Sunday was rainy so I went for a stroll wearing a classy yellow $2 plastic cape
aiming for a human-scale hill and lo, I found it.
Map of the Gungdongsan Trail was disarmingly simple so off I set to do the smaller loop.
Pretty, easy, rough and green, this little hill made me feel at home.
It could have been Mount Victoria, Wellington.
Surprise, an outdoor gym. I flick a puddle off the seat and try
a lift-your-own-body-with-your-very-own-arms machine.
I don’t last long because the handles are studded with metal prickles—
my hands have instant henna pattern done in Braille.
She’ll be coming round the mountain getting wetter all the while
and she meets a pagoda shelter with fine feng shui
so she does t’ai chi. (She means me.)
By now I knew that the “map” of the trail was an abstract cartoon, like most.
I was mildly lost and emerged in an unknown part of the city
that turned out to be
very close to home.
This week is The Guardian Walking the City Week. If you’re taking public transport in Seoul then a lot of walking is involved, inside and out of subway stations. So it suits me. I’m at the Seoul Art Space Yeonhui #GuardianWalking
Personal independence day:
I managed to work
an ATM machine and a bus
three trains and another money machine
all by myself. I’m Ms Commuter Queen
Nobody even felt obliged
to help me across the street.
I joined a full house screening
of My Year With Helen
by Gaylene Preston
in the 10th DMZ Doco Festival.
Film makers politicians and activists
took to heart
this feminist story of our time.
Listen up and hear our sisters:
they could hardly be more clear!
What does a beginner tourist do
on a Saturday in Seoul?
Start with orientation practice:
take bus number 7612
and go five stops
to Hongdik Uni station.
Map, signs, card, gates, signs, gate, done.
Next a hearty chicken lunch
in Hongdae, fried and fresh for once
which we consume like dainty gluttons.
Metro homework carries on
take Subway Line 5 this time
(the purple one)
to Gwanghwamun Station
and congregate at Exit 5
for a mini-walking tour
alongside Cheonggye Stream.
Map, signs, card, gates, signs, gate, done.
It rains and so the tour’s cut short
and we catch some young men
drumming while they dance and spin
and women dancing while they drum.
Next we follow our sexy guide
(seventy-six with two crook hips)
to his regular after-work cafe.
There I like the tofu soup
and the mystery of makgeolli
the living drink that’s milky white
rough and ready like a rice home brew
and touted as a health food too.
Back in Hongdae crowds are swarming
and I saw what I never thought I’d see
a punk musician trying hard
to snarl and scream
and looking cute and clean
in a brand new tidy T shirt.
After such a busy day
we slipped into a sheep cafe
for cup of tea and a gentle sniff
by a couple of bleached and back-combed lambs
who live indoors as fluffy toys.
Then it’s home again
on green bus 7612.
I must remember that.
Travel notes and photos by Rachel McAlpine. Share if you wish.
For twenty-eight days away
two long plane flights
lots of writing
and one or two posh dos
into my little bag I packed
three dresses (nice in the heat)
three pants (one merino for the plane)
three pairs of shoes
three jackets, undies, and three tops.
I only need two of each.
What was I thinking?
and it’s not too late to learn
the pleasure of wearing the same old thing
day after day after day.
I am fond of that same old thing
and it’s comfortable and clean
so I disremember
the pleasure and the stress
of choosing choosing choosing,
How shall I dress?
What shall I wear today?
Is this maybe perhaps maybe
the way old age should be?
Travel note and photos from Seoul Art Space—Yeonhui, by Rachel McAlpine
Travellers do it on purpose
travel to places
where we don’t speak a word
except for thank you and goodbye
and we can’t decipher a word
or syllable or logogram
so we can’t use a washing machine
and must depend on the kindness
Kind staff have tagged
a washing machine
with English words
like temperature dust mite removal pour detergent here
My age cohort was dubbed The Silent Generation
which makes me laugh
except at times like this.
this blindness to words
and deafness to meaning
this voluntary ignorance.
It strips away the buzz
and flutters up the mind.
While I cannot use or hear
my mother tongue
in a silent retreat
and if and when I meet
a crowd of English speakers
and gush and gabble
it’s all about me.
Travel note and photo by Rachel McAlpine at the Seoul Art Space—Yeonhui. Please comment or share if you feel that way inclined.
Yes, I do eat here in Seoul! Mostly yummy food like the seafood and sprouts in the photograph. But it’s much much better if Junghee or another kind person shows me where to go. This was such a tiny cafe I would never have dared to enter on my own, and without an English menu—that’s living dangerously.
Junghee Han is Deputy Manager of the Seoul Art Space—Yeonhui, where I’m a writer in residence at present. And she knows all the good places to eat in this area of Seoul, which has everything from rather posh to takeaways.
Apologies: two posts in one day! I got in a tangle with photos and sharing to Facebook and a few little computer issues.
The temperature today
won’t go up past 27
so the forecast says.
I wore a cardigan just for fun.
But every day so far
demands a sunhat for the sun
so I don my ultra-adorable
Issey Miyake bonnet
it squashes into a pocket
and pops out like new.
Once I realised and accepted
that I would always look bizarre
(even more so) under its shade
it became my daily darling.
Sorry, sweetie pleaty.
You deserve better than this.
You’re the tops.
You deserve a sonnet.
Travel notes and photo cc by 2.0 Rachel McAlpine. In case you wondered, I did not pay full price for the work of art on my head. Please share: I like that.