I spent all 3 years of my life in Korea living in a bedroom city. This is basically a city developed as a place for people who commute to, let's say, Gangnam, to sleep. Bundang was relatively new when I moved there thirteen years ago, and even though I love all that good culture shit and historic stuff, Bundang was a perfect place for me, to the point where I have a hard time imagining a life anywhere else.
This is part of the reason why I haven't seriously pursued coming back to Korea - no matter how much I loved it, nothing would be the same about another go-round. Knowing I was going back to Bundang to see my own beloved Dark Lord and Master, I headed down to Butterfinger Pancakes in Jeongja (aka, not the one I took Engrish to) and had breakfast. Or brunch, because it was 10:30 by the time I had a seat. I walked over to Sunae from there, stopping in the middle of the bridge over the Tancheon because it had stolen my breath, the memories of walks along the water, and one particular night when we decided at midnight to go play basketball further upstream after several hours drinking at the Family Mart. In Sunae I got a haircut - not much of one, because I want to keep it as long as I can, but I also want to start getting rid of the damaged hair - before walking on to Samsung Plaza. Which is now AK Plaza, but like I give a crap who actually owns the shopping center above Seohyeon Station.
This is the area around Samsung Plaza at night. Although shops and restaurants come and go, to me it looks pretty much the same as it did when I first arrived thirteen years ago. I approached it through a park that sits between the two stations, where I once partied with the degenerates many, many moons ago, sitting on big, stone balls (again, there's a joke to be made there, but I've still got three days to go). When I got to the area we hung out in that night, I was a little surprised to realize how close it was to Seohyeon - for some reason, I thought it was in the middle - but everything in our lives gravitated toward this shopping area, so I guess it makes sense. But when I sat down there yesterday, and looked at the former Samsung Plaza, I was able to see it with new eyes, and realized there are similar shopping districts all over Seoul. It was the fact that this was ours that made Samsung Plaza special. My friends that lived in Ilsan or Suji had their own special places...even if they weren't as good.
In Seohyeon I was planning to go to Kyobo Books, but it turned out to be the grand opening of the newly minted YP Books instead. After close inspection I decided it was same-same, and noticing that it was already 1:30 decided to call up my Dark Lord and Master. Because he's Korean, you don't invoke him with a pentagram and blood sacrifice...most of the time I use the payphone in the subway. As I walked down the stairs, I realized how strange that would seem if anyone really looked at it - the same foreigner using the same payphone over the course of nine years to call the same ahjjusshi - like some sort of spy checking in. The pentagram and blood would probably be less suspect.
As it turned out, he was already at his cafe, so I jumped on the Bundang line and headed back to Jeongja, wending my way across the Tancheon and up a block to Spera. Where we talked. And talked. I brought up the fact that my mom remembers him fondly when I say I'm going to see him, and then laughed because it's essentially his fault that I have been overseas as long as I have. If I'd gone to a different school, I might not have had as positive an experience, or felt as comfortable going back when poop hit the fan. His wife and spawn showed up and joined the conversation...I can't believe Michelle has finished her first year of college! When I first came to GDA, I walked into the staff room one day to see a midget cutting paper. Being witty, I tried to make a Star Wars reference - Aren't you a little short to be a teacher? - and was informed by one of my coworkers that this was our boss' daughter. She was in first grade at the time, and already capable of tearing people to shreds with a comment and a shrewd look.
That saying about apples and trees? It's probably true. And not just because she's evil too - while I was talking to the two of them they'd do the same dumbass actions in response to any given comment. It was both endearing and hilarious.
They left to get Michelle a haircut and Evil Incarnate and I continued to talk. One of the things I love about him is the fact that I can pitch crazy ideas - such as my retirement plan - at him and he talks through them insightfully and seriously. At least until he realizes exactly what he's hearing. "I'm sorry, that's hilarious. You're a white girl from America, sewing plushies in Mongolia, based on Japanese anime characters, and using fabric from Korea. You realize how messed up that is, right?"*
Eventually, he asked if I wanted to go get dinner, and made the mistake of asking if I wanted Korean or Western. In the old days, if I was feeling generous, I would have said Western, because even though my Master is Korean, he's a New York boy at heart, and doesn't get to eat Western food much. Instead, I said Korean without thinking about it, and since he knew where a dalkgalbi place was, it worked out. I haven't had dalkgalbi - stir-fried spicy chicken - since I lived in Shanghai. The place my chingus and I always went is long gone, and I haven't put forth the effort to find one since, because I haven't been in Korea long enough on any given trip. The four of us sat there until we were picking the last remains of the bokkeum-bap - rice stir-fried with the last of the chicken and topped with cheese. Michelle and I talked about traveling, although I didn't give her much sympathy for not traveling abroad - she's been all over the world, and by the time I was her age I'd only been to Canada.
Two and a half of my five-days' vacation are over, and I really haven't done anything worth blogging about, but the thing about living in Korea is, it's your friends that really make it. And I guess that's true wherever you live, but I'll take time with Azhaar and my Dark Lord and Master over wandering new places any day. Seoul is always here for me.
*(Previously: "I'm watching an American belly dance in Korea at an Egyptian restaurant, who's been taught by an Australian. I don't know what country I'm in.")