Postcards: So Korean

Postcards: So Korean

It's been over six years since I left Korea and moved back to Canada, and yet, somehow, I'm still sorting through my two years' worth of photos. 

These are a few of my favourite things from Korea. Looking back, these are the things that, when I see them, I think "that's so Korean."

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!...

My Korean Adventure is "Finished"

In the days leading up to my last night in Korea, when people asked me if I was excited to go home, I had to be honest and say no. I wasn't excited. I don't know why. It's not like I wasn't happy to see my family or friends here, but I sure wasn't excited to be leaving Korea. I had an ever-expanding group of amazing friends, a wonderful job, a great apartmentwho would be excited to leave that? But I knew, somewhere deep in my gut, it was time to go. My heart said stay, but my gut, with its unknown reasons or unexplained logic, said it was time to move back to Canada and begin another adventure.

I was out for dinner with a couple of friends on my last night. Both Yonsei university students, I met them in Sinchon after their class was finished. Dinner was quiet; I had a lot going on in my head. Some last minute details were bothering me and I was trying to decide how to organize my time. We were trying to figure out our after-dinner plansI needed to drop some things off to a friend way over in Jamsil, he had planned to meet with another friend, she wanted to hang out with the both of usand I felt myself getting overwhelmed.  I didn't want to be doing this. I didn't want to be going through last-minute things. I didn't want to be making all the decisions.

They kept asking me what I wanted to do. "It's your last night," they said. "We'll do whatever you want." He said he didn't need to meet his friend today; they could meet another time, no problem. If I wanted him to, he said, he would even take care of some last minute things I was stressed about doing. She would hang out with me and do whatever I wanted to do. "It's you last night," they repeated. "It's up to you."

It's my last night. It's my last night.

I'm leaving and I'm not coming back.

I couldn't think anymore. All I could do was put my head down, cover my face, and try to hold my tears in. My friends let me have my minute. She rubbed my shoulder a little, and he asked if I wanted to talk about it. When I said no, they didn't say another word. We headed back to his apartmentthe apartment I was staying at since I had to move out of my apartment a couple weeks earlierand hung out. Another friend came to sleep over, too, and he talked to me about leaving Korea and beginning another adventure.

"You've got an adventurous spirit," he said. "You know you can't stay in one place too long because there's too many other places you want to go. It's time to move on to the next one."

At the airport, passing through the immigration counter, I handed over my alien registration card for the last time. He looked at the dates at the back of the card and looked up at me. "Is it finished?" he asked.

I nodded. Yes it isthis adventure is, anyway. But another one is just beginning.

Seoul Sonnet

How do I love Seoul? Let me count the ways.
I love the smell, the sight, the touch, the sound,
Of subways and shopping malls kept underground;
A fun way to spend time during commute delays.

Up above ground, under a clear blue sky,
I love the city parks in which to play,
Where Seoulites can relax and spend the day
In nature, away from traffic nearby.

A love the combination of old and new,
Aged palaces and temples sharing space
With modern high rises in the same place.
And I love the Han River flowing though.

I love the parties in the streets of Seoul,
The many festivals and fun celebrations
That unite people from different nations.
It's these occasions that make a city whole.

There's so much more that can't be counted in lists,
Like the joy in finding new places to explore,
Or the change in oneself that can't be ignored.
But perhaps what's most important is this:
No matter what I do or where I roam,
I love how this city always feels like home.

Seoul Opens Subway Line 9

After many delays, Seoul finally opened its newest subway line, Line 9, on Friday. As a big fan of Seoul's subway system, I have been impatiently checking the news in an effort to ride the line on its opening day---heck, I would have been at the opening ceremony if I could!---but sadly, I missed it by two days.

After finally walking down into the station I've walked past (longingly, I might add) for the past several months, I discovered just how nice this new underground tunnel was for myself. It sure is pretty. Everything is grey or silver coloured, even vending machines, despite the "Gold Line" designation it's been given. Everything looks shiny, clean, and new.

seoul subway gold line 9

But there are a few things I noticed were lacking. I was disappointed to see that the trademark coloured stripe on the wall is missing. The station could use a splash of colour---and it would be helpful for the transfer stations on other lines, too. I'll let it pass for now, seeing as it's still a new line, but that gold stripe better get itself on those walls soon. And I also noticed that all subway stations on this line look exactly the same. Something I've loved about other lines is that most stations are uniquely designed---for example, Gangnam Station (Line 2) has its black and white circular tiles; Chungmuro Station (Lines 3 and 4) looks like a cave with its grey, rocky walls; Samgakji Station (Lines 4 and 6) has a war mural---giving each station its own character, and allowing subway users to quickly know what station they're at. Here, they all blend together.

The station also has some amazing map additions (okay, probably something not many people would get excited about, but I love it). Each station in the entire system comes equipped with lots of neighbourhood maps so users can find their way to attractions outside the stations, but at all stations on the gold line, they have two kinds of maps: one regular drawn map and one real-view aerial map. Aerial maps are awesome.

seoul subway station gold line 9

The train cars themselves are different too. First, trains only have four cars---half or less than half of other lines. Inside, the yellow handle bars alternate height for easier access. The seats are very comfortable, I'm told it's because they're a little wider, and the space underneath seats has been left open, which as far as I can remember doesn't happen with other lines. And there are no doors in between the cars, making it easier for users with wheelchairs.

Line 9 has an express line, too, meaning some trains skip stations and only hit the main ones. I thought it might be confusing, but it seems organized and well posted. Lots of volunteers are on hand now to help people figure it all out.

My first ride on the newest subway line was exciting. Now I'm looking for more reasons to go to Gangnam so I can ride it again.