On my friend’s second full day in Seoul, I had arranged for all of us to go on a tour hosted by the USO that would take us to the DMZ and also give all the participants more knowledge about the situation between the North and the South. I was pretty excited; this was one place I didn’t get the chance to visit when I still lived there. We arrived at the USO headquarters at noon and made the one hour trek up towards the border…
I’m currently back in the States, which is where I finally find some time to catch up on the many posts on my trip back to Korea. Originally, it was supposed to be 26 days of me reminiscing and catching up with my old life and old friends, but when one of my friends (then two and, finally, three) caught wind of my impending trip, I found myself with travel buddies and I planned a cross-country tour:
I was rather excited, though slightly apprehensive; I was showing them where I had lived and grown to love. The pressure was on, especially since 1/2 of them are strict vegetarians who don’t eat onion or garlic and Korea… well, Korea’s not very good with the vegetarian portion of their restrictions, never mind that last part. Good thing I like challenges. Either way, the Korean tour itself centered on the 12.5 days one of my friends would be there for as he was there for the shortest period, from the night of October 8 to the morning of October 20. We would start from Seoul with a day trip to the DMZ and then make our way through some of the highlights of Korea…
I was lamenting the fact that my friends could all lose weight while abroad because their body rejected something about it. Despite how my first two months or so here when I first arrived in Korea being riddled on and off with colds and such, I never had any digestive problems and I never had major moments of weight loss other than the steady toning up due to nightly taekwondo work outs. My mother likes telling my friends that I would gain weight after merely drinking a glass of water. Well, turns out my body decided to listen to me for once: on the morning of October 6th, I woke up feeling sick – and when I say sick, I mean nauseated and incredibly hot.
I wasn’t ecstatic because, of course, this had to be the same morning of our trip to Jeollanam-do with Adventure Korea. I had booked this so my friend (and I) could experience a little something about Korea outside of what most foreigners experience. The tour advertised itself as harvesting crops from the countryside, making green tea, and staying in a traditional Korean house called a hanok. I eventually got myself better after taking a cold shower but I lost my appetite. Even so, we were off because we had already paid and it was too late to cancel for a refund. After a five hour bus ride from Seoul and two rest stops later, we were finally there.
I was all sorts of excited as the day I would be on my way to Korea came. It felt like forever, as I had purchased the tickets five or so months before, but all I could think about was my upcoming adventures and, of course, my many moments of reminiscing. And so, one of my friends who would be traveling with me from the beginning to end slept over the night before and at 4:15 in the morning, we headed off to the airport.
Of course, our first flight was delayed an hour and a half but we finally made it to San Francisco International Airport for our connecting flight. Because of our previous flight, we missed our original flight but we got another one through Asiana, which was great, but as a vegetarian, I was worried. They had no record of the vegetarian meal that I had booked a week before with my original airline. Hence, I was stuck with picking out the meat from my meals, reminding me of what I would need to go through once I arrived in Korea.
No matter (though I would be lying if I said the lack of food options in Korea never bothered me after I stuffed my face in Taiwan and Hong Kong on my vacation earlier this year), because for some odd reason, Korea had already won me over when I lived here for a year, but at that point when I was only a couple hours away from Incheon, I could only hope that would remain the same. …And it did.