Monthly Archives: November 2012

South Korea…

Yesterday I arrived in South Korea and it has been nonstop ever since!  The bus from the airport is about two hours so I jumped on that and made it to the neighborhood I am staying in right in the dark of night.  I was graciously offered a couch surfers apartment to myself for the next few days while she is busy between her girlfriends place and work, so excitedly I took Kate (my host) up on the offer.  For some reason, between exhaustion, a new country and not having a bloody clue where I was, I found myself lost wondering the back roads of Seoul.  Sometimes, there is no better feeling than being lost in a country you don’t know and trying to ask for directions from someone who does not understand a word you are saying but sometimes that feeling is a traveler’s worst enemy.  Last night, I was not a fan.  Thankfully though, I found my way thanks to the help of an older gentleman who let me use his phone in exchange for me to listen to the five English words he knows again and again and again.

Today was a perfect combination of a ton of fun and a complete bust.  I only had one full day in Seoul to sightsee since tomorrow I take a day trip to the North Korean boarder (hooray) so I had everything all planned out with what I wanted to do.  I found a hop-on hop-off bus that takes you to all the major sites in the city for only ten dollars which you really cant beat since it includes an English audio guide of all the buildings we drove past and the ability to avoid learning yet another public transportation system!  I was really excited to see the Traditional Korean Village and Gyeongbokgung Palace but just my luck they are both closed on Tuesday’s.  My next mission was to see the Deoksugung Palace changing of the guards, but nooo, we got caught in traffic and I missed it by minutes.  Then, I ran out of money, headed to the ATM and accidently used my visa instead of my bank card which means I will get charged way more than a penny pincher is comfortable with.  Ah well, tis life.  At least I was able to shop around both Dongdaemun Market and Namdaemun Market.  Plus, while waiting for a bus after one of these frustrating moments, a man came up to me and asked for my name, I told him what it was, he wrote it down and said he picks new people to pray for every day and today he was going to pray for me – what an encouragement.

It was really nice to drive around the city today and see so much.  It is Fall here right now and the leaves are a perfect combination of colors.  I was having a bit of a moment on the bus, thankful I got not one but two Fall seasons back to back this year and sad that all these beautiful leaves make me think of my Dad’s passing.  Gratitude and sadness seem to coexist so much in my heart since losing my Dad.  Anyway, as I sat there staring out the window contemplating which feeling outweighed the other, loving the Fall, or having it remind me of one of my greatest loses, I saw a man delicately gathering the leaves and turning them into shapes of hearts all over the sidewalk.  It really was an amazing moment, as if my inner contemplations were acknowledged and answered within seconds of thinking them.  Peace, love, beauty, this season still resembles all these things.  I am not alone, not in these thoughts, not in these moments, regardless of where I am in this world or with whom, I am not alone.

Tomorrow I technically go to North Korea.  How amazing is that?!?  I must try to get some sleep now but the only problem is I am like a kid ready to go to Disney and I just may not be able to fall asleep with this much anticipation.  I’ll write again tomorrow, XO!

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Tokyo madness…

Well, it’s official, I am having a blast in Tokyo!  I have been able to see quite a few things since getting here and I am quite sure by the time I get home my feet may just very well fall off from walking so much!  It is wonderful!

I am missing my hubby like crazy yet enjoying this time as a couple where we both get to do our own thing.  One part that was difficult with me leaving was Halloween.  I love holidays and I love “first’s” and this Halloween would have been mine and Quinn’s first Halloween in our new house to hand out candy.  I was sad I had to miss that with him but glad I was able to do some Halloween celebrations over here.  Candice’s girls had a Halloween party/concert at their school so I went shopping around town, found myself a big fluffy giraffe costume and headed to the party.  It was great fun with my cousin to hit up the train and do a little goofing around.  As a foreigner you get enough looks as is when you are walking down the street, but a foreigner dressed as a giraffe, it’s a whole new ball game!  Candice and I laughed and laughed that afternoon…most definitely some of my favorite Japan moments!

Before my Aunt Cheryl went back to Canada we spent an afternoon and headed to the East Gardens of the Emperors Palace.  It is amazing to me how green Tokyo is compared to what I envisioned.  They have what is called a sun law here which means buildings can only be X amount of stories high depending on the area and also, depending on what direction your building faces a certain angle is required on the roof to allow as much sun as possible.  This means Tokyo is actually quite sunny and not filled with sky scrapers, a lovely surprise from what I envisioned.  The gardens were beautiful and a nice way to escape the busy streets.

Speaking of busy streets, I also went to the Shibuya crossing which was insane!  At that intersection, every time the light turns green an average of 5000 people cross the street!  It is the busiest intersection in the world and was really amazing to see.  Close to Shibuya is an area called Shinjuku and that was a lot of fun to walk around as well.  The shopping is amazing although the prices don’t quite work on a back packers budget but it was still fun to walk around and see.  That train station is also the busiest station in the world and it was insane to find my way around.  I think I walked for almost an hour just looking for the gate I needed to get back home.  In 2007 that station had 3.67 million people go through it every day, I cant even imagine what those numbers would be today.  In this area this is also a lot of Cat Cafes.  They are literally cafés where you can get coffee, tea and cake and sit in a room with dozens of cats that you pet, talk too, and play with.  I did not go into one because it is quite expensive, but I did go check one out to take a few pictures.  It was amazing to me to see so many couples just having their afternoon getaway together with a bunch of cats.  Crazy concept to me but that is what I am loving about this city…a million crazy concepts all rolled into one place!

Two nights ago the Potters all loaded up and brought me over to city hall which takes you up 55 stories for a panoramic view of the city.  It was incredible to see a view like that!  I immediately felt like a speck of sand in the city.  It was an amazing view of literally endless lights.  I have not been able to see the view during the day, but on a clear day you are able to see Mt. Fuji from there.  Last night was Candice’s monthly book club and since I had already read the book I tagged along to meet a few new ladies and enjoy an Arabic meal.  It was so great to have an evening of conversation and a bonus of belly dancers and so many smiles my cheeks hurt at the end of the night.  I am just having a blast here!

Tonight I ate a Japanese traditional meal, raw horse.  One of the things I make sure to do in each country is try to eat a food common to the country but much different from anything I can find at home, as far as I know, raw horse is most definitely in that category.   One of the first things I asked Doug to do (Candice’s husband) when I got here was take me to eat a strange traditional meal from Japan and raw horse is what he came up with.  It was a really great restaurant too where we were in our own private room which had a children’s play area inside of and a divider to separate the kids from the adults…it was brilliant.  Loading up four kids to take me anywhere, especially in a restaurant is a pretty big feat so I very much appreciate all the things the Potters have done with me because I know it must not be easy.  It has been so, so wonderful staying with them!  Anyway, back to the horse, the meat itself didn’t taste like it would be so bad, but the texture of eating it raw made me gag.  It was such a disgusting feeling having raw horse in my tummy too.  I only had once piece and it was definitely enough!  Here, horse races are very common and when certain horses are no good and lose too many times in a row the owners cannot afford to keep them but still need to make a profit off of them so they sell the meat to restaurants which is how this delicacy came to be.  I also ate raw pickled squid and octopus, which weren’t too bad.  I do however think my taste buds are ready for a little break…possibly a grilled cheese sandwich!

Tomorrow I fly to Korea and I am getting so very excited for this part of my trip.  I will make sure to update along the way.  Missing everyone from home and hoping you are all doing well!  XO

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