Around the World: kc in Korea
Since so many of us are stuck at home right now, I'm sharing some pictures of the beautiful and remarkable places I have seen in my travels. Many of these experiences served as research for my novels, including EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE, due out this summer.
A few years ago -- though it feels like yesterday -- I had the opportunity to teach a class with the Creative Writing for Children [CWC Society] in Korea. It was my first visit to Asia, and remained my only trip to that continent until last year's epic journey.
And it blew my mind.
My first view of Korea was landing in smog the like of which I had never before experienced. It was warm and humid, and the sky was thick. This is the toll booth on the Incheon bridge. [It was not raining.]
We stayed and taught our classes at a small campus well outside the big metro areas, so it was a joy -- and a bit of a relief -- to see the sun rise on this view the following morning.
The warm moisture never left the air, and the buzz of cicadas added to the absolute uniqueness of the place. I was teaching creative writing classes with my old buddy Lee Edward Fodi, and we spent a memorable week with a group of great kids in this incredible setting. And once all the fun and games and superhero learning was over, Lee and I and our amazing friend [and translator] Joanne headed for Seoul.
While Seoul is an absolutely cosmopolitan city, it is also very true to itself. Which means I got to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city almost entirely in Korean. I did spot a Starbucks sign [didn't go in] and we ate lunch in one place that had some rudimentary English translations on the menu, but that was it.
And it was glorious.
We walked the streets, visiting stores and markets, and memorably, a Thai massage parlor requiring the donning of Tweedledum pyjamas. We wrote Canadian good wishes on the walls of the Story Cafe, ate cake with chopsticks and communed with dozens of lucky cats.
We ventured into a literally underground art exhibit where the artist repurposed their own body parts to fascinating -- and a little horrific -- ends.
We traipsed around seemingly ancient temples, only to find that most were 20thC reproductions, having to be rebuilt after Seoul was flattened in the Korean War. Still amazing and moving and beautiful.
We soared up the Namsan Tower [from which I took the shot that opens this post], which was at the time the highest spot in Seoul. It has since been superceded by the Lotte World Tower, a Seoul skyscraper that is the 6th tallest in the world.
This city is nothing if not a shopping mecca.
I'm quite sure that if it is made somewhere in the world, it is available at a street market in Seoul. I'm not much of a shopper, but I am an AVID observer of shoppers, and it was great fun cruising through the marketplaces, watching other people in action.
The food carts were also incredible. I'm going to save some of the pictures I took for an 'Around the World in Food' post, but trust me when I say they have an eclectic and unique cuisine. Not much in the way of raisin bran, though. Here's a quick peek...
A magical noodle bowl with dancing chopsticks.
This laddie was cheerfully hawking barbecue pork...
And this? Is beondegi -- silkworm pupae, streetfood boiled or steamed to taste! [For the record, I'm a much bigger fan of the dozens of varieties of kimchi I tried on my visit.]
With that, we say 'annyeong' to Korea, and get ready for another destination later this week.
And remember Lee Edward Fodi, the guy I taught with on this trip to Korea? If you sign up for my newsletter, you'll be eligible to win signed copies of Lee's wonderful Zoone series for middle grade readers. There's a place to sign up at the bottom of this page.