Seoul is huge. It has 25 districts (gu) and each gu is subdivided into neighborhoods (dong), and in total the city has 522 different dongs. Without realizing it, I booked a hotel in the exact same neighborhood Jungwon lives: Cheongdam-dong in Gangnam-gu. So it only took about 5 minutes to drive to her parents’ apartment (most Seoulites live in spacious apartments not houses), and it could have easily been more than an hour if I had chosen a hotel in another dong across town.
We were very warmly welcomed into her house with lovely balloons and huge smiles and hugs. Jungwon met my entire family in 2004 when she traveled home with me after my semester at Emory university, but I only knew her family from pictures and stories. And today I finally got to meet her parents and her twin sister Jungyoon, and they seemed very eager to meet us too.
Jungwon’s mother cooked a lot of Korean food, and she kept saying “eat a lot” (her English was very limited). And “eat a lot” we did, but somehow we couldn’t convince her we had enough and she kept urging us to “eat a lot”. I wished we could because the food was delicious, she served my Korean favorites, japchae and bulgogi, because Jungwon told her about them. But there was so much more food, like salad, barbecue chicken, mushrooms, kimchi (of course) and many more side dishes like Korean seaweed, soup and rice.
After dinner she served Korean fruit for dessert which we had to eat very quickly because Jungwon and Jungyoon were taking us to check out the Coex Mall before it closed. We had to hurry but we couldn’t leave without a quick tour of the huge apartment (definitely in a different league than those Japanese shoebox apartments) and stuffing some more fruit into our mouths to make Jungwon’s mom happy. At the Coex Mall the twins took us and our balloons to Dunkin' Donuts, to buy us some more dessert because their mom was worried we hadn’t eaten enough that evening (she had texted her concerns to Jungwon’s cellphone).