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South Korea: Busan

The trip continues. 2,5 hours on a fast train and we reach Korea’s second largest city - Busan. What surprised us riding the train is that no one checks your ticket, the ticket collector just walks around the wagons checking if everyone has a seat (also, he bows every time he exits the wagon) and he’d only come up if there was someone in a wrong seat and then mayyybe he’d asked you to show the ticket. It seems like there’s this sense of trust in the society, you also feel safe here, people often leave their things unattended (as Peter said it: “Korea is a perfect place to steal shoes”), I haven’t seen a single beggar in the streets and of course, they probably have their own problems, but coming from Europe, it almost feels like you reached this utopian, futuristic society. 

We’ve spent a weekend in Busan: teaching classes, dancing and getting to know an amazing swing community here. One of the dancers was explaining to me that yes, they love to dance, but it’s secondary, going out together, sharing a meal, spending time together is what’s the most important (yet, they are killing’ it on the dance floor too). 

We got to experience that ourselves, already on the first night, after the party everyone met in a Korean barbecue place to cook some meat and drink beers with soju (typical Korean alcohol). One girl asked me “Are you a vegetable?”, I was confused because I wasn’t sure if it’s a game, like “if you were a vegetable, what kind of vegetable would you be” until I realised she was asking if I was vegetarian. I’m happy I’m not as we had meat  at almost every meal. When I asked the organiser if he knew a single vegetarian in Korea, he just said “noooo”, so you get an idea. The food is astonishing, thereby, majority of my pictures now include food. However, I must admit, on the third day after eating a variety of octopus, raw fish, grilled squid and shrimps, I  could do a little break to go back to some good ol' mozzarella tomato salad or yoghurt and cereal for breakfast, but I'm sure during the next weeks my stomach will get more adjusted (fingers crossed).

Speaking English is a little bit of a challenge, but people are so friendly and loving that it stops being important. In fact, I feel it’s somehow even more beautiful to sit around a table, share a meal, laugh together but not speak the same language and at the same time feel that we’re all not so different, that things we share are greater than our cultural/language differences. During the classes, however, we had translators to help us, which was also an interesting experience, every time they’d be translating, in my head I was thinking of that scene in “Lost in Translation” where things seem to get lost in translation.

It’s interesting, because Koreans are quite shy and that’s what I heard before coming here, but at the same time they are very honest and quite straight-forward, which I appreciate. They will ask you whatever interests them (like Elze, why you don’t have boyfriend, you are attractive, I should have told them to go ask that non-existant boyfriend of mine to answer this) and they don’t get confused if you ask them something personal. 

Also, age seems to be a thing here, they are curious how old you are and then, if you share the same age you automatically become a friend. However, playing “guess my age” game is really difficult with them as most of them look way younger (my friend joked that it’s due to all the meat she eats..). Interesting fact is that Koreans start counting the age while the baby is still in the womb (which makes sense when you think about it), so when a baby is born, he/she is already 1 year old, thereby, as they put it, they have Korean age and international age (one year younger). 

Tomorrow we go back to Seoul for another few days for some dancing, sightseeing and of course beer and fried chicken..

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