I too have trouble remembering what day it is across confusing time zones, but I'm fairly sure that as I write this, it's not yet 2013 in America. So Happy New Year, from the future. You will soon learn everyone is Asian in 2013.
I'm reminded of this every time I get a text from one of my good friends here, Sang Hyeon. Sang Hyeon is a 13 year old magician, and I spend more time learning card tricks from him than I do with people born before 1998.
I somehow feel bad about washing my hands every time I use these.
In Korea, you are 1 year old at birth and the entire country turns another year older on New Years day. That adds to my time zone confusion, and I don't actually know how old I am at the moment. This also means a baby born at 11:50 p.m. on New Year's eve is simultaneously 10 minutes and 2 years old when the clock strikes midnight.
Korea's Christian population is constantly increasing, but Christmas day is a Valentine's day hybrid.
Not a big deal, but not on 2 and 4 either.
Not a specific sports team, like the "Uljin Volleyball Team." Uljin in general. There is an Uljin uniform. My town has a uniform.
In construction, there seems to be a function over form philosophy at the expense of quality or aesthetic. Some days I'll wake up and an entire building somewhere in town will simply be gone. Other times, I'll walk past a block I routinely visit and notice a brand new building.
There is a button at most restaurant tables. If you press it, a waiter or waitress will come. If you don't press it, they won't bother you. It makes perfect sense, and It's the opposite of how restaurants work back home.
That's a literal translation of one acceptable way to get a waitress's attention.
I've noticed many Americans pride themselves on being a "Jack of all trades." Instead, the tendency here seems to be focusing on one or two primary interests. If you pick up a hobby you're expected to do it the textbook way, buy all the proper equipment, and take it seriously.
The driving ranges in Korea are heated, you pay by the hour, and the ball is automatically dispensed for you. Due to the lack of land these ranges tend to be nothing more than small netted boxes. Not ideal, but cheaper than the $200-300 you'd spend on one round of golf elsewhere.
I'll have to check it for accuracy but a teacher told me the average Korean adult consumes 300 bottles of this diluted vodka each year.
Ondol = heated floors, and it's fantastic.
Most chopsticks, bowls, and cups used in Korea are a metallic fake silver. This is because hundreds of years ago, royalty would eat with silver to detect any impurities or poisons in their food. The commoners wanted to mimic their leaders, creating the knock-off metal bowls that remain popular today.
I'll miss mingling and haggling with the vendors at our local market, or any market across Korea. Most people won't understand this, but there is one thing I could see on Earth it would be my father interacting at one of these markets.
Another interesting thing I've discovered is that "Moises Alou," the baseball player, seems to be a universal phrase at the market. When I can't understand the Korean I just use his name.
"How many do you want?" Well, clearly i'd like "Moises Alou" apples.
"Where are you from?" I'm from "Moises Alou." Never fails.
Some Koreans are afraid to eat the last bite of a communal dish because they think it will make them fat. My father is afraid of anyone else taking the last bite.
Tax is built into prices, so when something costs 5,000 won you pay 5,000 won. Simple, but effective.
I've had two conversations in the last two weeks about guns, and both Koreans I spoke to were under the impression every American owns a gun, and citizen shootouts happen daily. I was surprised by their perception, but many Americans hold a similarly inaccurate perception of safety in Korea.
Korea is incredibly safe, in fact it's one of the few places I've been where I haven't felt threatened in any way. People generally tend to leave each other alone, unless of course they are helping each other.
I left my keys on a bus and the driver ran after me to return them. A similar thing occurred after I left a bag at a bar in town. I also left my wallet on a table in Busan, only to find it safe with a group of teenagers an hour later. Once I forgot my phone and clothes at the local gym, and two days later they remained untouched.
I've had a bus driver take me home on credit, and strangers give me free phones. They gave me three phones for no reason, and two of them were smart phones. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe they had the nerve to give me a phone without internet capability.
There is a certain sense of connectedness in Korean society, a collectivism and social harmony that I can't fully explain or wrap my head around. When we go to lunch, we go as a group. When we leave, we leave as a group. If I walk into a building of strangers, most will bow and greet me, making me feel warm and welcome. "Choong" is a sort of cultural friendship among people that aren't necessarily friends, and although I don't completely grasp it I'll miss the small part of it I do.
I feel like now is when I should say how this year flew by, but in reality it felt like 3-4 years. I also feel like I should make a resolution. Alright, I have two resolutions. The first is to learn how to do this: