I have now hit the three month mark in my time in China and I find myself reminiscing about our wonderful year in Korea. All this reminiscing is because I’m just not having as a good time in China as I did in Korea. That time in Korea still remains the best year of my life and I will be very surprised if this year in China will snag that title. My life in Korea was carefree, easy and a lot of fun. Now as I sit in crowded and polluted Shanghai I remember all the great things that I had at my disposal in my year in Korea and no longer do in China.
The Best Internet in the World
Internet in Korea is perfection. It is the fastest internet in the world. Seasons of TV shows were downloaded in less time than it took me to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I would be five minutes into a new show before I had to flip the bread. Internet in China is abysmal; not only is almost everything in English censored, the connection to the outside world is so slow I am starting to think that whoever is in charge is using carrier pigeons. While torrenting I need to use a VPN to reach any decent speed. To upload 10 pictures on Facebook takes a lifetime. The internet in my building is probably shared with every tenant as in the evenings it is almost impossible to load a page. Now and again, Google search randomly times out and you cannot access most of the pages that you find. There are not many things you can do on Chinese internet if you can’t read the language, but you can however take advantage of Youku or buy a kilo of meth for $20,000.
Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world. It’s not for nothing. I have never been to a place where people take such care about their appearance. Nobody else in the world cares this much what others think about them. Some of my middle school students had their double eye lid surgery while on winter break! Hiking up a mountain is like being on a runway fashion show of the latest hiking accessories company, every hiker is dressed to a tee. Korean Air flight attendants are so perfectly dressed and done up that I really think that they are not human. You can disagree with me all you want but being surrounded by beautiful, trendy and impeccably dressed people is incredible. If I would have spent another year in Korea, the young Korean women would probably turn me gay. I personally was inspired by the fashion and the trends. Of course, this is incredibly superficial. The pressure to look good is ruining young girls’ and boys’ lives and I do hope that they will understand that what is on the inside is more important. With that being said, appearances make a difference and a year in Korea made analyze the way I look. I’m afraid that a year in China will undo all that hard work as the rule for fashion in China: anything goes. The lines of acceptable social behaviour are beginning to blur. Is spitting and belching loudly in a workplace acceptable? I don’t know anymore!
I didn’t know how much I actually liked Korean food until I left the country. I crave it every week like it is a drug. What I really miss most is Friday nights with our friends in Busan where we would end up in our neighbourhood BBQ joint we called “many lights” because of the abundance of LED lights on the exterior. Korean food is melt-in-your-mouth spectacular. The meat is just so well seasoned and the side dishes, there is no end to them! I still haven’t found food that I would choose to eat again in China. Everything has been just all right, nothing has made me say, “Wow, this is so good! I want to have this for the rest of my life!”.
Seriously Awesome Beats
The dance music in Korea is the best that I’ve heard. In fact, it made me discover a genre that I had no idea existed. The DJs in Korea know how to mix music and get the crowd dancing. Music is always new and fresh, yesterday’s hits quickly become passe today. You turn any street corner and you will hear beats pumping through a vendor’s speakers. In cellphone alleys, shops have volume battles. It may be loud, but it is so much fun to be around. If you like electronic music, don’t go to Europe, but Korea. It seems that music takes a long time to reach China. I mean, come on, it’s 2013! Why are you playing Poker Face with your outdoor speakers? There is no concept of appropriate music for a specific venue. The rule of thumb in China is to blast the music at maximum volume in order to win the volume battle with the restaurant or bar across the street, because we all know that people judge the quality of a place by how loud the music is playing. I certainly do!
Soju, Plum Wine and Let’s Spark
Good alcohol in Korea is cheap and plentiful. After drinking it for a year I can guarantee to you that Soju will not kill you. It did remind me of paint thinner at some point, but now I am strong believer in mixing soju with juice. It is so mild, you won’t even know it’s there. My favorite alcohol in Korea was plum wine, specifically the sparkling plum wine, Let’s Spark. It tastes like a party in your mouth and at 4000 Won a bottle, you can’t go wrong. I can’t forget about rice wine, Dongdongju, which is similar to Maekoli but it is on another level. I would sell my newborn to have a bowl of Dongdongju with a side of Pajeon and Kimchi at the Dragon Cave in Busan. Currently,I have to settle for Western imports as the alcohol in China is all terrifying and putrid. Like the mystery hot dogs of China, I don’t know what is it that stuff and I don’t want to find out.
In Korea, mountains are everywhere. Our backyard in Busan was a mountain. The development of Busan was shaped around the mountains. Maybe I just don’t like living in flat cities but cycling down from home and then cycling up to my school was a tremendous experience. It incredible to have mountain silhouettes in your peripheral vision and to be able to climb up any mountain at any time. Having mountains at every turn makes every Korean into a hiking enthusiast. Hiking accessories and clothing stores are abundant, often times right next to each other. If you’re not decked out in the latest gear as you climb 700 meter “behemoth” you’re doing it wrong! Hiking in China is not really hiking but walking in a mountainous resort. Nobody is decked out in latest gear, hiking poles are bamboo sticks and everybody is screaming into the mountain.*
*Why? WHY? Someone please explain to me why Chinese people scream into canyons? Yes, your voice will travel far and you might even hear the echo if the other 5 idiots beside you are not screaming at the same time.