After a few issues finding jobs, we finally got some ace positions in Songpa-Gu, Seoul. So, after much confusion and a lot of scrambling for jobs, we arrived in Seoul with a month of free time before we actually start. So, as was once suggested to us, when in doubt, we headed south.
We wrapped up our time in Seoul by going to drop our luggage off with our new school. After lugging 200 pounds of luggage across the entire Seoul subway system, we showed up good and drenched in sweat to meet our new boss for the first time. After giving us ice water and ensuring that we weren’t about to pass out (even though we looked like we might), we were able to tour our school, meet the current teachers, and say hello to some of the adorable and enthusiastic students. The school is relatively small (with only two foreign teachers and about 5 Korean teachers) and 7 or 8 classrooms. Everyone at the school was wonderfully kind. The bosses even took us to lunch where we had our first Hanjeongsik, or Korean set menu, which included plenty of fermented vegetables, soups, rice, pork, and fish.
The next day, we left Seoul to make our way Southeast. We are now in Gyeongju, the capital of the ancient Silla Dynasty (57 BC-935 AD), a dynasty that ruled the Korean Peninsula for 1000 years. There are a lot of historical and museum-y things to be seen, but we spent the first night spending a ridiculous amount of money on two shots of whisky (though the bottomless Doritos and chocolates that came with it almost made up for the cost) and hanging out in our somewhat dingy hostel with wet and hairy bathroom floors.
Then came our second experience with han-jeon-sik, and the time we learned the name for good. Koreans are not big on breakfast, so hearing that western breakfast could be found down the road, we headed off with thoughts of eggs and buttered toast. The Korean waitress, seeing that we knew none of what the menu meant, pointed to han-jeon-sik nodding approvingly. Assuming this would be the western-style breakfast and approximating its meaning to be first meal (as hana is the Korean word for one), we happily agreed. What we forgot, however, is that Korea is Hanguk, and the prefix han actually signified this was a traditional Korean meal. We soon had another traditional Korean feast sitting before us, including a whole fish, bowls of anchovies covered in chili sauce, a sort of mayonaisse and cucumber salad with tiny eggs in it, and plenty of kimchi (fermented and spiced vegetables) – at 8 AM. So we learned something new today.
After our breakfast, we started walking to view some of the tombs and other sites in the town. Unfortunately, it’s over 100 degrees and the most humidity either of us have ever experienced. We were driven in within a few hours, but got to meander a little.
This trip feels much more like a foreign country than Seoul did. Even though the language is so different (and the weather), there are strange things that make it feel the same as home. Korea, like anywhere foreign, feels strangely familiar at times, despite its differences. Thankfully, the coffee craze is on in Korea, and we can indulge as we adjust to our new country.
Twenty-three more days left of wandering before we start our new jobs, and some beautiful places to see. Next stop, Busan.