Avoiding expectations has always turned out to be the best way to approach vacation time for me. It certainly has kept me calm thus far on my return trip to Korea. I was here two years ago (May 2015) for a language vacation. I can’t say I learned a lot as I was placed in the very beginner class and because my classmates, being from countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Singapore, preferred to speak English with me rather than practice Korean when we went out to eat together. It was still a very good experience and I always knew I would return to Korea one day. I had just hoped it would be an annual thing. Two years seemed so long.
Anyway, I’m here now and I couldn’t really be happier. It seems like going by my own schedule and allowing myself the first two days to sleep whenever I wanted helped a lot. I still had headaches and of course I’m tired, but I did not get the stomach upset I did when I came here before and when I went to the Philippines. I’m not here long enough to fully acclimate to the time change this time, so I go to bed early and get up early. It seems to be working for me. Who knows how I will adjust when I get back home, though? Going west seems to work better for me somehow.
This time around I am staying in Eunpyeong at an Airbnb. My host owns the building and rents out the first two floors and the rooftop I am staying in. She lives on the third floor with her family so she is onsite much of the time. Emma is a great host. She responded to all of my questions so quickly before I got here and when I arrived. I have the benefit of friends here in the area, so I have not had to rely on her for much information, but I have no doubt that I could ask her anything. I’ll write a separate post about my sweet little rooftop apartment for those who are curious but writing and studying English Literature with a sweet view like this works for me.
I prefer staying off the beaten path and away from tourist areas. There are two reasons for this, 1. I learn a lot more (life is all about learning for me) and 2. It’s a lot cheaper shopping and eating where the locals eat. I have not been to Gangnam yet. In fact, tomorrow is my first time ever and that is only because I want to go to Hangang Park with my friend.
It has been very easy for me to meet people in Korea, both the first time I was here and this time around. There are always people who are happy to help you with Korean and who want to improve their English. It’s also possible that there is a bit of a bias toward foreigners on the part of some people, but don’t quote me on that. I’m only an observer, not an expert. Only Koreans truly know the Korean mind. That said, I have been blessed with so many positive experiences with people and very few negative ones.
These words come with a caution, however. During my first trip I was introduced to an app called HelloTalk by my dear friend from Ukraine. It’s a great way to network with language learners, but buyer should beware as some use it for hooking up. The first time I came here I was shocked that even very YOUNG guys were interested in meeting up with an old girl like me. This time around I’m not shocked, even though a guy who is only four years older than my daughter asked me to meet up with him last night. The few Korean guys who are looking for that kind of thing are shockingly forward by North American standards, so there is really not much worry that a female traveller using the app will be misled, but I would still advise caution. I always meet someone in very public place and advise others to do the same. Those whom I have actually met have always been good people who truly want to help and get to know people from other countries and cultures. I’m still in touch with most of the Korean friends I made on my first trip here, so it has been like “old home week” as my ex-husband used to say. My Korean is VERY rusty, but I have learned a few subtleties of the language since I was here last which help me to understand and express myself slightly better. Still have a long way to go…
*** Coming Home is a great GSoul song but also my feeling upon returning to Korea. My dear friend said it is like I am returning to my hometown when I come here.