Friday was my first full day here.
I slept very well on Thursday night because I was very tired !
When I woke up, I knew I needed to make a decision.
A decision that could not be postponed : do I get the vaccination against rabies (rage) or not ?
3 days before leaving Paris, I realized that I had to renew a vaccination (typhoid). I had to go to the Institut Pasteur because pharmacies were out of stock for this vaccine.
It is globally really well organized at the Institut Pasteur.
The thing is, they really make you freak-out about all the possible illnesses that you might catch when you travel.
« Don’t walk bare feet on the sand when you are on the beach in Asia, there are very dangerous bugs in the sand that can ruin your health forever. »
Wonderful ! Of course I want to walk bare feet on the beach !
They ask you the countries where you will go and then edit a list of relevant vaccines.
Later in my journey I will be travelling in Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, India and will be staying in rural areas.
They told me about rabies.
They said it is really better to get vaccination against it if you go to the countryside : if you get bitten by a dog or monkey or bat, you have two days to reach a medical center that has a special anti-rabies serum. Otherwise you die (!).
If you get the vaccination, it does not mean that you are immunized, but you have much more time to find an anti-rabies hospital.
The vaccine is composed of 3 injections in 3-4 weeks (J1-J7-J14 or 28 ) – with the exact same serum. So anyway, they could not do it to me at Institut Pasteur. They highly recommanded me to do it. As I told them I would be staying for 3 weeks in Seoul, they said I could do it here.
Should I do it or not ?
When arriving in Seoul, I thought I really dreamt about other things than going to the hospital for vaccination. But I thought it would be stupid to die for this reason in the middle of such an exciting project.
I could picture myself stressed-out about any animal jumping on me ! Definitely, I would not experience mindfulness.
So on Friday morning I settled my plans for the day. I chose to do it. So I had to do it immediately as I was precisely here for 3 weeks.
Well, at least, it was nice to have something very important to do for my first day here !
On internet I found the adress of the only place in town that did rabies vaccination : the National Medical Center.
Sun, the woman who runs the guesthouse, called to make sure I could go and get the vaccination.
I took the metro from « Hongik University » to « Dongdaemun History and Culture Park ».
First metro experience here !
At first it is a little impressive.
Actually, it reminded me a lot about Tokyo metro.
Lines and direction are very well indicated. The most complicated thing for me is to remember the name of the places and metro stations where I want to go. It really is a new environment, and names do not mean anything to me.
It is a common joke we have with the other travellers at the guesthouse : when we share about what we have been doing during the day, we usually cannot remember the names of the places – Gwanghwamun, Deoksugung, Jongmyo…
« Today I went to… hummm… you know, this big palace close to hummm… I don’t remember the name of the metro station, you know, where there are the gards with traditional outfit » !
The cost of the metro depends on how far you go. You buy a « Tmoney » card in a convenience store (like 7/11 or GS25) and put money in it.
Then, when you enter the metro you scan your card. You do it again when you go out, and there is an automatic amount of money which is taken from your metro pass according to the distance.
Usually, it is around 1200 to 2000 Korean won for a trip, that is to say between 90 cts to 1,50 euros.
The metro is bright, clean, well organized, with vending machines, ATMs, small shops, toilets…
There are usually many exits (up to 12 from what I have seen until now) an there is always a map of the neighbourhood. It makes things really easy.
When I went out at Dongdaemun History and Culture Park I did not go where to go.
I asked a young couple and they looked-up on their smartphone map to help me find my way.
They offered me to walk with me. So we chatted on the way to the hospital. They were both students – computer science for him and economy for her.
The National Medical Center was really BIG ! I entered a building and there was no one at the reception desk. I saw a « police hospital » office and entered to ask for help.
And then, a miracle happened. A miracle called « Sol ».
There was a Korean young man speaking with them. He told me : « oh, vous êtes française ? ».
He was speaking French quite well.
I explained to him what I was doing here. Sol was part of the staff of the hospital. He had lived for 7 years in France, studying theology there. He had come back to do his 2-years compulsory military service and had been working at the hospital for 3 month in the mortuary service.
He took me to the admission service, navigating with ease in what was for me an absolute maze.
I was so happy to have met him because people did not speak English really well at the hospital – I did not want to get the wrong vaccine !
He translated everything.
Then he brought me to medical consultation – a doctor had to make sure I was in a good health to get vaccinated. I saw a doctor, and Sol was still translating for me – the countries where I was going, why I was doing the vaccination in Korea, if I had allergies, medical treatments…
Then Sol brought me to the injections department. While we waited, we talked. He said that he was very happy to meet a French person and speak French. I said that I was feeling very lucky to have met him because he was so helpful.
We talked about France and Korea.
Then I had my injection. I had to wait 20 minutes at the hospital before leaving to make sure I was not reacting with fever.
Sol had to go back to work. He brought me typical Korean sweets, making sure I was feeling ok.
So this is my story about rabies vaccination ! – well the first step because I am going back there on October 2nd and 9th for the next 2 injections.
I felt so blessed for this providential encounter. Things would have been much more complicated without Sol !
While waiting the 20 minutes, I looked at my city-guide to figure out what I would do next.
I realized I was close to Dongdaemun Market
It is an old famous traditional huge market in Seoul where you can find everything – bulk & retail, from dried fish to fabrics or scewdrivers…
What is very easy in Seoul is that whenever you go to a touristy place, there is either a small tourism office desk or a person from the tourism office – dressed in red so that you can see them easily. They give you a map of the neighbourhood and explain to you what to see around !
So I went for a walk in the market.
It was around 4pm and I was hungry.
In the food section you find an infinite range of products (as you see on the pictures).
There are also plenty of small stands where Korean women cook and sell food.
People have a sit and eat local specialties : preparation made of pork or vegetables ; seafood cooked in boiling water in front of you, served with gimshi.
And many people also have drinks – they seem to drink quite a lot here. The very famous and classic drinks here are soju (rice alcool) and makgeolli or dongdongju – they are very similar – a milky sweet rice alcool.
I sat down at one of the stands and tried the seafood (shrimps, octopus, whelk (bulot)) ! I felt like part of the landscape.
Then I came back « home ».
It ‘s great to be staying in such a warm and small guesthouse because even if I am alone there is always someone to share with. The lovely young ladies who work there, and the other guests – many French/Quebec people actually.
We share about what we did during the day, tips about discovering the city, about our perception of the culture, about our former travel experiences, about what we are up to in our life.
It is a real learning accelerator.
In this travelling ecosystem norms are reinvented. People do things that are different than what the majority of people do in their country, they do it in a different way, and that becomes normal. It is a fantastic mind-opener.
I feel like living in an ephemere family that is different each day because people come and go. Contact is very easy between travellers, even if we come with different places and backgrounds.
We share the same reality for a while, and from what I have experienced so far, many of these providential relationships are spontaneously authentic, easy, warm, joyful, and trustful.
Sweet thoughts from Korea, dear reader !