An Adventure in Seoul

It was dark when I left the apartment this morning. This is not the first time I have left before the sun, but it was the first time doing it in a foreign city. I was on an mission to Gangnam, and I rode my horse with skill.

The mission was to find the Korean Air office in Gangnam in order to verify the purchase of Luisa’s ticket for Thursday evening from Bangkok. It was the first time out on my own in the Seoul, but it turned out to be a rather simple task. After fighting with some of the ticket machines at the subway, I walked to the next station and found cooperative machines. After that, it was just the ability to read a subway map and locate a building across the street from the station. The actual process was very simple. I’m glad I was able to do it here, though. If not, I may have had to buy another ticket because they would have cancelled this one. I spent a little time in Gangnam surveying the Grand International Hotel (holy Ritz Carlton, Batman; that is one opulent hotel) and getting breakfast at an overpriced chain café. I found my way back in time to meet up with some other new teachers before they headed out to the bank, which we all found out in various ways was closed.

After accepting defeat, I made my way back out into the city to meet up with Joo Sung, my language partner. I met him through a website called italki.com, a community of language learners from around the globe. I started speaking with Joo Sung a couple months ago in preparation for my move, but he doesn’t have a webcam. Until today, he was just a voice emanating from my computer, guiding me through Korean workbooks. Meeting with him felt like bringing a fictional character to life. There was nothing special about the meeting though; just two people using technology to arrange a meeting place. It’s a foreign city to me, but it’s his home town.

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I was fortunate to also meet his girlfriend, Lucille. I immediately picked up on her accent, and I immediately recognized that their relationship was special. Lucille is French. She grew up in a small town near the Normandy coast. She met Joo Sung on the internet and found her way out here teaching French to little Koreans. The most astounding part of all this is that these two communicate almost exclusively in a shared second language. Only through their concentrated effort in learning English did they make their relationship possible.

As many of you know, one of my concurrent goals of this grand adventure is to become multilingual. Joo Sung and Lucille’s relationship is a perfect illustration of my reasons for pursuing new languages. Language is how we communicate information, and creating more pathways for that information to flow increases the chances of learning something truly life-changing. For these two, it was a romantic partner. For many, it is a new way of life. For me, it may be both of these things. If I truly settle outside of the United States, I will certainly need to learn the language of my new home both for citizenship and for building the relationships that will make that life valuable to me.

I joined Joo Sung and Lucille for Lunch at a cozy little restaurant that served samgyeopsal (삼겹살), which is basically less salty, very thickly cut bacon. We then toured Children’s Grand Park, a zoo/history museum/nature walk/amusement park on the southeast side of Seoul. It was a cold day, but the company was good, and the sights were pleasing.

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The rest of the day consisted of perusing a local market that seemed to be completely devoid of rice (I am in Asia, right?) in search of something substantial for dinner. This is reason #2 for needing to learn the language ASAP: I cannot go much longer without being able to read what exactly is in the food I am buying.

Tomorrow is Soelnal (설날), the Lunar New Year, which is the largest holiday throughout East Asia. The city is the least populated it will be all year. I, however, still have exploring to do.

Another day, another adventure. Speak to you soon.

One thought on “An Adventure in Seoul

  1. Pingback: Half Way | Cast Off, Set Sail

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