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Living Large

February 26, 2007

Much more so than during my last visit in 2001, I am struck by Seoul’s sheer immensity. (The other day, for example, we took a 30 minute taxi ride that I was sure took us clear across the city. Later, when I looked at a map, I discovered that we had, in fact, barely left Matty’s neighborhood!) In spite of this, Matty lives in what I am convinced is the coolest area in the entire metropolis. Hong Dae is truly one of the most vibrant, hip areas I’ve ever seen: tons of restaurants, cafés, boutiques, bars, clubs, etc., and every street is packed with people out having a good time until late into the evening. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say that the neighborhood is something like the Paris Marais, only 5 times bigger. All this in addition to being less than a 10-minute jog away from a mini-mountain park and a traffic-free trail that runs for miles along the Han river.

We’re having a fabulous time relaxing, visiting friends, and especially eating out. The food culture here is insane. In addition to all of the Korean comfort food I’ve been indulging in, we’ve also enjoyed world-class pizza, crepes, and, just this afternoon, quite literally the best latté I’ve ever had in my entire life. The best part, of course, is that everything is so cheap – so cheap that we’ve eaten out 2 meals a day every day since I’ve arrived. Thank goodness big city life also means lots of walking!

I’m also having lots of fun meeting Matty’s friends and students, many of whom, interestingly enough, immediately feel compelled to share that I am not at all how they imagined me (”so much more normal, proper, and chaste” as one friend hilariously expressed or more “jazz” to Matty’s “rock and roll” as articulated another. haha!). I am also extremely touched by how unbelievably kind and generous everyone has been. I really feel like I’m being given the royal treatment everywhere I go, but it’s evident that everyone’s many kindnesses (which include an embarrassing number of extravagant gifts!) are a direct reflection of how fond they are of Matty. They say you can tell the character of a person by the company s/he keeps. If this is true, Matty clearly is in very good shape!

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