Monday, January 7, 2008

Travelogue #20: Misadventures in Seoul on New Year's Eve, Part 1

<----Travelogue #19: Disconnected on Christmas
--->Travelogue #21: Misadventures in Seoul on New Year's Eve, Part 2

God. It's freezing and I have to pee.

I'm standing in one of the world's biggest cities in the heart of its biggest party of the year. This is New Year's Eve in Seoul and there's me in a growing, shivering crowd of revelers in coats and Shreklike blankets. We're packed close and tight at the heels of the Bell Tower (Bosingak) on Jongno, with tens of thousands of Koreans and giddy foreigners waiting for the pop concerts, the fireworks, and the ceremonial midnight ringing of the bell.

* photo courtesy of

God. I really have to pee.

"How much longer till midnight?" I ask Emily, one of a group of eight who with me descended from Bundang into this large but tempered crowd. "How much longer?"

"Um," she says, checking her watch. "We're about an hour away."

An hour? Is she joking?

"You should probably just hold it."

Damnit. I should not have downed those bottles of KGB Vodka and Lemon. What was I doing drinking carbonated alcohol anyway? Who did I think I was, a blonde girl on prom night?

Around us the crowd is increasing in size and density. If I leave my group, there's an outside chance that I'll have difficulty finding them through the throngs of celebrating strangers. But the bathroom is right there, in that building, no more than a two minute walk even through foot traffic.

I make a run for it.

"Hurry back," Emily says.

I make it quickly to that building, only to discover that it closed minutes ago. Shit. Time is ticking. I don't think about New Year's Eve anymore. I don't think about finding my friends anymore. I have to pee I have to pee God have mercy I have to pee!

I race down to the subway stop on Jonggak. I don't walk like a normal person,; I hop by the tips of my toes. This subway doesn't run on New Year's but its hallways are full with people going somewhere, some place I don't care I'm hopping hopping hopping looking for signs signs signs no signs.

Oh man.

Wrong way.

I walked the wrong way, to the very end of the subway station, where I find a big red and blue restroom symbol pointing the opposite direction.

No time to think. Hop hop hop. 100 meters to go the sign says. Hop hop hop. 75 meters. Hop hop hop. 50 meters.

Long line. Of course there's a long line, but I'm here. I'm here!

I exit that bathroom and then the subway as an energized man, a new man. I'm ready to meet 2008.


Dozens of thousands more people have converged on Jongno. Cops are holding hands, barricading certain sections of the road:

Where the hell are my friends?

<----Travelogue #19: Disconnected on Christmas
--->Travelogue #21: Misadventures in Seoul on New Year's Eve, Part 2


1 comment:

kelly said...


Enjoying your blog site and the diary of your adventures. You update it more frequently than my son, David! Plus I enjoy the pictures of the local sites and happenings. I do have one request; could you find a picture of David where he doesn't look like he's had one too many?? Every photo looks like he's the life of the party and as his Mom I know he is studying for the LSAT's when not teaching.

Just joking, keep up the good writing I read some of your work in the Emory paper also. Stay warm and safe.

Kelly Ogles
mother of David
Georgia USA