Tuesday, 24 November 2009

To top it off

There are various pockets around my neighbourhood in Seoul that cater to my senses.

I enjoy my late afternoon walks home from school, because they help clear my mind after hours of entertaining students with the joys of speaking English. The brisk walk to my apartment is just what's required after a day filled with limited words and simple vocabulary -- I never imagined how draining not talking could be.

And as you've become aware now, Café DaVinci is a regular haunt, where I feel at peace and find inspiration on a per-latté basis. In fact, just the other day, S and I became preferred customers, with membership cards. 10 per cent discount on lattés, anyone? Yes, we're just that awesome!

But perhaps my most favourite place among all the hustle and bustle that encompasses this busy nook in Seoul, has to the rooftop of my building.

View from my building, facing east

It took me a few weeks after moving in to find myself on the seventh floor, staring out at Seoul. I can't properly explain to you how those first moments felt, when my feet hit the cement floor, high above ground level. All I can say is that it took my breath away, not because of the spectacular view, but because it finally hit me that I wasn't in Toronto anymore.

Needless to say, I've made many more trips up to the top, sharing the view with anyone who's willing to watch it with me.

Being on this rooftop is eyeopening on so many levels. For one, when I go upstairs at night, I'm greeted with about a dozen or so neon crosses, identifying the various churches in my neighbourhood. You'd never see anything like this in Toronto. I mean, the churches do exist there, but they're certainly not advertised with a 'follow the neon cross to Jesus' tower.

Secondly, I have a direct view of Namsan Tower to the west. Yes. I know. Despite the vertical jungle that is Seoul, I am still able to get an unrestricted view of the city's famous landmark. There it stands, nestled between two towering hi-rises. On clear nights, it's beautifully lit, and is worth the 40-or-so stairs I have to climb in order to see it.

Korea University's main building is also visible if I look to the north. It has a beautiful mountain as a backdrop, and I've watched the leaves on it change colours this season. Spectacular show!

Korea University's main building is visible in the distance. Directly under, is the roof to my neighbour's building, where I've seen them dry everything from hot chilly peppers, to underwear.

Incidentally, the mountains in Seoul aren't so high according to my friend from Taebaek, Gangwando, one of the most mountainous and beautiful regions, in eastern Korea. She called them molehills...

Perhaps they are. I've yet to compare. I'll let you know when I know. But for now, they will have to do.

I can't wait till the summer, when I can park myself up there with a good book, without freezing my assets off.

Finally, one of the most uplifting and heartwarming reasons why I absolutely love my Seoul rooftop, is because it's just that... a rooftop in Seoul.

Standing there and looking out into the vast distance is a reality check and a thrill all at once. When I'm up there, I can't deny that I'm far away from all that I know. I'm a stranger to the city, and it is a stranger to me. But with each passing day, we're getting to know each other, and so far, it's going well. Who knows, maybe when the winter passes, and spring swings by, Seoul and I can share a rooftop date, without the awkwardness that comes with dating someone who speaks a different language than you.

Here's hoping.

A view looking south, towards the Hangang river and Gangnam, in Seoul

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