Exhaustedly, I turned the corner of Shin-Imamiya station to one of the side streets. I suddenly couldn’t remember how to say “where is…” in Japanese and I am alone, unable to find my hostel. I walk up to two guys who look my age and, to my embarrassment, ask where such and such street is in English. So much for my quick studying before coming to Japan. I eventually found my hostel in a little nook just a little further from where I had gotten lost. Immediately afterwards, I looked for a restaurant. Found one where they served kimchi fried rice, though I did not even know what I was ordering it until they put it on my table. The menu was entirely in Japanese, so I just pointed and let the waiter and cook do the rest.
It was not until I got to Japan that my inability to do little things like order without pointing became so apparent. Though I had grown frustrated at times from my lack of Korean understanding throughout the six months, I realized just how much I actually knew about Korea because I truly knew very little in Japan. The Japanese were so kind, but I found that few spoke English (not that I should expect them to…I should be speaking Japanese in Japan). The intricacies of the subways, the ubiquitous kanji (Chinese characters), and the greater distances between cities were all a bit overwhelming in Japan. Putting it all aside, I loved spending time with my mother, and I miss her already. I will let the photos and their captions tell the stories!
I arrived in the city of my dreams on the evening of January 4, ready to take a Korean language course at Seoul National University. I call Seoul that because it meant so much to me to live in the cultural center of Korea, a country I so wanted to visit before the Fulbright. I don’t think I ever fully expressed the magnitude of my happiness to my Fulbright peers who were taking the same course.
My month in Seoul certainly did not disappoint. I met people from Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Spain, and the Netherlands in my class. Not only did I love the international atmosphere, but I gained so much more knowledge of the Korean language. I met friends who I had not seen for months, be they from Grinnell, Fulbright, or elsewhere. I cut my hair and straightened it, after 4 and a half years of growing it out. I plan to donate the hair once I return to the states.
I also had a small excision done on my shoulder at Severance Hospital to remove a benign, but potentially annoying cyst. (No worries, it didn’t hurt really, plus it was so inexpensive. I couldn’t believe it!) Lastly, I even dated, fell in love, had a brief relationship, and was heartbroken over the span of two short months, the second of which was in Seoul. I don’t think this city could have possibly given me many more happy or jolting experiences within the span of a month. The City of Dreams will keep its title in my book, not so much anymore for just the cultural experience, but for the experiences I will take with me.
A nagging voice in my head keeps telling the same thing: I’m ready to move on. I leave tomorrow and will be back in my small town for a week, work for another, then travel to Cambodia, Thailand, and Taiwan. As if one month did not show and teach me enough, now I have another 28 days full of unknown and crazy experiences to be had. However, despite feeling like I’ve had enough of Seoul, as I keep reflecting on this past month, something big still keeps me attached to the city. Maybe the nagging voice is speaking too soon…
Am I really ready to move on?
A photo of me at a coffee shop in Seoul. I was kind of tired that day. Also, I’m still getting used to the haircut. It’s so different from anything I’ve ever had!
Our Korean language class. Had lots of fun with these guys! Our professors are the ones on the bottom row to the right.
A look inside Lotte World in Seoul. It’s apparently one of the largest indoor amusement parks in the world.
More Lotte World! Owned by the super company Lotte (they own department stores, a burger joint, have a grocery store, and probably more that I don’t know)
I went with a friend to this eating ground, where we ate between getting on the rides in Lotte World.
A Shinto Temple in Kyoto
The Silver Temple grounds in Kyoto. I went with a Fulbright friend who I happened to stumble upon during my time in Japan! I also met up with a high school friend there.
My mom looking like a true model on a hiking trail on Miyajima, Hiroshima.
Me! On the same hiking trail on the beautiful island of Miyajima. I will most definitely be going back.
To be honest, I can’t quite remember what this was! I think it was one of the boardwalks my mom and I passed on our way through Miyajima.
A large temple off to the distance on Miyajima.
Taking the opportunity to take a photo with the parental! My hair is all out of sorts…
My mother with the ruins of the Atomic Bomb Dome on the left in Hiroshima.
The hypocenter, right below where the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
The nearest building to the blast that still stood: the Atomic Bomb Dome. It was undergoing renovation when we were there.
Okonomiyaki! It was pretty good, and apparently it’s a specialty of Hiroshima and Osaka.
This one’s for my brothers mostly. We would play Sonic a good deal when were younger, so it was cool to see Amy Rose and all of the Sonic and Mario references everywhere in Japan.
At a newly opened exhibit for Pokemon in the middle of Tokyo. Sorry for the blurry photo!
At the Floating Garden Observatory in Osaka with Sammy, a good friend of mine from Grinnell.
Sammy! Enjoying our sushi in Osaka. He’s teaching as a JET in the Nagasaki area. We spent Christmas together before I met up with my mom.
This sushi was amazing. I loved it and will certainly miss it.
Osaka Castle in the middle of the city. Sammy and I rode bikes all around the city for Christmas. (Christmas is significantly more secular in Korea and Japan than in the United States…my students often complained that they had no boyfriend/girlfriend for the holidays. Christmas is more a couple holiday here than a family one as back in the States)
A Shinto temple in Osaka
A zoo in the Shinsekai area in Osaka near my hostel.
Entrance to Shinsekai, an area with a bunch of restaurants and shops.
I will end this post with a song that Kyuhyun recently put out. I really like his singing style, and this ballad is named after one of my favorite areas in Seoul, Gwanghwamun. He talks about his memories of a special someone who is no longer a part of his life.