Monday, October 1, 2012

Seoul Tower, Etc...

Today was jam-packed. In the best way possible!!! I had a mild meltdown last night, and got some incredible encouragement from my mom and also from my Nana via email in the AM. I decided that while I know I'll have my ups and downs, I MUST make the most of this year. I am not a quitter, and I refuse to leave before my year is over. And if I'm going to stick this out, I might as well try to retain a positive attitude even when I am desolate...

So, this morning I woke up and had a nice long chat with my mom and grandma who was at my parent's house for the weekend. I also got to talk to Michael, which is always nice. :) Tab and I had made plans to meet up around noon, but she woke up late and we pushed it back about an hour. It was totally fine though. We had planned to go to COEX Mall and hit up some Mexican food and margaritas, so I didn't do breakfast in favor of a large queso at lunch.

After picking up Tab and getting ready, we made it to the restaurant around 3pm. Wow, I was so hungry by then! We both got large house margaritas, and they were pretty good. I ordered chicken quesadillas (it was too complicated to order anything else I would normally get the way I would normally get it... picky eater problems) and Tab got a burrito. It was delicious! I must say that not only was the food a good reminder of home, the whole restaurant experience was something I've missed. You know, going into a place where someone waits on you, cooks food for you, you know exactly what you're ordering (not randomly pointing to the menu and praying for the best). It was relaxing.

After leaving the restaurant, we headed out of the mall. Of course, I got sidetracked by a cute boutique store and Tab mentioned she got a shirt at that store. We looked at the sale rack and found some cute and silly t-shirts (the comfy kind of tshirts, not the $5 Gildan screen print variety). I ended up buying two, since I only have about 5 shirts I wear here right now. They were $12, and $10. I love the colors and style, and they are slightly oversized. I was so excited!

After we finally found our way out of COEX (it is a maze of underground shops), we wound our way through the subway to Myeong-dong station where we made the trek to Seoul Tower.

Seoul Tower is located at the top of Mt. Namsan, which is in the very middle of Seoul. You can walk up, take a cable car, or take a bus. We decided to do the cable car. To get to the cable car station, you had to walk a fair ways up from the street.

Beginning the trek up to Seoul Tower... well, to the cable car terminal.
Basically, we went through a small commercial center and then some residential area, and finally by a strip of cutesy restaurants made for couples. When we finally got there, we headed for the line, then followed it around the corner, and then back another 1/4 mile. It was HUGE!!!!! But, we figured people wouldn't wait in the line if it didn't actually move, so we hopped in. We asked the woman behind us if it was the line for tickets, and she said yes, tickets then boarding cable car. So, we hung out in line for about 40 minutes. Thankfully, it didn't actually feel like 40 minutes. We were entertained by the hoards of people, about half of which were children. We decided Korean children are better than American children (well, with their families in public) because we literally never see Korean children throw fits or even cry (not even the little babies!!). I wanted to buy a pinwheel at the little store set up along the line, but Tab looked at me like I was insane when I mentioned it... so sad. We finally made it to the platform, and this was the view as we began to head up to Seoul Tower.

 At this point, it's about 6:15pm, and the sun is sinking quickly. We had gotten to the subway and began our Seoul Tower mission an hour before, planning to make it up in time for daylight photos, sunset photos, and night time photos. But it was looking like it would be a race to get any sunset photos. The view was pretty cool from the cable car, but unfortunately none of the photos came out. Here I am squished into the glass box with about 100 other people. At least I got a window "seat!"

As soon as the cable car hit pavement, we took off for the top. You'd think we were on the Amazing Race!! We got to the top and literally walked the entire perimeter looking for the best view to take a photo. We took a few in those first few moments... 

When we realized that there was an "upper platform" we headed there. The "observation deck" was another 10,000W, so we decided to do that another time. It was super crowded with families from Chuseok, and it was getting a bit chilly with the sun going down. We moved over to the upper deck, and saw the padlocks. 

  I had read about this tradition. Apparently it happens in tons of city all over the world; couples come to some site, and lock a padlock around a fence or other structure, and throw away the key (sometimes throwing it off the structure they are on...). It symbolizes, you guessed it, their never- ending and unbreakable love. Queue the "awwww"s. Yes, its super cute. Yes, I loved it. Here's the padlocks lining the fence surrounding the platform. This is just an extension and further example of how "couple-y" and "cutesy" Korea (and Asia in general) is. I love it, Tab hates it. Oh well.

Well, we got a few more great views after the sun was completely down. We decided to head down since we had gotten what we came for, and we were now tired and starting to shiver. (Yes, it's actually cool, bordering on cold, at nights now.) We headed for the line to board the cable car heading down, and I got sidetracked by a group of about 4-5 artists drawing these portraits. At first, I thought it was caricatures and told Tab, "WE MUST DO ONE!". Well, when we get over to it, we realize that it's legit drawings. They look so good, so we decide to do one.... This was the result.

It looks NOTHING LIKE ME. I have 3 lips and look like a generic 12 year old (not to mention having black hair?!), and Tab looks like a depressed Monet drawing. She was actually smiling 90% of the time he was drawing. Guess he didn't do the mouth until she had stopped smiling. Bummer. We only paid $10 for it, and it's pretty terrible. But, it's an adventure and a memory. :)

We made it to the bottom of the mountain and headed for our subway. Nearly there, we decided just to skip to the other side of the street to go into Myeong-dong street (the amazing shopping center). We stop for a Potato Tornado (Tab's first) - amazing of course. After walking on a bit, we stopped to watch this guy making candies.

I've heard of, and even tried one of, these things he was making. I think they were originally brought over from China, called Dragon Beard Candy. We watched the whole production. Basically this guy takes a block of hard honey, throws it around in some corn starch, and puts a hole in it. From there, he pushes his fingers through it and draws it into a thin loop. He doubles the loop over, and re-coats with corn starch, and proceeds to double the loops, counting each time, until he reached about 16,000 loops. When he pulled them apart, it looked like hair; it was so fine! He then tore them into sections and filled with crushed nuts (either walnut,  almond, or peanut based on your preference). Tab and I split a box for 5,000W. You can also watch the video of this guy here.

After this exciting and interesting demonstration, Tab went searching in her backpack for something. We were standing in the middle of a crossroads, and some guy walked up to us and handed us a flyer for massages. I politely shooed him off, and Tab laughed and said "Ha! Massages... maybe if they were like $30!" I was like, well the flyer says $18. She stops in her tracks and is like "seriously?!" I show her, and we ask the guy what does it include for $18? He said either foot or full body.... I mean, what kind of question is that? After seeing Tab's willingness to try anything, I agree and we follow him to a building and into an elevator. There were like 6 other Korean women with us. I guess being the trusting individual that I am, I didn't think too much about it. Apparently, Tab started to freak out and when we got to the office, had a laugh attack. I think laughing is her way of dealing with freak outs. I'm like, "TAB what is wrong with you?!"

Our "prepared for a Korean massage" faces...
She starts going on how it is probably going to hurt, and why are we crazy enough to follow a stranger into a building and up an elevator, and all this stuff. I tell her to chill out! We are given slippers instead of shoes, and while mine fit well enough, Tab's feet stuck out the back end hilariously. We realized that we would be given clothes to wear, and Tab started to laugh out of control again, and I managed to figure out she was thinking the clothes would not fit her. Well, sure enough, the lady gave us women's clothes (denoted by the pink color), but gave Tab some blue bottoms (boys, hence the color). Tab still had a hard time with them. (Tab has a rather generous behind, and she doesn't mind me saying, FYI...)

When we got changed, they led us out of the office around the side to another room, with about 12 beds for massage. This is certainly different than the normal ambiance at an American massage place. We layed down, and I told my girl "not hard (making a painful face and rubbing motions with my hands), gentle, easy!" (making a nice face, and soft motions with my hands). She nodded, understanding. Tab did not have as much luck with her masseure, a man who apparently didn't speak a lick of English. Tab asked my lady to explain to her man the same request to be gentle. Apparently, this came off as "I don't want a man to massage me, will you do me?" So, I got the man and Tab got my lady.

They began on our backs and just a general rub down. Then they started in on our necks and shoulders. They were a bit rough, but I could handle it mostly. It was definitely not as relaxing as my massages have been in the states, but it helped loads with my neck problems I've been having, and it was relaxing enough for 18,000W. I was pleased. The only weird thing was that in order to work over all my muscles, the guy contorted my arms and legs in weird positions, sometimes straddling me. I just shrugged it off and didn't mind. Apparently Tab thought it was super weird, and also was a little more tender with some parts of her body. They did work out gluts a bit more than one would dare in the states, but I didn't care.

When we were finished, about 40 minutes later, we changed in a tiny curtained area of the room, and I snuck this photo over the curtain. I figured they wouldn't like me just whipping out a camera in their massage room. But, this is what it looked like.

When we left, we headed back in the direction we came from and found our "recruiter" and got a photo and chatted for a minute. 

While I talked to him, Tab was distractedly looking behind him, and when I followed her gaze, we saw a man digging in a pile of trash and literally eating food he found. I told Tab we should go, but instead she walked over to the man and asked "Are you hungry?" He spoke zero English, and I'm not even entirely sure he understood, but when she told him to follow her to Burger King a few meters away, he did follow. I waited outside with him as Tab bought the man a proper meal. As I waited, it just hit me how amazing the situation was. The way Tab did this, she absolutely did not think of it as "I'm being so nice and this is such great charity work I'm such a great person" - she simply thought the man deserved better than to eat out of a garbage pile. 

I got tears in my eyes at one point, remembering "that which you do for the least of these, you do for Me." Even now, I am overwhelmed, and ashamed. It wasn't me that said let's take care of this man while the rest of the city avoids looking, or worse, is disgusted by what they see. I should have been Jesus to the world in that moment, but I wasn't. And I admire Tab so much, because she didn't do it thinking of anything except him. There was no selfish ulterior motive, no wish to look like the hero. She didn't even know I took this photo, but I knew I wanted to reflect on it, and to brag on her, since she would never do it for herself. 

Well, with that lump-in-throat inducing moment of personal reflection on how I should be a better human being, I think I will wrap this up. Oh! One last story: on the subway ride home, we got engaged in conversation with a Korean-American from Dallas who is visiting his roots. When our stop came, Tab went to stand up and found herself stuck. Her backpack strap was stuck under the seat. We (me, Tab and the guy!) pulled and pulled, but it wouldn't come loose. As the doors closed, we officially missed our stop, and I gave one last tug on the strap, in another direction than we had been pulling, and it finally came loose. It was hilarious, probably embarrassing, and I felt like superwoman that I got it unstuck but the man helping us couldn't. :)

Anyway, it's been a long day, with so much action-packed adventure and a long blog to write, so it's time for some shut eye. Tomorrow's a new day...


  1. I love your Classy Stachey shirt!
    And I love when God brings those moments to us that remind us of what He's asked of us.
    And I love your blog.

  2. Wow, I was just laughing to much, I was crying! Then the reminder of who we are meant to be at the end. Thank you, Chels.

  3. Words fail me . . . I am so proud of you and Tab. What a sweet caring friend you have! You're both a testimony of God's love. Thanks so much for such a wonderful Blog! It's the best part of my day (now that I've gotten thru' them all - kind of a Slow Start). I love you Sweetheart . . . Nana

  4. Hi, Just stumbled upon your blog with beautiful photos & such a heartwarming story in this blog ~ your friend with a big heart :)

    1. Hi Kaimono888 - thanks very much! I hope you enjoy the rest of my blog, as well. :)


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