Seoul Searching

Seoul’s haze

can’t keep out the sun–

fried in sweat

My first five days in Seoul have been very hot–as far as I’m concerned anything above about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 26 degrees Celsius) is too much. And these past five days have been consistently around 86 degrees Fahrenheit (or 30 degrees Celsius). The friend my wife and I stayed with before my study abroad trip actually started didn’t have air conditioning in her flat, so I marinated during the night as well as during the day. At least the showers are awesome! And you can always head into the center of Seoul to dip your feet into Cheonggyecheon (청계천).

Cheonggyecheon

In any case my adventures began early on the morning of August 10th when my wife and I caught a flight to Vancouver, BC for our connecting flight to Incheon International Airport. The flight was long enough for me to watch 4 movies! So I watched Avengers: Age of Ultron (hadn’t seen it yet), Song of the Sea, and two Korean films: 명량 (Roaring Currents, which was about Admiral Yi Sun Shin’s famous battle between his 12 ships and the 130-300 Japanese ships) and Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island (a comedy involving a Sherlock Holmes-esque detective duo). I enjoyed all of them, though I think I liked Roaring Currents the best. I had heard it was best not to sleep when going west across the date line to help avoid jet lag, so I was very tired by the time we arrived at Incheon in the evening of August 11th. Time travel is awesome! Especially when going east across the date line. We had a bit of difficulty getting our debit/credit cards to work with the ATMs in Incheon, but finally one of the tellers for the mini-bank branches helped us solve the problem. So I can eat!

We stayed with our friend, Miss R, from Tuesday night through Friday night. She had been one of our co-workers back when my wife and I taught in South Korea. Her flat was in Sadang-dong (사당동), which meant we had an easy time of catching subway trains throughout the city. This photo shows part of the neighborhood nearby her flat. In the bottom left you can see some of the delivery bikes that zip about the city. You have to be careful when walking, because they will use the sidewalks as well as the streets and will often use crosswalks. The Korean flags hanging from the buildings are because August 15th is Liberation Day for Korea–the day they were freed from Japanese colonial rule (which officially began in 1910). You can also see the signs that often appear on the sides of the buildings to tell you what is in the building. At in the background of the picture you can see some of the more modern high-rise apartments.

Miss R's Neighborhood

We went on several adventures, which I shall summarize for you (yes, it’s hard for me to be concise when not writing haiku, but I’ll try). On the 12th we went to Insa-dong (인사동), where we bought a few souvenirs and went into a kimchi (김치) museum. We also wandered through Myeong-dong (명동), Gwanghwamun (광화문) plaza (광장), and the Dongdaemun (동대문) Design Plaza (DDP). The DDP was under construction while we were living in Korea, so it was fun seeing the completed building. We didn’t pay to go into the museum, but we did wander through the design showcase area. The air conditioning felt wonderful after walking several kilometers in the humid heat. After that busy day we had no trouble falling asleep.

DDP

On the 13th we went to Bukchon (북촌) Hanok (한옥) village and then the Olympic Park, where the 1988 Summer Olympics were held. Hanok is the name for the Korean traditional houses. We did our best to see the 8 views of Bukchon, though our map was not as detailed as was needed. So we may have missed one or two. But we did see the residence of the painter Go Hui Dong (고희동), which was probably one of my favorite hanok to visit. I suppose now is a good time to point out that Korean nouns don’t have different singular or plural forms, so hanok remains the same whether you are talking about one or twenty–it’s the context of the rest of the sentence that lets one know whether it is singular or plural. This is a picture of a row of hanok.

Bukchon Hanok

The 14th saw us go to the World Cup Stadium and parks. The stadium was built for the 2002 World Cup and even has a Home Plus (a Korean department store) built into the outer walls of the stadium! I took my wife to the top of Haneul (하늘) park, which is one of my favorite parks in Seoul. The tall grass was fun to wander through again, though this time there weren’t any school children to suddenly start chasing me through it. We also went to a StarCraft II broadcast at the GOMTV studio in Gangnam (강남) and, yes, it is that Gangnam. The games between Flash and INnoVation were the most exciting of the ones we saw–we didn’t stay for every match of the group because we were tired. Here is a quick shot of the studio.

SCII 6

And the 15th saw us leaving Miss R’s flat for the hotel where I would be meeting my study abroad group. But first we went with Miss R to the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art and to a cafe with raccoons. Yes, there were raccoons purposefully in a portion of the cafe. Below is a picture of them. They were rather adorable, though they did try to eat one of the buttons on my wife’s shorts. It was also a little disconcerting, considering that growing up I had to deal with a raccoon that had attacked my dog. So I was a bit wary of these raccoons.

Raccoon Cafe

The 16th was the first day of the study abroad trip and I was filled with eagerness, though some dread at having yet more time issues to deal with. It has been rather hard to find time, find WiFi, and get my computer charged and cooperating all at the same time. So I knew that I would get more and more behind on blogging, especially since I have two other blogs that I hope to work on (well, one that I hope to work on and one that I must work on for class…). Also on the 16th my wife and I made our journey back to our old flat to see how the neighborhood has changed and to attend the church we went to while living in Korea. It was good to see old friends again. Now I just have to find times to have dinner and/or lunch with them!

So I start this first week of the study abroad trip searching for time between adventures to tell of them. Not a bad place to be in, I suppose!