Iâ€™m curious about South Korea â€¦ and it seems South Korea is just as curious about me. From news television crews to young women asking me to pose for photos, I cause a stir everywhere I go. Here are some encounters that will give you an idea of what it was like:
One of my first activities is a climb up Namsan Mountain. Now thatâ€™s about 850 feet up, pretty much paved. At the top, two Korean women ask me to pose for photos with them. Then I head down â€¦ and two more want a photo. Then a young Korean man says â€œExcuse, please â€¦ are you from Italy?â€ I tell him that Iâ€™m from the U.S., and he turns shy and repeats â€œsorrysorrysorry.â€ After these two encounters, the rest become kind of old hat, an expected part of my day.
At Gimpo International Airport. Soon, Iâ€™ll fly to Jeju Island â€¦ what people call the Hawaii of South Korea. A college student asks to survey me about my travel experience in South Korea. This will happen every few days. Each survey I take nets me a trinket – a keychain made from lava rocks, a headband with kanji characters (yes, this happened in Japan, too), a handkerchief.
Itâ€™s the morning of the Hi Seoul Marathon. Iâ€™m not up for a full marathon, so I signed up for the 10K. At the starting line, thereâ€™s a huge group of runners. Cheerleaders lead us in a boisterous warmup. And I do my own tried-and-true stretch routine â€¦ I look up from my task to see a camera crew focused on my every move. I hope they didnâ€™t expect me to be fast or anything.
Every Single Day
â€œWhy did you come to Korea?â€ South Korea is friendly – the residents ask us if we need help if we stand in place too long. Itâ€™s very endearing. And they want to know why we came to South Korea. And they want to know where else weâ€™ll go. They say â€œyesâ€ and nod when we say Japan is next, as if itâ€™s more worthy of my attention. Donâ€™t sell yourself short, South Korea – you deserve visitors just as much as Japan.
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