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Showing posts from May, 2006

Seoul: Day 3

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It was a relatively slow start for us on Sunday. We’d been up by 6:00 AM the two previous days, and felt that an additional three hours were a luxury we’d take advantage of. After rolling ourselves out of bed, a quick shower, and cup of coffee, we were on the streets of Seoul once again.


Our first stop of the day was Gyeongdong Market, which is a labyrinth of a street market where vendors specialize in fruit, spices, roots, and medicinal herbs. It was a extraordinarily colorful walk through stalls of flowers, dried fruit and cooking essentials. The strong scent of licorice dominated the herb stalls, and a whole side alley was dedicated to garlic. Old women were lined up under little shelters peeling away, a gathering hill of garlic at their feet. It was beautiful sight. After a few purchases, we wandered a bit, Alex carefully escorting me past the sidewalks lined with dog meat sales. Very obvious carcasses sprawled out on tables. This area of the market was draped in tarps to…

Seoul: Saturday Night

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I met Stephen, red hair in back row, through Flickr.com - the website where you had previously viewed a2's pics. He's lived in Seoul for 3 years, and we met on Saturday night to spin yarns over our experiences living in Korea. He also introduced us to Lucy, Neal, and Jenny We enjoyed the luxury of an evening with cocktails, easy conversation (no translation required), and were none too surprised to discover how different our experiences are from those of Seoulites. It was a nice night under a clearning sky with a Manhattan in hand.

DMZ

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Torrential yet shy of monsoon, that’s where I’d place the rain we awoke to. If it were a Saturday morning in Gwangju, we could laze in bed with books and hot coffee. Alas, we had plans, and those plans required us to be up at 6:00 AM regardless of foreseeable misery.

Alex went off in search of water and carbs to kick start our day while I poured (no pun intended) over maps and guidebooks. Our tour company picked us up from the hotel, and by 8:00 we began our bouncy journey into the countryside cradling the 38th parallel.

The first stop on the tour is the farthest north one can travel in the western corridor before requiring military permission, Imjin-gak Park. The Imjin River borders North Korea a few miles to the west.  It winds peacefully around the small park, though close observation finds it draped with nets to discourage underwater infiltrations by spies and assassins.

The pain of separation is palpable here in the family graffiti that climbs a barbed-wire fence at the end…

Seoul: Day 1

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We couldn’t have asked for shittier weather, the clouds gathering overhead as our bus pulled into the terminal. Initially, we hadn’t noticed the disappearing sun as we were still in shock after seeing a Walmart. We hadn’t slept too much the night before, and were doped up on caffeine, but if I was going to hallucinate I’d hope it to be more imaginative than a Walmart. Because while I respect bargain-shopping, I cannot respect an institution that will sell guns, but allows its pharmacists to refuse birth control prescriptions (both presumably based on religious beliefs). Anyway, that’s a tangent for another time.

Meanwhile, back in Seoul . . . a2 had rediscovered that some subways still have more than one track, and navigated to our first stop. Our hotel was pretty disappointing on first glance, not that hotels in Korea are prized for appearance. You’ll be consistently disappointed if looking for a shiny, welcoming exterior. Generally, if we don’t see mold on the ceilings, an…

weekend recap . . . weekend preview

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Being landlocked is a challenge. I think, speaking as a Michigander, there is truly something in the water. My family rarely travels where open expanses of water cannot be seen. It has an unshakeable need to be near water and to feel the weather coming off the waves; it’s an unfathomable connection with the nature of water. I am part Great Lakes.

Last weekend, Alex and I took a two hour bus to the coastal fishing city of Mokpo (목포). Mt. Yudal (유달산) rises humbly to the west of the old city. The old section still bustles with the fishing trade. Creatures of all variety hang like angels from fences and wooden planks, or lay flat on fishing nets to be preserved by the sun and salt. If they can catch it, they can dry it, or cut it fresh for your immediate consumption. What’s your pleasure?

The main market is a crowd of purveyors and buyers, the only immediate difference being the wading boots. Outside of the markets, the harborside street is a wash of drying carcasses, fishing ne…