Fish & Fish – Seoul, South Korea – Day 7

I am awakened by my heart stopping. Or so it feels. In fact it is nothing more than a startle caused by the TV turning on with loud volume, sounding like a man bursting into shout in the next room. I must lie still for several minutes to slow my pounding heart. 

On this morning Trennis’s have their court date, so Carson and I have the apartment to ourselves. He uses it to sleep in; I clean up and do dishes and relax in front of my view. 

Down our favorite alley there is a little steak restaurant. Carson and I sit at a brilliant yellow table decorated with a pitcher filled with dried flowers, and we share an exquisite ember-cooked filet mignon with fries and a salad. This meal sounds very American, but in the sauce on the steak and the dressing on the salad there are some distinct flavors of Korea. I am not really sure what the place intends to be; there are no side dishes and we eat with forks, but the menu is all in Korean and so is the name of the restaurant.

Noryangjin Fish Market is the stuff of legend. At least according to YouTube. Apparently even if you go nowhere else in Seoul you should go to the fish market, and having gone somewhere else in Seoul already, we now take a subway ride across the Han River and enter this Seafood Shangri-La. My first impression of this fish market is that it is quite marketlike and very fishy, and by that I meant there is a lot of fish around. Fish dead on ice, fish alive in water, fish halfway in between on butchering boards. Crabs and lobsters stacked on top of each other in tanks. So many tiny octopuses in one large bowl that it is nothing more than a squirming tangle of ribbed tentacles. Shellfish in heaps next to the tanks. Black sea urchins like spiky balls of night sky. Shrimp laid out on trays like fat, crunchy gray worms. Flat, broad mantas with odd, dead faces. And others, so many others, some of which I don’t even recognize. Despite all this, the place doesn’t smell half as bad as I feared. Sure, it’s fish, but it’s all very fresh. The sounds of voices and of water falling from tank to tank blends into a dull roar in my ears, and the wet concrete tugs at the soles of my shoes. Eventually the slow, apathetic way they move, like creatures in a nightmare, makes me a little sick. I’m relieved when the men choose their seafood so we can go upstairs to a restaurant where they will cook it for us. Shrimp, crab, lobster, sea urchins, live octopus, at least one kind of shellfish, and possibly several other things are on the menu for us tonight, but I end up eating very little besides several shrimp; after swallowing an extremely strong slice of garlic, I am left feeling sick and with no desire to put anything else in my mouth. 

Along the edge of the river there is a park. We reach it shortly before sunset and immediately sit on stone steps to watch a magic show. It’s a fun show, but the magician has great stage presence and that is what makes it really worth watching. Further into the park the spaces beneath the trees, too much walked on for much grass to grow, are filled with people on blankets. Some are eating, some are just hanging out, one young man has a guitar. A little further over, no less than three songs are being sung into microphones, all only a little distance from each other. There are people riding rental bikes and scooters up and down the paths, people walking, people posing with the large I SEOUL YOU letters. Many of them are young people, some still in their school uniforms. As night falls, lights come on the city above us and the view across the water is lovely.

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