Sunday musings… a few days later

I dropped the ball on the blogging thing, as you can tell. No excuses. But, please humor me by reading on and pretending that you’ve been following this blog for years. And, like Time Warner Cable, let’s just pretend that the disruption in service never actually happened. All good? Yep? Alrighty then…

I thought 2012 was a big year (professionally) until I started to lay out my goals and objectives for this year. Wow, it’s going to be all kinds of busy as I work with my team to develop all kinds of awesomeness. I can’t wait to get started… oh, it’s March? Better get going then.

My wife and I have decided that we need to move. The one way commute form home to office is 63 miles. Too much. Especially with all of the things we’re involved in. I know we’ve gone back and forth on moving, and even our bosses encouraged us we’d be okay if we stayed put (allowing us to work form home most of the week), it just doesn’t make sense.

A big part of us not moving sooner is my “block” on moving. I really don’t want to but, realistically, have to come to terms with it. It just makes too much sense.

I resigned from Enstruct. I loved contributing and helping them move forward but with the addition of my role at Connect-A-Kid, and increased responsibilities with the day job, something had to give.

Yes, I switched blogging platforms (again). While Squarespace was great, it was more than I needed. So I find myself coming full circle back to WordPress.

My renewed love for soccer is evolving into an obsession. I’m turning into a LA Galaxy fanatic. We attended the home opener, last Sunday, and had a blast. So far, we have tickets to six more home games. I’m thinking season tickets for 2014.

Thank you, reader

I want to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to keep up with me on my trip. I had no idea that so many of you were reading (and only learned from the tremendous feedback I’ve been receiving).

Originally, I didn’t plan to blog for this trip. I was worried about whether I could post on a regular basis while still being able to enjoy the trip (I took breaks from social media and the internet in general, which was much needed).

I’m glad that I did post updates here.

Thanks again.
-P

Travel Day, ICN – LAX

Incheon Airport

This morning, I woke up very torn. Not wanting to leave Korea yet really missing my wife, friends, family, and (yes) even my cat, I packed up all of my things and waited for my taxi to arrive.

The remainder of our group was shuttled to the airport in two waves. I was in the last wave with Edie and Jared. Though tempted to take another walk through the city, I refrained out of fear that I wouldn’t make it back to the hotel in time for the taxi pickup.

As the taxi drove us out of Seoul, to Incheon, I couldn’t help but notice the city’s beauty from afar. I began to wonder whether I was romanticizing it in my own mind, simply because it was Korea. But, as we passed by all of the bridges crossing the Han river, I knew that this was truly one of my favorite places to have visited.

Once at the airpot, I breezed through security (no taking off shoes, which I loved). With about 90 minutes before my flight, I spent the time reflecting on the past couple weeks. I really had an amazing time.

The flight was an uneventful 10+ hours. The ajumma on the aisle seat and I (in the window seat) high fived each other when the doors closed and we realized that the middle seat was unoccupied. I didn’t sleep, opting to watch movies in a daze while attempting to stifle my coughs and nurture my sore throat.

After a quick shuttle ride, I finally arrived home. Michelle was waiting for me with the front door, and her arms, open.

Then, the utter bliss of sitting on your own couch, and sleeping in your own bed, after a long hot shower in your own bathroom. No matter which country they are in.

On saying goodbye to Korea…

I know that I’m not going to be able to sum everything up in one post but, I’m still going to try. Settle in because this is going to get lengthy…

First and foremost, I am extremely grateful to Reuben for inviting me to be a part of his GMS Committee for the 2013 SO Winter World Games. Without his invite, I would not have had this opportunity to travel to Korea. And though it never really feels like I do enough to “earn” this trip, I hope that my being at the Games is worth it to him, the GOC, and the athletes.

To my friends, the GMS Committee
Reuben, Mike, Tim, Pat, Kim, Edie, Mel, Melissa, and Shawne: like Athens, I walk away feeling absolutely privileged to work with you. I love our team. I love how our skills compliment each other. I love how our personalities, though different, work well together. You are what make this experience fun.

Marly and Jared, I am happy that you two were able to join us for our time in Seoul. I really enjoyed meeting and spending time with you.

Tim: thanks for being a patient roommate and putting up with something I only thought my wife had the resolve to put up with, my snoring.
Mike and Jared: Jjimjilbang, keep your eyes up. Even Tim knows this.
Pat: Keep on Facebooking!
All: never forget McLovin or his friend (just) Carl.

I would like to thank all of you for your extreme compassion given to me these past few weeks. I think you all understood what this trip meant to me, being back in Korea for the first time since birth. You gave me space when I needed space, you never prodded me with questions, and you were there when I needed friends to be there. That means so much to me.

To my new Korean friends
Seung-Hee (Sharon), Jung-Ki (Johnny), Young-Kyo (Chris) and Mountain: 감사합니다
You helped me to acclimate to here. You helped ease some of my personal fears and hesitations. Thank you for being there and, thank you for all that you did for us. If you are ever in Los Angeles, I will do my best to do the same for you.

To Michelle, my wife
Even though we never had a chance to meetup while here, know that you were with me everywhere I went. I love you.

To Korea
Thank you for being some of the most beautiful landscape that I have ever seen.
Thank you for your food servers, transportation workers, store owners, hotel workers, and everyone I spoke to, you have all been friendly, hospitable, and very helpful.
You are my home away from home.

During yesterday’s Seollal Festival, while the folk singers were performing, I cried. It happened when I realized that it was the last day of my visit and that I didn’t want to leave.

I’ll return soon…

Korea, Day 15

Korean drum performance at Hanok Village

Getting back to the hotel late (after the jjimjilbang) came back to haunt me as I forgot to charge my camera battery for today. I know, right? What kind of photographer doesn’t have a charged camera battery ready to go at all times?

Today was one of my favorite days of the whole trip. We’re fortunate to have had a chance to be in Seoul for the Lunar New Year, and today we ventured to Hanok Village for Seollal festivities. Like any festival, there was lots of craft booths, street food, vendors, and performances.

Hanok Village was especially neat as we also had a chance to tour 5 different hanoks (traditional Korean houses). They were gorgeous and each one uniquely designed based on resources and class of the owners.

We took in performances by Korean drummers and four Korean women folk singers. I especially enjoyed watching the crowd, seeing families interact with one another. There were so many little children dressed in hanboks, all of which would make your heart melt. I also watched a few kids make their own kites and then run through the main courtyard in their attempts to get them airborne.

Between all of us, I think we tried every variety of street food offered by the vendors. We tasted everything from savory to spicy to sweet. And sometimes, all three sensations at once. There were sweet pastries filled with bean paste, sausages, chicken skewers, different varieties of candy, grilled octopus, and even beondegi (steamed silkworm pupae).

That afternoon some chose to explore different part of the city as we slip into smaller groups. I went off on my own, opting to ride the subway a few stops away from our hotel and wander back on foot. I strolled through quiet neighborhoods, markets and past stores (closed for the holiday). My favorite part was wandering through a park, being the only one there, and taking time for some personal reflection.

Our last meal together took place at another Korean BBQ restaurant, located right across the street from out hotel. We were lucky to find anything open. All in all, another great meal.

Korea, Day 14

bridge at Namsan Park

Today we say goodbye to one of our group. Tim headed back home (to New Zealand) in the early afternoon so we spent the morning wandering 14 floors of the Shinsegae Department Store, including the underground shopping in the subway stations below it. One could get lost window shopping all of the different goods offered there.

The “food floor” was my favorite because of all of the different samples we got to try. If we hadn’t already eaten lunch on the 11th floor food court, we could have easily made lunch out of the food samples on this floor. I did buy some Korean varieties of tea to take home.

We spent the afternoon wandering around Namsan Park, at the foot of Namsan Mountain. It was peaceful and almost empty (most of the people left Seoul for the Seollal holiday weekend). We stopped for tea at the tea house located at the end of the park, which was quite nice.

In the tea house we met Devin, from Delaware. He had only been in Seoul for a few months, coming here to teach English. We invited him to join our table and enjoyed sharing stories and sights we’ve seen. I invited him to join us later, for dinner.

Not only did Devin join us for dinner, he brought his friend Carl (another American). An online friend of mine, Patrick B. also joined us. It was yet another good meal with lots of conversation. Definitely one to remember.

Then, the night really got started. Mike convinced a few of us (Mel, her husband Jared, Mike’s wife Marley, Marly’s friend Cindy, and I) to join him at a jjimjilbang (Korean bath house). Tim and Mike had discovered it the night before and were adamant that we needed to do this.

The bath house separated genders, one floor being for women the other for men. Once you pay the entry fee (12,000 won) you are free to enjoy,. They gave us wristbands with bar codes and a locker key (for our clothes). From there, we stripped down (completely) and enjoyed a deep cleanse shower, 6 different kinds of spa/pools, saunas, the “ice room”, and more. I indulged myself in a 60 minute massage which, turns out, was much needed.

It was 2:30 AM before we returned, via taxi, to our hotel. I cannot put into words the bliss and level of relaxation the jjimjilbang gave us.

A quick Q & A

I’m a little behind on blog posts and uploading pictures (time flies when you’re having fun). I thought that I would use this time to answer some common questions I’ve received through email.

Are you the tallest Korean?
Far from it. From what I have seen, I am definitely above average. But I have passed a few who were in the 6’5″ range.

What is the craziest thing you’ve done on this trip?
There’s nothing that I would characterize as “crazy”. It’s an overall mellow trip, spending time eating, drinking, and exploring the touristy areas of Seoul. I did venture out to a Jjimjilbang (Korean bath house) but more on that in another post.

Have you eaten anything weird?
I ordered a cup of beondegi (steamed silkworm pupae) from a street vendor, today. Honestly, they tasted pretty good. They weren’t quite as seasoned as I’d heard about, and I think would have tasted better with some sriracha. Most of my friends tried them too. Of course there will be pictures posted soon.

Does everyone assume you speak Korean?
Yes. And I never got over feeling embarrassed that I couldn’t. My one regret is not spending more time learning the language before coming.

Did you search for your birth parents?
No. I knew that I wasn’t going to use this trip to search for them. I still don’t even know if that’s even something I want to do. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t think about it, though. And, I will tell you that I experienced emotions that most likely will not be posted on this blog. This trip opened up some things that I plan to explore more.

What do the Koreans think about adoption?
I’m not sure. I never had any conversations about adoption with anyone while here. And that was by design.

Did you like Seoul?
Absolutely. I’ve fallen in love with this city. I will never, ever turn down an opportunity to come back.

Did you go anywhere other than Seoul?
Other than the 14 days in PyeongChang (for the 2013 SO Winter World Games) and a half day trip to the DMZ, all my time was spent in Seoul. On my list is Busan, Ulsan, and Jeju Island. I would also love to see North Korea if I’m ever given that opportunity.