1.3 Winter 2020


This week I’m in a strange vacation virus twilight. I can’t travel down south because thanks to the Shincheonji cult, COVID-19 cases have exploded from a stable 50 to now 1200. While most cases are concentrated in the cult’s city of operation, cases are expected to increase all over the country as a result of the members’ willful negligence.

While I had some general plans to check out Hanam and Seokbung, rich burgs with cute cafes, I’m reeling back any official travel plans unless I’m fully up for it.

I had plans to meet up for dinner with a new language exchange partner but one of his coworkers was at the same hospital as a virus patient and now his entire private school is being tested. He’s from Busan and I hope we can meet in the future so I can start preparing for the Gyeongsangnam accent I’ll face if all goes according to plan this summer.

Instead of my various lofty plans that fell apart due to the virus, I went to the gym which has become a safe haven for me. It’s a routine I enjoy and as you know, the showers are far superior to the sad shower head in my wet style bathroom.

After, I wanted to purchase another TOPIK study book and walked to the area around the station north of here. The area and ambience is so different: there were families and young kids, sandwich shops and fried chicken, tall apartments and residential alleyways. It had a much more real feel which offered some comfort.

A peek between alleys.

The small bookstore Kakao map guided me to seemed to be a study supplement store. Perfect! But more browsing indicated this was a Korean student store. After pulling some English grammar books off the shelf to sate my curiosity, I turned to the young guy behind the desk and asked in Korean:

“Do you have any TOPIK…”

“Toeic?” This is one of the international English tests. One day I’d like to fake a Russian accent and ask bookstores to help me find English books. But, next time.

“No, TOPIK. The Korean test.”

He guided me to the only book they had and, guessing by his laugh, his next sentence indicated that not many people came in here looking for TOPIK so he didn’t have much of a variety. I just laughed along and told him I understood.

Now, I am one hundred percent certain he didn’t offer help earlier because the prospect of speaking English was too daunting. The new drama “Crash Landing on You” pokes fun of this fear after the protagonist and another character pretend they are British to get out of trouble with a North Korean officer who also would rather not attempt English.

I’m loving this drama for its hot takes and North Korean slang.

I wandered further and restaurants became more expensive and clothing stores fancier. I ended up treating myself to a 27,000 won steak (about $23).

I didn’t know the word for medium rare so I just said pink. It turns out, “medium rare” in Korean is just… 미디엄 레어. *shakes fist at loan words*

This is apparently on the cheap end of steak, which isn’t too surprising: even at the store beef is extremely pricey. All the more reason to eat more vegetarian meals.

And I couldn’t skip dessert.

I usually visit cafes with friends so eating an entire piece of cake alone was impossible.

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