I'm sure I'm skipping alot of things, but as I don't update as often as I'd like to, lets just skip to whats important...
Yuriko came to Korea last week! Even though she lives in Japan and has been to roughly 20 countries, it was her first time to come to Korea. I think she really enjoyed it. Of course, I didn't find out she was coming to Korea until I got her email "Hey Matt, I arrived in Korea yesterday!" I was working during the week, but I got to see her in Seoul on Friday and Sunday.
On Friday, I went to Namsan Tower with Yuriko, Grace, Kim, Kris, Erin, Jihye, and Jihye's boyfriend. It was cool because Yuriko showed me Tokyo Tower when I was in Japan a few months ago. And its always fun to meet new people. At the tower, there are so many locks locked onto the fence. Couple write love letters on the locks and then they can keep the key or throw it away. It was funny to read them. Its a popular tourist spot, so while there aren't many tourists in Korea you can still see some written in English or Japanese, though the vast majority are in Korean. The messages are pretty simple so I can understand most of them. After that, we took the bus to Myeong-dong. Its one of my favorite areas in Seoul. Its the hub for Japanese and international fashion. There are also many restaurants, shops, and other things. Of course those were all closed. We went to a 김밥 restaurant (cheap korean fast food) and got alot of things to share. After that, Kim, Grace, JiHye, and her boyfriend left. But I went to a bar with Erin, Kris, and Yuriko. We had some somaek (soju + beer) and lots of those complimentary cracker things... about 4 bowls. We had to leave when they closed at about 2:30am. So the next logical progression was 노래방 (singing room). Even though Kris and Yuriko put up some resistance to the notion of singing, they both had a lot of fun once we got there. I forget who suggested that we keep singing after our first hour expired, but it wasn't me. We left sometime between 5 and 5:30. We went to the Jjimjilbang to get a communal sauna and shower before going to sleep.
Waking up at 11am was not fun. Yuriko left the jjimjilbang before I woke up! I had a bit of a hangover but it was bearable. I went to Anguk to meet 호랑이 (tiger)! I was surprised to meet her on the subway! We were both in the same subway car on the way to our meeting place. After we arrived, we spent a long time searching for 칼국수 (i'm not sure why she wanted to eat this). Finally we found a restaurant that serves it. It's a white noodle in a soup... and you can mix peppers and black pepper into the soup for seasoning. It was pretty tasty. After lunch we did alot of window shopping and then got some tea and ice cream. Sadly we both had plans for the evening, so we had to part ways while she went back to 수원 to play with friends and I went to Anam 원불교. At the temple, I met up with Yeoju, Jinsung, Hogyup, and some other people whose names I can't remember. I think Mira was there too (was she the one playing piano?). Our discussion group was small because half of the people were not there. But we had a multilingual philosophy debate over a plate of kimbap and some milk. After that, I slept at the house of one of the group members whose name I can never remember. His father wasn't home this weekend, so it was just the two of us and his sister. I appreciated it that when he phoned his sis to tell her that I'd be sleeping over that he didn't mention I was a foreigner, as people always think that's worth mentioning but I think i'm just a normal person. Besides, it was funny to see her shocked expression when she came in the door. Yuriko calls me at 1am (better late than never) and my phone dies after that.
Sunday morning. I take a quick shower and then we go out to the bakery to get a quick breakfast. I go to the convenience store to charge my phone and buy a Public Transportation stored value card. I get a 10% discount using buses and subway, I can transfer for free, and its really convenient. I just strapped it onto my phone. We played gonggi (a korean game similar to jacks, but better?) killing some time in the morning. Then I was back at the temple because today was the special ceremony for new members. There were about 10... half of them were babies. I had to give a speech as I became a member of the temple. Nobody explained to me what it was that I was supposed to be speaking about. So I just gave a speech full of generic inspiring rhetoric and tried to speak at normal speed or faster, so people wouldn't be able to understand me. Finished it off with 1 word in Korean! Pure Gold! I got a round of applause. We had lunch after that (in the temple) and then I went with Yeoju to her university (kookmin university) to kill some time until my plans with Yuriko. My initial plan was to go ice skating with Seulgi but she was sick!
I met Yuriko at 4pm. While waiting for her friend, I taught her how to play gonggi. I gave her the game and she gave me some Japanese caramels. With her friend Kan, we toured Jungang University then he stayed to meet some friends while Yuriko and I headed north (near Insadong) to meet her friend 재원 (Miss Korea). We had dinner and then did some souviner shopping with Yuriko. We found a shop that had photobooths to take photos and did that quickly... I need to practice my impromptu photo posing. Then we had about an hour so we walked to the station, got my ticket and waited together at the station for 15 minuutes for my train to arrive. After failing to kidnap Yuriko into the train, I resignatedly walked to me seat. I was happy to see Yuriko and Miss Korea outside my window a minute later! We mimed goodbye while taking photos of each other through the window, while I tried to explain in Korean to the girl sitting next to me that she should join in on the photo. The train departed all too soon.
Yuriko is the only friend I've hung out with in 3 countries. Actually, I can't even think of another friend I've hung out with in 2 countries. I need to travel with friends more often.
On the train, I didn't get any sleep because I was talking in Korean to the girl next to me for the entire 3 hours. I got back to my apartment at 2:30, I was so tired! The girl from the train sent me a text message the next day asking me to come drink with her, but as it was already after midnight and she wanted me to take a 30 minute taxi ride, I wisely decided against it, as I had to work the next day.
The students have finals in less than two weeks. I'm looking forward to that day, when I can take a little bit of a rest. I hope to teach them about American Christmas next week!
Happy Holidays to anyone who may read this.