Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Seoul, South Korea: All roads lead to Seoul—ours has been a rocky one!

All roads, tracks and flights in South Korea lead to Seoul. This ultra-huge, fairly modern city is the heart and (soul?) of South Korea and half of the country’s population lives in the greater Seoul area. Last year I (Loey) traveled to Korea for two weeks for the first international gathering of Korean adoptees hosted in the motherland. During that time I was able to visit the Gyeongbuk Palace, some temples, Namdemun Gate, and many sights around the city. Andy had been to Seoul a couple years ago for business, but only for a couple of days, and we’ve never traveled in the city together. We had hoped to take Dylan around for some sightseeing, but after some pretty hard and fast traveling in Japan, we watched Dylan hit a wall with her patience for the grownups, and so decided to take a break from being tourists while in Seoul.

It all started in Busan, when after a particularly brutal game of Uno, Dylan came sobbing to me with the following complaints:
1-She hates being on company behavior at strangers’ homes.
2-She hates that we and the other families think that she’s going to be friends with another kid that she’s never even met.
3-She hates that we are ALWAYS on the move.
4-She misses her friends and her house.
5-She hates this trip and feels kidnapped.
6-She hates being constantly jostled and knocked about by the local Koreans, with no apologies coming forth.
And finally:
7-She hates being constantly touched and petted by the locals. (At this I told her that she is like a cute bunny rabbit that people want to pet, and her response was that “maybe a bunny rabbit doesn’t want to be petted!”)

Throughout this entire process—selling the house, long trips to Colorado and Montana, moving from house to house in Portland and even traveling through Japan— Dylan has been a real trooper and has made an occasional complaint, but never lost it quite like this. While we knew that it might happen, the timing was a little uncomfortable since we were staying with people, and we just tried to calm her down, hug her and talk her off the roof. I think she has absolutely valid points and so we left for Seoul with the plan of taking some serious R&R, no sightseeing, just lounging around in the luxury of our room at the Sofitel, with a few shopping trips for necessary items, like books and a birthday gift for her cousin.

Dressed in traditional Korean hanboks--like Loey's hair?

I have had my own frustrations while being in Seoul. Never more than here have I wished to have blonde hair, blue eyes and be five feet tall! I think non-Koreans here can be afforded the luxury of not being able to speak the language and having problems negotiating the city, because everyone sees them as what they are—foreign visitors—and either accords them the respect offered to a guest from out of town or (the more likely response) politely ignoring them. For me, though, I get exasperation or confusion. I look like everyone else, so why don’t I speak the language? If I start an interaction with the Korean greeting “Anyeong Haseyo,” I immediately get spoken to in Korean (makes sense) but no matter how much I protest that I know nothing beyond hello and goodbye, many storekeepers, especially the older ones, just start talking louder.

While in Seoul, we got the tragic news that a brother of a dear friend of ours died in a hang gliding accident. He was only 33, and it came as a complete shock and senseless tragedy. We knew that our lengthy travels would mean we may be gone for some very good things that we would want to share with our friends and family as well as some very bad things, but this was totally unexpected.

There were some highlights in Seoul. We spent an enjoyable day at Lotte World, the largest indoor amusement park in the world (or so it claims), walked around the Olympic Park, had an wonderful lunch with Dr. Choi, who we met in Portland when we hosted him for dinner through the World Affairs Council and discovered small shops in Insadong, Itaewon, and Namdemun.

Andy and Dr. Choi enjoying a traditional Korean meal

On Monday we fly to Shanghai China. I’ve had a few trepidations about travel in China: the language barrier, the chances of picking up SARS or avian flu, and the crowds, but we know the sights are going to be fantastic and hope the weather continues to cool down. We may have trouble posting our blog in China, since the government has cracked down on access to blogspot. We will either try to post via email, send e-mails to Andy’s dad to post (last we heard Bozeman was pretty open to the internet!), or wait till we get out of the country. I think you can still send us regular e-mails, although any coming to us in pig latin might raise suspicions.


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