Adventures in South Korea

Day 1: When my mother-in-law passed last month, we made arrangements for Blaise to fly home from Korea for the services. The Hubs, always efficient, booked plane tickets for me to join Blaise on his return trip back to Seoul. Yesterday (or today? two days ago?), my oldest son and I flew 4 hours from Newark to Dallas, then continued another 15.5 hours to Korea. We ate no less than 5 meals on the plane, because it was something to do, and damn that bimbopbop or whatever the hell it’s called. After a (masked) 55-minute taxi ride between the airport and our hotel, we were beat. At 9 pm, we ordered Room Service. Blaise was asleep before it arrived. I drank both of our beers. All I have to show for this trip so far is a dark, grainy selfie in the taxi and a pretty amazing view of Seoul Tower from our hotel window.

Day 2: We grabbed to-go coffees in the lobby cafĂ© and hit Seoul on foot at 8 am. Somewhere between then and my 28,000th step, we visited Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul Tower, and the Myeong Dong market district. Traveling with Blaise is different than what I’m used to. He’s into fashion and photography, so we stop often to adjust apertures or peruse luxury malls. He could care less about food, and well, that’s sorta my thing. Today, I was patient during the shopping parts, and Blaise sat quietly while I consumed spicy fish roe soup and the literally 6 side dishes that appeared before I even ordered. It’s 6:30 and we’re napping now (Well, Blaise is napping, and I *should* be). We’re planning to subway into Itaewon later for the whole scene. Blaise says the clubs are open all night, but I’ll be happy with some street dumplings and maybe a waffle.

Day 3: Nope. We didn’t party the night away in Itaewon. Blaise and I both woke from our naps, fully refreshed and ready to conquer the world, at 3 AM. At 6:30, we were the first to arrive at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, which included a made-to-order noodle bar, as it should. We took the subway to Mangwon for a pre-arranged market tour and cooking class. You guys know I love that shit. Blaise? He toughed it out. Afterwards, we walked to Hongdae, a huge shopping district full of youths, especially crowded on this beautiful Friday afternoon. I rewarded Blaise’s foodie efforts by following him in and out of every sneaker store and vintage clothing shop, trying hard not to think about my childhood days imprisoned in The House of Bargains with my shopaholic mother. On the taxi ride back to our hotel, I marveled at the magnitude and beauty of Seoul. So many times, I said to Blaise, “Look at that building!” He nodded and smiled. He doesn’t have to tell me how much he loves it here. I totally get it.

Day 4: At breakfast, I employed my learned skills from the past 2 days to order traditional egg noodles with my choice of ingredients and sides. I used chopsticks and slurped like a pro. By late morning, Blaise and I made our way to Seoul Station on foot, dragging our bags behind us. It wasn’t much of a debacle to buy our train tickets to our next destination, but we settled for standing room only, which is an interesting predicament in the luggage car. A friendly old man conversated me with vigor, although he didn’t speak English. Two elderly women placed newspapers on the ground and sat cross-legged. Three young, US Air Force pilots spoke loudly and constantly about last night’s clubbing activities. I positioned myself next to a tall, 30-something Korean boy, who served in his country’s Marines, then studied in Boston. He offered me half of his protein bar. I’m still blushing. After a 3-hour journey, Blaise and I arrived in Gunsan, the nearest town to his base. He took me to dinner at his favorite jazz club, where I enjoyed my first soju. For the next few days, he’ll be my tour guide. Isn’t this why we have kids? So they can take care of us someday?

Day 5: The novel foods and the jet lag finally caught up to us. Blaise and I stayed in bed for a lot of the day. Finally, we got ourselves together and took a taxi to Kunsan AB. I saw many things there. Some of it fascinated me, and much of it terrified me. It’s not Hurlburt Field, that’s for darn sure. I don’t have photos to share with you today. I took all the pictures with my heart, just like I did, in the middle of the night, when Blaise was a baby. Tomorrow is our last day together in Korea.

Day 6: At 8 am, Blaise and I took a taxi to Wolmyeong Park, the Gunsanian version of Valley Forge, except without the Revolutionary War stuff, obviously. We hiked many steep and sloping miles. The Senior Korean Men’s Walking Club (not official) was ahead of us, lively in conversation. I thought we might pass them, but those buggers left us in their dust. We grabbed breakfast at a convenience store, and lunch at Blaise’s favorite Japanese jawn. Back at the hotel, I needed to say goodbye. Blaise was meeting his girlfriend (a nice German/Italian grad student) at the bus station, which was his way of saying, “It’s time, Mother.” I hugged and kissed him more than necessary, but I’m proud to say, I didn’t cry. After he left, I took another hike, because that’s what I do. It was different without Blaise, but also familiar. I would do more in Gunsan tonight, except it’s incredibly cold and windy. There’s a gaggle of loud, drunk businessmen staying on my floor. I keep looking out my peephole to catch a glimpse of their antics. That, along with Netflix, should keep me entertained until morning. I really don’t miss Blaise at all…

Day 7: I took a taxi and 3 trains to get to the airport. I’ll arrive in Dallas 2 hours *before* I left Korea. I always suspected I was aging backwards.

Next Up: Jamaica!


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