Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer summer summer

A summer day in Seoul: Gwangwhamun Plaza

The closest to a pool you'll get in Seoul...

One of the best meals in Pohang (and in Korea?): Bibim Mandu

Lovely day for the beach...and the steel mill
Don't worry about the cow in the birthing position...what an appealing advertisement for a beef galbi restaurant Shauna and I: excited for the clams on the grill!
Hands-down, in the Top 5 Meals. Ever.

Fireworks are sold right on the beach in Pohang...

...And we bought some!
Yes, my eyes are closed- but it's because I'm so excited by Tom N Toms coffee right on the beach!! The beach...wish we had one of these in Suji!
Sure you want to swim in the steel mill water????

Successful beach weekend with good friends!!
Happy Birthday, Vicky! Had to include this one- she looked so cute in her white birthday dress!
Summer in Seoul, 2010-
It's been a month now of unbearable humidity and overwhelming World Cup fever- quite a lethal combination for a crowded city of 13 million. Seoul is just beginning to recover from Korea's recent elimination from the World Cup last weekend...I have never witnessed such excitement for soccer, and such a showing of national pride, as I did in the past few weeks of Korea's run in the World Cup. It was so exciting to be in the midst of it! Every storefront bursting with overstocked "Fight Korea!" merchandise, blasting the Korea fight song, random rallies and cheers of fans on streetcorners, students arriving to school each day in miniature red jerseys and blinking red devil horns...unforgettable!
One night, I set out with the idea of watching Korea's upcoming game while working out, on the TVs at the gym. As soon as I stepped out of my apartment, with the start of the game drawing near, I noticed something strange: the streets were absolutely deserted. The city was silent! No students walking home from school, lingering on the sidewalks in front of the street food families out for their late evening walk, towing toddlers in strollers with businessmen stepping off of the buses carting them home from Seoul. Even the street vendors were curiously absent...the fruit truck woman with her $15 watermelons, the old man in the sock truck (literally, he sells hundreds of colors of socks), even the tteok boki truck, usually the most popular hangout at night for Suji-ans wandering the streets! I continued my walk to the gym, soon discovering where the whole city had retreated to...answer: any and every available TV screen in the surrounding area. I saw auto mechanics crowded around an outdoor set in their garage, sitting on crates and passing around bottles of soju (Korean vodka). Groups of teenagers packed into coffee shops with giant overhead projectors showcasing the awaited match. And then, spontaneous occurrences of actual life on the streets, outside of the draw of the television screens: young boys running down the streets with their friends, wearing Pak Ji-Sung masks (the most popular player on the Korean team, and their captain- the Koreans are CRAZY about him!), yelling the Korean cheer in excitement and anticipation: "Dae-han minguk!" (clap-clap-clap-clap-clap)" Finally, I reached the gym...only to find that it had closed down for the night, because of the game. It was official: the whole city, and very likely the whole country, had shut down in order to watch the game...and more importantly, to show their national pride in supporting Korea. Pretty sure that wouldn't happen in America...especially not for soccer!!
Aside from the World Cup frenzy, summer has been passing by with weeks of humidity and weekends spent trying to escape the heat and craziness of the city. Two weeks ago, I went down south to a city called Pohang, which is right on the southeastern coast of Korea. It was such an incredible change of pace from Seoul, being so far removed from the Westernization and overpopulation of the big city. We spent two amazing days on the beach, which is just a stone's throw away from the downtown area of the city...and were blessed with surprisingly pleasant, sunny weather! Quite the opposite of our recent weekend in Busan! Highlight of the weekend: eating grilled clams at a beachside restaurant...they even made the Top 5 of my favorite meals abroad, ever...and that's quite an impressive feat :)
On to experience what else Korea has to offer for the summer...and to hopefully take advantage of the weather before rainy season hits in mid-July!!

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