Six months in Seoul: a somewhat brief summary reflection
The overall goal had always been Tokyo. I took an opportunity to join some friends in Seoul, hoping to make mad monies from modeling. I had some trouble getting on my feet right away, got screwed out of my initial plans and spent 5 of 6 months trying not to freeze(/starve) to death and eventually grew to love a city I originally only knew k-pop dance moves about.
When I arrived to Tokyo 2 weeks ago, I found myself really missing Seoul. Although the buildings and skyline are terribly ugly, there were a lot of charming qualities about Seoul I missed right away. cheap transportation, amazing food and a close-knit community of friends I had made. They helped show me things about Korea I would have not known or explored on my own. the mix of personalities together was a perfect puzzle of wonderful (and crazy) people.
that’s the trouble with travel–leaving behind people and places. for exchange of experience and memories, your list of “longing” grows larger. holes begin to form in the heart and you can only attempt to fill it with new people, places and things in the next destination. it won’t be the same but that could be a good thing.
When I arrived in Seoul, all I could do is compare it to Tokyo because that was all I had known before. now the opposite is happening, where the things I grew to love in Seoul I am noticing Tokyo lacks. this is discerning because all my life I held Japan so high above everything else. to think my dream land has flaws is shattering my illusion. I am coping with it, but I’m mostly learning that it’s ok for other places on the planet to have positive perks. Korea and Japan are completely and utterly different–and now that I know this, I’m not sure why they’re lumped together so frequently.
I walk around Tokyo and it’s gorgeous. I smile wide and I’m in a constant state of awe that I made my dreams come true. However, Seoul’s strong points are making me realize some key features that Tokyo is missing… such as wifi. there also appears to be a shortage of blaring repetitive k-pop songs from all the stores (I miss that now, don’t know what you got till it’s gone), and most of all Japan has an insufficient amount of handsome korean men. that was the first thing I noticed, actually. I almost became distressed until I started to hang out in more fashionable areas of Tokyo and found a pretty good supply of attractive Jmens (with non-anime hair). not that any of them will speak to me, so that is the same homey feeling as Seoul.
I can now spot a handsome korean man in Tokyo like I have a newly realized 6th sense. you can tell by their haircut, their freshly coordinated clothes and their broad shoulders. …And when they start speaking Korean. I watched a late night Japanese TV show where a K-pop group took a tour of a neighborhood in Tokyo and tried different foods. they sparkled and shone brightly. 6 months in Seoul I had began to be disgusted by all the plastic surgery, but one glimpse of these insanely perfect beings I became entranced and realized the importance of korea’s vanity.
I miss the non-shame. Seoul had no shame. it was more important to look good than anything else. full length mirrors in all the subway stations and people stopping to fix themselves in any reflection they could find. all the uljjangs in cafes at 2am taking selfies, non-stop. clones and clones of girls getting the same nose implants, shaved jawlines and double lid procedures. no one looked like their former selves, and all their future kids will show their true features once again.
I left Seoul with a long list of things undone. There was so much I wanted to accomplish, and realistically that was not possible in that short amount of time and empty wallet. I think when I arrived in Tokyo it should have been a happier affair, but I felt a nagging, pulling, somewhat aching feeling that I left a lot unfinished. Not that it wasn’t the right time to leave, but that I need to return to Seoul and conquer it the way I really wanted to. knowing a bit more Korean would help too, in any case. If I imagine that the past 6 months was a test run, learning the ropes and sowing seeds then I can fully prepare for a comeback of epic proportions. the triumphant return will feel twice as good.
Seoul is such a seemingly small city. I feel once you get to know the right people, you are one person away from hanging out with G-Dragon in a club. Seoul’s heated floors, shitty bread, amazing kimchi, even more amazing oven baked chicken, all night dance clubs, jimjillbangs, weird toilet rules, nonexistent spring and fall, sneakers with every outfit, polished idols, aggressive ahjjumas, drunk ahjjushis, insane buses, incredible street food, smorgasbord of cafe selections, all night dongdemun shopping, all night gangnam style partying, fashion week (!!!), magkoli, jjigae, kbbq, 1km app, bad english, bully business men, luxury norebangs, and all the blunt, flakey, busy, staring, forward koreans who were impressed and shocked by my very existence every day made up my first half of 2013.
“hi nice to meet you. you are very beautiful. what do you do? WOW you’re a model?!?” they shook my hand like they were meeting the president. saying something in Korean as simple as “hello” would evoke shock, laughter and praise. I was treated like a retard baby at the special olympics. I felt like I should have been offended but instead mostly enjoyed it. you don’t often get praise for merely standing in a spot not looking hideous and speaking 1 word of a foreign language. it was like having a taste of britney spears-level fame.
I miss the fashion, food and cute k-boys of Seoul. those are the important things in life, right? I was bummed for a few days in Tokyo until I went to akihabara and remembered why I loved Japan so much. it speaks to me on levels that no other country can. Seoul is the step-mother land–I wasn’t sure about her at first because she wasn’t my real mother(land), but turns out she was pretty cool in her own way. Japan shaped my childhood and warped me into the being I am today. I am excited to get re-excited about Tokyo again and thrilled that I got to experience Korea the way I did (despite that cold ice tundra of a winter). I will return.