Day 13 was Lee’s last day working his “part-time” job: counting 노래방 noraebang money. Sad!
Lee’s Korean is worse than terrible, but he picked up a few phrases while we were there. His favorite: 돈 주세요 don juseyo. “Give me money please.” We are not sure where 엄마 Omma picked up her occasional English phrases, but she had a quick retort to Lee’s don juseyo 돈 주세요 on this morning: she stopped washing dishes, turned around, and screamed, “Lee, shut up!” Hahaha! We just looked at each other and burst out laughing. Who taught her that phrase?
We had an important lunch date on Day 13 – Whitney’s very best friend from her previous time living in Korea. 수인 Soo-in and Whitney became instant friends from their first meeting. This “sis” helped her with so many day-to-day things like doctor’s appointments and cell phone plans, as well as some really complicated, life-altering things like a birth family reunion! They’ve stayed in touch over the last six years and Whitney even flew out to visit her in CA during a short study-abroad stint in 2012.
Whitney wanted to visit the 교보 Kyobo bookstore before lunch so we headed out a little early to 강남 Gangnam. She went crazy buying Talk to Me in Korean books! We highly recommend their language learning products to those interested in picking up some Korean. (talktomeinkorean.com)
This giant 교보 Kyobo had a whole floor of Hottracks. Have you ever visited a Korean stationery store? They are full of more adorableness than you can handle.
After shopping around, we had to head out to meet 수인 Soo-in. She and Whitney had a favorite meal they always used to eat together: 닭갈비 dakgalbi! (Not to be confused with 떡갈비 tteok galbi, hahaha! See this post for more.) Soo-in 수인 researched a great place in Gangnam 강남 ahead of time so we could have a proper feast.
We really recommend this chain, Gosoo Dakgalbi! It was our first time at this restaurant but it was delicious! The chain is really popular for their cheese strip (see above) in the frying pan. And of course, don’t forget the post-meal fried rice! The 강남 Gangnam store was a little difficult to find in some back alleys, but we believe they have multiple locations.
After we stuffed ourselves, we shopped around 강남 Gangnam and then stopped for coffee and some more chatting. We found ourselves by a giant Paris Baguette Market, too, and had to stop for some treats.
Soo-in 수인 is amazing because her English is just ridiculously good. Even before she visited the States a couple years ago, she sounded like a native speaker. And she is more up on pop culture than we are! She was telling us a story about a friend who is dating a younger guy. She asked if she could call her a “cougar”? We died laughing.
Eventually, we had to say goodbye to 수인 Soo-in because she had to catch a train back to 천안 Cheonan.
We headed home, too.
When we arrived back at the house, we were sweating. 엄마 Omma and 아빠 Appa kept their thermostat set at about 2 million degrees. Ok, but seriously, it was about 12 degrees warmer than we keep our own Nashville home. The running joke was that coming home was like staying at the jimjilbang 찜질방 or sauna. The Dragon Spa is a popular spot near their home, so we called the family house “Dragon Spa.”
We turned the heat down just a smidge because we couldn’t breathe and 아빠 Appa came home about an hour later. He started shivering and said that he was going to catch a cold in the house because it was “so cold.” It was like 75 degrees in there! We let him turn it back up and we went and stood outside in the 30 degree snow for a reprieve from the sauna.
The day we were dreading finally arrived: packing day. We knew we bought way too much while we were there and did not have a clue how we were going to get it all home. We fueled up with breakfast and started pulling everything out to sort among our three suitcases.
Lee is a master packer (he likes to pretend that he is playing Tetris) so Whitney left most of the project up to him. In the meantime, 엄마 Omma pulled out some pictures that 할머니 halmoni had sent for us. She knew that Whitney likes seeing pictures of her late grandfather, so she dug up some prints and sent them for us to keep!
We were really overwhelmed by the gesture but decided to just keep digital copies of the images and let 할머니 halmoni keep the pictures at her house.
Once Lee got the bags all packed up, we got ready and decided to stop by 아빠 Appa’s key shop one last time before our flight the next day. We walked over to visit and 아빠 Appa called 할머니 halmoni over so we could say goodbye to her. It’s always the hardest “goodbye” because, despite her great health, she is obviously getting way up there in years and we know she won’t be around forever.
She hugged us over and over and asked us when we were coming back, how long was the trip, what time would we arrive home? We were heading out to catch the bus so we walked her home on the way. She held Whitney’s hand the whole walk and said a million times how much she misses us and that we should come back soon to visit.
After our sad goodbye, we headed out to pick up some last minute things we needed for our long trip home. Along the way, Whitney stopped at a convenience store to make sure she had eaten all the things she wanted to while in Korea. She found one she had overlooked (probably because it was freezing outside):
After we finished our errands, 엄마 Omma texted to tell us to meet for dinner. We headed to the subway station to jump on the train to meet her. She said she wanted to take us to a popular 갈비 galbi spot on our last night. When we arrived there, the place was packed. The owner said he was sorry, but he would have to turn us away. It was too busy and he couldn’t take any more customers. “어떻게 Eotteokay?,” 엄마 Omma asked, “What do we do? Our guests came all the way from America…” Whitney stifled a laugh. The owner gave in and cleared off a table. Once seated, Whitney applauded 엄마 Omma. “Chal hasseo 우와 잘 했어 엄마 Omma,” or “Wow, great job!” She laughed and winked. “This place is too popular,” she tsked.
Our last hurrah, we feasted.
“많이 먹고 mani mogo,” 엄마 Omma chirped, “Eat a lot!,” placing perfectly seared cuts of meat on our rice.
Our double dates with 엄마 Omma and 아빠 Appa have become some of our favorite times in Korea. Whitney used to be terrified of being alone as the sole translator, worried that she wouldn’t understand something or say something wrong. Those days are long gone. If she can’t figure out a word, we use the translator apps on our phones. If that doesn’t work, we just say, “Pass!” and move onto the next topic. It’s really comfortable. And food is such a great ice breaker, especially in Korean culture, so these types of meals always turn into a laughfest. We eat til we are about to explode and talk about everything under the sun. At some point in the evening, 엄마 Omma threw her hands up in the heart shape and spoke loudly in English, “Lee, I love you!” We looked at each other and started laughing because it is just so startling when she all of a sudden speaks English to us. These meals tend to go on for hours and we always leave filled up in every way possible.
Appa 아빠 had ridden his motorcycle over to the restaurant directly from work. He jumped on and headed home after dinner and the rest of us took a taxi. When we got to the house, he was pulling the car out of the garage. “Get in!,” he yelled, throwing the passenger door open. “뭐야 Buoya?,” 엄마 Omma and Whitney looked at each other. “What the heck?” He was kidnapping us again!
On the drive, 아빠 Appa asked if we had been to see the 여의도 Yeouido lights. We told him we hadn’t. He took this as his cue to commence another photo op.
Frozen solid, we finally headed back to the car to warm up. Arriving home, the trip ended as it had begun. “빨리 자 Bali cha,” 엄마 Omma told us. “Sleep quickly.” We needed to rest because we were leaving for the airport at 6am. We fell fast asleep, not quite ready for the trip to end, but content with all of the quality time we’d had with family and happily looking forward to our next visit.
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