So this weekend I got up and out. On Saturday I tagged along with Traci and a friend of hers to Yongsan in search of a transformer. Yongsan is home to a massive Electronics Market so basically this was the best bet. We ended up finding one in I'Park Mall, which consists of several floors of shopping, restaurants, a movie theater and more, that's located above and around Yongsan Station itself. I'm pretty sure that there are also electronics shops all over the surrounding areas outside the subway station.
After Yongsan we hopped back on the subway to head to Namsan Tower. As we were walking in the subway I saw Dolores Umbridge's doppelgänger:
Outside the subway we got on a bus that took us up the mountain to the parking lot just under the tower (if you're in Korea and interested in checking out Namsan Tower you can find all the necessary info here).
"N Seoul Tower is a communication and observation tower located in Namsan Mountain, central Seoul, South Korea. Built in 1969, and opened to the public in 1980, the tower has been a symbol of Seoul and measures 236.7 m (777 ft) in height (from the base) and tops out at 479.7 m (1,574 ft) above sea level. It has also been known as the Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower. After the tower's original owner merged with the CJ Corporation, it was renamed the N Seoul Tower (official name CJ Seoul Tower)"
So that was Saturday and then yesterday, Sunday, was my birthday. I always feel strangely special on my birthday, like I've taken a dose of Felix Felicis or that the universe is giving a little nod in my direction like, "Oh hey this is the day you came into the world, isn't it? Have a good one kid". I can't explain it but I just feel good on my birthday and yesterday was no different.
I kept things pretty low key because although everyone I've met here so far is great, I would have felt a bit silly asking people I've known just shy of a month to hang out with me because it's my birthday. So I decided to have a day to myself just doing whatever my newly 23-year-old heart desired.
That ended up being a trip to the National Museum of Korea. I headed back to Yongsan, this time to Ichon Station (more than a 90 minute trip) and when you take exit 2 out of the subway and walk straight ahead you can't miss it.
Also it's well designed. I hate going to a museum and after finishing with one room having to back track and figure out which room I should head to next. The pamphlet I scooped up at the start (available in four languages including English) suggested exactly where to begin so I would be following the items in chronological order.
They have so many amazing pieces and luckily everything is labeled in English in addition to Korean.
I spent nearly two hours there and only made it through the first floor. There are two more floors plus a whole outdoor exhibits area with pagodas and lanterns and other things. The great thing about the free admission means I can go back anytime. I didn't feel like I had to get my money's worth by trucking through the other floors. I'm looking forward to heading back in the nicer weather or to catch one of the special exhibits. I absolutely encourage people to check this place out, it's completely worth a visit.
My next stop was Itaewon, a district in Yongsan.
I wasn't really interested in doing any other kind of shopping in Itaewon yesterday so after What the Book? I just headed home. I grabbed a pizza a couple blocks from my apartments and ate it before heading back out to get a couple things at the grocery store and to buy myself a cake. I'm a firm believer in having cake on one's birthday so I went to the Paris Baguette bakery around the corner and got myself a wee chocolate cake.
On the way back to my apartment I spotted a desk that someone had put out with the garbage. Pretty much all the teachers here have furnished their apartments by dumpster diving. Of course a lot of stuff will be crap but there are some nice items that people toss out. So I wandered over to the desk, gave it a once over, lifted it to see how heavy it was, and decided it would be awfully nice to not have to sit on the floor for meals anymore.
It was a little awkward but I managed to get it to the main doors then pushed it down the hall to the elevator. Luckily it fit easily and then I half pushed, half lifted it out and down the hallway to my apartment and dragged it inside. It had rained a little at some point so the top was soggy but I wiped it down and cleaned it up and TA-DA!
After the desk was all spiffed up I got out my cake,
Trivia of the Day: East Asian age reckoning is a concept and practice that originated in China and is used in East Asian cultures. Newborns start at one year old, and each passing of a Lunar New Year, rather than the birthday, adds one year to the person's age.
In Korea, the 100th-day anniversary of a baby is called baegil (백일), which literally means "a hundred days" in Korean, and is given a special celebration, marking the survival of what was once a period of high infant mortality. The first anniversary of birth named dol (돌) is likewise celebrated, and given even greater significance. Koreans celebrate their birthdays, even though every Korean gains one year on New Year's Day. Because the first year comes at birth and the second on the first day of the lunar New Year, a child born, for example, on December 29 (of the lunar calendar) will reach two years of age on Seollal (Korean New Year) , when they are only days old in western reckoning. For official government uses, documents, and legal procedures, the Western age system is used. Regulations regarding age limits on alcohol and tobacco use, as well as the age of consent, are all based on the Western system.