I woke up obscenely early for my first Saturday (damn you jet lag) but made good use of my morning and by 9:30 was unpacked. I thought my shower was odd since it connects to my bathroom sink but reasoned out the knobs in no time. Only problem was it remained cold. Same thing in the kitchen. As I thought about taking a cold shower I contemplated what it would be like in the winter with a warm butt and frigid shower. Perhaps I’ll find a gym with a shower? Or maybe I’ll just figure out how to turn on the hot water by then. I checked the circuit breaker and my thermostat; not that it mattered since it was all in Korean.
Showerless, I went out to explore my neighborhood. I succeeded in my mission to find a new cell phone charger and got what I think was bulgogi for breakfast. Wandering up and down the street to find working WiFi I ran into a coworker who helped me figure out which button turns the hot water on in my apartment. Not even 11:00 and I’ve already been so productive but now what?
After a quick shower I went out for some more exploring. My coworker mentioned a mountain park not too far away. Walking through the city I was reminded of the bustle in New York with street vendors, absurd advertising and crowded streets. The sidewalk grew steeper and after strolling through a few more blocks the rising trees slowly came into view.
The trail ahead was certainly up a mountain. Lush forest surrounded the well-tended path with steps and rock cobblestones to aid the abrupt climb. On the way up I passed Korean couples, a grandmother with her little ones spraying each other with water guns, joggers and more.
As the trail snaked around the path split frequently and I always picked the trail leading up. Pausing briefly, I noticed colorful wildflowers and sounds that told me there was plenty of well hidden wildlife. I continued upward passing an array of exercise equipment that seemed to be most used by elderly Korean women. As the trail leveled out a beautifully designed pavilion came into view. I climbed the steps discovering I had company up here. With a beautiful breeze to keep us cool many Korean locals enjoyed their afternoon here as well. I think I’ll follow their suit and bring a picnic up here next time.
Looking around the intricate pavilion it was easy to forget the scene below. A breathtaking view of downtown Seoul with multicolored sky scrapers was framed by the nearby trees and another green mountain in the distance. This peaceful place was the perfect location to start studying Hangul, the Korean language. Listening to my music I took out a notebook and my Seoul guidebook and began transcribing vowels, consonants and numbers when a Korean gentleman came over.
Ham quickly became my first Korean friend. At first I thought he just wanted to practice his English and I quickly learned that he too was a teacher. He teaches at a school library in downtown Seoul and helped me with my pronunciations while I helped him practice his English. He quickly drove the conversation towards women, insisting that Chinese women were the most beautiful in the world but that if I had any pretty American friends I should introduce him. Laughing I obliged and took his picture & phone number to give to any interested coworkers.
I made way down the mountain and stumbled upon a Korean street market. All sorts of goods were being hawked but the most interesting were from the sea. There were dried squids, fish, eels and assorted scales. The aroma was an overpowering in the August heat but must have had an influence on me because before I knew it I was standing in a sushi restaurant. No pictures on the menu this time. The delivery guy burst into laughter as I struggled with the menu; he tried to lend a hand and although he understood me, he didn’t know the English to tell me what I wanted. He gathered that I want a roll and I told him to order me whatever he would eat. In the end I had a monster size roll with all kinds of fish and sauces. What a fantastic way to end a beautiful Saturday!