You have been more to me than a checklist of cities, but if I had to use checkmarks, they would be in the shape of lightening bolts for the moments that were too quick to catch but still made a thunderous roar. You have thrown hailstorms and terrible timing at me along with everyday hallelujahs and souls that were too good for me to hold. You have been the opposite of restful, but the cure to my restless. You have taught this lover of words that there is a love beyond words. I leave you with sand in my shoes, chaos in my heart, and a little more understanding of why people do what they do. My suitcase is heavy. My heart is full.
Vancouver, I am ready to come home.
1. I like how every shaved ice place is known for a certain kind of shaved ice. It’s never just, “You have to try to the bingsoo here.” It’s “the chocolate bingsoo,” or “the strawberry bingsoo,” or in the picture above, “the wheat germ, almond, and mochi bingsoo.” Every place offers something special.
2. We met up with Sarah for breakfast, and debriefed our trip to the DMZ. Sarah is very passionate about the things that are happening in North Korea, and we talked about how Korea’s history is very similar to Israel’s – the split, the corruption, and the hope of reunification one day. Sarah always reminds me that we need to hope that things like this will happen sooner than later, and I think it’s important for non-Koreans to also pray for reunification and for what will happen when North Korea finally opens their gates. I want to be a part of praying and dreaming for better things that will come in our world.
3. I came across this watch shop in Bukchon that specializes in handmade, antique-looking watches, and they even have a section where you can customize your own watch. I love finding niche products like this, because you know that the owners are extremely passionate about what they are doing. The idea of having fewer, better things still lives on.
4. We explored some of the older parts of Seoul, and it was incredible! They have done such a good job of preserving these parts, and in the area we went to visit, there were still people living in the houses. The buildings have been repurposed a bit to suit modern days better, as opposed to being knocked down and built overtop. At every corner, there are culture centres where you can take workshops and learn to make things like traditional Korean dolls or wooden frames. It’s beautiful how traditional culture is so alive and well here.
5. Melissa took us to Hongdae, which is the “hipster” part of town. It’s close to an art school so there is street art everywhere, and tons of things to see and do in the area. It was so great to hang out with someone who is just as passionate about food (especially shaved ice, haha) and shopping as I am.
6. As I mentioned before, ice cream is VERY tall here.
7. Even when I am city hopping and living with inconsistency, I love being able to create things that are habitual, even if it’s for a short amount of time. Every morning in Seoul, I would get breakfast at Paris Baguette, where the bread would still be warm as I picked it up, go to 7-11 to get banana milk (with a straw, obviously), and then bring it back to our hotel room to eat before heading out for the day. I wish we stayed long enough so I could have tried every single type of bread they made.
8. “Often, people come to Seoul and never leave.”
We arrived in Osaka today! We’ve only been in the city for a few hours, but here are three things that I’ve noticed:
1. When I was in high school, it was really obvious what the trends in fashion were. I remember asking for a TNA hoodie for Christmas, and then everyone started wearing American Apparel and then I was distraught about the switchover to skinny jeans. Japan is the opposite of that. Of course there’s trends like New Balance sneakers, but everyone here is so well-dressed in the sense that they are all doing their own thing. Whether you want to dress grungy or hype or just plain and simple, there’s space for that here, and I like that everyone looks like they love what they are wearing. Being fashionable doesn’t necessarily mean being on point with what’s in style. It’s often more so about representing yourself well.
2. It’s bike city here. I thought there were a lot of bikes in Vancouver, but I think there are as many actively used bikes per person in Osaka as there are cellphone owners in Hong Kong (I think the statistic is 1.6 mobile phones per person or something). There’s lines of bicycles packed in front of every shop and restaurant, but unlike Vancouver:
a) People don’t lock up their bikes here. Maybe it’s because every person in the city already has a bike so stealing one wouldn’t be beneficial (but if you did that in Vancouver, it would get stolen in 1.6 seconds).
b) There’s not a lot of bike lanes. It’s like when you try to walk to class at UBC during peak hours, and there’s always that one person who’s trying to bike through a crowd of people, except that one cyclist is many cyclists who are used to people moving out of the way for them.
I’ve had a slight phobia of cyclists since I got ran over by a rogue biker last year (I bled a lot. It sucked.), but I guess it’s time to get over it now.
3. People are very ritualistic and respectful in worship. We passed by a set of shrines and watched people pray and pay their respects for a little while, and it made me wonder what all their customs and traditions mean. I saw a girl running by, and even though she was obviously in a rush, she still stopped to bow at the shrine. It was such a small, but powerful, gesture of humbleness.
In case you haven’t seen the flood of pictures on Instagram and Facebook, I have compiled everything nicely into a blog post for you:
It has rained everyday in Taiwan since we’ve arrived, but today, in Kenting (a town that looks like Hawaii, but feels like a less-busy Taipei), the sun was shining for us! We visited cliffs that were made of reefs abandoned by the sea and walked down empty temple streets that have now been turned into a youth centre. They were reminders that not all things that get left behind result in ashes and dust.
If Taipei is emerald, then Kenting is indigo – indigo like denim dye. Even if it’s washed and faded by tides of tourists that come to receive but not to give, the city will always, always stay blue.