Seoul, Korea is a city of about 10 million, 20 million in the greater metropolitan area, bisected by the Han river. Across the Yellow Sea from China, Incheon international airport is just a 1 hour 50 minute flight from Beijing. It makes a great weekend visa run. Some people even stay in the airport then turn around and head back to China. There is no requirement that you stay across the border for a day or two but that’s what we did. We left Friday and came back Sunday, having a spa day on Saturday. It was raining on Friday and that turned to snow on Saturday. Owing to the weather, LiLi had zero interest in the nearby amusement park, green park, river cruise or pretty much anything other than shopping and spa-ing. So that is what we did.
I’ve changed planes in Seoul before but never gotten beyond that. I was pleasantly surprised at the city. Huge but with lots of water and green; not as dense as Beijing. And also: very very clean. All of it: air; streets, sidewalks, taxis. Strikingly, awesomely, clean.
Was odd that although I only have about ten phrases in Chinese I kept wanting to say them. It was like when we first got to China and my mind kept popping up with Spanish phrases. Some brain compartment access that brain behavior psyches can probably easily explain. LiLi kept quiet in Korea but upon returning to China was a happy chatty-cathy talking up a storm to airport folks, the passport control guy, the taxi driver. She remarked that she’d like to live in Seoul since it is so clean but would not since she didn’t speak Korean. Her best friend at home is Korean American happa so I said maybe they’d both live there one day and learn Korean together. LiLi said, well, maybe not since first she wants to learn French and Russian. And more Spanish. So Korean is a bit farther down her list at age 9.
On the flight back we sat next to a Korean woman who is teaching in BJ. She said that Seoul wasn’t so clean until recently and that even just 15 years ago she said it was like BJ. She thinks it was the Olympics there and that the same thing has already started to happen in BJ. She thinks in 15 years it’ll be sparkling here too. It’s a bit hard to imagine living in the gritty-grey-winter-spitting-smoginess of it all, but maybe so. Maybe so.