Monday, October 15, 2012

Weekend of Walking

That's what I will tell people from now on: If you plan to visit Seoul (for any reason that doesn't involve sitting in a single room for a long period of time), expect to do A LOT of walking!

Last weekend was pretty eventful, nearly jam-packed, and I'm surprised I'm not exhausted. It may've had to do with sleeping in nice beds. Friday after school, my MT (mentor teacher), her husband, and I went to pick up my mom from my apartment. We then drove to Wonju to spend the evening. We ate tasty Chinese food, perused the many floors and aisles of HomePlus, and retired to my MT's home for a few hours of TV-watching, fried chicken-eating, and general chit-chat. My mom got to meet my MT's family and sleep in a bed comfier than my own lol.

The next day, they fed us a Korean-style breakfast (which my mom found quite interesting and a little hard to get used to) and then drove us to the train station. There were no more regular seats (standing only), so we paid a bit extra for some "first-class" seats. They weren't as enjoyable as you'd expect. We enjoyed the lovely smells of cigarette smoke (remember, no smoking allowed on the trains, people!) and train fumes. Hmmm... first class? Really?  Anyhow, we just needed to get to Seoul by a certain time and the trip was only an hour long.

After the train ride, there was about 30 minutes of subway riding to do. We arrived in Hongdae, found the hotel, and realized that there was, indeed, a check-in time. Two hours later... one hour after the time I said we'd show up in the reservation. No one was in the office. So, we walked over to a Paris Baguette and munched on things to kill time. An hour later I checked my phone and noticed a missed call and text message from the hotel. We walked over to the hotel, and someone was waiting in the office. Luckily, we were able to check in early. After receiving an upgraded room (You see... since we showed up so early, our room was still in the process of being cleaned. ..So, they gave us a different room at no extra charge! :D) and dumping our bags there, we headed back to the subways.

I took my mom to Namdaemun market and Cheongyecheon (River?), and we walked all the way over to the palace and took pictures of King Sejong (the king responsible for creating Hangul, the Korean alphabet), as well as everything in between destinations.  The walking became quite tiring, especially for my mom who wasn't as seasoned as I now am at surviving the subway stairs (Of Death). Still, we did manage to see everything I had planned to show her. We decided to save the palace tour for Sunday and headed back to the hotel. Good thing, too, because NO ONE wants to be in the subway station around Hongdae by 6 PM. All the party people come out to play.

We slept comfortably in the nice hotel room (really, it was so nice, and about 43,000 won a person). [Ha, I guess I should mention the name, right? A friend recommended it, and I will, too. The place is called 2nville. You can look it up online.]  I watched a bit of TV (since I don't have any at my apartment, it was quite a luxury). I reveled in watching anime in Japanese with Korean subtitles. There was a Chinese animation channel as well which I watched for about 20 seconds before stopping at BBC's CBeebies channel and CNN International. Oh! There was also a TeleNovela channel! I watched that for about 20 seconds, too, delighting in this little piece of culture that I hadn't realized I missed so much. Yes, I also dedicated about 30 seconds to the gaming channel, where League of Legends was being broadcast. I should really start playing that again....

The next day, my mom woke up well-rested, but still a bit sore. She firmly decided against visiting the palace (she did get to take a picture of the entrance anyway), so we checked out and headed home early. On the way home, we stopped at a small town called Jipyeong. This is where a friend of mine (the nurse whom I met at orientation, and her son, Optimus Prime) lives. She met us at the station and we spent a few hours with her family, touring a few military sites in the town. I didn't know this before, but Jipyeong (previously written Chip'yong) is the site of a famous battle during the Korean War. Allied Forces had very little casualties, while enemy forces suffered heavily. We toured a small museum and some memorial grounds at the suggestion my friend's father. He had heard (through her, through me) about my mom being in the military and thought it'd be an interesting addition to my mom's first trip to Korea. It turned out he was right. My mom was so moved by the museum and sights, by the stories of two soldiers who had taken part in the war and now operated the museum, and by the memorials which honored multiple nationalities for their support during the war. At the end of the museum tour, my mom walked away with a packet of memorabilia, including a medal. The old men (the retired soldiers working there) said that a medal was given to foreigners who had served in the military and visited the museum. My mom was really honored.

We visited my friend's parent's house for a short while, where her son proceeded to throw several small tantrums because the visitors were not specifically there to see him. So, I left the "grown-up" table and played with him for a while before we headed off to eat a late lunch. Heh, I know how it feels to be an only child, and how tiresome it is to have to entertain yourself even when new people arrive at your house. In fact, it's annoying! See, I understand.

At the restaurant, we feasted on a ginormous meal of Korean food (I took a picture, but honestly who know's when you'll get to see it lolol). Afterwards, we drove quickly to a temple gate entrance (just so my mom could see it), then headed back to the train station. All in all, that was the perfect ending to my mom's weekend trip. I know that she'll have a lot of stories to tell when she gets home.

Hmmm... 2nd, 5th, and 6th grade didn't show up today. Oh well, at least I was able to write all this down. Plus, the school is getting ready for another kind of festival being held on Thursday. I don't know all the details, but I can say now that there will be a lot of singing, as well as a fashion show.

'Til next time,

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