Some bits and pieces didn’t make the blog, so I thought that a few “outtakes and observations” might be in order.
When I lived in Seoul in 1988 (coming from Florida and Kenya), I was frozen all the time. I didn’t have a good coat, partly because I always chose fashion over function. This time, now that I’m 48 and have lived in Vermont (mostly) for the past 15 years, I was hot all time. Koreans would remark on my lack of gloves and hat when I was out sometimes. I was simply overheating on my walks in 32-degree weather. That’s spring weather for Vermont, and heaven for middle-aged women.
I remember the DMZ being very cold when I went in November 1988. Frigid Siberia. This time, it was more like Washington, D.C.
And I do mean weather-wise, of course.
Some key phrases from Laura, our DMZ Tour Guide, are worth sharing. When I told her that I had lived in Seoul in 1988 and came back to see the place again, she said, “Ah, look for the disappeared memory.”
I love that phrase.
She also called the border a “battlefield of ideology.” Hmm, that sounds a tad like, well, some other places we all know in our own countries.
Rose the Lady Egg Chef was training a substitute this morning when I bid my goodbye. Rose will take Jan. 30-31 off for the New Year. Her “egg trainer,” dressed identically, was doing a great job. Rose paused from the her training to get sharp with a family who hadn’t cleared their table. “EVERYTHING IS SELF-SERVICE,” she said in English. And then looked at and me rolled her eyes. A few days ago, when a guest showed up at 9:43 for breakfast, Rose was not amused. I was headed out but I heard her snap, “Next time, come earlier!” The offending guest apologized profusely. Rose runs the egg show. Do not mess with her time table. I want to be more assertive like Rose.
When I was walking around, stunned, at the old Oh-Dun-Gee apartment complex in Jamsil, a little boy came to my rescue. He spoke excellent English.
I pointed to the big scary building and said, “Is that Oo-Dun-Gee?” He nodded and then, when I asked, told me how to get to the Han River. I asked him about Ee-Dun-Gee where I used to live. He told me to “recalibrate” when I got to the Han and I would see Ee-Dun-Gee. My very own live-action Siri. He actually reminded me of David in so many sweet ways.
I have to talk about Oh-Dun-Gee a bit more. The complex seemed huge as ever, maybe even more huge. We’re talking about 10-square blocks of disorienting buildings. To me, they are haunted mansions.
Moving on, I did discover some news about poor sad yet sprawling little Ee-Dun-Gee, where I lived for a while. I thought of it as the outcast version of Big Oh.
The good news in 2014 is that Ee-Dun-Gee has been completely rebuilt. See picture to the left. Yay! So proud of my ugly sad little unwanted Ee! It now makes Oh -Dun-Gee look old and sad. I love the fact that my old building complex has risen up, just like me.
By the way, Ee means two and Oh means five. Most apartment buildings in Seoul are numbered for efficiency and clarity. Back in the late ’80s, if I recall correctly, only buildings 2 and 5 had been built in Jamsil. I found it odd that they hadn’t gone up in sequential order. But then again I may be wrong. I usually was. This visit, I saw a 1 building, as well as a 3 and 4 building. All huge. All sprawling. Everything in order.
As you can see from the pictures, Seoul was quite gray throughout my stay. It way gray back then, but more so now. Seoul’s citizenry talk a lot about particle dust coming down from China. I think this is a real concern for a city that prides itself on neatness and green space. I have every faith that South Korea will rise to this and every challenge.
The country has inspired me to do the same.