The mid-terms ended and we’re now into the final half of the semester. I don’t want to write about how much that entire mid-term week sucked, including the following week when I found out how badly I did… I try not to let my bad grades define me, because they mean nothing at all to me. (Okay, maybe I am a bit upset about how badly I did compared to last time.) What’s past is past, and everyone gets bad grades at least once or twice. I still have the second half of the semester to make up for it, so I’ll just keep trying my best. Let’s not talk about that crap anymore. (Okay, honestly I hate myself for being such a failure, but I can’t do anything about it now. ㅠㅠ)
Anyway, at the end of hell week, I had one day off so I got back to my Daegu Fall Tour project that I had been into for the past month or so. Before mid-terms even started, I already planned what I wanted to do by late autumn. There had always been this saying in university called the “beautiful mid-term curse” (or something like that). Mid-terms were usually hell week because of exams, and yet it is also the week when the season is at its prettiest. That means during spring mid-terms, cherry blossoms are in bloom. On the other hand, during fall mid-terms, the leaves have changed colours. The reason why it’s a curse is because no matter how pretty the season is, you’ll be too busy studying for your mid-terms. It’s a good thing that the peak fall season came around a week or so after mid-terms, so I still got to enjoy autumn in all its glory.
By October 30th, I had no more exams so I went to the Daegu Immigration Office (대구출입국관리사무소) to inform the authorities about my new passport. (I just received my passport during that week when 나연 언니 and I had food trips.) I went early morning, because I didn’t want to get caught in the busy hours. As usual, the processing only took a few minutes, and then I was free to do whatever I wanted. I had planned to go see a different area of 금호강(Geumho River) near the immigration office that day. It was only a short walking distance away. I also haven’t really explored the area near the Immigration Office, even though I’ve been there so many times, so it was great timing.
Before I went to 금호강, I stopped at a small place that serves 국밥 right across the street from the Immigration Office. It was a cold day. I wanted to eat some warm soup. 국밥 was all I needed. Anyone who knows me here in Korea knows I love 국밥, but not everyone knows the exact reason why. 국밥 is a pretty ordinary food in Korea. If you translate it, it literally means “soup-rice.” It’s just soup made out of some broth, and you eat it with rice and some side dishes, and that’s pretty much it. It’s not fancy or anything; it’s plain old Asian-style home cooking. Now I’ll tell you why I like 국밥. It’s actually a pretty funny story:
One day, back when I was pretty new to living Korea, (circa 2015, maybe September) I was in my dorm and realized that I had run out of things to eat. I remember I was really hungry that evening (I probably hadn’t had anything to eat the whole day), but I was still pretty scared of going outside. I still wasn’t used to living alone at that time, and I did not like going out to places all alone. What’s worse is that I also still felt like a total alien at that time. My Korean was bad, I can’t speak very well, and I felt weird in my own skin because everyone was Korean/East-Asian-looking except me… Like damn, I had crazy insecurities at that time. Anyway, I was so hungry and I wanted comfort food–something that did not taste like convenience store food or fast food. Now down the road was a 국밥 restaurant. I didn’t know what 국밥 was at that time. I decided that I would leave the dorm to eat, and I didn’t invite my roommate because I had no idea how to say it. Lol. When I got there I looked for the menu and there was nothing but Korean characters there. No pictures. So I stood there before the old lady not knowing what to say. She held up a finger, which I assumed to be “one serving” of something, then told me to take a seat. I sat there awkwardly, not knowing what to expect. I didn’t understand anything she said, so I had no idea what I got myself into. A few minutes later, the old lady laid out a bowl of rice, some side dishes 김(nori) & 깍두기(radish kimchi), and a boiling hot soup with slices of beef in it. It was 국밥. I ate happily that night. It’s one of those unforgettable “first-time stories”–my first time eating in a restaurant in Korea all alone. Until now I remember that time whenever I eat 국밥. It reminds me of the days when I was such a big baby in Korea.
After eating a great meal, I just walked to 아양교(Ayang Bridge) and kept on walking along 금호강 to the other bridge near 동촌역(Dongchon Station). It was a long walk and it was cold that day. Seriously, if I was with someone else during these excursions, I would have been branded as insane. Walking long distances to see nothing particularly interesting would normally not be considered fun, but I enjoyed it anyway. It’s like going through all the possible routes in a Pokemon game to find items or rare Pokemon. I wandered around to random places (sometimes even going in circles) looking at my map from time to time. It was tiring (spent like 2-3 hours just walking around) and there was nothing much there in that quiet area of the city, but I was genuinely enjoying myself at that time. This is the type of travelling I can only do by myself. Everyone else will probably hate me if they went with me lol.
After wandering around in circles at the 아양-동천 area, I decided to go to the place I had really wanted to go to this autumn–대구수목원 (Daegu Arboretum). Usually there was a flower festival at the 수목원 during autumn, so I really wanted to go there and take good pictures. The place is said to be really interesting too. It used to be a dump site, but was remade into a beautiful nature park. It’s really far though–at the other side of Daegu–so I had yet to plan a decent date to go until this day finally came up. After an hour or so of resting in the subway on the way to the 수목원, I went out of the subway only to find that it was probably another 20 minutes walk before I actually get to the place. Sometimes, you think you know where you’re going just by looking at a map, but you don’t really know anything until you get to see the place for yourself. And yeah, the arboretum was not the closest walk to the subway when you’re exhausted.
“와… 오늘 장난 아니네…”(Whoa, today is no joke…) I was pretty tired at that point, around 3:30 pm or so, but I kept going anyway. Somewhere in the middle of walking to the arboretum, I thought of just turning back and going home, but no. I came all the way here to the OTHER SIDE of Daegu, and the weather is great, the festival is still on… I couldn’t just let aching feet stop me from getting a short glimpse of the place at least.
When I got there, I did not regret a thing. There were flowers everywhere, and lots of people were taking pictures with family and friends, just enjoying themselves. It was one touristy place, and I loved it. It was like Dubai’s flower garden, minus the burning hot sun. After going around taking some photos and looking at plants, I went to the quiet foresty area of the arboretum away from the flowers and the tourists, and just sat there. The trees still weren’t at peak autumn mode, but it was slowly becoming visible. Just being there with the beauty of nature made me happy.
I was also really happy that I got to explore Daegu more. For once, I actually started to love this place. It’s boring compared to Seoul or Busan, but it has its own laid-back charms. The more I get familiar with Daegu, the more I feel a sort of kinship to it. It’s not longer this place that I got forced to live in; it’s now this place I call my home. I felt the same way with Abu Dhabi before. It was after going on a vacation to the Philippines for the first time (circa 2012) that I felt proud of living in Abu Dhabi and recognized it as my home. Also every time we visited Dubai, I become more and more proud of Abu Dhabi. Back then, I never understood Abu Dhabi, and found it boring, but I grew to love it and it has earned a special place in my heart. Now I feel the same way about Daegu. Sure, Seoul is the big city with everything in it, and Busan is the other big city with everything and more, but Daegu is special. Daegu is simpler, like that favorite pair of comfy shoes you’d rather wear over those fancy heels. Now I completely understand why BTS Suga would always mention Daegu in all his rap lyrics. 😛
The day after going on my little adventure, I got a text from 나연 언니, asking how my trip went. (She knows what I’m doing most of the time. We’re lowkey each other’s best friend at this point, but nobody’s going to admit that. ㅋㅋㅋ) Of course, I told her I had fun. She asked me to send her pics, so I showed her the stuff I took, and told her what I did that day. Then she surprised me with something crazy: she wanted me to go see those sights again with her. She must have been pretty jealous of my little adventures, because she wanted to go IMMEDIATELY. AFTER. SCHOOL. I was dumbfounded. This was too much spontaneity. I almost wanted to tell her “OMG UNNIE I literally just went yesterday! You can’t just surprise me with another big outing, like, do you even have any idea……OMG JUST GO ON YOUR OWN.” But I guess rest wasn’t an option that day, because I agreed with her anyway. I told her I wanted to go see 아양교 again at night, and now here she was, suggesting we go see it at night. Then one of our Chinese friends 정분 also decided to come. Ha. Interesting. XD
나연 언니 also added something new to the itinerary: food trip in 서문시장 (Seomun Market). Now if you say you live in Daegu and have never been to Seomun Market for a night food trip, damn, what have you been doing here????? I’ve been to Seomun Market before, but I’ve never actually had a night-market food trip. I won’t tell anyone that though, because dude, it’s like going to Busan and never going to Haeundae Beach. Daegu’s Seomun Night Market is a GO-TO place in Daegu for street food and stuff. So yeah, I thought, finally I get a chance to experience this and I won’t miss it!
First on the itinerary, the three of us rode the subway together to 달성공원 (Dalseong Park). It was already sundown when we arrived so it was kind of difficult to appreciate the place. The animals in the park were also pretty much lifeless, and we were the only people at the park. We just went around strolling and enjoying the cool autumn evening talking about random stuff (mostly food). We got out of there by dark and just walked to Seomun Market to eat.
When we arrived at Seomun Market, the food stalls were not opened yet. Most of them were still closed. We arrived rather early. The night-market food stalls usually does not open until after 7:30 pm, so we continued aimlessly wandering until finally, the crowds were coming in, followed by food carts rolling down the main road. Soon, lines were starting to form by the stalls. A local dance group started their “busking” performance on the small stage. The empty tables and chairs were getting filled at a steady pace. The markets was starting to come alive before our eyes. Since there were so many people arriving and falling in line on the famous food stalls, the three of us decided to split and order food at different places at the same time. If we didn’t fall in line sooner, it would have taken us longer to actually eat anything. Some lines took terribly long, but it was definitely worth the wait after getting the taste. I had the best 막창 (dish made of chicken gizzard, popular dish in Daegu), some amazing 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), 삼겹살 김밥 (pork belly kimbab), 양념 닭발 (spicy chicken feet), steak, shrimp, etc. Also, while waiting in line in one of the stalls, I met some students from Yeungnam University’s Korean Language Institute. The ahjusshi who sold 막창 also couldn’t forget my face, and every time I passed by his food cart, he would say hello to me. He seemed genuinely happy that I told him I loved his food. (It was one of the best, I must say.) It was cool making new friends in random places. I used to fear talking to random strangers, but I guess I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping those fears to myself nowadays. lol
Later, after filling ourselves up, we rode the subway again to 아양교. It was just as peaceful as it was when I first went there. There really was nothing much there, even at night, but with the bridge all lit up in the cold dark night, it’s a whole different vibe though. I fell in love with the place at first sight the day before, and now I was falling for it again. Although it’s such a boring place, I really liked it there. The spiderwebs on the bridge were my aesthetic. The colorfully lit up bridge, the quiet atmosphere, the serene waters–I loved it. Maybe because I’m such a boring person that I like boring places. Good thing 나연 언니 and 정분 had a fun time taking lots of bad photos. 정분 was funny though. She easily got tired of walking. This is exactly why I’d rather travel alone sometimes. But seeing her complain about the distance we walked was a guilty pleasure for me. I liked seeing my friends complain about their bad stamina. I was always that kid who had weak stamina when it came to physical exertion. For once, I get to be the stronger one wahahaha. I can walk for hours and long distances and I enjoy it!
At the end of the day, we rode the bus home and talked about the power of Photoshop. 정분 showed us some shocking photos of a pictorial from her high school days… it was really, shocking. How can Photoshop make these ugly girls (I’m sorry lol) look like pretty Kpop stars in a pictorial omg…