I wanted to do all the things, visiting Korea this holiday. I really did. I looked up performances I hadn't been to, sights I hadn't seen...but it turns out that what I really want from a visit to Korea is time with my homies, shopping, and walks down memory lane. Yesterday, for example, I had one definite goal: to cook Azhaar dinner that night. (When I mentioned this to my Dark Lord and Master, he asked why. Considering the number of times I made him dinner when we worked for GDA, he should have already known the answer, but I explained it for him anyways). Before that, though, I had some free time, so I went back to Dongdaemun to find that fabric I needed. When I finally located it, I grabbed lunch, and by the time I was finished, I decided that I had neither time to hike Namhansanseong or to go to Heyri Art Valley, so instead I caught a taxi to Itaewon to find ingredients.
So I made burritos, and they turned out well, but I wanted to do a little more with my night, so I told Azhaar that I was off to Siloam Sauna, straightened up my crap, and off I went. Halfway to the bus stop, though, I started thinking that maybe I should go for a wander. One of the things that I love about Korea is that you can feel perfectly safe walking around in the wee small hours of the morning, pretty much anywhere. So when the bus stopped just on the other side of the tunnel, next to Namdaemun Market, I hopped off.
Namdaemun was one of the first places I went in Korea, although at this point I can't explain why. Besides the shopping in the market itself, there are tons of arcades around the area, selling everything from craft supplies to antiques, and all sorts of cool-looking ties. During the day it's great, but at night, Seoul really shines (see what I did there?)
Actually a fair number of shops were closed by the time I got there (8:30-ish), but it still had that feeling. I've read articles about words we don't have in English, such as schadenfreude (taking joy in the misfortune of others), but one word I haven't heard of in any language would deal with a visceral feeling - that doesn't actually align with any of your senses - invoked when standing in a place of your memories. Places like Namdaemun or the fifth floor of the fabric market, have the same feeling to me - a guaranteed hope that you can find anything.The giddy excitement of the hunt. I'd describe it as the way scents can take you back, except it's not about scent.
It was nice to see Namdaemun's actual gate again, as well. Namdaemun and Dongdaemun were originally gates on the old Seoul city walls...the south and the east, respectively. During my last stint in Korea, an old dude burnt Namdaemun down in protest, and I hadn't seen it since it was restored.
I headed down into the arcade to keep on my way to Seoul Station - there's so much traffic in that area that you can't just walk across the street. Being from a small, midwestern town, there were many things I hadn't really experienced til I came to Seoul - like Thai food, or homeless people in the subway. When I used to meet friends to go to Siloam, it seems like they were always lying in the corners of Seoul station. Last night, though, there was an entire camp in the arcade next to Namdaemun. And I'm saying this not because I felt unsafe - uncomfortable, yes, but if you don't feel uncomfortable when you are face to face with the imbalance that results in others having very little when you have just about everything you could need, there's something wrong with you - it was one of those little myriad changes I picked up on - overall the topography of the city is the same, it's just the faces of the places that have changed. Or in this case, I guess the face remains, but the geography has changed slightly.
I passed through Seoul Station, walking by where the Bennigan's we met up in used to be, and came to the top of my stairs. Almost every time I go to Siloam, ever since the beginning, I've slid down the railing on these stairs. It is the perfect width, the perfect angle - you can get a pretty good slide going but still have control of your speed. I love it. At the bottom, I walked forward a block, crossed over to Siloam, and spent the next several hours casting off my UB grime. I even slept in the oxygen room.
These may not have been amazing new experiences, but to me it was the perfect way to end the day.