That evening we were given time to work on our lesson demonstration the next day – which of course meant that as soon as classes were done, almost everyone high-tailed it out of there. I had a quick practice session with my group members in the stairwell but left as quickly as I could to meet Sylvia and the others. We were off to Itaewon, also known as (ok, it might be just me) Little America.
Itaewon lies in central Seoul (ish). There’s an American military base nearby, which has lead to the development of a very un-Korean area. There are Western bars, supermarkets, restaurants, and bookstores, and loads and loads of Western people. I think I saw more foreigners in half an hour than live on my entire island. It was very exciting (and a little strange) to be in a place that was so familiar but at the same time so different from what I know.
We found a foreigners’ food market, where I bought NESCAFE, MILO, and DENTYNE CHEWING GUM. And yes, the caps lock is necessary. I was greatly overjoyed by my find. We then journeyed to What the Book: it also sells second-hand books at fairly decent prices, so I was just about in heaven. For dinner we headed upstairs to a Thai restaurant – my first experience with Thai food. (It was delicious.) Yumness.
Afterwards we met up with other people from orientation at a beach-style bar, perched on the hill behind Itaewon’s main thoroughfare. Called The Bungalow, it took its name to heart: the floors were covered with white beach sand, there were hanging basket chairs and comfortable low seats, and candles, of course. Fun times.
We made it back in time for curfew.
On Tuesday morning something amazing happened. I opened one of the Nescafé sachets I’d bought the previous day. I inhaled its beautiful fragrance (being careful not to get any up my nose). I reverently emptied the contents into a glass (yeah…there were no mugs) and added hot water, milk and sugar, and stirred. I inhaled some more. Then I took a sip – my first taste of my beloved coffee in almost a month. I realised I’ve had a cup of Nescafé practically every morning since I was 16. I have no idea how I could have ever imagined I could live without it. I assumed, clearly wrongly, that Korea would have it – Nestlé is a huge international brand after all! But no matter. That morning me and my Nescafé were reunited, never again to be parted.
Lesson presentation time! Our group’s demonstration went quite well, although some anonymous critic had the CHEEK to call my worksheet “disorganised”. Listen, punk, I’ll disorganise your FACE! Glares.
Sylvia and her group got the most votes for best lesson – they won 4gb flashdrives, and they had to present their lesson again at the closing ceremony in front of the entire Orientation group and assorted EPIK officials. (You may snigger if you like. I did.)
After lunch we headed out, in the rain, to Chengdeok Palace. I loved walking around and looking at the old rooms and buildings but our tour guide was impossibly slow and boring (in my opinion, anyway) so I often headed off on my own mission to read signboards or just to look at something else. Our group still managed to tour through Hidden Garden – amazingly beautiful. Words can’t really do it justice, so have a look at the pics below:
We also attended a matinee performance of the famous and extremely popular Korean stage show, Nanta. Kinda like Stomp, they use kitchen appliances and objects to make music.
I was thoroughly enjoying the show…until I got dragged on stage to be the dumpling-maker in a dumpling-making race. (They’re big on audience participation.) The horror. I blame the fact that I was sitting on the aisle and the girl in front of me had a broken leg. My team did not win the dumpling race, but we did get a “souvenir” from the show to thank us for letting them humiliate us in front of hundreds of people…and guess what it was? A nice little photo of us onstage, just in case we would ever forget. So as good as the show was, I’m afraid it’s quite, quite dead to me now.
After the show we were treated to an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. It was epic. And delicious. We all ate way too much (I had at least four plates, not including desert) and practically rolled out of there. We went for drinks at a pseudo-Irish pub called The Red Lion and headed back before curfew.
The next morning Sylvia and her group presented their lesson demonstration during the closing ceremony – they did well but I was still glad it wasn’t me up there! Then it was time to say goodbyes and exchange promises to look each other up on Facebook. Sylvia and I then headed out to do some last-minute shopping (our flight was only at 3pm), leaving our bags behind at the dormitory, being unaware of the marvelous invention known as luggage lockers. So when the time came we had to trek all the way back to where we’d been staying to collect our bags (the elephant nearly killed me, the heavy bastard), and all the way out again, to Seoul station, and onto the airport express. Do to a sad miscalculation of time on my part and a desperate need for coffee on the part of my companion, we ended up missing our flight. Cue panic stations.
Fortunately it appears that flights on Jeju Air between Seoul and the island are something like buses; you just catch the next one. The neatly dressed Jeju Air groundstaff person did not turn a hair at the sight of two red-faced, panting foreigners collapsing all over her desk, but instead just put uf on the 4pm flight. We then took ourselves off to Starbucks to calm our shattered nerves.
I was deeply thankful to finally get back to my island, and to my shoebox in the sky, my own space, that I kissed my door. And hugged it as well as I could. I was home.