As promised, the saga of Seoul in all of it’s glory! Roy-Gene and I hopped in a cab at DGEV with a dream and a cardigan around 6:15 with our coworker Casey. We went first to Waegwan, where we caught a quick 15-minute train to Dongdaegu, the big train hub for Daegu. There we boarded the KTX, the super duper fast train to Seoul–it takes just shy of 2 hours and you get in at Seoul station, the heart of the city.
We got in around 10, and then began to wander and wander and wander as we looked for the way to Hongik University, our stop for the hostel we were staying at. I had downloaded an awesome subway app, but my smaller-town brain and the pretty much million subway colors and lines of Seoul weren’t working late at night. We began to ask Koreans to direct us the right direction, and they were amazing. Actually, all weekend Seoulites were the most gracious people ever, going above and beyond time after time. They made me love Seoul.
ANYWAYS, we made it to the hostel–at every turn I didn’t know what we would do, but it just. kept. working out! Pencil Hostel/Guesthouse in Hongdae is seriously great. We walked in to bedding, towels, shampoo, soap, A/C, TV and a refrigerator and slept like the dead until morning.
Now that we were experienced in all things subway, we went to Myeongdong on the reference of a co-worker to check out H&M, Forever 21, and a host of Western brands. We met a lovely older Korean man, who helped me as I struggled with how to use my subway card in the reader. He then asked if he could help us find anything and recommended a breakfast place to us. We then explored H&M and I felt super thrifty as I picked up a $70 (aka 70,000 KRW) navy blazer for only $30, and a purse $13 instead of $35.
Then came Forever 21. It had FOUR FLOORS. It was magical. Escalators everywhere, men, women, kids, accessories, and I found two cute shirts and some leggings that I figured I should try on. I got to the dressing room and the girl took my items, turned to me and said, “these 2 ok, this (points to leggings) not ok, you will stretch out the shape,” and walks me to a dressing room. I try on the shirts, trying to shake it off. Having worked in retail, I cannot come up with a good reason for what she did. I tried all the “be flexible, this is a different culture” ideas I could think of. And even though I liked one of the shirts I tried on, I left, handing her the items without a word.
I mean…they were leggings. $16 leggings. Was it really vital to not let me try them on? Obviously your brand is doing well for itself; do you really want to…I mean, c’mon. I realize I have a butt. It’s big. It’s out there. It’s also pretty strong. It’s taken a lot of stairs and lunges and hours on a stone floor of an Apple Store. Lately it’s also worn a lot of heels. And you know, as much as I’m trying to eat well and work out and drop some weight, the butt is still gonna be there. It doesn’t need your $16 leggings to feel good about itself. So you, Forever 21, can shove them up your ass.
Me: I can’t wait to go in and be all ‘AMURICA!’
RG: You know it’s like the heaviest fortified embassy ever…you can’t just walk in.
Me: Don’t you just run up to the front gate and scream “I’m an American!” and they have to, like, contractually let you in under asylum?
RG: (jaw drops, shakes head)
So, I didn’t. We ended up walking by, and visited a former palace instead. We then rested up a bit before retrieving the David Brown from the KTX. We traversed back to the hostel to make David think we were pros, and went to sleep to prep for Saturday. Well, tried to sleep. DB got the giggles so bad, I’m not sure he ever slept.
We woke up and headed out around 9, and went to Itaewon, the foreigner district, to find David some clothes, and me some Diet Coke, Roy-Gene some proper coffee, and breakfast for all of us. On Leslie’s (another coworker) recommendation, we went to the Flying Pan-Blue, which was expensive, but good. After that, DB and I trundled around, searching for clothes. I found an appropriately touristy t-shirt that said “I ❤ Korea!” and some leggings at a store for Big and Tall women, where I got to meet 2 South Africans and an Italian expat, all of whom teach English for EPIK, the government program for teaching. We all commiserated about the Forever 21 experience, which is apparently common for those of us lucky enough to be voluptuous in Korea. Dave found the button ups that he was looking for, and I found what made my trip worthwhile:
After that, we went back to our hostel to pick up our bags (and for me to repack to accomodate the plethora of Diet Coke), and headed home on the KTX. All in all, a great trip, and we got to rest and recharge today to prepare for the week.
It was interesting how the vibe and feel of Seoul was very different to Daegu. Everyone was gracious and kind and intentional about helping us. We had people carry bags, ask questions, and race up an escalator to make sure they gave us the right directions. We met expats from all over the world and shopped at a foreign market. I think I understand the feeling people get about New York–it’s huge, it’s overwhelming, it’s fun, but when it boils down to it, it’s about people. I loved every minute.