Monday, April 28, 2008

South Korea Vacation! ~Part IV~

It's a little late, but I have to update ya'll on the final day and a half in Korea. Here goes...

Friday night, Jake came home from work and around 10:30 we met up with a few of his students at a store near Pagoda Tower in Gangnam. We walked down a side street and went to an underground restaurant called Angus. We shared a few pitchers of beer and some sausage and popcorn. It was a funky place with lots of young people chatting with their friends over drinks and food. The two girl students we were with had to leave early, but the three guy students stayed for awhile and we talked until shortly after midnight. All of these students are planning on going to universities in the U.S. later this year. One of the guys was on a Korean quiz show and finished in first place, a true genius! He will be attending school in Michigan. Another student will be going to school at Penn State, and the other is going to school in Michigan. They all spoke English very well and should have no problem getting comfortable in the States.

Following the beer and snacks, Jake and I decided to go for a little late night walk up to the park we went to on my first day in Seoul. I played on the kids' equipment and took some fun pictures. After 20 minutes or so, we walked home and called it a night.

On Saturday morning, we woke up around 10:00 and sat around in our PJs for two hours. After getting ready for the day, we went out around 1:00 and got lunch at a little restaurant about 90 seconds from Jake's front door. We had beef soup, jasmine rice, and little "fish cake" that reminded me of tofu. We also has a kimchi/veggie pancake like the tasty potato-friend kimchi from the "Just One More" place (the place with the plastic chairs) from a few nights prior. After lunch, we walked to Starbucks (one of many) in Gangnam so I could get a mug with the Korean alphabet as a gift for someone back home.

We returned to his apartment and Jake took a nap for about two hours while I played Solitaire. At 4:00, we took the subway from Gangnam back to COEX Mall so I could get a couple more gifts for friends. Jake and I then went upstairs near an exhibition hall to a restaurant called O'Kims Brauhaus for beer and dinner (lasagna). Mi Yeon got off work (at the jewelry fair at COEX) and met us around 6:00.

Soon after, the three of us hopped in a cab and went to Olympic Park for the James Blunt concert. After picking up my ticket at will call, we went in and found our seats. Jake and Mi Yeon were in the third row, while I was off to the side and in the "upper" level - but as it was, the venue was fairly small compared to the convention centers that I'm used to in the States. An American couple was sitting behind me and two American ladies were sitting ahead of me. I didn't speak to any of them, but I still had a good time in my own little world. Oh, side note... Koreans do not need to be contained at concerts. They all sat quietly and patiently before the show, and once it started, they continued to sit politely and clapped and sang to the songs. James Blunt was only on stage a little more than an hour, but he played three encore songs. It was a fun concert.

Afterwards, I met Jake and Mi Yeon outside and we walked through Olympic Park to the main entrance. It was a nice, cool night and Olympic Park was a beautiful, quiet escape from the city. We took more pictures at the entrance and ate a late night snack at Lotteria, a fast food burger joint. They had burgers, I had the equivalent of a strawberry McFlurry. :o)

We then took a short taxi ride to Mi Yeon's bus stop, said a quick goodbye, and watched the bus pull away. Jake and I bought subway tickets for 1000 won each (my pass was out of money, and Jake lost his pass somewhere between the bus stop and the subway station). We returned to Gangnam and then to Jake's apartment. I organized and packed my belongings and we went to bed around 11:30.

On Sunday, I woke up at 6:00 and showered/got ready. We were out the door promptly at 7:00. Jake stopped at the 7-eleven for a Cider (7-up) and then we were at the bus stop at Gangnam at 7:10. We ran across the street in order to flag down the bus I was about to catch. After a quick goodbye, I was on my way. For 9000 won, the bus took me directly to Incheon International Airport on an island just west of Seoul.

Once at the airport, I checked in and got breakfast at Paris Baguette (2 croissants and a peach iced tea, I was hungry!). My flight left Incheon shortly after 11:00am and we arrived in Tokyo for a layover. After going through security, I bought a Diet Pepsi and a snack (called Pocky) and waited for about half an hour before boarding the plane again. From Tokyo to Seattle, the flight was only about half full. I traded seats with a young boy so he could sit next to his father. I talked with his father for awhile at the beginning of the flight, a nice guy who owns an electronics company in Beijing. Then, after I watched Atonement on the airplane TV, I nodded off. Thankfully, the seat next to me was open so I was able to have a little extra elbow room. We arrived in Seattle at 8:25am on Sunday (which is essentially three hours BEFORE we left Seoul). I was randomly selected to be questioned and searched upon entering the U.S., but I had nothing to hide so I was out of the airport by 9:00.

The jet-lag was brutal upon arriving home, but it's a small price to pay when you get to enjoy the experiences that create memories that will last a lifetime. I had such a great time exploring a foreign city/country. I did a lot of thinking about my future and how much I love the adventure that traveling brings. I plan on continuing to take trips to uncharted territories, it's the best way for me to learn not only more about the world, but more about myself as well.

Life is too short to work day-to-day. Stability is good, and it's nice to have some place to call home. But you never truly realize how precious your own life can be until you experience life elsewhere and out of your typical element. I hope you've enjoyed reading my stories and seeing my pictures. Maybe this will inspire you to take a trip to Seoul, or some other place you've never been. Be adventurous, be brave, and remember to always see the best in any and every situation. It may be the only chance you've got to experience something so unique. Take it in, and enjoy the ride.

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