Saturday, October 2, 2010

Home!

After being in transit for entirely too long and in entirely too stressful circumstances (a tale to be told some other time), I made it to Korea. Stepping off the plane into Incheon airport was like coming home. I don't know how else to explain it - literally all became right with the world.

I'm here on vacation for our Chinese National Day holiday. This is the first of our holidays, and there was nowhere else I would have rather gone. Even if it hadn't been a cheap ticket, it's been two years since I've been back, and in the week before I left I was actually giddy at moments when I thought about seeing my Dark Lord, and dancing with Belynda again, and the food - OH, THE FOOD!

As I said, I felt at home when I had my feet on Korean soil again. Maybe this means I'm messed up, but I understand the way things work here. I know how to get around, I know what to do in an emergency, where to look for things. During the three years I lived in Bundang, I often had the impression that Seoul was just a big amusement park designed exclusively for me; that is how safe I felt here, and how much fun I had. I'm glad to say that I still get that feeling, and watching the city come into focus as I rode the airport bus through the middle of the city to where Mark and Emily are living was like going past all my favorite rides again (the 63 building, where we watched the first sunrise of 2005...Namsan tower, which Annika and I hiked up to, discovering Chili Chili Taco on our way down...the Han River...Gangnam Dae-ro...) But enough reflective prose. Let me tell you what I've been up to.

I got into Mark and Em's place after two yesterday, and spent a good long while chatting and catching up. We worked together my last year in Korea, and I gotta say, they are two of the coolest people I worked with at GDA. Mark is the most laid-back person I think I've ever know, and Emily is mad in the absolutely best way. We relived our glory days and caught up on gossip until I realized that if I didn't leave I was going to be late to meet Belynda and her students for dinner in Hongdae.

Hongdae is actually a pretty cool area that I've never spent much time in. It's basically a campustown, and as such, is home to THE club scene of Seoul (some people prefer Apgujeong, but it's "trendier" and thus, pricier). We ate dinner and then managed to find a Tom-n-Toms for coffee and dessert (honey butter bread...amazing that I remember this after two years and I only ate it the once right before leaving, but it was just. that. good.) So we caught up and I made plans with Bee to go to Samcheok later this week.

Samcheok is one of those crazy Korean destinations that I never made it to. I'll leave you to ponder why it's special til later this week.

Afterwards I came back here and crashed (and I DO mean crashed), but not before I got ahold of Jill and made plans to get together this afternoon. We met up at noon, talked, got lunch, talked, walked to COEX, talked, talked, talked. (We had a lot of catching up to do). We'll go to Dongdaemun to the bead market later this week. Maybe on Tuesday.

And tonight I got to see my Dark Lord and his family. As I took the Bundang line down and started to hear the old familiar names - Yatap! Imae! Seohyeon...SEOHYEON! - I started to feel nostalgic and a little emotional. Two years is a long time, and this place and this man were at the center of my world for a very long time before that. And yet it's a blink of the eye, and you realize that - oh damn, am I really going to say this cheesy line? - the heart remembers the way. The names of those places were like music to my ears, and the cafes of Jeongja, the neon lights of Samsung Plaza, like art to my eyes. And as for my Dark Lord? My gosh, I missed him, and his daughter (his wife...well, she's a little harder to get along with, but she didn't comment on my weight, so we're making progress). Michelle has gotten so freaking tall - I couldn't believe how old she is! - she gets the jokes that her dad and I make in English and can banter right back with us, she's just awesome. Unfortunately she has midterms on Tuesday, and dinner was just a break in the studying, so after dinner she and her mom went home, and Diablo and I went down to Samsung Plaza (supposedly AK Plaza now, but as he pointed out, nobody's gonna call it that for at least 10 years). He told me that the ahjjushi who ran the convenience store next to our school now owns one there, too, and I was really happy to see him and his wife when we stopped in. Then we sat in Starbucks and compared notes on our current jobs and just shot the breeze until they closed at 11 (I thought this was ideal, because if I left when they kicked us out I wouldn't miss the last train out of Bundang).

And now I'm caught up after lying here on the floor at Mark and Em's and it's past my bedtime, but Seoul doesn't sleep so why should I?

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