You know, I write a journal more than a blog…

I guess that’s okay, most of the time. But I am enjoying reading some of the other things that I run across–more bloggy things, and I wonder–how can I do that?

My mom sent me this article on the Matador, called: The Expat Conundrum: The Longer You Stay, The More You Complain”. It is kind of an interesting article. They are taking about Mexico, but I do feel like the people who have been here the longest complain a lot. I actually ran into a guy down by the river who had lived here for several years. He definitely had the “they” attitude that the author talks about. Harsh. Serious. Acted like he got stuck here. After I said I was new, his first idea was to give me the name and number of someone to call if I “got into any trouble.”

Now the other article that I was reading on this website was this: “6 Ways To Not Be A Holier-Than-Thou Traveler.” I am guilty of some of these things–especially here in Korea. I’m trying my hardest not to let Ghana spill over into my experience here, especially now that I am trying to make new friends… but I can’t help it. I mean, everything there seemed so much more hard core. More difficult. So when this gentleman told me that if I “got into any trouble”, I should call this guy… I thought: “What kind of trouble can I possibly get into that is worse than the trouble I could get into in Ghana?” So I am majorly guilty of the Holier than Thou attitude. Because your wallet can get stolen in any country. Your passport can get stolen in any country. You can be in a terrible car accident in any country–but I drop “Africa” like it is this magical place that makes me more hard core than the others here. And I know that if my African friends heard me say those things, they would be annoyed. But sometimes, that “this is easy because I’ve done something much harder” attitude gets me through the difficult days here. Because, really, it is hard here, too, and I need something to remind me that I can do it.

Anyway I am really enjoying these articles on Matador, and browsing through them. It feels good to be a traveler again, no matter where I am–and that brings me to my excellent weekend, which I promised I would report on.

Let me sum it up for you.


On Saturday, as I mentioned before, Stephanie and I visited Gyeongbokgung. This enormous palace was constructed for the Joseon dynasty, which ruled Korea from 1392 to August 1910. The picture above is from the retreat quarters of King Gojong. Inside there are quarters for the King and Queen, as well as a study–though it was most certainly blocked off from tourists. The area was restored in 2007, after having been dismantled in 1909, during Japanese occupation. An art museum was put on the location in 1939.
The palace had two main areas–the public and the private. The public areas were enormous, impressive, places where the king could strut, as it were. The roofs were two tiered, everything was tall and extravagant, and the painting was out of this world. Humans just looked insignificant next to and inside these enormous buildings.

 After going to this palace, Stephanie and I set out for a market, that turned out to be a shopping mall and not a market. But the journey to the market was one full of tiny street vendors. In Korea street vendors sell things out of these little retractable trailors. When they are finished selling, they close down the doors and drag the metal box away–like a dragable garage. Then they bring it home or just leave it in some alley somewhere. I saw one man packing up and I thought this was just brilliant, and quite hilarious to boot. Of course, there was another man along the road who was selling notebooks and paper supplies out of the back of a pick up. Stephanie stopped to grab a notebook, and I just stared in true-love fascination.

I picked up a bunch of little trinkets, which I adore, even though they may be kitchy and touristy. I like touristy stuff–no prob for me. Now I have some little glass kimchi peppers on my phone, haha.

After we discovered that the market was actually less interesting than the street-to-the-market, we departed for Itaewon, which is the foreigner section of Seoul. It used to be sleezy, because it was mostly military men, and there are a lot of American GIs still there, I guess, but now it is full of just about anyone. There is a big mosque on a hill, and there are Muslims everywhere. I was simply overjoyed about that one. There were lots of Africans, too, and Stephanie and I went to a restaurant owned by Ghanaians!! Not only Ghanaians, but people from the Ashanti region, which means that they spoke Twi! We made some nice new friends… and actually this one guy insists on calling me two or three times every day, which is something that I hated when I was in Africa, but now it’s kind of nice. I get to talk to someone before work, and it isn’t about work, and it isn’t complicated and confusing. Just talk. It also helps that I don’t live in Seoul, though, lol, because he doesn’t constantly ask me to visit him. 

Anyway, our new African friends were definitely NOT Muslim because they decided that it would be an excellent idea to get us to try their ‘healing’ wood liquor that had been home made in Korea. (Of course, it’s home made in Ghana, too, but seeing it in Korea is weird and confusing. Also because it definitely looked like it was in a juice jug.) That was an enlightening experience, lol… especially because they totally refused to let US refuse. I had a good laugh, but had Stephanie not been there I probably would have been awkward and upset about it. I do believe, though, that it was the same material that I had been drinking in the stilt village on my 21st birthday.

Anyway, on Sunday Stephanie and I visited a huge Buddhist temple called Bong Eungsa, or 보은사. This is a full time used temple, with monks and nuns and worshipers coming in and out. I loved the feeling of it. A quiet, sacred sense settles over you, and you feel like a tourist, but not like a worthless tourist. You feel like you’ve come to see something important. There is also an awkwardness about it, because there are people praying and worshiping around you. That is hard, but the tension makes you realize things. Tension always leads to realization, I think, anyway, and I enjoy it.

The painting on this temple was out of this world. I’ve seen good painting, especially at the palace that we visited on Saturday, but this temple had murals on the walls. Scenes from the Buddha’s life, scenes from the lives of Bodhisattvas and probably kings as well. There was no one to explain it, so as the monk chanted in the main building, I simply stared at it, and attempted to take a few measly pictures. They don’t do it justice.

The monk was chanting when we arrived, and the prayer hall in the front of the building was full to the brim of women. It was all women, not a single man. I don’t know why. The chanting was as beautiful as the buildings. As the monk left, I came eye to eye with him, bowed my head in some kind of greeting, but I don’t know if it was rude or just ‘typical’ for a foreigner to do something awkward like that. But I wanted to let him know that I appreciated his voice, and his temple, and his religion, and his purpose… so I looked him in the eye and greeted him. I hope he saw it that way, but I doubt it. Ah well.

The temple had several main halls in the front of the complex, but it was in front of a rising mountain, so smaller Bodhisattva complexes rose up into the forest above. The higher we climbed, the more of metropolitan Seoul spilled out from behind the temple roofs. The ancient, painstakingly maintained buildings with delicate painted halls stood in front of glass sky scrapers–the Seoul World Trade Center–the Co-Ex twin-tower shopping mall–roads of busy, honking traffic. It was ironic and rather superb that this temple, a relic of “old” Korea, but a reminder to “new” Korea, stood in the middle of this development and urban bustle.  

After the temple we went to a market, which is where the first picture is from. It was mostly closed, but I enjoyed it anyway, and since there was a lack of people, I didn’t feel too pushed and shoved with my big backpack on my shoulders. (Then quite full of trinkets, clothing, and rinkydinks that I bought.)

It’s time for me to get on my bike and tool down to work, so I’ll leave you with this image, and a link to the others on Facebook. 

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