Seoul: Week 3

Ah yes, routine… Last week was pretty relaxed and full of researching and narrowing down the bajillion things I want to do in my two weeks off before I start Korean classes.

I suppose I could finally sum up what working at the guesthouse entails. In short, we exchange 5 hours of work per day, 6 days/week for breakfast and dinner and a dorm bed. However, this week we changed the rules. Instead, we will only do 3 hours in exchange for dinner and a bed. We really win here because the breakfast was just coffee and toast anyway!

The work: check-in and check-out, responding to emails and keeping track of the reservations and cancellations, guiding guests around when they come, answering their questions as best you can, and changing beds and cleaning bathrooms! And any other random task the owner thinks of… Maybe working on advertising (budget sign-making) and we have talked about me working in the bar which I am considering if I can choose the music!! Pretty relaxing work to be honest. At the moment it is fine by me to just have a way to not be teaching for a while.

The workers: There is a Japanese woman named Yukari who has been here for a few weeks longer than me. She will leave in two weeks unfortunately, but we have been sharing our room and get along well. Since the last volunteer was Mexican, now she says things in Spanish if she doesn’t know the English word haha. Another boy arrived last week, Pius, from Nigeria. He is studying at a nearby university and living here for a month trial and if all goes well, he may stay for the semester or longer. He goes to school normally in Lithuania and this is his exchange year. Pretty cool! We went out for Mexican food the other day (i just couldn’t resist) and I got to learn some more about Nigeria (considering I knew almost nothing). Next week an English guy is supposed to arrive, who like me is also planning to stay until the end of December so I am going to assume that he is also studying for a semester. Anyway, it’s pretty laidback here, we split the work fairly evenly and it’s like a little temporary family to come home to without spending all our time together. Ah yes, there is also a Finnish couple working on the websites. They have been travelling for a decade or so, 90-some countries. People think I travel a lot…. Nothing at all compared to them!!! They stayed here a month and next stop, Taiwan. Citizens of the world. Follow them at www.2globalnomads.info.

My boss! What a character. I don’t know how to describe him but a quirky kind man who really should just be up on the mountains, not in the city tied down to the guesthouse. He has all these plans to start up an alternative school, healing center, changing the guesthouse to long-term rentals… But since he knows I am into yoga, he has been really flexible with my schedule and I keep trying to convince him to come to the acroyoga classes (I think I try to convince everyone?). He teaches Qigong and brought me to a workshop on breathing practices by a rumored 123-year-old man.

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In the end, he was 94 and everything was in Korean of course so Park explained some things to me but mostly I just observed the situation not understandng what was happening! Some other historians and politicans also spoke and eventually we had a goup photo (no idea where that will appear) and dinner together. I was by far the youngst person there but it was intresting to see another side of people apart from the hustle and bustle on the subway. My boss has lots of ideas about people and he comes from the point of view of an ancient Korean shaman religion. I haven’t been able to figure out much about it yet, but I will report when I know more details.

The guests: I think this is going to be the best part. Meeting people passing through and learning about eir stories. So far…. Some French girls who studied/are studying Korean studies in university, Chinese tourists on shopping sprees, a Spanish couple braving the roads and renting a car to travel around Korea, some really friendly Filipinos who left sweet thank you notes, and a German tour company owner on his way back from a group trip he led in North Korea.

A guest from California came to the guesthouse last week so I decided to try to show him around a bit of Seoul. It’s his first time leaving the US and he decided to sell his condo, car, leave his job and get rid of basically all his possessions except two boxes at his parents’ house and what he can carry with hm. On a bike. He is cycling around Korea and then heading off to Thailand and then who knows. Meeting people like that help remind me that my life isn’t so crazy afterall. He followed the “normal” path and ended up making a change too. Anyway, Alex was super kind while I led him to sights that ended up being closed because it was Tuesday and on a mad hunt for a historical bell that we couldn’t even really see from the ground. I learned that I have no future as a tour guide but it was a funny afternoon in the end.

Jogyesa Temple:

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Fish are symbolic in Buddhism. They never close their eyes, so neither should we.

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Back to the stream, with a surprise farmers market!

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Deoksugung Palace and a peek at the National Museum of Art:

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Street food sampling: Fish cone thing with some beans inside!

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