Seoul Sister

The week had been a long one. I was exhausted and staring out of the window down at the plaza bellow looking for a short blond lugging a massive green suit case. My sisters flight was supposed to have arrived two hours ago and I had been stuck in my class without a break since 7pm. Second semester Level Up exams had me pacing the classroom like a high strung caged Panda. My mind started to drift and I pictured myself leaving my classroom at the end of the test and discovering that my sister never arrived. Body lying in a gutter somewhere covered in kimchi.

During the last hour of the exam as my wee students anxiously filled in their bubble sheets I occupied myself by reading through Korea’s current events on the Korean Herald English newspaper website.

In many ways I feel that I am very fortunate to be living in Asia during this years Beijing Olympics as I get my news from a non-Americanized newspaper. It was rather remarkable to watch the Olympic torch march which ran through downtown Seoul. Several of my coworkers woke up early to watch the procession. The torch has been surrounded by controversy all over the world as hundreds of thousands of people protest China’s treatment of Tibet. The South Korean newspapers were full of headlines such as “Clashes break out at Olympic torch relay in the Capital.” Seoul has a huge Chinese expat population, predominantly University students. These students clashed with anti-Beijing demonstrators at the relay, throwing rocks and punches at the latest stop on the flame’s troubled round-the world journey. Most disturbing was when a North Korean defector tried to set himself on fire to halt the relay, where thousands of police guarded the flame from protestors blasting China’s treatment of North Korean refugees.

Most of the world has been protesting China’s treatment of Tibet during the torch relay. South Korea has a more complex relationship with China and many who protest the Olympics here are focused on Beijing’s treatment of defectors who try to escape their lives of hardship in North Korea. Thousands of North Korean’s have fled across the loosely controlled Chinese border and many remain in hiding in China. If caught, they are deported by Chinese authorities and face likely imprisonment in life-threatening conditions back in the North.

The cow is has been at the front of all of the headlines for the past few days. The Korean President recently made a trip to America to visit with President Bush in an attempt to solidify a strong relationship between the two nations. When he returned to Seoul he announced that he would be raising the American Beef import ban which has been in place since the Mad Cow cases a few years back.

I never knew beef could cause such strong emotional reactions. I have seen several protests being staged in major public areas (outside City Hall, major subway stations and in front of tourist sites). Passionate “safe beef activists” dressed in cow costumes holding up signs which were obviously anit-American beef were plentiful. I read a few articles on the issue and then decided to bring up topic with my class in order to better understand what Korean’s actually think about the issue.

I was shocked to realize how strongly they feel about the issue. Every student in my class stated that their parents would be boycotting all American beef products once they hit the shelves. Several restaurant chains here will start serving American imported beef in the coming weeks and according to my students almost all Korean’s are boycotting these restaurants. My student Elly excitedly told me, “teacha no eat US beef it make you go crazy.”

It seems the president of Korea is just as shocked as I am about the countries reaction to American beef (which many Koreans just call crazy cow meat). The president has recently had to make several public announcements assuring Koreans that he has the nations health as his first priority. I find it so odd how beef can be a form of culinary diplomacy. Korea accepts beef imports as a diplomatic “lets be friends” tactic, whilst the countries inhabitants stand in the streets enraged. Just yesterday the protests were getting so prevalent that one of the Presidents aids announced that any protest after nightfall would automatically be deemed illegal and members of the group would be arrested. I actually saw a group of “geriatric safe beef protestors” sitting cross legged on the side walk as they held US beef rhetoric filled signs over their heads. I don’t really see what the point of importing American beef is when no one would dare purchase it. My students are all absolutely certain that if you eat American meat you will go crazy. I tried to explain to them that you only get ill from beef if it actually has Mad Cow Disease. My attempts to educate on this matter were futile.

As the world slowly falls into financial peril, joblessness and overpowering sorrow I turn my eyes to the sky rocketing prices of food around the globe. In Korea prices at restaurants and grocery stores have been increasing at an alarming speed. The Korean government wrote a list of “52 necessities” which have been placed under price controls to ease the burden of consumers. The items include wheat flour, instant noodles, gasoline and public utilities. The price of ramen shot up 11.4% and gimbap, the Korean version of sushi, also jumped 15.1% from January to April.

Finally class was over. I bolted to the receptionist desk to ensure my sister had arrived alive. She looked far more put together than I had expected. She had been awake for over thirty hours and remarkably, looked half decent. I didn’t have to throw a bag over her head or anything, which was nice. I lugged her suitcase back to my apartment and furiously scrambled to find my care package: cornmeal for polenta, Arborio rice for risotto and a bag of Jub Jub’s. We ate dinner just after 10pm at the Pork Galbi restaurant across the street with a few of my coworkers. Amy fought the urge to fall asleep and had her first sips of Soju and began her vehement dislike of kimchi. At the stroke of midnight we were in bed and hopefully had sufficiently warded off the possibly of jet lag.

The next morning I took her on a lovely stroll of my neighborhood. It was a hot day and our ice cream cones melted around our fingers as we walked down a row of massive apartment buildings. We sat on the floor of a traditional Korean bibimbap restaurant and scraped our blistering hot bowls clean of the delicious crispy rice remains. Our final stop was the massive Technomart building where we slid down ten floors cell phones, digital cameras, lap tops, GPS systems, plasma screens and computers.

After work we ran to Pizza School and scooted across the street and through a moon lit park to a DVD Bong. I felt the need to show Amy these rather curious dating establishments. We sat on a sticky faux leather sofa, munching on our five thousand won pizza while staring at the magnificent French film, Ma Vie en Rose.  What a performance that was. I was entirely enchanted with Marion Cotillard’s portrayal of singer Edith Piaf. I fell in love with this French thespian in 2003 when I became enchanted with Love Me If You Dare, Are You Game? I couldn’t help but yammer on during the entire film. Providing Amy with my own personal commentary (free of charge). My heart burst at the point of the film when Edith realizes her husbands plane has crashed. She runs around her apartment screaming, shaking her hands over her face, stumbling across the carpet and tearing all over her diamond studded fingers. It was so Judy Garland! The gays love these sorts of performances, don’t you know.

On sunny Saturday we took our first trip on the Seoul Metro, zooming over the city, through sky scrapers and city parks. It was the perfect sun filled day for Myeongdong window shopping. This is one of the trendy neighborhoods to shop as every major brand has a flagship store and is home to the countries high profile fashion school. I was ever so excited when we discovered a Nike Dunk Museum exhibit in one of the art gallery spaces. An entire floor dedicated to the famous sneaker. The were walls covered in graffiti and a massive white Nike Dunk shoe stood on a pedestal while a few middle school boys played with a touch screen. As they swung the colour pallet around they were able to design their own shoe as overhead lasers glared their light onto the model shoe. We met my friend, Hunter from Houston, who showed us a few of his favorite boutique fashion houses in the area. We spent a great deal of time in a four story shop which sold everything from plastic sushi cell phone accessories, art deco piggy banks and expensive designer jeans from Paris.

After a short walk north we arrived at the tram station of Namsan Park. The tower is located in a massive nature filled public space which the people of Seoul consider their cities iconographic landmark. The tower is located at the precipice of Mount Namsan. I insisted we take the tram on the way up and walk back down. I hate fighting with gravity. We were herded like cattle into a very small tram. I was the last person to get on the tram and stared at the people smushed like sardines inside. I stared at the conductor and made a crazy face which made him laugh. He grabbed my elbow and squeezed me in with the rest of the group.

Once off the cattle car we hiked up a staircase which led to a fortress wall which gave us a spectacular view of the city bellow. The wind smelled of boiled larvae, how charming. My olfactory memories of Korean tourist sites will always be of that mellow earthy smell of boiling bugs. We sat under a tree and watched a Mexican band entertain a massive crowd of Koreans as they celebrated Cinco de Mayo. The band was beyond corny and I could tell the locals felt they were experiencing a once in a life time exotic performance from the Americas! The trumpet player wore a massive bright yellow sombrero and his short female counterpart sang excitedly as she wore a bright pink faux diamond studded jump suit. Oy vey! We stared across the city while drinking ice cold beers on the outdoor patio as the sun warmed our exposed pasty white skin for the first time in months.

After our rather uproarious beer centered banter we walked up onto the Love Key platform where thousands of key locks have been secured onto the chained fencing. It has been a tradition for years for newly weds to hike up to Namsan Tower and sign a lock with their names and lock it together to symbolize their love and commitment. Talk about Meg Ryan romanticism! I find the idea entirely charming. I can imagine whenever getting in a fight with my spouse I’d run out into the street and point up at the glowing twinkling night lights of Namsan Tower and say, “do you wish to break our lock?”

Walking down a mountain is no easy task. I had to clutch my knees to prevent my legs from shaking. Muscle spasms, twitching, as we slowly climbed through forest filled paths to the base of the mountain. Hunter found a wild peacock on the trail ahead and had a good time chasing the bird as I hooted “bring the bird thing back into the view of my camera.” After an arduous peacock chase we set foot at the bottom of the mountain. Hunter walked us through his neighborhood of Haebongchon and we climbed up the steps to his new barren apartment. He literally just moved in. A thin matt on the kitchen floor acts as his bed. Haebongchon (also referred to as HBC) is one of the two foreigner rich communities in Seoul. The housing is incredibly cheap for Seoul as the neighborhoods buildings have not been renovated  since the War. HBC is made up of rolling hills and three story apartment homes with flat roof top patios. I get a real sense of the Korea of Old whenever I am in this part of the city. Hunter has a three bedroom house which he pays a measly $600 dollars a month for. A place like this in Toronto would be three times as expensive. We sat on his roof shingles in the mid afternoon heat drinking liter beers and staring up at Mount Namsan. I couldn’t help but wonder, “how on earth did I walk down that thing.” It really wasn’t even that arduous to be honest, I just like to be overly dramatic.

We scooted down the winding hill filled streets to Indigo Café where we enjoyed quick bistro fare before grabbing a taxi to the far west end of the city at World Cup Stadium in Haneul Park. The foreign community had been gathering momentum in the past few weeks for the 2nd International Seoul DJ Festival. We sat crammed in a taxi drinking cans of beer (because in Korea you can drink beer anywhere legally). Unfortunately our evening went a bit sour early on.

We were dropped off at the wrong end of the park and were forced to walk past a driving range, power generator building and rows of greenhouses. We could see the massive concert stage in the distance but once we arrived at the end of the street we were in shock. There was a twelve lane super highway standing directly in front of us. Amy and I both pouted. I felt like we were staring at a raging river of hot lava. Hunter walked out onto the highway shoulder and started trying to wave down taxi’s as they sped by going 120 km/h. Thirty minutes later, luckily a taxi stopped right up the street. We ran into the taxi, our savior. Unfortunately the driver refused to take us to the concert. We pointed to the stage across the highway and I even imitated being a band member (I played air drums and air guitar rather spectacularly) to insure he understood where we wanted to go. Hunter yelled out in slurred Korean, “I’ll pay you one hundred dollars.” The driver guns it. Hunter realizes his mistake and hopes the cabbie doesn’t get upset when he realizes that his payment would actually be ten dollars. What’s another zero anyways?

After several U-turns we arrived at the entrance of the park and soon found ourselves sitting on the grass watching about twenty irritating (and rather chubby) belly dancers performing on stage. The park featured four stages, each playing different genres of music. Rock, Korean Pop, Hip Hop and the Main Stage which later in the night would be pulsating massive bass from some of the worlds most talented DJ’s. The DJ Festival is really an event put on for foreigners. I’d say about seventy percent of the crowd were screaming in English. Surrounding the main stage were various snack booths selling ramen noodle bowls and dehydrated squid. Nothing satiates a grumpy tummy like Korean Pop and dehydrated seafood.

Every so often I’d notice a few people dressed up in ridiculous costume. I soon realized the concert organizers had creatively incorporated a Korean Costumeplay booth where you could dress up in anything from Sailor Moon to Korean Samurai. Costumeplay is most famous in Harajuku Japan where Japan’s youth dress up in crazy costumes and hang around all day taking pictures with tourists. Koreans also like to indulge in the art of “playing dress up.” I walked past several local girls who were dressed up as fairy creatures and found a nice spot to stand in front of the main stage. In the next two hours I ran into practically every foreigner I have ever met in Korea. I saw five people from The University of Guelph, ten friends from my brutal CDI training and a few coworkers.

Unfortunately unbeknownst to us, the DJ’s weren’t scheduled to take the stage until midnight. So technically the DJ Festival ran from midnight until dawn, around 7:30am. Since Amy and I had been up since 9am on our feet all day without a break we soon realized we would not make it through the night. We were able to enjoy three DJ’s from Tokyo, London and New York before heading to the entrance gate. After several minutes of stupefied frustration we realized that taxis were not picking people up at the front of the concert entrance. We had to walk approximately thirty minutes on foot to a random “in the middle of nowhere” spot on the river under an expressway bridge. I stood in desperation pouting but lit up as I saw a taxi drive our way as it exited off the highway. The driver ripped us off but we all got home before 2am which was worth the extra coin.

On Sunday morning we hopped on the metro with Dale in the direction of Hongdae. Located by Hongkuk Fine Art University it has the best weekend art market and boutiques. We first stopped at IBUN a specialty restaurant which we all instantly fell in love with. All of the ingredients are fresh and a creative mind has gone into each of the menu items. They specialize in two items: The Dowey, a folded over pizza concept with crispy exterior (but not at all an enclosed calzone). They also have an extensive gourmet hot dog menu with offerings such as “German sausage, alfredo sauce, grilled chicken and caramelized onions.” We all shared a huge mug of chili cheese fries as I declared this new restaurant would soon get a great deal of publicity from my end.

We spent the next few hours walking around the art market and boutique clothing shops. I knew Amy would get excited here as the clothing is really trendy in this part of the city. She soon realized how severe my cell phone accessory addiction is as I bought four more of these dangling toys at the art market. The first step is admitting you have a problem. Amy bought several t-shirts while I worked a bargain at my favorite men’s shop. The guys at this boutique always stare at what I am wearing and tell me “oh good style we like muchly.” I feel like I’m always on exhibit here, something I have had to get used to. I finally settled on a price with the guy and he handed me my Vivienne Westwood shirt and said, “I love you.” Now I know he probably only knows a total of ten English words, but, can you imagine going to the Gap in Toronto and being handed your receipt to be told by the cashier, “I love you.” It really brightens a day let me tell you!

We walked past the University to the BBoys Theater and collected our tickets for, Ballerina that Falls in Love with a BBoy. The show is world renowned and has won the top prize at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Break-dancing has become an art in Seoul and is incorporated into the urban street hip hop culture. You can often see BBoys performing outside of shopping malls or in popular nightclubs. I thought it would be the perfect show to see with Amy as it incorporates classical ballet and modern break dancing. The theater was a petite space and we had seats right on the break dance floor so we were right in front of the action. The story tells the tale of a ballerina who is very stuck up and formal, dedicated to her classical art. She comes across a group of rough and tough BBoys. She soon falls in love and by the end of the story she has throw out her tutu and has been accepted by the BBoy community. Love ensues and everyone tears. Korean girls hold their hearts and oogle. Many of the dancers were mind-blowingly talented. My mouth was ajar for most of the show.

We ran out into the street and grabbed a taxi to Insadong for the annual Lantern Festival Parade in celebration of Buddha’s Birthday. We were dropped off at the end of the street right in front of Jogyesa Temple, the finish line so to speak. The streets were full of Koreans lighting lanterns and dancing in circles to the sound of live bands playing the gong, flute and drum. We arrived with perfect timing as the pink peacock dressed dancers were the head of the parade and turned into the brightly lit temple as we stepped into the street. Following these dancers through the main gate of the temple, we soon found ourselves standing under over twenty thousand brightly lit lanterns. The lanterns hung like a cloud over our heads; blue, yellow, green, red and green glowing like a rainbow adorned ceiling. Theses colourful lanterns had been designed in such a way that when you looked up you could see a massive lotus flower. I sat staring at the lanterns above my head and quickly turned as I saw the monk beside me take out a cell phone to take pictures. The loud joyous commotion of the parade procession outside and the classic Asian temple lantern extravaganza ambiance reminded me that I indeed live in Asia. We spent the next thirty minutes walking around the temple grounds, entering the main worship area where three giant golden Buddha’s sit in solidarity. In the park, on the west side of the temple a circular dance was taking place with many colourfully dressed dancers.

We walked back onto the main street and strolled to the end of the road. We thought the parade must surely be over…how wrong we were. We were told that the parade was just beginning. The streets were full of marching Korean’s holding lanterns and waving at the crowds. Monks on unicycles, children in white hambok and old ladies smiling and throwing confetti into the air. Massive sculptural lanterns drove down the street and were initially shocking. I saw several massive floats that spit fire. Seeing that the lanterns are made of paper I tried to stand back a safe distance. Two green and red dragons drove down the street on little scooters while spitting flames out of their mouths. A random lantern featured a hog sitting on a motorcycle holding a bazooka which shot flames into the sky. The more traditional floats featured glowing Buddha’s, elaborately decorated elephants and lotus flowers. At the street corner police held back the crowds. I spotted a stage on the other side of the street where two announcers rambled on about the parade on live national television. Above the stage hung a massive four story high traditional Buddhist wall hanging. Yellow and red spotlights lit the piece causing it to warmly glow above the street lights.

Apparently the Annual Lantern Parade in Seoul is one of the biggest parades in the world. We looked down the perpendicular street and could see a glow of hovering lanterns along the horizon. The streets were full of excitement and festive cheer. We hung a left and passed by a lantern filled public park before arriving at my favorite Insadong Tea shop. We had had a long day of sightseeing so it was nice to finally sit down and enjoy a hot mug of ginger pine nut tea and sesame rice cakes. We were the only ones in the tea house which felt eerie because it is usually packed full of people during the day. The caged parrots squawked as we sipped and chewed. A perfect salut and fini to Buddha’s Birthday.

The following day was a national holiday called Children’s Day. The entire country takes a day of rest and praises their children. Korea’s leaders of tomorrow. Most schools close for two days. Naturally I worked. I was so eager to teach my enraged students a more extensive English vocabulary. Several of the students asked me angrily, “teacha why we have to be here today it’s Children’s Day and I am child!” I responded by saying, “I don’t know ask God, teacher doesn’t want to be here either.” Several of them walked up to my desk and cupped their hands like little Bolivian beggars. I stared into their hands and blew into their man made cups. They looked at me suspiciously and sat back into their seats. I started off the lesson by telling them that begging is not an occupational skill anyone should aspire to perform. I asked the class if they wanted to beg the streets for the rest of their lives and they all most certainly shook their heads, no.

After class Amy and I went to a restaurant in my building called Dan Sushi. I have been here almost six months and have not yet stepped into this restaurant as my coworkers said it was incredibly expensive and a rip off. Then, a new teacher arrived from Halifax and before his knowledge of the establishment was tainted by the malicious tongues of the old timers he had a splendid sushi meal. Gavin met us at the lobby and we sat watching the sushi chefs prepare their stations for dinner service. I flipped through a few Japanimation cartoon magazines and readied myself for an all you can eat rice and raw seafood extravaganza.

The old timers had not taken the time to read the menu. At Dan Sushi you can order each coloured plate a la carte or order the all you can eat buffet. My coworkers had just sat down and grabbed a few plates off of the conveyor belt (being cautious to never grab a purple or black plate as those are excessively expensive). They ended up paying eighteen dollars each for six plates of sushi. I’d be outraged as well. But, my good friends, I read between the lines. They had been charged the all you can eat buffet price while counterproductively restricting the number of plates they ordered. Fools!

We sat down at a booth in front of a cute little sushi chef who shook our hands and started to quickly place sushi plates onto the conveyor belt. I gobbled up over twenty plates of sushi in an hour. The buffet price also includes free draft beer and cheesecake with blueberry sauce. The entire meal I stammered, “I can’t believe I have been stuck eating boring Korean food with this spectacular restaurant one floor bellow our school.” Literally directly under my nose. I gobbled up tuna, salmon, shrimp, teriyaki chicken on skewers and tempura. Each plate of sushi looked like a piece of art. I made sure to take a picture of each plate of sushi that I gobbled up. I impressed myself (and probably the entire room) with my advanced chop stick skills. Chop sticks are now a natural extension of my fingers. I am a master of the sticks. I never thought I’d see the day!

After stuffing our faces with sushi and slurping copious spoons full of miso broth we jetted across the city for some quality Dongdaemun night shopping. Asia’s largest shopping area, three massive malls each over twelve floors open 24 hours a day. Some of my friends at work go to Dongdaemun to shop for shoes and purses after work till six in the morning. Amy instantly fell in love with the area. It’s sort of magical to walk around at midnight when the streets are so busy you can barely walk forward. We strolled through the various malls making sure to stop and shake hands with the overly excited sales people who ask, “where you from?” I always play a game when I am shopping. I first introduced myself from France and Amy was Polish. We were here on business. After much random laughter we were able to escape the clutch of our first salesperson and I asked Amy, “where do you want to be from next?” For our next encounter I was from Venezuela and Amy was from Trinidad. I constantly entertain myself by being ridiculous.

The next morning we headed to the business district of Gangnam where we went shopping at COEX mall (Asia’s largest underground mall) and sat at a Japanese Omurice restaurant. I ordered a chicken fried rice omurice with sweet potato and cheese stuffed pork cutlet. We stopped at one of my favorite Korean stationary shops, Art Box. This is the shop where every one of my students goes shopping for their school supplies. Panada knapsacks, cute giraffe pencil cases and hundreds of different notebooks with inspiration quotes such as, “Love is what fills the void,” and “The friend is this animal. Being friend with you is like being given a precious treasure, and knowing that I get to keep it for the rest of my life.” We went a little crazy. I bought about twenty notepads, a journal, pencil case and a panda tote bag which reads, “Time is flying never to return.”

Before heading home we walked to the famous temple located across from the mall. The architecture of the temples building’s are similar to Jogyesa in Insadong. This temple’s special feature is a massive stone Buddha which stands outside on top of a hill. After staring up at the stone Buddha we walked down the staircases leading to the eastern temple complex. I was thrilled when we found out that there was a free sculptural lantern exhibit on display for Buddha’s birthday.

After work Dale and I took Amy to our favorite local Dak Bulgi restaurant. After we filled ourselves with spicy chicken and rice cakes we grabbed an ice cream cone and took the elevator to the top floor of Dales building. We sat on a bench on the roof and looked over the city as the lights twinkled along the horizon. I wonder why Korean’s even believe in outer space. They certainly never see stars at night. The sky glows red, purple and orange every night as the neon signage from bellow illuminate the heavens.

The next morning Amy and I took the train to Seodaemun Prison. The prison was forcibly built during the Japanese occupation (1910-1945). It has stood for almost 80 years as a living historical reminder of the ordeals, grief and tumultuous events of modern Korean history. As Korean sovereignty was being infringed by Japan, an Independence Movement was launched by numerous patriotic fighters. Upset by the movement, the Japanese started to construct prisons across Korea to imprison national patriots. Until the Liberation of Korea on August 15, 1945, it served as a clandestine Mecca of the anti-Japanese Independence Movement for many patriotic fighters, where they were imprisoned and tortured.

The museum was a bizarre experience. It would be best described as a terrifying haunted house meets Alcatraz meets Disney Lands Pirates of the Caribbean. We walked through several of the buildings while trailing behind a Korean tour group full of “well aged woman.” In one of the buildings each room featured mannequin’s being subjected to various Japanese tortures. One room read, “drowning torture,” another, “electrocution and needles in the nail torture.” I found it really odd when we arrived at the room entitled “sexual torture” to see many of the 60 year old woman stare through the glass and joke with each other. Many of the mannequins actually moved and screamed. It made me feel a bit uneasy because I was trying to be somber and respectful as this was a real place of torture for thousands of people. But at the same time I found it so odd that the creators of the museum had rigged several dark rooms with torture victims who screamed and jumped out at you as you walked through the room. Let’s just say I’ll never forget the museum and its unique educational methods.

I found myself thinking back to how my students often respond when I ask them about their opinion of Japan. I have always sensed a love hate relationship between Koreans and their Japanese neighbors. Korean’s love Japanese food, film and television, art and anime. After visiting the prison their distaste for the Japanese finally made sense to me. Many of my student’s grandparents lived during the Japanese occupation and I’m sure have told horrific stories of what life was like not so long ago. It blows my mind that just sixty years ago Japan occupied Korea and in many ways had enslaved much of the population. The heinous tortures they subjected thousands of Korean freedom fighters to was brutal. I can only imagine what my opinion of America would be today if the United States had occupied Canada sixty years ago. The past can be painful and I applaud many of my students who embrace the Japanese after such a sour past.

It soon poured rain and the rest of the day seems like a blur. We headed to Insadong for a lunch at another of my favorite tea houses. We sipped on lemon honey tea and munched on rice confections. I purchased a couple sets of beautiful mahogany chopsticks from an antique dealer. We also stopped into several traditional Korean art galleries and bought a few floral water colours to take home. Black bamboo silhouettes and pink and red cherry blossoms on hand pressed paper are an essential purchase.

We scooted over to Passion 5 café and gobbled up French Pastries. I gently caressed each spoonful of Mango Cream pudding, one by one, down the hatch. Alternating the fresh flavor of the mango with mini almond paste croissants.

On Amy’s last night in Seoul I took her to the foreigner filled neighborhood of Itaewon. We spent the early evening at Gecko’s Irish Pub where we drank cheap Korean draft and smacked our fingers over British greasy delights. The bar was overrun by folks from the army base. A lot of brush cuts and butchy woman. The general atmosphere was chaotic and resembled a frat party. We spent Amy’s last hours awake people watching at B-One lounge and dancing on couches at Queen Nightclub. We grabbed an early cab at 2am ready for an early morning wake up.

The alarm irritatingly rang long before I wanted it to. Amy quickly showered and prepared her body for an arduous journey home. We lugged her purchases down the stairs and hailed a cab for the bus terminal. I gave her a big hug and she hustled onto the airport shuttle bus. The day was warm and the sun was blazing. I walked back to the house and my heart skipped a beat. I stared at my room and oddly found a rush of excitement run through my body as I readied myself for a three hour apartment clean up. I had a lovely visit with my sister. Two weeks of sight seeing and full time work had me in a state of exhaustion. Nothing a bit of elbow grease and bleach can’t solve!



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