All views and information presented herein are my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State.
Before I begin to describe what an extraordinary week it has been, I want to thank all of you for responding, staying connected and for giving me a purpose to write. This experience is constantly opening my eyes to a different way of seeing the world. My hope is that as you accompany me on this journey, you will also open your eyes to a different way of living so that we may gain a better understanding of Korea and its generous culture.
Seoul is my temporary “home” now and despite the jet lag – 2:00 am is still wake up time – I already feel very comfortable navigating the subway, the street signs, and trying to communicate in minimal Korean.
I am on sensory overload! So much to take in: movement, smells, sounds, languages, colors, textures, food tastes – a constant flow of sensations. My brain can’t stop trying to put it all together.
Curiosity is a great motivator and one of the things I love to explore in life is food. I am very lucky to have my friends who proudly want to share their city. They made sure to make my first weekend memorable by generously opening their home and showing me some of the Seoul’s treasures. One of these treasures is their snack food. The boys and I devoured the potato twists and their mom and I bravely snacked on boiled silkworms – they boys refused to! Of course, the potatoes were not surprisngly delicious – the silkworms were surprisingly tasty and crunchy. We also enjoyed delicious Chinese food and the most scrumptious French pastries.
I am trying to become familiar with my surroundings. I walk all day discovering what is around the corner, across the street, up on a hill. I am surprised by streets that lead me to unexpected places – leaving the Seoul Museum of Art I walked up a sinuous narrow street surrounding Deoksugung Palace and felt like I was transported in history to some distant dynasty. Taking a bus and getting off at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the magical architecture of Zaha Hadid threw me into a silvery curvilinear future while at the same time I was looking back in history at one of Seoul’s glorious gates and part of its remaining fortress wall.
Not too far from my apartment I discovered Han-gang Park. Thousands of people gather there to enjoy a quiet moment on the grass, take a swim, go on a bike ride, or just gaze at the scenery. The park, another fascinating space, lies by the banks of the river Han surrounded by trees, restaurants, play areas and a zig-zagged sky of bridges and highways that make up a patchwork of “sky and ceiling”. Imagine a river that is crowned by 22 bridges connecting the two sides of the city.
Seoul is a city of juxtapositions, of opaque old and shiny new, of squatting houses and climbing buildings, of tiny snacks and huge banquets, of past and future.
But before I leave you until my next entry, I want to share with you what I did today. I went to my first class as a student at Chung Ang University. My professor gave me the warmest welcome. He introduced me as a “visiting professor” and asked me to tell his students the purpose of my trip. You will love to know that his class looks so much like ours. There are students from the States, China, Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Russia, Vietnam, France, Denmark and Germany. We are all learning about Korea’s history and culture. We had great discussions and it was wonderful to be in a room with so many smart students, excited to learn. Just like us, I hope you have a wonderful school year. I can’t wait to meet you or see you again soon.
Enjoy the pictures and see what you can discover!