Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I've always depended on the kindness of strangers

Well, Seoul is behind me again and I'm now in Chungcheongnam-Do at a farm where I hope to be working with chili and soy products. But this post isn't about that, this is about my time in Seoul and how people never cease to amaze me.

I found Eunhye on She was one of many people I contacted for a couch to crash on for my stay in Seoul, and more importantly she was one of the few who returned my message. I contacted her because she lived with her family and I really like the concept of living with other families in other countries to learn more culturally and see the dynamics in how the family acts. I was only supposed to stay with the family for Thursday night, but when my Friday and Saturday host cancelled, Eunhye told me it was ok for me to stay friday as well.

I met up with Eunhye at her subway stop and we went back to her parents place to drop off my bags and then go grocery shopping for dinner. We bought a random assortment of food and made a fun little dinner of crab with broccoli in a garlic cream sauce and korean noodle seafood stew. All very tasty. During dinner her parents came home from their day at a local mountain for a hike. Her parents were so friendly and welcoming, something some people might not be upon meeting a 6'4" big red bearded American in your kitchen who was going to be staying with you randomly for a few days. But they welcome me ever so kindly. Though I was supposed to sleep on the couch, Eunhye gave me her bed to sleep on and she took the couch. I kept trying to insist that I take the couch but she had decided so that was that. Actually, she didn't just give me her bed, but the whole room. We went for a little walk around the area that night, but there wasn't too much going on in the area and it was near 11pm so we went in and called it a night.

A shot of the dinner

The next day was a long one. We went all around the city with sightseeing, tons of eating, and meeting some of her friends. The first stop was for her to show me her university. It was breathtaking, and not just because it was an all girls school. Situated in somewhat close proximity to one of the many beautiful surrounding mountains and very open with lots of green courtyards. We met up with a friend of hers who just got off to class and were off to go to another part of town.

One view from the center courtyard at Eunhye's school

We ended up walking around a nice sort of artsy part of town that was near Gyeongbokgung, the temple I visited on my previous stay in Seoul. We walked all around the little streets and got lunch at a dukkbokki spot for possible the best dukkbokki I've ever had.

dukkbokki with cheese, galbi and a korean noodle

After we walked some more, got coffee (something koreans seem to love to do) and then did a giant loop around Gyeongbokgung, including seeing the presidents house (aka the blue roof house)

me and the presidents house. tada!

We departed from her friend and headed to see the old downtown and then another section of town popular for backpackers. We were supposed to meet another friend but she was running late so after more coffee and a walk around the man made stream that runs through Seoul we decided to get dinner. Eunhye wanted me to try dak galbi as it was on my list of foods to try. Dinner was great, but a cold that was forming from the last trip took a turn for the worse and at dinner I lost my voice. We met up with her friend and got some type of local drink, however I had no voice and the friend could barely speak english as it was so understanding me was even harder than it usually is. So we headed back to Eunhye's place and called it a night.

We now come to saturday, the day I have no place to stay. Eunhye helped me find a hostel that actually had a privtate room available and I packed up to go. She suggested for safety that I leave my things in her room and come back tomorrow to get them. As I was about to leave, her mom suggested that I stay that night as well since she didn't know how safe and clean the hostel would be. Really? I mean I was just blown away at this kindness. They had a family event that night though so I had to be gone till 10pm, to which they kept apologizing. For the record, they're apologizing for not letting me be around the place I'm staying at for no charge. They are apologizing for me putting them out... but i digress.

I left the house and decided to head to Sinchon station area. I then spent the day around there and then at the jjimjilbang, but that is all in a previous post so i shall not repeat myself here.

Sunday I had plans in the evening to couchsurf at another persons place but Eunhye and I were going to go for a hike or something during the day. We started off with church, yes.. church. But I wasn't forced to go, or even really asked. But I figured if I was staying with these nice people the least I could do was go to their church. It's not like I'd understand anything, and I sure as hell wasn't going to start believing in christ now, so what's an hour out of my day?

After church we decided to walk around another part of the city. We got lunch at a korean hot pot place. It was eh,sort of bland but the kimchi there was pretty frickin amazing. Also, when the hot pot neared empty of all but broth they emptied most of the broth and added rice, seaweed and a raw egg. This made a jook of sorts, which I actually liked more than then hotpot.

boring hotpot, great kimchi

the jook.

After lunch we headed over to Changgyeonggung, another palace / park of sorts. This place was beautiful and HUGE!!! We walked a bit and then sat down on one of the many pagoda like entrance steps and relaxed for a while. It was starting to rain and get late so we got ready to head back home.

The palace entrance. Sakuras (cherry blossoms) starting to bloom

Eunhye avoiding the camera

A shot from our resting spot inside the palace

I like these birds. They have these nice long tails with a spot of blue

you can't see it here, but we saw this squirrel like animal that had sort of rabbit ears. Can rabbits and squirrels mate?

On the way home we hit the grocery market to buy food to make dinner. Both being sort of full (as we were always eating or drinking coffee) we decided to just make salads. I told Eunhye I'd make a standard california type salad with what I could find at the market. Shopping in foreign markets is definitely a little difficult. Bleu cheese, for example, is not so easy to find. I bought some ingredients (having to settle with cheese cubes with a bleu flavoring) and we headed back to cook a bit.

my "california" salad of chopped lettuce, sliced grapes, chopped almonds, raisons, and bleu cheese flavored cheese cubes. I made a balsamic dressing as well and ended up adding corn and white onion to add a bit more flavor.

Our dinner. Eunhye made a salmon plate and this crabstick and corn salad. I love crabstick, so I was happy.

Maybe I should re-mention that I was supposed to be staying with a different host this night. It's now past 8pm and I got sucked into this all. The Lee's planned on having me over for one last night and I didn't know how to say "No thanks for putting me up for 2 extra nights but i really need to go somewhere else to a stranger now.. bye" So i emailed the other host, apologizing for my flakiness and I stayed over with the Lee's one last night.

I've been saying this to my friends a lot, but I am constantly blown away by peoples generosity, if they want to share it. There was no reason for the Lee's to host me for a night, let alone 4. But they did. They fed me (I forgot to mention that the first morning when i woke up ahma, Eunhye's mom, made bulgogi just for me so i could have real homemade korean bulgogi) they sheltered me and they showed me around. And I didn't do a darn thing besides soak it up. Sure, I'll host Eunhye if she comes to SF, or others for that matter but that isn't what is being asked for in return. Nothing is being asked for. It's sharing because we can and we should as human beings. And it's beautiful.

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