Well, I did it. I’ve made it one week without dying. Not that there is actually a possibility of that happening because Seoul is probably one of the safest cities you can travel to. Of course, you need to be aware of your surroundings and don’t extensively bad choices, but that’s anywhere you can go. Honestly, the only time I felt unsafe here was when I walked down a street in Itaewon and there were very loud, white American men walking and taking up the entire walkway. I think that it may just be residual panic to anytime I see a group of men back in the States. Anyways, here is a list of a few things that I have learned from the past week.
1. Seoul’s transportation system is amazing. Figuring out the subway system was a little overwhelming at first simply because Miami’s metro goes in a straight line, and I still manage to get on the wrong train. However, thanks to a little app called Subway Korea, navigating and getting directions is very easy AND you can do it offline. I recommend getting a reloadable Tmoney card to save time and money. What is also great about the public transport is the fact that I can stand and actually reach the handrail straps. A beautiful concept, really. Nothing will make you feel more independent than being able to transverse Seoul by Subway.
2. I really enjoy traveling alone. It has given me the opportunity to set my own schedule and spend as much or as little time in a location. However, It’s also really lonely for me. I’ve never been alone for this much amount of time unless I’m choosing to be by myself. It’s sometimes hard to force myself to leave my apartment, although part of that was because I was still finishing finals, but I know I have to do it anyways. It’s nice to be amongst people in the Subway and interacting with them whenever I need to buy something, but generally, I haven’t been really able to have extensive conversations aside from a few people sporadically throughout the week. Of course, there is the internet connection and I’m able to speak to my friends, but the time difference is a huge killer. I just found out that while I like alone time, I also enjoy having the option to be with people whenever I want to.
3. On the flip side, I’ve rather enjoyed going to this dog cafe called Bau House. I’ve been here twice because at least I can cuddle with a dog. It’s truly amazing and I plan on going back very soon.
4. Being Asian American in Asia is a wild experience. There are moments where I’m in a particularly touristy area and sales associates will speak to me in Chinese. Of course, I know about enough Chinese to say I don’t know Chinese and then they will speak to me in Korean, and then I know about enough Korean to tell them that I don’t speak Korean and then they look at me and realize that I only speak English fluently. Actually, I’ve learned enough Korean that I was able to go into a store and buy something without the Sales associate speaking English to me. Either my Korean is passable enough to buy stickers from a stationary store, or the guy didn’t know English. I guess I’ll never know. Additionally, I was sitting off to the side of a walkway filling out a form and tourists approached me and spoke very slow English to ask me if I spoke English. I looked at them briefly and let just enough silence pass before I spoke to them in my American accent. Needless to say, they were a little taken aback. It’s just been really funny.
5. Whiteness is a huge thing here. I look at some of the billboards and advertisements and people are blindingly almost impossibly white. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself that dark, but sitting next to some of them women on the metro clearly demonstrates that I’m at least 10 shades darker than they are, and that’s an understatement. Additionally what I found interesting is that they use a lot of white Americans as advertisements. Seeing Western faces is a bit odd. One of which is Anne Hathaway and I’m still trying to figure out why.
Overall, it’s been a great first week and I’ve done so many things that I can’t fit in this one blog post, so hopefully, I’ll be able to write more very soon!