Seoul part 2

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Maybe we would have gotten there faster with wonkwang power!

So, the second day was spent worrying about the subway. We walked to the hub of Itaewon and looked for Vatos, a hot Mexican restaurant with wild margaritas. Down a skinny road, counting the shops and mini roads to find the right place to make a right turn. Did I say right? I meant left… Luckily the right turn was a quick dead end. We turned around dodging motor cars, mini trucks and motorcycles. Sadly what we found was closed. The door was open but on one was home. We agreed to have hot dogs.

(I think this was the moment when we decided that the trip was a wasted one. I didn’t put in the ARC request for a new ID. And our first day felt like a waste of time and now there were no amazing restaurants open in Seoul. We had started the day by walking a mile or more in the wrong direction. Dinner the night before was a bust- we looked for Greek, we got really excited about Greek- we ended up eating at a chain that served us a mediocre fried shrimp and chicken platter  and FROZEN seared tuna.)

We moped around the back alley looking for something. Really we were heading out to the street to surrender ourselves to Outback Steakhouse- however this was very much like the establishment we ate at the night before. We saw a sandwich board it read “The Alley: Gallery, Restaurant , Cafe”. Okay we glanced at the menu- has to be better than frozen fish.

It was phenomenal!

We had wine (from Chile!), a creative Caesar salad (with black olives and balsamic), incredible lasagna (mucho ricotta cheese!). We had an excellent time. Wyll and I talked about people and home. We laughed at the future and basked in happiness. It was an excellent way to let go and breathe.

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Not the most flattering picture but it was tasty!

After we were fed and properly watered, we headed over to find What the Book?, the only all English bookstore in Korea. We spent a good block of time there and found some really wonderful reads. Yes, we got a Korean language book! And cookbook, along with two history books (France and Language- both anticipated and showing to be good reads) and a Korea Rough Guides. Cashing out we took our books over to Starbucks where I got my first caramel macchiato in what felt like years. I studied up on Korea. I read my new language book and actually perused the cookbook. It had been covered in plastic at the store. I looked at Korean foods I would want to eat! Oh man, Grace was in trouble. I was going to be speaking her language and eaten her food in no time! I think I deserve another caramel macchiato, thank you very much!

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Wyll after a long day at the Suncity Hostel

That idea (another coffee) was quickly voted down… We headed back to the hotel to drop off the heavy stuff and out to Dongdaemun, a shopping mega district. What were we thinking? It was fine. We took the subway like pros and didn’t get lost. Of course, we were very careful and used our smartphone app. Our first challenge was finding our way out of the subway. My biggest fear was that we would end up in the homeless section of the sewer system. While I don’t know if these are real, I have seen them on many shows from Law and Order to Bones. I pretty sure even Batman has sewer people. I think it was to our disadvantage that we were shopping at night. I might not have been scared with the sun on the surface.

During the trip I never successfully shopped underground.  Someday, soon I’m thinking, I will. We got very turned around and walked the place several times. We found an information booth with English speakers. While probably not uncommon it was a very friendly and welcome sight. We got directions to an ATM from our branch and were told that a jimjilbang (sauna and hot tub) was in the third level of the basement of the same building. Leaving the booth we crossed the street in the wrong direction and had to immediately turn around.

Let it be known that separately, Wyll and I are great with directions.

While the ATM charged us a 1,000 won fee, the building had a jimjilbang in the basement and Wyll was delighted. He gave me a large sum of money and told me to spend it. I left him with my coat, gloves and other bulky belongings. Two floors of women’s clothing, one floor of handbags and headbands, one floor for men. I took the elevator to the top (where the movie theater is) and noticed that many of the floors were closed or under repair. Awkwardly for me, the women’s sections were like Forever 21. Yes, it is a store that I hold near and dear but sadly it is for teenagers. Korean teenagers are typically much smaller than their ten years older American counterparts. Korean fashion is something that I love, so I had no problem with looking at everything many times. Pearls and rhinestones cover sweaters, dress collars, handbags. Clothes are fuzzy, silky, gaudy.  Leggings are currently the only kind of pants! Giant sweaters are worn as dresses. Korean fashion is is also covered to the neck and long sleeves while skirts barely cover your butt.  I was tempted to buy a free size (one size fits all) dress but the last one didn’t fit so I stood my ground.

There was also a fantastic gate. Dongdaemun means East Gate, it is very lovely and after several tries we got a photo in the dark that wasn’t to blurry.

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5 thoughts on “Seoul part 2

  1. The homeless section of the sewer system! Guffawed aloud at that one! Please applaud yourselves when it has been a week after your return home: look at a map of Seoul and realize that it is f-ing amazing you were able to navigate at all in that enormous boondoggle of a foreign city. AND able to find a bookstore AND score some great books AND find a bath house AND a great meal. SCORE!! And for the record, leggings are the only thing the college girls are wearing here, too, only they don’t cover the top up entirely with fuzzy or gaudy (cleavage still the rage whenever it’s warm enough), and no rhinestones or pearls. The similarities end with the tightly clad exposed thighs & butt. I’m sure the Korean thighs are much more attractive than some of the ones we have to look at here!

    • I know it’s not rational, but what fears are?
      I will try to remember to look at a map with Wyll tonight. 🙂
      Seoul houses 1/5 of the population of Korea. I might add AND without any blowouts.
      Cleavage was my biggest wardrobe challenge in Korea. By American standards, I am not a show off-y person. I like dressing professional and being revealing can make me uncomfortable. I own a few v-neck shirts that I can no longer wear. I’m talking an inch of boob is too much. And if it weren’t snowing my girl students would just be wearing mini skirts and long sleeve blouses. 🙂

  2. And if we were in Iran, we’d be appalled at how much head and face American women walk around exposing all the time. Brazen! It is very odd which body parts get the most hype in each culture, isn’t it? Mini skirts and long-sleeved blouses does seem a bit oxymoronic, though, I have to admit. But fashion sense has always eluded me.
    When is your winter break officially over? And what kind of work week do you have? Do you have to teach 6 days per week regularly?

    • Whatever looks cool and gets you thinking good thoughts! The break was officially over on Monday 2013/1/14. I just didn’t have time or the internet to blog while I was in action. We work five day weeks, M-F from 1pm-9pm. This gives us eight slots for teaching each day. Wyll teaches two classes on M/T and three classes the rest of the week. I teach four then five. we added a NEAT class which is like a prep test for Korean Language SATs. Wyll teaches that and it fills his plate.
      We are hoping and trying a lot to keep the break spirit with us. I mean we’re in Korea! We are visiting more of our local area for now. BTW I bought a cookbook with a kimchi recipe in it, I’m going to run it by Mr. No before I give it to you. I think the portions are good on it. So it will be easier than trying to break down four pallets of cabbage into 30 or so heads. 🙂 ❤

      • YUM! Kimchi recipe from a real Korean cookbook, that I dont have to divide by 56!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

        It does sound like a jam-packed week of work, but it also sounds like you are trying to feel light-hearted about it. Best plan of all.

        Yes, local travel will reward you infinitely, since those will be the places you recall the most when you are gone the beaten path also has new features about it each time, once you become familiar with it.

        I envy you the coming spring. It must be glorious there after such a harsh winter. Ah, all those layers of clothing will come off eventually!

        In the meantime, I hope your home is warmer than I imagine!

        xxx

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