Tuesday, January 8, 2013

USO Home Visitation Tour

The first thing I have to say about this tour is Beware. It is not what it sounds like. At least it wasn't for us. It all started when I was extremely excited about the 2012 Fireworks Festival. I had been waiting the whole week to go. My husband well... he decided to sign us up for this tour on the same day. I nearly killed him. He said it would be fine because this thing was at two o'clock and the fireworks festival started at seven, so we should be fine. Little did he know.

So, the name of the thing was "Home Visitation", so in my head it was supposed to be, going to a typical Korean home to learn their culture, so I wore an outfit that would be appropriate. No sneakers or anything like that. Fancy skirt and cute flats. Cute flats NOT made for walking all day long.

The USO is located in Camp Kim, close to Yongsan, so we took a taxi from the hotel since we were still staying at The Dragon. We got there and we saw a whole bunch of people. they sat us around a numbered table and I saw people with cameras. That's when I started to freak out. Nobody is filming me, no sir! I was still thinking about the Fireworks Festival and how we were going to miss it. It's only once a year. 

I want to say, for the record, that this family is the sweetest people I have ever met. Extremely kind. I'm sure the whole situation had been more awkward if it had been any other kind of people. They sent us off with the Korean families they picked out for us and we got a lovely mom with three boys. We got in their van and we were surprised to see they had a driver. We started talking and I learned that Korean people sometimes have two names, their Korean name and their English name. Her name was Sarah, and her kids were David, Daniel and Abe. The kids were the sweetest thing and they all spoke very good English. Abe, the youngest, was a little shy and remained seated on mom's lap for the ride.

Here we were, thinking we were going to their house, but we ended up in Gyeonbokgung Palace. I think that was the one, and we walked around it for like two hours or so. They paid for our entry fees and got us some bottled water. The palace was beautiful and amazing and I didn't take many pictures because I felt like I had to interact more with them but I definitely plan on going back to this beautiful place. Here are a few shots:

After we were done with the palace, we thought, Ok, maybe they are not taking us to their house, maybe they just wanted to show us a place of interest. So we got in the van and drove and it didn't seem like we were going back to USO. We finally got to Namsan Park, were the Seoul Tower is. I had wanted to go to the Seoul Tower but I was waiting for my photography equipment to arrive so I could have my polarizing filter and my other lenses with me. Sarah asked me if I'm ok to walk and I wasn't, but she was so  sweet and kind that I couldn't say no, so I braved up and climbed the stairs to Seoul tower. Not many pictures, they all looked crappy because I had the reflections on the glass, but that is a place I'm definitely going back to, for photos and to put our lock with the other locks of love.
Seoul Tower has a cute gift shop and this cheese grater caught my eye. I thought it was adorable. A little too expensive for what I would pay for a cheese grater, and also being a circle I think me, being Queen Clumsy, will be grating my knuckles in no time. But hey, cute nonetheless, HAD to take a picture.

After being done in Seoul Tower, it was almost six and I started making peace with the fact that we were not going to make it to the Fireworks Festival. Now I really wanted to murder my husband. I'll give him some credit, he felt really bad about it. I know that if he would have remembered it was on the same day, He wouldn't have signed us up for it.

We go back in the van, and we notice again that hey... we are not going back to USO, and we are also getting on the highway. Oh boy. Traffic here in Seoul is terrible, which is why I love the subway system so much, so we were stuck in traffic for quite some time until we got to her place. She lived in this AMAZING penthouse in one of the fanciest neighborhoods of Seoul. This place was incredible. Extremely beautiful and the view was breathtaking. We were greeted by her mother and father, who live with them. We didn't get to meet the husband because he was at a work meeting. Her cook made typical Korean food and it was our first time trying Bibimbap . I am very picky with my food, but I also feel bad when someone puts up an effort to get something ready so I ate everything I could, but I couldn't eat the Kimchi. That level of spicy is where I draw the line. We also tried some of their desserts and they are very different from what I'm used to. Some made out of rice, some made out of potatoes, not very sweet at all. One of them was kind of chewy. I didn't like the chewy one but the other ones were fine.

She gave us a tour of her incredible apartment and we played for a little while with the children and then it was time to go home. I was a little worried since I saw her send the driver home, and we didn't know the neighborhood, but she walked us to the subway station and insisted on riding the subway with us until we safely got to our station. We had been in Korea less than a week, so we didn't know OUR station yet, so we figured Yongsan would be the closest one. Err. Wrong. Noksapyeong is the closest one to the Dragon Hill Lodge, if you ever need that information. So we got off in Yongsan and it took all of our convincing power to have Sarah not walk with us to base, and man, it would have been embarrassing for us to let her see that we had no clue how to get to base or how long we were going to have to walk. We said our thank yous and goodbyes and got on our way, walked for about 45 minutes to an hour and made it safely to the hotel, where, for the first night in a week, I got a full night's sleep.

This experience was amazing, and like I said, these are the most beautiful and kind people I've met, and I am very grateful we got to spend a whole day with them, but I would have loved to know what I was going to do so I could plan better and be prepared. I think if we had asked the people who arranged the tour, we would have had better information. At least I know I would have worn different shoes. So if you get the chance to do this, do it, it's amazing what you can learn just by spending some time with someone different. We had a great time with Sarah and the kids and I really hope I get to see them again, it was wonderful to meet people like them.

Thank you for reading!


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