Friday, 6 January 2012

South African Friends in South Korea

Over the last three weeks Franco and Vickey, friends from South Africa, came to visit me in South Korea. This had been the first time that anybody from my home country came to visit me in my guest country; that my South Africa world overlapped with my Korea world. Having lived in Korea for nearly five years in all, this simple visit felt significant, some how.

During the three weeks I tried to show them a kaleidoscope of what Seoul, South Korea's captical, has to offer. I would have wanted to show them of Korea in general, but unfortunately my work responsibilities did not allow. When they came I was busy with final exams, the following week I graded exam papers and the final week I started teaching again -- I taught a winter class in Research Methodology.

I'll try and list as many places as possible of things that I can remember that we did. Their first day here, I took them to Gangnam, which is a very well off part of Seoul, with some of the more interesting modern architecture. We went to the Kukkiwon so I could show them how Taekwondo examinations are done en mass; afterwards we went to a Mexican restaruant that I enjoy. South Africa does not have real Mexican food, so I really wanted them to taste the good vegetarian option that Mexican food could provide. (Like me, they are mostly vegetarian.)

The following day I took them to another part of town, quite opposite in character of Gangnam -- the backstreets of Dongmyo and Dongdaemun, known as the market area of Seoul. We walked down grimey alleys, waded through underground clothes shops, and made our way through clothing markets. We also went to the Seoul Folk Flea Market, where you can literally buy anything from a stuffed crocodile, to second clothes, to photos of the dictator-president Park, to dildos, to snow cloves, to abacusses, to tea pots, to buddha statues.

Other markets we went to were the underground market at Express Bus Terminal, the Yongsan Digital / Electronics Market (we got a bit lost on that one), and also some upmarket malls.

For food we had Mexican (twice), Indian (twice), Malaysian, Italian, and of course Korean. We went to some small mom & pop type Korean restaurants, to hidden Korean vegetarian buffets, to Chinese-Korean fusion restaurants, and to university cafeterias.

For entertainment we went to a DVD-bang (which is a very small personal theatre where you can watch a DVD of your choice) and to IMAX theatre. We went to a jazz cafe (they sang mostly golden oldies that particular night). We also had some separate fun on occassion too: They went to the zoo and to the Seoul Tower, while I went snow boarding and martial art training.

Franco has returned to South Africa this past Sunday. Vickey is still in Korea. She started working as an English teacher / missionary worker and will stay in Korea for a year. Franco plans to come visit again in a couple of months.
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