biking

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!...

Jour 2 (Day 2 in Trois-Pistoles)

A church in Trois-Pistoles, QC

A church in Trois-Pistoles, QC

It's Day 2, and I'm starting to find my way. Last night, I watched TV with my host family with French subtitles and my electronic French dictionary. I learnedwhile watching Australia's Next Top Modelthat sur-le-champ means 'right away'. (See, you can learn something while watching reality TV!) I chatted with my host family plenty while we flipped though the channels, and they said I was already making progress.

By this morning, the wonderful lady who will be hosting myself and thirteen others for two meals a day said the same thing! I was quiet during brunch and souper yesterday, partly because I was with one other student who was very good with her French and was chatting away with our host. Me, being somewhat overwhelmed with the immersion process, had trouble difficulty inserting myself in the conversation. Everyone, including myself, is pleased that I'm making progress already.

My two other housemates, both from New York State, arrived early this morning (04:30, early). They both seem nice, so I feel like my housing situation is very good. All three of us rented bikes today. (Mine has a terribly uncomfortable seat.)

We stopped by l`école to choose our afternoon activities; I chose one called Société québécoise and another called Création littéraire. The coordinators are making final touches on our selections tonight, so I will find out tomorrow if those will in fact be my activities or not, and also what my language class level will be! According to the terribly difficult online placement test, I should be one step above absolute beginner, or as the daughter of my host family says, débutant plus. We`ll see!

Yeouido's Cherry Blossom Streets

While Japan gets all the attention, Korea does have its own amazing display of cherry blossoms to boast about. Yeouido is the best place in Seoul to see the blossoms in bloom. A 7-km long street on the small island is lined with over a thousand cherry blossom trees---and today the sidewalks were filled with millions of Seoulites trying to get a picture of the delicate white blossoms before they fall to the ground like snowflakes.

I biked the five kilometers from my apartment before taking a brief stroll under the trees. If you could get keep your head above the crowds, it was a beautiful sight. After a short walk around Yeouido, I headed back home, where the path from my apartment to the Han River has a few beautiful cherry blossom trees of its own with none of the crowd. We only have a few more days to enjoy the snow-like petals before they melt away.

Riding Bikes Along the Han River

I somehow convinced three friends of mine to go on a five-hour long bike ride with me, one sunny Sunday afternoon in October. Bikes would give us a better opportunity to see more of my favourite place in Seoul: Han River. After arriving at Yeouinaru Station south of the river, we found ourselves four green bicycles with wire baskets on the front and a bell on the handlebars.

After heading east for a minute, I realized our destination, World Cup Stadium, was actually west, so I turned us around before we went too far out of our way. We casually rode along a paved biking/roller-blading/skateboarding/walking path that paralleled the river. There were many Koreans out enjoying the city, too, so we got a lot of use out of the bells. We counted the kilometre markers as we passed, careful to follow the somewhat vague directions in my guidebook.

Early on our ride, a friend pointed out what he thought was the World Cup Stadium on the north side of the river.

I laughed. “Of course it’s not the stadium. We’ve got too many kilometres to ride still, before we even think about crossing the river.”

So we kept on riding in the sunshine.

After about 14 kilometres, the path seemed end before the guidebook informed us it should. But the next step, it said, was to ride under some bridges and then continue on a dirt path beside the river, and that seemed to be what was happening here. So, we rode under a bridge and continued up a hill on a dirt road with plenty of loose gravel and potholes. But then it seemed we had no where else to go. I consulted my guidebook for help, but there was nothing.

Wait.

“Would you guys be upset if I told you that we were going the wrong way?” I asked.

They laughed. “No, it’s okay, with those directions – wait, do you mean THE WHOLE TIME?” one said as she stopped laughing.

Apparently, I confused the directions between the two bike tours offered by this particular guidebook. I read the title for “Yeouinaru to World Cup Stadium” west of Yeouinaru Station, all the while following the directions to the much longer ride to Olympic Park east of Yeouinaru. Oops.

We turned ourselves around and headed back the 15 or so kilometres we had travelled. After a Ramen lunch, I was still determined to reach any destination, even if it wasn’t my intended one. We passed by what turned out to be the World Cup Stadium after all, and I somehow convinced everyone that we should attempt to ride our bikes there. So we did, even though it had started to rain. We finally crossed the river on the green bridge, as outlined by the guidebook (under the proper directions, of course). We prevailed through the rain and cold and actually made it to the stadium.

At the end of it all, my clothes were soaked, my muscles were tired, and my friends were no longer willing to trust my directions, but I was satisfied.