**the 63 Building**
**On the bus, headed through the city**
**my first night, hanging out with my friend Aeri and Choco!**
In the most wired country on Earth, your homegirl did not have internet for the past THREE WEEKS. Crazy, isn't it?!
It feels cool being back in Korea, almost like I never left. I still remember random things, like my favorite bag stores! I've seen several of my friends who are still here and I've met some new ones. My job is awesome and keeps me traveling a bit. Great co-workers definitely help. I've done a lot of walking so far because the weather has been perfect. I know the muggy monsoon season is around the corner so I am taking advantage of these opportunities to explore Seoul a bit. I'll try to recap the past few weeks; otherwise this post will be insanely long.
1) Picnic in Yeouido (pronounced Yo-EE-doh)
My first weekend back, I stayed in Itaewon with one of my girlfriends. While I was waiting for her, this small group of Korean students walked up to me and asked for an interview about living in Korea. Then they wanted a picture. Ah, it's good to be back! Anywho, my friend lives up a crazy steep hill so just imagine me dragging two suitcases, a computer bag, and a backpack up this thing. Nearly broke my neck. And I'm sure no one would have batted an eyelash at some crazy foreigner tumbling down a hill. But she has a cute little Yorkie named Choco so I got to kick it with them. Later that day (Saturday was it?? May 15th I think), we met up with some of her other friends and had a little picnic in Yeouido. This area is sort of the financial hub of Seoul, with a lot of banking headquarters nearby. But it's also near the Han River and prime for picnicking! I basically roasted and the jetlag hit me pretty hard in the middle of the afternoon but good times all around.
**me and my girl Lu**
We also headed to Hongdae that night for some grilled meat! I surely missed Korean prices. For $35 bucks total, the five of us gorged ourselves on side dishes and roasted cow. Lol. It was pretty packed in Hongdae that night. I had my fun clubbing in Hongdae back in 2008, but I definitely can't hang like that anymore. But I do love their cafes and artsy stuff. I'll be back for shopping though!
2) Wandering near City Hall
Buddha's birthday is a national holiday so I decided to just wander around City Hall. The Lotus Lantern Festival is a popular event and I went last time I was here with Meeka and some other folks. It was great, but I did not partake this year. But there were still plenty of people roaming around the city and I enjoyed my own company! :)
**little kiddies playing in the water**
**a palace...wish I remembered the name. Sorry!**
**Seoul - World Design Capital 2010 Building**
**triangle kimbap! that's crunchy seaweed (called kim) on the outside and the inside is stuffed with rice (bap), kimchi, and tuna...yum!!**
**Usher's coming to Seoul! Probably won't go though...**
**ummmm, it looked pretty? Not sure what it is though!**
**floating lanterns down the river**
**a giant sneaker made of Asics**
3) Back to Busan
For work, I got to travel to Busan for a conference. The first time I went to Busan was with my girls. I had a wonderful time because of them, but overall, I wasn't crazy about the city. Besides, I'd gone over Chuseok holiday and it was pretty barren. But this time around, it was wonderful and lively. I wished I could have spent more time there because it was totally different. There's still nowhere quite like Seoul, but Busan is a pretty cool place...and who can argue with the beach?! :) Plus, riding the KTX high speed train in first class was quite a treat!
Even though Korea is much the same, a lot is different. Seoul is hosting this year's G20 Summit in November, which is a huge deal. Preparations are apparent all over the city. With over 1 million foreigners (in a country of 47 million), it is changing and I think it's for the better. Some people might begrudge this foreign presence, but if Korea's ambitions to be a global power are to be fulfilled, this transition becomes a necessary step. It must accept and accommodate different types of people and so far, I think the government is making a strong statement. Now, it is up to the citizens to either follow its lead or not. As a testament to that growing diversity, when I was in Itaewon for an hour, I heard Urdu (from the Pakistani guys at the cell phone place), French (from the Cameroonian ladies who braid my hair), Turkish (at the kebab shop), and of course English and Korean. It's really interesting. Not saying I couldn't hear all of those languages and more in DC, but it's really noticeable here now. There is a beautiful convergence of cultures and it's only going to grow. In my opinion, Seoul is really the heart of East Asia. While Tokyo still keeps its cool, Seoul is roaring into the spotlight and for me, it's just nice to have a front row seat for the show. :)