Monday, March 31, 2003

The last few weeks have really motored by, and I apologize to all for the lack of updates from my end. Our weekends have remained quite busy and the weeks, well they just seem to roll by with very little to report.

Last weekend saw Amy and I head over to Jeonju to go and visit Joanna again. The bus trip was uneventful and once again dominated by scenes of the beautiful Korean countryside rolling by. Roughly four hours after setting off we pulled into Jeonju and were met downtown by Joanna. We had a little time to relax and catch up and Joanna filled us in on the strange goings-on of her latest roommate. He is 35 years old, a devout Buddhist and most likely a full-blown schizophrenic. Joanna insists he has lengthy conversations with himself while at home and his room is covered with cut up Korean movie poster collages (his “Art”). It's real ‘A Beautiful Mind’ kind of stuff. Harmless I’m sure and just one more thing to chalk up to the Korean experience.

That evening, Joanna had a dinner appointment, so Amy and I spent a few hours exploring the downtown core. As we wandered we remarked on the interesting differences between our two cities, Ulsan and Jeonju. The people in Jeonju dressed much more down to earth, in a kind of hip-hop style. By contrast, Ulsan styles is much more conservative, with the most popular brands being Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Versace. I suppose it all boils down to economics. Ulsan is the richest city (per capita) in South Korea, largely due to all of the industry concentrated here, and it would follow that the people here have much higher tastes. Personally, I felt much more comfortable in Jeonju.

After a couple of hours, we met up with Joanna again and headed out for a night on the town. I clearly remember our taxi ride across the city as the taxi driver was listening to coverage of the war in Iraq on his radio. What was interesting was the reporting was all done to a deafening background of rockets launching, explosions and gunfire. The near hysterical pace at which the Korean reporter was shouting the news only added to the canned sound effects. All in all, it sounded overly dramatic and made me wonder just how most Koreans perceive the war, if this is all they hear about it.

The past week, I’ve spent mostly in front of the television – glued to the constant coverage of the war. We get CNN in Ulsan and I’ve been alternating between that and Korean Arirang TV and Japan’s NHK (both English-language channels). Many are concerned here with the pace of events in the Persian Gulf, and wonder whether it may foreshadow a similar campaign on the Korean peninsula in the future. There has also been considerable debate over the Korean government’s decision to send a battalion of Army engineers to Iraq to aid in the reconstruction of the country after the fighting has ceased.

This past week has also marked the arrival of the Hwang-Sa or ‘Yellow Sand’. Every March, as the wind patterns shift, sand from the Gobi desert begins to drift eastward over the Korean peninsula. The sky has changed to a murky brownish/yellow tint that partially obscures the sun. It’s meant that the air quality in Ulsan over the last few days has been fluctuated from bad to terrible and neither Amy nor I have wanted to spend much time outdoors. We’ve also taken to wearing our super-sexy facemasks while walking to school. Luckily these winds will last only for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, I hope to write more shortly. Hope all is well with everyone.


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