Exams were still ongoing on the Monday, so I took the opportunity to venture into Seoul. I did genuinely need to go in, for reasons I will explain shortly, but I decided to make a day of it, checking out some new areas I hadn't been to.
I had to go to Hongdae to collect my passport, complete with ARC card and Chinese visa, from the travel company. The company had sent it once before, but got one piece of information slightly wrong - they sent it not to Sorae High School, but to Sorae Elementary School. They do sound similar in Korean, but the fact that I wrote it in English scuppers that flimsy defence of their actions. What made it worse was when I went to the elementary school last Monday to collect it - the fact that they had signed for the delivery was confusing enough - they told me that they didn't have it. It had been 're-sent'.
Where? No idea, they essentially said. It could be the high school. It could be my Korean address. It could be the British Embassy, the travel agency, the post office. Or, worst case scenario, they could have looked at the emergency contact details inside and then sent it back to Blighty. But I had a phone call on the Wednesday from the travel agency saying that they had it in their possession, and all of my anxiety vanished. They asked if I wanted it sent again. As if. I was going to get this badboy myself, and duly went in on the Monday. Problem over.
Monday was a scorcher. There have been many scorchers of late in Korea - all on weekdays. The sun seemingly hides when we are not supposed to be inside an office. The humidity, though so far not as bad as many made it out to be, is consistently irritating. I sweat from walking to school at 8am, and two showers a day seems to be the bare minimum. Not using my A/C in the hope that I would adapt better to the humidity has turned out to be a foolish move, so I have started to use it in my flat. No such joys when walking around Seoul in the daytime, though. It gets damn hot.
I was on my own for this adventure - well, everyone else was in school - so decided to go on a cultural binge. First stop, a palace called Changdeokgung. What was it like, I hear you ask. It was...closed. Good start. Not to worry, though, there is plenty to do in Seoul. I decided to meander down through the tourist district, Insadong.
Whilst there I was stopped in English by two Koreans. The man had a giant camera hoisted on his shoulder. The woman had a small mic in her hand, and asked me if I wanted to be interviewed. Why not, even though some people may feel I have a 'face for the radio'. She pulled out an A4 piece of paper with some scribbles on it, and showed me the question that she wanted to ask me. It was about the oil spill, and what I thought of the impact to the local economy and environment. Not something I've really been following too keenly - the World Cup has been on - so I told her that such a question would be better answered by an American.
No problem, she said, and found the next question. What do I think about American gun laws? Now, if I ducked out of the first question because I said it was more for an American to answer... Again I said I wasn't going to answer it. Cop-outs, sure, but this is going on real TV, and I don't want to answer something I have little interest or knowledge of. She got the point, and found a British-related question. European immigration. Much better, something I am much more comfortable with. I answered her question, mumbling along, and was duly thanked for my time. Arirang TV on Friday, July 23 at 11pm, if you're interested. I'm not - Friday night after all.
I walked through Insadong, stopping in the park for lunch as one of the English teachers called me with a grammar problem, before walking on to my next port of call - Namdaemun Market. There are two giant markets in Seoul. I have been to one of them, Dongdaemun, a few times now, but was yet to experience Namdaemun, so figured I would check it out. On the way I saw a woman carrying a truckload of used plates and crockery on her head. Anything they do in Africa...
Namdaemun was pretty cool, wasn't as busy as Dongdaemun has been. Probably explained away by it being daytime on a Monday, I guess. One interesting find (that I didn't purchase) was a bottle of whisky. In this shape...
The weather got the better of me at this point, and I figured I should head home for a brief nap before going over to Bucheon for food. I collected the Lonely Planet China book off Matt to use for planning - its over 1000 pages long. Beijing and HK are about 100 each! Mental. I didn't realise quite how big the place is. Whilst out for food we also drank Tsingtao beer, the Chinese national beverage. And it is so, SO much better than Korean beer. That got us very excited. Though we were an excitable lot that evening, being especially happy when a man walked past carrying a cooler of ice-creams. Yes please!
Fun day followed by a quiet-ish week, with a strong desire to save money for our weekend excursion. Find out about that next time...
Love you all