unbelievably bumpy bus rides up steep slopes, us stumbling left and right like bendy trees in biting winter winds. comfort food of kimchi broth and pork slices by day and fried chicken paradise by night- cheese, soya sauce, bulgogi takeouts abounding. supermarket shopping for exotic korean tidbits, queues and street food of fishcake and fried sesame buns, steam streaming into cold air, well-fed pigeons picking boldly at the crumbs falling at our feet. fussy machines rejecting crumpled tickets, classical music coming on to mark the onset of the train. scrambling for the lifts to avoid climbing huge flights of stairs, 8 people pressed against the walls. some unpleasant encounters of impoliteness but also many many kind souls which override these: the beautiful lady who paid for one of our tickets when it was rejected and refused to accept money back, the man who led us to our apartment on the first day, the chinese-speaking cafe owner who took a lot of effort to converse with us and take our orders in a familiar language. when i see passion it strikes me, and it strikes me pretty hard. we were wondering why this man was taking so long, when he came out with a plate of waffles drizzled with sweet sauces and whipped cream, ice cream bunny with two almond ears and chocolate eyes, bananas for paws, and i know there is probably no need for him to make food so beautiful when it ends up a melted mess in our stomachs. when we thanked him for putting so much heart into it he said that he enjoyed doing it. i will remember that cozy cafe with post-its all over the walls and the bright sincere owner who gave us a brownie free.
familiar korean faces endorsing all sorts of products, very well-dressed people, huge fish markets and octopus wriggling out of basins before being put back in their place, cold sand and beaches at night where firecrackers explode like mini fireworks. our apartment on the 47th storey, ears blocking on the ride up every time, the night view so, so beautiful, orange faraway lights on the right like a trail of fireflies as my mum described. after seeing the same view for a couple nights and getting used to it/ taking it for granted it made me question if beauty does fade away with habit. but i have to conclude no; if i were to live there i’m sure the beauty of the city would strike me anew every now and then, a sort of revelation again and again. utensils (much heavier on one end) that my clumsy hands are somehow unable to handle, meals dropping spoons multiple times and food stains on jeans. seaside temple and azure blue waters, models having a photoshoot, high heels on jagged rocks which appeared to me a dangerous combination. every day a parka day, freezing legs with too-thin pants, hands shoved in pockets and gloves, quickly excitable when the temperature falls low enough for our breath to gain visibility.