May 20, 2017

Travel Korea - Seoul

On a beautiful Sunday, Yangkyu and I woke up late, trying to catch on some sleep (although we weren't quite successful) and starting the day a little late. We had a lunch gathering with his late mother's side of the family and so we decided to rest until then and headed over on what was a relatively traffic-free ride (usually traffic is horrendous in Korea).

It was a sweet meeting for Yangkyu and just from hearing his childhood stories, I could see how much his aunts loved him and his brother and their late sister dearly. His oldest aunt said that she had asked for baby Yangkyu as a present when she got married. They are all so very close knit, which I loved seeing so much. I can see now where Yangkyu and his siblings get their closeness from. Yangkyu's oldest aunt and grandmother live about four hours away from Seoul, but they made the trip up to see Yangkyu as well.

After a delicious lunch and lots of laughs over stories from the past and also informative talk about the current political state and upcoming elections, Yangkyu and I headed over to where Seoul City Hall and Seoul Metropolitan Library are located. His aunts suggested we start our sightseeing from there and then walk a short distance over to Cheongyecheon Stream, where we had intended to start our tour.

Thinking back, I actually wished we had gone into the library but my short sighted reasoning back then was that I wouldn't be able to understand any of the books so why go in? Doh? Not quite the mindset of a book reader, eh? 

Cheongyecheon ("gyecheon" means open stream in Korean) is a modern public recreation space in downtown Seoul. It was a massive urban renewal project, which I hear garnered public criticism but after its opening in 2005, had become very popular among people and tourists alike. The opposition to the renewal project had to do with the fear of gentrification of the nearby areas that are home to many shops and small businesses in the machine trade -- blue collar workers and laborers. 

You know, the first time I had heard of Cheongyecheon was from a song back in early 2000? It was when I was involved in grassroots organizing and advocacy work and the only songs I listened to were folk songs, Korean and American alike. So the song wasn't anywhere near close to popular and was most likely only known by people in the activist circle. I will be super surprised if I meet anyone who also knew and listened to this song. If you're out there, please holler!

The song is called Cheongyecheon 8 ga ("pal" which is 8 in Korean and "ga" means street) by a group called CheonJiIn. They are a folk rock group that sang mainly songs that depicted the hardships and lives of laborers and workers in Korea. Anyway, the lyrics of Cheongyecheon 8 ga is just that -- the workers who work at Cheongyecheon 8 ga. 

We enjoyed walking along the stream and many families, friends, couples were out and about enjoying the space - taking pictures, conversing, eating and laughing. It was a stark contrast to the busy weekday of people going to work and catching their buses and subway trains to get to where they need to go. Here, on a Sunday, it felt like time just stopped. It felt like a different Seoul than we we saw from previous days.

From Cheongyecheon, we planned on walking all the way down to Dongdaemun, which is a large commercial district, retail and wholesale alike. For people who don't like to walk, we probably won't recommend doing this, but Yangkyu and I like walking and so it was enjoyable to us (although at the very very end, it did get slightly tiring, but it was also because we had rushed a bit). 

I brought up the song earlier because as we were making out way towards Dongdaemun, we passed by signs and streets that read Cheongyecheon 1 ga all the way to 8 ga and they were all filled with shops but not the kind of cute shops you would find at Itaewon or Insadong or Hongdae - these were shops where laborers and workers worked. I understood the song a bit more after passing these shops and understood a bit more about the fear of gentrification. It is my hope that the fear hasn't become too much of a reality for those who own shops there and work there.

This area of Seoul is so different from the ritzy place like let's say Gangnam. Needless to say, I enjoyed these sights more. It was unfortunate though that most of the shops were closed as it was a Sunday.

While walking along the stream, we also passed by the Seoul Bam Dokkebi Night Market (which means Seoul Night Goblin Market). It is basically little stalls where people sell handmade things such as jewlery and candles and where you can also eat at the endless line of food trucks that sell everything from tradition Korean food to fusion foods as well. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to eat at any of the food trucks or get to check out the stalls properly because we were pressed for time. We had planned on coming back here later on at night but that unfortunately didn't happen either. A little regretful but that's ok.

Another stop we made before arriving at Dongdaemun was the Dongdaemun Food Alley (Mukja Golmok) which was fantastic. But as it was with the night market, we didn't get to try anything here and just quickly did some sightseeing instead. I know! A very disappointing (but that's also ok because we ended up having dinner at a great BBQ place in Hongdae).

While a lot of the shops along the stream were closed, this food alley was busy and bustling with lots of residents and tourists. The smells and sights were incredible and we wish we had the type of stomachs that had a lot of room to keep on eating but we don't and since we had dinner plans with people, we made sure to just take it all in with our eyes instead. 

I didn't get to take a lot of pictures of Dongdaemun and also the newly built Dongdaemun Plaza as we were busy trying to meet up with a couple of people we had only known through Instagram. They (@heeya1108 and @jungheonp - he's a back dancer for Big Bang by the way - *shy* I always feel like I have to disclose this pretty awesome info) were owners of a beautiful English Cocker Spaniel Win and she passed shortly after Piri crossed the rainbow bridge. We had remained supportive of each other and formed a friendship over our dogs and so it was a wonderful and tearful meeting. They showed us around some great places and we had dinner at a great restaurant in Hongdae (it's a place they go often and had taken their Win as well). We spent the night getting to know each other more sharing stories of our dogs. 

After dinner and coffee at Hongdae, we ended the night with them at Han River. I am so amazed at all the wonderful outdoor spaces Korea has to offer, all of which are mostly dog friendly as well. It almost made me wish that we were there with Piri and Bartles so they can enjoy it. I think they would've loved it.

If we could have we would've probably spent the entire night and morning with Win's ma and pa, but Yangkyu and I got tired shortly after midnight and we had a super early flight to catch to Jeju Island. And so they drove us back home to Yangkyu's brother house where we quickly packed for our 2 night stay in Jeju and then promptly passed out. 

Jeju Island was wonderful in every way. I can't wait to tell you all about it. Hope you'll join us for our next adventures.

 // Travel Korea : DMZ Tours
 // Travel Korea : Childhood Memories

May 12, 2017

Happy Mother's Day to pet moms everywhere

I came across this video yesterday and cried so much when I saw it. It's been 7 months since Piri passed and I still miss him so very much. I am still sad that we didn't get to spend more time together. I know we had a long wonderful 17 years with him, and that is a very long time, but to me, it's short.. short when I think about all the things I still wish to do with him. 

The audio quality isn't the greatest -- it was when I was still playing around with Final Cut Pro. 

This was from 5 years ago when we were living in Silver Spring, Maryland. 

In the past, I shied away from calling myself a pet mom because I really wasn't - Piri had a mom of his own. So I was always their human companion. But, whenever Mother's Day or Father's Day came around, I always celebrated pet parents everywhere. I don't shy away from calling myself a pet mom so much anymore. Not everyone can be pet moms, and so it's a role I take on with great responsibility and love.

This weekend is Mother's Day weekend. I wanted to say a special Happy Mother's Day to fellow pet moms who love with all their strength and heart. It's one of the highest privileges, greatest joys and at times greatest heartaches (when we have to part with them) to be able to wear a pet mom title. Like many of you, I don't regret one second of it. 

Happy weekend. Happy Mother's Day.

 // Song is You Make Me Happy by Lindsey Ray

May 11, 2017

Mr. Bartles lately + a little sentiment all senior pet moms can probably relate to

Some of you have probably been wondering about Mr. Bartles. 

Have I got a story for you. 

For one thing, Mr. B has been off of his Trilostane (for his Cushing's Disease) for a little over a month now. He's been doing well and his NHV herbal supplement, Supraglan, has been keeping his symptoms at bay. I originally took him off of it because he was having pains and then he lost his appetite (which made me get scared that maybe he was going into Addison's). Until he got better, I thought it would be a good idea to stop his medication. We will start him back on it once his Cushing's symptoms come back. So far so good. He isn't drinking and urinating excessively nor does he have a voracious appetite. 

Mr. Bartles' troubles all started late March when he began to suddenly moan out of nowhere. He would pace in the middle of the night and began to bed hop. Every time he got on top of a bed to lay down he would let out these mournful moans. Those eventually turned into howls. 

After a visit to the vet's office and taking a set of x-rays, it was revealed that there was a lot of degeneration on his back that was possibly causing pains in his spine all the way up to his neck (this was suspected because he was hanging his head low and standing in positions that looked so awkward - like in a playful downward pose but he wasn't in a playful mood at all and looked as though he was supporting himself this way to be in less pain). 

Around the same time as his x-rays (this was early April), Mr. B went to have another ACTH stimulation test done to see how his Cushing's levels were holding up. His post number posted low at 1.9 and our vet decided to lower his Trilostane dosage from 15 mg twice a day to 10 mg twice a day. This was because she thought Bartles could benefit from a higher post number - around 3 or 4 - to let the body produce more steroids which can act as an anti-inflammatory to ease his back pains. We were given muscle relaxants and he was put back on a regular dosage of Gabapentin, pain killers, (up to 1 whole pill - 200mg), which I had actually weaned him off of during the first few weeks when he came home to us in December. 

But even with his pain killers and muscle relaxant, his pains weren't getting any better. It was getting closer and closer to our travel dates to Korea and about a week before we were to leave I got ultra desperate and bought Chinese herbal tablets called Seven Forests. My friend's dog also had pains previously and was yelping out at what seemed like random moments. Her dog was prescribed Seven Forests Pueraria to help with his neck and shoulders because their holistic vet suspected his pain was coming from his upper body, more precisely his neck.

My friend gave me the bottle of Pueraria (her dog didn't need to be on it anymore) for Mr. Bartles and I also bought Seven Forests Liquidamber to help his back and spine. I also ordered VetriScience Vetri-Disc. Finally, we squeezed in an acupuncture session to help him deal with the pain just days before we were to leave, and a follow up literally on the day we were leaving for Korea (and his former foster mom also took him while he was staying with her during our trip).

Mr. Bartles doesn't talk a lot, but when he does it's because he has gotten himself in a pickle or he's in pain. His barks and howls during this time were so very sad and it just really broke my heart. Yangkyu and I even thought about canceling our trip because I just could not leave him in such pain and I felt bad asking his foster mom to care for him when he wasn't feeling so well.

I think it was three days before we were to leave for Korea that Bartles showed signs of improvement. He moans got less and less and the last night before our trip, he slept through the night entirely and got up only once to let out the softest of moans but quickly fell back to sleep when I helped him lay back down again. I felt so confident that he would continue to feel better while we were away and my mind and heart was at ease.

Unfortunately, Bartles didn't get better but his health turned for the worst. Eventually his foster mom had to take him to the vet and it was found that he had UTI. There was a lot of red and white blood cells and a significant amount of bacteria in his urine. It was all so perplexing because we had just completed a urine test a week before leaving for Korea as part of his ACTH stimulation test and blood work and his urine test came out all clear of infections and bacteria. Nonetheless, Mr. Bartles was put on a 14-day course of Clavamox and he began to feel immediately better from the first day of taking his antibiotic.

We went to pick up Mr. Bartles a few hours after we arrived back home on April 25th and right up until a couple of nights after finishing his Clavamox he was doing great. He was eating well, sleeping through the night and looking so very comfortable. Then just a few days of being off of Clavamox, his urine started to smell really bad, like rotten eggs, he began to pee every two hours and he became restless. He began to twitch his head again and had tremors around his neck (he had these the whole time he was moaning as well).

This past Saturday, we brought in a urine sample and it was revealed that Mr. B still has a lot of white and red blood cells, blood and bacteria in his urine. He was put on new antibiotics, Baytril this time, for 10 days. If the smell doesn't disappear by then, the vet let us know that we would have to bring him in so that they can draw a clean urine sample and culture it to see which antibiotic the UTI is sensitive to (which was perplexing yet again because he had a culture done when he went to the vet while we were in Korea and it seemed like Clavamox was the right antibiotic to do the job of clearing Bartles' UTI - oy vey). If the smell goes away and he is doing better, then we will just need to do a refill of Baytril for another 10 days and then afterwards send in another urine sample to see if he is finally free of UTI.

From the first day of taking his Baytril, the smell was almost completely gone. Today is day 2 and Mr. Bartles isn't peeing often, the smell is normal and he slept through the night last night peacefully as well. We will see though how he does after he is fully done with this round to see if his symptoms come back.

While we think (we hope!) his UTI is on the road to being cured, I have a new set of concerns which I hope are only concerns and nothing that is serious.

I have been noticing that his back leg stance is different. He seems to be putting more weight on his left leg than his right (he almost stands like a model with his right back leg straight off to the side while holding up more of his body weight on his slightly bent left back leg). He also wobbles more, falls down even more often and doesn't walk as nicely as he used to. I was going through all the videos I took of him in January and he walked so nicely then and didn't slip and slide on top of our kitchen and entryway tiles and our living room floors. I am not sure if we're not doing something right here or if his joints and paw paddings are just getting weaker as the months go on.

I also found a lump in his right back leg, something I've never noticed before. It's a bit hard and the size of a quarter. Mr. Bartles has a lot of lumps and growth all over his body and I am hoping that it isn't something scary. We do plan on going to the vet's office and getting it checked out.

Mr. B also does this thing where after lying down for a bit he'll sit up and use his front legs to twirl himself around, while still sitting. Sometimes he just waddles in that position because his hind legs won't twirl with the rest of his body. But when they do, and once he gets in the right position, he'll push his hind legs up to stand up. I have never seen him do this before and unfortunately it has also scratched the extra skin around his behind (he has a lot of loose black skin there) and he's been bleeding. I have been putting cream on it to help it heal, but sometimes while he twirls he re-opens the scabs.

I know Cushing's in general does make the back legs get weaker. I thought today that maybe one day Mr. B may need wheels to get around. I am also thinking of buying this harness for him since it has a handle that we can use to pick him up and help him move around when going on outings.

Right now Mr. Bartles is sleeping comfortably on his bed. We bought a pet cam and I now get to see him from the ipad from upstairs. Before we always had the jingle collar on him and every time I heard it, I would run downstairs to see what he was doing. Most of the time it was a false alarm as he was just repositioning himself on the bed. Now I can see him when he tries to get up or is about to do his business and Mr. B doesn't have to always wear his jingle collar. Only at night  as it helps me wake up when and if he starts to move around.

Looking at his videos from January and seeing him now got me worried. I guess it's only been a few months and seeing his mobility weakened makes me wonder if I'm doing something wrong. I often feel this way when Mr. Bartles' health turns.

Sometimes in my head, I see Bartles trotting, even running. I wish I can help him do that again. I wish I can take his Cushing's away. I wish I can make him see better and hear when I say, "Mr. Bartles!" It's hard seeing your companions grow old, and it's even harder seeing them grow old and get sicker and weaker. I'm sure all senior pet moms can relate (sending you all much hugs in light of Mother's Day this weekend).

We have a trip to NY planned in June. It's to commemorate Yangkyu's parents passing. We go up every year, although there were a couple of years when I didn't join him because Piri wasn't well enough to make the trip up. We hope to take Bartles this year, and I hope he will be well enough by then to go with us.

May 9, 2017

Travel Korea - Childhood Memories

We were actually supposed to talk about our trip to Chungju for our second Korea post but I decided to put that story off for a later time and instead skip to our third day in Korea when we were back in Seoul. 

We took the same city bus (M buses) from Paju to Gangnam to stay for a couple of nights with Yangkyu's brother's family again. 

On the third day, we woke up early to head over to the neighborhoods where we grew up. We happened to have actually grown up in neighboring towns but did not meet until 2001 in Flushing, NY. How incredible and odd, no? 

I lived in Jamsil until 1986 when my family moved to the United States. My dad was working at Samsung Electronics at the time and was transferred to the US headquarters, hence our move. My dad actually worked at Samsung his entire life (ever since graduating from Yonsei University) and even served as Samsung Electronic US headquarters President for several years until he was called back to Korea where he worked in Samsung Textile and Samsung Automobile (when their SM5 line was introduced) until he retired early. The end of his career was a bit hard as it was around the time when IMF hit. My dad and I never really talked about what it was like for him during the late nineties when things were so uncertain in Korea but I can only imagine how difficult it must have been. Whereas in the past it was about suits and fancy cars, my dad now enjoys a more humble, healthy lifestyle, something that I think he enjoys more. 

I don't recall a lot from my childhood in Jamsil but I do remember snippets. I remember the kindergarten I used to attend, which I found out is no longer there and is now part of a Catholic Church (there was a church next to the kindergarten but it was a Presbyterian Church, the one I used to go to as a child).

The neighborhood kindergarten is now part of the elementary school I used to go to. After telling my dad how the kindergarten is no longer there, he said since the creation of a public kindergarten, parents probably decided to send their kids there instead of paying for a private one. Business probably slowed and eventually closed down. 

The same was true for Mun Bang Gu stores, which could maybe be translated to stationary stores? We used to get all our school supplies from these stores called Mun Bang Gu, which are located in every neighborhood. I remember the one in our neighborhood used to be owned by parents of a student who I went to kindergarten with. He was in my class although I don't remember what he looked or what his name was. Oddly I still remember what his mom looked like.

When we were in Yangkyu's neighborhood of Song Pa, we went into the Mun Bang Gu there where the storeowner let us know that most of the stores closed when the schools began to provide school supplies directly to the students. Mun Bang Gu stores began to lose business and became irrelevant and they started to close down and disappear one by one. His is one of the few that still remains open today.

I attended elementary school in Korea for about half a year. Schools in Korea start in March and we immigrated in August of 1986. So I was only in school for about 5 months. My school was called Sincheon Elementary School. And it stood exactly the way I remembered it. 

Yangkyu and I got off of the Jamsil subway stop on the 2 line. It dropped us of in front of Lotte Department and Lotte World, which wasn't around when I lived in Jamsil in the early 80s. There are exit numbers that lead you to where you need to go but for the life of us we could not find the exit toward my apartment. And so we ended up exiting out to what we thought was the nearest walking distance and ended up getting slightly lost. Once we got to the little grocery market where my mom used to shop though, I remembered exactly how to get to my school. 

It felt incredibly familiar. Stepping inside the field, I noticed there were new additions and many changes, but the feel of it was still the same. Even though we went on a Saturday, the school was open and I got to walk inside the hallways and peek into the classrooms, although it didn't bring any nostalgia back as I don't remember a whole lot of what the inside looked like.

Right outside the school, there is a pathway, which led all the way to my apartment. That brought back so many memories. I walked that pathway every day to and from school. I remembered it to be so long, but when I walked it this time around, it was rather short. I guess when you are young, everything looks and feels bigger and grander. 

As soon as the pathway ends, our apartment playground appears. I can't describe to you the feeling I got when I saw that playground again. I used to play there all the time, sometimes missing dinner and my mom would have to come get me. My knees were alway scrapped and my hands and face were alway so dirty from playing so much. The playground used to be filled with sand, but it has since changed to a rubber top. A friend told me that the sand was replaced because of increase in street cats who would use it as their giant litter box. 

All the playground activities - see saws, slides and swings have all changed too. But what was incredible was the concrete sandbox I used to play in was still there. That completely blew my mind away. I remember freaking out as a kid when I saw a giant bug while playing inside the sandbox (I told this story recently to a couple of friends too) and I credit it for my lifelong trauma to bugs that I have to this day.

Our family lived in Jamsil Jugong 5 Danji. All the apartments in Jamsil have been renovated and are new, but 5 Danji remained the same. I think they are just getting into planning phases to reconstruct it but when we went, it was so old and dirty, which shocked me. When I was growing up, 5 Danji was new and clean. Seeing it so worn made me realize even more just how much time has passed.

All newer apartments in Korea have security doors so that only residents can enter. 5 Danji is incredibly outdated that we were able to walk right in. Our family lived on the 13th floor in unit 1302. I wanted to take a picture of the front door but unfortunately the person who is living there currently was cleaning his bike right outside the unit. I contemplated saying hello but decided against it. He did have the front door open and I got to peek inside quickly. Even if it was for a split second, I had flashbacks of my childhood there. Most notably, how I used the walls of my bedroom as my giant art canvas. Years later when my brother had his first child, he drew on the walls too and I thought, "Oh, yes. We are definitely family."

That apartment hallway (or "bok do" in Korean), the elevator, the exit stairs, oh those exit stairs that frightened me so much when I was little, looked smaller and weren't so terrifying. 

We exited on the opposite side of the apartment where there is another playground and a pathway that led to my kindergarten and a cluster of stores where kids used to hang out and eat ice cream or eat and play ppopgi (old fashioned sugar candy with a particular shape on it. The goal was to trim and eat around an outline of the shape perfectly, which can be as simple as a star or as complicated as a giant fish). As mentioned before, the kindergarten, and the small shoe repair shop, was no longer there, but the building looks exactly how I remembered it. 

A lot of the stores are no longer there as well -- too much time has passed. We asked one of the store owners if they remembered a kindergarten that used to be here. He said, "If you are talking about that kindergarten, that is a story from a long long time ago."

There was just one more place I wanted to see before leaving Jamsil that day, which was my old piano school, which was surprisingly still there. 

That entire walk, from my apartment to where I attended kindergarten to where I used to take piano lessons felt like such long walks when I was little. We did it in less than 10 minutes. I didn't realize how close everything was in proximity. 

Also, in the middle of the pathway there is a fork that leads to my kindergarten to the left and the piano school to the right. Right at that fork is what I can only describe to be a huge boulder with a grassy top. Kids used to climb on it and get in trouble by the neighborhood adults (back then it truly felt like the village raised everyone's child). They would always tell us, "If you walk on top of the boulder, the dead people who are buried there will pull you down!" The adults said that to discourage us from ruining the grass, and while some kids were scared and didn't dare to go on top of the boulder, many still did. That boulder now has lots of flower bushes, making it impossible to play on top of. I kept describing this boulder to Yangkyu on the flight over to Korea. When we actually came upon it, it looked completely different than what I had remembered it to be, and was rather disappointed that I couldn't show it to him the way I had known it. 

It felt very bittersweet to leave. The whole time I was there, the snippets of things I remembered played over and over in my head - fighting bullies in the playground, going into the Mun Bang Gu stores and buying erasers and pencils and paper dolls, being scared of passing by the police station, waiting for the Yogurt ah joom ma to come (where as once people in America had their milk delivered, Korea had their Yogurt drinks delivered, and now the Yogurt ladies have a new cool ride) and just spending endless time playing on the swings, playing hopscotch and playing something called Go Moo Jool Nori, which literally translates into Rubberband Playing. If you are curious to see what this is, you can see a variation of it here

After heading over to the clustered stores near my former kindergarten one more time, we headed back towards Lotte Department Store to take the subway to Garak Market for lunch before going to Song Pa to walk down Yangkyu's memory lane.

Growing up I have never heard of Garak Market, but Yangkyu was familiar with it and so we decided to go to just have a look around (we eventually had lunch here). 

Garak Market is a farmers fish market. The entire first floor of the sprawling space is where they sell live fish and other marine products. It is one of those places where everyone will try to sell you something. While we were walking past one stall, someone said to Yangkyu, "We'll give you a good price. You can eat it right here if you'd like." That piqued our interest and after asking around, we realized that there are restaurants up on the third floor. Because there was so many stalls to choose from (all we wanted was fillet raw fish, or sashimi), we thought maybe the restaurants would sell them directly. 

Up on the third floor we realized there were tons of restaurants there too (it sometimes gets overwhelming to choose from so many options) and we just couldn't get a grasp of what they offered within their restaurant and what needed to be bought on the first floor. We were getting tired and hungry and almost gave up to go eat somewhere else, but we made the trip to the 1st floor once more and just ordered raw fish from the first stall we saw. 

What happens is that you order and pay with the fish market sellers and one of workers guides you up to the 3rd floor to one of the restaurants they work with. Then they bring up your sliced raw fish up to you. You can order other things from the restaurant as well, but sometimes the price is slightly higher. For instance, along with our sliced raw fish, we ordered cold buckwheat noodles (neng myun), and the price was slightly higher because we ordered raw fish from the market downstairs instead of ordering bbq directly from the restaurant. It actually isn't really a big deal, but something perhaps people would like to know beforehand. 

There was a slight miscommunication when it came to mae woon tang, which is a spicy hot stew made from the leftover parts of the fish used for the sashimi. We didn't want it because we knew we just wouldn't be able to finish it and we hate to waste food, but the order came out anyway and were charged for it too. Whomp whomp whomp. 

After a most hearty lunch, we headed to Ogeum Junior High School where Yangkyu attended school (a funny tidbit -- he was in the same class as HOT's Kang Ta). At first we almost didn't go to his junior high school because there wasn't a nearby public transportation - we would either have had to walk a long way or take the taxi... but at the last minute we found out that a subway stop was put in recently (after Yangkyu's family immigrated) that took us straight there.

Yangkyu attended this school until 1994 when his family came to the US. Yangkyu has a harder time remembering things from the past than I do, and while he did get nostalgic he was more eager to visit his elementary school. 

We headed to Song Pa Elementary School next but unfortunately unlike my elementary school, the gates were closed. Later on when we were talking about our day with Yangkyu's sister in law and brother, they let us know that it might have been because of recent incidents at schools where strangers would come and try and kidnap school children in broad daylight. So the closed gates might be due to safety reasons. 

While walking past a playground next to his former elementary school, Yangkyu pointed to a little girl playing in the sand and said, "That was probably you at that age playing in that sandbox in front of your apartment, right?" When I looked at her I smiled and said, "Yeah. I was exactly her." I wondered if after 30 something years, she would come back to visit her old school and playground, just as I had.

After visiting his schools, we set out to see if maybe we can find where Yangkyu lived. Unfortunately, because the neighborhood changed so much and with Yangkyu's memory failing him a bit, we weren't able to find his old residential homes. 

The final stop for Yangkyu's walk down memory lane was where he took after school classes. As soon as he found the street market, which he was so surprised to see it still existing, his memories came back. This was where he would buy soon dae and ddeok bbok kki before heading off to his studies (we eventually never found his after school building). We strolled down the market a bit more before heading back to Lotte Department to meet Yangkyu's college friend for evening engagements. 

Inside Lotte Department, we had some time to kill and so I did a little shopping at a cute little shop called Flying Tiger Copenhagen. I bought some items for our house and gifts as well. In Korea, they seem to always include extra samples and gifts if you purchase more than 30,000 won, which is around $27 US dollars (it was like that here and at Etude House and InnisFree - loads of free things). 

We ended the evening at a cafe on top of Lotte Department and dinner at a restaurant called Baek Jae Won in Gangnam, where they had too many course meals for my stomach to fully enjoy (because I eat like a bird). While Yangkyu's friend wanted to continue the evening, Yangkyu and I were still getting over jet lag and decided to call it a night.  

The following day was spent sparsely. We began it late and met with Yangkyu's family for lunch and then we took a slow stroll along Chungyechun Stream, running into the Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market, and eventually making it all the way to Dong Dae Mun market

A little more on that on our next post. 

Thanks so much for reading along. 

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