Monday, February 3, 2014

Happy Lunar New Year...or Chinese New Year...Whatever! Happy 4 Day Weekend!

Because the Asians like to celebrate an additional New Year that the moon dictates instead of the one that the earth and sun dictate, we got a four day weekend. Known as "Sollal" here in K-Land, it's one of the biggest holidays of the year where all the families get together and eat lots of food and do traditional things a.k.a. a living hell for most of them. My lady coworkers are nearly in tears every "family" holiday because there is so much expected of them from their mother-in-laws (cooking, cleaning, getting yelled at...) while the single Korean ladies have to endure endless questioning on just why oh why they aren't married yet. One of my single coworkers actually skips every holiday with her family for the SOLE reason that she doesn't want to be questioned relentlessly about her marriage status despite the fact that she's *gasp* 30. 

We expats, however, get a relaxing holiday, and this one was filled with four days of unusual 60+ degree weather. Thursday and Friday Al and I just chilled and Saturday we all had a BEACH DAY! The last time we were all at the beach was probably October, so this was fantastic. We brought our beach blankets (and extra blankets to stay warm) and the boys played football all day. Fabulous.

Sunday, Al and I decided to head down to the southern part of the city along the coast to Chinatown, because we've never been there. Turns out "Chinatown" is more of a long street that should be more appropriately named "Russiatown". Not only was there very little Chinese anything there, it was basically a big sign that said "Chinatown" and then a bunch of shops and restaurants with Russian names. If someone knows the story behind it, please, let me in, because I don't get it. Mostly everything was closed anyway, so that was unfortunately somewhat uneventful. 

We took the subway two more stops to Nampo, a favorite area of ours. It's a trek and a half to get there from our house, like 40 minutes or more on the subway, but we like to go. There's a very long, wide street with semi-upscale shopping, where at the end you turn right down a dirty alleyway and come out in knock-off central. This tightly packed, mile long extravaganza has anything and everything, but mostly fakes of every shape and size. Now, don't get me wrong, if you know me well you know that I believe that knock-offs should be banned from earth, but that's mostly towards bags, jewelry, shoes...the big items. Do I have a Lacoste hoodie from there because I'd rather pay $50 than $150 for pretty much the same exact quality? Yeah. But if I can't afford $1,300 for a genuine Chanel quilt bag, then I'm not going to spent $150 on one in Nampo to carry around like I'm better than everyone. Gross. 

Once we got to the end of the nice shopping area, we decided to turn left because, well, we've never turned left down that way. We ended up discovering an entirely new area of Nampo that we've never been because, really, we just stick to the same old same old. Al and I...we don't generally go to new places around Busan. I'm not sure why. We've just not gone out and "discovered", so Sunday was a real treat. We found new streets, new restaurants and Lord Almighty, the Jagalchi Fish Market. The Jagalchi Fish Market is a seafood spectacle unlike any other. It's a huge building that looks like this inside... 

...With every type of sea creature imaginable available for purchase. As you can see...

I had no idea what most of it even was, let alone how to eat it. This place is quite a knock on the senses, especially the nose. I saw a woman skinning eels alive in one quick stroke; they were still bloodily slithering around afterward. I immediately wished I hadn't witnessed such a traumatizing event as I very much like eel sushi. It's all I'll be thinking about next time I'm in a sushi joint and order my regular unagi. 

After we finished roaming the smelly building we went outside to a deck, which overlooks the water and what I assumed to be a fishing boat marina. There were lots of people out and about because of the nice weather, kids feeding seagulls, a band was playing...and two homeless men fighting each other. As soon as he spotted it, Al yells, "bum fight!" and then one of them gets knocked out and falls backwards down some steps. Someone was attempting to break it up, but it was clear they were sloshed and were having none of it. Since I brought my camera along with me, I spent a lot of the time still testing out settings and trying to get some good pictures of the marina...and some I did!!


I love love love this picture

We decided to lose ourselves down some more side streets we've never seen as we worked our way back to the Nampo subway station. We found another great shopping/food street that I for sure want to come back to.

Once we were back to the main shopping street and were walking back towards the station, we passed a clothing store that people were running out of and was quickly filling with smoke. A fire! It had apparently just started as the shopkeepers were running in and out with their phones calling the firemen. The whole area was soon filled with black smoke as it was rolling out of the front door. Of course we, along with tons of others, stopped to watch it all unfold. The fire trucks showed up not 5 minutes later (7 of them, by the way) and began to put it out. I never saw any flames, though, just billows of smoke. We happened to be in the right place at the right time for all the action today! First a bum fight, then a fire. 

Instead of going home, we went into the big Lotte department store across the street to look for some food. The way department stores here are set up is that usually on the first floor there are tons of food counters. They cook in the middle and there is counter seating all around it. We found a Japanese ramen one, in my top 5 favorite foods ever, and it hit the spot. 

Says "ramen"

Tonkatsu Gyoza Ramen. Heeeeeaveeeennnn

After a long day adventuring to new places, we headed home and fell asleep at 9:30. The next day, Monday, was the first day for the kids back from vacation, which means my hours changed back to the normal 1-6:30. I hate, hate, hate waking up early in the morning, but getting off work at around 2 every day was great. As much as I detest waking up early, I'm still a person who would rather just get in and get out. I always hated in college when I had evening classes, because I just have to wait around all day knowing I have an obligation later in the day. Sucks. But now, I get to sleep in as late as I want again, but I get off at 6:30...which really isn't bad. It was God awful having to take my morning coffee poo at school instead of home, anyway. Onward to March 31! 

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