Wednesday, the first full day after the trip, was a pretty extra ordinary day. It started off with a lecture on Korean economics. Interesting, I learned a lot, but economics is not quite my thing. After lunch I caught the subway to near Gyeongbokgung Palace. I am pretty pleased with myself as I loaded money on to my card and managed to travel all by myself. Thank goodness all stops are also in English characters for non-Korean tourists. And then I GOT TO SEE MY FRIEND SHEILA AND HER FAMILY!!!!!!! They have been traveling all over Asia and have made their way to Seoul for a week. Sheila and her daughter met me at my subway stop then walked me to the apartment that they are staying. It is pretty cute. Her son was there and later Duane arrived after a hike. We sat an chatted for a while then went out and wandered. We went to Insa-dong. and they showed me a fabulous tea place (dangerous knowledge).
As I forgot my camera (d’oh!), all pictures are from them! Thank you!
We then walked in to a little, twisty alley and found an EXCELLENT restaurant (that I won’t be able to find again) and had a traditional Korean meal. As they had tickets to go see Nanta we walked to Myeong-Dong as the show was there. If Insa-dong is traditional, Myeong-dong is modern, a huge market covering many streets. A boy K-Pop band arrived while we were there (don’t know who, but the cameras, bodyguards and many, many fans made them look pretty famous). I walked them to the theatre and then had to say Good-bye. (Sniff!). What a terrific, fun trip they are having. It was so amazing seeing Sheila and her wonderful family. (Sheila & Duane – your kids are terrific – really awesome people!)
Thursday was a quiet day. The morning was an interesting lecture on the major religions in Korea. Rather than going chronologically, Dr. Sem Vermeersch looked at the 10 key themes to the current and historical religions of Korea. It was fascinating. I found it especially interesting how Confucianism, which now less than 1% of Koreans practice, has such a strong hold on many current customs. It is a very hierarchical religion.
The afternoon brought a class on Korean food. There was a presentation then the students got to make a dish. Wow, did it smell wonderful. Looked like a lot of fun too. One of the other faculty women on the trip did a blog post about Korean food. Find it here. Warning: the pictures will make you hungry
After the sun went down, and it cooled off a couple of degrees, I went for a nice long walk around the university. Beautiful & Safe.
Friday was a pretty mellow day – In the morning was a lecture about the Korean film industry. It was a fascinating look over the last 100 years or so. I have many films that I want to see. There is a great website Koreanfilm.org which is an archive of older films – with subtitles. In the afternoon we watched JSA (Joint Security Area). IT WAS VERY SAD. Evening was mellow. Just hanging around. I took a neat picture of the moon. Some students did my nails too – they are all fancy
Saturday….. Students left for their home-stay weekend and I went out in to Seoul! My feet were very tired at the end of the day. In the morning I hoped on the subway and headed to Namsan Park, in the centre of Seoul. It was a short walk to the park. There was a the option of stairs or a Funicular (heck – fun is right in the title, is there even a choice?). That took me half way, then I took a gondola to the top of Namsan Mountain. Very Beautiful. Unfortunately it was a foggy day but I still enjoyed wandering around & seeing the sites – and eating an ice cream cone. There were ceremonial guards marching in traditional outfits. Lovers & friends attach locks all over fences there. Of course I had to go to the top of the North Seoul Tower (it is like the Eiffel or CN tower of Seoul). Panoramic, if foggy views. They had how far it was to Vancouver and I got homesick. They had a place to write and mail a postcard (highest post office in Seoul) so I mailed one to Darrell. Then back down again and off to the next place.
I then wandered Myeong-dong. Busy, Busy, Busy on Saturday. Hordes of people, no one speaking English (it isn’t a tourist place so much). Music blaring from stores, clerks calling you to come in, street vendors cooking, unusual smells. Each building has many levels of stores… So different from what I am used to. As it was lunch time, I picked a building that advertised food and went in. I found a restaurant that looked good. Full of girls out with friends & couples. Many women. Did my subconscious recognize this as a women’s restaurant? Yummy food. No tipping. I am the only foreigner there.
After lunch, my quest continued for a book of Korean Poetry in English. I asked at a Tourist Info place – They suggested two. The first, closer one, no luck. The second is the largest bookstore in Seoul. It is underground and HOLY HANNAH is it huge! And full of people. Thanks to the grace of a helpful sales clerk I found two books in that madness (it has a food court) tucked away on a bottom shelf, along a wall. I went with his recommendation. Time to head home. On the way, Poetry in the subway, the first I have seen.
Prophetic words by Blake – Auguries of Innocence:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.