Thursday, October 20, 2011
Mom comes to K-Town!
Last month, I played host to the best house guest on the planet... my mom! As I mentioned in a previous blog, my mom and I travel well together. She did a lot of traveling with her mom when she was younger, and I guess our relationship followed suit in that way. Because she was only here for a week, I had our schedules packed to the minute before she even entered this time zone. Luckily my mom is a trooper and laughed in the face of jet lag.
Her first full day in Korea was spent at my school. She finally got to put an image to the idea of me teaching a class of 40 odd little Korean bandits. My kids were great. They loved having a visitor and each of my 5 classes for the day revolved around Canada, my mom, and my family back home. Aside from the obvious massive language barrier, the kids loved her! Another wonderful introduction on her first day was to Mrs.Kim, my co-teacher. I talk to Mrs.Kim all about my mom and I talk to my mom all about Mrs.Kim. It was so nice to have my worlds collide! Mrs.Kim has been a HUGE (I cannot stress HOW HUGE!) part of the easy transition I had to living in Korea. She has done so much for me and has really played such an amazing role in my life for the past 11 months, so it was really nice to be able to introduce these 2 women to eachother.
As soon as the bell rang on Friday afternoon we were off to play. We left Osan and headed for the bright lights and big city. First stop was Sinchon to drop our bags and check into a seedy love motel. To be honest the love motel was beautiful, but the area is pretty seedy, and we both got a kick out of mother & daughter getting offered hourly rates at the motel. Next stop was Hongdae. What better way to introduce my mom to the mayhem of Seoul than a Friday night in Hongdae. After a bite of dinner, a coffee shop stop and a good dose of people watching, we headed back to our lair.
Saturday morning started off with a visit to Gyeongbokgung. The palace name translates to "The Palace of Shining Happiness" and is one of Korea's greatest treasures. I hadn't actually been there yet and it was a beautful morning, and a great way to see the palace. We leisurely strolled around for a while and soaked up the grandeur of Gyeongbokgung.
From Gyeongbokgung we headed to Noryangjin. Jagalchi fish market in Busan was one of the highlights of the city, in my opinion. I was hoping Seoul had something comparable to this but was a little disappointed. Noryangjin was massive and full of creepy crawlies from under the sea but it just lacked the colour and character of Jagalchi. None the less, we picked out our lunch (and were greatly over charged), had it grilled, steamed and cooked to perfection and served to us at a restaurant in the market. As fresh as we hoped for. Lunch consisted of a steamed squid, some funky looking shells, my favourite grilled flat flounder fish and a Korean delicacy that was highly overated. It was a small fish and we were instructed it was so special because you can eat the whole fish, skin, bones, head and all. Not really a selling point for me, but Garry bit the head off just to say he tried it. Ew. Anyways, overall lunch was delicious.
All fueled up, we headed to Myeongdong. This is one of my favorite parts of Seoul because it's full of people and shopping. We were actually just killing time to make it up to the top of Namsan Tower for dusk since Garry and I had just been up there a few weeks earlier during broad daylight.We forgot to calculate all the young couples lined up for a romantic Saturday night date up the tower and actually made it just in time for dark. But still the views were stunning. Seoul is a beautiful city to see with a birds eyes view. We spent some time wandering about and seeing all the sights and then headed back to our love den for a well deserved sleep after hours and hours of pounding the pavement in Seoul.
Sunday morning we set off for another palace, Changdeokgung, "The Palace of Prospering Virtue". A lot of the architecture is really similar, so once you've seen one exquisite palace, they are all pretty close to that. But again, the sun was shining, and the weather was beautiful so it was lovely to just leisurely walk the grounds and take in all the surrounds. Another great thing about Korea is the entrance fees for these huge attractions are so small. I think we paid a dollar to get in to Changdeokgung. So it was money well spent, to walk around and submerse ourselves in more Korean culture.
From there we took a quick taxi to Insadong, a very traditional area in Seoul. It is now for its art galleries and tea shops and a generally relaxed, enjoyable scene. We stopped for lunch and ordered a table full of some of my favorite dishes to share and let me my try. Between Garry, my mom and I, our orders, plus the multitude of Korean side dishes, there was barely any elbow room at the table. We ordered bibimbop (a rice and veggie mixture), kimchi mandu (steamed dumplings), naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodle soup), and a jigae (thick, hot soup), and of course the mandatory banchan (side dishes). Delicious!!!! My mom loved everything, it was a great meal, and it makes my stomach growl just thinking about all those dishes.We walked lunch off on the main drag of Insadong and nipped into a few places to see what we could see. My mom picked out a few odds and ends as souvenirs and we eventually headed back in the direction of Osan.
Monday was back to work as usual for me. I tried to amuse my mom with a list of things to see and do while I was away. She spent a lot of time with Garry, checked out the market in Osan, wandered all around my little city, ventured by herself into Gangnam, and spent a day at the Korean Fold Village (Look here for a previous blog on the Korean Folk Village ) On Monday evening straight after work, my mom and headed to Suwon to walk the fortress. Unlike our attempt to see dusk at Namsan Tower, our timing in Suwon was dead on. We climbed up just as the sun started to set and got great views of dusk (my mom's favorite time of day too!) from the fortress. Working up an appetite, we met up with Garry and had a great galbi meal in Suwon (Suwon is apparently famous for its galbi?).
Tuesday evening we had a nice treat. Mrs.Kim invited my mother and I to dinner in Dongtan with some of the other teachers at my school. We went to a nice traditional, sit on the floor, kind of restaurant. We had mageoli (traditional rice wine) served to us and a meal full of great dishes my mom could try. It was a really nice meal with the main language spoken in English and some Korean translation happening, instead of the usual Korean spoken with a little english translation. Nice change for me.
Wednesday rolled around WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too quickly for my liking. That was our last evening together. Garry and I cooked a nice meal and the three of us just hung out at home. My mom was heading to Dubai and Abu Dabi after Korea and so she was preparing for her next adventure. I spent the last evening absorbing everything about my mom's presence to make it last for the next 6 months, until I see her again. It made me so happy to be able to add on one more country to the list of places we have been to and experienced together. It also felt really nice to host my mom. She has spent her whole life taking care of me (yup, she still does at 32), and it was nice having her stay at my place, and cooking for her, and showing her around my neck of the woods. A small payback. Thanks Mom, it was so amazing having you here in Korea, come back ANYTIME!