For the last week my friend Angelina Ray has been visiting me here in Korea. I know Angelina from my time at Fuller Theological Seminary. I worked for her as her assistant. She was an academic advisor for the school of psychology. That was about three years ago and she has since become my best friend. Her visit was a source of great fun and enjoyment.
Over the week we went and explored many different places. Her first night here we had dinner with my co-teacher Choi. Choi took us to a restaurant called Dino Meat. The restaurant was basically just a buffet of meat. Each table had its own grill or hibachi and you go up to a display area (looks like the butcher’s section of a grocery store) and you just pick out whatever meat you want. They hand it to you and you go and cook it on your grill and you just keep going back up to the front as often as you want to grab more meat of all varying types. Choi ate so much and I tried to keep up but I got to the point where I just gave up. Angelina only had a little. She never eats that much and in particular plain meat is not something that is overly exciting or pleasing to her palate.
I really felt bad that this was her first food experience in Korea but I really had no idea where Choi was going to take us so we just went where we were taken. But we made it through dinner and then Choi dropped us off at Lake Park where I took Angelina over to the large fountain to show her the fountain show. Every night at the fountain there is a musical show where the fountain “performs” using various types of water towers and sprays along with various colors and music. It makes for a very fun time for the eyes.
The next day we went down to Hogdae, which is where Dos Tacos is and met up with a friend of Angelina’s who lives here. His name is Romyl and they are friends from high school. Romyl has been here for a year and so was very familiar with the city. He was more than happy to meet us for lunch and yes by my design to go to Dos Tacos with us. Romyl is a great guy and I was so glad I got to meet him. I am hoping to be able to spend more time with him in the future.
That night we went over to Seo’s house for dinner. Seo is one of the other English teachers at my school and her son is Jong Woo, who I’ve become friends with and have written about before. Dinner was good but we ended up having our lunch with Romyl fairly late and dinner came a bit too soon so our appetites were not really at their peak. I stuffed most of my meal down. It was good consisting mostly of noodle dishes but Angelina was not able to eat very much. She liked what she had but due to the amount she ate everyone kept asking her if the food was okay or why she didn’t like the food? Angelina had to just keep explaining that she thought the food was good but she was simply full. After dinner Jong Woo ran into his room and came back with a Korean board game. I admit I was not overly excited about learning and playing a new game. Part of the reason was that Angelina and I had talked about going to the movies after dinner to see Inception. But we stayed and played the game. Learning new games is never easy but it is especially hard when you are being instructed by a 10 year old who only knows some English. The game is fairly simple and Angelina picked it up very quickly. Sadly I did not. I really only got the hang of it after the second game at which time we stopped. I lost both games. The game does not end after one person wins rather the game continues until everyone is done, kind of like a race, and I was last both times. And yes I got a little frustrated at times even though I was only playing with Angelina, Jong Woo and his sister who is only 7. Angelina thought it was funny so at least there’s that. After we left we went down to the movie theater but decided not to go to the movie instead we just walked around and I showed her the main entertainment area in Ilsan called LaFesta. As we were walking around we ran into my friends Andrea and Ashlea so Angelina got to meet both of them. We set up some plans to get lunch later in the week but those plans later fell through and we were never able to get another time set up so Angelina never really got to spend any time with them but at least they met.
On Wednesday Angelina and I had lunch with my friend Lucas. Lucas took us to a restaurant that served bulgogi, which is a very popular Korean food. It is marinated and grilled beef kind of like barbecue in fact many just call it Korean barbecue. Anyway the food was good and Lucas and Angelina got to visit, which made me happy.
After lunch I wanted to take Angelina back to Lake Park so she could see it during the day. Based on where the restaurant was I was pretty sure we weren’t too far away from the park. In fact I was fairly confident we were directly north of the park. As we traveled the path through a park that really was a small mountain I led with a lot of doubt and fear but we eventually we ended up right where we wanted to be at Lake Park. So while the park was directly south of the restaurant like I thought it was not as close as I had guessed. The walk just to get to Lake Park from the restaurant took about 45 minutes and it was terribly hot that day. There wasn’t a part of me that wasn’t wet by the time we got to the park and once there all I wanted to do was walk around the park for her to see. In all our walking adventure to and around the park ended up consuming about five hours. That night we went to the movies and saw Inception. The movie was fine but nothing I would consider amazing which is what both Angelina and I had heard about the movie. But I’m not very picky about movies and we had a good time.
Thursday was a day of shopping. First we went to one of the larger shopping districts in the city called Myeong-dong. This part of the city is filled with many types of stores, which include a lot of the major retail stores from the US and from other countries. During our time there it was actually me who ended up buying things. I walked away with three new shirts, which were all on sale at my favorite store here called UniQlo. We then jumped on the train and headed to a more touristy area called Anguk where Angelina was able to shop for present for all the friends and family she had promised gifts to. I had never been there so it was an exploratory adventure for both of us. The markets there were great. There were tables and stores everywhere covered with products that were great for souvenirs. By the time we got home we had been out for around seven hours. We were both so tired that we decided we were going to spend Friday inside and just watch some movies and hang out.
So on Friday we woke up with no particular plan but within an hour we decided to go ahead and go out again. We went back to Anguk so Angelina could grab a few more presents but while we were there this time we also went to Changdeokgung Palace. The palace was huge, It’s an entire compounded filled with buildings of various sizes and gardens and other sites. We explored for a while and then headed back to the train.
I then took Angelina to Itaewon, which is the part of Seoul where the most foreigners congregate. You can think of it being like Korea Town in Los Angeles or China Town in San Francisco. So in Iteawon there are a lot of Western stores and restaurants. We went to a Mexican restaurant, which was pretty good. We also did some shopping. Angelina found some purses that were apparently a great deal here. She bought five purses for what she said was less then just one of those purses would have been in the US, of course I would have never known. I also took her to the English book store in that area that I kind of like. It’s not huge but I still like it. They have new and used books and they can order any book you want from back in the US. Now Angelina had just brought me six books to me from home so I really had no need for another book anytime soon but I couldn’t help myself and bought a book from the used section that was fairly cheap. So now I just have to read all of them.
Saturday ended up being what we had intended for Friday to be. It was a day of nothing. We watched DVDs and talked most of the day. Nothing exciting to report but it was one of my favorite days.
Sunday was another kind of slow day. The main task of the day was to figure out how we were going to get Angelina to the airport. No one was able to take us so we were going to use the bus system. Now Seoul has a great transportation system but like all things it is fairly useless if you don’t know how to use it. I had talked to Choi (my co-teacher) and did research online and we figured out what we thought was the best way to get to the airport. But I was not willing to wait until Monday to make sure everything we thought was true actually was true. So we did a dry run taking the bus from by my apartment down to where the bus for the airport came. As simple as that sounds it really took quite a while to find the exact place the bus came and to confirm that it was the bus we wanted. It is called a limousine bus and serves a great way to get to the airport with limited stops and with all your luggage.
Then today we got up and basically took off for the airport. The trip went perfectly. The only annoyance was that it was raining when we were going from my apartment to the place where we would catch the bus to the airport. We got to the airport almost 3 hours before Angelina needed to go through security so we had lunch and just soaked up our last remaining minutes together. I had spent all week trying, and basically succeeding, to not think about this moment but there was no getting around it now. And before I knew it she was gone.
The past month was one where I saw very few people and spent most of my nights and weekends alone. This did not cause me to be sad or anything like that rather that was simply the way it was and I didn’t think too much about it. But it is funny to see how your view of things changes when you get to be with a friend 24/7 for a week. No time felt wasted when I was spending it with Angelina. It didn’t feel like I wasn’t accomplishing something more important or that I should be doing something else rather it was both exhilarating and relaxing. It was exciting to have someone to talk to constantly, to share thoughts with and point out and laugh about things that are odd to us here in Korea. And it was relaxing to just be content with whatever happened each day because it happened with a friend. It was much easier to allow our “plans” to remain tentative and not stress out (for the most part) about how we were going to get from one place to another. This really was a great week and I am so thankful that Angelina came over here to visit. It reminded me of all the things I love about home. I have two more days off before school starts so hopefully it will give me a little time to readjust to the single man’s life here, which probably just means two days of lying in bed and weeping into my pillows. You are already greatly missed Angelina.