3 pitchers and 2 shots later

In the spirit of re-living our drunken university days – or post-18 Fridays in general – Danny and I ventured to Itaewon for some much craved Japanese style ramen at Menya Sadaime and a pitcher or three of beer at Geckos. Firstly, I can’t recommend that ramen place enough: it’s tiny, cheap, and tasty, a blink and you’d miss it kind of place. There’s an abundance of ramen here in Korea, or ramyun as it’s known, but authentic Japanese style ramen with the broth and soft meat and the gooey egg seems to be hard to come by, as is everything authentically un-Korean. I do want to thank Fat Girl for the heads up on this place; it was my second visit and it was even better than the first, even in the midst of a Friday night rush. We ended up sitting right at the counter, too, which was better than being wedged elbow to elbow on the tables. Because of this, people were actually eating alone, which is something you don’t see often here. Anyway, the whole meal came to 17,000 won, including gyoza, which is around £10. Insane.

We spent the rest of the evening in Geckos just talking and drinking an absurd amount of alcohol before calling it a night around 11:30pm and getting the subway back to Gangdong station, which is where we had the bright idea to walk to the nearest McDonalds. It wasn’t that far to be fair and the streets were heaving even past midnight, especially considering it wasn’t Seoul. So many 24 hour restaurants! I hadn’t been to McDonalds since being here, so it’s killed that craving.

Today, as a result, has been lazy. We woke up early enough, and Danny went out to a Twosome Place for much needed americanos, and since then we’ve walked into Old Hanam for a barbecue lunch and then generally not left the apartment. I don’t know the plan for the rest of the day – movies, Pokemon, browsing the internets. Tomorrow is not sounding productive, either. Blissful. However, next Friday is Elena’s birthday and the whole group is going out to an Indian place in Itaewon to celebrate. Plus on Saturday there’s a Pokemon event going on in Dongdaemun which of course I’m going to.

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Giant duck Anyone?

I love Thursdays. It might be a random day to gush over, but I have this day off every week and Danny and I usually spend it wandering around a new area, eating lunch, grabbing coffee, that kind of thing. Today we ventured to Hongdae, which wasn’t a new place to us, but we walked around it unimpeded by the weekend crowds. I took him to Isaac’s Toast, which he loved. It’s a sandwich like you’ve never had before, trust me. I can’t even explain it. But I’ll try. Firstly, it’s dirt cheap. Secondly, it’s sweetened bread. Thirdly, I’m eighty percent sure that whatever meat substance they use isn’t quite right, but it’s so damn delicious that I would spend that hour of travelling whatever day of the week. For lunch it was between that and a mandu place we wanted to try, but since we were having the worst caffeine withdrawal headache I think we’ve ever experienced, we figured it best to head to a place I knew how to get to. Honestly, I don’t know what happened. We’re clearly addicted to our morning coffee and can’t venture outside without it.

After that, we had a leisurely stroll around the area. I do love it there. I think I’m a student at heart, always. Since a big part of our motivation for Hongdae was the You Are Here (which I wrote about previously on its opening day), we settled there, ordered a couple of americanos, and sat upstairs on the balcony. It was all very autumnal.

We did have tentative plans to visit the Hard Rock Cafe which just opened at the new Jamsil shopping centre, and we did head there to see the giant duck floating in Seokchon lake, but we ended up in a ramen place instead and then going to Gong Cha.

It was nice to get out of the apartment for a while and see something else. Hermitting away for most of winter is an inevitability, so these adventures must be cherished.

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Halloween

Considering the likes of Itaewon and Hongdae were supposed to be crazy busy last night, I’m rather happy we decided to attend a local house party. Danny spent the whole day assembling our costumes – original Team Rocket – and I spent a ridiculous amount of time crafting Pokeballs to stick on our belts. It was like walking into Cinderella’s workshop. He really did an amazing job stitching the ‘R’ template onto various pieces of clothing . Sadly our outfits were lost on most of the people at the party, but we definitely put the most effort in. Our intentions were to head out to Seoul tonight to make the most of it all but to be honest we’re feeling lazy and under the weather so we’re staying inside. The most we’ve ventured thus far is to E-mart’s food court for bibimbap and to Wicked Snow – the dessert cafe whose progression I’ve been keeping a beady eye on for weeks – for an oreo bingsu. It’s a cheat day. Or a cheat weekend. Anyway, we met a lot of new people at the party, and it was a really fun time. Me, Danny, Alison, Taylor, and another couple (with the cutest baby I’ve ever seen in my life) left at about 2pm. The only plans we have for the rest of this weekend is to watch movies, possibly re-watch the whole of Korra, and play the others’ Pokemon on the 3DS. Then we’ll eat chicken tonight because TGIS.

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Coreanos

With it being my day off, Danny and I pre-planned to go into Itaewon, grab a burrito, and explore the area, all of which we succeeded in doing. Because I’d heard Coreanos did good burritos, we headed straight there, and I wasn’t disappointed. I had the kimchi pork burrito and Danny had the standard but double-stuffed – todos burrito – with carne asada. He also got a beer, which a hornet the size of my palm saw fit to land in. After that we went to What the Book but left empty-handed because I’m picky and awkward and disenchanted. Then we picked up a couple of things from the international market. Soon after we headed to the war memorial and museum nearby, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would; it was very interesting, surprisingly so, and I consider myself a hell of a lot more educated than I once was about the north and south divide. Then Gong Cha, Subway, and home. Oh, and we stopped for a coffee somewhere in the middle, of course.

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KFC’s Zinger Double Down. Only in Korea.

AKA the burger inside a burger inside a burger. It’s two pieces of chicken with a beef burger in the middle, accompanied by bacon (or whatever Korea uses for bacon) and some sauce. It’s a glorious insult to mankind. Here is a pic-spam of Danny enjoying said monstrosity. Just for the record, it doesn’t look quite so put together as the advertisement, but what else is new?

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Autumn is Here; Winter is Coming

Ever since the season started to shift from summer to autumn, I’ve felt this strange mix of nostalgia: that is, nostalgia for how it all was when I first got here, and nostalgia for how things were back in England, primarily when I was at university and it was cold and dark in my student houses. Since graduation my glasses have become rather rose-tinted, which is why I’m able to romanticise my frost-bitten existence at the time when I know how much I suffered – from the cold, the pressure of essays, and from being broke. Knowing this, however, doesn’t make me any less wistful. If anything, it enhances the wistfulness even more: remembering the Starbucks coffees drunk over christmas, the big, thick sweaters, the hot soups, the trips to the pub and/ or film quiz, the time spent walking around the frozen city centre in-between or after lectures.

When I first came to Korea, back in March, it was about this temperature – sweater weather – and my school had a specific smell I wasn’t even aware of until I started smelling it again this past week. Honestly, the gloomier weather and darkening evenings are reminiscent of how it was months ago, and I don’t know how that makes me feel. Well, nothing exactly, it’s more of an observation, but it’s strange to think how far I’ve travelled, mentally, whilst remaining in the same physical space.

When I say I get stabs of nostalgia for my university days, I mean I haven’t felt this wintry since then. Newcastle was cold. But Danny and I spent an awful lot of time drinking said hot coffees and bundling and generally living life in what felt like perpetual winter. Memories of that are prominent here. It’s really strange – to be reminded of somewhere so forcibly because of a change in the weather. Summer here gave me a longing for cocktails at best, but it wasn’t infused with nostalgia (England really isn’t as warm as Korea, or as humid, so it was a new experience). The cold is something I’m more acquainted with.

It’s only going to get worse, I know. I’m not braced for it at all. I’ve never gotten along with the cold in practise. It’s always the accompanying ideas that are so favourable: hot drinks and food, cardigans, movies and takeaways with friends, the general ambience of autumn and winter days. Yes, in practise I suffer; I have thin, feeble blood. But I’ll manage. Korea is a good place to be cold. The sheer amount of coffee shops alone make for an ideal destination. Aside from that, a lot of Korean food is winter-friendly. Plus, Korea is beautiful in all weathers, I’m sure. Right now the leaves are changing colour and there’s a bite to the air that makes it perfect for walking, so here’s to making the best of it.

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The News

It occurs to me that I haven’t done a very good job of explaining what The News was (and is) and how it’s impacted my general state of being, so I want to clear all of that up, if only so I can look back on these posts and for them to be coherent. I never wanted to refer to The News by its actual name just in case it didn’t work out, but basically it’s this: my boyfriend is visiting me here in Korea – for longer than we both anticipated. He’s graduated from university. He got a first in Law (sorry, I’m rather proud). He has a job lined up for next September so he has some free time, which he’s choosing to spend with me. Well, as much as he conceivably can.

For the longest time the idea of that – him spending more than a couple of weeks here – was a pipe dream. It was an impossibility. Korea is a couple-oriented; it was hard to go out as a lone person, even for food. I won’t say our situation was borne from luck because he worked damn hard to get the results he did, and he clearly gave a very good interview at his future employers. Moreover, he wanted it. Badly. He deserves it, too. Honestly, he deserves every happiness. There were a lot of really difficult, really depressing moments these last through months, on both sides, but there’s no denying he had it worse, what with being in his final year and worrying about the job market. But enough about that: it worked out. We can be grateful for the suffering in the way you can only appreciate misery after it’s over. What is more, we get to live in a city we both love at the end of our travelling.

Anyway, I’m making this post to document the tentative nature of our plans. Once my contract ends next year we’re planning on spending a week in Japan. It’s been a dream to travel there for as long as I can remember. It’s routed in childhood practically. Since then, my fascination with the culture has grown exponentially. It’s going to be life-changing and I cannot wait.

Once we’ve undertaken Japan, we’ll go home. As in home-home. Birthplace home. We’ll spend a couple of weeks with our families, maybe even more than that, but then we’re leaving again to trek around Europe. Seriously. How is this going to be my life? I’ve wanted to do nothing more than that for years, but never thought it a reality. But there’s no better time and certainly no better opportunity. I’ll be jobless; Danny will be waiting to start his job. Besides, we can get a cheaper rail card for the EU because we’re EU citizens and we’ll be under 25. It’s something I haven’t even dared to think about properly because the magnitude of it might incapacitate me, but the planning for it will be my piece de resistance. First, Japan. I’ll plan that – and compile a bucket list for my remaining time in Korea – and then tackle Europe.

If you know anything about me, it’s that I love planning.

So, yes, right now I’m enjoying Korea all over again. A big reason for that is because I get to introduce Danny to the parts of it I adore. We’re existing in this long overdue happy bubble. Even when it bursts, it will all be okay. We’re just the kind of couple that finds happiness in whatever we have, and love to consider what we’ll have in future. We’ll have always been happy with a lot less, you know?

Change

Danny is here! My boyfriend of six years has finally made it over to Korea. Tomorrow will mark the seventh month since I’ve been here – and what an adventure it’s been. The journey to the airport and back was fine; his plane arrived on time; we sat in Paris Baguette and had an awful creamy coffee and an awful curry croquette. It rained. In the evening I took him for barbecue, which he loved, and a drunken Korean man and his more sober girlfriend shared their small bottle of wine with us. We then walked to the little supermarket and had an ice cream.The day after, we walked around the whole of Hanam. We started in Starbucks – dark caramel latte – and I took him on the tour. For lunch we raided the GS25 near me and ate my favourite assortment of lunch items. Then, in the evening, we went to Gangnam and I took him to my favourite chicken place. During that time Stephen messaged us asking us whether we were out, and since C and R said they would make their way to Gangnam for a drink, we decided to agree. However, Stephen turned up, they didn’t, and the night turned into something I hadn’t prepared for. We made our way to Rainbow for somewhere to go, and they had a band playing, who were great. But it left little opportunity for conversation. So we all made tracks around 11pm.

Today was quite the adventure. During the morning hours we made our way to Hongdae. For lunch we ate street food and met up with E. Since our plans of day-drinking in an actual establishment were foiled, we stuck to street-cocktails, then ate barbecue food, and then got a taxi to Itaewon. Done and done.

South Korean Food Picspam

Since my dad has been visiting these past two weeks, I’ve been eating out more. Here are a few pictures: dakgalbi (Hanam), chilli chicken (Samtong, Gangnam), bulgogi something (Hongdae), coffee patbingsu (Korean Desert Cafe), grilled chicken sandwich (Bread and Burger, Garosil-gil), cookie ice cream (a department store in Garosil-gil), street food (Insadong).


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