Seoul has changed drastically in the last few weeks. The hues of orange and red that decorate the trees all across the city are colours that I had only ever seen in magazines and travel documentaries. To finally see the land set on fire by these blazing leaves just transfers me into another dimension especially when I am walking all alone listening to some of my favourite songs of all time. The yellow colour of fallen leaves almost always ends up making me hum Yellow by Coldplay because I have honestly never seen this yellow ever before in my life. Around where I live these yellow leaves almost always have a yellow fruit that falls with it. The fruit is one that used to be rampant even in Pakistan and its smell always reminds me of home.
Other than the breathtaking visuals, the changing weather always must bring with it something I hate a whole lot: the cold. I already had one attack about a month ago, but of course that wasn’t enough. After an exhaustive two weeks of studying day and night, with maybe one hour of sleep per night, followed by too many stress relieving activities, I ended up with a terrible flu that I am still recovering from. However, I will take this opportunity to admire the amazing teas that Korea has for health purposes (at least I think they are healthy). From citron teas, to grapefruit teas, as well as honey and ginseng or honey and green plum drinks. I have fallen deeply in love with all of them. They always make me feel full of energy and warm to the core, given how I already feel terribly cold in the beginning of November.
Another thing that I have been feeling in Korea is as modern as its popular culture may get, there is an element of vintage in all the sights and sounds around me. It’s a strange mix of traditionalism with modernism, which is just why I love my continent of Asia. The mish mash of tradition and modernity creates a completely new culture anywhere you go all around the continent. The roadside vendors remind me of all of the delicious snacks we used to get from our roadside vendors back home. It makes me miss home and all the deep fried junk like samosas and jalebis. However, whenever it rains, I want to go have twigim because it is much the same as pakoras. What is ironic however is that as ‘traditional’ the vendors may be, you will constantly hear Korean popular music playing through speakers around marketplaces. This is how two completely different versions of the same country get juxtaposed next to each other. It is what brings vibrancy to the very Western idea of modernity which is rather uniform without much dynamism to it.
Lastly, I’ve been going to Hongdae a lot again. Somehow I think I love that bit of town, or maybe it’s just super close to where I am. The district of Yeonnam-dong is one of the most adorable places I’ve seen because it has these small cozy alleyways and some very good restaurants which are rather cheap. It seems to be like a little Europe, at least that’s how I imagine Europe must be. A lot of these small self-run businesses set up stalls there to sell things they make. You see a lot of artsy items on sale, from jewelry to hand painted goodies. While roaming around the area, I ran into a shop that was a hilarious place to be in. It’s a cat shop. And not a cat shop in the sense that it sells cats. Rather, it has everything to do with cats themselves. Famous paintings of humans with cats painted instead of human faces, small porcelain trinkets in the shape of cats and that’s just not where it ends. The shop actually plays familiar popular songs, except there’s no human singing them. All you hear is meowing and purring of cats trying to sing along to classics. It’s guaranteed to leave you in fits if you ever visit it!