My Directors threw me a bone yesterday and gave me the day off for Election Day. It is considered a national holiday however, most hagwons here don't know what that means. So, never one to squander an opportunity, I took to the streets. Alone. Yup, I did some research and chose a few areas around Seoul that I'd heard about. As much as I love being in the presence of my wonderful friends and family, I have to confess that I really, really love my own company. I know a lot of people struggle with the concept of being comfortable in their aloneness. I do not. And I've never felt guilty about taking that time for myself. My friends can remember growing up with me, a self-proclaimed nerd and bookworm, when I spent entire summers cooped up in the library or in my room reading. Is there such a thing as an introverted extrovert?? Well, if there is, that's what I am. Oh, and I took some random pictures but don't expect any Annie Leibovitz-ish spin on my pictures. I actually really suck at photography. I mean, had my roommate not bought me a digital camera 2 years ago, I'd still be using disposables.
My first stop was Ewha Women's University. This place has some of the best shopping in Seoul. I think I really only scratched the surface, but I liked what I saw. They had a lot of vintage shops, which I love. The one thing I haven't seen much of are summer dresses. I only wear jeans and dresses in the summer. I stopped wearing short shorts years ago because they're really the most unflattering piece of clothing in my opinion. Too much bunching in the crotch! But around Ewha, I did find a very cute, hole-in-the-wall Indian vendor who sells handmade saris and dresses! Talk about jackpot! The clothes and fabrics were just gorgeous. I also stopped in a store called Kosney. This is a popular chain here that sells stationery, clothes, home furnishings, etc. It's one of my favorite stores because of the stationery though. *nerd alert* When I used to write letters, I'd go a little nuts buying fancy matching paper. I love Korea because of their paper....which actually sounds crazy. This is a country so obsessed with the English language that they really don't give a crap if it's right or not. They will slap it on anything and everything. I try to buy grammatically correct stuff, but it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But the errors, surprisingly, give it character. So, I bought a passport case (which has Australia spelled like "Austrailra" and "Take a pictures!!"), a card holder, and a really cool planner that is a photo album of Tokyo. I plan to use it as a diary though.
My next stop was an area called Samcheong-dong. It is a place where old Korea and new Korea seem to converge. Young couples and old couples just walking around. To get here, you have to walk along a gate with narrow, winding streets. I was nearly turned into roadkill because cars here don't really care if it's a pedestrian area. They will still drive full speed. The architecture is beautiful with the mountainous landscape setting off the background. It is living heritage and I love that. But in recent years, it has spawned an uber-hip and trendy crowd. There are museums galore, including a Museum of Chicken Art, which I can only envision as chickens holding paintbrushes and wearing berets. There are a lot of art galleries and kitschy boutiques. The upscale restaurants and eateries give an exclusive albeit snobbish vibe. I stopped in a cafe and had a cappuccino, watching the rain wash away my worries. I thought about home and how I could be 15,000 miles away from everything and still feel connected. It reminded me of New York. I don't know if I'll ever love another city the way I love New York and so I've stopped trying to top it. Instead I'm just looking for uniqueness. And this spot is unique for sure. It is really a hidden treasure in Seoul. It's not bustling like Gangnam or bursting at the seams with foreigners like Itaewon. It is quiet and peaceful, befitting my mood and the weather.
After getting my zen on in Samcheong-dong, I went back to the madness of Sinchon for dinner with Margot. We had Mexican food. Expensive Mexican food, which is obviously an oxymoron and difficult for my brain to process. But my tastebuds did not argue with the empanadas and tequila. After dinner, we ended up going to Gangnam to meet a new friend of mine. He's a Korean guy named Jeff who needs help with his English....and I need help with my Korean so we're going to do a language exchange! Let the fun times begin!! So, every Sunday we're going to hang out for a couple of hours and learn together. I was nervous about meeting him alone so Margot went with me and she gave him the stamp of approval. He's no Daniel Henney, but it's a start! :)
OH!! The Ne-yo concert was a lot of fun!! He sounds really good live, too. During intermission, the DJ played some down south, crunk music. Old school Crime Mob (yes, Knuck If You Buck....classic) and umm, I got really, REALLY excited. So much so that I cracked my tooth! Oh Lord...only me! I made it through 4 years of college dancing to this song and I get to Seoul and chip my damn tooth. Insane. Luckily, it was on the backside and it was very tiny. But nothing quite prepares you for the feeling of fresh enamel grinding between your teeth. *cringe* I've learned my lesson. :) The cherry blossoms have bloomed and the drunk businessmen have started drinking outside again.
Spring is here....bliss is near :)
Until then, J