My first weekend in South Korea was a bit hectic. The agency I went through was having it’s welcome party for all the teachers who had been in the country a lot longer than I had. It wasn’t necessary that for me to go, and maybe not even that smart. There isn’t a lot of wifi near where I live. I haven’t been able to figure out which shops have wifi or which restaurants. I can’t even tell if the nearest cafe is open since there is no one ever there or if it really even is a cafe. So I bothered my coworkers and the other English teacher in the school and asked how to get to the party. The downfall to asking a lot of the teachers is that where I live pretty much everyone drives. So they didn’t know which buses would be helpful. The other English teacher though, helped me get my t-money card which is actually not a card but probably the cutest functional key chain ever.
So I waited for the bus and rode it rather uneasily to the nearest train station. Then since I wasn’t aware of the different kinds of trains I just got on the first one that came by. The ITX. The ITX train is a nice but it’s closer to an Amtrak train or the metra than the public transit. Thankfully some students talked to me and helped me realize I was on the wrong train going the wrong way. Eventually I did end up where I wanted to be, in Hongdae. Though I was about 4 hours early. I had planned to meet up with a friend but we had a miscommunication and realized there was no way we’d be able to meet up in time. But that’s because I found wifi. One of the beautiful things about Seoul is that there is city free wifi, it’s not always perfect and can be rather spotty but if you’re lost it’s nice to know that you can hop online and with some patience find your way. When I found the bar I was suppose to be at I decided to explore by just slowly expanding the perimeter in which I was walking around the bar. I watched several street performances, smelled all the amazing street food and window shopped.
I didn’t go in anywhere and I didn’t buy anything because I was too nervous, until I saw a street food vendor that only had two food options both of which were in English with absolutely no Korean. Plus it was only 1,000 won which is currently less than a $1. The options were ice waffles or pie waffles and the line at the stand circled around behind it. I figured if the options were only in English then at the very least they should be able to understand which one I want. Turned out though I didn’t have to say anything, they just took my money and handed me and ice waffle.
There were five different flavors of ice cream in the waffle. I got to the last one which was a deep purple and thought it might have been taro and was really surprised to find that it was grape. It was delicious. Especially since I hadn’t eaten in awhile.
With my ice waffle in hand I stumbled upon a free market going on in the park which was really cool. I listened to live music at their afternoon stage for awhile and looked at the stuff for sale before continuing my circling. Eventually it was time for the party to start so I headed up the steep hill towards Mikes Cabin.
I was expecting a large crowd, but when I arrived there were only a few people there. But eventually it got packed. I got to meet a ton of cool people and eat more junk food (they had pizza but normal Amerincan-ish pizza, pretzels and Cheetos and Coca Cola) They told jokes, we played games and I got to meet the agents I wouldn’t be here without. I also learned to a feeling of utter horror that living about two hours out from Seoul in the middle of nowhere means I have a Cinderella like curfew if I want to go back to my apartment. Everyone I spoke with who lived somewhat far away from Seoul had made plans staying with friends or at hostels and told me that the trains out to where I live stop running kinda early and that the bus stopped even before that. So in a mild panic I called my friend who lived somewhat closer to Seoul to see if I could stay with them. Luckily it worked out and instead I went home the next day. Getting lost in other countries just sort of comes with traveling. The part I don’t enjoy is when I get lost in the mountains. In Prague I got off at the right stop but went the wrong way and ended up hiking in the mountains, and here I got off two stops early and at the one bus stop that wasn’t lit so all the buses drove past me. Instead of waiting for one to notice me or heading back towards the small city nearby I followed the road towards what I assumed was home. It took me an hour of walking along the road to get to the next bus stop and catch a bus. I think I woke up every dog in the neighborhood as I walked past. It was only my third day in South Korea. I made a decision after that, that if it was dark out when I was getting home and the buses were hard to figure out. (They have numbers but the numbers are written out in Korean for the ones near me) That I would take a cab. There’s no point in me hiking like that if a cab will take me directly from the train station to my home without there being opportunities to get off too early or late. From the station to my home it’s a little less that 15,000 won which is about $13 or $14 for about a 15 minute ride. It’s more expensive than the bus, but it’s more direct and it’s quicker. Even though every time I worry that the taxi cab driver hasn’t understood and that I’m about to end up somewhere a lot further away.