It's been about a week since I've written. Life has been busy, but I have time now. I am back in Europe, after 25 hours of traveling. Tired, I admit, but back.
But let's rewind a week. Because a lot has happened.
The last you heard, my wonderful Hong Kong roommate arrived and three roommates spent time together. It was a great present and we had a lot of fun. We mainly hung around and talked and laughed. But we also went out to eat, and went bowling. The last time my old roommate had been out bowling was when we lived together in Korea, so it had been a while. We spent a lot of time having fun together and cooly said goodbye to each other.
The world seems like a smaller place when you meet friends like that.
On the Sunday I headed out to a far away place with a bus to a village outside of Seoul. Sunday was all about the Korean alcohol known as 막걸리 (Makgeolli).
It's rice wine, and it tastes fine. It's made in those huge jars that you see on the photos. One jar is almost as tall as me.
I had always wondered why it was called 막걸리, and last Sunday, walking around a 막걸리 museum, I finally discovered why.
The symbol 막 means carelessly and 걸리 means to walk. So this alcohol has its name because it's alcohol that makes you walk carelessly, as in it makes you stagger as you walk. I thought it was a joke, but no, no, that really is why it's called 막걸리.
The tour, naturally, ended with 막걸리 tasting.
After the small tour, we went for food, and more 막걸리. The white thing in the bowl is 막걸리. A rice wine that is usually drunk in this way, not in glasses but bowls.
Monday was my last class with Mr. Teacher. It has been a great few weeks and it's difficult to believe that it was already over. We watched an old Korean film in class, made by the Director Shin Sangok, staring his wife, Choi Eunhee. Both were so popular that they were later captured by North Koreans and brought to North Korea to make propaganda films for the leadership.
Even though we were just watching a film, I once again learnt a lot. Mr. Teacher, I am ever grateful.
After class I headed to the post office with a friend who helped me send off five packages to friends all around the globe. The post office worker thought it quite fascinating that I was sending packages to to five different countries and three different continents.
The packages sent, my good friend and I headed to Dunking Donuts for a quick lunch before we went on a two hour singing spree at a Norebang. Two hours well spent. It's always lots of fun to go with her. We've been three times together now and know all each others songs and have a lot of songs in common that we both adore to sing.
On Tuesday was my last lesson with Miss Teacher and also our Graduation Ceremony, after which we received our diplomas, and exchanged thoughtful notes and letters among classmates.
I headed straight off to archery after that. I met up with my archery teacher and he drove me up to an outdoor archery space on Namsan, right in the middle of Seoul.
The view was stunning from up there.
I had only had one lesson, where I had been taught the stance, and I know that traditional archery is serious business and so I accepted to have to have at least two more lessons before I was allowed to hold a bow in my hands, but my teacher took me to the short distance practice area... short distance meaning 40 meters, which in terms of other sorts of archery is not so short distance at all, especially for a beginner.
He put a bow in my hand and I got to shoot. It took a few tries to get the stance correct and also be able to hit the target, but I managed and it was so much fun. Then two other friends arrived (the ones who invited me along to the archery lesson the previous week), and since they have been doing archery for much longer, we went up and they shot on the long distance targets, at a 145 meter distance.
It was an incredible experience to be able to watch.
The arrows are shot in sets of five. Each beginning set is announced by ringing a bell outside, then everyone goes outside and takes their stance. There are three targets, and there are numbered places in front of each target. Archers take turn shooting one arrow at a time. They do three rounds of five before they then head along the mountain to collect the arrows.
The archers at this place were mostly older men, but there were also three younger people. The manager was kind and happy for us to come there. He gave us hot chocolate and small cakes and conversation. A lot of the older people were happy with conversation too, even one who approached me with incredible English. He was a Korean teacher who had travelled the world and spoke very good English.
I have little doubt that I will be welcomed just as warmly when I get a chance to return.
One of the older people told me that my teacher was the very best that there is, and I do not doubt it, even though he was being humble and saying that was not the case.
After archery I had a bit of time before I was to meet up with classmates after dinner, so my archery teacher very kindly drove up to the top of the mountain behind my university to show me the stunning day and night view. We went to a cafe and talked for hours about archery and history and other things before we returned and he dropped me off at my meeting place.
I was meeting up with five other classmates one final time before going out. They're the classmates that I have been going out with most often, and we have all become very close, so it was strange having to say goodbye.
The night started with bowling with my classmates, and then continued with soju (the stable Korean alcohol) and fried chicken, followed by a short trip to Coin Norebang (karaoke room, where one pays in coins for a few songs instead of on hourly basis), and a long stop at a cafe to talk and talk into the early morning.
It was 5am when I returned home to my room.
Time had snuck up on me. There were only two days left after that, both of which I wanted to spend with my roommate.
Around midday on the Wednesday (after sleeping in, which was much needed), we went out to a dog café. Seoul is filled with dog cafés, which are cafés where there are lots of dogs that you can pet, and yet I had never been to one and neither had she. So we found one that also had larger dogs, and not the usual tiny dogs that Koreans keep.
We stayed for hours (there was no time limit, just an entrance fee and a free beverage), and when finally we left, we headed past the YG building and down to the Han river. We walked around, enjoying the night view.
Then headed home, not forgetting to stop by our chicken man to get fried chicken. He knows us well by now; his regular foreign costumers. And he makes the best fried chicken, so we always go hoping that he will be there. Often he isn't for two days and when we go on the third day he is there again.
Thursday was our last day together, and my last day in South Korea.
I started the morning by packing and was done before noon. I had a lot of space left so I decided that I wanted to buy noodles to fill up my suitcase. My roommates helped me down to the gym with my two bags a few times so that I could weight them and assure that they were within the weight limit (yay for having a gym with a weight in the dormitory).
The weather was good. It was sunny out and not as cold as it has sometimes been, so we finally grabbed the opportunity to go visit Yonsei University. It's a big and famous university right across the street from us. The view from our room overlooks Yonsei, but it has never been quite good enough weather for us on the days we had off that we wanted to go have a look around. Thursday was the day.
I admit that I like Ewha Woman's University a lot more (I have to, it's where I live).The atmosphere is just very different. And Ewha is its own thing. To me, Yonsei feels a bit like it wanted to look like Harvard, but didn't quite succeed. Overall though, it's the atmosphere that is very different. Yonsei feels a lot more industrialised. It's still pretty though, and their student cafeteria is amazing.
For the rest of the day we just went around and shopped and did not much at all, before we decided to go for dinner. It is the Lunar New Year, so a lot of things were closed, but thankfully our beloved Samgyupsal buffet was open so we went there and shared our last meal together.
I left my roommate a small gift in her room before we headed out on the Friday morning and went each out way. Me to the airport and her out to meet friends.
My last meal in the airport was a bowl of Jjajangmyun. A black noodle dish that is eaten on moving out days. It seemed fitting.
Leaving this time felt different from six years ago. It was a sad and tearful ordeal last time. This time I leave in peace, knowing that I will be back. I move to Europe knowing that there are things that I have missed from Europe, just like there will soon be things that I will miss from Korea.
I am not sad to leave. I only look forward to more adventures to be had in the future, here, and elsewhere.
Thank you for following my journey.