Soccer, Seasons and Seoul in September

September has been one of those months that have been achingly slow. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the few weekends in between when I managed to catch a breath and experience things outside of school. Autumn has blown in, catching people in sweaters and surprising us with how quickly it settles in for the evening. There are of course those few people who go about in shorts and t-shirts, refusing to accept the change in seasons. It reminds us constantly that things are about to change forever, making it perfectly clear that our time in Korea is temporary.

Changing of the guards.

I visited Ines in Seoul one of the earlier weekends of the month, and the weather was the most beautiful I’ve experienced since sometime in spring. I had the intention of doing some early Christmas shopping in Insadong, and since she lives rather close to the area, we met up for lunch. All the small shops were open and the sun wasn’t nearly as oppressive as it had been a month before. The smell of street food, the sweet and the spicy, hung over the crowds of people hunting for the best scarves and choicest tea. I suggested we try a restaurant called “Little India.”  The restaurant’s windows were thrown open and we had a decent meal watching people lingering around every store.

She was a great help as always when it came to looking for little treasures or bargains. After a string of small purchases, we made our way to Kyobo, a rather large and famous bookstore chain in Korea. We passed the American embassy, which appeared to be a rather unimpressive and outdated building compared to the other embassies we’d seen in Seoul. We happened across a changing of the guards, which excited me a bit more than it might have on any other day. (I think I just love all the bright colors Koreans have in their traditional dress.) And just as we were about to enter the bookstore, there was a crowd of people watching someone film a Korean action movie. We didn’t recognize anyone so I simply snapped a picture, and we continued on our way. I’m pretty sure you know by now that I am a self-professed bibliophile, so the largest bookstore in Korea is not exactly a place I should be allowed to roam freely. I picked up some holiday gifts and a book for myself, which I ended up reading all the way home on the subway.

A few weekends later I met up with Ines and her sister Lydia for a few hours in a coffee shop in Itaewon. Again, the windows of all the stores and restaurants were thrown open, and it was a glorious windy day. We spent hours pouring over my short story submissions, having a great workshop where we bounced ideas off each other and clarified the purpose of the stories. It was great, and I’ve missed being able to work like that with someone who knows their way around writing in general, as well as my own.

I attended my first Korean sporting event since my arrival in this country. While it probably wasn’t as insane as some of the baseball games I’ve heard of, the soccer match was still worth the trip. The Suwon Blue Wings were playing one weekend, and Ash and I decided to make the trip. Our initial cab driver had no idea what “Suwon World Cup” stadium was, so we ended up paying extra to get to the train station. Once there, we found a map, took out a slip of paper, and I wrote the hangul for our desired location, along with a stick figure playing soccer. Our second cab driver knew exactly where to take us, and he chuckled when we showed him the paper. We ended up arriving a little before halftime, which appeared to be rather normal considering the amount of people making their way into the stadium.

We found some seats on the second level. The programs with all the players and dates of the team’s games could be used as a fan/noise maker, which was really great for all the chants we ended up doing. I say chants, but we didn’t say anything. We just rattled and clapped our noise makers as loud as possible. I was my typical soccer/football watching self, yelling at the players, the calls, and the missed shots. I had a great time with the whole thing, even if the home team did end up losing by one point.

I’m looking forward to seeing what October will bring in the way of new experiences. One thing I know I would like to do is go for a hike in the mountains. We also have the arrival of two new foreign teachers, Kelsey and Jenny, to look forward to toward the end of the month.