Monday, November 12, 2007

Need any buttons?

Here are a few photos- the large amount of button choices was so overwhelming that I forgot to take many photos. I did buy some buttons for future knitted projects.

I bought some of the natural shell buttons in the first photo.

A sample of the buttons that I did buy:
*Click on the photo to see the buttons clearer. Aren't they awesome buttons?

On Saturday, I had to go to Tondaemun Market to the fabric building for some quick errand shopping. On Saturdays, the buildings in the market area are open from 9:00- 12:30pm- so, shopping time is limited. Since, I didn't need much from the fabric building- I decided to try to find the building full of buttons that I had found once by accident the first time that I lived here in Korea in 1991-1994. I knew the general area and I decided that I wanted to go out exploring to see if I could find this elusive 'button building.'

So, I started walking, walking, and walking some more. I wandered among several open market areas, a wholesale market for the cooking appliances that you see making and selling goodies to eat on the street, and a plastic container wholesale place (I did stop in there and bought some tiny clear plastic lidded containers to store my beads). I could tell that I was in an area that few Americans have visited-- because, heads would turn and conservations would cease as I walked by. I found some really interesting places and I did take some photos that I'll share later in other blog entries.

I kept wandering about and had walked for about 50 minutes and I was still in the 'Tondaemun Market' area. I finally entered a building that seemed familiar to me- I know that it had been over 14 years since I had accidently found the button building- but, I really do have a good sense of direction, am very visual, and have successfully found my way back to foreign locations that I had only been to once in the past.

I ran across a nice Korean lady who actually spoke some English and I pointed to a button on my shirt and I asked her if she knew where the building was that had buttons for sale in it. She said that she didn't know where it was- but, that she knew it was in the area. So, she spoke in Korean to a nearby man and he told her that all I had to do was continue the direction that I was going- and then turn right and the building would be right there. It was amazing - because, it was exactly the way that I would have continued walking on my own.

While I was in the building, I needed to use the facilities- because I had drank a lot of water before I started out that morning and had already had a soda after arriving in the market. I kept looking up towards the ceiling, for the 'male/female' toilet sign that is found most large public buildings. I didn't see anything, but.. I knew that there had to be one-- like those found in other buildings. I kept looking and the more I looked the more I knew that if I didn't find a bathroom soon- there would be no 'button shopping' for me- even IF I had finally found the button building. I need to add that there just aren't public bathrooms found in Seoul- you can only find them in restaurants, subways, and a few large public buildings such as those 'sometimes' found in the market buildings. However, they aren't found in all of them and none of the buildings that I had been in so far would have been the type to have had a bathroom. Most of where I had been walking around in, on my way to the button building, had been open market areas.

I kept looking and didn't find anything at all. I found a stairway leading to an upstairs area. I walked upstairs, hoping that I'd find a bathroom on the second floor, and found that they sold fabrics. I looked again for the signs for the toilet and didn't see any. I finally asked a female fabric vendor for where the toilet was located. *I really should try to learn the Korean word for: Toilet!

As fate would have it- I had asked the one vendor that was across from the stairs that lead to the tiny upstairs (3rd floor area) that would eventually lead to the bathroom. She walked me to the stairs and pointed UP. I thanked her in Korean and started my assent up the narrow, missing a handrail, and dark stairway. Once I got to the landing- I had to continue up another more narrow dark set of stairs.

Once I got to the end of these stairs, I could tell that I needed to turn to the right down a dark narrow hallway and once I turned down that hallway, there was an even darker hallway to the left, that looked like something you'd see in the movies or on tv.. where the murders and crack dealers lived. However, what did my eyes see? THE very much needed male/female toilet sign.

AND, not only was there the typical male/female sign letting you know that this is where the male and female toilet was located. It was actually an unisex facility. AT this point, I didn't care.. I had already been looking for 30 minutes in the button building and it was more than 60 more mintues (assuming I could backtrack exactly) to the fabric building where I could walk up to the 2nd floor to a bathroom. So, it was either use this bathroom- or walk about 60 minutes or more, hoping I didn't get lost, to the nearest bathroom. What did I do? Of course, I used the current bathroom. Not a problem, I carry my own tissue for situations just like this!

I took a couple of photos and would have taken more- but, a couple of men came down the narrow hallway and I decided that I had been in the dark, 'you could film a movie scene in it', hallway long enough. As I was walking towards the bathroom, I could see that there were some rooms to the right in that final dark hallway that had men inside them- I could hear a tv on in one and I could hear voices in other rooms, and some rooms only had one man in them. They all did look towards me as I walked past their murky, dirty glass door window panes. So, even though I feel very safe in Korea- it was time to go to the parts of the building that had bright lights and lots of people. Besides, I had only bought one set of buttons and I had to buy more to make my trip worthwhile.

This is the first set of stairs leading up to the bathroom- of course, this was taken as I was walking down the stairs. The second set of stairs was more narrow and darker than this level was. However, do notice that there aren't any handrails in this section.

The dark, dark hallway- I think that this is the second hallway that had the toilet sign? Look towards the left side. *Click on the photos for a larger view.

It was clear that it wasn't a public bathroom.

When I left the button building and started walking towards the Fabric building and the subway that would take me home. I walked and walked and walked- retracing my steps. I eventually found a subway- but, it wasn't my subway line. I had walked so far that I had walked to a different subway line! I didn't have my subway map with me- so, I didn't know if this line would transfer to the line that takes me home. Our subways go by color and line numbers. I so wanted to get on the subway- since, I had now walked about 5+ hours- but, I decided to keep walking until I got to where I had started my shopping journey.

My shopping trip had started out at 9:30am and I finally arrived home at 4:30pm. It was a fun, full day of exploring.


susanc said...

LOVE the buttons! It sounds like you had a fun day exploring. I love doing that too, although sometimes it can be a little scary being by oneself in certain areas. I was in downtown LA yesterday at the bead shops getting supplies. I always enjoy going there and they have a great fabric store there too and some absolutely gorgeous buttons with Swarovski crystals. Do they sell Swarovski crystal over there? Just curious!

Have a good week. :o)

iwouldratherbeknitting said...

Yes, they sell Swarovski crystals here. They actually had some in this building. I buy them in the jewelry market-- a little cheaper- but, they are also sold in the fabric building too.

I really want to go back now and get some more buttons-- I should have bought more than I did. :D

It's hard to find really amazing buttons in small town America (which is where I'm from) so, I need to get the buttons here while I can! :D

Carey said...

Oh, what a wonderful adventure! I would never have gotten out of that button store, I would have been mesmerized by all the lovely buttons... :)

susanc said...

You should buy all the gorgeous buttons you can while you're in Korea, especially really unusual ones that you don't see here in the US :o)

Samantha said...

Button heaven!!!
your blog is so interesting to read. I really like the pictures you take, looking forward for more.

iwouldratherbeknitting said...

Thanks for all the nice comments. I agree that they have some beautiful buttons. The 'fancier' type of buttons that I bought- were to go on a 'to be knitted purse' for the closure.

I'm going to try to 'find the place again' during Christmas holiday. AND, I'll take plenty of won with me- to buy all that I want. I bought 5 or 6 of the buttons that I thought I'd use on a knitted sweater/cardigan. I hope that is enough?

And continue checking back often with 'more adventures' in my daily life in Korea.

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