Trip to Gumi

Last weekend my host family (Ga-Young and Eun-Hye) invited me to their hometown, Gumi. This city is located in south-central South Korea, near Daegu (or Taegu). Here’s is a map where you can see Gumi (the red star), Daegu, and Seoul:

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Gumi is known for being the birthplace of Park Chung-Hee, former president of South Korea (from 1961 to 1979), as well as for hosting some factories where Samsung cellphones are made by its subcontractors.

We left Seoul on Saturday and it took us around three hours by train to get to Gumi. Once there, I met Ga-Young and Eun-Hye’s parents, younger brother (Jong-Won), older sister (Su-Young), and of course, their new dog (Youbi). As most Koreans, they are all really nice people, and made me feel as part of their family:D

On Saturday they took me to the top of the Geumo (“Golden Crow”) mountain, where you have a very nice view of Gumi.

After that, we had duck (not dog!) for dinner at a very nice Korean restaurant. One of those in which they don’t even have tables for occidentals and you have to eat sitting on the floor:)

On Sunday, we went to a Buddhist temple in Kim-Chon (see the map), a city near Gumi. Because fall is coming and the trees were turning red, and also because it was Sunday, it was pretty crowded, but we had a nice time and I could see real monks praying for the first time in my life.

On the way back to Seoul, we took a faster train, the KTX (Korean Train eXpress), based on the French TGV (runs at around 300 km/h).

Well, here are some pictures:

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Ga-Young and Eun-Hye on the train.

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Gumi’s main avenue.

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Selling vegetables on the street.

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Gumi from the Geumo mountain.

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Duck meat (so good!).

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Having a typical Korean breakfast.

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Jong-Won with Youbi.

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These are vines. They put sticks so that the grapes grow above the floor.

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When people come to pray, they put a stone making these piles. You have to be careful, because if the stones fall, it will bring bad luck.

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These are the temple’s guards… scary, huh?

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Standing in front of one of the many temples.

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There were some real monks praying to Buddha.

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There are 1000 buddhas in this room. Can you find the only one standing?

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Yes, these are grasshoppers, and I tried one!

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At Ga-Young and Eun-Hye’s family coffee place.

And that was it! A very nice weekend discovering another face of South Korea. ^-^//

First Visit to the Hospital

Today, like we use to do every friday afternoon, I’ve been playing soccer. While I was playing, I felt like my head and neck started itching.. “uhm, Korean shampoo must be not very good for me, that’s why” that’s what I thought…Well, when we finished training, I felt something really weird all over my face and specially on my lips, as if I had gone to the beach all day long and had gotten sunburned really badly. I asked my teammates and they told me there was something strange with my face, so I went to look in the restroom’s mirror and what I saw was a totally red face with lots of wrinkles on it. It was then when I realized something really bad was going on in my body. So I started thinking…

First thing that came to my mind: “I got bitten by a mosquito with some Asian illness… but wait, I got my vaccinations against everything! It can’t be that!” There were so many mosquitoes at the place where we leave our clothes, and in Spain we hear many stories about mosquitoes in Asia, so I don’t like these bugs very much.

After that, my teammates, tried to calm me down and told me it looked like an allergic reaction to something I ate. For lunch, we had lunch at an Italian restaurant. I had a Gamberetti Pizza, with mozzarella and shrimps, so because of the shrimps, it made sense… By the way, I do have a picture of that lunch, so here it is:

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Ok, so the five spanish interns decided to go to the hospital by ourselves without speaking a single word of Korean. The hospital we went to is the Severance Hospital, and it’s next to where we were playing. I will definitely dedicate a post to this hospital, because it looks like an airport rather than a hospital, they say it’s one of the best in South Korea, and I have no doubt about it. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me. Nor was I in the mood to take pictures, because I was still thinking I could die of that strange thing I had..

At the hospital we had to manage with our “kunglish” with the doctors at the ER, who were really nice, by the way. They told me that what I had was urticaria, this can be caused by many things, and they didn’t really know what caused mine. They also drew me some blood to analyze it, but they didn’t find anything either (I think they knew they wouldn’t find anything, but they did it so that they could charge me for that, as this is all private healthcare).

About the healthcare system, I have to say it looks quite similar to the American system. Everything is private, business. And a hospital is a service like any other. You go to the hospital, you are healed, you pay and leave. Just like going to the hairdresser:P

I had to pay 343,050 won (1000 won are $1 more or less). As I couldn’t take any picture of the hospital, I’ll show you the bill I got:

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Let’s see what they charged me:

  1. Medication: 45,000 won for some pills they gave me. I have to take these pills for 3 or 4 days.
  2. Laboratory Test: 173,300 won for the blood extraction and analysis. Analysis which they didn’t get any answer from, just as I expected (something similar happened to me in the US).
  3. Treatment/Procedure: 43,200 won for the service.
  4. Medical Supplies: 1,440 won for the syringes they used to draw me blood, I guess.
  5. OPD Visit Fee: 80,500 won for (I think) being waiting for longer than one hour with saline solution at a place with more ill people, some of them on beds, and some, like me, just sitting on chairs.

So this is what a visit to the hospital costs in South Korea. I don’t want to imagine this happening to a person without insurance… It’s in moments like this when I feel so glad that healtcare in Spain is socialized and works pretty well (at least most of the times it does). For me, now it’s time to do paperwork and call my insurance company so that I can get my money back.

As (unfortunately) some of you know and all of you can imagine, if falling sick in your country already is a bad experience, falling sick in a country you don’t know and which language you can hardly understand is three or four times worse. So I thank God everything was just a fright and you guys can be sure that before Manolo surrenders to Seoul, Seoul will surrender to Manolo. 😀

Taekwondo

Yes, yesterday I signed up for taekwondo lessons at Yonsei University, the university in which I am also learning Korean. I’m gonna be taking these lessons on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 to 8:30 PM.

First lesson was yesterday, and I really liked it! Seems like a great work out, lots of stretching, kicking, defense, relaxing, etc. Much more fun than going to the gym or swimming pool:P

Seoul International Fireworks Festival 2007

Yesterday we went to the Seoul International Fireworks Festival 2007. This even is held every year in Seoul, more concretely in Yeouido, an island made by the Han river on its flow through Seoul. This year Japan, United States and South Korea were participating in the festival.

What impressed me the most was the huge amount of people that went to this festival. I knew Asians love fireworks, but never before in my live had I seen so many people at the same place. According to the news, over one million people went to the island to see the fireworks. Here are some pictures:

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They stopped the subway escalators to prevent accidents.

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Subway exit. I stood there for 45 minutes waiting for my friends and for the 45 minutes the subway exit looked like this, people wouldn’t stop going out from the subway (and there were 4 exits!).

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We left like one hour before the event finished because we were scared of the mass of people, but this is what we found: many people had thought like us and started leaving, even though South Korea’s fireworks were next and they must have been the best ones. That’s the main avenue, it has six lanes if I remember well. Thank god they closed the roads for the event.

And of course, to close this post, here is a video of the fireworks: