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9/28

SOUTH KOREA | Tuesday, 14 November 2006 | Views [1002]

September 28 - Thursday
Seoul

We were up bright and early.  Jon, Mary and I were sharing a room across the hall from mom and dad.  Mary was able to get a laptop computer for our room.  Mom had the day planned, she had some things to accomplish while in korea and today we were going to check one of those tasks off her list.  We walked to a nearby subway station.  At a major intersection mom pointed to some high rises and said that her junior high school used to be right there - we were in her hood. 
There was noticeabley fewer people on the sidewalks as we walked to the subway, fewer people, fewer stalls, a lot more elbow room.  I'd say it was like a breath of fresh air after Bangkok but Seoul has its own air pollution problem that shrouds the city in a haze.  It not as bad as the Black Lung inducing air quality of Bangkok but it's not exactly alpine fresh.
We bought rechargeable subway cards and waited for our train.  We got disembarked somewhere in Seoul - couldn't take you back there if I had to and promptly got all turned around.  We walked down the sidewalk for a while and passed by, what turned out to be a veterinary clinic.  It occupied two store fronts.  The first that I passed held the cages where I saw one cat and the second was what I can only think to term as the 'procedure area' because there was a man sewing up an unconscious dog who was belly up on the procedure table unconscious from what I can only assume was the sedation - or she was dead.
"Look! He's sewing up a dog in there!" - S
"I'm not looking" - Mary
It was pretty unreal, rather theatrical, I could have stayed and watched some more.
Mom finally asked for directions.  Turns out we were super close and merely had to cross the street.  Now, when I think of Buddhist temple, I think of the temple that Jon and I got married in - that was not the kind of temple we visited.  It made sense though that a temple in the city occupy a business building.  They were in the process of painting it on the outside and making it their own. 
My mom had asked for an audience with one of the monks who turns out to be the brother of one of my attendants at my wedding.  He was very gracious and asked us to join him for snacks and coffee.  He was on a tight schedule but encouraged us to join the everyone downstairs for lunch.  Like any other buddhist temple - there's food.  Non of us were hungry but there was no way we could say no - actually, we tried but that just isn't an acceptable answer when it comes to eating when in Korea.  So we had veggies, really good kimchee, rice with curry sauce on top.  It was good.  All plates had to be cleaned in order to  show respect and appreciation. 
We rolled out of there - so full.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the Damdaemun market eventually making our way to the cloth market.  This place was amazing:  floors and stall after stall of fabric, buttons, notions.  Literally  floor to ceiling, there was more than one could take in at one time.  You could spend days going through there.  Jon found a tailor and got fitted for a suit. He's been waiting to get this suit made and with my mom translating he was getting measured and picking out fabrics like he had suits tailor made on a regular basis!  We made plans to meet again the next day for a fitting.  We caught a cab back to the base gate and walked back to the hotel.  We were all pretty tired and still had plans to visit my uncle and cousins in Anyang later that evening. 
After a little rest we headed back to the train station.  It takes about 30 to 40 minutes.  Once of the subway, dad lead the way to my uncles like he did it everyday.
Left at the restaurant with the dancing squids in front, left at the end of the pedestrian walkway, right at the nursery, left at the 365 store and you're nearly there!  We walked down the back alley where the kids played in the evening.  There were no front or backyards to play in, certainly not enough room in anyone's home to play - that left the streets.  We stuck out like a sore thumb and got lots of stares in this suburb of the city.
Walking up to my uncle's third floor walk up it felt like I hadn't been years since I had last seen his place.
We took our shoes off in the foyer and I followed mom inside.  It was sooooo good to see my uncle and cousins and for the first time:  my 'neice and nephew' who are actually my cousins twice removed (I think) but they call me, aunt (Eemo) and Jon, Uncle (Eemoboo).  I the last time I had seen my cousin Yu-jin, she was about 7 months pregnant with Ji-un who is now  an absolutely adoreable three year old and we became good buddies really quick.  My baby nephew, Songjun, is 10 months old and is the most well behave baby and I'm not just saying that because I'm biased.  Yu-jin had made a great dinner for  us and we sat around the low table and feasted on the simple, yet flavorful meal of potato, bulgolgi meat, toasted seaweed, kimchee and of course - rice. 
There was concord grapes after dinner.  These are the biggest concord grapes I've ever seen.  Too bad they have seeds.  They're in season right now and you can smell them in the markets before you even reach the stall where they're being sold.
It was such a great night and we were all so tired by the time we started back to the subway station.  It was so good to see my extended family and have Jon meet them too.  I knew my time with them was limited so I savored every moment.  My cousin Yu-jin invited us back the next night to her neighborhood which was a harvest festival performance.  This was just what I was hoping to experience while we were visiting.  I knew that there were several festivals in the fall in Korea so I was excited and knew it would be another late night.  While Jon, Mary and I had all agreed on adopting the travel philosophy of not packing as many activities into one day or one trip like it was the last time we would be visiting some place.  Mom, on the other hand, was unstoppable.  With her little power naps on the subway she was a woman on the go. We were having a hard time keeping up with her!
We parted ways with the plan to meet up again tomorrow evening.  We trudged back to our rooms and hit the sack.  Tomottow we would be able to sleep in a little with  no plans until lunch time.

Tags: Adventures

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