I’ve lived in the same location for a couple of months now. The first time living in a city since I left Australia. I’m slowly learning about the area I live in and finding the little perks that come from living in one location – much more than just knowing my way around a place.
Although I say knowing my way around a place – when it comes to downtown Daegu, I’m still semi lost half the time. The city centre is a maze of large and narrow streets, inter-crossing and all featuring very similar looking stores blaring neon colours. The central subway stops have upwards of 16 entrances with spanning underground shopping malls almost connecting them, meaning that leave via the wrong exit and you could be almost a kilometre away from where you intended.
I am slowly starting to build a small list of restaurants that can be relied upon for good, reasonably priced food. Memories of wandering the streets for forever when starving trying to decide on a place to eat are hopefully becoming a thing of the past, however, sometimes when your trying to find that little Japanese place that does sushi and udon, that you went to a few weeks back and was definitely just down this road, maybe opposite a park, could have been on the corner of an intersection.. you still end up wandering a bit.
I’m lucky to have a fantastic 감자탕 (Gam-ja-tang) restaurant 10 seconds from my apartment – serving large steaming bowls of tender pork bone soup with noodles and rice for about 4 pounds, but this has meant I’ve not fully explored the myriad of local restaurants around me. I’ve been to a couple, but none have come close to matching the value and taste of the one next door. As I only really eat in my area once or twice a week, I normally use the opportunity to get my pasta fix rather than going to get dinner for one. The majority of my friends are about 20 minutes from the downtown area, so it’s very easy to meet there, whereas if we head out to a person’s area it could lead to some people travelling 40 or so minutes each way.
In the local area I have met a gem of a local guy who works as the traffic warden outside one of the apartment tower blocks I walk by each day on the way to work. He works Monday, Wednesday and Friday and whenever I go past, I receive a loud and cheery ‘good morning’ – yet when said in the Korean way of accentuating all the wrong syllables in the word it sounds so much livelier and brightens up even the grayest, most exhausted Monday morning walk to work.
One thing I haven’t found, which I normally like to have, is a good local coffee shop where I go often enough to be recognised by the staff. I had a lovely one opposite my apartment in Spain, with all glass walls, chill music and great affordable cafe cortados; but here in Korea barista made coffee is seen as a luxury product and prices vary from about 4-7 pounds for a cup in most of the trendy places. There’s 3 on the walk between my house and school – but they are all too fashionable for me, with prices I don’t feel like paying on a regular basis. I went for my weekly Korean class last night and we found a little cafe in the downtown region that was reasonably priced and had a great playlist, but is a bit of a trek to make my local. I had a parcel attempted to be delivered whilst I was out yesterday, that should hopefully be dropped off this afternoon and will contain several months supply of Italian coffee sent by superstar Gareth, so maybe I will just make my apartment the trendy coffee hang-out area.
My journey to get downtown is delightful thanks to the monorail system here, which celebrated its first birthday last week. The difference in having natural light and views out across the city and hills that serve as the city’s boundary is massive. I feel that if, somehow, all major cities’ underground networks could turn into skytrains, people’s moods would increase tenfold. Even the fact I hardly ever get a seat on the monorail doesn’t detract from the perks of riding above the city. I can now pretty much read the subway map in Hangul that is written large and clear so can be read from anywhere in the carriage to check how many stops till I jump off, as opposed to having to squeeze up close to read the small English underneath – definitely a perk of becoming familiar with the language.
One of my least favourite things about living in Daegu, something that is synonymous with cities around Korea, is their terrible traffic light junction system. If you arrive at a crossing just at the man is going from green to red, you can expect to find yourself stood there for a good 4-6 minutes as every other single pattern goes on rotation. When your journey downtown is 15-20 minutes, making that green man suddenly makes quite the difference. In a slightly obsessive nature, (I hate waiting), I’ve learnt the patterns of the traffic lights around my apartment so that when approaching up the street I can figure out if a gentle meander is a fast enough pace, or if I need to put in a speed boost to make the next green that’s coming up.
The traffic junctions are also the main reason I haven’t invested in a bike to date. I’d planned on getting one when moving out here, but the amount of time you would spend waiting at crossings as the monorail glides over your head really detracts from the appeal. The roads are also not in the slightest bit cyclist friendly, and 99% of the time you find cyclists swerving their way around the sidewalks. The only time I’ve seen them take to the road is when the slightest drop of rain falls and the sidewalk becomes a warpath of umbrellas – making squeezing past dawdling Koreans a nightmare. I live city centrally to the point that their aren’t any nice cycleways within my vicinity, so for now bikes will remain rented objects for exploring other, smaller towns and villages.
My school has just started its midterm exams, so for today and tomorrow I’m free to my own devices – I just have to be present within the school grounds. Hence why there’s another blog with just some random facts about life here in Daegu. I’m intending to plan the majority of my classes for up until the summer and sort out the still dusty ex English teacher’s office that is attached to my classroom. Butttt I have brought in my memory sticks to sort out my photos and have plenty of other procrastination methods that I’m sure could distract me until I get out!