit (well, I bought cherry tomatoes but I generally use them as a veggie) or something might spoil before you can eat it.

Observation #5: Everyone loves to complain about the weather. We all thought it was just a Canadian thing but nope, everyone does it. I never truly appreciated the variety of weather we take for granted but living in Canada and more specifically in Central Ontario has given me knowledge and experience with temperatures from -40ish to +35ish Celsius. We get the cold, snowy winters (or we usually do) and the hot, humid, sunny or thunderstormy summers plus springs and falls too. There are lots of countries that don’t get the extremes – example New Zealand, where the temperature range is more like 0 to +20 Celsius – or don’t have four true seasons. People from these countries often complain about the weather more because they have never felt the cold so -10C feels freezing to them while to me, it wasn’t that cold for winter. Now that the temps are in the low to mid 20s with some humidity (there’s not much yet) they are having problems again. While Korea’s spring seems to be about a month ahead of Canada’s, the temps seems normal if a very mild winter. I wonder if that means the summer will be a little hotter than I am use to. Hope not, a humid 35C is hot enough for me. I am curious about the monsoon season though – we don’t have on of those back home. Sidenote: Koreans are very proud of the fact that Korea has 4 seasons, to the point that they are often surprised when you tell them that your country does too.

That’s all for now. Check back in soon for some more.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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