Sunday, February 26, 2006

Gumi, South Korea - Photos/Pictures

I found some more photos I took of both places I used as landmarks and some of my very favorite places in Gumi (South Korea).

Click StoreHere is a picture of one of my favorite stores. It's the Click store. It has photo albums, jewelry, cell phone accessories, fancy writing paper, make-up and more. It is, also, a unique enough landmark that you can tell someone you will meet them outside the store and you can find one another quite easily.

Dunkin' Donuts - Gumi Location

As anyone who knows me [or has come to know me by reading my blog] knows I love Dunkin' Donuts. This is a pic I took of the inside of the Dunkin' Donuts store in Gumi. It is beside the train station and therefore is in a very convenient location. Although I don't know his name I do know that the man working in the photo is the store manager and for whatever reason for the longest time I mistakenly believed that he was either Thai or Filipino. I still don't know why I thought this maybe just because he knew I was a foreigner he spoke Korean to me extra slowly and clearly. And, I guess that led me to believe that he wasn't a native Korean either but someone who's second language was Korean - just like me. In any case he is a wonderful guy. He is super friendly and he always makes a big deal when he sees me. It makes me feel glad to patronize his store.

Gumi Bathhouse

This is one of the bathhouses in Gumi. It is located near the E-mart and therefore very close to my neighborhood. Truthfully, I never went there. I always meant to go but somehow I just never seemed to make it. For those of you who don't know, most apartments in Korea don't have bathtubs only a shower spout on the wall. Therefore, when you shower your whole bathroom gets wet and you have to put on plastic "shower shoes" to keep your feet (and socks dry) when you enter the bathroom. Since you can't have a nice, relaxing soak in a hot bathtub there are pubic bathhouses where you can go and pay somewhere around 5,000 won (a little over $ 5.00 Canadian) and have a bath. These bathhouses include steam rooms and tubs of not just plain water but, also, green tea, Jasmine tea, mud, mineral salts, etc. You can soak in as many different tubs as you want. All for the same price.

I have gone to other bathhouses and had I known how great they were I certainly would have gone and tried out this one in Gumi. However, at the time I didn't know and I was shy about getting naked in front of a bunch of strangers especially since I didn't know how the whole system worked (i.e. Where do I pay? Do I bring my own towel? Will people stare at me cause I am a foreigner? etc., etc.) [For the record I didn't get anyone staring at me - even though people often stare at me on the street. I've even gone to a bathhouse with an Australian friend of mine who is super tall and whenever she and I are together on the street we ALWAYS get stares but in the bathhouse no one paid much attention to us. It was a pleasant surprise.]

Gumi Stores

Here is a photo of some of the stores and restaurants in Gumi. They are directly to the left of the Gumi Train Station. Family Mart is a great convenience store. It even has a bank machine inside great for getting money if you are taking a trip on the train.

Gumi Train Station Under Construction

This is a photo of the Gumi Train Station when it was still under construction. I took this in March of 2004. I just wanted to show the changes that have occurred to this landmark. There is a taxi stand directly in front of the building. It was always so convenient to go there to grab a cab. Or if I didn't know the exact address of where I was going I would just tell the cab driver "Gumi Yuk [Gumi Station] and get off at the train station and walk the rest of the way where I was going.

Stairway to New Gumi Train Station

Here's the view of the stairway to the new Gumi Train Station. I took his photo at night not expecting it to turn out but it did and you can even read the sign in both Hangul and English.

3 Poles Outside Barber Shop

I know I am going to offend people by mentioning this but I decided some time ago that I wanted to be true to both my experiences in Korea and to the true nature of Korea both good and bad. That said please understand I am not trying to be critical but to present the truth as it has presented to me. In Korea most of the barber shops have these striped poles outside of them. It makes it very easy to identify them. However, I have been told by many male friends that if the shop has more than one pole outside it then it offers "special services" to the male cliental. I do know of a fellow [a Canadian co-worker] who went to one of the barber shops for a haircut and he hadn't heard the rumors and he went to one that had more than one pole outside. He was surprised when it was a woman who cut his hair [in North America at least 90% of barbers are men]. And, he swears that he was offered a "massage" and that he could see into a backroom that was partly hidden by a curtain and that there seemed to be some "funny business" going on back there. That said I do not know any males to admit to having partaken in the "special services" so ...

Mountain Temple

One thing I like about Gumi is that no matter where you walk you get a view of mountains. Even right downtown there is a view of a mountain with a pagoda or temple on the top of it. It really is breath-taking to be able to see something so exotic [for a Canadian - anyway] no matter where I walk.

Color Pic Gumi Rice Field

Here is a picture of a rice field. What is so astonishing to me is that it is located right between the block of brick houses and apartment buildings that form my neighborhood and the E-mart store. It's not like it's located out in the country of anything. I had never even seen a rice field before and it was quite amazing for me to live right next to one.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Neighborhood Boys

It's hard to explain Korea to people who have never been there. It's such a homogeneous society. Coming from a multi-ethnic country like Canada it's even more difficult to imagine a country where everyone is the same race, speaks the same language, looks the same, etc., etc.

It is, also, a collective society. What I mean is that it seems to have a group mentality. North America especially is very individualistic. The history of our nations was formed by, pioneers, people who would leave the populated areas to go to a new place [like the west] and settle it. Korea is not like that. It is unusual to see anyone alone in Korean society. The children are in groups, the students walk in groups, even the housewives go to the supermarket shopping in groups. No one is ever alone.

As, a westerner I had a hard time getting used to this. And, I still never get over it when my students see me alone at a movie or alone shopping at the supermarket and they get all worried about me because I am alone. I've even had students cry and say they are sad cause I am alone. They will drag their parents over to talk to me and see if I am "OK" or get their parents to invite me home cause they think I am lonely. It's sweet that they love me and care so much about me but when I've been with people ALL day and I've only just stopped in at the supermarket to get bread or milk on the way home I want to tell them that, "It isn't a big deal" at all - at least not to me.

Anyway, since I never saw Koreans alone I was amazed when walking home from school everyday I would see this one little boy all alone. He was about 6 years old and he would be standing on the second floor of his house on the balcony everyday when I walked by. I started to feel sorry for him. The poor little boy. He was ALWAYS alone. Did he have any siblings or friends? It was so odd. This went on for weeks. Finally, one day [when my Korean had improved] I saw him standing on his balcony all alone. Then he caught sight of me and started yelling, "Wae-guk-in, [foreigner] ballie-hair-ah [hurry up]." Soon three other little boys of around the same age came running out of the door of the house and onto the balcony. They all stood there watching me walk by. This would happen everyday. As they got to know me they would try out their English on me and would call out, "Hello. How are you?" Then it dawned on me. He hadn't been alone and shunned all along. He had been the look-out. It was his duty or privilege [I'm not sure which] to watch for me [the foreigner] and call the others so that they wouldn't miss seeing me.

The Neighborhood Boys
I got to know these boys well over the months I spent in Gumi. They soon lost their shyness and everyday without fail they would run out to meet me and talk to me in English [and Korean]. It became the highlight of my day. It was quite an ego boost to think that for weeks they had kept watch for me. It was hard to imagine that just to meet and talk to me was so exciting to them - but apparently it was. They taught me a lot of Korean and after that I always felt safe in that neighborhood cause I knew I had people watching out for me or at least watching for me.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Belfast Boys

I had the chance to meet some of the most interesting people while working in Gumi. Two of the most memorable characters were two guys from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I'll call them "Ivan" and "Al". "Al" worked at my school. He was a red-headed, soccer-player guy. "Ivan" worked at another school but he was a good friend who I dated casually. We used to hang out at PSYCHO a foreigner bar in Gumi on weekends. It was lots of fun and "Al" and "Ivan" got along great and were the best of friends.

By coincidence a couple of months later both their contracts were finished [at the same time] and they went home to Belfast for a vacation and to see their families. I kept in touch with them via e-mail and sometimes by phone. So, the first time I talked to "Al" I asked him, "So, how is 'Ivan'? Have you seen him lately?" To which he responded, "That no good protestant *%^*&... I don't associate with the likes of him here in Ireland." I was shocked and somewhat taken back not having known either of their religions - and truthfully not caring. I knew that Northern Ireland was infamous for problems between Catholics and Protestants but I had never really thought about it before and certainly not in the connection to the two of them.

Several weeks later both guys had returned from Belfast. I was in PSYCHO with "Ivan" and we were sitting around drinking draft beer [Koreans call it "Hof"] and talking when "Al" walked in and came over to our table. I was nervous not knowing what to expect. But "Al" said to "Ivan" "Hey, man let me buy you a pint." and with that they hugged each other and that was that. We spent the rest of the evening drinking together and they got along fine. They were the best of friends again.

I guess this just goes to show that when you are in Korea the rules you follow in the rest of the world just don't apply.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Beep, beep, honk, honk, bow, bow

Traffic In Korea:

I realize sometimes that I really am experiencing culture shock and that I don't understand the way things work here in Korea. No where is this more evident than in regards to traffic.

One of my first mornings in Gumi, I was walking to school at around 6 am I heard a lot of beeping and I thought "Wow, traffic must be bad." However, since I was walking on the sidewalk I ignored the beeping and kept on walking. I heard more beeping but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Just then an old man grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the way as a motorcycle roared by on the sidewalk. I felt the breeze as it zoomed by and I know if he hadn't pulled me out of the way I would have been run over. I bowed to the man to thank him but he just shook his head at me as if to ask "Why are you so dumb?" I continued on my way to school and told some Korean co-workers the story. They were all calm about the incident and only seemed to be surprised that I was so indignant that a motorcycle [they call a motorcycle an "autobi"] almost ran me over on the sidewalk. I told them in Canada bicycles and motorcycles aren't allowed on the sidewalks and that they are called side WALKS not side DRIVES. But, I still don't think they understood...

Motorcycle in Market

I took this picture of a motorcycle [autobi] in the market in Waegwan. I snapped this photo just as this biker almost ran me down. I think he was surprised and a bit embarrassed I took his picture cause after I did it he bowed his head to me maybe to say, "Sorry, I almost ran you over."

I now am extra careful walking on sidewalks and in markets for I know that in Korea motor vehicles seem to have or at least take the right of way.

Korean streets are very narrow and cars and trucks park along the sides of them. This means that in most neighborhoods cars can only drive down the major streets. In my neighborhood I have to walk to the corner store and take a taxi from there as the taxi will not even try to navigate the narrow street to my apartment.

I find it interesting that if it's bad weather raining or snowing etc. which is when you want to take a taxi so you aren't exposed to the weather you still have to walk to a big street to get a taxi. This sort of defeats the purpose. Yet, if you order Korean or Chinese food it is not only delivered to your door [by motorcycle] but it is brought on real dishes making it necessary for the restaurant delivery person to come back an hour or so later and pick up the dishes. All you have to do is leave the dirty dishes at the front gate or just outside the door of your apartment. Wow! Quite a paradox, eh?

The thing I notice the most about traffic here is all the honking. Since I am partly French Canadian I was always a bit of an aggressive driver back home in Canada and I used my honk a fair amount [more than anyone I know] but in Korea EVERYONE uses their honk. I noticed that drivers honk at other cars at intersections in warning, "Don't pull out in front of me". If a car stops in the middle of a street [blocking the street in either direction] and the drivers goes into a store if a car comes and needs by the driver honks and the person in the store will run out and move the car. Honking seems to mean everything from, "Thanks", "Don't open your car door while I am driving by your vehicle", to "Get the heck out of my way" and yet in some strange way it works and makes sense to the people here. They seem to understand perfectly. I just watch in amazement!

One evening I was walking down a street and I saw a big truck parked in the middle of the street. A car pulled up behind it and honked. I stood there watching and almost laughing at the driver honking. I thought to myself, "Stupid! There's no one in the car. It ain't gonna move itself!" When all of a sudden the truck driver runs out, bows to the honker and quickly moves the truck. The honker bows his head back and drives away. I stand there in shock. Honking works! Even at an empty vehicle. WOW!!!

Narrow Streets in Korea

This is a photo of a Gumi street showing the same kind of big [bongo] truck I saw parked in the middle of the street blocking traffic in my story above. It, also, shows how narrow the streets are and how with vehicles parked along the street anyone stopping a car will completely block traffic.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Daegu Subway Fire

I haven't posted in a few days and it is because in going back and looking over my journal I have come to one of the most heart-breaking and tragic things that happened my entire time in Korea. I am somewhat hesitant to write about it and yet I feel to be true to my experience I must. It had a huge impact on me at the time and I wrote and recorded my feelings at the time and even looking back the rawness of the feelings are still there.

I am talking about the DAEGU SUBWAY FIRE that occurred on Tuesday, February 18th, 2003.

I had been to Daegu on Saturday to get my Alien Card. I had meet people from there in the Immigration Office. I had talked to them and shared some laughs with them as we went through the process of being finger-printed. And, since I didn't go beyond that meeting level I never knew if they had been traveling to work or school and rather they found themselves becoming victims on the Subway that day. I guess I will never know for sure.

I learn about the subway fire when my Mom calls me [from Canada] on my cell phone and wakes me from the midst of a deep sleep. "Where are you?" she demands. "Why?" I ask her. "Where are you?" she repeats. "I'm in bed at home trying to sleep. Why?" I respond.

It is then that she tells me about the tragedy. I later read about it in the newspaper and hear people at school and elsewhere talking about it. It still upsets me to talk about in details so I am quoting the following two sources at length.
Wikipedia has this to say about the incident:

The Daegu subway fire of February 18, 2003 killed at least 198 people and injured at least 147. An arsonist set fire to a train stopped at the Joongang-ro (or Jungang-ro) station of the Daegu Metropolitan Subway in Daegu, South Korea. The fire then spread to a second train which had entered the station from the opposite direction.
The arsonist was
Kim Dae-han, a 56 year-old unemployed former taxi driver who had suffered a stroke in November 2001 that left him partly paralyzed. Kim was dissatisfied with his medical treatment and had expressed sentiments of violence and depression; he later told police he wanted to kill himself, but to do so in a crowded place rather than alone. By most accounts, on the morning of February 18, he boarded train 1079 on Line 1 in the direction of Daegok, carrying a duffel bag which contained two green milk cartons filled with a flammable liquid, possibly paint thinner or gasoline.
As the train left Daegu Yeok station around 9:53 a.m., Kim began fumbling with the cartons and a cigarette
lighter, alarming other passengers who tried to stop him. In the struggle, one of the cartons spilled and its liquid contents caught fire as the train pulled into Joongang-ro station in downtown Daegu. Kim, his back and legs on fire, managed to escape along with many passengers on train 1079, but within two minutes the fire had spread to all six cars. The seats and flooring were composed of flammable fiberglass, carbonated vinyl, and polyethylene, and produced thick, chemical smoke as it burned.
The operator of the train, Choi Jeong-hwan, failed to notify subway officials immediately of the fire.
Errors compound the disaster

Smoke being visible on their
closed-circuit television monitors, subway officials radioed the operator of train 1080, Choi Sang-yeol, advising him to proceed with caution because there was a fire in the station. Train 1080 entered Joongang-ro station and stopped alongside blazing train 1079 approximately four minutes later. The doors opened only briefly, then shut, apparently in an effort to keep out the toxic smoke that had filled the station. Shortly after train 1080's arrival, an automatic fire detector shut down the power supply to both trains, preventing train 1080 from leaving the station.
Transcripts show Choi Sang-yeol made three announcements advising passengers in train 1080 to remain seated while he attempted to reach superiors. Finally, he was advised "Quickly, run somewhere else. Go up. . . kill the engine and go." Choi then opened the doors and fled, but in doing so he removed the master key, shutting down the onboard
batteries which powered the train doors— effectively sealing passengers inside. Later investigation showed 79 passengers remained trapped inside train 1080 and died there.
Inadequate emergency equipment also worsened the disaster. Daegu subway trains were not equipped with
fire extinguishers, and the stations lacked sprinklers and emergency lighting. Many victims became disoriented in the dark, smoke-filled underground station and died of asphyxiation looking for exits. Emergency ventilation systems also proved inadequate. Over 1,300 fire and emergency personnel responded and the fire itself was extinguished around 1:25 p.m.; however, the toxicity of the smoke prevented them from entering the station for another three and a half hours.

The intensity of the fire made it difficult to accurately assess the number of victims. Most were burned beyond recognition, many to the bone, and required
DNA analysis to identify. A total of 191 bodies were found and identified; 6 additional bodies were found but so thoroughly destroyed that they could not be identified; and 1 person's possessions were identified but remains could not be located.
As the incident occurred late in the morning
rush hour, most of the victims were students or young women who worked in the downtown district's department stores, which opened at 10:30 a.m. Many were able to contact loved ones on their mobile phones, and mobile phone operators released call connection and attempt records to help authorities determine who was in the station.

Investigation and coverup
Choi Sang-yeol could not be located for 11 hours after the accident, and investigators later discovered he had made contact with officials from the subway corporation during that time. The master key from train 1080 was found in an office at the Ansim train depot. Omissions from transcripts of radio communications also heightened suspicion of an attempted coverup.
February 26, 2003, authorities arrested Kim Dae-han, who had fled to a hospital for treatment. They also arrested both Chois and six officials of the Daegu Metropolitan Subway Corporation, the head of which was fired the same day.

The tragedy prompted outpourings of sympathy and anger from throughout
South Korea and internationally.
Officials promised to install better safety equipment in subway stations, and added spray-on fire resistant chemicals to the interiors of the cars of the Daegu Metropolitan Subway. Six stations were taken out of service for rehabilitation and restored in April
2003. The tragedy was considered by many a national embarrassment, provoking debate about whether South Korea had cut too many corners in safety during its rapid industrialization.
Also on
August 7, the Daegu District Court convicted Choi Sang-yeol, operator of train 1080, and Choi Jeong-hwan, operator of train 1079, sentencing them to prison for five and four years respectively for criminal negligence. Kim Dae-han was convicted of arson and homicide. Although prosecutors and victims' families had asked for the death penalty, the court sentenced him to life in prison on account of his remorse and mental instability. Kim died in prison on August 31, 2004 in the city of Jinju, where he had been receiving medical treatment.
********************** has the following photo and information about the incident.
Traditional funeral flowers line Daegu's subway entrances.
Arrests over Daegu subway disaster
Monday, February 24, 2003 Posted: 0022 GMT');
SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters) -- South Korean police say they have arrested seven railway officials over the subway fire in the city of Daegu which killed at least 133 people and has left scores missing.
"Seven people (subway officials) have been arrested and are in custody here in the Daegu Joongbu Police Station," one of the detectives in charge of investigating last Tuesday's arson attack told Reuters by telephone.
He did not specify the charges, but police said at the weekend that they were seeking charges of negligence against subway officials.
The detective said arrest warrants for the suspected arsonist and two more subway officials would be sought on Monday, because they had been hospitalized.
"Initial investigations found subway officials were negligent in their duties," a member of the investigating police team said earlier.
Relatives of the missing, some brandishing placards demanding punishment of the guilty, and civic groups marched through the rain on Saturday to the subway station in Daegu, 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Seoul.
Most of the 300 marchers were overcome by emotion as they descended to the third level where the apparent arsonist lit a container of flammable liquid in a train, setting off an inferno which engulfed the second which pulled alongside.
Police said the suspected arsonist, identified as a 56-year-old former taxi driver with a history of mental problems, told them he had not wanted to die alone.
"I cannot find the right word to express the misery and tragedy we are suffering," Kang Dal-won, a representative of the families of the missing, told Reuters. "I want capital punishment for them," he said of those the police deemed negligent.
More than 300 people are still listed as missing after a conflagration which left some of the 12 carriages of the two trains strewn with skulls and bones.
Many of them, however, may be among the unidentified remains. Forensic experts say it may take months to determine who they are.
The investigator said the initial probe deemed three controllers negligent for allowing the second train into the station, where they knew a train was on fire.
They believed the driver of the first train was negligent in not reporting the fire properly and the driver of the second negligent for taking away the controlling masterkey without checking to see whether all the passengers had left, he said.
Domestic newspapers have suggested the train may have stood at the station for as long as 20 minutes with the doors closed and the majority of the dead are thought to have been aboard it.
The latest tragedy in a country with one of the worst traffic and public works safety records in the industrialized world shocked President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, who takes office on Tuesday in ceremonies scaled down to reflect public anguish.
"I feel shame and strong responsibility that those in charge of safety at public facilities worked with such a poor sense of safety awareness," he said on Friday. "We should feel like we committed a sin against the people."
Saturday's marchers also demanded that the subway station go unrepaired until the investigation was completed.
"The cause of the accident will disappear if the city rushes to repair the station," said Kim Hye-jung, another representative of the families of the missing.


Trains are running, but many are not ready to travel on the line again.
Chief investigator Cho Doo-won said on Friday the driver of the second train told investigators he had ordered passengers over the loudspeakers to get out three times and waited 10 minutes before removing the masterkey and leaving himself.
"We are focusing our investigation on the possibility that he left the train at a timeframe that was not 10 minutes," Cho said.
"After he escaped, he said he had given his jacket to a co-worker. We discovered that the masterkey was inside that jacket." Asked why the driver had handed over his jacket, Cho said: "He did not provide the reasons for that."
One survivor from the second train, sitting in the second or third carriage from which he could not see the fire on the first train, said the doors did open initially.
"We arrived at the station, the doors opened and smoke billowed in. Then the doors closed again," Lee Chang-ho, a 27-year-old student, told Reuters from his hospital bed.
"The driver told the passengers twice through the loudspeakers that the train would leave soon."
Lee said he thought it was about 10 minutes before passengers were finally told to get out. Lee said he had groped his way up the stairs through smoke so thick he could see nothing, tripping many times over what felt like bodies.
"What hurts me most is if they had told us to evacuate earlier, fewer people would have died," he said.
The link to the CNN site that tells more about this is here RE: Daegu Subway Fire
Several weeks later a Korean friend took me to Daegu for the day to go sight-seeing and while we where there he asked me if I wanted to see the site of the subway fire. I was hesitant but I knew that ignoring it wouldn't make it any less real. I remember the family members of the people who died living in the subway. It was black with soot and they were sitting on blankets on the floor holding vigil. There were pictures of the dead and even food laid out for them. Some of the victims were quite young so some of their favorite food was strawberry milk and moon pie. I looked at the pictures of the people who had had their lives cut short and I especially remember one who was a girl in her early twenties from Gumi and she was training to be a police officer.
What I remember the most is that on the soot covered walls that had previously been white tile people had written the names of their deceased loved ones and messages to them like "I love you" and "I miss you." It had quite an impact on me. And, it made my family in Canada more nervous about me continuing to live and teach in South Korea. But I reminded them that tragedy can happen anywhere and time.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Gumi Municipal Library

I decide to explore my city more so I go off to the city library in Gumi. In Korean it's called "She Rip Do So Gwan" which means Municipal Library. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my new Alien Card so I can fill out the form to get a library card but I can't complete the process until I come back with my Alien Card. I am allowed to use the library but I can't borrow any books.

This is a picture of the Municipal Library in Gumi. For more information on the library go to the following website. It's in Korean but it has a great streaming video of the library.
Gumi Municipal Library

Since Gumi is a growing city many places have changed since I first visited them in the Spring of 2003. The same is true for the library which is obvious if you look at the difference between this picture and the streaming video on the link.

I decide it's about time to start learning some Korea so I look at the children's books. Being the only Westerner at the library I attract a lot of attention! Mothers keep pushing their little kids to come over and say "hello" and practice their English on me. This is fine for about 20 minutes and then it I start to feel a little like a trained bear in the circus. So, I decide to turn the tables and I find a picture book in Korea and I make the kids teach me Korea. I will help them with English but only if they tell me the words in Korean. I learned a lot of baby words. It's sort of humiliating to realize that I don't have the vocabulary of the average Korean 2 year old. But I guess I got to start somewhere. In fact, the kids seem to think its more fun to teach me Korean than to learn English. So, I guess I am getting the better part of the deal.

It does make me consider that maybe I should think about coming back and doing a story time with some easy English books. I bet it would be fun and a great way to meet more people and maybe even learn some more Korean.

The librarians are very nice to me and not only help me fill out the paper work [which is in Korean] so I can get a library card but when they discover I don't have my Alien Card with me they agree to put my application aside and just hold it until I come back another day. This saves me having to fill out the papers all over again. It seems like a hassle to me but when I look at the section of English books there are at least half a dozen good novels there that I have never read like "The Poisonwood Bible" so I decide it's worth the effort. There are only about 50 English books in total but the librarian tells me they will get more for me. In turn I tell them I have some books at my apartment I have read that I will bring and donate to them - if they want. They seem very surprised and excited that I would consider adding to their collection of books that way. Maybe it's not such a common thing to do in Korea with all the reading rooms where you pay to read comic books. In Korea I discovered that there are a lot of stores where Koreans rent comics or other books just like we rent videos and DVDs in the West.

I get busy and don't get back to the library for several weeks but when I go back I not only bring my Alien Card but I have at least 20 English novels to donate [when the other English teachers at my school heard about my adventure at the library they all started collecting their English books for me to donate for them, also]. The same librarian I talked to before is working. She takes me over to see that the library moved some books around made room for more English books and that they even bought 2 new English novels. It makes me feel bad that I kept procrastinating and took several weeks to get back. They were obviously waiting for me.

I show them my Alien Card and they record the number for their records and even photocopy it for their files and issue me my own library card. Having accomplished this I really feel like I am starting to settle in and make Korea my home.

Above is my scanned Gumi Municipal Library Card [I photo-shopped out my personal info but other than that it's legit]. I still have it. Some day I plan to go back and visit the new library.

About two weeks later I get a letter in Korean so I take it to my school to get someone to translate it for me. It is a letter of thank you from the library for donating books. Donating books was such a small thing for me to have done but it obviously was appreciated. It leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy. It makes me feel confident and excited about exploring even more places in Korea.