Monday, October 26, 2009

Korea Day 11 - Off the Map to Three Markets

All woke up tired this morning after doing battle with a few mosquitos that got into our rooms through the windows we opened to counteract the heat the hotel turned on yesterday. It's warm here and we don't need heat, but we all need sleep! Today we decided to visit three markets that we had not yet seen. We took a cab from one to the next: the Janganpyeong Antiques Market, the Gyeongdong Market of medicinal herbs and finally the Seoul Folk Flea Market. The first, antiques market, was chock full of gorgeous furniture, and collectibles of every imaginable sort, and the outdoor areas were full of stone sculptures. I lusted particularly after a white jade horse with a girl rider ($40), about 10" long, but it was so heavy I couldn't bring myself to take it, even at that price.The Medicinal Herbs market was fantastic, aromatic, and full of strange and unexplainable (to us) baskets of all things useful for medicine - dried frogs, mountains of ginseng, herbs and twigs. It turned out that it was attached to an enormous food market, selling every variety of fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, and just about everything else - except there was no place to sit down and eat it and by then we were hungry. So we walked and walked, and finally found a great Korean lunch - wild mountain greens and rice for me, with egg and kimchi and so many great little side dishes. No Korean meal is ever served without a handful of small side dishes, pickles, soups, dips, radishes, kimchee, and so much more! I included a menu we considered and decided against - hope you can read it!
The Flea Market was disappointing, especially for two girls who thrive on yard sales, flea markets, and Goodwills. It was several stories high, crammed full of junk (both old and new) but nothing called to us. As usual, just walking on the streets offers endless entertainment. Yesterday we went past a lot of hardware stores. Here are a couple of random photos from the many we took. Check out the tiny tub. We saw them everywhere!Another fun part of the day was trying to get to the flea market, since the cab let us out in a random place, and of course we have no idea how to ask for where we want to go in Korean. We had a page torn out of a guidebook, and one line of Korean words that Betsy had written. So we began asking people to help us. It's tricky, because they help us in Korean, elaborate descriptions of how many blocks to go in which direction, and where to turn, what to look for, etc. But we had really only hand gestures to go on. We went into a police station, and got a similar response. The policeman took us outside to the sidewalk to demonstrate, and a young boy about 10 in school uniform walked by and said, in perfect English, where are you trying to go? He then explained clearly what we needed to do, said he had learned English in Detroit, and off he went. By then we had attracted quite a crowd of onlookers, and a very kind gentleman made us understand that he would take us there. We set off walking at a rapid clip behind him, down a bunch of alleys and small streets, winding here and there, until suddenly there was the building we were looking for. Such kindness!

Such kindness everywhere! We were talking today about something so striking in this culture, that seems to permeate everything very deeply. Everyone follows the rules. People don't jaywalk, or insult each other, or steal, or cheat tourists, or display road-rage, no matter how crazy it gets. We always feel completely safe and trusting, wherever we go, day or night, because there is an unspoken understanding that everyone will be respectful, civil, and polite. Even the few drunks we have encountered are polite and friendly, and ask for nothing from us. People seem happy, cheerful and super-industrious. Children go to school even on Saturdays, and usually attend after-school enrichment programs. Where the population goes wild and crazy is in artistic expression. It is so refreshing, and really shows us the dysfunction of much of our own country in a revealing light.

Anyway, I digress, as usual. Now 6:30 am. I fell asleep after writing this at 7:30 pm and slept through. I was so worn out! Today I feel like a new woman!


robin andrea said...

I have been completely enthralled by your journey. I love how colorful it is there. Everything is suffused with such a richness. Your description of the people makes me long for a population of such gentle civility. I can't even imagine such a thing.

You have done an amazing job conveying what you see, taste, feel, etc. I appreciate your keen senses so much, sj. Thank you.

Sigrid Jardin said...

Hi Robin, thanks for your sweet notes. Yes, it is almost like a dream to be in a place like this. I don't want to wake up! I find myself often (in the US) longing for everybody to just follow a simple set of rules, and have a rational and pleasant world. Here it is like a dream come true in that sense. We may only be seeing the surface, of course, but so far it feels wonderful. Big hugs to you and RM.