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A drop in the Osan

At the weekend, Habiba and I went to Osan, one of Seoul’s satellite cities, about an hour’s bus ride south of the capital. We went at the invitation of Habiba’s friend Jessica, and we stayed with Jess’s friend Laura.

We left on Friday evening, going from Nambu Bus Terminal in southern Seoul and travelling with Habiba’s colleague Aiden and a couple of his friends. Over the last two or three months I’ve been trying to up my writing output, so spending time away from home can be a great irritation, not to mention the fact that spending time with a group of people I don’t know well is very stressful for me. I was worried that going on the trip was a mistake. Habiba had the same thoughts, too, and talked about it on the the ride down.

When we arrived there, we met Jess and Laura at the modest bus station. Jessica (Canadian) took Aiden (Irish), TK (Korean) and Adrian (Australian) to a hotel; Laura (South African) took Habiba (American/Canadian) and me (British) to her place. After that, we had dinner at a galbi (Korean barbecue) restaurant. After that we went drinking at an American-style bar, WA Bar. And after that we went to a noraebang (Korean karaoke) place. The music at the noraebang was better that usual – some of it actually sounds like real instruments. I bored everyone with ‘Some Kind of Monster’ (it’s over eight minutes long – the intro is two minutes long).

The next morning, after far too little sleep, we were fed tasty blueberry pancakes by Laura, and we were joined by Laura’s boyfriend, Chris (British). Then we gradually made our way to the nearby, slightly larger, city of Suwon. I’d been to Suwon the year before last to visit the fortress, or Hwaseong. I remembered the station area with its big D-shaped road in front. Last time I walked; this time we taxied – once we found the correct taxi rank.

We didn’t actually get to the fortress itself – a large ring of fortifications that dates back to the 18th century – but we did spend an hour or so looking round the associated palace, Haenggung – an area I completely missed on my previous visit. After lunch, Aiden, TK and Adrian left us to head back to Seoul.

Much of the rest of our day was taken up with travelling back to Osan. The distance can’t be much more than ten kilometres, but it took us two hours. The problem was that there is a one-stop branch line on the subway between Osan and Suwon and we weren’t paying much attention as we were playing a word game (taking turns to name adjectives beginning with the same letter letter – angry, adroit, awkward etc). We first went to the branch line stop, then waited (I think we missed one train that would have taken us back to the mainline through inattention), then got off at the right stop and promptly got on the next train – which, of course, took us back to dead-end branch line. Eventually, we paid attention and got back to Osan.

We had dinner at a Thai restaurant near a US airbase along with another friend of Jess and Laura’s, another Jessica (American). Then we had more drinks (despite the fact that I shouldn’t be partaking with my bowels) and more word games.

On Sunday, we were resolved to go to a folk village somewhere close to Suwon. However, although I didn’t get noticeably drunk the previous night, I had a headache that got worse throughout the day – no doubt due to the hot, sunny weather. As headaches do when they get bad, it started making me feel nauseous. I informed Habiba by text (I was on the toilet) that I didn’t think I could make it through an afternoon on my feet outdoors. We ended up going to see Toy Story 3.

In 3D, no less. I wouldn’t have chosen to see it in 3D, but we didn’t have a choice – unless we wanted to watch the dubbed version. It was a good film. The Toy Stories are a solid bet for humour and emotional content, and for appealing to children and adults alike. Actually, 3 was probably a bit strong for young kids. Woody, Buzz and co are forced to face the final frontier – which for a toy is being thrown away and destroyed. Don’t worry – it has a happy ending. Probably the highlight of the movie was Buzz Lightyear being switched to Spanish mode and dancing a little flamenco dance for Jessie, including a hilarious crab scuttle move. As with the only other film I’ve seen in 3D (How to Train Your Dragon), it wasn’t worth paying the extra for what is effectively much lower picture quality.

Then we went back to Osan to pick up our bags and catch a bus back to Seoul. Given what I described in the second paragraph, it was a surprisingly good weekend. I didn’t get any work done, but we had a lot of fun and made a couple of new friends (we’re connected on Facebook now, so it must be true).

This coming weekend, I have a thing with work. They call it MT – management training – here, I understand. We’re going rafting. I don’t really know much about except that I’m on the white team, which means I’m supposed to wear something white. The only white tops I have – and I have surprisingly many – all have ugly yellow-green stains on the underarms.

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