Weekdays pass like a sequence of flashes, the perpetuum mobile of teaching, I suppose. In the daytime, there is hardly a minute that passes in which I’m not engaged in some sort of activity either with the kids or while I’m running errands like sending off mail or getting coffee to refuel my peppy instructional persona.
The last few weekends have been quite enjoyable. Shopping in Meyon-dong is an overwhelming experience. Crowded street markets wedged between skyscrapers, where old ladies peddle jewelry and trinkets, food vending duos cross-bred with street performers, with perfectly rehearsed scripts of banter between them, in both Korean and English:
American shops are stacked level upon level. Starbucks, Nike, Adidas, Converse. All part of the mix in this bizarre East-meets-West atmosphere. And of course, the globally available “Free Hugs” movement is also present.
More recently, this weekend included a trip to the Hangang Park located alongside the Han River. The park stretches several kilometres along the river and includes a bike trail, walking path, fountains and even exercise equipment. The view is incredible, and you can see quite a stretch of the northern half of the city, which includes Namsan Park and the iconic Seoul Tower.
The heat that Sunday was incredibly high, prompting a visit to the 7-11 for Powerade and sandwiches, and a trip to a water fountain where I literally hosed myself off.
More recently, this weekend I took a trip to Seorae Village, a small French area of the city that grew when a French-language school was relocated there several years back. It’s a quiet collection of bakeries, wine shops and cafes, and I received several greetings of “bonjour” from locals, who may have thought that I was French.
But perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was my visit to a Buddhist temple near Insadong where we quietly watched a prayer service while monks chanted and incense burned, and dozens of followers bowed and chanted beneath the approving smile of three large gold statues of Buddha.
Believer or not, the experience silences your mind from the commotion and clutter of city life and allows you to consider the vast history of this philosophy that millions follow here and around the world. It was a fantastic way to end the day.
That is, until meeting up with friends at the Rocky Mountain Tavern for beer and shooters.
What’s that you say? A shot called “The Halifax Explosion”? Don’t mind if I do.