Seoul, S. Korea: Days 1 & 2
Aloha! Or should I say, Anyong-haseyo!We made it! We’re in Seoul, S. Korea. I can’t believe it myself. For those of you who don’t know, the trip was on-again, off-again. Nearly drove me mad! Once it was even canceled the night before departure! But we’re here now and I’m told that some of you are anxious to hear about what’s been going on, so let’s not delay any longer…
Day 1: We arrived at the hotel (the Ritz-Carlton!!) around 5:00pm on Wednesday (Tuesday to all of you!). We were so tired and jet lagged – we slept through an incredibly expensive dinner. Bed.
Day 2: The alarm clock woke us up: “Oh Susanna, now don’t you cry for me. I’ve come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.” No kidding. The shrill whistle of this tune at 5:30 in the morning is enough to wake even the weariest travel. And we were weary! And baffled. The alarm clock tune — we just can’t figure that one out.
People here in Seoul are nice. All except one guy I met on the street, but we get to that stinker on Day 3. The locals try very hard to be patient with Russell and I and our horrid communication skills. We say thank you a lot. “Kamsa hamnida.”
“Kamsa hamnida for not taking more money than I’m supposed to pay.”
“Kamsa hamnida for understanding that I need a bathroom, and I need it immediately!”
“Kamsa hamnida I know I sound like an idiot but Kamsa hamnida, Kamsa hamnida.”
I get laughed at a lot when I try to speak Korean. Nonetheless, I think the Koreans appreciate the effort (or is it the entertainment?).
Went to the I’taewom Market – luggage and leather. It’s so cheap and the quality is excellent. I wish I had need for a leather jacket in Hawaii! Got some chopsticks for my collection. Cheap. I had fun bargaining each vendor down. I’m getting good at it.
Vendor: “Price is 14,000 won.”
Me: ”14,0000 won! Kamsa hamnida but no way am I paying 14,000 won.”
Vendor: “Okay, for you I give special price. Special price for first customer of day. 12,000 won!”
Me: Silence. I pretend to mull over the offer. I cleverly wrinkle my brow.
Vendor: Looking concerned: “12,000 won is very cheap. Very cheap. I cheapest vendor on street.”
Me: ”Will you take 10,000 won?”
Vendor: He’s disgusted. He starts muttering in Korean. “11,000 won. No less!”, he barks.
Me: ”Okay. Deal. Kamsa hamnida”
Vendor: He bows. “You’re very welcome, Sir.”
You’re very welcome, Sir.
I’ve never been called “Sir” so many times before. In fact, I’ve never been called “Sir” even once before! Many of the people here who speak English don’t realize that “Sir” refers to a male. A couple of times I’ve been called “Sir” only to have the person speaking to me get flustered and apologize, quickly saying “Ma’am” a number of times in a row. Most of the time, though, I’m simply, “Sir.”
I’taewon was my first trip outside the hotel and I was a little nervous. But everything went great. I was very hot though, it was 92 degrees. I ended up inside a Burger King and ordered a Coca Cola Light to cool me off.
Later that evening, Russell and I walked around the streets near the hotel. This city is just hopping. There are people all over sidewalks. Problem is, there are also motorcycles all over the sidewalks. I don’t know if it is legal here or not, but nobody seems to mind. Except Russell and me, that is. And these motorcycles are not the little moped type. These are the big loud legitimate kind. It’s scary to be walking peacefully down the sidewalk only to have a motorcycle come roaring past you from behind. I caught air a number of times, I was so startled.
When you get used to the motorcycles you don’t seem to mind the cars as much. Oh, did I not mention? Cars drive on the side walk too.
All in all, day 2 was a success. I hope that this weekend Russell and I will be able to get out of Seoul and see some other parts of the country. If we do, you’ll be the first to know!