Monday, 7 May 2012

Bob Visits Korea

I'm afraid this is going to be another one of those, we did this and then we did that posts, forgive me...

This weekend felt almost like I wasn’t working in Korea anymore but instead I was travelling it. I talked in a blog post many months ago about the three stages of culture shock; I left the honeymoon period a long time ago and sunk into a rather complaisant negotiation stage. This weekend I finally entered the adjustment phase, after coming out of a long winter it feels like the end of my contract is in sight and I’m sure in the next three months I’ll be frantically trying to cram as much in as possible before having to leave.

Bob arrived in this small mountain town on Wednesday evening and spent the Thursday and Friday chilling out in town and recuperating. He’s been on the road for 8 months now and Korea is his last port of call before heading back to the USA. We went for dinner the first night, had pizza the second and on Friday night Nathanael joined us on our trip to Seoul. I’ve given the Seoul tour more times than I can remember now; this was to be the last time.

Bob didn’t have a set idea of what he did and didn’t want to see which made it easy to set a course for the weekend. Friday night after arriving in town we checked into the Pencil Hostel (a hostel we’ve stayed in many times before). This quaint little converted house is tucked away at the back of the Hongdae area of Seoul down a peaceful back road. After a trip into town for some Korean style Japanese food, we sat out on the decking under the moonlight and drank beers. We started talking to two University students who were on a short break from their studies in Beijing. They were international finance students who had a fair amount of stories to tell, it was obvious that they were very much still in the honeymoon phase of their Beijing odyssey, which was refreshing. It's good to hang around positive people.

The next day I was up stupidly early, I had a shower in the hostel and went for a walk out in the early morning sun. When I got back to the hostel Bob was still sleeping so I hung around for a little while until he started to stir. We left the hostel and met Nathanael who had stayed in a bath house and we headed out to a market whose name escapes me. The market was pretty big, mainly clothes and fabrics but in the middle was a giant food court (I’ll call it a court because my vocabulary is limited on Monday mornings). We sat down and had some kimbop for breakfast, Bob seemed to enjoy the kimbop. When we left the market the sun was blazing and we took a casual walk back across the river to the subway station.

Next we went to the war memorial (something Bob had shown an interest in seeing), by the time we got there the sun was beaming down, the hottest I had been out in it for quite some time. Outside the war memorial there were a group of Korean high school students performing dance routines in front of a giant crowd. We guessed that the reasoning behind the event must have been Children’s Day. It was that same old Korean shit, performing overly choreographed, and suggestively sexual dance routines to crass popular music. We went inside. The war memorial is a great museum and we spent a lot of time here, we even bumped into a traditional Korean royal wedding re-enactment outside and stood around watching it for a while. By this point we were getting hungry so we preceded to Myeong-dong, the popular shopping district, and scored some overpriced sandwiches for lunch. We jumped in a taxi and headed to the palace and watched the changing of the guards before heading back down the boulevard towards the hostel.

We spent much of the afternoon out on the porch playing songs on the hostels acoustic guitar and talking about travel, politics, music and movies. It was pleasant after a day of walking to just kick back and chill out under the shade of a tree. In the evening we had dinner at a traditional Korean restaurant and purchased some Makgeolli (Korean Rice Wine) from a crazy Korean who was wheel barrowing the stuff around Hongdae. Staying in a hostel was a reminder that I won't be living here forever but that everything is temporary. Being around people who were coming and going rather than staying was just what I needed. It reminded me that I'm still travelling as well (in a sense), that Korea isn't my home, or even my place of work, but a transitional period of my life that one day I'll look back on. An experience. Something I need to embrace.

On Sunday we went to Techno Mart in an attempt to buy a camera but this didn’t go very successfully. I tried some blood sausage in the market outside the bus terminal and just after midday we got on a bus back to Sachang. We spent Sunday evening on the roof watching the Supermoon rising, eating pizza and relaxing. Bob is sticking around today but is heading to Busan on Tuesday. It’s been great having him around. I haven’t seen him since 2010 and it’s always good to be around a familiar face.

The sun makes everything seem brighter. With only three months to go until Natalie and I leave on our ‘big adventure’ things feel like they are gradually coming to a close. Nathanael and I are going to go running every other night, climb some mountains and try and make the most of the time we have left here. I still have a fair amount of things to do in regards to planning for the big trip; I’m off to Seoul next week for my vaccinations. Every day I come into work I’m flicking another page of my desk diary over, I remember flipping it for the first time in January and that feels like it was only yesterday. Before I know it I’ll be flipping it over for the last time and I’ll no longer just be writing about Korea. There’s a hell of a lot to look forward to, but, for now I’ve got some kindergartners to dance with. 

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