May 30, Roses and Thorns

Korea giveth and Korea taketh, part two.

Thankfully, today was a giving day. The kind of day that only Korea can provide: unexpected and delightful surprises.

It took the better part of the day to get out of bed, clean, do laundry, and leave for the gym. I wore my new flea market romper and let me tell you, rompers when done right are amazing.

After the gym I had planned to go to a cafe but instead heard the call of the river that runs perpendicular to the Han River. I figured I’d pick up a snack and walk along the water to watch the sunset.

In a twist that I’ve come to love about Korea, I climbed the steps to the elevated walkway and turned right into a rose festival. For miles the walkway had metal arches with pink, white, and red roses overhead.

After a bit I plopped down on a bench and dug into my snacks. Nearly every kid under eight stared at me. One even craned his neck around while riding his bicycle and I was so caught off guard by his perseverance and our accidental staring contest that I had to turn away to laugh.

Farther north I discovered a long field of huge roses down the pedestrian bridge and thought, well I need to go there too.

I touched as many roses as I could. As I was wandering (and touching) in young cyclist whizzing by said “hello!” and my knee jerk reaction was… to bow. Wow in just one year I’ve formed what feels like an irreversible habit. Catch me bowing in the US.

I spent a few more hours wandering the path until it got dark. My spidey senses tingled and I exited to head back to the main road through a different alley.

Well to no surprise the residential street suddenly became a market and I had a great time peering at eels, banchan, and fried chicken.

The market eventually spat me out on the main road where I came across none other than a thrift shop.

Let me reiterate: in Korea, thrift finds you.

I browsed the entire store. While buttoning up another linen dress over my clothes, a shopper murmured and pointed.

“Oh is this not allowed?” I asked her.

She replied “pretty”. In the moment I assumed she was talking about me and not the dress and responded with my thanks.

The shopkeeper eventually told me she was closing up and we chatted briefly while she rang me up. She told me I speak Korean well and I told her I do a lot of thrift shopping. She put my four purchases in a silver plastic bag that was more mesmerizing than I expected.

This morning I wanted an experience that reminded me of my first time in Korea and why I came in the first place.

This was exactly it.

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