I’m in the motherland. It’s the craziest thing to me. I remember hearing friends talk about flying to Korea, visiting Korea, living in Korea, eating in Korea, traveling in Korea. And here I am, doing the same my own way.
There’s a flurry of things happening in my brain right now. Here are a few things I extracted and strung into coherent sentences.
- Koreans love fried chicken. It’d be a severe underestimation (is this a word?) to say there’s a fried chicken joint on every corner – there’s one every 60 meters. And usually two on each corner. I’m not sure why. Did you know KyoChon and BBQ Chicken are really from Korea? I didn’t. That and pizza. Pizza is also everywhere – not as much as chicken though lol. It’s amazing, really – they are dedicated to the cause.
- Nothing beats family. I took off an extra day from work so I could make it in time for my Gramma’s 90th birthday lunch on the 26th. From what everyone was saying, it had been a while since everyone had gathered in one place, coming from Daegu, Andong, and Seoul. For me, I felt lucky to have made it to this celebration. Even though I didn’t have much to say, much to connect on with everyone, I never felt out of place. I know it’s such a fundamental part of life, being close to family, but growing up, my extended family in the States had slowly dispersed and I don’t remember that kind of excitement and “so-good-to-see-you” (there’s a Korean word for this but I can’t translate it) vibe in a while. Cousins, aunts, and uncles I never met welcomed me saying they remember when I was a baby. I’d never seen any of them except one cousin that had lived with us in California for a year or so but the gap that usually stands between strangers first meeting didn’t exist. At one point while everyone was socializing (and I was standing to the side a bit), my uncle, my dad’s older brother, walked over and put his hand over mine and smiled, and it wasn’t a weird thing haha. It was endearing and I could feel a sense of appreciation/closeness/familiarity? That was pretty cool.
- The food is amazing. It is everything I expected – but better. Lol. The goodness of the food and being with the family that provided it makes it pretty hard not to enjoy it and eat what’s put in front of me. Though everything is pretty vegetarian – think roots, leafy greens, and literally… just plants. I swear I saw one of the aunts dig up weed-looking things from the front yard near the street, which showed up on the dinner table – cleaned, floating in soy sauce, and sprinkled with chili powder. Of course I had to try it – and I have to say, good call lol. And if you know me at all, for me to eat vegetarian-ly for the past few days and still be okay with the prospect of eating more of it means something. And you can’t not love the side dishes. All day errday.
- My favorite things so far are the markets, as with any destination. I walked through Namdaemunssijang and got a little lost. I love walking through, looking at everything, sifting through, talking with stall owners. There’s no BS. Basically everyone that’s shopping wants goods at the cheapest price and everyone that’s selling wants to earn the price they set, which makes me every shopowner’s favorite shopper – or prey. I hate haggling and negotiating. Just gimme the thing, I’ll pay full price. I know savvy shoppers are probably shaking heads at this pathetic soul but it is what it is. I don’t even try lol.
When I got here, I had no plans set, except that I would be meeting a friend in Cambodia and heading to Thailand but things are slowly coming together. I’ll be doing some solo traveling which I’m really looking forward to – a bit in Chiang Mai, a bit in Korea. Little by little. And I have T-Mobile to thank for their amazing international plan. I can book my flights and hostels from the middle of nowhere (Gramma’s house), the land of no WiFi.
There’s much more to share about but I need to make that hour journey back to the middle of nowhere. Lol.
This entry was so hard to write for some reason. Not sure why – actually it’s probably because it’s been a while. Lol. Need to work on consistency.
Happy Tuesday (for me)!