(Had to get the Seoul/Soul pun out of the way sooner or later.)
Considering I woke up this morning to the news that North Korea has declared “quasi-state of war” on good ole South Korea after some missiles were fired, I thought I’d give you all an update that I’m still alive and well.
If there was one thing I’ve learned fairly quickly here is that South Korea really doesn’t care about North Korea, and certainly doesn’t care for all the stereotypes that come along with it (think the movie Interview). Since it’s the first time in 5 years that shots have been fired between the two countries, there still was a little buzz in the weight room this morning. But don’t worry, my dear translator told me “I do not think we should really care, you and I are still going to do what we do and eat yummy foods and shop a lot.” God I love her.
So I’ve been here for about 3 weeks and it’s one of those things that feels like its been 3 days yet 3 months at the same time. My sense of time is quite skewed. But nonetheless, I am still incredibly happy to be here. I am starting to get the hang of training, which was bound to happen eventually considering we have two-a-days 6 days a week. My head coach is currently with the Korean national team training, but will be returning in a few weeks and I’ve been told to prepare for training to be amped up quite a bit, joy.
But with that beloved one off day a week you better believe we make the most of it. I’ve gotten to see Seoul quite a few times already and fell in love the second I stepped out of the cab, which is less than an hour ride from my home in Suwon. The first free night I had, all the other Americans on the other teams here grabbed our translators and headed for dinner and a night out in Itaewon. It’s a very lively neighborhood known for a lot of foreigners to hang out, and it really was a relief to hear so much English finally. I had a blast with the other Americans and am really excited that this group of girls are so nice and fun, and that we are all on this same crazy journey together. I also got to meet up with my full team for drinks that night, and learned some fun Korean drinking games I can’t wait to share 😉
The next weekend I got to explore Gangnam with my translator Erica and we got Mexican food and beer, so I clearly was the happiest person on earth. Gangnam, yes like the song, is an area that is business district by day and ententainment by night. There were lots of high-end stores for shopping and apparently the song was kind of a jab at the wealthy and luxurious lifestyle that surrounds that area. The next day Erica, I, and a darling teammate Eunji explored the neighborhoods of Insadong and Hanok, more traiditional Korean areas. Insadong was a smaller area filled with artsy galleries, boutiques and tradition souveneir stands, my favorite neighborhood so far. I ate at a famous dumpling restaurant and a famous green tea dessert café. I fully support them being dubbed ‘famous’ because they were both exceptional. We then walked to Hanok, which was filled with winding small streets of traditional houses.
Seoul manages to have modern skyscrapers on one side of the street and ancient temples on the other side, but somehow it blends well. It’s the best of both worlds. It has been brutally hot and humid this August, so we were exhausted quickly and headed over to Myeong-dong, which is the biggest shopping area I’ve ever seen.
So if you haven’t gotten the picture, Korea is all about shopping and eating and shopping and eating more. I have no idea how Koreans manage to stay so thin for the clothes they are shopping for, but they do. Seriously, they are constantly telling me I don’t eat enough (I have never heard that before in my life). Seoul has every ethnic and kind of restaurant you can imagine, even more variety than the States, but I am still savoring every bite of Korean I’m eating. Even the grocery stores have 10x the flavors of Pringles, Dunkin has atleast 40 flavors of donuts, and Pizza Hut has everything from kimchi to sweet potatoe pizza. As impressive as they are, I have not indulged yet. Tonight I went to a local buffet and was ready for Korea’s version of the Golden Corral, but I was so wrong. Roasted duck, couscous, sushi, wine and fresh veggies everywhere. And unlimited. For 10$ Korea, I love you. And so does my belly.
If they’re not eating, Koreans are most likely obsessing over beauty. Looking around, I’d say 25% of stores here are beauty stores, all selling the latest magic for you skin, hair, etc. The other 25% would be coffee and dessert cafes, they love their sweets! And that leaves the other 50% to be giant apartment complexes for living in, space to population ratio here is crazy. Since the standards for beauty are so high here, I decided to check out a hair salon and ended up chopping 6-8 inches off my hair. Oops….but with the amount of exercising I’ve been doing, it needed to be done
Tomorrow I’m off to Seoul to check out a basketball game with some other Americans and hopefully am going to cross off the #1 thing on my to-do list, visit a cat café. Yes, a café with kitties running around for you to play with while you chillax. Sounds like paradise to me.
I’m gonna leave you with a list of things I love because everyone loves lists.
- Food– Sorry I am not sorry for talking about it so much, but I look forward to eating everyday. p.s. I must have been asian in my past life because I am not afraid to brag about my chopstick skills. I’ve impressed myself.
- People– Take a genuine interest in their culture and they will take an interest in yours, I have already gained so much respect just because I am open to their customs, and their attempts to speak English words to me are precious. Also I’d like to add Asian babies are officially cuter by default.
- Safety– It is so nice to be able to walk around areas at night and not have to fear crime, especially because basically everything is open 24/7. (Don’t worry mom, I’m still cautious) I feel incredibly safe, except for maybe when in a car because I’m convinced there are no rules of the road. And I feel car sick in every cab I’ve been in but so far so good. Luckily I’m not expected to drive ever.
- Landscape-I was shocked how green South Korea is, when you’re not in a built up city, you’re looking at green mountains and lakes and rivers. Well, even when you are in the cities, the roads wind up and down and around the hills of this country. There are plenty of beautiful hiking areas and small islands I will hopefully get time to explore at some point.
- Zero judgement- This culture revolves around respect. You bow to your elders, you take your shoes off if you’re a guest, and I feel like everyone really is open and more accepting. Table manners are non existent, you grab that food with your hands and slurp noodles off your chin if you want, no one will judge. You walk down the street singing loudly, no one will mind. You’re a 7 foot tall white girl? Sure you may get some stares but nothing more, they go on with their day. However, Koreans are obsessed with fashion and their looks still, so if you want to fit in, leave the sweatpants or t-shirts at home!
“Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad of new sights, smells, and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.” ~ Ralph Crawshaw
I promise I’ll start posting more!