About a week ago I saw a facebook post from an old college friend. He mentioned he would have a long layover in Seoul (coming home from Phnom Penh).
Long story short, I messaged him and we decided to meet up for a few hours.
Saturday afternoon I bused up to Seoul and snagged a bed at a guesthouse near Seoul Station. It was a little hole-in-the-wall place and was $28 in a two-person room. I ate Quizno’s for dinner (I was feeling a little homesick for American fast food) and tucked up in bed to read.
In the morning I went to Seoul Station to meet Emerson.
He had arrived in Incheon at 7 am and took the AREX rail from the airport to Seoul Station to meet. For anyone meeting anyone, McDonald’s is a easy point of reference.
I hadn’t seen Emerson since 2012, when he graduated. It was so wonderful to see an old friend! We worked on the ThreeFold Advocate, the student newspaper at John Brown University. I was copy editor and he was lifestyles editor his senior year/my junior year.
Emerson was what we affectionately termed “Waltons,” or Central American students that received full-ride scholarships from the owners of Walmart. They’re brilliant, hardworking, and some of the best students at JBU. After graduation, Emerson returned home to work at a Salvadoran newspaper. He since got a job with USAid as a communication specialist and was in Asia getting job training.
As we caught up on the last four years, I took him to some of the interesting sights of Seoul.
We began with Gyeonbokgung Palace, the most famous and iconic Seoul palace landmarks. Emerson and I strolled around in the warm May morning, then went to the other side of the gate to see the end of the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
The stone statue is a Haetae (해티), a mythical creature that protects against bad omens, illnesses, and natural disasters. The downside is they sometimes eat small children. But you win some, you lose some, right?
This is my attempt as a selfie. Poor Emerson had to be patient with me.
I took him to Dongdaemun, a shopping district that reminded us of Chicago. Their culture park was shaped a little like the bean. Emerson really wanted to visit Gangnam, because that’s what he knew about Seoul. So we boarded the subway again and went across the river.
This was also my first time in Gangnam, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that it was the clubbing place for the young and rich. I didn’t know if there was much there in the daytime.
And this is what we found. Gangnam subway stop, exit 11.
After lunch, I had to send him on his way to the airport. It was too short of a time, but absolutely amazing.
Now I just have to visit him in El Salvador!