I’ll continue right where I left off in part 1. On Wednesday, March 15, I headed to Hanyang University to have lunch with one of my former econ students from Sogang, who is now in law school. I keep in touch with a few of my former students and it’s such a joy to see how well they are all doing.

I felt very welcome right from exiting the subway, as the exit turned out to be inside the campus and a huge sign read Welcome to Hanyang University πŸ™‚ Fun fact: Seoul used to be called Hanyang during the Joseon dynasty.

We had a great time catching up before I had to leave and he had to go to class. Later in the afternoon, I met another former student for coffee in Hapjeong. This wasn’t planned but I had just run into her on the streets of Sinchon the night before, so we made plans to meet for a quick cup of coffee before she had to go on a family trip to Busan. I swear, it only ever happens to me in Seoul – one of the world’s largest metropolises – that I run into people by chance. It. Happens. Every. Time. πŸ˜…

On Thursday I had made plans to meet Kyeongeun from TTMIK for lunch. We met at a cute Korean restaurant in Hongdae, where we had a full traditional Korean feast. Like many other places, this one had also installed tablets at every table, so you could order without having to talk to the staff. I feel this concept is popping up all over Seoul.

After lunch, we got some to-go coffee and headed to the TTMIK office. I know most of the “old” TTMIK teachers but every time I go to the office there are new faces. Everyone is always so friendly, though, and I enjoy visiting whenever I’m in Seoul.

After lunch and coffee, I headed back to my hotel to answer some work emails before taking the train to Yadang (right between Ilsan and Paju) to meet up with Daeyeon, a childhood friend of Geonha’s. I had only been to Yadang a few times before, and this was my first time eating here. The dining options in Yadang were fairly limited, and when Daeyeon (with a straight face) presented me with the options of eating either 돼지 뢀속 boiled pig organs, κ³±μ°½ grilled cow intestines, or μ‚Όκ²Ήμ‚΄ grilled pork, I’ll leave it to you to guess my choice. You guessed correctly – I went with the grilled pork option πŸ˜‚

The second round was more beer and soju with a side of tteokbokki before I had to catch the last train back to Seoul. We had a great time talking and sharing memories about Geonha, and when you share memories of him you laugh a lot because that’s just who he was.

On Friday morning I went downtown where I passed the memorial altar for the Itaewon disaster victims. I hadn’t planned on stopping by, but seeing it I couldn’t help but stop and reflect on this horrendous tragedy where so many young lives were lost. I laid down a flower on the altar and signed a petition, appealing to the Korean authorities to properly investigate the accident. Feeling a bit heavy-hearted I took the subway from city hall to Hapjeong, where I had made plans to meet my italki teacher of two years for the first time in real life. She lives in Germany but also happened to be in Seoul for a wedding, so we had agreed to meet for lunch while we were both in Korea. I had thought it would probably be a couple of hours but we had so much to talk about that we ended up spending over four hours together. It was so much fun to talk outside of the italki “classroom”. Luckily I had no other plans that day.

I went to bed early on Friday because an important engagement awaited me on Saturday. I was going to Ilsan to have lunch with Geonha’s mother – Eomeoni. I took the train to Juyeop station in Ilsan, so I would be there 10 minutes early. I waited outside the station (which was actually the last place I ever saw Geonha), and suddenly two people came walking towards me – waving. Geonha’s father Abeonim had decided to join us and I was beyond thrilled. I haven’t really had the chance to talk with him since right after Geonha passed away and never really expected to do so again, but here he was. Geonha’s hyung and his new bride were away in Europe on their honeymoon, so I had “my” Korean parents just to myself. And I got the full daughter treatment ❀️

We first walked to a nearby restaurant where they served galbi-jjim – braised short ribs. Just like Geonha used to do, Eomeoni kept putting more and more food on my plate telling me to eat more. Abeonim joined her in offering me half a crab (yes, still in it’s shell – and I kind of have a phobia for crabs, but let’s leave that aside) and showed me how to suck out the meat. I, in turn, earned approving glances when I cut the kimchi and served it to them. It was a lovely meal and we talked a lot. They also brought me a present, which turned out to be a super luxurious gift set from the Korean skin care brand Sulwhasoo. Wow! I was happy that I had also brought a small present for them although it wasn’t as grand.

When we were finished eating, Abeonim suggested that we have coffee, and before I could think the word Starbucks, they said that we should all drive to Imjingak near the North Korean border and have coffee there. Yay! An outing with my Korean parents without big brother? Yes and yes!

I walked arm in arm with Eomeoni (we always do this) while Abeonim walked ahead to get the car for us. Then we drove north to Imjingak, which is in the DMZ. We had to show ID to enter and I was lucky that my driver’s license was sufficient because I didn’t have my passport with me. Then we took a cable car across the Imjin river. Eomeoni was afraid of heights and clutched my hand the entire time we were inside the cable car.

We ended up spending an entire Saturday together and when I got back to my hotel in the evening I felt so full of love and gratitude. The past years have been rough – there’s no denying that – but how wonderful it was to spend a whole day in the loving company of Geonha’s parents and feel so welcome and like I truly belong to the family.

Sunday was my last day in Seoul, and I had made plans for another trip out of the city. This time with my Dutch friend Nicky. I had never before visited the Eunpyeong Hanok Village, which is just at the base of the Bukhan mountains, and I didn’t fancy going alone, so I had asked Nicky to join me. She lives a bit outside the city, so we met up on the subway heading toward Eunpyeong. From there we took a bus to the village. For me, the entire journey probably took just over an hour from central Seoul.

We had a delicious though not-so-Korean lunch in a wonderful little cafe before exploring the area. The whole village is strictly kept in the traditional hanok style and at the top, there is even a beautiful temple. Definitely glad I decided to come here.

We spent several hours exploring the village before heading back to Seoul. We had actually planned on eating at a certain restaurant in Hapjeong but when we got there it was closed. It seems that more and more places are starting to close on Sundays? Anyway, we managed to find something quick to eat thanks to Kimbap Cheonguk πŸ˜‰

As you can probably see from this and my previous post, I just had the best trip to Seoul. I feel so immensely thankful that I have a place like Seoul to call my home away from home and so many wonderful people there to meet. I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for making this trip so special. Also thanks to my readers for following me on this journey.

Tomorrow I’m going on an impromptu 3-day trip to Edinburgh. I went there last year and absolutely loved it so I’m super excited to be going back although the weather forecast for the next couple of days does look awfully Scottish…

Until next time!


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