Saturday, September 12, 2009
A nice relaxing weekend - pretty near perfect as these things go: Beer, pizza, Mukmuk and wee baby action with a friend in Sanbon on Friday night and Saturday morning, a trip to Namsan Tower with a pretty girl on Saturday night, sleeping-in, Bill Maher podcast, omelets and coffee on Sunday morning.
Now, here I am listening to my 112 song Sufjan Stevens collection on itunes - nearly half of which consists of his "Songs for Christmas" CD box-set that I picked-up a few years ago. If this were July or even August, I might hit "skip" and see what other Sufjan action is brought-up by shuffling, but it's well into September, which means not that I'll be listening to Christmas music regularly, but if it comes on inadvertently, I won't turn it off.
Of course, Christmas makes me think of home. When you're living abroad, it can be easy to let the homesick blues creep into your head. I've been fairly lucky in that regard. Skype helps, though it's only a band-aid for actual interaction with people from home. Last year, it was great to have our friend, Dee come stay in Korea for a longer visit, and then to relocate here for work for one year. It was a little unnerving at first to have your worlds collide like that, but it's rewarding when it works out as well as it did.
I'm pretty excited for next month. I've been in Korea now, for what in essence amounts to two years and I'm going to be welcoming my first family visitors next month when my mom and dad make the trek across the Pacific. It's going to be a three week visit - two weeks in Korea, and the better part of one in Japan.
Three weeks might on some ways feel like a long time when three of us will be sharing my apartment. Good thing is, I am lucky enough to have a loft for them to stay in while they are here. I'm making sure to complete all of my lesson planning before they arrive so as to assure that my working day evenings will be free for showing them around. There will be lots to see and do in Korea, though luckily we can kind of wing-it day-to-day - wait and see what the folks are feeling up to instead of checking-off an impossibly long list of places to see and things to do in a tightly scheduled itinerary. I do actually have such a list, however. We won't be short for suggestions, but we won't be piling things on either.
I'll write about the Korea side of their visit soon, but for now, I'm still doing my best to make sure that everything is set for our trek to Japan.
Tickets have been booked for well over a month now, and I have just yesterday received proper confirmation of my re-bookings of the guest houses and hostels we'll be staying at. We are planning four days in Kyoto, and two in Hiroshima before heading back to Seoul for the last bit of my parents' visit. There's a lot to consider, but I would hate to have them make it all the way here and not get to see some of the better parts of Japan that I was able to see on my trip there last August. Speaking of which, I find it very hard to believe that said trip was over a year ago now. Times marches on.
Anyway, booking for my parents was a challenge for me. I'm not a rich man, and mine aren't rich parents. Therefore, staying in the Hyatt or the Four Seasons is not in the cards for any of us. That's actually a blessing, as part of what made my last Japan experience cool was staying in a traditional guest house in Kyoto. Straw mats, wood and paper walls. It was a little traditional oasis in a quieter suburb.
Sadly, the Kyoto guest house I stayed in last year (Guest House Bola-Bola) is fully booked for the time we'll be traveling. The one I booked in it's place, (which shall remain nameless) contacted me the day after the booking and told me that they had a bed bug problem. Crazy. So, yesterday I was somewhat panicked to find a place. The thing is, if it's just me, or me and some friends, we can pretty-much put-up with anything. When I'm showing my parents a piece of Asia for the first time however, I want it to be perfect. I don't want my parents to have to share a dorm room with strangers, I want them to stay in a traditional Japanese-style guest house, and I want them to be in a decent and quiet area of town. We aren't visiting Kyoto for the night life.
Well, after struggling to find a decent place with room for three, I managed to find two in Kyoto, and one in Hiroshima. This means a little bit more moving around in Kyoto, but we'll have better situations once we're there.
At Kyoto, we will be staying first at the at the Roku Roku Guest House. It's split into two buildings - the more modern one being the sleeping quarters, and the traditional one being for reception and lounging. The best part if that Roku Roku is located 150 meters from the Philosopher's Walk - a famous stream and cobblestone path in North East Kyoto. The location should be perfect for our first few days there.
We'll be heading to Nagomi Ryokan-Yuu for our last night. It's more central, and walking distance to Kyoto Station, which will help us to get going to Hiroshima on the 21st. It's also a pretty sweet-looking place. Traditional Japanese wooden house with a few rooms and it'll be close to the central sites of Kyoto - a great place to spend our last night wandering Gion and the Geisha district by the river.
After a bit of panic that finding a place right for our needs was going to be completely unrealistic, I made a few concessions and we are all set. While I would love to be able to afford the high-end Kyoto Ryokans where you get your own silk Kimono and Geisha girls bring you breakfast, I'm not Hugh Hefner. These places will suit us well for our Kyoto experience. I'll write about Hiroshima another time - perhaps after I visit there again with my parents. In the meantime, I'm getting excited about the Kyoto leg of our Japan trip. So many times in Kyoto, I stopped to think about what my family might think of the things I was seeing at the time. Now I'll get to find-out for real, at least in terms of my ma and pa. There are over 2000 temples, shrines, and palaces in Kyoto alone. Lots to fill any 3.5 day itinerary.
Getting excited for the arrival, back to my planning, Korean studying, and maybe, if I'm good, some Deok-Bokki, ice-cream, and a good movie. It's nice to have these low-key weekends, when you've got slosh-ball scheduled for the next.