Soul of Seoul

      Does a city have a soul.  Well David thinks it does.  Traveling to cities all over the world he discovered they have a personality, a life, a dark side, but mostly a soul  or spirit that is unique to that city.  We prefer one over another for not just what we perceive the city to be but what it really is.  Seoul is unique.  12 Million people and no trash or trash barrels on the street to deposit trash in.  Yet it remains clean and litter free. A business will dispose of their trash and people know that if they take a to go cup or order out of a business, that they are responsible to dispose of it at their home or business.  People do take trash out on the street in their neighborhood but it is bagged and recyclers come by and pick it up daily and cart it off.  I haven’t seen any city collectors or Waste Management or even a dumpster!   I’ve never seen a city like that.  Millions of people living in huge , expensive high rise apartment buildings with small affordable homes and apartments interspersed between them.  No bums begging, no one sleeping in the parks, no crime (to speak of) and in one of the largest cities in the world.  Businesses leave things out in front at night after they close rather than bring it inside and the stuff is still there when they open in the morning.

Subway Map

       Easy and cheap mass transport that puts every city that I have been in to shame.  You can’t jump in front of an on coming train to commit suicide or push someone like in the movies to murder them and make it look like an accident.  All tracks are sealed in with glass enclosures that only open where the train door is and only when the train stops. The Seoul Subway system is by far the very best of any city I have been in.=
       There are different neighborhoods with different interests.  Some cultural, some commercial (each with a specialty), nightclubs for young people open until 4 am or all night, theater districts, university areas, etc.  Each inexpensively and easily accessible by subway, or bus.

      David’s impressions of the Korean people are that that are honest, compassionate, helpful, tasteful, fashion conscious, clean and considerate.  They tend to be short and stocky. They can be blunt and to the point but not rude. When they want something they tell you. I’ve witnessed a crowded subway where a blind man was standing and as soon as a seat became available a man grabbed the blind man and guided him to the seat.  He smiled and nodded a thank you in appreciation.  I was standing next to the blind man and it never dawned on me that if he wanted to sit down he would have to grope his way around or stick his guide stick in someones face. I’ve seen people get up to give there seat to ME or when a person left they would point it out to someone standing so they could sit.  I suppose you could say this is just human nature and anyone would do that but it is a way of life that carries out into the street .  An attitude that is prevalent everywhere.  People in my neighborhood now wave to me when I walk by and pass me with a smile and a hello.  I have only been here three days.  Yes I stand almost a foot taller and am very noticeable but they make me feel at home and welcome. They appear to be in good physical shape. Probably from climbing those stairs in the subway.  

       I was going to visit another Palace today but decided to visit the Hongdae Street that David Holden, my friend from Killkenny, Ireland works on when the band he just joined three months ago plays.  I read it is part of a University area and they have a lot of art shops and boutiques that cater to young students.  I arrived and found a tourist information office so stopped in and got a area map. I was taking some photos and exploring when David and the Bass player in his group, Neil, recognized me and came up to say hi.  12 Million people and we run into each other.  The last I saw him was in Cambodia two winters ago.  We all ready had made arrangements to meet in another area later that afternoon to get together.  We chatted a bit and they walked me back to the subway.  They were going to a practice session for two hours so David and I changed our meeting time and place and bid goodbye.

     I went on to the Seoul Museum of Art.  When I arrived there was a truck unloading huge crates of art for a planned exhibition.  It was from Haarlem , Netherlands art museum..  When I went in to the front desk the man explained only one exhibit was available on the second floor as they were preparing the other spaces for new exhibit arriving.  I had my computer with me and noticed some locker to store stuff in while touring the museum and asked how much it costs to store my bag.  He immediatly took some money from the register and gave it to me for my locker.  Nice gesture!
   The one exhibit was of a Korean lady artist that traveled the world documenting her travels with her art.  There was John Ford Point in Monument Valley Arizona, the Pueblos in Santa Fe, New Orleans, the Amazon, etc.  It was very entertaining and a wonderful exhibit.  The artist had donated the art works prior to her death at 80 some years old.  I did visit the outdoor sculpture garden then went on to a church.

       I heard  singing and it was Sunday but the church seemed out of place.  It looked like an American church from a small town.  It was the oldest Methodist church in Asia dating back to 1895 and they were celebrating the Missionary that founded the church back then.  I walked on toward the subway when I noticed a public park and exercise equipment that was permanently built to last and installed for public use.  Nearby was a public restroom .  Try and find a public restroom in NYC.  This was one of many I found.  I didn’t have to look for a McDonald’s and there was no charge, it was clean and a nice facility .
     I returned to the Subway and went on to a stop I had not been yet but was close to where I was to meet David for dinner. There is one big drawback to the subway system.  There are very few if any escalators but lots of granite steps. This is a big plus for people here.  I see them running up the steps two at a time but for someone as out of shape as me, it was a struggle and many times I had to stop along the way to catch my breath.  My legs are very sore but I have to admit I feel better for it but sleep longer the next day.

      The area I was in was loaded with jewelers.  It was a diamond and gold mecca where women brought there men to choose their wedding rings.  Korea is Christian for sure.  Their are a lot of Evangelists here and weddings are performed  in mass theatrical spectacles. I have never seen so many large , huge jewelry shops in one place ever…and they were all busy!

David does wear Flip Flops

      I went to Tom Tom’s Coffee shop , got on the internet and confirmed my meeting with David.  I enjoyed a wonderful connection on my computer, caught up with my reading and got back on the subway and went to my meeting point .

         Exit 3 off Jonggok Subway stop.  I relaxed and watched the Korean world go by while taking a few pics before David showed up. We ended up in the same place he took his parents visiting from Ireland last month. He didn’t realize it until we sat down.  This was a traditional Korean BBQ place.  We have them in Phoenix…maybe two, but this was in Korea so I was primed and hungry.  We had the BBQ at the table and you cook your own with roasted garlic , Kim Chee, sliced Radish, Bean Curd dip, oil garlic marinade and a sweet marinade, Tofu in a spicy hot sauce , scrambled eggs, sticky rice, and lettuce leaves you wrap it all up in and eat it with.  Korean beer and water to wash it all down.  The last time we ate out was in Seam Reap at a place called Happy Pizza where we shared a pizza with Marijuana.  My half was. That is where we met while touring Ankor Wat in Cambodia. We shared three Korean beers.  They come in Quarts. Some people add Soju.  It is like a rice wine but potent to around 40% proof.  You add one shot to a small glass of beer. Very popular and cheap.We parted with a tentative meeting on Tuesday Happy Hour.
        David said in the five years he has been teaching  English in both Public and Private school, he has never heard of any crime other than an occasional sexual attack on women.  Things are safe 24/7 .  Young girls like to show their legs from the crotch down.  They were hot pant and mini skirts or mini dresses.  Men don’t wear short unless they are down to the knees and seldom in a Restaurant.  No one wears flip flops except in the shower. You take your shoes off when entering any home and even some businesses and always in a Temple.
          Everywhere you see men, women, young and old plugged in to a Smart Phone. They are text messaging, watching soaps or You Tube, Video calling, listening to music, etc. The phone is also used to enter the subway like a TCard or ticket…just pass it over the sensor and the transaction is recorded. You can use it and the T or Travel Card to purchase items from a vending machine or a convenience store. ATM’s issue cash or a check.  Money is used less and less.

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