Korea, Day 2

It gets quite hot in Ursula’s apartment in the mornings because of all the windows, but I still slept well because their futon is super comfy. A quick note about Ursula’s apartment: It’s on the 11th floor, with a view of the surrounding area. They don’t have a key – just a keypad that they have to type in a code on to enter their apartment. Their refrigerator is ginormous and is so modern and flush with the rest of the wall that it actually looks like a cupboard. They have a real hardwood floor and brand new furniture paid for by not them. In short, it’s awesome, modern, chic and so the opposite of my cement block. They even have their own neurotic Calico, so I didn’t miss Kaz too much.

We woke up, watched some reruns and had a fantastic curry rice thing that Gabe made us. Then we took our time getting ready, got some coffee and hit the subway to get to the electronics store. The store was quite unlike anything I’ve ever been in before. Instead of being one cohesive store, it seemed to be a giant building filled with hundreds of little kiosks all dedicated to the selling of electronic goods. We went to one of these kiosks for transformers and a second one to get Ursula’s cellphone fixed.

Lantern Festival

After that we headed to the Lotus Lantern Festival. From what I gathered, the Lantern Festival is held in honor of Buddha’s birthday. Ursula and I spent two hours making lotus lanterns, thought sadly ours did not win any awards. The lantern making was hosted by some organization for foreigners and we were each given a paper lantern, some glue and bits of color paper. Using the glue, we shaped the color paper into lotus petals and attached them to our lantern. Then we left the lanterns to dry and somebody came by and judged them.

We were kind of hungry after all our hard lantern making work, so we stopped by a convenience store and bought some snacks. Snacks in Korean convenience stores are essentially the same as in Japanese ones. I got my usual – onigiri and drinkable yogurt. The onigiri was filled with kimchi though, which is definitely not something you would find in Japanese onigiri, and herein lies yet another difference between Japanese and Korean cuisine. Japanese kimchi has some kick, but it’s not tear-inducing. Korean kimchi is so spicy it kind of takes you to another plane of existence.

It started raining just in time for the parade. We got our seats and then got some umbrellas and spent most of the parade trying to see around other people’s umbrellas without poking each other’s eyes out with the ones we were holding. After the parade (which included traditional Korean elements as well as performances from foreign groups), we got some dinner. Dinner was bulgogi (sweet beef) and several different kinds of kimchi and some soup and rice. We were supposed to wrap the bulgogi and kimchi in lettuce leaves and eat it like a wrap. Toward the end of the meal, I noticed some things that looked like peppers or green chilis in with the lettuce and I decided to try one. Gabe warned me that they would either be really mild or ruin-my-meal spicy. I decided to risk it because really, how spicy could they be? Not only did those chilis ruin my meal, they ruined my life in ways that my exes have probably only ever dreamed of doing. There were tears, choking and a burning sensation that I can still kind of feel. I’m not really sure why this food even exists. After dinner we caught some last glimpses of the parade, got some Baskin-Robbins and then Ursula and I went to the onsen in her building.

OMG…the onsen was fabulous. There were several different kinds of baths, including a tea bath and a diet pool. I’m not sure how long we spent in there, but at the end we gave ourselves a good scrubbing with towels and put on some sexy pink pajamas to wear in the hot room. I thought that the hot room was going to be like a sauna, and I usually can only spend about three minutes in a sauna before I start feeling like my insides are going to explode, so I didn’t have much hope for this hot room thing. But it turns out that it’s really just a hot room – no steam or humidity, so we actually spent quite a bit of time in there just laying on the floor and half-sleeping.

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