Reconnecting Hongdae

My mother has worked as an art teacher for most of her career, putting her talent to use teaches others to develop theirs. When I was in elementary school, I used to take summer school at the local church (basically day-care for Christians). My mom was the art teacher and after one summer I swore, never again. It wasn’t that she wasn’t a great teacher, she was (and is). It’s more that it was a babysitting class which I got regularly from her at home.

It wasn’t hard for her to make her way to Hongdae because, as I later found out, she’d attended the school as a student. It was a complicated matter calling and finding out where she was and where we were before I recommended a meeting point. When we got there, we realized that my mom got there early and then wandered off to someplace else. When we finally did meet, we stopped for lunch so my girlfriend and I could have a meal before setting off for the day.

Gummy Bear

We started in the heart of the university itself which isn’t as large as I had first imagined. I was relying on my mom to show us around but nearly 40 years had warped the landscape and her memory. Only a few buildings remained from my mom’s memories and the rest were either considerably easy to spot and new structures or hidden behind bushes and tight corners.

Space No Trace?

We walked through some of the back alleyways surrounding the school and were greeted with buffet of street art. Each corner had a scrawl or a symbol which would lead to a painting and then further on to murals and the like. I guess it isn’t a surprise to see this much street art as Hongdae is known for their arts program.


It was nice to see my mom and girlfriend talking and generally having fun in each other’s company. I was busy wandering around and falling behind so when I finally jumped back into the conversation my mom was talking about her brief stint as an animator with Hanna Barbera Productions. She was explaining some of the hoops that she had to jump through in order to get the animations correctly and the amounts of frames necessary to get the smallest scenes to look right. By the time she’d finished explaining all this to my girlfriend, anyone could guess she didn’t stick with the job.


We took it in for a few hours until our feet began to hurt. There were alleys, dead-ends, walls behind walls and lamp posts lining a street that someone had thoughtfully painted with Super Mario power-ups. Eventually the streets seemed to get longer and the hill was beginning to feel steeper and we called it a day.

I was surprised how well everything went considering I hadn’t seen my mother in a year, she hadn’t ever spent this much time with my girlfriend before, and this would be the first time we walked around Korea like this in… ever. Looking back, even the hills didn’t seem that bad and the stairs were manageable although a bit tricky and precarious at a few points. All in all, a pretty awesome day.



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