Saturday, January 27, 2007

Museum Field Trip

Friday was my first day by myself. I decided to take the subway to Itaewon because my cousin Jungjoon said that the new Seoul National Museum is “around there.” Itaewon is also near the American army base and there’s lots of a) English-speakers and b) shopping.

Getting around on the subway is exceedingly easy. Everything is so clean and efficient and there is signage in English.

I got off at Itaewon, planning to go for a nice, long stroll to the museum. The shopping didn’t interest me, just gift shops filled with the kind of stuff we’ve always had at home. A t-shirt vendor on the street was selling a shirt that said, “Fuck this shit.” Maybe if I were in the army I’d feel that way too.

I wandered away from Itaewon in what I thought was the museum’s general direction but Seoul isn’t exactly a walking city. There are pedestrian-filled areas and sidewalks (in Jakarta there were NO sidewalks!) but people don’t really walk long distances. And just a simple act like crossing the street seems dangerous. I can't figure it out but when I’m crossing with my green light, buses can still go through the other way. So I won’t get hit by a car but a bus? Maybe!

Anywho, long story short, I got lost. I bypassed crossing the street by taking an underground passageway. When I came up the other side I was flanked by a soldier in camouflage with a huge gun and a police officer in black with a long baton.

I hailed a cab. Once I got in I realized that I didn’t know how to say the words “national museum” in Korean. I knew it was close but I had no idea where. I said, “Can you take me to where…all the really old things are?” Finally, my useless Lonely Planet redeemed itself by helping me piece together where it was and we got there. Kind driver.

At the museum, there were tons of school groups. Korean kids are so super cute. I ate my lunch outside with them at a picnic area, all of us in our winter coats. My kimchi kimbap (maki) cost 1000 won, about $1.20.

I spent the afternoon wandering a beautiful new building looking at Paleolithic hand tools, rocks used to kill things for food. It was interesting to see artist renderings of Korean cavemen. I’ve never seen Korean cavemen before.


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