Friday, March 18, 2011

Wake up at 10am. It's the first morning I've slept in for weeks, but somehow I don't feel rested.

I've got a message from a new friend with several links to reputable travel agencies who cater to foreign clientele. I narrow my options to two agencies who offer to send your passport to the Chinese Consulate in Busan for you, and call them for quotes.

Around 11:30am, a voice comes on over the apartment's internal PA system. A man speaks for a few minutes in Korean and it turns off. That was unusual. I've never been in an apartment with a PA system before, and am reminded that South Korea isn't much more stable than Japan these days. Fortunately it didn't sound urgent.

I scribble down the directions to the travel agency and walk out the door. Another sunny day in Seoul. I get lost and ask a young woman for directions - she doesn't speak much English but seems more than happy to help. She offers to call the travel agency and points me in the right direction.

The travel agency's empty. I explain the situation and it turns out my travel agent's brother also lives in Chiba City, and she's begging him to come home. That's a coincidence. She helps me fill out the visa application forms, and suggests I don't write my Japanese address - there's still some sensitivity there, so I write my Canadian one instead. I don't want to book a flight until my visa goes through, so we decide to confirm things on Monday and we'll book it then. What a relief!

I've got a few hours before I meet some friends for dinner, so I take a walk around Deoksugung Palace. Things are starting to come together.

Deoksugung Palace, Seoul

Deoksugung Palace, Seoul

Taepyeongno Boulevard, Seoul

Some local Baha'is pick me up at 7:30pm and take me out for a traditional Korean barbecue dinner. After dinner, I'm invited to my new friend's apartment, where his wife has just baked some fresh apple crumble. We discuss the state of affairs in Japan, and North Korea - South Korea relations over apple crumble, ice cream and tea. Things are so normal it's strange.

Sokalbi (marinated beef ribs), Hongdae

Homestyle Korean, Hongdae

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