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Our Adventure Begins

We are officially Seoulites. We moved into a spacious, empty apartment on the campus of Sogang University. By empty, I mean there are a few pieces of furniture but nothing else. Did you ever move anywhere and start from scratch to put together a home? Where you don’t speak the language? And don’t know your way around? I’m guessing not.

Seoul hasn’t stopped surprising us. It is a huge cosmopolitan city. The bright lights and late nights could put Times Square to shame. There seems to be a café for every three people, and many have giant roasters in their windows. (I’m writing this inside one of them.) We live near an abandoned trolley line that has been converted into a 6 km-long park, studded with fanciful sculpture and lined with cafes. One section of the park has been converted to a book area, with old trolley cars turned into bookstores and lots of art celebrating reading. It is my new running route, and it may spoil me for runs on the Saddle River path forevermore.

However, our first day was pretty much consumed just by buying bedding. It took so long for a good reason: we required three tries to get a taxi to take us to the store. The first one took us to the wrong destination. The second seems to have thought we wanted to go cross country and refused to take us. Finally, we wound up at a Korean version of Walmart where we found linens, pillows and even some silverware, chopsticks, and a cooking pot!

We celebrated our success with our first restaurant meal since March. It involved boiling soup stock on a burner on our table with greens, some shrimp, a raw octopus for us to cook, and some raw beef to add in. How, you may ask, did we choose this dish? Answer: we didn’t. The menu was all in Korean and nobody spoke English so we looked at the table next to us and said we would like two servings of that. (My months of Korean lessons enabled me to ask for two servings. I could even ask what the dish was, but it didn’t matter because I couldn’t understand the answer.) The waitress was kind enough to stop by and demonstrate how to mix in the ingredients and how to cut up the octopus. It was a delicious, and completely new experience.

Being so “American” we were surprised to find how few people speak English here. I know, I know, I shouldn’t even admit this. After all, nobody would ever come to the United States and expect people to speak Korean. But after majoring in Spanish and enduring Hebrew school, I can usually get the gist of what people are saying in Spanish, Hebrew, French and Italian. Korean is a whole different kind of challenge.

We have appreciated every single person who has been helpful. There was a couple who found us wandering in a mall and walked us to the entry of a store we couldn’t find. There was a group of guys in a restaurant who ordered a surprise meal for us. Best of all, there was the woman from the cell phone store who not only explained Korean cell plans with unending patience, but also texted me YouTube links about Korean cooking afterwards.

When I get home, I’m going to be that kind of person.

P.S. Enjoy this slideshow of our first adventures: food shopping, fun neighborhoods, street art, and the sunrise from our bedroom.

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