Adventures of an American Seoul-Sister

Adventures and Observations of an American Seoul-Sister

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Town and Country

Chungju is a mix of town and country, a perfect blend of urban and rural.

Towering into the skyline are a series of apartos.  These multi-story skyrise apartment buildings are the height of a prestigious South Korean lifestyle.  To my American eyes, the identically-built structures, identifiable only by the number painted on the side, look like 1970's low-income or Cold-War-Soviet projects--not somewhere that I would ever want to live.


Just as these apartos come on one-shape/one-size-fits-all form, other buildings mimic each other in a similar sameness of dull, concrete-grey, pseudo-marble boxes.  In each box you can find, either a technology superstore, climbing goods stores attempting to pass as haute couture houses, or a series of coffee shops and PC Bongs (internet gaming house).  If you are looking for something else, then just trust that you have ventured into the wrong country city or possibly, the wrong country all together. 

Another series of apartos

All of these buildings give a modern, urban feel to Chungju, but there is a rural element just outside their doors.  Between and among these buildings, there are many green gardens.  Tended mostly by weathered, bent-backed old folks, the gardens produce a year-round supply of fresh vegetables.  One such garden, thriving below my window, grew a steady rotation of Korean radishes, sesame leaves, lettuce, tomatos, corn and red chili peppers.  It's care-taker arrived most mornings at 5:30 to pick, weed, hoe, and plant. 

Fall garden below my window.

Old man clears the fall garden and plants his winter crop.

If these gardens can flourish amongst all these ugly buildings, I wonder why American cities don't host more gardens of their own?  South Korea is proof that urban living does not have to mean a total abandonment of rural values.  Enjoying a country lifestyle does not have to mean a shunning of modernity and urban comforts.  I wish that my own country could adopt and adapt to the South Korean style of town-and-country living (minus the hideous buildings, of course).

Urban garden: corn and concrete

No comments:

Post a Comment