Thursday, May 8, 2008

Less Briefly.

A list of Seoul-related adventures:

1. Seeing Cyndi. I think (not to start this on a low note) it was perhaps too early for me to see someone from my American life? In the film Away From Her/story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice Munro, Grant cannot visit his Alzheimer's-addled wife Fiona in the nursing home for 30 days, to "let her adjust to her new surroundings." I saw Cyndi after a mere 27 days here, and perhaps it was too soon? I became very almost-weepy on the boat trip to China, but then arrived here and felt like I was somehow "at home" again.

2. Seoul. Seoul is a perfect city. It is a great blend of Korean culture and Western consumption. I didn't realize how much I missed things like coffee until there was a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner. I didn't realize how much I missed donuts until I ate about 2 dozen Krispy Kremes during my time there. Korean ony has 24 characters, and, while an ugly-sounding language, seems easy to learn (not that anyone does). There are bountiful numbers of foreigners (even gay ones!). It is beautifully carved into green mountains. Korean teachers make more than double what I currently make. The porcelain ballerina of Seoul has been dancing in the jewelry box of my head since I stepped foot onto its bustling streets, and I can't quite get it to stop.

3. Lantern Festival. Since next Monday is Buddha's birthday, the largest Buddhist temple in Seoul was having a lantern festival that C and I just happened to stumble upon. It was truly an amazing sight--a ceiling of small lanterns, elaborate parade floats made of wire, paper, and lightbulbs, and many practitioners performing various acts of celebration. It was so unbelievably beautiful; the photos do not, unfortunately, effectively convey how great this event was.

4. Jjimjilbang. Because of the holiday weekend (Children's Day (?)), all guest houses were booked for Saturday evening. So, Cyndi suggested we stay at a jjimjilbang, which is a bath house/dormitory that would only cost 8500 won ($8). We tentatively committed to this idea, locking our belongings in a locker in a subway station near the one we were planning on maybe staying at.

After a long, perfect day of running around Seoul, we were dining on sauteed meats and kim chee and other delicious things when I looked at my watch. It was 12:15, and the subwas closed at 12:30, meaning our locker full of our clothes and toiletries would be behind fences now. We went to the station anyways, just in case, but to no avail: our locker (#13, natch) taunted us from inside the station.

So, we went and became very drunk on beer and soju and stumbled to the jjimjilbang at around 4:00AM, at which point we were handed sleeping clothes and locker keys. There were obvs. separate bathing areas for men and women, but we regrouped to sleep on the wooden floor and wooden "pillows" of the dormitory floor. I am still nursing bruises from this experience; whole regions of my body were numb when I would periodically wake up. But! It was only $8. So.

5. Sights. We viewed two palaces, Seoul Tower (but did not ascend), the Buddhist temple, and many many many streets of shopping. It would have been great if it weren't so expensive: in Zara, the Korean prices were just stickered on over the price in Euros, and it was, in most cases, three times as expensive. So. I did not buy much--a pair of pants on super-sale, a hoodie, and a few t-shirts.

6. Food. Korean food is fantastic. There was not a single missed note in the spicy symphonies that entered my mouth. I wish I could live on the stuff.

7. Jinchon. The ship trip was quite hip. It was not "nice," but much "nicer" than I expected: there were two restaurants, a bar, a cafe, some stores, and plenty of ambling space. My bed was reasonably comfortable. I spent most of the trip to Seoul reading and writing, and most of the trip back chatting with two North American teachers who were going on months-long excursions around the Asian continent now that their contracts were over. All in all, I would highly recommend this mode of transportation, and I'm now trying to figure out where else I could go via ferry. It's only around $300 round trip to sail to Kobe, Japan...

(Actually, this trip was super-expensive, so I'm not planning any elaborate excursions for awhile. I'm thinking I'll just do some weekend excursions around China for the next few months, and then save up for my month-long trek from Beijing to New Delhi after my contract is up.)

Overall, I'm glad to be back, but I was even gladder to be in the company of Cyndi and Seoul.

(NB: I hear a lawnmower outside, and it is a very odd, home-think-y sound.)

1 comment:

lauren said...

sounds amazing.