South Korea VII: Blooming

I bought a ticket to Thailand wham bam thank you m’am.

I will be joining the Tokyo crew in Bangkok! Since my time there will be limited, I need to make some decisions and am open to any input. I have a serious lean towards seeing a lot of the mountainous northern provinces, since it will be the peak time of Thai heat. So far, it is looking like Chiang Mai and Pai. (Note: I’ve finally learned that posting these kinds of things on social media outlets is not the best way to tell parents.)

Also, I faced some difficulties with Korea’s regional budget airlines, Jeju Air. It is near impossible for foreigners to use, as it only functions on Internet Explorer, requires a Korean credit card, and seems to give a discount if the purchase is done in Korean. But for $355 roundtrip, it was worth my and Min’s frustrated cursing, waiting with bated breath for it to finally accept payment and send me confirmation.

On Thursday night we went to the Battered Sole, a restaurant catering to the ex-pats in need of some good fish ‘n chips and airing international football games. There were three kegs of complimentary Cass, courtesy of Groove Korea magazine—more interestingly it wasn’t in promotion of anything at all, almost like a test to see if anyone is paying attention to them.

There I met an enthusiastic group of Asturian men working in Korea, who sang Spanish anthems as we drank (!!!??!) and who were keen to chat with me about botellon in Plaza de Paraguas, weekends in Gijon, and crates of sidra. After the Irish pub died down, they encouraged us and other new friends to a club called the B(one) Lounge in Itaewon. Overall not bad. I find the most special moments of travel to be when I come to a certain realization that I have been surrounded by strangers, but also comfortable the whole time. The conversation doesn’t pause, you walk arm in arm, and you laugh like old acquaintances mere hours after exchanging names. And maybe they’ll even sing you Don Omar’s anthem “Dutty Love”. Travel heightens and intensifies human connections. Unfortunately, mixing free Cass with scattered shots of soju, tequila, vodka, and Jager (again, !?!??!) meant that I was not destined for an easy morning.

I’ve been loving my long walks these past few weeks, with the sudden onslaught of cherry blossoms that freshen the air (and assault my eyes with waves of aggressive pollen). The walk to school through Sinchon is lined, but my favorite location so far has been by the power plant, where they are interestingly abundant, contrasting the smokestacks alongside them. I should also probably mention something about making eye contact with foreigners. I can’t stop. I’ve just been showing them some love by letting my eyes linger. I’m not sure exactly what the pull is, but I notice every single person without the Asian gene and ogle. And they stare back, so we end up staring at each other until we pass. Maybe it’s the constant kimchi chigae stains around my mouth or maybe we are all just searching for some understanding in a society where difference is damning.

It was definitely a good weekend to be in the hostel, where we strove to break each of Min’s new house rules. (We will probably have to add a few more to the list concerning 1. waking up covered in blood and 2. sleeping on the bathroom couch and 3. All Daft Punk, all the time). Last night we went as a hostel to a party in Hongdae called the Seoul Shindig series—no music played from after 1969. A local jazz rock band was playing in Hongik Park, so a few park beers later and the night was a lot warmer. At the tteokbokki stand in Hongik Park, I asked a few diners for directions to the event, and they turned out to be the hosts of “Eat Your Kimchi”, a Seoul-based Youtube blog that has garnered them internet stardom. At Shindig, the whole room jived and swayed. A Seoul Base Camp regular named Jerry DJs the event, but by day he brought his good humor to the common room. Besides the fact that Min almost lost a nipple, it was a good time all around. Good meeting everyone this weekend!

Anyways, I enlisted Aude to accompany me to find a hangover cure in soup form this morning, and tragically, most of our favorite chigae spots are closed on Sunday. So, we chose a new spot and since we have gotten pretty big heads about our love for all forms of Korean food, chose a dish with an unfamiliar name. The stew proved to have a layer of a porous and spongy maroon substance with the consistency of tofu. Blood. Congealed ox blood. My stomach just could not relent to the metallic tastes, so I watched Aude size up and slowly and painfully consume hers before we paid and ran giggling to the nearest Paris Baguette.





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