by Shauna Vo
Sights. Korea has a distinct smell to it. I don’t mean to complain or give Korea generalizations. These observations have been from my time so far here in Ulsan. Everyday Randy and I have a 20 minute walk to school. We walk about half way together and then part ways. On our way to school, we pass several interesting sights and smells. We see a map of the neighborhood with a cartoon character of a whale. Then, we see a huge whale restaurant with a humpback whale on the sign. Ulsan is known for their rich whaling history. The whale is, of course, the city’s symbol. We were quite weary of this when we discovered it and still are. When we asked our co-teachers why there are so many whale restaurants in the city, considering the fact that hunting whale is illegal, they said that whales die naturally and that is why there are so many restaurants that serve whale meat. But, I don’t know how long you can keep whale meat until it is no longer fresh. Our friends who have tried whale meat say that it tastes very beefy and some parts, they say, taste like roast beef. I hope we are not encountered with having to try whale meat.
Riding the bus in Korea is no joke! As soon as you pay your 1,000 won (less than $1) you better grab a hold of something because the drivers here don’t care. As you can imagine even the city buses are Hyundai and the bus drivers think that they’re in a street race. They make very sharp and frequent stops. I am waiting for the day to see a flying Korean Superman in the air. When you ride the city bus, think of it as getting a serious ab workout.
Sounds. Like any city, there is always construction going on in Ulsan. But, what is different from any city or country, Korea completes construction projects in no time! During our fourth week of school, they were drilling a hole in half of the alley way that we walk through to get to school. I’m not quite sure what they were doing. But, it only took them a week to drill the hole, move the concrete, take out the pipes and re-pave the road.
Next to the holes, they were building a new convenience store. They started it when I got to Ulsan and finished it within two or three weeks! At first, I couldn’t tell that it was supposed to be a store, I thought it was just a place that was torn down. But, two weeks later, they had a brightly colored sign above the store and tons of food and snacks to purchase.
Smells. There are some parts of Korea that are so beautiful, such as the huge mountains behind the city full of skyscrapers. But, when you step into the city and in the alley ways, you see a different part of Korea. Taxis are rushing to find the next customer and bikers are speeding down the street, making the loudest sounds. Every day we walk through an alley way that has such a potent smell. We have discovered that Korea doesn’t have the greatest sewage system. Instead of using a garbage disposal, we have to separate our compost into a different dumpster. Thank goodness we live on the 11th floor of our apartment building because the smell of sewage and compost here is disgusting! We have to hold our breath when we pass by sewage holes on the way to school. Although Korea is not a third world country by any means, this is one area where they could improve.