Thursday, June 20, 2024

A full day in Seoul


While watching—or pretending to watch—the changing of the palace guards in front of the Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace, I overheard two sixty-something Ilongga women in thick, colorful hanbok say to each other, "Daw malipong na ko. Puli na ta." Like me, they hid under the shade of the police lookout station.

"Taga-diin kamo, Ma'am?" I asked.

"Sa Roxas kami," the older lady said.

I then met Abby at Homie Café. The small store displayed a portable typewriter and served great coffee. The writer Jessica Zafra wrote about how easy it is to score a good cup of coffee in Seoul than in anywhere else she had been to, including Italy. Now I see her point.


Abby, who graduates from internal medicine training this year, is our chief resident from St. Elizabeth Hospital. She had just presented our case report in a huge oncology meeting in South Korea today. When I met her yesterday, she was apologetic. She got lost because she took the wrong train. I brushed it aside, told her that happens all the time. There are worse ways to spend a conference trip, and that includes losing your poster in the airport. Yes, I'm talking to you, Roger Velasco.

We had traditional and mango bingsu in Gyedong. We were thirsty from all the walking. South Korean heat, like a tropical morning during Monday flag ceremonies, is nothing compared to GenSan's, which feels like the artisanal ovens they cook pizzas in. But I would have preferred sweater weather.


We went to the Starfield Library in Coex, Gangnam. By this time, we already had better grasp of the train system. 

Oh, if you plan to visit Seoul, don't go on a tour group. It's better explored on foot. On your own. Unless you're with my mother, who prefers to sit all the time. Download the Naver app. Google Maps and Apple Maps don't work well. Get a Tmoney card from any convenience store and add credits to it through a machine in the subway. The machine does not accept credit cards, only cash—a lesson I'd learned the hard way, which required me to go up and down three flights of stairs four times. I could have easily taken a cab, but my pride got the better of me. If I was able to figure out the Japan train system, I certainly could do South Korea's, too. I did, eventually, after what felt like a major leg and cardio day in the gym.


Everything, it seems, is translated to Korean. The books are lovely, the paper creamy and smooth. I experienced a Dark Matter-ish kind of disorientation when I saw Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tail in Korean and with a better book cover. 


At 4 PM, we couldn't decide if it was too late for a proper lunch or too early for a proper dinner. We bought pork skewers from this smiling man in Myeongdong. The teriyaki sauce dripped on my sneakers, but the street food tasted so, so good.


Full, Abby and I decided to call it a night, parted ways to our own hotels, and agreed to meet early the next day for day one of the conference. I felt like running because I'd forgotten I was lactose-intolerant until my bowels demanded to be evacuated as soon as possible, many thanks to the bingsu splurge.


Abby did such a great job at the conference today! Congratulations, Abby, Rhea, Felise and Dayanara, for a job well done.



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