Heart and Seoul

It’s a little daunting to leave a country on Thursday and when you wake up the next morning is Saturday. And even worse it’s Saturday at 4:30 AM local time – because you forced yourself to sleep in until a “reasonable” time.

Being on vacation, to some extent, alleviates that.

The 11 hour flight into Seoul wasn’t that bad. I read a little bit, watched 5 movies and did some knitting. I saw a horrible Bradley Cooper movie called Burnt. It’s a movie mostly about Cooper’s beautiful brooding blue eyes and how that can get you a career in Hollywood without really needing any acting skills. I will probably watch it on the flight home as well. It got a solid 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. I also watched Joy which is a really good movie starring Jennifer Lawrence with a few small moments of Bradley Cooper’s eyes as a delicious seasoning – you know, like how you really like fish sauce in food for flavoring but you wouldn’t make it what you wrap the entire flavor profile of a dish around – mmm those eyes. Also, Jennifer Lawrence is so amazing and riveting. I would watch her do taxes.

The seemingly 11 hour customs line into Korea was that bad.

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This line is a lot longer than it looks

It took us an actual 2.5 hour to get through customs and onto the bus to Seoul. This was marred even further by the bloviations of the probably-a-salesman behind me and by the lack of Bradley Cooper eyes.

Eventually, Andrew and I were greeted by Peter who helped us get comfortable in our AirBnB by giving us a tour of every nook and cranny. He showed us how to use the bidet (by pointing at the buttons, not demonstrating) and showed us what was in every cabinet (as though we weren’t going to look in every cabinet as soon as he left anyway). He even explained the remote control to us. This is when I realized the perception was,  US:Korea = Kentuckian:New Yorker. His perception may have been due to Andrew and me gawking at the keyless entry pad on the door which is much fancier than the one on our front door at home, in that it works.

I explained to Peter that we didn’t believe in using technology and asked him to hide or burn the device and thanked him with a poorly pronounced kams’hahamnida and he left us.

Andrew and I dropped our bags, made sure we took what we grabbed the information on how to get back into the apartment and went to find some food. We walked around the neighborhood a bit and stumbled upon a very well attended restaurant. “Let’s eat here!” I said excitedly to Andrew’s ashen face as he looked at a picture in the window of a soup with clearly defined tentacles in it. “Um, how will we know what we are ordering?” (gulp). I gently coaxed Andrew into the restaurant with promises of removing tentacles from his food should that be what we accidentally ordered. We ended up with delicious pork soup. I love Korean food.  I love the flavors, I love the spiciness, I love that everything is served with banchan (little side dishes of kimchi and rice and seaweed, etc.). The kimchi was a bit too spicy for Andrew, which just meant more for me. There was nary a tentacle in sight.

We wandered around the city a little more attempting to stay awake long enough so that we went to bed at a reasonable-for-being-in-Korea-not-Portland hour. That turned out to be 8PM – it was a long day.

After 1:30AM I was mostly forcing myself back into sleep for the next 3 hours. I finally gave up on that when I realized Andrew was also awake. We got up and puttered around our apartment for a a couple of hours trying to plan our day.

The apartment we are in has a Starbucks in it and I went downstairs around 7 to grab some coffee. It was closed. I walked almost to the restaurant we had eaten at the previous night – nothing was open at all. I got back to the apartment and settled for instant Nescafe and unpacked mine and Andrew’s clothes while he internetted to figure out our activities for the day.

Something I really love about my relationship with Andrew is that even though we have been together going on 7 years (yes, it’s really been that long), and even though we know each other really really well, we still learn new things about each other. For example, this morning I learned that Andrew really doesn’t want me to unpack his things for him – unfortunately I didn’t learn that until after I’d finished. The thing about Andrew is he won’t outwardly be upset about a thing, just kind of broody and a little passive-aggressive. So as soon as he recognized that I’d unpacked his things without his permission he immediately needed to find everything and started asking me where it was. “Where are my pants?” “In the top drawer.” He opens the drawer. “Where are my underwear?” “Same drawer you are looking in.” “Where are my shirts?” “Right next to the underwear.” (He packs light).

For about a minute I contemplated packing his things back up and then letting him unpack them – but I realized that would probably put us into a loop. We eventually got through this and ended up on the happy end of me never helping him with luggage related issues again.

Then we went to self-guide a tour of Seoul. We are staying near Gyeonbokgung palace – our fist stop. We got to the palace and left immediately, because it was only 8AM and the palace didn’t open until 9. We instead headed to a river walk in the middle of the city followed by a visit to Namdaemun market. The river walk was beautiful with cranes and fish and waterfalls a weird serenity juxtaposed against skyscrapers. We rode the metro to the market – there is something oddly satisfying in figuring out a foreign subway system. It’s very grounding. The market was an overwhelming mish-mash of things made in Korea. We found a row of restaurants featuring menus with pictures on it and enjoyed a delightful brunch of fried rice and glass noodles with a side of banchan. I even ordered mul ju-sey-o (water please) and nabken ju-sey-o (napkin please) without feeling too scared. And, even better, I was understood!

By 10:30 Andrew and I were exhausted. I guess that’s to be expected when you time jump a Friday.

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Seoul – random statue near Gyeongbokgung Palace. Note, no pictures of actual palace. Blame jet lag.

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River walk – I love the contrast of the peaceful water against the backdrop of a busy, large city.

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This crane was very camera shy and kept flying slightly away every time I took it’s picture. This one turned out nice though. We also later saw a blue heron stalk and catch a morning fish breakfast. So cool!

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