Saturday, August 25 4:30pm Seoul
Well, my first free day in Seoul has been interesting... My body woke up at 8:45am, but I thought it was earlier since I forgot my window doesn’t let in any light, no matter the time of the day. I laid in bed and watched TV for a few minutes, watched the end of a Criminal Minds on the English channel. I got a quick shower and debated to use the crappy hair dryer in my room. I think it is damaging my hair, and I’ve only used it 2x. Is that possible? Maybe its a combination of the water quality, new shampoo, and a crappy dryer. I decided that today I should get a nice hair dryer. Being the princess that I am, I think that is one thing I could spend a little more on. I mean, I’m trying to grow my hair out, and if it’s all broken and damaged by the end of my year here and I have to cut it all off again, I’ll be quite unhappy.
Before I did anything, my goal was to get online. Jamie stopped by my room as I was packing up my computer. We walked to the coffee shop around the corner, but she decided to leave. We discussed shopping and agreed to meet up in an hour to go. I got to post a few blogs and check my emails. Surprisingly, despite being around 8-9pm back home, I didn’t get to talk to many people.
I sat in the same coffee shop as the other day, but got some breakfast from Paris Baguette across the street. I found a delicious pastry with blueberry and cream cheese. It also had a glaze on the top that reminded me of the Colombian pastries Michael and I had in Miami. Anyway, it was delicious! I will be back for more... I also got a sugar donut twist, which was pretty good.
After my hour was up, I headed back to meet Jamie. She wasn’t back yet, and Sean was still out running, so I sat down to watch a Big Bang Theory episode (thanks, Moon!). Jamie came by and watched with me when she got in. We had a knock on the door and I opened it to find 2 white girls I hadn’t seen before. It ended up being Chantal, a coworker who is also in the Kindergarten area (Jamie had met her before) and her Canadian friend visiting for the week. She invited us to accompany them for some sightseeing. Jamie and Sean decided to go, but I declined. I’m not good in groups anyway, and with the addition of 2 more new people, I knew I would be uncomfortable. Besides, it had started raining last night and continued through the night which prompted me to go searching for rain boots and a light rain jacket. I had heard of a place called COEX Mall, so I decided to try there.
So I set out on my quest. Maggie, the teacher I am replacing, gave me one of her T-Money cards (subway money cards). It is like a charm that can go on your cell phone, but had broken off. It still works, just doesn’t have the string to attach it to anything. Anyway, it saved me the $5 buying a new card. I left the motel and started heading in the general direction I thought the subway was in. As I rounded the first corner, I saw an American-looking guy. He fell in behind me, but I was too nervous to say anything to him. I passed the bus stop, and kept walking. It was pouring by this point and my shoes were soaked. I had an umbrella inherited from Maggie as well, so I wasn’t too wet, but I also didn’t know where I was going exactly. I decided to turn around and ask at the 7-Eleven. I suspected you could load money on the T-Money charm at the 7-Eleven, and I was right. I put 10,000 KW (~$10) on it, and asked where the station was. She kind of explained where to get the bus. I set off again, still unsure of where I was going. And suddenly, I see the American guy again! He was a few feet in front of me, so I ran and caught him. I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around and said Hello! I was so happy he actually spoke English, my first question was “Are you an American?” HA! He said yes, and I could have cried of happiness. I was at the point where I was pretty frustrated with not knowing where I was going, and being quite wet. I found out he is also from Texas, Austin specifically. He works at a public school, but lives in the apartments right next to mine! I told him I didn’t have a phone number, but I wanted to get connected to him, so he found me on Facebook on his phone. Finally, he explained, IN ENGLISH, exactly how to get to the subway. I was so happy! I felt like God was really looking out for me at that point. He is the first American that I had met who did not work with me, and he came along at the exact moment I was in need. God is really watching out for me; I know I’ve got some amazing people praying for me back home, and I can promise you all that I feel the love and I know He is on my side!
I walked across the street to the bus stop which would take me to the closest subway station. I could walk there, but with the rain I would just take the bus. Unfortunately, I had just missed a bus, and had to wait for about 20 minutes. When I finally caught one, it was about 4 stops til the subway; everyone on the bus got off there, and I just followed the masses of people to the entrance (thankfully I was in a crowd, otherwise I don’t know if I’d have found it as easily).
One cool thing about Seoul’s public transportation system is that, besides being cheap, if you take a bus, then transfer to the subway (within a certain amount of time) you will not get charged for both. So, I scanned the T-Money card when I got on the bus (charged a flat fee, something around $1.50), again when I left (no charge), when I entered the subway (charged $0) and when I left the subway at my final destination (charged an extra $.10 because I went kind of far). So I just think that is pretty cool!
Well, my first experience on the Seoul subway was not the worst, but not the best either. My feet were squishy with water and if you know me, you know that wet feet/shoes/bottoms of pants/etc annoy me to no end. So I was walking all over creation in wet shoes, soaked feet. I had to change lines twice on my journey, and it was not the easiest trying to figure out which direction on the line you should go. At one station, I think I walked like half a mile in one direction before realizing that it was the wrong way.
On one of the subway trains, I was sitting and I noticed that these 4 old Korean women were staring at me and talking to each other. I gave a small smile, and one of the women said something in direction. I smiled more, but had no idea what she said. They are all giggling at this point. She motions to her face and smiles so big; I think this meant that she thought I was beautiful (or, I look weird as hell. I’ll tell myself it was former) It was so darn cute. They were so giddy over me. I felt like the Joy Luck Club was across from me, Korean style. Haha!
Well, when I finally made it to the final station, I exited where I had read to go. I came out in this nearly empty plaza in the middle of huge skyscrapers. I walked around for a while, getting more and more frustrated, having no idea where to go. Usually, in America, if you’re looking for a huge mall, you look for the big building with lots of signs. Well, in Korea, that doesn’t work. Everywhere is a big building, everywhere has lots of signs, and I can’t read them to boot. I kept wandering, debating if I should ask someone (I am almost scared to try!), when I saw a security shack. I headed in that direction. It was empty, but the security officer was leaning on the edge of a short wall that looked like it was overlooking something below. He was looking down, so before talking to him, I looked down too. There it was! The mall was underground. I headed to the stairs at the far end, and made my way down. I saw Bennigans, Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, and some other American brand food. I found an entrance to the actual mall behind all the food, and there were the stores! Finally!
I found the shop I was looking for that I read online had “Wellies” aka rain boots. It is end of the rainy season here, so they were all on sale. However, they were not my size. Bummer. I went down a few stores and saw some more wellies in the window. I tried those on, and they fit great. They were too cute too! They were khaki color with dark brown trim and a ribbon bow in the back. The ONLY thing that stopped me from buying them was that they had a slight heel. When I tried them on, the slight incline put me off. I don’t mind heels, but rain boots just seem wrong with a heel. They were on sale for ~$45, so I decided to look some more and come back if I wanted them.
I wandered down the hall and saw a sign for “Hyundai Departmental Store” - that sounded interesting, so I went that way. When I walked through the doors to the store, the first thing I saw was about 50 food stalls. If you’ve ever been to Harrods, their food court is what this reminded me of. I walked along one of the asiles and looked at all the food and people eating. Everything was Asian, of course. Winding my way through everything, I spied a juicer.
Now, at this point, I’ve been traveling for about two hours (from leaving my motel room) and I was getting “hangry” (my word for being angry as a result of hunger). I decided to get a juice, since that was healthy and safe. The sweet lady behind the counter was sooo nice. She helped me decide on which fruits. It ended up being more of a smoothie than juice, but oh well. It was something in my belly and tasted great. It was a little expensive, ~$8, but at that point I needed something.
With juice/smoothie in hand, I headed to the escalators. I went up about 7-8 floors of high end cosmetics, handbags, shoes, designer clothes, and even a grocery store. There was a Mac store there, too! I noticed they do NOT have my specific type of foundation, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I knew I would not find my wellies there, so I headed back downstairs to the mall entrance. I thought I would try another hallway, but it lead back to the one I’d already gone down. Apparently this mall is quite small; the Hyundai Dep’t Store is the main attraction. I made a beeline for the subway and retraced my complicated route home.
When I finally got to my neighborhood, I decided to look in BauHouse (the department store near my motel). I’d been in before, but only on the ground floor. They had a rain jacket on sale for ~$35, but I held off in favor of looking at a market for something cheaper. It is the end of rainy season anyway, so I won’t need it for too long. I explored the ~12 floors of wares. I found a blowdryer, but they were all similar to what I’ve already got. I need something a salon would use. Hmmm I might have to get creative in where I look for this. I discovered that the very top floor of BauHouse was a movie theater!!! Crazy! I’d never have known.
By then, I was absolutely exhaused, so I headed back to the motel. That brings us to now; I’m eating dried veggie chips from Target (one of my plane snacks that didn’t get eaten). They are particularly good; I think I am just extremely hungry. One of the teachers mentioned going to a buffet tonight; Korean BBQ but you pick the meat from a display and you get as much as you could possibly want. It is a little more than I want to pay for a meal, ~$20, but I guess that’s a good price, since the only place similar in America is quite a bit more than $20 per person. We’ll see. Hopefully that happens because I’ve not eaten much today.
Right now, I think I will watch a movie. In a little bit, I am going to talk to the front desk guy at the motel and see about switching rooms to the front room because it gets an internet connection. Woohoo! I feel like there is so much I haven’t talked about, but at the same time, I feel like I write extremely long blogs every time! Yikes! Well, for now, my hands hurt from typing....