Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alpha in Namdaemun

When I first moved to Korea, almost five years ago, our school took us on a trip to Namedaemun to go to Aplha to pick up school supplies.  I still remember how overwhelmed, excited, overstimulated, frustrated, and claustrophobic I was.  

Namdaemun is one of the largest market places in Seoul and I suppose it's sort of a tourist destination--but I only go there to go to Alpha.  

I love shopping in America because of the variety, and since I grew up there, I can find pretty much anything I'm looking for.  Korea is frustrating sometimes because you know what you need, but it's hard to find it.  Or...you can't find it.  That's one of the key defining points of being "American" I'd say...is there are SO MANY CHOICES for EVERYTHING...some see this as a good thing, but truly, when you step outside of it...much of it just looks like excess. I mean, how many brands of water do you truly need?  It is a product of Americans' value of individuality.  

Anyhow, once you know where to look, you can generally find what you're looking for in Korea.  I've been wanting to gather some supplies to work on my Project Life album but just had no time or energy to invest into going to Alpha.  

Alpha is a chain store you can find all over Seoul.  There's a small one by my house in Hannam-dong where I can take my USB and the guy will print color pages for me for 500W or about 50 cents!  The largest one I've ever been to is in Namdaemun and it's just massive.  You can see in one of the pictures close to the bottom of the post--there are five floors with more than twenty rooms filled with school, office, craft, and art supplies.  Below you can see pictures from the "Pen" room, the "Folder" room, the "Paper" room and the "Art" room. (Aptly named by myself.)

I went on Friday after our half day of school and it felt refreshing to get out and walk around the market--I rarely go there. 

It's easy to get frustrated there though...I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for (a rounded corner punch and a mini paper cutter/trimmer)...but I was able to find a few things that I was looking for.  (cardstock, scrapbooking pens, date stamp) Also, the rooms are so packed and people are so pushy, it's easy to get claustrophobic   I'd recommend not wearing a winter coat!  By the grace of God I ran into my old roommate and mentioned I couldn't find the paper punch I was looking for...she said she had one and the that very day she put one in my school mail box!  I was very thankful.  

Namdaemun is located in the heart of Seoul.  It is a quick cab ride from my house.  I never know what gate it is so they always drop me off on the other side of the market and I have to walk all the way through.  There are just hundreds of stores/shops.  Maybe thousands.  It all looks like junk, but if you know Korea, you know there are some gems in there...

Since I actually took pictures for the first time, I now know that Alpha is located right by Gate 1!  There is a photo at the bottom of an old Korean gate...it looks like it is under construction...I'm pretty sure it's the rebuilding of one that was burned down 5 years ago...but I'm not positive! 

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