Thursday, April 24, 2014

5-Day Weekend in Seoul and Daegu!

I took some time off during midterms, which meant that I did not have to attend school on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday this past week. That may seem excessive, but I really needed the break.

Sung Min, seafood pad thai
Snow beer -- like a beer slushie!
On Saturday, I went to Seoul to visit my friend Monica, who is recovering from an accident. She was discharged from the hospital that day and moved in to a new apartment, with the help of her parents. I really enjoyed getting to know her mother and father and tried to be as helpful as I could. Over the weekend I actually visited several times, and we listened to music, played Settlers of Catan (finally!) -- which Monica won her first time playing, naturally, and dreamed of all of the world's most delicious smoothies.

That evening, I visited Sung Min, who is currently in med school in Seoul. It was great to catch up with him again. I haven't seen any fellow Swatties recently, though I know a few are around. Sung Min's just the easiest to get in touch with, because he's not ensconced in the library all day. ;)

We went to a Thai grill restaurant in Wangsimni whose name I forget and won't bother to remember, because the service was crappy and I don't intend to go back. To its credit, the food was good, but in the end, not worth it.

Better, then, was the snow beer and fries at a small bar near the school called Pommes Frites (French for "French fries"). I've never had snow beer before. The head of the bear is actually frozen, like a beer slushie. That's how it gets its ice cream shape. It's really good! And at this particular bar, it was also really cheap.

Sunday morning was Easter. My sixth Easter away from home. I've gone to services in Swarthmore, Philadelphia, Grenoble, Daegu, and now Seoul. A rather large group of Fulbrighters ended up at Jubilee Church in Sinsa-dong, Seoul. This is the church I attended regularly during the month I lived in this city last year.

I was glad to see that it hadn't changed much. Still a very young, hip, fairly diverse congregation, a great worship band, and a very passionate pastor. His message about focusing on death in order to understand the importance of resurrection was on point. To follow the cross, die to yourself and your desires. A lesson I can never hear too often.

Laura and me by the Han River
Galumph about the grass
After church, five of us had an excellent lunch at Deli Heinzburg in Sinsa-dong. This is a neighborhood I've never had a chance to explore. It's near Seoul's 가로수길, which usually means expensive, trendy cafes and such. But dang, there looked to be a feast waiting just inside every door on these streets. Deli Heinzburg lived up to this expectation: delicious paninis and sandwiches, plus a shared pitcher of fruity iced tea. I'll be back.

Lunch was followed by a nice walk in the park. Seoul's famous Han River park system is the real miracle on the Han, in my opinion. The parks are so beautiful and full of activity on a perfect spring day like this. I just wanted to frolic. Cameron and Connor went ahead and frolicked. All the afternoon needed to be perfect was a picnic blanket and a good book. Or a guitar.

Janet and me with delicious Street Churros
On Sunday evening, I met up with a friend from high school, Janet, whom I have not seen in six years. I'm serious; the last time we saw each other was probably the summer of 2008. The funny thing is that though we had both grown up a lot since then, I didn't get the impression that much had changed. We were comfortable friends in high school and went right back to being comfortable, six years and 5000 miles later.

Janet's teaching at a hagwon in Seoul, so we could relate to each other about teaching. I'm about to close this chapter of my life, but she's just begun. I'm glad that she already enjoys it so much ad excited about the opportunities she'll have with her students in the months to come.

We had dinner at Don Charly Taco in Itaewon, which was good for Mexican in Korea, but pretty pricey. I even miss Costco horchata at this point... Oh, and dinner was followed by excellent churros from a streetside stand called Street Churros. Also, chocolate truffle shots. Enough said.

Ashley and me in Daegu

At night, I hung out with Liam, Jake, and Monica and also gave myself a haircut, though you might not be able to tell from the following photos. It was fun -- I've gone to hair salons more times in the past two years than I have in my entire life prior to Korea, but that doesn't mean I'll still have my friends cut my hair any chance I get. I did the sides -- "two-block" is the most trendy style in Korea these days -- and Jake helped with the back.

And that was the weekend proper! I slept well on Sunday night, knowing that I wouldn't have to go to school on Monday morning. Instead, on Monday morning, I made pancakes. Then, I went to Daegu to visit Ashley at her elementary school.

Her school is so colorful and cute! And her students are kind of cute too, I guess. Sixth graders. Some are nearly as tall as me, and others still look like babies. Puberty is a weird thing. Every one of them assumed that I was Ashley's 남친 (boyfriend), which I cheerfully denied. Then, I got to help out with the lesson on giving directions, which was pretty chaotic, but in a good way. I definitely could never be an elementary school teacher. I don't think I have the requisite energy. My students are always half asleep, which makes them easier to control. :)
Lolomiel ice cream sundaes! Honeycomb, chocolate Oreo, and strawberry
After school, we made dinner and then I tagged along as Ashley went downtown to her various hagwon classes, including a dance class where I watched my friend blend into the group of high schoolers doing some pretty awesome jazz dance in a very dark studio. I wish I could dance like that! The treat for an hour and a half of sweating was a big bowl of green tea bingsu from Nunpat, which we will return to soon because it was so darned delicious. 연유 (condensed milk) with green tea ice cream and 떡? Yes, please. The evening ended, of course, with Pirate Scrabble.

Tuesday dawned bright and early, and since I didn't have to go to school (again!), I made it a lazy morning, prepared lunch, Skyped with a friend, and simply enjoyed having nothing to do (while knowing that in
reality, I was merely putting off everything that I had to do). Ashley's school was having its Science Day, which meant a lot of 2nd graders ran around blowing bubbles, the 5th graders launched water bottle rockets, and general chaos reigned, as is the custom at an elementary school.

Sophia and our amazing 팥빙수!
A little after noon, I met up with Sophia, another Daegu ETA, for dessert at a cute cafe called Mary Poppins. Although I didn't know Sophia too well before today, we clicked well and talked about blogging, writing, travel, grad school, and lots of other things. It was pleasant, and our bingsu and melon cream puff were wonderful.

One of my regrets this year is not having taken the time to get to know the batch of ETAs who arrived a year after I did -- the "class of 2013", so to speak. Since I'm the only ETA in my city and I am already very close with other second-year ETAs, I never had many opportunities to get close with the first-years. But through conferences, trips to North Korea, and various meet-ups around the country, I've made many new and close friends out of the "betas", as we affectionately call them, and Sophia is no exception. A pity there's so little time left in the year now...

Ashley got out of school around 3pm, and we went downtown to look for a pie shop we'd wanted to check out. Unfortunately, and strangely, the pie shop was open but closed. Windows open, lights on, music playing, delicious smells emanating... but the door was locked and nobody was inside. Though the owner might have just stepped out for a minute, the situation was off-putting enough that we left and got ice cream at Lolomiel instead. Honeycomb ice cream is the biggest trend in Korean desserts right now, I think, so Ashley got some for the first time, while I settled for chocolate Oreo, and Sophia got strawberry. We filmed ourselves a bit for Sophia's vlog.

I had to leave shortly after that to catch a bus back to Changwon. (Note to future self: West Daegu Bus Terminal has the buses that go to Changwon. East goes only to Masan. Actually, depending on timing, the train might be a better option.) So that was the end of my long weekend travels. I felt refreshed, well-rested, well-fed, and just happy to be where I was at each moment. Just what I needed... before spending all of Wednesday reading, writing, and working from home. Yup, I can only hold off the torrent of to-do's for so long. As pathetic as this sounds, I'm glad the weekend's almost here again!
Sophia, Ashley, and me in the 2.28 memorial park in downtown Daegu.

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