Retro Post – Wrapping Up in South Korea

Seoul, S. Korea: Days 5 & 6 & 7

Day 5: “Sun so hot I froze to death. Susanna, don’t you cry.” Yep. We forgot it was a Saturday, left the alarm clock set for 5:30 a.m. Bummer.

So we woke up at 5:30 a.m. but didn’t manage to get down to breakfast until 10:20 where we were promptly notified that the buffet would disappear before our very eyes at 10:30 so we better move it. This isn’t verbatim. I had to translate from Korean.

So, we’re stuffing our faces when this gentleman who is obviously from the U.S. starts small talking Russell. We learn his name is Mr. P (we know his full name but I forgot to ask him if I could put his name on the web, hence, Mr. P) and that he’s from Texas and comes to Seoul often for business. In fact, this was his 9th trip this year. He said he hadn’t been to bed before 3:00 a.m. once this week because the deals are all made during the night, under the influence. In Korea, the true business hours start after everyone has sung at least one round of Karaoke. Oh, and no women. Women don’t do the business here. Only men.

We spent about an hour talking to Mr. P and were the only ones left in the restaurant. The staff cleaned up around us. The more we talked about him the more he opened up to us and told us about growing up in New York and how his childhood was spent playing stick ball and going to Coney Island. It was a huge surprise when he told us where he went to high school. Russell just about fell out of his chair. It was the same school that Russell’s dad went to. Well… that meant we had to chit chat about anyone and everyone that Mr. P thought Dad might know. All in all, though, it was a very enjoyable conversation. He really tried to clue us in on what business in Korea is like and tried to make sure that I understood I wouldn’t be involved in it. (Fine by me.) He wished us good luck and I felt that he truly meant it. I’m very glad that we met him. Nice people make the world go round.

After our it’s-a-small-world breakfast we headed to a neighborhood market called Insadong. It was amazing. Arts and crafts and antiques. We had such a good time strolling through the shops and bargaining with the vendors. I got pushed into the street a number of times. I haven’t learned the bow-your-head-and-charge-through-the-crowd technique yet, much to Russell’s annoyance. He always has to yank me back to the sidewalk. We found some good deals and were starting to get ornery because we couldn’t find any bibimbob (bee-bim-bob). Russell was going to eat bibimbob for dinner or die trying. Bibimbob is a Korean dish of rice and vegatables and beef. Of course, Russell skips the beef part –anyway, he loves the stuff and had his heart set on it. We sat down to rest – our search for Korean food seemingly fruitless – when two young girls with a small boombox came up to us.

They wanted to interview us. Imagine how long it took me to figure that one out with our gesturing and guessing at English words. But, we got straightened out and learned that they were 11 years old and taking English classes. One of their assignments was to find Americans and interview them in English and tape the whole episode. It was a blast. They would get so embarrassed when we didn’t understand something and giggle like any American 11-year-old would do. For some reason that surprised me. The four of us had a good time and after the interview those precious girls went scouring the streets in search of a restaurant where Russell could enjoy his bibimbop.

Day 6: No music. No Susanna, no Alabama, no banjo on his knee. Our alarm clock refuses to work. We’re basically willing our bodies to wake up at the right hour now. And I woke up with an earache. Not good. It was bothering me off and on for a few days but this was the first day that it hurt. But, smart chic that I am, I decide to ignore it.

Back to It’aewon. I vowed I wouldn’t bring Russell here. I knew he would spend money. [Sorry for the interruption. 2012 Kristine here. I have no memory of Russell ever being eager to spend money. I do know, however, that I was just as fond of wine in 1999 as I am now, so all I can figure is that I must have been drinking when I wrote that.] And he did. But we had a blast. We also went to the Seoul Tower where we couldn’t see a damn thing because the smog was so thick. We knew there was this cool city view out there amongst the gray haze and we couldn’t see it!

Oh, and I figured out I have an ear infection. Ugh. But, Russell and the Ritz Carlton came to the rescue. I’ve got the medicine I need and this should not delay our trip home.

Day 7: Back to It’aewon again, so Russell can have a fitting for the custom made suit he ordered from Jeong of ALL SEASONS TAILORING. Starving, but running out of money, we stumbled upon a bar that had happy hour but no food. I played pool against a very nice Korean girl. Lost. But only barely!

I’m pining for home, Pixel, and Oh Susanna.

Whatchya thinkin stinkin?

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