Saw my brother and his buddy Jeff off today. I admit I envy those guys: they flew to Korea in business class on Asiana, and they'll be flying in business class back to America after they're done traipsing through Cambodia, Vietnam, and China.* At the airport today, Jeff went to the Asiana desk to ask about an upgrade for the Korea-to-Cambodia leg of the trip. The lady at the desk accidentally canceled his and Sean's reservation for the 7:20PM departing flight, so Jeff had to go back to the desk to get the reservation reinstated. This could have been a freak-out moment, but Jeff handled the glitch with efficiency and aplomb.
So I said goodbye to Jeff and my brother, wishing them a safe trip and asking them to send me tons of pics and emails. (Sean's a terrible email correspondent; getting him to reply to my emails in a timely manner—i.e., in under 48 hours—is like pulling teeth. Sean is more likely not to reply at all unless I prompt him a second time.) Here's a quick summary of what the guys saw and did over the few days they were in Seoul:
1. Monday: arrive Incheon International Airport. Dinner at Vatos Urban Tacos in Itaewon.
2. Tuesday: Dongguk University campus; Namsan; Apgujeong; Kangnam.
3. Wednesday: Namdaemun Market and Myeongdong. Dinner with relatives.
4. Thursday: DMZ tour—Panmunjeom, tunnels, etc.
5. Friday: Jongno stroll, including Gwangjang Market, Jogyae-sa, Tapgol Park, Insa-dong, and a sit-down at Seorae, the galmaegisal-jip that my buddy Tom had introduced me to. Also, a stroll along the Cheonggyae-cheon and a brief peek at the Myeongdong Lotte Hotel.
Three surprises: first, Sean and Jeff said they preferred Gwangjang Market to Namdaemun Market, perhaps because the former is smaller and more organized despite its over-emphasis on cloth and clothing. Second, I was surprised that Sean and Jeff both agreed with me when I told them that Jongno was my favorite part of town: it lacks the self-conscious pretentiousness of Kangnam and is an interesting combination of old and new. They felt the same way, as it turned out: Kangnam was definitely bumpin', but Jongno was more their speed. I'm not sure what it is about that part of Seoul, but it possesses its own weird charm. Third, we were all surprised to see how the Apgujeong district has been totally taken over by plastic-surgery clinics. I had been expecting to see the ritz and glitz of the Apgujeong of the past: the Lexus dealerships, the vulgarly expensive boutiques, the high-end restaurants—things of that nature. We saw little to nothing of the sort in our walk that began at Hyundai Department Store. We did, however, marvel at the extensive bakery in Hyundai's B1 level.
A few regrets: I wish we'd all had time to visit Gyeongju. Jeff said there was a national park he'd have liked to see. It would have been cool to fly over to Jeju Island, to see Sorak-san National Park, to visit some mountain temples, some palaces, some museums—to travel out to Yeosu and Busan and Pohang and do a million other things. But Sean and Jeff at least had the chance to get a small taste of Seoul, and they're already discussing the possibility of a return visit next year.
I, meanwhile, had to go home after seeing the guys off. I took a limousine bus to the Jamshil area, then caught a cab to take me the rest of the way back to Third Ajumma's building. Tonight, I get the first of five workouts: I have to pack up most of my stuff and take it all from the fifth floor, where I am now, to the second floor, so that it'll be easier for me to get the sixteen boxes and bags into the drunken-asshole ajeossi's truck early tomorrow morning.
Second workout: tomorrow morning around 8AM, I have to take the boxes and bags from the second floor to the ground level. The ajeossi will be there with his truck around 8:30AM.
Third workout: move everything onto the ajeossi's flatbed.
Fourth workout: drive to my yeogwan downtown and unload my possessions at the ground floor. I'm assuming the ajeossi will be sober enough to drive; he actually stopped by my apartment this evening, eyes watering and breath stinking of drink, to confirm that we were still on for 8:30AM tomorrow.
Fifth workout: take all my boxes and bags up to my fourth-floor room. During all this time, I can't expect the ajeossi to help me: he's pleading rotator-cuff problems, so it'll be up to me to do all the lifting. Tom offered to help, but since he can't help before 1PM tomorrow, it'll be too late: by 1PM, I'll be all done, doubtless nursing my screaming knees and quadriceps after a dozen trips up four flights of stairs.
So! An intense day in store me. By Monday, I'll have ripped open my boxes, sorted most of my stuff, and settled into my new, humble, slightly scuzzy digs (my yeogwan's tasteless pink porcelain sink can only be described as fabulous, baby). All in the name of saving up some cash so I can move once again next year—preferably into someplace more civilized. And larger.
*Both Jeff and Sean work back-breaking schedules, though, and this is the first true vacation that either has enjoyed in a long time. So as I told Sean today at the airport, "You have every right to feel spendy."