Back to the future

It’s the end of my first week in Seoul, where I will be laying my hat for the next two years, and I am aware a post is well overdue. Time to settle on the sofa with a small glass of soju in my luxurious interim home in a serviced apartment and get writing.

Located spectacles?   Check.

Worked out adapter and plugged in computer?    Check.

Plugged in toilet and left seat to warm? Che…. hold on, what the hell???

Yes chaps, I’ve moved from a country where you can’t flush your TP down the dunny to a country which has settings on the john labelled, ‘seat temperature,’ ‘water temperature,’ and ‘massage!’ It’s like a spa for your arse. Obviously, I felt totally at home from the get-go.

So what else has happened since my last innocuous posts about running? Well, everything, to be brief. The running goals were not kept up – not due to lack of motivation, but a nasty medical irritation caused by aforementioned running challenge, from what I can tell. Talk about bad timing. It also made for a nervous trans-Atlantic flight home, but all went without a hitch.

Two weeks were then spent dashing frantically around England, trying to catch up with as many people as possible and cram in some cold-weather shopping to prepare for the first proper winter I will have had since the start of 2010, as well as trips in to the Korean embassy in London to get my E2 visa for language teaching. When I arrived and headed down the Mall (the embassy is near Buckingham Palace) there was an auspicious line of Korean flags all the way down due to a state visit the day before. I had my

The Shard and Tower Bridge from the love locks on Millenium bridge.

The Shard and Tower Bridge from the love locks on Millenium bridge.

customary sightseeing time around London, this time visiting the V&A for the first time on a beautiful, crisp autumn day. Short trips to Cambridge and York were also shoehorned in. By the time I left, clutching my visa as if my life depended on it and still unwilling to really believe I was heading for Seoul until I finally touched down, my head was spinning.

Sixteen hours later here I was, flying in over the island-strewn coastline as the sun set in the west, fourteen hours before it was due to set in my last place of residence – and in fact about an hour before it was even due to rise there!

First impressions count, and the hazy impressions of tree-covered islands in the hazy twilight, scores of boats dotted between them, juxtaposed against the looming islands closer to Incheon airport connected by the brightly illuminated highways in to the city – roads constructed over the water and outlined in neon shades – gave me a James-Bond-film thrill. Of course, by the time I actually got out of the airport (through a James-Bond-film immigration desk experience – no questions, no looking endlessly between your actual face and the face that you presented eight years ago for the passport photo – instead a high-tech fingerprint scan and photo and a nod on your way) I was so knackered that there were no further first impressions garnered that night. We did go out to find a supermarket, but I only have vague memories of it. As a gauge of how with-it we were feeling, our first meal in Korea consisted of a packet of sausages, a kilo of crabsticks, some cheesy biscuits and an apple. Don’t judge me til you’ve flown through fourteen time zones on very little sleep.

Apart from the following day, which was also spent in a jet-lagged fug roaming the streets of the popular ex-pat district Itaewon, I’ve been in work (on induction – no one is crazy enough to put such a mess of a human in front of paying students straight away) and flat hunting all week. I’m also trying to take advantage of the gym in the basement of the building while I’ve got it, although mostly for the wonderful hot tub and steam rooms. I’ve managed to accrue some foodie firsts: kimchi and soju being the two main ones for a total Korean culture novice. I’ve also had a commercialised bibimbap and an array of bizarre teas, which I thought would be very familiar, but weren’t (in a very good way, that is to say serendipitous taste experiences rather than, “Uuurgh, what just happened in my mouth” experiences) including a brown rice green tea and another green tea which definitely wasn’t any kind of green tea I recognise. To celebrate the end of the first working week we plan to go out for a meal tomorrow. This experience is bound to rely on pointing at something we have no chance of reading on a menu and hoping for a further serendipitous in-mouth experience. I will report back on any interesting results.

Among the multitude of other experiences currently impressing themselves upon my whirling mind are the following:

  • a tube system which tells you exactly which door of which carriage you should board in order to make the swiftest transfer or exit at any given station – genius!
  • the fact that most signs I’ve encountered (thus far at least) are written in Korean and also romanised. This is a life-saver. The only place this doesn’t happen is on the buses, which I finally braved today with excellent results.
  • the vastness of Seoul, which is one of the world’s mega-cities, and the incredible number of people everywhere – all the time.
  • potable tap water. I’ll never take it for granted again.

More to follow when things calm down a bit. Tchau for now!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steph Johnson
    Dec 07, 2013 @ 03:02:33

    How exciting!!!!!! Glad to hear you’re alive and well and enjoying yourself! 😀

    Like

    Reply

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