I arrived in South Korea at 8:30am on Wednesday, June 3rd. Approximately 2 hours later I arrived at my goshiwon (boarding house), and two hours after that, I had orientation for my first day of classes, which fell on June 4th. One thing I noticed from the beginning is that in the section of Seoul that I seem to reside in, I am a bit of unicorn. That is to say, it seems as though everyone around me is simply fascinated to meet me. As an Ghanaian American female, I am one of but a handful of black people residing in this section of Seoul (Sinchon). There have been instances when I’m walking down the street and random strangers just come up to me to say, “Hello,” or smile at me or ask me questions. In fact, a few people have asked me if I ever tutor English, so hey, something that I can clearly look into! Also, whenever I’m at a street vendor, they all seem to think that I’m an adorable little kid whenever I try to order something or ask something in broken Korean, and then just tell me to give up and point.
All in all, it’s a bit of good fun, and after three days here, I am beginning to get the lay of the land. I live above a large coffee shop. Now, the thing is in Seoul the cafe culture is a huge part of society, and the cafe that I live above is massive and stays open until very late at night. Right in front of the building is a small park where there always seems to be a large congregation of couples after seven p.m. looking longing into each other’s eyes. It’s all so cute!
An odd thing that I have noticed is that Korea does not seem to have any laws against public drinking. What does this have to do with where I live? A lot. So, back to the park. The park is sweet. The entire neighborhood is really sweet and incredibly safe, but after four or five in the morning, the park is inhabited by middle aged men who drink bottles upon bottles of Soju, an incredibly cheap form of alcohol that is similar to vodka and is sold everywhere (even convenience stores like 7/11), and then subsequently pass out until the wee hours of the morning.
I passed by a few this morning on my way to the second day of classes. Classes have been incredibly fun so far. I’ve met a good deal of people, and have actually made an exercise buddy (we plan on going to the gym together everyday after class to work on weight training and such) so I actually need to go out this weekend and buy a new pair of sneakers. I picked up running a few months back, and plan on signing up for a few races throughout the school year, so I want to really spend the summer beginning to train so that I have a strong regimine when I arrive back in the U.S. Seoul is the perfect place to train for running, because it has massive hills, and has a different elevation level than where I am from. Running on hills/mountains, and then getting used to them, makes running back on flat ground sooooo much easier!! So I’m looking forward to that in three months when I’m back in NYC, and plan on reaching new heights while here in Seoul!