Back in January after my first date with myself, I wrote down a series of days I could set aside for myself up until July. However, life has a way of interrupting the best laid plans of mice and Maggie. I had wanted to do something for Valentine's weekend but when that weekend rolled up, I'd several dates with friends. Valentines was spent at Hongdae Park and Exit Bar near Hongik University in Seoul. A friend was DJ-ing so we danced the night away. The following day I met up with some other friends in Hongdae for a falafel dinner, cake and coffee (and in my case a glass of wine!). Needless to say, when you are having so much fun with friends, a date with yourself is the last thing on your mind. However, I was up in Seoul again two weekends later to say goodbye to some very dear friends, E and D, and a huge welcome to a friend, CG, who is newly arrived from Ireland. I decided that I'd go up Friday and get plenty of sleep so that I could party the night away on Saturday.
On that Wednesday, my co-teacher told me that the principal had decided that I could have Thursday and Friday off to spend how I wanted. I already had plans for Thursday evening with the same co-teacher so I decided I'd head up around noon on Friday afternoon, check-in and then head on my date to an art museum or a palace for the day. Sadly, I wasn't prepared to leave by noon but eventually, I made my way to Seoul. At this point, I'd decided to not bother with the date and to just while away the time reading my book, eating dinner and sleeping. However, I realised that the department store I was eating in had a cinema. One of my aims with "dating myself" is to do things that I am nervous to do alone or at all. Going to the cinema by myself ranked high on that list!
So, despite the fact that I was in sweatpants and a jumper, I decided to "get over myself" and courageously went up the escalator. Thankfully, there weren't many people in the foyer and I bought my ticket to Non-stop with Liam Neeson (swoon!) with ease. Loaded up with a concealed bottle of water (I'm cheap, don't ya know?) and a visible bag of caramel popcorn, I passed my ticket over and made my way to screen one. I have to admit that I enjoy going to the cinema with friends/family more than going by myself. I love the inevitable chat afterwards, the sharing of the treats (seriously, I ate an entire bag of popcorn by myself) and, if a moment is crazy, weepy or hilarious, having someone you can share it with. That being said, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. You do feel judged and perhaps it is worse in Korea than in Ireland. Everyone was there either as a couple or in groups of friends. I was, literally, the only person by myself, sitting on the edge of an row. I forgot myself at a few points and went to grab my neighbour's arm. Thankfully, I restrained myself in time: I don't think his girlfriend would have been too pleased!
On Saturday, I knew I'd be busy from the afternoon onwards saying goodbye to E and D, so I decided that I'd use the morning for the rest of my impromptu date. I got up early and headed over to Sinchon to eat at a restaurant I'd read some reviews on. When I arrived (it was a little after 11, I think), I made my way downstairs and walked into Big Bread. I was the only customer. It freaked me out enough that I seriously considered turning around and finding a coffee shop. Whilst eating alone is not so intimidating any more, eating alone in a restaurant as the sole customer is. The restaurant was large enough to make me feel like an ant at a picnic. Consequently, although I was ready to eat after two minutes of perusing the menu, I was hesitant to press the bell to call the waitress. Instead I waited until I could wave her over. Whilst, I do think the bell is a wonderful invention, there is something very demanding about using it when you are the only one there!
A veggie sandwich and a cup of tea later, I decided to head to Deoksugung and attend the exhibition of Masterpieces of Korean Modern Art. My favourites were A deep valley by Noh Soohyeon, Autumn by Kim Kichang, The gate of youth by Chun Kyungju and Han Mook's Spiral Blue. This exhibition was quite busy as many families and couples were taking the Saturday morning to view the exhibit. I love taking my time at museums so I found the pace a little off-putting and I got quite a few stares when I lingered overly long at the above paintings. As this museum is in the grounds of the palace and the weather was delightful, I spent about another 30-40 minutes wandering around the palace grounds afterwards. I have visited this palace many times, though, so after a while, I decided to make my way back to my hostel and friends with a stop off for hot chocolate and cake.
So, you might think I'm mad to have gone to an exhibit at a busy time considering I prefer my art and history in moments of quiet. Seriously, though had I known how busy it was going to be, I probably wouldn't have gone and I would have, possibly, missed out on a really nice exhibit. You might think I'm mad to go to the cinema by myself. This one I can totally understand and I even agree with! When I told some friends of my adventure, most of the girls told me they'd never done it either. Despite the fact that you sit in a dark room to watch a flickering screen, going to the cinema is such a social event. It wasn't easy for me to go up and order that ticket or to walk in alone. Luckily, once those lights go down everyone is concentrating on the screen and no one is even thinking about you. So next time your want to see a movie that causes your boyfriend/girlfriend to roll his/her eyes in despair, remember you can take head on out with a big bag of popcorn and enjoy the movie without him/her!
PS This post was inspired by my second impromptu date and P!nk's song:
" Let's get this party started!"
PPS A huge shout-out to my friends E and D - they are the people I visited Seoul so often for in the last 1.75 years and I will miss them terribly. E especially has been so kind, and I am so grateful to my brother for sharing his friends with me. And to CG - I look forward to sharing many adventures with you over this next year!