Discovering Hongdae

Tonight I’m cozying it up in a cheerful coffee shop in Seoul, husband by my side, celebrating the end of a successful first few days in Korea! The week has been non-stop, and we can feel the toll of the extreme transition we’ve endured starting to wear on us.  For the most part, we’ve been pretty good at fighting the desire to lock the door, pull on the sweats, curl into the fetal position, and succumb to hibernation.  It hasn’t been hard to stay active, now that we find ourselves in the middle of one of the world’s most vibrant cities!      

Every morning, we wake up to the distant drone of a stereo outside in the alley by our guest house, blaring some recorded announcement.  It’s the same four or five-word phrase, over and over.  I wish I knew what it was saying, it’s obviously pretty important for them to play it so often.  And at seven in the morning, I also wish I knew how to turn it off!

After this harsh wake-up call, we stumble downstairs to the main floor of the guest house for our complimentary toast.  I always try to make some friendly conversation with fellow guest-house visitors.  However, we have yet to find other foreigners who speak any English.  Even though we’re in the capital city, success at finding English speakers has been a challenge, and has required us to hone our survival Korean language skills. 

We have quickly fallen in love with Seoul, and are becoming familiar with the vibrant neighborhood surrounding us.  Hongdae is a trendy and diverse corner of the city, filled with some of the country’s current leading music, art, food, and fashion.  It would take a lifetime to uncover all the treasures Hongdae has to offer.  I will offer you a peak at just a few:

Street Food

Around 11am every morning, vendors begin to open their shop fronts, turn on the burners, and send a tantalizingly delicious and diverse array of smells wafting across the bustling street.  Street food has always been one of my top favorite experiences of exploring a new culture, and Korea and not disappointed!

A blueberry

A blueberry “Long-ffle” from the Long Waffle stand! According to a local, if a couple can hold a kiss for three minutes solid, they are awarded a free waffle! We held onto our dignity and paid in cash.

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Cat and Dog Cafes

Hongdae is home to several adorable animal cafes designed to provide animal therapy to any traveler in need of a snuggle buddy!  At Hello Cat! Cafe, guests are provided with a wide variety of coffee beverages, to pair with their choice of furry friend.  Needless to say, it was easy to while away an entire afternoon in the company of a dozen kittens curled up on your lap!

For the small price of 2000 won, you can purchase packaged meat-like product, and thus the affection of of every feline in the room!

For the small price of 2000 won, you can purchase packaged meat-like product, and thus the affection of of every feline in the room!

Cats have a thing for my husband.

Cats have a thing for my husband.

Napping kitties for days.

Napping kitties for days.

Street Art

We are careful to always keep our eyes peeled for interesting art around the city.  Whether it’s with an interactive 2D mural, a blank canvas outside a coffee shop with pastels at the ready for the passerby’s use, or a staircase in a back alley splattered with a colorful design, Hongdae’s artist community has done its part in keeping the neighborhood beautiful. 

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Fashion

Ahhhh!!! The fashion here is everything I love!  When my husband kept remarking on how much I would enjoy window shopping in SK, I was a little skeptical.  All my concern floated away the first time I strolled down one of the main streets strewn with open-front clothing boutiques.  My audible squeals of joy and thanksgiving could be heard by all when I found my first Korean second-hand, thick, baggy sweater shop!  As my finger-tips stroked the long rack of gloriously chunky patterned works of art, I knew I was going to be okay in this new home of mine!

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Coffee shop is closing, and it’s a ten minute walk through the bustling crowds and crisp night air back to the guest house.  Goodnight from a very happy, sleepy traveler!

Thanks for letting me join your linkup party Mari’s World!

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A New Chapter

This morning finds us sleep deprived, scatter-brained, nervous, and expectant.  Today is the beginning of a new adventure.

I can’t remember the last time I felt such sweet victory.  It worked. We did it. This is really happening.  After twelve months of intense dedication, we can now safely say that we have achieved a long-anticipated dream.

For anyone who might not know, today Brady and I are moving to South Korea.  We have spent the past year jumping through the hoops required of prospective expats: earning ESL teaching certificates, selling/giving/throwing away our possessions, quitting our jobs, selling our cars, giving away our cat, all the while stumbling through an endless maze of government paperwork.  There were so many days where we looked at each other and laughed, saying, “you know, it’ll be crazy if this actually works.”  But it did.  The bags are packed.  The paperwork is complete.   The goodbyes have been said.  The flight will soon be boarding.