Hoegi Station on a rainy Sunday afternoon ? after obsessively checking the subway map, I am finally convinced that I know where I am going, and so I begin to patiently wait for the trumpet fanfare to announce the arrival of the train. It is blatantly obvious that I am a tourist, and that is even without my Korean guidebook and camera, which I have gotten into a habit of taking everywhere with me.
As people begin to gather at the tracks, I receive warm smiles from some, inquisitive stares from others and then from some no reaction at all, as they are overly consumed by their supersized phones. Granted it has taken me a couple of weeks, but I no longer feel intimidated by the crowds and I have grown to enjoy my interactions with kind strangers that happily offer directions or a seat on the subway. I keep on being reminded that gestures and expressions can bridge any language barrier, albeit ordering at restaurants still remains a day-to-day challenge involving extensive finger pointing and hand gestures.
The genuine everyday experiences are what have so far made for the most vivid and lasting memories of Seoul; be it the overwhelming passion and electric atmosphere that persisted throughout the length of the entire baseball game at Jamsil Stadium, the euphoria when a K-Pop group was spotted in front of the SBS studios, or the overpowering aromas while strolling through traditional markets.
As the end of my visit nears, so does the end of the rainy season. I am more than ready to put away my battered umbrella and flip-flops, which have endured the rigorous and unpredictable summer weather, yet I am not ready to leave Seoul; a metropolitan city exuberating tradition yet at the same time innovation and progress. It will be strange not seeing Samsung cars, riding Hyundai elevators, experiencing rush hour crowds at 11 p.m. and always having a plate of Kimchi on the table. It has only been a month, but the experience, new perspective and memories will remain forever.