24 Mar Journey to Gideon – Part 6
Feeling still worse, and having drooled all over myself because my throat hurt so badly all night (sorry, TMI), I finally agreed to go find a doctor before our flight out of Korea the next day. I remembered Kelli telling me that Itaewon was a big international center in Seoul, so I literally typed “international clinic” into our Citymapper app and selected the first one in Itaewon.
Another travel tip for you: Seoul has an English help center in the subway station in Itaewon (and likely elsewhere, but that’s one in particular we used). You’ll also see “tourist volunteers” in the markets and other tourist destinations, and they are so friendly! You can’t miss their puffy red coats and big smiles, ready to help! So when in doubt, look for anyone or anything with the word “tourist” in it. English was not nearly as common as I expected in Seoul, but all of the volunteers were fluent and would seek us out to offer their assistance at every opportunity.
If you have followed our journey for a while, you’ll recall that we have been to 5 countries in Asia: Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and South Korea. And I have now been to clinics or hospitals in 3 of those countries! Fortunately, the doctor at the South Korean clinic was very fluent in English (I had flashbacks to drawing pictures with the almost-non-English-speaking doctor in Indonesia though), and their office was insanely efficient. From walking in the door to walking out the door with prescriptions in hand, it took 22 minutes. And that included two throat swab tests and waiting for the results: An unspecified bacterial infection. The total cost for seeing the doctor and the two tests was 100,000 Korean won (or about $92 USD). That’s way cheaper than our high-deductible plan back home!
The nurses explained what and how to take the medications we were to pick up from the pharmacy, which was great because the pharmacist spoke only a few words of English. We grabbed the meds (just $26) and a smoothie from Dairy Queen, and then we made the 30-minute journey back “home” to Insadong.
We spent the morning watching (literally) the same 3 episodes on BBC Earth, including the man chasing white tigers and the woman chasing ballerinas, both in Russia. As crazy as it sounds (especially because Korea is amazing!), that morning curled up with Brian watching BBC was one of my favorite moments. That was likely the last time the two of us will simply spend a day resting together before little man comes home, and we soaked up every second of it.
As we neared nightfall, we set out to meet our friend Jordan at Namsan Seoul Tower (for the record “N. Seoul Tower” does not stand for North Seoul Tower, as we had been told, so you can save yourself our embarrassment). Though the subway system was close by and easy to navigate, we decided to walk the 45 minutes, and again, we were not disappointed to see the other side of Myeongdong by foot!
Side note: If you’re feeling claustrophobic, simply cough on the subway. You’ll get nasty looks, but a whole lot of space! I quickly decided to buy myself a mask to avoid the social awkwardness. Many, many people in Seoul wear masks, so I fit right in! And I stopped getting weird looks, even when I coughed, so long as I was wearing my super cool mask. So I wore it that whole evening. And bonus – it kept me much warmer!
We took the cable car to the top of the mountain (hill?), and then we paid the extra fee to ride the elevator to the top of the tower. If ever in Seoul, spend the extra money, because looking out over the city is incredible! Namsan Tower was one of our very favorite places in Korea. And I loved that we got to see it both in the daylight and at night, as we came right at dusk!
Also, if you are so inclined, you can use (I’m assuming at least) one of the only bathrooms in the world that’s 700 feet in the air and in front of a floor to ceiling window. It was one of the most disconcerting feelings, undressing in front of a massive window as you watched people below. But it’s an experience worth having, haha. (Obviously Brian took the first photo below.)
We rode the elevator back down and explored the area around the base of the tower, where you’ll find the most gorgeous views of Seoul and thousands and thousands of “locks of love!” The color of Namsan Seoul Tower indicates the air quality, and we happened to go on a “green” night, which means our air was “average.”
After that, we jumped back in the cable car, rode down the mountain, and made our way back toward Myeongdong. We happened upon the night market, and it was absolutely fantastic! Just look at all the delicious food we tried!
First up, “egg bread.” I’m sure it has a more Korean name, but the English translation was just “egg bread.” It was literally a piece of cornbread/sweet bread with a whole egg on top. Also, it came in a cup.
Next up we found japchae, which are Korean glass noodles with veggies, bulgogi beef, and just a tiny bit of sauce. Japchae is one of our very favorites!
Then we tried fried mozzarella cheese (with some sort of rice stick between the fried cheese pieces), massive shrimp (not pictured, so instead enjoy the middle photo of rose-shaped ice-cream, which we did not try), and bungeo-ppang, which is a fish-shaped pastry with filling in the middle (I got Nutella, but red bean paste is much more traditional)! Also not pictured was hotteok, which is a Korean pancake filled with cinnamon and sugar.
Lastly, we grabbed sweet potatoes. They were literally just sweet potatoes, but they were amazing! They are cooked in that huge clay pot all day until they are essentially caramelized and delicious.
Stuffed with street food and growing ever sleepier, the three of us headed back toward Insadong. We said goodbye to Jordan, packed our suitcases, and crawled into bed for our last night in Korea.
We woke up the next morning to Preliminary Approval from the judge, and I cried happy tears again. The judge promised a fast process, and it was literally as fast as he could possibly move things along!
This Preliminary Approval approved us to be Gideon’s parents, and, once received by our agency (which ended up taking another 5 days), started the 15-day “cooling off” period before Final Approval (the 15-day period allows the judge to make any updates to the case and also allows birth mom to change her mind). Our Final Approval (or “legal custody” date) will be March 29.
We had another slow morning of BBC Earth (same exact 3 episodes of the same exact 3 shows) and smoothies from Paris Baguette for breakfast. Just look how cute their cups are!
After breakfast, we realized we hadn’t actually researched how to get back to the airport! We didn’t know where to buy tickets for the airport limousine bus we rode into Seoul, so we took a taxi from Insadong to Seoul Station ($4.40), and then we took the Express train ($16 total) from Seoul Station to Incheon Airport Terminal 2.
I got randomly flagged for additional screening, so we (slowly) made our way through security, and then we stopped in a bookstore to make one final attempt at finding a children’s book in English. We have collected a book for Gideon from every country we’ve visited since we were married (Iceland, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan), and we were so disappointed to come up short in Seoul! But we were not disappointed in the airport bookstore, and we found 11 books about Korea for Giddy Bean…in English! So we bought all of them, of course.
We enjoyed a lovely musical performance of traditional Korean music before boarding the plane back to the US. It was the perfect way to end our time in Seoul!