Monday, March 21, 2011

Do some laundry - washed and dried for the equivalent of $1.30 CAD. Almost three times less than drying my laundry in Japan ($3.60 CAD). Other things that don't cost as much are riding the subway and bus: 0.87 CAD to go pretty much anywhere in the city, and food: anywhere between $6 to $10 CAD dollars for dinner.

Something else I love about Seoul is how relaxed and upbeat it is. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I'm on vacation, but this city feels warm and full of life.

After throwing my laundry in the wash, I call the travel agent to get an update on my visa - should be ready on Wednesday. If all goes well, this means picking up my passport and visa at the travel agency in downtown Seoul Wednesday at 8:30am, buying my ticket and departing to Beijing at 1:05pm. Cutting it close, but certainly doable.

I firm up some plans to meet with an old Korean friend I went to high school with in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Following her undergrad in the States, she returned to Korea to work for the Seoul chapter of a global marketing and advertising research company based in New York, and has been putting in 9am - 2am shifts the past week to meet an important deadline. We decide to meet for a quick bite of dinner at 7pm.

It's been about seven years since I saw her last, but feels like no time has passed at all - why does that always seem to be the case? After catching up she describes some of the challenges of working in South Korean society once one's lived abroad. Apparently there's little room for self expression. It's the boss's way, or he tells you to correct your attitude. She's discouraged and wants to share her views, but feels she must ultimately comply. I understand the case is similar in Japan.

Earlier today, a Japanese friend posted an interesting anecdote from Tohoku on his Facebook wall: "...people were shivering in the shelters, but the relief staff from the government rejected giving blankets to the stricken people saying 'the order is not given yet'... [a member of the Japan Family Farmer's Movement] ripped the bags of blankets and gave the blankets away. There are people like that as well..."

After dinner, I stroll along Cheonggyecheon, an 8.4km long river in downtown Seoul, and let the fresh evening air work its wonders.

Cheonggyecheon River, Seoul

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