It’s been six weeks since we left the United States. 6 weeks! Wow! It feels like it’s flying by. I wonder what I’ll be saying in six months?
This week we finished up a hectic 6 days in Hong Kong by eating as much dim sum as possible and fitting in every possible activity. FOMO and YOLO all that. Hong Kong was so incredibly hot and humid that I felt like I was going to pass out on a daily basis!
Unfortunately, the weather is what I think I’ll remember Hong Kong by.
Four days ago we ventured to a much cooler place, though. Seoul, Korea! We love this place.
Ben served a 2-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Korea almost 15 years ago (wow, he’s old!) and fell in love with the food, the place, and the people. He’s been back three times over the years, and we spent our first anniversary in Seoul together. I loved it, too.
Seoul is clean, a great combination of modern architecture with historic buildings, amazing food, good shopping, nice people, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…. Basically the goal for every major Asia city, but lacking the hordes of foreign tourists.
In fact, this is the first place where I’ve wished some of our family could be here. I would love for my mom or Ben’s parents to experience Seoul with us!
We’re staying in the Itaewon district.
Like other major cities each district in Seoul is known for a specific identity, and Itaewon’s is ex-pats. I swear we didn’t set out to spend a month living in the foreigner district! We waited so long to find a place that this was one of only 3 options we really liked, but so far we love it. I was afraid we’d be surrounded by white people and lose the opportunity to be immersed in the Korean culture (no offense, White People), but so far that hasn’t been the case.
Because Itaewon has the reputation for housing ex-pats there are a ton of diverse restaurants and shops crowding the walkable neighborhood streets which draws a lot of locals, too. We feel pretty secluded from the busyness of the big city in this pedestrian haven, and still have everything we would want!
Luckily a major subway station is just a 5 minute walk away for when we are ready to explore. I’ve even started to learn the subway system and basic parts of the city thanks to taking Whit out while Ben is working! Go me!
So far we’ve been to the National Museum of Korea, Myeong-dong market, Namdeamun, Gangnam, and some major downtown shopping center I don’t remember. Whit has eaten fish balls, skewered shrimp, Asian noodles in soy bean sauce, spring rolls, kim chi, tofu, whole roasted chicken, and anything else we throw at him.
Is it weird that one of the things I’m most proud of is that my son is willing to try any food? Hmmmm…
There are plenty of new things to get used to, too.
Our 2-bedroom apartment is more traditionally Asian than anywhere we’ve stayed. Ben and I have a Western bed, but Whit is sleeping (happily) on a futon mat on the floor. The kitchen table is low with cushions for seats, we use house slippers, patio slippers, and bathroom slippers when inside, and only have hand-towels to use after a shower.
We’re also struggling with the lack of English.
Even though Ben used to be fluent in Korean, a lot of his conversational Korean is rusty. I know it’ll come back the longer we’re here, but for now it’s been a struggle to communicate sometimes. Less people speak English here than they did in Hong Kong, and even the public transportation and public signs use limited English. There’s no blame- they ought to use their dominant language- it just makes traveling through a bit more challenging.
To be honest, though, it’s kind of liberating to act like a miming idiot.
When Ben isn’t around (and sometimes even if he is) and my limited Korean vocabulary of “Yes”, “No”, “Hello”, “Goodbye” and “I understand” don’t get my point across I’m left with having to mime and point. I’m pretty proud of my gesturing skills, and knowing I have no other option leaves me with no shame or embarassment. Usually the person I’m trying to talk to is having a hard time, too, and starts miming back in order to help understand me! We both look like miming idiots, which brings us to a common level.
It’s fun to let go of inhibitions and just accept my fate!
We’ll be in Seoul for a full 30 days (only 25 more!) to give us an idea of what daily life is like here. In the next few weeks we’ll try to set up a routine, find a daily babysitter for Whit, have favorite restaurants and parks, that sort of thing. I love making new places my home and only hope Whit comes to love Seoul as much as we do!
Stay tuned for more thoughts on our adventures in Korea!