Spring came practically overnight (to Seoul at least), and I walked into work one morning to a warm breeze and the sight of white blossoms lining the road. Sadly the clement weather had little effect on my students and they insisted on having the central heating set at the usual 30 degrees (come full summer, they will lobby for the air-conditioning being set at 10). The daily grind of extracting pertinent information in a form I can teach continued, with my only student uprising forcing a change of chalk (the stuff supplied was too squeaky).
With the advent of the weekend, I went out to Itaewon for the first time in a while to meet Amy and Dan for some first-rate pancakes at the deservedly-praised Flying Pan. We then repaired to my apartment with some Crown Royal to admire the new curtains and play some Order of the Stick adventure game (which Dan looked set upon winning until the hour grew too late/early to continue playing). The following morning, Amy excused herself for a lunch meeting and I set about upgrading my almost-in-two-pieces phone. I had initially researched the national provider SK, but due to their foreigners-only W200,000 deposit policy (my old nemesis we meet again etc. etc.) I voted with my feet and got LG’s almost-cheapest plan and phone. Shiny!
With a pleasant afternoon at our disposal, we wandered into Hongdae (where I sampled juk, traditional rice porridge) and walked around the university campus a little. Our travels took us to the top floor of one of the taller buildings, from where we noticed a rooftop garden on the next building. Sadly it was closed at weekends, but little prevents a return visit. In the evening, we’d been invited out to a barbecue in Bundang – we made our way there by subway and bus, and arrived to the sound of furious yapping from the resident dogs (they’d just had six puppies, but weren’t less interested in visitors for it). As expected, there was a large amount of food and drink indeed.
The Seoul Vegetarian Club meeting had come around again on Sunday, this time in the high-rise district of Yeouido (often marketed as the Manhattan of Korea, to the simultaneous amusement and irritation of New Yorkers). We briefly threw a frisbee around in the park afterwards (surrounded by other recreationalists and blossom-photographers), and got a little lost on the way back to the subway station. In doing so, however, we stumbled upon a small marshland eco-park which may form the venue for a future outdoor Veggie Club meeting. When we finally got to where we were going, I bid Amy sweet dreams (for she was off home) and prepared my travel-honed haggling skills for some laptop shopping. The result was a sleek piece of hardware which, while not top-of-the-range, more than meets my computing requirements and is also the most powerful computer I’ve ever had by quite a significant margin.
The majority of my free time during the following week was spent cleaning my apartment widows (using a nifty Korean gadget that’s two cleaning pads with magnets inside them so they attract each other and you can clean the outside of your apartment window even if you can’t reach around) and getting Ubuntu installed on the aforementioned laptop (this took a while mainly due to the difficulty of backing up the pre-installed Windows Vista, which also managed to hog more than two-thirds of the total disk space). Wednesday was local election day, which in Korea is a national holiday (UK Election Agency take note) – whether this actually improves turnout is a subject of some debate. I tied up a few loose ends, and went down to Yongin for lunch – Amy and I spent the (rainy) afternoon playing Candamir with Anne, eating Amy’s banana/chocolate/peanut butter loaf and catching up on some television (neither Anne nor I have one). Thoroughly fed and entertained, I got back to Seoul in record time and began making grandiose plans for things I’ll be able to do once I get home internet access.
The unexpected holiday on Wednesday whetted our collective appetites for more of the same activities, and the weekend kicked off in Yongin with more Candamir, films and food. The weather on Saturday turned out fine and breezy, and after several rounds of more delicious munchables and some computer fixing (principally updating my laptop using Amy’s internet connection) we took a walk out along a cycle/pedestrian path along the river. This path is extremely well-maintained (though admittedly brand new) and the river atmosphere both relaxed and refreshing, but the path starts out in the middle of nowhere (with no easy way to access it) and wends it way for miles (we’ve not had the time to walk the whole length yet). My best guess is that the city council will eventually get around to extending it into the downtown area and maybe provide a bike hire service, as otherwise it’ll be a lot of cost and effort for very little actual use.
We woke up on Sunday to a huge brunch of French toast and fruit, and glorious weather (it having previously threatened rain). Amy and I checked out a just-opened general store at the traditional market (always a good place to find things you didn’t realise you needed), avoided a stall selling dog meat, stockpiled some fireworks for next weekend and returned to bake up a giant pizza and catch up on one of our preferred television shows (The Wire). I elected to stay in Yongin overnight and caught an early bus back to Seoul in the morning, sneaking onto campus around mid-morning with the rest of the people who’d stayed out late.