textures of Seoul; five weeks in retrospect

I have a terrible habit of abandoning any pursuit that does not come naturally to me, and such has been the case with Korean. But, halfway through my stay here, I’ve resolved to give it a more earnest attempt as with all things, the threat of having something taken away makes it immediately more precious.

The end feels fast approaching, I leave in a little more than three weeks and all I can do is to think how quickly three weeks may pass.

I chose to spend Sunday alone in Jongno-gu, to see the traditional hanok villages abstracted by rainy weather and to visit Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. They were holding a retrospective for Park Seo Bao, which I felt so happy to get to see.

Maybe halfway through the day my phone spontaneously died, and I was left without Google Maps. But tourists are plenty and as such, so were signs with directions. Resigned to wandering, I came upon a Korean Buddhist culture center, with a Whole Foods-esque Asian grocery downstairs and a temple food mini-museum upstairs. Having only taken notice of the pervasive quick eats and convenience stores, restaurants filled to the brim, streets crammed with vendors, this was an entirely different element from that which I had been consuming as “Korean culture” up to this point. They offered barley tea and printed recipes, I took one for pumpkin porridge with empty faith that I will use it as I learn to read Hangul.

I hate to be that antiquated grouch, invalidating change and progress in service of lamenting all modernity, but a day without my phone was well spent. If only because I surrendered my sense of time.

Not having a clock took away my schedule for the rest of the day; I passed my time somewhat organically, where prior I had been setting myself all sorts of arbitrary deadlines for sightseeing. Which, in retrospect, served no purpose except to make me feel constantly rushed.

I visited my psychic prior to leaving the U.S. and she had, unprompted, told me to relax, asking very deliberately why I was always in such a rush to finish things. I hadn’t known why or what to do about it, I chalked it up to some level of human nature but have been increasingly conscious of it since.

And I think now, existing in a state of limbo between travel and residence, I’m getting ideas. I think some of the issue is time- that irony of having something manmade fallen so completely out of our control and which constantly reminds us of its presence.

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