August 20th, 2007


Seoul was the first place that I ever went abroad. I arrived just about 9 years ago. Coming back lets me see a lot about how the world changes, but also a very unique window into how I've changed.

Seoul is bigger than it used to be. Walking around the Ewha campus, most of the empty spaces have been filled up with new buildings. The city extends out further and the subway has filled in a lot. All of the businesses I was familiar with have closed and been replaced by new businesses. However, I think the biggest change is the Korean relationship to the outside world. The traditional Korean restaurant that I ate at most regularly has closed and been replaced by a sandwich shop. The traditional Korean restaurant next door to that has also been closed and replaced by a sandwich shop. Getting American stuff used to be difficult. Cheese was a big deal. I remember being something of a novelty, as a white person. I recall having only seen a few white people per day. Today, cheese is a common ingredient in restaurants, some neighborhoods are dominated by white folk, and American stuff is available at corner grocers.

I like the foreign take on American/European stuff. I tried a wine milkshake. They used a port as the main flavor. It was nice.

What about me. How have I changed? When I was in Seoul before, I was intimidated by the experience. I didn't like to venture too far from the grounds that I knew because I didn't have much faith in my language ability or cultural skills. That has certainly changed. I'm also better at learning languages.

I started dancing just under 9 years ago. I'm sure of the date because I started dancing in Korea. One of few businesses that didn't close was the club that I first danced at, Macondo.

One of the friends that I was visiting blogs. I enjoy reading his writing, so I've stayed up on his stories. He started dating a Korean woman. One day, they went to a restaurant to eat dokboki and were refused service because the woman working there didn't like mixed couples. I can contrast this to my experiences. I have been frequenting a restaurant near my house. The woman there likes me so much that I only pay about half the time. The thing that caught me off-guard is that, apparently, we were talking about the same restaurant. That is the value of cultural integration.