Wow! I can hardly believe that I am actually here in Seoul, South Korea. I left my cozy bed in Coldbrook, Nova Scotia on January 23 at 4AM and arrived at Incheon Airport in Seoul at 5PM on January 24th. My journey took me from Halifax to Montreal to Vancouver and then on to Seoul, crossing through at least five time zones as well as the International Date Line. Everyone was telling me about the tremendous jet lag that I would experience, but that was not the case at all. I didn’t sleep much on the plane, and once I arrived in Seoul, it was only a few hours before I would be going to bed. Never mind that my body’s time was 4AM. I was TIRED. So I took one ativan and two melatonin and didn’t see the light of day until it was Tuesday morning in Seoul. And that was that.
I’m still having a hard time to wrap my mind around the fact that I am in a foreign country, and one that has recently been attacked. I go outside expecting no problems until I open my mouth and realize that Korean is not anything like French or English. Not at all. Sign language becomes very important; also smiling and bowing. Yes, bowing. It seems that the new handshake in Korea is bowing. Thank God I have my son Dan to walk me through protocol and customs, and also to introduce me to multitudinous new foods that Korea has to offer.
Dan’s apartment is in the Songpa-gu district of Seoul, just a five minute walk from the Olympic Park (remember the Seoul Olympics in 1988?) It’s a neat little area, filled with restaurants, Hyundai cars and Samsung products. Pedestrians have a unique relationship with the cars here, as there are no sidewalks and the streets are very narrow, so they are very respectful of each other. It’s funny, but I feel quite safe here, people are friendly and the crime rate is extremely low (attacks from North Korea notwithstanding).
On my first evening in Seoul, Dan took me to a shopping complex that could only be described as Babylon. It is called Lotte Department Store and you could see it for miles with all its lights beckoning you. There are eleven floors of shopping, and the merchandise is exquisite, although cost prohibitive. It was nice to look though. All the restaurants are on the 11th floor and we chose one that Dan had eaten at before. Imagine, after seeing all the expensive things on the lower floors, finding a great restaurant that charged only 16,000 won for both of us. That’s 16$ Canadian. And that included the tax. And Dan informed me that in Korea you don’t tip. So the full meal, which included rice, kim chee, tons of vegetables, beef and sauces was more than we could eat. No wonder Dan doesn’t cook – he just buys all these side dishes to keep in the fridge and he eats out a lot.
Over the next week or so we will be going to some of the markets, Namdemum and Dongdaemum in particular. I’m hoping to get some neat fabric to bring home for a quilting project and to see in general, what they have to offer. Stay tuned.