27 December, 2006

Christmas Weekend, Seoul, December 23rd-25th

Though I spent my Christmas without family and decorations, it did not pass without friends and holiday cheer.


Morten and I headed out early in the afternoon to do some shopping. Our first stop was Hanam Supermarket, a small grocery good for foreign foods. Next stop was the tool market to get a present for a friend of Morten's. E-Mart was next, and I'm pretty sure at least a third of Seoul was there with us. In typical Margie style, I hadn't decided on my Christmas Eve menu yet, requiring me to finalize it while we were shopping, and while I did get everything I needed, I also got a nice headache to go with my groceries. I nearly had a meltdown after we had already paid when I remembered I had wanted to find a game of UNO. Morten took one look at me and sent me to the car with the bags while he ran up a level to look for the game (he came back with LOBO 77). With the dirty work under our belts, we made for Itaewon to check on a suit Morten's having tailored, and I got measured for some shirts of my own at the same time. By that time we were ready for some refreshment, and what could be better when out with a Dane than Danish hotdogs at Steff Houlberg. I couldn't resist a picture of my Danish hotdog, and I took a picture of my food too! After a little more browsing around Itaewon (hooray for cheap street socks!), we headed home to finish the evening with presents for each other. Morten got me decorative glass candle holders with white tapers, and I gave him a couple of framed prints from digital pictures he'd taken of fall foliage.


During the lazy afternoon, I decided to try making sugar cookies with no recipe and a tempermental oven. They weren't that great, but they weren't horrible either--Morten kept snagging them as he was getting ready for his Christmas Eve dinner. He left around 3:30, and I started preparing my own dinner. I had chips, salsa, sour cream, Danish cheese (of course), dill pickles, and olives for snacks, all things not readily available in Gangneung. I made salad with feta cheese, mashed potatoes, and salmon for the main course. Liz called around 5:30 saying she didn't know where she was. Well, I said, how did you get there? 'I don't know.' Where were you before? 'I don't know.' Are you near the subway? 'I don't know.' Can you find something you recognize? 'I don't know.' Um, well, good luck... Finally I got enough information to help her and continued with dinner prep. She showed up at 6:30 in a very bad way, chiding me for not warning her about the hills. I apologized and got her some water, but in my defense, my directions said the phrase 'up the hill' at least three times. After her pulse went down, we had a nice time eating snacks and watching Mythbusters while we waited for Aniva to arrive. We first met Aniva, who lives near Seoul, through our now departed Australian friend Judy (not dead, just not in Korea), and we've hung out with her several times (see October, Chuseok). She's exuberant, extremely blunt, and tells a great story. She showed up just before eight and joined in the snacking. Around 9:30, I threw the salmon in a pan, the girls set out tableware and the sidedishes, and we sat down for Christmas Eve dinner. The fish was delicious. After dinner, we broke out a pack of cards and played several games. We even played several rounds of LOBO 77 with the help of English instructions printed from the internet. The girls said goodnight in the early hours of Christmas morning.


I just happen to be talking to Morten as I'm writing this, and I have asked him to dictate to me some thoughts about Monday. Here is what he says: "Long walk. Crowded Seoul. Actually, real crowded Seoul." Ah, the simplicity of the male mind... Now here's my version. It was a beautiful and cloudless though slightly hazy day. We bundled up in the afternoon for a Christmas Day walk and found extremely mild weather. I had to doff my scarf and gloves as we walked up some trails on Namsan mountain. We walked all the way to Seoul Tower, found alot of other people on the same Christmas Day date, then took our time on the long staircase down the other side of the mountain, sharing a bag of popcorn on the way, and eventually wound up in Myeongdong, which I think is considered part of downtown. I couldn't believe the number of people out shopping, packing the streets shoulder to shoulder. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced on Christmas. We jostled and shoved our way around for awhile then popped into Lotte World to take a look at something we'd seen in the Armani store the previous weekend. After going around and around on six different levels several times each, we gave up trying to find it, thinking that either the store had been moved, we were crazy for thinking it was there in the first place, or we had been sucked into some sort of Lotte World black hole shopping vortex. It was dark by the time we exited, and the whole place was lit with thousands of lights and beautiful decorations. Traffic was at a standstill so the subway looked pretty inviting, and fifteen minutes later, we were back in Itaewon, trudging on weary feet up, up, up the hill. We whipped together some great leftovers for dinner, and then I was back on the subway and then on the bus and on my way back to Gangneung, having had a lovely first Christmas in Korea.

Trails at Namsan
Lookout with Seoul Tower in the background
Downtown Seoul
Crowded streets of MyeongdongLotte World SupermarketOutside Lotte WorldHana Bank, covered entirely with green fringeEuropean Christmas TownThe amazingly clean Seoul subwayStill smiling after a long day

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