My sprained ankle healed quickly, I’m over jet lag, and I’ve been getting to know the lay of the land. First I’ve had to get to know my way around the Yongsan military base: the locations of the Commissary (to buy food), the PX (for clothing, electronics, etc.), the movie theater (so far we’ve seen “The Avengers” and the new “Spider Man,” for $5 per ticket), the restaurants, and the gym. Several gates lead onto the base; which one leads to the #143 bus, and which one to the Noksapyeong subway station?
Next, I’m beginning to find my way around Seoul. I went to nearby Itaewon, an area with lots of restaurants, bars, and shops that’s popular with foreigners, to attend a meeting of an English-speaking Toastmasters Club. I went on a full-day bus tour of the city that took us to see the three giant, gold statues of Buddha at Jogye Temple, the changing of the guard at Gyeongbok Palace, the traditional homes in the Namsan Hanok Village, and the Insadong and Namdaemun shopping markets. They also took us to over-priced centers selling amethyst and ginseng, but we’re getting used to this type of thing being a part of professional tours in Asia. Some new friends took me shopping at a wholesale flower market, and an Embassy language teacher led us on an outing to the Jongmyo Palace and to Gwangjang, a wholesale market for material and clothing, where one of the group was fitted for a made-to-order hanbok, the traditional dress for Korean women (as kimono are for Japanese). For lunch we had a type of vegetable pancake called pindetol. My mind is desperate for ways to remember Korean words, so the way I remembered this one was “pin the tail (on the donkey).” I’ve also eaten mandu, a steamed Korean dumpling. I’m only able to eat the pickled, red pepper-laden Korean dish called kimchi when it’s really light on the red pepper.
We’ve spent the past two weeks living in the Dragon Hill Lodge on base. It’s a lovely, modern hotel with an adjoining fitness center that’s got a great pool for swimming laps. They’ve been working on getting our house ready for us, and we’re scheduled to move in tomorrow. It won’t take long to move four suit cases and two computers! They’ve got a welcome kit to get us started that contains kitchen items, sheets and towels. Our air freight is supposed to arrive Tuesday. It won’t look homey until our household effects arrive, whenever that may be.
Tom has been busy at work but enjoying his new job in Seoul. He is focused on South Korea’s relationship with its neighbors, including Noth Korea and China. Because North Korea still technically is an enemy, the US military is very important here in keeping the peace. This week Tom got to meet the top US general, Geneneral J.D. Thurman, who commands all of the troops here. The South Korean army is pretty strong and maintains most of the front line positions but counts on the US Air Force and Army to be ready just in case. Because we are living on a military base, we are slowly getting drawn into the military way of life. It is comfortable but sometimes you are not sure you are living overseas.