It’s a curious thing, living in a foreign country during a global crisis. The immediate gut reaction is to return home, flee to safety, seek shelter and let the storm pass. When the outbreak first occurred here in South Korea, the western world agreed with the same sentiments — avoid this part of the world at all cost. However, over time, the west began to struggle, on a scale unmatched by most countries in the east. And now, my past feelings of worry about personal safety, have transitioned to fear for my friends and family back in America. As these worries spin around my mind, nature continues to thrive. As people remain sheltered, nature has in a small way, reclaimed some of its former glory. The skies here have become amazingly blue — the older folks around here commented that the clean air is reminiscent of past times.
Seoul is a fast paced city. After years of practice, I’m now able to sway along with the morning commuter bus without making a fool of myself. And mind you, buses here move like hellfire, one miss of a handrail and you’re the goofy foreigner who just can’t quite get a grip. I’ve seen old ladies with a mountain of grocery bags hoisted to their side take rubber burning turns all while maintaining ballet like stature. True poetry in motion. Meanwhile I’m holding onto a handrail, white knuckled, trying not to suffocate in my mask.
Crowds don’t bother me too much. But the stagnation that comes with city dwelling does. It starts to dull my senses. Every grey building becomes an insult to inspiring thought. City life takes its toll on my patience too — when I have to check myself before chucking a coffee mug at one of the many moped madmen bombing past me on the sidewalk, I know it’s time to escape the city for a little while…
There’s plenty of short hikes one can escape to on any given weekday around Seoul — yet Namsan is special. 남산 (South Mountain), is one of the points in which the ancient walls around Seoul stretch through. Abruptly transitioning from pavement, concrete and steel to a forest encompassed by a green canopy overhead and brown earth below, instantly mesmerizes the senses.
It kicks the city funk right outta your gourd. The hike is relatively easy, but the mountain (during spring and summer) offers a dive into the greenery that one may forget exists after dwelling in a metropolitan apartment for too long. In other words, when I need me some nature, Namsan’s got it. Once I’ve had my fill of tree hugging, night falls, and Seoul Tower turns into a neon wonderland.